Christological Confusion & China’s Reforming Churches





Christological confusion has sunk a root into the rich soil of China's emerging Reformed community. At present, some pastors and others on the mainland believe Christ's human nature is uncreated and eternal. What is more, some believe this view represents orthodox Reformed Christology.

Although it is unclear just how pervasive this view has become, the controversy is known throughout China's reforming churches due to the prominence of a current proponent. Soliciting varying responses across East Asia, the vast majority of China's Reformed believers, including many of those most concerned about this man's Christology, highly regard him and his ministry. For this reason, most appear to be willing to overlook or even accommodate this odd opinion.

Largely unknown in the West, the scope, depth, and apparent persistence of this confusion in China's vibrant but tender Reforming churches ­which is not isolated from these developments. The humanity of Jesus Christ is created and finite, just as ours; the view that his human nature is, in any actual sense, uncreated and eternal is problematic and potentially dangerous to the faith.

Preview of Series

This post is the first in a twelvepart series on the current Christological confusion in East Asia. In the next post I briefly describe the cause and context of this confusion within China's emerging Reformed community. Posts 3 and 4 briefly present the traditional, orthodox understanding of the biblical teaching on the origin of Christ's human nature as codified in the ecumenical creeds (post 3) and Reformed standards (post 4). In posts 5-11 I inspect seven statements (one per post) about the human nature of Christ contributing to the current confusion, before concluding the series in post 12.


Context & Cause of the Current Confusion

In one of the most fascinating developments in global Christianity today, many pastors and other believers in China are embracing Reformed theology and reforming their beliefs and practices. Though a few observers challenge the claim, a Reformed community in China (as opposed to isolated individuals and congregations) does exist, and not just online. The tendrils of this community often twine around the ministries of a relatively few widely recognized ministers. As such, these individuals, whose ministries are often based outside of China, exercise remarkable influence on theological opinion within the still relatively secluded world of Reformed Christianity on the mainland.

For many years now, and at least as recently as 2013, one such influence with an international ministry and reputation has been saying some very confusing things about the human nature of Jesus Christ. [1] At times, he has attempted to clarify and defend his comments. One such attempt is found in a series of three recordings he made in 2012, which were subsequently transcribed and translated by others. Though these three recordings and a booklet he published in 1991 are the sources cited below, the primary source of the confusion in China's Reformed community has been his oral statements to the same effect in sermons, lectures, and especially question and answer sessions.

Though this man's public statements are the source of the current confusion, as one Reformed observer explains, "the belief that Christ's humanity is uncreated actually has had a longstanding tradition among Chinese Christian leaders associated with Reformed theology, including Jia Yuming." [2] This tradition appears to be reflected in the widely used Chinese translation of the Belgic Confession, which curiously drops the original's explicit affirmation that the human nature of Christ is created. [3] All of this predates the current proponent of this view, whose statements may represent what he sees as an established, albeit eccentric, Eastern Christological tradition--a tradition that seemed certain to fade away without his advocacy.
雖然此君公開的講述是目前錯解的主要源頭,一位改革宗觀察者解釋到,「對於基督人性為非受造的信仰是中國基督教中與改革宗神學有關之領袖長久以來的傳統,包括賈玉銘(Jia Yuming)。」這個傳統看起來也被反映在比利時信條的(the Belgic Confession)中文翻譯之中。所有這一切原先就存有的,對於這個觀點支持者的宣告可能使得他看見了一個根深柢固,非常古怪的,東方基督論傳統--一個無法獲得支持而逐漸消亡的傳統。

A Cautious Critique

Some of the church's greatest fathers have occasionally said some odd things about Jesus Christ, things later generations viewed as ill-advised or just plain wrong. Take Athanasius of contra mundum fame for his stand against ascendant Arians. Once, while trying to show how his adversaries mangled Hebrews 3:2 about Jesus' becoming or being made or appointed high priest, he drew this analogy of the incarnation:

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