Book Review : China’s Reforming Churches

Chinas-Reforming-Churches“China’s Reforming Churches” is a collection of essays edited by Bruce Baugus, associate professor of Philosophy and Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. The book sets out to examine and survey the congregational system of rule known as Presbyterianism in the context of the Christian China. This book has four main sections: The History of Presbyterianism in China, Presbyterianism is China today, Challenges and Opportunities for Presbyterianism in China, and Appropriating a Tradition. Within each of these main sections are several subsections that deal with issues such as the history of the Chinese church, challenges facing Christians in China, social conditions and cultural nuances related to the gospel/church, Christina publishing and theological education in China, and why China needs Presbyterian churches.

This book falls apart from the beginning. I was expecting to find a clear definition/explanation of what he wanted the reader to understand Presbyterianism. This did not happen. He gives this vague definition, “By Presbyterianism we refer only to ‘the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed’ as they relate to the proper order of Christ’s church, and thus church development in China (WCF 1.6).” The editor always draws a distinction between Presbyterianism with a capital “P” and lowercase “p”. However, as the book goes on, these are used interchangeably which makes the narrative of the book murky and disjointed. Baugus also writes, “We do not mean anything more specific, such as a particular denomination of Reformed or Presbyterian churches”. I wish this had been true. On occasion, the editor alludes to Reformed Theology proper.

This work is typical of Reformed Theology proponents. Written in what I view as an arrogant overtone, Baugus advocated that the true biblical church must be a Presbyterian one. He writes, “I am mildly tempted to describe a triumphant future when China will become a global center of Reformed theology, church life, and mission. That kind of future seems quite possible today and would be very welcome.” This book does not live up to its billing. Don’t waste your time with this one.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from CrossFocused Reviews as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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