Studying Christianity in China

Constructions of an Emerging Discourse


Studying Christianity in China introduces an emerging academic trend in contemporary Chinese scholarship. Through qualitative interviews with leading experts in Chinese Christian studies, Naomi Thurston has investigated the ongoing conversation between China and Christianity. Since the 1980s, this conversation has given rise to an interdisciplinary academic field that is quickly gaining traction as a cutting-edge, cross-cultural discourse. The Chinese intellectuals driving this field are encountered as unique transmitters of cultural knowledge: they are cultural mediators working in a range of humanities and social science disciplines who are not only re-interpreting Western theology, but are also lending a new voice to Chinese expressions of the Christian faith. As such, they are at the forefront of a novel force in World Christianity.

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Naomi Thurston holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (2015). She currently works at Sichuan University in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. Her recent publications include “Reading Religion in China Today” (Review of Religion and Chinese Society, 2017).
"Thurston succeeds in ascertaining the intellectual and theological depth that transcends intergenerational scholarship in China. This is quite the feat and quite the gift for English readers.", Erin Rafferty, Princeton Theological Seminary, in: Journal of World Christianity Volume 10.1 (2020)

"In short, Thurston has written an insightful analysis of Sino-Christian humanism in contemporary China, and her findings should appeal to anyone interested in Chinese theology and church history." Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, in: Exchange Volume 48 (2019).

"Those interested in ministering to mainland scholars will benefit from Thurston’s categorization of Chinese scholars of Christianity as well as the many personal interviews contained in this study. For those less directly engaged with Chinese scholars, this book provides four valuable insights that will affect the future of Christianity in China." - Chinasource Blog Posts, May 8, 2019 (link visited Sept. 9, 2019)

Foreword by Thomas Jansen
Foreword by Jason Lam
List of Tables and Charts

Part 1: Introduction, Methodology and Background

 1.1 Sino-Christian Theology and Sino-Christian Studies
 1.2 Background and Approach, Questions and Aims
 1.3 Current State of Research and Works Consulted
 1.4 Plan of the Chapters
2 Theory, Terms and Methodology
 2.1 Approaching a Phenomenon: “What Manner of Men Are These?”
 2.2 The Terminological Instability of “Sino-Christian Theology”
 2.3 Methodology
3 Religious Studies and Christianity in China Today
 3.1 Approaching Religion in Post-Secular Chinese Society
 3.2 Confronting Chinese Modernity: Theology Versus Ethicization
 3.3 Evaluating Sino-Christian Studies

Part 2: Studying Christianity in China

4 Development and Institutional Context of Sino-Christian Studies
 4.1 Institutions and Institutional Structures
 4.2 Developing Christian Studies in Mainland China
 4.3 Generational Distinctions Within the Sphere of Sino-Christian Studies
5 Trendsetting: Senior Scholars and the Social Sciences
 5.1 China’s “Lost Generation”
 5.2 Introducing Scholarly Types: The Common Thread of Academic Commitment
 5.3 “Type 2”: Observing Christianity in Chinese Society
 5.4 Historical Perspectives
 5.5 Why the Marginal-Status Claim?
6 The Core of the Phenomenon: Senior Generation Theologians and Philosophers
 6.1 Hong Kong Theologians: Mining the Symbolic Power of Sino-Christian Theology
 6.2 Catholic Theology: A Beijing Theologian Shares His Perspective
 6.3 Sino-Christian Theology: A Handmaiden for Philosophy?
 6.4 The Potential of Sino-Christian Theology and Sino-Christian Studies
7 The Younger Scholars
 7.1 Disciplinary Diversification Among the Younger Scholars
 7.2 Recognizing the Accomplishments of Senior Scholars
 7.3 The Missing Link of Biblical Studies
 7.4 Vitality in the Margins
 7.5 Christian and Non-Christian Identity Among the Younger Scholars
 7.6 The Role of Theology
8 Analysis and Argumentation: Marginality and Sino-Christian Studies
 8.1 Marginality and Prominence
 8.2 Openness for the Marginal: Appraising the Interpretive Position of Tolerance
 8.3 Inquiry, Discourse, Discipline: Legitimizing an Emerging Discourse
 8.4 Suspended in Interdisciplinary Space

Part 3: Conclusion and Appendix

9 Conclusion
 9.1 Translating Christianity into Chinese
 9.2 Insiders/Outsiders: Voices from the Margins
 9.3 Contributions of the Study
 9.4 Suggestions for Further Research
 9.5 A Final Thought

Interview Transcripts
 1 Interview with Senior Generation Scholar, Theology and Religious Studies
 2 Interview with Senior Generation Scholar, Theology and Religious Studies
 3 Interview with Younger Scholar, Philosophy
 4 Interview with Younger Scholar, Theology
  Interview Guide (Interviews 10–38)


All interested in Chinese theology and the academic study of Christianity in China.
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