Growth of Christianity in China

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In front of the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The current atheist population mostly resides in East Asia (particularly China) and in secular Europe/Australia among whites.[1] See: Western atheism and race

According to Slate, "Protestant Christianity has been the fastest growing religion in China."[2] Evangelical Christianity is especially growing sharply in China.[3] See also: Asian atheism

In 2020, The Economist published an article entitled Protestant Christianity is booming in China which indicated:

As for China’s Christians, their numbers continue to grow. The government reckons that about 200m of China’s 1.4bn people are religious. Although most practice traditional Chinese religions such as Taoism, and longer-standing foreign imports such as Buddhism, Protestant Christianity is probably the fastest-growing faith, with at least 38m adherents today (about 3% of the population), up from 22m a decade ago, according to the government’s count. The true number is probably much higher: perhaps as many as 22m more Chinese Protestants worship in unregistered “underground” churches, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Notre Dame. As China also has 10m-12m Catholics, there are more Christians in China today than in France (38m) or Germany (43m). Combined, Christians and the country’s estimated 23m Muslims may now outnumber the membership of the Communist Party (92m). Indeed, an unknown number of party members go to church as well as local committee meetings.[4]

On November 1, 2014, an article in The Economist entitled Cracks in the atheist edifice declared:

Officials are untroubled by the clash between the city’s famously freewheeling capitalism and the Communist Party’s ideology, yet still see religion and its symbols as affronts to the party’s atheism...

Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China’s Christian population the largest in the world. Mr. Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire.[5]

On April 19, 2014 The Telegraph published a story on the growth of Christianity in China which stated:

The number of Christians in Communist China is growing so steadily that it by 2030 it could have more churchgoers than America....

Officially, the People's Republic of China is an atheist country but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek meaning and spiritual comfort that neither communism nor capitalism seem to have supplied.

Christian congregations in particular have skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao's death in 1976 signalled the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Less than four decades later, some believe China is now poised to become not just the world's number one economy but also its most numerous Christian nation....

China's Protestant community, which had just one million members in 1949, has already overtaken those of countries more commonly associated with an evangelical boom. In 2010 there were more than 58 million Protestants in China compared to 40 million in Brazil and 36 million in South Africa, according to the Pew Research Centre's Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Prof Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. That would likely put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million Protestants in 2010 but whose congregations are in decline.

By 2030, China's total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, he predicted.

"Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this," Prof Yang said. "It's ironic – they didn't. They actually failed completely."[6]

In 2019, the Financial Times reported: "Chinese tourism to Israel grew 1,600 per cent from 2009 to 2017, according to the tourism ministry, and many are believed to be Christians."[7]

The Telegraph reported on December 19, 2012:

The notice, apparently issued in May 2011 by the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, suggests ongoing misgivings among senior leaders that religion, and in particular Christianity, poses a direct challenge to the ruling party.

Bob Fu, the founder of ChinaAid, the group which obtained and published the document, said the directive was proof China's central government was "directing a national crackdown against religious freedom especially targeting Christianity [in universities]".

Mr Fu claimed the document also indicated "panic" among Chinese intellectuals about the "rapid" growth of [China's] underground Christian population".

An official from the propaganda department of the State Council said they were unable to immediately comment on whether the document was genuine. But posts on the websites of several Chinese universities appear to confirm the leaked document's existence....

Yet despite government controls, the number of Christians in China has rocketed since the 1980s with many worshipping in illegal "house churches" which are subject to sporadic crackdowns. Some estimates suggest there are now as many as 130 million practicing Christians in China.[8]

A January 2011 news article entitled Third Church' China's New Face of Christianity indicated:

Christianity in China began decades ago in the countryside, but today, a dramatic shift is happening.

Young professionals in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai are changing the face of Chinese Christianity, as faith moves from rural to more urban areas.

On a recent Wednesday evening, a group of men and women in their late 20s met in an apartment not too far from the city center to discuss how to thrive in their rapidly changing nation.

Those who attended are members of China's new privileged class -- highly educated, cosmopolitan, middle or even upper class of urban professionals. And they're all Christians.

"We've never had it so good in China today," Jia Li Tian, a member of the group, told CBN News. "But there's more to life that just money and materialism."...

Although Christianity continues to grow in China's countryside, experts say it's in big cities like Beijing where the church is growing fastest.

"Whereas the rural church was not able to have an impact on society as a whole, the 'Third Church' in the cities is able to do that because they are comprised of leaders who can have an impact," Peter explained. "[They are] businessmen, government officials, professors, leaders in engineering, every aspect of life...

The Chinese government has always maintained a tight grip on religion. Torture, arrests, imprisonment, and beatings of Christians are still practiced in the country.

But in recent years, authorities have made positive overtures towards house church leaders -- especially those in urban areas.[9]

Justin Wood wrote:

Ten thousand Chinese become Christians each day, according to a stunning report by ...veteran correspondent John Allen, and 200 million Chinese may comprise the world's largest concentration of Christians by mid-century, and the largest missionary force in history...

I suspect that even the most enthusiastic accounts err on the downside, and that Christianity will have become a Sino-centric religion two generations from now. China may be for the 21st century what Europe was during the 8th-11th centuries, and America has been during the past 200 years: the natural ground for mass evangelization. If this occurs, the world will change beyond our capacity to recognize it...

China, devoured by hunger so many times in its history, now feels a spiritual hunger beneath the neon exterior of its suddenly great cities. Four hundred million Chinese on the prosperous coast have moved from poverty to affluence in a single generation, and 10 million to 15 million new migrants come from the countryside each year, the greatest movement of people in history. Despite a government stance that hovers somewhere between discouragement and persecution, more than 100 million of them have embraced a faith that regards this life as mere preparation for the next world. Given the immense effort the Chinese have devoted to achieving a tolerable life in the present world, this may seem anomalous. On the contrary: it is the great migration of peoples that prepares the ground for Christianity, just as it did during the barbarian invasions of Europe during the Middle Ages. [10]

To see the magnitude of the explosive growth of Christianity in China, examine this graph about the growth of Christianity in China in a DW news story about Chinese Christianity (DW is a mainstream news outlet in Germany). There are now more Christians in China than Chinese who belong to the Communist Party of China (see also: East Asia and global desecularization).[11]

Tiananmen Square massacre helped fuel an explosive growth of Christianity in China

See also: East Asia and global desecularization

The Tiananmen Square massacre fueled a big rise in Chinese interest in Christianity.[12]

Non-stop prayer movement involving thousands of Christians and hundreds of churches takes atheist China by storm

See also: Prayer

China, state atheism and persecution

See also: Persecution of Christians in the People's Republic of China, Atheism and communism and Communism and religious persecution

China has the world's largest atheist population.[13][14] See also: China and atheism

In 1955, Chinese communist leader Zhou Enlai declared, "We Communists are atheists".[15] In 2015, the Communist Party of China reaffirmed that members of their party must be atheists.[16]

Communist countries practice state atheism (See: Atheism and communism).

In 1955, Chinese communist leader Zhou Enlai declared, "We Communists are atheists".[17] In 2014, the Communist Party of China reaffirmed that members of their party must be atheists.[18]

In 2016, the International Business Times reported:

A senior Chinese advisor on religious affairs has said the country should promote atheism throughout society, in remarks that appear to reflect a deepening campaign to reinforce traditional Marxist values in China — and could add to concern about official attitudes among believers in the country’s five officially recognized religions.[19]

There is growing persecution of Christians by the Chinese government.[20] Historically persecution has often been an ineffective means to stop the growth of Christianity in a region.[21] Persecution and exponential Christian growth have frequently coincided. On the other hand, persecution often coincides with diminishing Christianity.[22]

The historian Martin Van Crevel points out that sovereign states are losing power/influence due to technology democratizing access to information, welfare states increasingly failing, fourth-generation warfare being waged against countries and sovereign states increasingly losing their ability to maintain internal order.[23][24]

Ethnic Chinese and the rapid rise of Charismatic Christianity in Southeast Asia

See also: Ethnic Chinese and the rise of Christianity in Southeast Asia

Ethnic Chinese migration has caused a rise of Christianity in Southeast Asia - especially charismatic Christianity.[25][26]

Singapore Management University reports:

...more and more people in Southeast Asia are converting to Christianity. But these new converts – mostly ethnic Chinese – are drawn particularly to charismatic Christianity.

This new wave of religious fervour accounts for the rise of “mega churches” in this part of the world. Juliette Koning and her colleague, Heidi Dahles of VU University Amsterdam, had been studying Indonesia and Malaysia respectively when they first took notice of how many ethnic Chinese business managers were embracing charismatic Christianity. They decided to study this phenomenon through an anthropological lens and presented their findings in their paper, 'Spiritual Power: Ethnic Chinese Managers and the Rise of Charismatic Christianity in Southeast Asia'...

Koning noted that there was a rapid expansion of charismatic Christianity from the 1980s onwards. Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia are said to have the fastest-growing Christian communities and the majority of the new believers are “upwardly mobile, urban, middle-class Chinese”. Asia has the second largest Pentecostal-charismatic Christians of any continent, with the number growing from 10 million to 135 million between 1970 and 2000.[27]

Chinese Christians and plans for evangelism outside of China

See also: East Asia and global desecularization

Professor Fenggang Yang indicates: "One sign of the advancing state of Christianity in China is that it is reaching out to the larger world. Nine hundred Chinese pastors gathered in Hong Kong this fall for the Mission 2030 Conference. Their goal: To send out 20,000 missionaries from mainland China by 2030."[28]}}

Future of atheism in China

See: Future of atheism in China

Chinese Christianity and anti-evolution free speech

As noted above, evangelical Christianity is flourishing in China. Generally speaking, evangelicals have been critical of evolutionism.

Jun-Yuan Chen Research Professor Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, "In China we can criticize Darwin but not the government. In America you can criticize the government, but not Darwin."[29]

Impact of Christianization of China on morality and Darwinism

David Aikman served as Time Magazine's bureau chief in Beijing China. He wrote a book in 2003 entitled Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power.

In his book Aikman wrote:“China is in the process of becoming Christianised … [i.e.] it is possible that Christians will constitute 20 to 30 percent of China’s population within three decades” (p. 285).

When Aikman provided this estimate in 2003, he did not have the benefit of seeing Chinese Christianity grow rapidly in urban areas among the influential upper eschelons of Chinese society which is presently happening.

A review of his book declares and please note the bold font added for emphasis which indicates the Chinese Christians are generally not Darwinists:

Who are these Chinese Christians? It would be absurd to say they are an organized body with uniform beliefs and opinions on everything, yet Aikman’s book leads to certain generalisations. They regard themselves as truly patriotic, tending to support their government politically, with the exception, perhaps, of being very pro-American and pro-Israel. Both preferences stem from their religious, rather than their political beliefs. Their theology particularly with the “house church” Protestant Christians, is Biblical and fundamentalist, and the churches with which they are linked in the United States are their equivalents. To some extent the reason for this is that fundamentalists see evangelism as an urgent matter – to save souls from hell – in a way that their “liberal” co-religionists, with their less exclusive attitude to the matter of salvation, do not. Such help, spiritual and material, as does come from foreign Christians, will tend to come from such evangelicals, who are mostly Americans. Part of the fundamentalist package, millenarianism – the belief in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to reign for a thousand years, regarded as probably an imminent event – includes a necessary, though uncertain role for the Jews. Other features widespread amongst Chinese Christians are the “speaking in tongues” and claims of miraculous healing and exorcism. Aikman does not mention it but it seems fair to add that such Christians will reject Darwinism. If, as seems likely, they adhere to the Christian morality brought to China by the missionaries, they will also preach chastity before marriage and fidelity within it, and abhor homosexuality and abortion. All these are positions that have long been compromised or abandoned in Western Christendom, but in China would be welcomed by any government as desirable virtues, apart from, presumably, the last.[30]

To see the magnitude of the explosive growth of Christianity in China, look at this graph about the growth of Christianity in China in a DW news story about Chinese Christianity (DW is a mainstream news outlet in Germany).

See also

External links



  1. A surprising map of where the world’s atheists live, By Max Fisher and Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post, May 23, 2013
  2. When Will China Become the World’s Largest Christian Country?, Slate
  3. In China, a church-state showdown of biblical proportions
  4. Protestant Christianity is booming in China, The Economist, Sep 15th 2020
  5. Cracks in the atheist edifice, The Economist, November 1, 2014
  6. China on course to become 'world's most Christian nation' within 15 years
  7. Christian pilgrims fuel Holy Land tourism boom, Financial Times, 2019
  8. Chinese universities urged to fight back against foreign religion, The Telegraph, 2012
  9. Third Church' China's New Face of Christianity, January 2011 CBN News article
  10. Christianity Finds a Fulcrum in Asia by Justin Wood
  11. In Xi we trust - Is China cracking down on Christianity?, DW News
  12. Militant atheists caused a massive and explosive growth of Christianity
  13. Top 50 Countries With Highest Proportion of Atheists / Agnostics (Zuckerman, 2005)
  14. A surprising map of where the world’s atheists live, Washington Post By Max Fisher and Caitlin Dewey May 23, 2013
  15. Noebel, David, The Battle for Truth, Harvest House, 2001.
  16. China's Communist Party Bans Believers, Doubles Down On Atheism
  17. Noebel, David, The Battle for Truth, Harvest House, 2001.
  18. Senior Chinese Religious Advisor Calls For Promotion Of Atheism In Society, International Business Times
  19. Martyr killed by bulldozer becomes symbol of growing persecution of Christians in China
  20. Persecution: Does It Help or Hurt Church Growth?
  21. Persecution: Does It Help or Hurt Church Growth?
  22. The Fate of the State by MARTIN VAN CREVELD
  23. Martin van Creveld interview
  24. The State Of Pentecostalism In Southeast Asia: Ethnicity, Class And Leadership – Analysis, Eurasia Review
  27. GlobalPlus: Religion in China By Fenggang Yang
  28. Two views about how Darwinism stays in place, with but one difference
  29. Christianity in China