Low Church and Asian Idolatries

Thoughts on my quick impression of some comments I skimmed on a Next Gener.Asian Church blog post:

I think low-church expressions of faith among Asians often represent an attempt on some level to assimilate to Western individualistic culture in the choice of what to emphasize when we articulate the faith. At the same time, and ironically, this choice also allows certain aspects of traditional Asian culture to remain uncritiqued by the gospel, particularly some idolatries of power structure that may be deconstructed by the rival reality and authority of the Church. I’ll talk about mostly Chinese people, with whom I’ve interacted the most, since I myself am Chinese and speak Chinese.

Among these is the place of shame and public repentance (which, in some places, may be none): the advantage of a low-church way of doing things is that pushing everything into the individual conscience keeps things looking clean at the same time that people can reserve public shame for drastic measures. Take a second look at Asian values in the political sphere and you may see a connexion.

I think there is a historical tendency supporting this as well. Low-church faith is especially easy structurally for Chinese culture because the bulk of religious-looking activity has long been a matter of buffet-style pluralism (viz. the way people visit temples), while the complex of the more official, public rites for heaven and grain and ancestors remains attached to whatever the people view as the civil government. In mainland China, under the communist régime, this can clearly take the form of the insistence that the gospel has no political meaning whatsoever, despite its inherent exposé of the idolatries attached to any Caesar on earth.

Obviously, this thought is still very little developed, but it may represent yet another reason for me to advocate a coherently high-church Protestant piety.


2 responses to “Low Church and Asian Idolatries

  1. hey lue-yee,

    what is low church?


    • Low-church practice is, externally, associated with what people see as ‘free form’ in worship, ‘free’ of everything that makes the Body of Christ anything but merely ‘Christian’ in the plural.

      It is a low view of the historic Church’s role (by the Holy Spirit’s real and objective power exercised in the Church) in salvation viewed as a whole. This manifests itself in extreme individualism and subjectivism in piety, in hostility to rituals that to the world look like organized religion, in the reduction of the supernatural in worship to a ‘method’ of natural means, in a lack of church discipline and in a casual (not intimate, but casual) attitude to approaching God.

      In America, this generally takes the form of an unchurchly revivalism and accusations of ‘quenching the Spirit’ against all who dare to question the reduction of God’s presence to the subjective realm and his holy work to the dictates of ‘the heart’. Thus it also gives rise to the idolatry of individual ‘conviction’, which refuses to expose itself to Scripture’s teaching in the Church.


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