Introducing Wang Yi 王怡’s 95 Theses on the House Church

As reported by the South China Morning Post, on 4 June of this year (this past Monday), ‘hours before a planned evening service to commemorate the Tiananmen Square anniversary’, Early Rain Covenant Church 秋雨之福歸正教會, a Presbyterian church in Chengdu 成都, was raided by police. According to SCMP, ‘The Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, had planned a two-hour prayer session at 7.30pm to mourn those killed in Beijing 29 years ago.’

My purpose here is not to explain the political implications of what was done either by Early Rain Covenant Church or by the police in Chengdu, but to draw attention to a document issued in 2015 by the church’s head pastor, Wang Yi 王怡. This document was ‘95 Theses: The Reaffirmation of our Stance on the House Church’ – or, in Chinese (simplified characters), 我们对家庭教会立场的重申(九十五条). Evoking the 95 theses of Martin Luther, these theses by Wang Yi were published online to coincide approximately with the 60th anniversary of the arrest of Wang Mingdao 王明道 in June 1955 for publishing ‘We Are for the Faith’, a declaration of the reason he and others refused to join the Party-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). Wang Yi’s 95 theses are structured as follows:

Theses 1–17: God’s Sovereignty and Biblical Authority.
Theses 18–31: God’s Law and Christ’s Redemption.
Theses 32–39: Against the ‘Sinicization of Christianity’.
Theses 40–44: Church as the Body of Christ and His Kingdom.
Theses 45–72: The Relationship between Two Kingdoms and the Separation of Church and State.
Theses 73–95: Against the ‘Three-Self Movement’, and Affirmation of the Great Commission.

With some of Wang Yi’s 95 theses I heartily agree, and with others I firmly disagree on grounds both biblical and historical. I intend hereafter to write several blog posts here evaluating the principles expressed in these 95 theses. In the meantime, some will find it useful to read Chloë Starr’s 2016 article ‘Wang Yi and the 95 Theses of the Chinese Reformed Church’.

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