Εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πάτρης.
Only one omen is best – to defend the fatherland.
– Hector, Iliad 12.243
In the face of the spiritual and academical decline of Christian education in Hong Kong, classical Christian education is very much needed. Local Christian schools that have declined to institute patriotic education according to the Party’s programme have often opted for the International Baccalaureate. They have, in effect, become international schools of the globalist type, serving the human-resource needs of neoliberalism rather than the discipleship needs of the kingdom of God. Regardless of when the rot set in, it is clear that something is rotten in the state of Hong Kong, and it is high time that the Church did something to disciple the nations as commanded by the Lord in Matthew 28.
Now, when the Lord rose from the dead, was announced by an angel, and appeared to the women who had gone to his tomb, there were two opposite responses to two opposite commands: the chief priests having taken counsel with the elders bade the guards spread the lie that Jesus’s disciples had come by night and stolen Jesus’s body (Matthew 28.11–15); Jesus himself, however, having appeared to the Eleven on a mountain in Galilee, bade them go and disciple all nations now that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him at his resurrection (Matthew 28.16–20). In contrast to those who had been instructed to lie to the Jews, the Eleven as they went were to disciple all nations. The command is to disciple someone; the object of discipleship is all nations. We are not speaking – Matthew is not speaking – merely of persons in those nations, but rather of those nations as nations. And this was to be done by baptism of individuals into the Name of the Holy Trinity, and then teaching to observe all things commanded by the Lord. The task of Christian schooling, then, cannot be rightly understood apart from this reality of the discipling of whole nations in response to the kingship of Christ.
If it is to be part of fulfilling the Great Commission, then, Christian education must be national. That is, wherever done, it must be as justly adapted to the national culture as possible, not only to make the gospel intelligible but also to transform the national culture – that is, national life concretely experiened – into something that actually reflects God’s image and likeness. And just as the transformation of one Christian does not make him like everyone else in personality, even ideally, so too the transformation of a heathen nation into a nation that honours Christ from the heart does not require that that nation ape the personalities of other nations: though it must learn from others, its individuality is from God. China, in other words, does not need to adopt American values to be Christian, not even the values that Americans (very parochially) believe to be universal Christian values. We are not called to be inoffensive in every way to the sensibilities of the ‘international community’ – that is to say, to Westerners. God did not make us to be Whites in yellowface. Instead, Christian education is an education into the nation’s own cultural tradition as Christ would have it become, connected to the roots of Israel’s history as completed by Christ, to the ancient fathers of the nation’s civilization as the Holy Ghost worked there before Christ, and to the bodily return of Christ and the end of the world as God has determined its days. It is thus, and not by conformity to the standards of the Anglo-liberal culture dominant in the West, that the nation is brought up from the rudiments or elements of the world to partake in the fulness of the stature of Christ.
In Anglican terms, ‘The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England.’ In order to decolonialize Christian education in non-Western countries, Christians have to reach into the native cultural traditions, and to this need Hong Kong is no exception. There is an implicit Chinese patriotism in retrieving what God has provided for us from ancient times to the present, from the Book of Documents and the Spring and Autumn Annals even to the several times when God brought the good news of Christ to the Chinese. We can find useful not only Plato’s censure of what Confucius called the ‘sounds of Zheng’ 鄭聲, but also the ways in which Zhu Xi’s conception of li 理 and qi 氣 may enrich Maximus the Confessor’s theology of the Logos. Just as the wicked Balaam was a Gentile prophet of the LORD, and the Greek seer and philosopher-poet Epimenides is quoted by St Paul as a prophet (Acts 17.28; Titus 1.12), so too it seems reasonable to consider that the voice of God was not absent from the counsels of sage-kings Yao and Shun. Was the Holy Ghost silent, was he inactive, in all the centuries until the gospel was brought by Persian travellers and English missionaries? Was he not indeed, and Christ the Word through him, sustaining the whole world and speaking through prophets and the mouths of babes? Shall we, to uphold the supremacy of Christ now, deny that at sundry times and in divers manners he spake in times past unto our fathers through the prophets?
God forbid. But the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, and God has in his person crowned man with glory and honour, and made him to have dominion over the works of God’s hands, and put all things under his feet. Whatever it means that China is to become a kind of Fourth Rome under Christ, the classical Christian education needed in Hong Kong is to be oriented that way.
You must be the Yellow Peril you wish to see in the world.