Category Archives: Education

Providence: Not Linear Progressive History, but Curved Apocalyptic History

Many people see history as linear, as an advance of ‘progress’. (Progress? To what destination?) In God’s providence there is a direction to it all, but the only thing we know for sure about that direction is what God has specifically revealed in holy Scripture; still less is history, as told by the Bible, composed of straight lines.

Sack of the temple, Arch of Titus.

For example, the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24–25 speaks mainly of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, but of that event in AD 70 as a coming of the Lord in glory to crush his enemies. Within a generation (24.34) ‘shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory’ (24.30). Thus, he later says to the high priest, sitting with the scribes and the elders, ‘Thou hast said [that I am the Christ, the Son of God]: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven’ (26.64). Christ’s destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 is not just a harbinger of his final return in the flesh at the end of the world, but in an important way the very same event. This is not linear history, but in a sense a curved event that intersects with the linear timeline twice, once in AD 70 and once at the end of the world.

Michelangelo, ‘The Last Judgement’.

If this is the way that Christ teaches us to understand history, then it destroys the myth of history as linear progress.

Drilling Procedures v. Thinking with Euler

Glowing Brain - Stock Motion Graphics | Motion Array

The values of classical education differ from those of conventional teaching in the West. The difference in educational philosophy shows up in methods. In teaching math, people take various approaches, some of them more successful and some of them less so.

Take the example of algebra. People often rush through concepts. They are prone to believe that concepts, once ‘covered’, are now understood. It’s important, I think, to judge accurately how ready a child’s mind is to think abstractly. Some children’s brains are physically not there yet. In that case, it would be better to do without the abstractions of letters standing for unknown quantities. Without the ability to think that abstractly, students end up frustrated and unable to learn what the teacher hoped they would learn. Instead, if they cannot yet understand the abstractions, they can do further work on concrete numbers. If they are not yet ready to understand, let them not delude themselves with the false impression that they understand.

Many Christian teachers use Saxon textbooks for math. The Saxon books take the approach of repeatedly circling back to drill procedures. Drilling mere procedures, rather than going for a clear understanding of what is actually being done, is a weakness that makes Saxon distinctly unclassical in its approach. I have some experience with children who used Saxon, and this is what I saw: Rather than sit down calmly and think about what the problem actually was, they grasped at straws to repeat some familiar procedure. Whatever had happened, their minds were dulled to actual understanding.

When we compare Saxon’s approach to teaching with Leonhard Euler’s approach to teaching his Elements of Algebra, we see a world of difference; and Euler’s, I think, is by far the more classical. Unlike newer books, which are eager to have students solve æquations of which they have no actual understanding, Euler does not begin to treat of æquations at all until section 4 of part 1, long after even logarithms:

  1. Containing the Analysis of Determinate Quantities
    1. Of the different methods of calculating simple quantities
      1. Of mathematics in general
      2. Explanation of the signs + plus and − minus
      3. Of the multiplication of simple quantities
      4. Of the nature of whole numbers, or integers with respect to their factors
      5. Of the division of simple quantities
      6. Of the properties of integers, with respect to their divisors
      7. Of fractions in general
      8. Of the properties of fractions
      9. Of the addition and subtraction of fractions
      10. Of the multiplication and division of fractions
      11. Of square numbers
      12. Of square roots, and of irrational numbers resulting from them
      13. Of impossible, or imaginary quantitites, which arise from the same source
      14. Of cubic numbers
      15. Of cube roots, and of irrational numbers resulting from them
      16. Of powers in general
      17. Of the calculation of powers
      18. Of roots in relation to the powers in general
      19. Of the method of representing irrational numbers by fractional exponents
      20. Of the different methods of calculation, and of their mutual connexion
      21. Of logarithms in general
      22. Of the logarithmic tables that are now in use
      23. Of the method of expressing logarithms
    2. Of the different methods of calculating compound quantities
      1. Of the addition of compound quantities
      2. Of the subtraction of compound quantities
      3. Of the multiplication of compound quantities
      4. Of the division of compound quantities
      5. Of the resolution of fractions into infinite series
      6. Of the squares of compound quantities
      7. Of the extraction of roots applied to compound quantities
      8. Of the calculation of irrational quantities
      9. Of cubes, and of the extraction of cube roots
      10. Of the higher powers of compound quantities
      11. Of the transposition of the letters, on which the demonstration of the preceding rule is founded
      12. Of the expression of irrational powers by infinite series
      13. Of the resolution of negative powers
    3. Of ratios and proportions
      1. Of arithmetical ratio, or the difference between two numbers
      2. Of arithmetical proportion
      3. Of arithmetical progressions
      4. Of the summation of arithmetical progressions
      5. Of figurate, or polygonal numbers
      6. Of geometrial ratio
      7. Of the greatest common divisor of two given numbers
      8. Of geometrical proportions
      9. Observations on the rules of proportion and their utility
      10. Of compound relations
      11. Of geometrical progressions
      12. Of infinite decimal fractions
      13. Of the calculation of interest
    4. Of algebraic equations, and of the resolution of those equations
      1. Of the solution of problems in general
      2. Of the resolution of simple equations, or equations of the first degree
      3. Of the solution of questions relating to the preceding chapter
      4. Of the resolution of two or more equations of the same degree
      5. Of the resolution of pure quadratic equations
      6. Of the resolution of mixed equations of the second degree
      7. Of the extraction of the roots of polygonal numbers
      8. Of the extraction of square roots of binomials
      9. Of the nature of equations of the second degree
      10. Of pure equations of the third degree
      11. Of the resolution of complete equations of the third degree
      12. Of the Rule of Cardan, or that of Scipio Ferreo
      13. Of the resolution of equations of the fourth degree
      14. Of the Rule of Bombelli, for reducing the resolution of equations of the fourth degree to that of equations of the third degree
      15. Of a new method of resolving equations of the fourth degree
      16. Of the resolution of equations by approximation
  2. Containing the Analysis of Indeterminate Quantities

For brevity, I have omitted the chapter headings of part 2, ‘Containing the Analysis of Indeterminate Quantities’.

What Euler’s way demands is attention and careful thought, not mindless following of steps to perform numerical sorcery. For that, I appreciate him greatly, even if students have often to be compelled to think hard about what they believe they already understand. A calculator is able to take an input and give an accurate output; a human mind, however, is able to understand, and that is the difference between mastery and slavery in the mind.

The Times Tables and the Eight Modes of Church Music

A friend of mine says,

My daughter enjoys the cutesy sing-along songs they use for memorization at school, but my son is not amused. He likes some of them ok, but there are a few that really test his (and my) patience. I feel bad for the kid. There’s a real need for masculine influences in early childhood education. Even the ‘classical’ variety.

I have a proposal.

Imagine, for multiplication, chanting the 1s to the 8s in the eight church modes, from Dorian to Hypomixolydian; the 9s can be in the tonus peregrinus (wandering tone). In this way, in a Western Christian school, you can kill two or more birds with one stone. The memorization of the multiplication tables can be aided by music; the music can also range through the varied tonalities of traditional church music, in settings masculine enough not to alienate the boys.

Of course, each line must be long enough to be chanted, and ‘one times six is six’ cannot by stretched into two hemistichs (half verses). This is what I suggest: Let the first hemistich be an odd, the second hemistich an even. Two times nine, then, is an odd, and the second half of that verse can say ‘thus multiply the twos’ or something to that effect.

Ancient Greek for Classical Christian Schools in Hong Kong

In the Abendland, or Western Christendom (including Germany), knowledge of Latin as a classical language used to be de rigueur for top students, and remains important today; in Hong Kong and the rest of China, the question remains of what classical language should be used as a vehicle of education in ancient cultural traditions.

Local students in Hong Kong should, by graduation, have decent command of 3.5 languages:

  1. Cantonese, spoken by the vast majority of Hong Kong’s population;
  2. Mandarin, written in formal communications since the early 20th century, including all standardized tests in Chinese, and important for spoken communication with the rest of the Sinosphere since the 20th century;
  3. Classical (or Literary) Chinese, a continuum of Sinitic that ranges from the writings of Confucius and Mencius to the most literary and formal registers of modern written Chinese;
  4. English, which remains one of the official languages in Hong Kong, necessary for day-to-day life and part of the basis of any particular œconomic advantage Hong Kong has in Asia.

Because of a vast increase in Hong Kong’s number of K–12 students in the postwar period, even having enough schools to support basic literacy was a huge logistical challenge. At that time, there was more than enough work teaching children to speak good Cantonese, write good Mandarin, and read some classical Chinese, as well as to read, write, and speak English.

On top of that, today, the political situation calls for decent spoken Mandarin as well, even as the South China Morning Post’s chief news editor Yonden Lhatoo has expressed his consternation at today’s ‘appalling English standards’: ‘There’s something terribly wrong with our education system when it’s churning out graduates who need serious help with their English.’ The need for good Mandarin and good English has never been greater, and few of my friends from Hong Kong have both. The situation for language proficiency in Hong Kong today is, to say the least, difficult.

Though the education system in Hong Kong as a whole is a problem too great for me to address briefly, I do want to suggest that, on the smaller scale, it would be useful to teach ancient Greek in classical Christian schools, and to require it for graduation with honours or an advanced diploma.

My suggestion is counterintuitive, I know. On top of 3.5 languages, you want local Hong Kong students to learn one more language? But the benefits of Greek would be, I believe, incalculable; it would have only to be done in earnest.

Until 1997, the uses of English in Hong Kong were utilitarian: the British empire needed a local élite whose proficiency in English would allow it to serve the British administration in civil service and in trade. In other words, British imperialism needed servants, not free men. To this end the education system was oriented, that Hong Kong might reliably provide compradors for Britain’s imperialist operations.

Today, however, such an orientation is manifestly unsuitable. Even civil servants who passed through English-medium education under the British empire often chafe at having to answer questions in English at press conferences. While Hong Kong’s place as a hub of international trade and a ‘free city’ in the Chinese empire requires that enough people be both able and willing to speak good English, it is not entirely surprising that the end of the colonial æra has changed people’s feelings about English. Rather than being about serving as a comprador in colonial society and moving up the social ladder, mastering English has to be about understanding of non-Chinese, not on the level of pidgin trade talk but on the level of civilization. Unless Hong Kong’s students go through these growing-pains, especially the city’s best students, Hong Kong cannot succeed.

For any school, an advantage of ancient Greek learnt on its own terms is a much better ability to deal with the grammar and literary style of English, as well as a deeper understanding of the ancient literary and philosophical roots of Western society. If the peoples of the world are to speak in rich cultural languages, expressing rich cultural heritages, they need more than a generic neoliberal pidgin English: they need deep culture, both in identifying with their own peoples and in speaking to other peoples. A Hongkonger able not only to parse a Greek verb but to write in the manner of Thucydides, and to read Plato in the original, could with much greater confidence find his voice in speaking to the West.

For a Christian school, the advantages are even greater. Even one cohort of secondary-school graduates who can read Greek is a number of students who can read the New Testament, the Septuagint, and many of the Church fathers, of whom the young men can already be further trained to serve as deacons in the Church, and some of those as elders able to teach people the word of God. The use of Greek rather than Latin also gives them access to a broader range of theological resources, by which the Chinese church can find its identity within the one Holy Catholic Church with reference not only to the theology of the Reformation but also to non-Western concepts that can speak to the Chinese. In this way, the Chinese churches will be independent from the West, but also catholic. One cohort may be but a few students; but cohort upon cohort, year after year, brings to the Sinosphere a growing number of students who already have the language skills that seminaries want their graduates to have, and others who with training will be able to teach ancient Greek themselves, and others who can begin to deal philosophically with both Plotinus and Zhu Xi.

This can happen. We need books in Greek that use the method that Hans Ørberg’s groundbreaking textbook Lingua latina per se illustrata (a.k.a. LLPSI) uses for Latin, with context and illustrations, and by using only the target language go farther than the ‘Italian Athenaze’ has gone; in Greek, Seumas Macdonald’s project in progress (Lingua Græca Per Se Illustrata; Patreon here) looks promising, though it does not yet have the kinds of pictures on which LLPSI relies. From experience using LLPSI with visiting students from mainland China, I know that even students with relatively weak English can learn some Latin inductively using that book in the space of a few days, because it relies on no other language than Latin. If we have something like that in Greek, we can achieve the same results with Chinese students learning Greek. We also need teachers who are able to teach Greek immersively, ideally with a good command of the pitch accent – a phonological feature to which native speakers of Cantonese, also familiar with Hong Kong English, can relate. If parents and students and teachers are commit to achieving the results, both for better command of English and better understanding of Hellenistic Christian civilization, it can be done.

Chinese Archery Good for a Chinese Classical Christian School

For a Chinese classical Christian school, Chinese archery would come to be de rigueur because of the native classical tradition: the Record of Rites 禮記, part of the Five Classics 五經, has a whole chapter on the meaning of the cæremony of archery (射義). Now that traditional bowmaking is coming back, and so perhaps is instruction in Chinese archery, I hope Christian schools can be at the fore in recovering the traditional rite of archery in Chinese society.

Traditional Chinese archery: bow makers on target to resurrect ...

子曰:「射有似乎君子,失諸正鵠,反求諸其身。」
The Master said, ‘In archery we have something like (the way of) the superior man. When the archer misses the centre of the target, he turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself.’

Classical Christian Education in Hong Kong, Decolonialized, as Part of the Great Commission

In Greek pottery style, the Allegory of the Cave features the shadow of a bird cast on a cave wall while a man watches

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.

tiananmen-new.png

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.

Hong Kong Tramways

Advantages of the English Reformation over Others?

dean-chapter

I am not sure a comparison between Cranmer and Hooker’s gradual approach and the Continental Reformers’ approach to the reformation of the Church is a fair one. The English Reformation already had the benefit of Reformers and Protestant states on the Continent with which to make alliances and unite as feasible in common cause. Whereas the Continent was rife with civil wars in both the Empire and France, England being peripheral to Europe could better afford to reform its part of the Church without being overrun by invaders. Thanks to English naval strength after the destruction of the Spanish Armada, even the existential threats faced by England for the next centuries seem more often to have been about the prospect than about the reality of being overrun by popish armies and (as ‘God Save the King’ originally said) popish tricks.

Nevertheless, the English Reformation does seem to have worked with the existing commonwealth in ways that the Continental Reformers seem not have done. The first vernacular piece of liturgy, the Litany, was introduced in 1544, and the Sarum Mass (in Latin) was retained until 1549, long after Protestant doctrine had begun to leaven English society in sermons and official statements of church doctrine. Even the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, though Reformed in its doctrinal basis, was so written that Bishop Gardiner was able to claim it plausibly for unreformed doctrine; and only upon that challenge, and with the advice of Bucer, Vermigli, and others for a clearer statement, did Cranmer put together the 1552 Book of Common Prayer. Even at this pace, the 1549 Book of Common Prayer sparked revolts in Devon and Cornwall; still less could a more sudden change have hoped to avoid convulsing the nation. Because of this politic pace and the place of the Prayer Book in reformation, Englishmen retained their old loyalty to the Church as such rather than to what appeared to be the doctrine of some particular men, which in my judgement remains a great asset today.

Indeed, a great deal of the Sarum mass and offices was not in itself unconscionable, but only relatively conducive to beliefs and practices that were unconscionable. These forms of services were, in other words, adiaphora: in themselves indifferent, though in need of alteration according to the freedom of the Church to frame services toward ædification according to the general teaching of Scripture. The concept of things indifferent in worship was recognized by the Continental Reformers, of course, since they were themselves able to accept local differences in worship and even to defend England’s forms as acceptable for a Reformed church. All the same, England’s emphasis on treating these adiaphora prudently has lent itself to an easily understood sense that no new church was forged in the Reformation, only a cleansing made of the extant Church. On the popular level, I think, such an understanding is necessary, especially in times when the world is changing fast; strangely, perhaps, this kind of careful conservatism helps the Church adapt to changes in the world because its members understand the organism as one that has survived through challenging times with its life and biblical witness intact.

Against Speaking of ‘Balance’ in God

If ‘balance’ were a useful resolution to the antinomies of the unchangeable character of God, then we could balance the oneness (unity) of God and the threeness (trinity) of God by holding dogmatically that God is two.

Latin, a Dead Language? Sed Contra, Says a 1989 Abstract

This 1989 Czech article, ‘Stitny’s Translation of the Athanasian Creed’, has its abstract in Latin.

latin-abstract-1989

If the image is too small to read, here is the abstract:

Symbolum Athanasianum, quod in divino officio ecclesiae catholicae occurrit, verisimiliter ultimis decenniis XIII. saeculi una cum Psalterio et undecim canticis solitis bohemice primo versum est, ut Psalterium Wittenbergense (W) dimidio XIV. saeculi exaratum testatur. Quae versio paulisper revisa etiam in primigenia biblia bohemica Dresdensi (D) seu Lescoveciana dicta circa annum 1370 exarata (a. 1914 deleta) legebatur necnon magis retractata in Psalterio Podiebradensi (P) ex anno 1396 conservata est. Altera versio omnino diversa dimidio XIV. saeculi translata in Psalterio sic dicto Clementino (K), tertia denique ultimis decenniis eiusdem saeculi confecta optime in biblia Boscovicensi (B) circa annum 1415 scripta ad nos pervenit. Cum Thomas de Štítný libellum De fide, spe et caritate ad liberos suos erudiendos scriberet, qui in collectaneo dicto Clementino ex anno 1376 inest (Š), Symbolum Athanasianum denuo ipse vertit nec versionibus pridem translatis usus est; verisimiliter enim Psalterium, Evangeliarium (de quo in LF 94, 1971, 263–270 tractatur), bibliam bohemice versam non possidebat, quae omnia ad usum monacharum translata erant.

Who says Latin is a dead language?

People Who Don’t Believe the BCP Is Basically All Bible Should See This

By the Rev. Henry Ives Bailey, The Liturgy Compared with the Bible. Here begins the exhortation that immediately follows the opening scriptural sentence of Morning Prayer:

liturgy-compared-with-bible-mp-exhortation

Let him impugn the words of the Prayer Book who dares to deny the truth of Holy Scripture.

Coptic Bishop’s Advice: Bible Study for Evangelism

A Coptic bishop commends Bible study as a way of evangelism before people are ready to ‘go to church’, especially since church services are rich in ritual and there is much people will not understand without first learning about God.

The bishop says those who are seeking God and understand that church is about meeting with God, not about merely socializing with people, will not be deterred by a church that has not figured everything out about welcoming newcomers.

Are you ready to go to this summer’s Thematic Bible Conference, 30 June to 1 July?

Having Children Study the Bible

St John Chrysostom

St John Chrysostom on having children study the Bible, in a homily on Ephesians 6.1–4:

Don’t say, ‘Bible-reading is for monks; am I turning my child into a monk?’ No! It isn’t necessary for him to be a monk. Make him into a Christian! Why are you afraid of something so good? It is necessary for everyone to know Scriptural teachings, and this is especially true for children. Even at their age they are exposed to all sorts of folly and bad examples from popular entertainments. Our children need remedies for all these things! We are so concerned with our children’s schooling; if only we were equally zealous in bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord! And then we wonder why we reap such bitter fruit when we have raised our children to be insolent, licentious, impious, and vulgar. May this never happen; instead, let us heed the blessed Paul’s admonition to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Let us give them a pattern to imitate; from their earliest years let us teach them to study the Bible.

Having just come back from the 2017 Thematic Bible Conference in Princeton, I heartily approve. Even children can learn through inductive Bible studies to study the word of God for themselves, and even older high-schoolers should learn to make ready and lead a systematically inductive Bible study. It can be done, if only we will get it done by faith.

And They Have the Nerve to Call Chinese Food Weird

Image result for raw broccoli ranch

How is raw broccoli considered edible? It tastes fishy in the worst way possible, and it cannot be saved by ranch dip, of all things.

Below, on the other hand, is what the master race eats:

Image result for best dim sum

So do not speak to me of the ‘weird food’ eaten by the Chinese. When it was snack time and I was just beginning to speak English, raw broccoli was my introduction to the awful foods favoured by White Americans.

This Thursday ethnic shittalk post is brought to you by the letter L.

Time to Bring Dead White Reformed Divines to China

chinese-paper-hooker

A Chinese academic paper on Richard Hooker.

For better or worse, the Young, Restless, and Reformed (YRR) movement, or New Calvinism, is in China. Much of the growth of seminaries in China may be Reformed, and every year Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) has students from China. According to Bruce P. Baugus, a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), ‘It’s not at all unthinkable that China would have more Reformed seminaries within 20 years than we do here.’ People are seeing the names of American Reformed celebrities such as Tim Keller and John Piper. About both I have my complaints, but I think the growth of New Calvinism – which is noticeably different from classic Reformed literature – also means the time may be ripe for Chinese translations of not only Augustine of Hippo and John Calvin, whose Institutes of the Christian Religion the ChiCom-directed China Christian Council (CCC) itself published in Chinese in 2005, but also the still untranslated authors Hieronymus Zanchius, Franciscus Junius, Johannes Althusius, and the judicious Richard Hooker 理查德·胡克 (see this Chinese paper on Hooker).

Hooker-Zanchi-1024x593.png

Zanchius and Hooker, Reformed scholastics.

Again I am reminded that the need for sound development of public theology in China will be great in the next 50 years, and I hope I can do my part, especially in interpreting the word of God and China’s history – such as recorded in the Zuozhuan 左傳 – in a way that is not Americanist or Western. I can already see, for example, that the article I have linked about public theology casts plurality in human authority – a constitutional arrangement common in the West and especially in the Anglosphere – in terms of plurality in the Trinity:

With the insufficiency of maintaining the tension between the two worlds, the Trinitarian order revealed through God becoming flesh is lacking attention in the Chinese Christian world. Anyone made in the Creator’s image cannot live out his image without the Creator’s revelation and redemption. The three persons of one essence of the Trinity – both one, yet many – is quite unlike the common, human, governing order where either one or many will be preferred instead of both simultaneously. The Son of Heaven in traditional Chinese dynasties, rather than the Son of Man of the Scriptures, has cast a long shadow over the popular Chinese impression of authority. Even in contemporary China, the head of any institution tends to be a paramount figure which makes it difficult to develop checks and balances between that individual and other associates and colleagues. It is no surprise then, for the Chinese to be more familiar with the monopoly of power than with the sharing or separation of power.

This interpretation and application I myself consider theologically unsound, even if we leave aside the Chinese author’s quiet anti-Chinese chauvinism. The popularity of social Trinitarianism in parts of the Western Reformed world does not help matters. As the facile application of unsound Trinitarian teaching suggests, it will be important for work in public theology to be done carefully, independent of Western liberal propaganda of the past 200 years, dependent rather on the word of God interpreted according to right reason and the common testimony of the fathers, and then applied respectfully and judiciously to a civilization that needs not the deception of the West but the light of Christ.

Edit:
This is rich. Meanwhile, New Calvinism colonizes the Chinese church by the œconomic and social power of the US-backed New World Order. Sometimes, New Calvinists are almost as bad as Jesuits.

Reread the Platform Sutra?

huineng_wallsutra

I wonder if I should reread the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch 六祖壇經. It’s been almost ten years since I read it last as an undergraduate at Berkeley, and it might be useful (for me, anyway) to write annotations on it as a Christian. On the other hand, would it be better for me to read and annotate something else this summer?