Professor: Christianity Studies May be Structered as Chinese-Style of Mental-Nature

File photo of Professor Li Xiangping of East China Normal University
File photo of Professor Li Xiangping of East China Normal University
By Li ShiguangOctober 29th, 2021

Lecture on “Home-Country Mentality, Chinese Christianity, and Its Research” was delivered virtually by Professor Li Xiangping of East China Normal University on the evening of October 15th. 

“In the field of Christian studies in China, there have always been modes of modernization, cultural exchange, cultural aggression, civilized dialogue, localization, situation, and current Chinese. However, in such various research models, there is no doubt that the variation of the interaction mechanism between home-country mentality, emotional order, and power order running through,” said Professor Li at the beginning of the lecture sponsored by the China Christian Research Journal and the Center for Religious and Chinese Social Studies of Shanghai University.

Professor Li cited the example of the Chinese Rites Controversy in the late Ming Dynasty. The conflict between the three saints (emperor, ancestor, and Confucius) was the conflict between home and country. In this dispute, one was the family relationship and the other was the state relationship. There was a long-standing traditional saying in China, “If a Chinese becomes a Christian, he is unfaithful and unfilial.” This was the issue of Chinese Christianity or Christian Chinese in the mentality of "home-country".

The mentality of "home-country" refers to that the foundation of the world was in the country, the foundation of the country was in the family, and the foundation of the family lied in the moral character. Chinese people’s lives and properties of the whole family, homes, and country were sacred archetypes. The mentality was a socially recognized personality type and related emotional structure, which was a condensed history of family-country relations. The sociological problem of national mentality was to try to find the externality in the “immanence” of personality spirit and inner world, and the action ethics and emotional order “generated according to it”.

Professor Li said, “The mentality of home and country can actually be described as the ultimate mentality with the Chinese sacred archetype in the ‘social mentality’, which has always been structured, strengthened, and confined to people’s inner world, ideals, and beliefs, and created an overall order integrating heaven, earth, people, home, and country.” It originated from the Chinese sacred archetype, contained the characteristics of individual personality tendency and group mentality, and could link individuals with heaven, ancestors and country, bureaucrats and institutions, production and sacredness, actions and structures.

The family mentality was composed of father-son relationships, which was also very important in the Christian faith. The comparison between Confucianism and Christianity was the formation and expression of personality sacredness and personality authority. There were two kinds of father-son relations. One was derived from the concept of God’s ultimate position of sacredness, and the other was based on the blood clan authoritative personality of “non-family, whose heart must be different”. Confucianism used to make the family the field of individual sanctification because of individuals’ seeking of the way.

“The most important relationship in Christianity is the God-man relationship between father and son, and God and believers have a relationship which is between the creator and the created. When believers firmly believe that they are saved by God, free from heavy burdens and sins, the relationship of redemption and redemption between God and people is also established.”

The “father-son relationship” in Christianity was like the “relationship between God and man”. According to Augustine, “The son is born of the father.” In this kind of sacred position, there was only noumenon and relationship, and God was the same in noumenon, which was distinguished from each other by the relationship between father and son, and the position established by the difference of relationship was sacred.

As for the relationship between father and son in Confucianism, Confucianists emphasized the hierarchical relationship of “intimacy-respect”, and through “the way of being a family”, and how “the father is the child’s guide”. The philosophy especially emphasized the authority of the father and constructed his authoritative personality. In the symbolic relationship between father and son, the authority of personality, as the core link, promoted the absolutizing and sanctification of filial piety. “All that the fathers did was acknowledge and continued by all their sons. They dared not fail to follow their fathers’ wishes and did their best.” For this reason, the symbolic relationship between father and son in Confucianism affected almost all Chinese people’s family feelings and moral behaviors, and took ancestor worship as the carrier, which restricted the sacred spirit of turning back to the original and keeping ethics in order.

Among these two kinds of father-son relationships, one was a persona which was the holy father, and the other was a personality which was an authoritative grandfather.

Professor Li concluded, “Chinese culture can be described as the study of mental-nature. Therefore, Christianity studies may be structured as a Chinese-style study of mental-nature.”

- Translated by Charlie Li

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