A report given at the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, May 2013.
China is a vast country, and a country of vast contrasts. There are peasant farmers and billionaire IT entrepreneurs; sophisticated Shanghai and the wilds of the Gobi desert; there are Buddhists, Daoists, Christians, Muslims, and those who follow no formal religion, but burn offerings to the spirits of the dead and to the various gods and ghosts of folk religion.
For intellectuals and educated people, though, it’s hard to believe in any god. The whole education system is steeped in atheism, and all gods — whether the household gods of many countryside villages, or Allah, or Christ — are bundled together as ‘superstition’. From the earliest days of primary school, people are taught that there is no god; man is the measure of all things, and anything else is uneducated, unscientific superstition.
One young scientist, Li, put it like this. Li is a graduate of one of China’s top universities, blessed with an incredibly sharp mind, and already well established in a scientific career. Over lunch with a foreign colleague one day, the conversation had turned to issues of faith and atheism. When his friend asked ‘Why are you an atheist?’ Li laughed and said, ‘I was born and brought up in China, so I’m an atheist. If I’d been born somewhere else, maybe I’d be a Christian, like you — but I don’t see any reason to change now.’
The atheistic worldview propagated by the education system is a huge barrier to educated people coming to faith in Christ. For those who do come to faith, living as a Christian within the atheist system can be a real struggle. Atheism and a belief in the self-sufficiency of man are the default, and God does not receive the glory he deserves.
The atheist worldview in China is propped up by three pillars: the education system, the false use of science, and the Party structure. These are the things that need to change for atheism to crumble and be replaced by God’s truth. We therefore have a team working in the scientific community in Beijing, focussing specifically on the ‘pillar’ of science, seeking God’s direction and enabling for the part he would have us play.
We want to see God receive the glory he is due in China, and to see a Christian worldview pervade society and national policies, influencing the whole direction of China’s development. We want to see God-fearing scientists advising national leaders and making wise recommendations on the environment, on bioethics, on weapons research, on population and urban planning; leaders who will lead with justice and compassion; teachers free to teach according to their conscience; textbooks which teach science and history and politics without forcing them into a Marxist-Leninist framework. We want to see big things, and we believe that God can bring them about!
All of us work in academia and have full-time jobs doing research, teaching and editing (although you don’t have to be a scientist to join!). Our workplaces are our personal mission fields, as we’re immersed in the scientific community that we long to see transformed as God’s kingdom comes.
As a team, we’re working on several projects, including a DVD on science and faith issues, developing partnership with a local scientists’ fellowship, and seeking to encourage believing scientists to develop workplace fellowship groups in the places where they are. But as we look at the mountain of atheism, we realise that only God can move that mountain and bring the transformation we long to see. We are therefore, as our priority, seeking to stimulate more prayer for this. We are working on a prayer guide: thinking through what the strategic things to pray for are, praying for them ourselves, and thinking about how to communicate these things to others.
This is a battle in the heavenly realms. ‘The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds’ (2 Cor. 10:4). We rejoice that this is a battle together with brothers and sisters in Scotland and worldwide, and eagerly desire your joining with us in prayer!
We want to see God receive the glory he is due, in China and beyond, as China impacts the wider world. Imagine if, among the thousands of Chinese students coming to Scotland to study, there were large numbers of passionate believers, eager to share the gospel with their secular host country. Let’s pray together for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven!
This International Missions Board report to the 2013 Free Church of Scotland Assembly is taken with permission from the The Record, July 2013.
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