China Christian flagsPMT 2016-034 by Carl Bunderson

According to sociologist Rodney Stark, China’s intellectuals are increasingly convinced ‘Eastern religions don’t fit the modern world they’re engaged in and that they need to look to the West to find philosophies and religions.’

Christianity is spreading rapidly in China, and it could be because of how well the faith fits in with modern scientific technology.

According to renowned sociologist Rodney Stark, the number of Christians in China is growing at an impressive annual rate of 7%.

Stark and Xiuhua Wang authored the 2015 work A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China. Stark views himself as a social historian and is co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.He Shall Have Dominion small

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Stark and Wang estimate that in 1980 there were 10 million Christians in the People’s Republic of China and that, in 2007, the figure was 60 million. These numbers yield an annual growth rate of 7% — which means that last year, there were nearly 100 million Christians in China.

They hold that this large increase in the number of Christians in China is driven by the conversion of the better educated, who are experiencing “cultural incongruity” between traditional Asian culture and industrial-technological modernity, which results in a spiritual deprivation, which Christianity is able to answer.

China’s intellectuals, Stark told CNA Aug. 14, “are very convinced they’ve got to turn West[ern] to understand the world they live in … and they’re convinced by my argument that Eastern religions don’t fit the modern world they’re engaged in and that they need to look to the West to find philosophies and religions. It’s quite amazing.”

Eastern religions like Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, Stark maintained, “are all anti-progress; they all proclaim the world is going downhill from a glorious past and that we should look backwards, not forwards. None of them admit that we’re able to understand anything about the universe — it’s something we have to meditate on, not something to try and theorize about, as the physicists and chemists do. And that doesn’t fit with the world that modern Chinese are experiencing having happened around them.”

“Industrial society, and all the science it’s based on, doesn’t fit well with those kind of religious views,” Stark reflected.

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“But the question of ‘What does the world mean, and how do we live in it?’ persists — and so that’s a major motor in the Christianization of China, and it explains why it’s the most educated Chinese who are the most apt to join.”

The spread of Christianity in China, he said, has been possible even “during the worst time of Chinese persecution,” under Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and ’70s, because “this process of conversion is invisible; the government can’t see it.”

According to Stark, religious conversion occurs primarily through social networks and so is “invisible” to government officials. He holds that Chinese living in rural areas are more likely than city dwellers to be Christian, because their social ties are stronger, and thus Christianity can be transmitted there more easily.

Revivalist tent meetings, he said, “is not really how it’s done. … People join things in a much more intimate, a much quieter way.”

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  1. Mitchell May 17, 2016 at 7:01 am

    Rodney has it mostly wrong. Christianity does provide answers. Definitive answers to life’s questions. But the reason Christianity is growing rapidly in China is the sacrifice of thousands of missionaries. Remember that thousands of them were present when WW2 started and were held prisoner along with the Chinese. That means that the children that knew those missionaries are only now starting to die off meaning there has been a strong vibrant Christian presence in China even through all the Communist oppression. I’ve long contended that there are more strong, practicing Christians in China than America. I think he has significantly underestimated the number. IMHO

  2. The Seeking Disciple May 17, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Praise God!

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