Before Mao’s Red Guards which were unleashed in 1966, many liberal Protestant missionaries were not sure why they had come to China. Then all foreigners were forced to leave. But independent underground churches flourished. John Sung was the son of a Methodist pastor. In 1920 he had come to America and enrolled in Ohio Wesleyan University, intending to become a minister and return to China. But he changed his mind and shifted his major to chemistry. He was still torn between his love for chemistry and Christianity when he received a full scholarship to Union Theological Seminary. However, Union was and is the center of theological liberalism.
At that time the leading light was Harry Emerson Fosdick, who was forced out of the Presbyterian Church for rejecting the possibility of miracles, denying the Second Coming, and asserting that the Bible is unreliable. Under this influence, Sung lost his faith and contemplated becoming a Buddhist or Taoist. But one night he attended a revival meeting at a nearby Baptist church. He was not immediately converted, but after a period of deep reflection one night he had a dramatic salvation experience. He burned all his theological books and confronted Fosdick, telling him, “You are the Devil. You made me lose my faith.” Eventually the faculty had him committed to a mental institution, but after six and a half months he was released and returned to China as an itinerant preacher. When he died of cancer in 1944, at the age of forty-three, it was estimated that he had lead at least fifty thousand souls to salvation.
Rodney Stark concluded that “lukewarm liberalism simply could not generate the level of commitment needed to hold onto one’s faith in the face of considerable personal risk. Moreover, a high level of member intensity is always what it takes to achieve rapid growth.” While Fosdick was famous for his rhetorical question, “Shall the fundamentalists win?” Stark explained that in China the answer was “Yes. Especially when it comes to keeping the faith in the face of danger.”
If the current rate of growth holds for about thirteen more years, there will be more Christians in China than in any other nation on earth. Stark reports in A Star in the East (2015) that thousands convert every day and more than forty new churches open every week.
Unfortunately, I have know two young men who lost their faith as the result of a liberal education and to date neither of them have been reclaimed. But we are not against education — just liberalism which fosters an attitude that biblical Christianity is illiterate and uninformed. In fact, as a leading sociologist, Stark documents that in six Asian nations, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan “it is the more educated who are those most likely to have become Christians.” And a very high rate of conversion to Christianity is taking place among graduate students in China. There is a Christian climate that prevails on the campus of leading Chinese universities in which many students and faculty openly express their faith. And this is true in spite of the fact that anyone who wants to advance with the Communist Part cannot have any religion. Yet Stark concludes that “the most educated Chinese are more likely than the less educated to become Christians.”
J. Edwin Orr has documented that many revivals have broken out on college campuses. That’s why I have spent my last ten years working with a small college.
-Vic Reasoner