Film / Book Reviews

Biblical answers to dilemmas Chinese Christians face

Aug 2004    

A Biblical Approach to Chinese Traditions and Beliefs
Author: Daniel Tong

THE book, A Biblical Approach to Chinese Traditions and Beliefs, discusses the sensitive topic of Christian faith and Chinese traditional practices.

It is a book on pastoral care and discipleship as well as an instruction manual all rolled into one. It is a guidebook that helps us to make sense of why certain practices are acceptable while others are not. And the best part of it all is that this book provides biblical reasons for our decisions.

It covers topics such as the various festivals, for both the liv-ing and of the dead, ancestral veneration where filial piety is an important component, and Chinese medicine where acupuncture and martial art are discussed substantially.

These are things we encounter daily in our lives. And often our preferences towards them influence whether we choose to be part of them or not. But the better way is for us to have sound biblical reasons for our decisions taken either way.

The author, the Rev Daniel Tong, is a priest in the Anglican Diocese of Singapore for more than 10 years. His experience in the pastoral ministry has led him to conclude that many Chinese Christians are confronted with the dilemmas of choice almost daily.

Advice from church friends has often caused more confusion than help. For example, one person says it is acceptable to seek treatment from an acupuncturist because it is effective, and he has been doing it for many years. Yet another says he will have nothing to do with acupuncturists.

Looking towards other Asian churches has not helped very much either. It is a known fact that missionaries and pastors are being sent out from Korea as trained acupuncturists and qigong masters today. They are using these skills to share the Gospel. Indeed there is no simplistic answer to this whole matter.

Still the author is clear in his goal in writing this book – “to help Christians live their faith to the fullest, while maintaining the fact that we come from an ethnic group with a long and rich heritage”.

And he has done so by providing, firstly, a general understand-ing of these rites and practices, historically and its influence from traditional religions. Secondly, he evaluates these practices against the Bible and thirdly, he provides, where necessary, alternatives that do not contradict the Bible.

This book is written for Christians seeking to live out their faith more fully. In no way does it advocate intolerance; neither is it offensive to those who belong to other faiths. This is particularly important at a time when a high premium is placed on religious harmony and tolerance.

The Rev Philip Lim Kian Leong is the Missionary Pastor to Cambodia.

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