Friday, November 21, 2014

Explaining Sin in a Chinese Context

We discussed about our conversion experience in CG today, but I didn't say much because (1) I wasn't feeling well and quite soon into the study, I felt feverish and (2) being a "third generation" Christian, my conversion story is rather boring, but I must admit I'm indeed very, very blessed.

Being born in a Christian family, I was brought up in the faith and I became very active in church, which contributed to my growth in Christ. I was uncomfortable in one phase of my life for not having a specific date of conversion like most of my friends. But I remember the very moment when I finally became convinced and settled in my heart and mind that my conversation is a journey, and that I am saved by the grace of God.

My faith journey started right when I was exposed to the faith by my parents to Sunday School to Youth Fellowship to the undertaking of my Masters Degree in Christian Studies right up to that moment of realisation where I finally felt confirmed I belong to Christ.

Interestingly, as much as Wesley's moment of warmth in the heart was in 1738 when he "experienced confirmation of his salvation by the grace of God" in a meeting room in Aldersgate Street, London, mine was when I was thinking and walking to Pustaka Sufes Book, a Christian bookshop! However, isn't it sad that I don't remember when that happened.

Anyway, during CG, some were sharing moments before their conversion where they were in conflict and most have said it was difficult for them to take it when they were told they were sinners.

In my understanding, it all has to do with the difference in the Western and Eastern culture. The mindset and worldview is so different that methods of evangelism that work well in the Western world do not work as well in the Eastern.

I have this article entitled "Explaining Sin in a Chinese Context" written by Mark Strand in the journal Missiology: An International Review (Oct 2000). He wrote it because he read "an intriguing paper by a Chinese Singaporean who argued that the key to Chinese converts remaining faithful to Christianity over the long haul was that at conversion they understood clearly the doctrine of sin". And inspired by the author, he "arrived at a method of how to teach the doctrine of sin to Chinese people."

He began by stating the fact that our understanding is very much dependant on our language. He gave a summary of the history of the Chinese translation of the Bible followed by why zui is not a very good translation of sin for the Chinese based on these three points:

1. With the group mentality of the Chinese people, wrong is determined primarily by consequent negative social implications rather than by failure to live up to some fixed standard.

2. Culturally, Chinese people believe in the original goodness of humankind.

3. To Chinese readers, zui is equivalent to breaking the laws of society or committing a crime and being a criminal.

On point #2 and #3, it's common to hear us say, "I did not kill anyone, nor have I burned [your house], I have not sinned."

His method involves teaching the biblical concept of sin accurately in two ways:

1. Talk to the Chinese about sin as missing the mark (Rom 3:23), as in the Greek word hamartia used in the New Testament, translated as sin.

2. Use the traditional Chinese concept of filial piety, where they are obligated to honour their fathers and how much more they are obligated to honour their heavenly Father, who has given them life and breath, and all things (Acts 17:25).

If you are interested to read the article, leave me a comment and I will send it to you. I am not able to post it here publicly but within the rights given, I'm allowed to send it to you for individual use.



  1. Thanks for sharing this. Please send me a copy of the article. :you know how to reach me :)

  2. I have already sent it to our CG group email ☺️ I would like to find out what the word "guo" is mentioned in the article. Talk later!

  3. I would love to have a copy of the article if is it still available.

  4. Is a copy of the article still available? I'd love to get a copy if it is. Thanks!