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Chinese Bibles Roll Off Press At Record Rates

Mal Fletcher
Posted 10 December 2007
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For decades, Chinese Communist authorities have tried to stamp it out completely. Yet the 50 millionth Bible rolled off the presses of China’s only officially sanctioned Bible-printer on Saturday, accompanied by public fanfare.

Of course, this number of Bibles doesn’t take into account the many thousands of copies carried into the country by passionate smugglers over the years.

China may have opened up the outside world, but its governing authorities are still wary of this one small book.

Even now, athletes aiming to attend the Beijing Olympic are being officially asked to bring only one Bible, for their personal use.

Yet, The Times reports that ‘demand for the Bible is soaring in China, at a time when meteoric economic growth is testing the country's allegiance to Communist doctrine.’

A loss of credibility for Communist ideology has also seen an upsurge in conversions to Christianity.

Membership of the officially approved churches is said to include about 30 million people, but there are tens of millions more who worship in underground churches, which refuse to operate under state sanction or control.

It is perhaps ironic that, at the very time when the authorities can proudly boast of an upturn in China’s economy, their old enemy religion – and Christianity in particular – is also rising to prominence.

One prominent Chinese lawyer and Christian activist, quoted by The Times, said: ‘Rising wealth means that more and more people have been able to meet their material needs. [But] they are finding that they need to satisfy their spiritual needs, to look for happiness for the soul.’

Another factor in the growth of the Bible's popularity is that as money takes over, the moral order is degenerating.

All this is good news for fans of the Bible. Yet it comes at a time when, according to the Christian think tank, Theos, only one in eight people in Britain know the Christmas story well.

According to research published last weekend, only 12% of adults have a detailed knowledge of the Christmas story and knowledge of the events surrounding the first Christmas is lowest among Britain's young people.

Among Britons aged 18-24, only 7 percent knew the correct answers to questions on specific points from the traditional story. Theos surveyed more than 1000 people in all.

Commenting on the results of the survey, the director of Theos, Paul Woolley, said: ‘No-one seriously thinks that being a Christian or a member of the established Church is the same thing as being British today. But, at the same time, if we are serious about social cohesion we can't afford to ignore the stories that have bound us together as a culture for a thousand years.’

In filming a programme for our EDGES TV series recently, I noted that it's hard to see Europe becoming more cohesive, and more certain of itself, without a return to at least some sense of its spiritual heritage.

Culture is not just a product of political, social or economic factors. The very word ‘culture’ reflects that there is a spiritual component in the identity of a people. A region’s culture is, at least in part, an expression of its underlying ‘cult’: that is, its religious practices and worldview.

In Europe's case, that worldview has always been a mainly Judeo-Christian one. Christian stories and themes have impacted Europe’s arts and architecture, its politics, academia, languages – in fact, every area where European thought has influenced the world.

Europe has an awesome future – but only if we’ll stop apologising for and ignoring the strengths of our past and start building on them a platform for the future.

With all the problems we face involving social breakdown, perhaps it’s a good time, at Christmas, for us to reflect on what has traditionally made our culture strong – and attractive to people from outside.

Perhaps we should take a leaf from China’s book, and take another look at an old yet still strangely relevant book!

What’s your view?

Is the Bible still revelant to Western cultures?



Keywords: Chinese Bibles | Bible | communist | Theos | Mal Fletcher

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