IVP Academic 2022 award winner, Faithful Disobedience: Writings on Church and State from a Chinese House Church Movement, has begun introducing many to the thought of the Chinese House Churches under the cross. This volume contains essays and explorations that will compare favorably to Letter from a Birmingham Jail (King) and Letters from Prison (Bonhoeffer). Moreover, this volume contains some of the most mature, modern reflection on church and state matters. Indeed, this topic is refined (as historically) by the fires of persecution.
Repressive regimes often unintentionally bolster enduring political theology. Whether occurring in the early church’s persecution or at the refining of the doctrine of unlimited submission by reformers Theodore Beza and others in light of the 1572 St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre or with the persecution of Jews in the Third Reich, oppressive governments, at times, have sought to eradicate true faith. This recent book—in the best tradition of Augustine, Beza, Bonhoeffer, Barth, and Martin Luther King, Jr.—introduces readers to a voice that is both admirable and perceptive.
The primary author of Faithful Disobedience, now-imprisoned Pastor Wang Yi observes: “Because of sin, the present world is an inversion of the world that God created. The cross flips this world back around. The gospel has a strong eschatological nature . . . the good news of eternal life is manifest through inversive means. The cross is not only the means by which we believe; it is not only the content but also the form, and this form tells us the world is not yet complete. My life is also not complete. The cross means you build your hope on the future instead of realizing it in the present.”
I propose to use one block of 40 minutes for a review of this highly important work (and if possible, discussion or other interactions in a subsequent block, understanding that time is limited). I will review the overall work and acquaint participants with the most seminal essays (below). I also wish to introduce the editor, Hannah Nation, and any other House Church participants who may be present.
My review can easily consume one block of time, highlighting these important chapters from the recent title above: “Rise of House Churches and Urban Churches”; “Christian Rightists of 1957”; “Ninety-Five Theses: The Reaffirmation of Our Stance on the House Church”; “The City of God on Earth” (which ties to Augustine’s anthropology); “History is Christ Written Large”; and “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience.”
The broader evangelical community will benefit from awareness of this work, which is among the most significant interactions of church and state since WW2.