Faith of Our Fathers: God in Ancient China
by Chan Kei Thong with Charlene L. Fu
Thong writes persuasively that God wants the Chinese people to know him and to love him, and to that purpose has left many markers or signposts scattered throughout Chinese history and culture.
Dong Fang Publishing House/China Publishing Group, Beijing, China, 2006, 327 pages, $23.49. (www.faithofourfathersbooks.com)
—Reviewed by Daniel W. Bacon, OMF International.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in Acts 17: 26-28 that there is never a time in the history of a people when God is not at work. God’s purpose through the good and bad times of a nation’s history is ultimately that people “…would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Chan Kei Thong sets out to demonstrate how God is no latecomer, but has been at work in China’s ancient past as well as present and has left his “fingerprints” along the way.
The author’s purpose in this attractive and well-written volume is both personal and evangelistic. Thong is a fourth generation overseas Chinese from Singapore who now lives and works in China for a management consultant firm. Coming from a background of traditional Chinese religion, Thong was converted dramatically as a university student but struggled to reconcile his rich Chinese heritage with his newfound faith. After moving to Beijing in 1995, he began a journey of discovering a number of “signposts,” or historical markers, indicating an awareness or recognition of the one true God even in China’s ancient past. Through extensive research, Thong became convinced that the ancient Chinese worshipped the creator of the universe in a manner similar to that prescribed in the Old Testament.
Thong writes persuasively that God wants the Chinese people to know him and to love him, and to that purpose has left many markers or signposts scattered throughout Chinese history and culture. The key signposts include: the composition of ancient Chinese characters suggesting knowledge of biblical concepts and events; the references to a creator God in the Chinese literary classics; and the elaborate religious ceremonies (called Border sacrifices) held faithfully at the Temple (or Altar) of Heaven through four thousand years. Altogether, Thong highlights seven signposts, which taken collectively, build a credible case that an awareness of the biblical God is deeply rooted in China’s history. The author wishes to dispel the notion that to become a Christian is to submit to a Western religion; rather, for the Chinese, it is to return to the true religion of their ancestors. Thong’s book is not without its critics, who feel that at times he equates knowledge of God with worshipping God, and unduly reads biblical ideas into historical events and documents. Nevertheless, Faith of Our Fathers is a brilliant attempt to build a bridge for the gospel into today’s China.
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