Academic outreach

Dear Praying Friends:

Unusual influence

As we all know, Chinese intellectuals play a role in their society that is far out of proportion to their numbers. Partly because of the Confucian tradition of the scholar-official, those with advanced education are often called upon to give advice to the government on policy issues. Even those without contact with the government exercise indirect influence as teachers, writers, and conversation partners with key thought and culture shapers. Within that group are many who have a strong interest in Christianity. At least several hundred, and probably many thousand, are studying the faith from a variety of aspects. Some are merely curious; others see the role of Christians in the West and want to know more; still others believe that Christianity might have something to offer their nation, which is in the midst of a crisis of faith and culture now.

Open doors

Dori and I have been in Asia since early April. Over the past few weeks, I have given a series of four lectures at a national university, one of which I delivered at another university, which has invited me to return. Not only do these lectures – to undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty – offer a platform for expressing Christian ideas; they also afford informal occasions for conversation. At dinner last night, one scholar asked Dori about the charismatic movement; another posed several questions to me about Calvinism. Yesterday at breakfast, a high school principal engaged me in a discussion about the growth of Christianity around the world, and today another principal wanted to know how intellectuals in American could be both good scientists and believers.

Necessary preparation

These sorts of openings do not come as a matter of course. Only if we expend a great deal of time and energy in hard study will invitations be extended to us. Without years of concentrated, consistent, and careful reading, reflection, and writing, doors to influential academic arenas will remain closed to us. It took five years each to complete the revision of the lexicon and books about China, Carl Henry, and Christianity in America (some worked on concurrently). The “Salt & Light” series being edited by our Associates has required hundreds of hours. I spent six months preparing for this latest lecture series. The web sites play their part, too. The young professor who greeted me at the second university last week said, “I read your GCC site [] all the time, and recommend it to others.” Articles for that and other sites, including the BDCC [], don’t just spring out of one’s head; we have to read and think before we can write.

Is it worth it?

As Mark Noll pointed out in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, and as James D. Hunter has brilliantly demonstrated in his recent book, To Change the World, evangelicals have, by and large, neglected the life of the mind. As a consequence, at least in America, they have “lost” the “culture wars” to those who have put resources into shaping thought and culture. Sadly, many engaged in service to the Chinese likewise go for quick, shallow results. They invest in short projects with numerically-measurable “outcomes” or they concentrate all their attention on the very real needs for pastors and leaders of the Chinese church. But what will happen if the current generation of Chinese intellectuals is neglected at this crucial time in their history? The growing urban church in China is led by people who look to their educated peers for theological and philosophical direction. What if they end up receiving the wrong kind of “help”?

Our vision and mission

We envision a time when Christian ideas permeate this huge nation; when Christian leaders, both clergy and lay, are equipped to answer hard questions and to propose better solutions to society’s pressing needs. We seek to be, and to prepare, a small group of dedicated students of both Chinese culture and of Christian thought and history, including Chinese Christian history .Furnished with the language, they will be able to engage in meaningful conversations with educated seekers of the truth. Backed by your prayers and empowered by the Spirit, they will evince the love of God and express his truth in a winsome fashion as occasions arise. Who can calculate the potential impact?

For your prayers

Lectures: In early May, I am to give a second lecture at the other university, and address members of the faculty at another university in a different town on the possible contribution of Christian studies to social harmony. In June, I am to give one lecture at a university in Taiwan and present a paper at a biblical studies colloquium held at one of the premier universities in Asia. Pray for preparation, delivery, and the ensuing conversations.

Relationships: Little of lasting value can be accomplished without building genuine friendships based on mutual respect and affection. On this trip, we hope to strengthen existing ties and forge new ones.

Our associates: Two are coming to Asia in May; another two are in the midst of a difficult move; all are engaged daily in study and writing. We need good health, alert minds, and spirits attuned to God’s voice. Thank you for your faithful support! Wright