The Beasts, the Graves, and the Ghosts
A Study of Contextualized Preaching during Chinese Festivals
At the heart of the gospel is the message of the incarnation: God translating himself into the context of human culture and language so we might know him. Far from coming to an end with Christ’s life on earth, this process of contextualization is ongoing, reoccurring every time the gospel encounters the particularities of society and culture.
In this book, Dr Tan explores the significance of contextualized preaching within the Chinese context. Against the backdrop of three major festivals – the Spring Festival, the Qing Ming Festival, and the Hungry Ghost Festival – Tan examines the practices of six experienced Chinese preachers in order to demonstrate the theological and practical importance of contextualized preaching. As a result of his research, Tan suggests six main principles for contextual preaching – principles that are rooted within a Chinese context, yet applicable to anyone seeking to express the gospel’s relevance within a particular cultural setting. Combining insights from biblical studies, applied theology, and ethnography, this interdisciplinary study will enrich one’s understanding of Chinese culture, the gospel, and the important and necessary work of contextualization.
This is a significant and landmark book for pastors and preachers seeking to reach Chinese people. With remarkable breadth of scholarship, Dr Joey Tan makes accessible key Chinese festivals and cultural norms and then leads us to see ways of making our scriptural preaching culturally aware without forsaking gospel truth. Whether Asian, or Westerner like me who preaches to people from Chinese backgrounds, I highly commend this book and pray that God uses it to enable greater relevance in preaching to win many Chinese for Christ.
Rev Paul Barker, PhD
Assistant Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Melbourne
Former Regional Coordinator, Langham Preaching Asia
For preachers and evangelists, this volume is a gold mine. Written by a preacher, evangelist and entrepreneur, the reader’s eyes will be opened and hearts will be warmed as well. The subject of contextualization has been treated many times over, but the treasure in this book is a classic case study in a Chinese cultural context. The reader will also be rewarded by several illustrations from local church ministry. And although Dr Hann Tzuu Tan’s primary intention is situated in a Chinese culture, this thorough treatment will be useful in other contexts as well.
John W. Nyquist, PhD
Professor Emeritus of Mission and Evangelism,
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, USA
God’s commitment, as demonstrated on the day of Pentecost, is that everyone may hear the gospel in their own language. Languages are more than mere words. They are carriers of culture. In this book, Hann Tzuu Tan explores how the gospel currently is, and may in the future be, preached meaningfully to Chinese people in the light of their three traditional annual religious festivals. In doing so, he not only carefully examines the meaning of the festivals but sets his research in the context of recent discussions about contextualization and the nature of the gospel. Furthermore, his investigations lead him to explore a number of key theological themes such as the spirit world and the nature of spiritual warfare. This will prove of major help both to scholars seeking to understand Chinese culture and preachers who have a longing to make Christ known. Clearly and objectively written by an insider who has a passion for the gospel.
Rev Derek Tidball, PhD
Former Principal, London School of Theology, UK
Research Supervisor, Spurgeon’s College, London, UK
When reading through Dr Tan Hann Tzuu’s study, the reader can tell right away that Dr Tan is an articulate scholar, a capable researcher, a reflective Bible teacher, a sincere practitioner, and a faithful disciple of Christ.
The issue of contextualized preaching among Chinese churches has been ambiguous due to different levels of understanding and perceptions towards Chinese festivals and cultures. Dr Tan’s thesis attempted to tackle and resolve the issue, and it is indeed achieved!
This book is full of extensive qualitative research, in-depth and insightful interviews, sound biblical teachings, genuine theological reflections, substantive objective analysis, and practical convincing conclusions. The six principles derived from the research are profound in reference to empirical usage for pulpit ministry among the Chinese churches.
Whether for apologetic purpose, theological education, pulpit ministry or to expand one’s understanding of the contextualized preaching among Chinese festivals and cultures, Dr Tan’s book is unquestionably a reliable source to explore. I highly recommend it.
Rev Joshua Ting, DMin
General Secretary, Chinese Coordination Centre of World Evangelism (CCCOWE)
Table of Contents
- Approach on Chinese Literature, Translation, and Transliteration
- Chapter 1 Introduction
- Background to the Study
- The Study of Chinese Culture
- Aim of the Research
- Objectives of the Study
- Research Methodology
- Research Questions
- Significance of the Study
- Delimitations of the Study
- Definition of Terms
- Outline of the Study
- Chapter 2 Literature Review on Issues of Contextualization
- The Ecumenical Movement in the Twentieth Century
- The Emergence of Contextualization
- Definitions of Contextualization
- Approaches to Contextualization
- Examples of Contextualization from the New Testament
- Contextualized Preaching
- Contextualization in the Chinese Cultural Context
- Chapter 3 Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Chinese Folk Religion
- Chinese Folk Religion
- Chapter 4 Research Methods
- Qualitative Field Research of Three Chinese Festivals
- Qualitative Interviews with Chinese Preachers
- Chapter 5 Exploratory Study of the Three Festivals
- Field Research on the Spring Festival
- Field Research on the Qing Ming Festival
- Field Research on the Hungry Ghost Festival
- Chapter 6 Chinese Preachers’ Perceptions and Practices of Contextualized Preaching at Three Chinese Festivals
- The Chinese Preachers Agree That Contextualized Preaching Is Important
- Regarding the Spring Festival
- Regarding the Qing Ming Festival
- Regarding the Hungry Ghost Festival
- Chapter 7 Theological Reflections of the Cult of the Dead and the Spiritual Realm
- Theological Reflections on the Cult of the Dead
- Theological Reflections on the Spiritual Realm
- Chapter 8 Principles for Formulating Contextualized Preaching to Chinese People
- Principle 1: Contextualization is important in preaching, even when the Chinese preacher shares the same cultural background with the audience
- Principle 2: Contextualized preaching includes both affirmation and confrontation
- Principle 3: The theme of harmony is appropriate for contextualized preaching among the Chinese, particularly during the Spring Festival
- Principle 4: The theme of filial piety is appropriate for contextualized preaching among the Chinese, particularly during the Qing Ming Festival
- Principle 5: Preaching about the spiritual realm is appropriate during the Hungry Ghost Festival
- Principle 6: Choosing an appropriate metaphor for contextualized preaching in the Chinese culture is essential
- Chapter 9 Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations
- Concluding Remarks