January 15, 2021

iMonk 101: Credible Christianity for the Cultural Atheist

header_3_image_1thumbnailThis November ’07 piece, Credible Christianity for the Cultural Atheist, was a follow up to some of what I had written reflecting on my experiences teaching students from China. It discusses those aspects of Christian practice and ministry that seems to me to hold the most interest to those who have been raised in cultural atheism and who look at Christianity with an eye for what kind of “footprint” it leaves in the real world.

This isn’t a discussion of Atheism as much as what I’ve seen prompt discussion, questions and further seeking after Christ. Obviously, I presuppose that God is at work in the lives of the young people I teach, and these are the aspects of our community’s witness that I’ve seen the Spirit use in bringing some to Christ. Because these aren’t “arguments” or polemics, they apply to the discussion we’ve had on BeAttitude’s “deconversion.”

READ: Credible Christianity for the Cultural Atheist.


  1. Memphis Aggie says

    Very applicable

  2. Thanks for (re)posting this. These kinds of reports just motivate me more and more to think of and practice Christianity as a way to live–one that both receives and gives God’s kind of mercy because we trust Jesus.

  3. Memphis Aggie says

    “Credible Christianity” would make a good book title by the way.

  4. I guess I would hesitate to describe these Chinese students as truly “atheist” – at least in any really recognizable sense in the West. They are, in their bones, Confucian – to which the closet analogy we might have in Western history is Platonism. Like the Platonism of the Roman empire, Confucianism is the most noble school of Eastern paganism, and thus it flourishes most brightly when brought into contact with the Christian faith.

    One of the things I’ve found most refreshing, if only for sake of contrast, by this mindset is the implicit assumption that virtue is a hallmark of truth. Here in the west we see very little connection between an idea being “good for society” and it being true. For the Chinese, something being good for society is the #1 indicator of its truth. Or we might even say that they see no meaningful distinction between virtue and truth. This, I suspect, is what is going on in them “looking at your life”.

    Another thing I’ve thought of, that I suspect speaks deeply to the Confucian mind, is (as you also mentioned) redemption. For Confucius, good society is founded on good core asymmetrical relationships: teacher/student; father/son; husband/wife; elder brother/younger brother; mentor/understudy; ruler/subject; etc. When these relationships are functioning well – with loyalty and honor given to the one, and benevolence and protection given to the other – the society as a whole will flourish. But what it doesn’t seem to speak to, as far as I can tell, is what to do when these relationships are broken. What happens when the younger brother steals his older brother’s birthright, and the older brother sells the younger into slavery? What happens when the wife is unfaithful to the husband who redeemed her? What happens when the disciples find they have betrayed their master? What happens when the son squanders his father’s inheritance in a far country in reckless living? What happens when the subjects have rejected their rightful king, and nailed him in shame to his throne?

  5. OK, I’m not sure where my comments disappeared to, but I more or less hit on many of the same things as Laowai did, re. the deep-rooted Confucian and Taoist beliefs in Chines culture – something that even Mao’s Cultural Revolution couldn’t eradicate.

    Some of what you’re seeing (even in respect to your role as a teacher, iMonk) comes from those sources. But Laowai goes into more detail than I could.

    Although the Party’s official line is atheism, the *cultural climate* is not. I think it’s really vital to see your students’ responses in that context.

  6. e2c:

    Maybe they are at the bottom of the original piece.

  7. ah, OK! Thanks, iMonk.

  8. I don’t understand why it’s acceptable for Christians to impose their beliefs on Christians, but when an agnostic wants to spread a little bit of spirituality, the Christians judge his every word.

    I recently wrote an article and my research showed me how intolerant Christians can be. I’d love a little first hand insight.


  9. Are any of these students involved in the underground church in China? Very curious.

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