Monday, July 21, 2014

In the beginning

If I told you of a journal called 道风 Daofeng, with the Dao of Daoism 道教 and the feng of fengshui 风水, you'd probably think it a journal Chinese culture, and you wouldn't be wrong. But if I then told you its English name was Logos and Pneuma you might be a little nonplussed. Are these meant to be translations of these Chinese terms? The truth is stranger still. The value of untranslatable Chinese concepts is at play, but the content... well, it's not Daoism!

Dao 道, I've learned, is the favored Chinese translation for the Word (logos) with which the Gospel of John has God beginning (太初有道,道与神同在,道就是神 in one rendition) and feng 风 that for the "breath of life" (pneuma in Greek translation) which God gave to create the first man out of clay. Daofeng is a journal of "Sino-Christian theology 汉语基督教神学," a movement whose shortened name "Chinese theology 汉语神学" contains the unsettling possibility of a Chinese language 汉语 "theology" more Chinese than Christian. (Chinese church leaders apparently reacted to this movement with "mixed feeling [sic] of surprise, doubt, joy, fear, and so on."*)  

Daofeng started in 1994 as an organ of the "cultural Christians 文化基督徒": university- rather than church-based humanistic writers in the PRC interested in Christianity as culture more than as a personal faith. Some were members of churches but most, I gather, and most of the readers of their work, were not. These folks and this movement are one of those things I'm looking forward to learning more about - I have a hunch, you'll recall, that they may be in interesting ways like our own SBNR and "nightstand Buddhists." But of course this is interesting from a Christian standpoint, too, Christianity having been from the start a tradition in translation.

* Sino-Christian Theology: A Theological Qua Cultural Movement in Contemporary China, ed. Pan-chiu Lai and Jason Lam (Frankfurt a. M., Bern, etc.: Peter Lang, 2010), 3

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