Thursday, October 20, 2011

Faith of Our Fathers by Chan Kei Thong {Delightfully Bookwormish}

Title: Faith of Our Fathers
Author: Chan Kei Thong
Genre: Non-Fiction, Christianity, Historical

The Recipe: After extensive research about Ancient Chinese religion, Chan Kei Thong makes the argument that the ancient Chinese people worshiped the God of the Old Testament. He presents his case in this book citing ancient Chinese writings, literature, and accounts from the earliest European missionaries to China. Chan concludes that the Chinese people carried an understanding of the Biblical God with them from the Tower of Babel and therefore, was a nation rooted in a Biblical understanding of God.

The Frosting and Sprinkles: Chan definitely brings up an interesting discussion in Faith of Our Fathers. The meat of the book (and most compelling evidence) is his section on the meaning of Chinese characters (writing) and how they reflect Biblical accounts and ideas. This is an idea I've noticed and have been intrigued by since I studied abroad in China. For example, the character for "righteousness" is a pictograph of a lamb being slain over a person, indicating that the Ancient Chinese recognized a need for a sacrifice in order to be made righteous. And there are tons like this that Chan points out.

Another compelling section is his citing of Ancient Chinese writings which show the Ancient Chinese peoples' view and understanding of God. It is interesting just of similar their religious practices and views of God were to the Ancient Hebrews. 

I also enjoyed his section about Ancient Chinese astronomy and their interpretations of the stars. It sounds crazy, but it's really interesting how their recordings actually match up with biblical text.

The Hair That Fell Into the Batter: However, I had some major problems with this book. Chan seems to stretch his historical interpretation a bit in order to make things fit his hypothesis. While the above mentioned sections were great, there are other parts of this book that were not stable. For example, he claims that the Ancient Chinese practice of ancestral worship is actually NOT worship or idolatry, but just paying respects. I have never heard this from any other historian and it is a known fact that ancestor worship is practiced today, especially amongst Chinese minority groups, and it is indeed worship. Some of his stretched historical interpretations made me question the book's validity.

I also was skeptical with Chan's interpretation of the Dao De Jing, the book from which Taoists base their beliefs., because he is not an expert nor is his interpretation like any other scholars who've studied the Dao De Jing.

I believe the Bible is Truth, so it is hard for me to suspend that belief while reviewing a book about God and truth in text. I was uncomfortable with Chan holding Dao text and Ancient Chinese text at the same truth level as the Bible, especially because Chan is a Christian and this book is unashamedly evangelical. Yes, all Truth is God's Truth and there may be some truth in other texts, but to hold it at the same level as the authority of the Bible is a dangerous step for a Christian. It seemed like another stretch of Chan's to convince Chinese readers that their ancestors were actually Bible-believers.

While I agree that there is compelling evidence that the Ancient Chinese had some biblical influence, I cannot fully grasp Chan's argument that the god they worshiped was the same exact God of the Old Testament. My personal opinion is that a more accurate conclusion would be that God preserved ideas about Himself in the Chinese culture, but their idea of God was not completely biblical.

My Rating:  

 2 Out of 5 Cupcakes!
(It was OK)

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