Philip Jenkins (Christian Century): Who’s counting China?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I was perilously close to becoming an agnostic—at least about certain statistics. Specifically, I really didn't know the data on Christians in China, and for a while I was not sure if anyone did. Only now, perhaps, do we have the glimmerings of an answer to one of the most pressing questions in global religion: just how many Chinese Christians are there?

This question matters enormously because of China's vast population—now over 1.3 billion—and its emerging role as a global superpower. If Christians make up even a sizable minority within that country, that could be a political fact of huge significance.

Some years ago, veteran journalist David Aikman suggested that China's Christian population was reaching critical mass and that Christianity would achieve cultural and political hegemony by 2030 or so. Writing in First Things last year, Catholic China-watcher Francesco Sisci agreed that "we are near a Constantinian moment for the Chinese Empire." If we could say confidently that China today had, say, 100 or 150 million Christian believers, that would also make the country one of the largest centers of the faith worldwide, with the potential of a still greater role in years to come.

But what can we actually say with confidence when honest and reliable authorities differ so widely on the basic numbers?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAsiaChina* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches

Posted August 29, 2010 at 7:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. sophy0075 wrote:

Similar questions could be posed concerning the number of Christians in the western “developed” world. Is it correct to identify someone as Christian because (s)he attends a church periodically, but doesn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus, his conception from a virgin mother, his bodily resurrection etc?

August 30, 5:27 pm | [comment link]
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