In Search of the Via Media between Christ and Marx: A Study of Bishop Ding Guangxun's Contextual Theology

Jieren Li

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This dissertation is the first academic treatment and systematic analysis on the theology of Bishop Ding Guangxun (K.H. Ding) who is an internationally- renowned Christian leader of the Chinese Protestant Church in contemporary China. It seeks to explore the development of Bishop Ding’s contextual theology with special emphasis on his political theology of accommodation and cultural indigenization.
The author has argued that Ding’s theology should be interpreted not only from the explicit elements in China’s sociopolitical context of state-church relationships. His theology should also be viewed from the implicit element of his theological tradition of Anglicanism as well as his cultural heritage of Confucianism.
This thesis argues that from his youth until the present, Bishop Ding has been consistently committed to a constructive accommodation between Christianity and socialism/communism. It demonstrates that the primary context of his ministry and doing theology has been in a totalitarian Communist state, where he struggled to secure the survival and advance the participation of the church in cooperation with the CCP-led modernizing process. It has determined that Ding’s contextual theology is a theology of accommodation that seeks to harmonize Christian social and ethical teaching with the ideals of Communist ideology. Finally, the author demonstrates that Ding’s theology exemplifies the principle of the middle way that corresponds with both the Anglican notion of via media and the Confucian doctrine of the Mean.
In conclusion, the author defines Ding’s contextual approach as a hierarchical theology with a priestly voice which seeks doing theology from “above.” His model of contextualization reconciles two approaches to contextual theology: sociopolitical accommodation and cultural indigenization. Although Ding’s theology makes a unique contribution to our understanding of contextual theology as a global phenomenon, it also questions whether his model of contextualization will have continuing validity and survive as ecclesia Sinica in globalized postmodern China.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Centre for Theology and Religious Studies
  • Kerr, David, Supervisor
  • Hammar, K-G, Supervisor, External person
Award date2008 Sept 29
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2008-09-29
Time: 13:15
Place: Spoletorps hörsal, Spolegatan 1 R, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Ruokanen, Miikka
Title: Professor
Affiliation: University of Helsinki


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Philosophy, Ethics and Religion

Free keywords

  • Communist state
  • via media
  • Socialist society
  • state-church relationship
  • inculturation
  • indigization
  • accommodation
  • Anglicanism
  • Chinese church
  • Bishop Ding
  • Fundamentalist-Evangelical
  • contextual theology
  • Lux Mundi


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