Volume 4.1 / Jia Yuming (1880-1964)-- A Chinese Keswick Theologian: A Theological Analysis of Christ-Human Theology in Jia's Total Salvation


Jia Yuming (1880-1964)-- A Chinese Keswick Theologian: A Theological Analysis of Christ-Human Theology in Jia's Total Salvation

Baiyu Andrew Song
In Professor Alexander Chow's book Theosis, Sino-Christian Theology and the Second Chinese Enlightenment (2013), he criticizes theological classifications, such as Ralph R. Covell's. In response, Chow proposes a tripartite classification to help scholars to understand the different theological trajectories in twentieth-century China. However, Chow's classification is not helpful in distinguishing the differences among theologians of the same theological type. This is especially so in the case of Jia Yuming (1880-1964), who was considered the "Dean of China's Theological Academy." Jia made significant theological contributions--particularly his publication of the first Chinese systematic theology. Though Jia's theology falls under Chow's type-A theology, this paper argues that it was Jia's spirituality that distinguishes him from other conservative pastor-theologians, such as Wáng Mingdao (1900-1991), John Sung (1901-1944) and Watchman Nee (1903-1972). Using a theological-spiritual approach (which complements Chow's classification), this article demonstrates that Jia is a Chinese Keswick-style theologian.

In a recent biography of the Chinese house church leader Wáng Mingdao (王明道1900–1991), the authors recall Arnold Lee’s (China Inland Mission) comparison of Wáng with other contemporary Chinese pastors,

Wáng was less gifted in spiritual things than John Sung [宋尚節1901–1944]; less abled than Watchman Nee [倪柝聲1903–1972]; and less theologically attained than Jia Yuming [賈玉銘1880–1964].[1]

Interestingly, for those who knew Wáng, this “Dean of the House Churches” was not theologically well-equipped or prudent when compared to his senior, Jia Yuming.[2] Indeed, as a conservative theologian in the twentieth century, Jia was “of more formidable stature…than most [of his contemporaries].”[3] Apparently, people called Jia the “Dean of China’s Theological Academy.”[4] In contrast to many, such as Wáng, Nee, and Sung, Jia was not a revivalist preacher. Jia’s ministerial career can be divided into three stages: “a Presbyterian pastor (1904–26), a seminary professor (1915–1936), and a spiritual director (1936–56).”[5] A prolific writer, he devoted himself to writing for Christian spirituality on a range of subjects and in a variety of genres. Beside his commentaries on the whole Bible, various theological books, and devotional literature, Jia also published four Chinese hymnals. He gained his fame by publishing a four-volume systematic theology, which was the first of its kind in Chinese.[6] In Jia’s writings, Christ Jesus and his cross are central themes, along with a general concern for Christian spiritual growth and health. Unfortunately, none of Jia’s works have been translated into English; consequently he remains unknown in the West, especially in comparison with his contemporaries, such as Wáng, Nee, and Sung.[7] When in 1954 the then-74-year-old Jia joined the Communist-government-supported Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) as one of its vice presidents, the “House Church” dissidents considered him to be a “compromiser” or “betrayer.” They eventually mourned Jia’s inability to maintain integrity in his latter years.[8]

The above notwithstanding, this paper aims to examine Jia’s Christ-human theology and its application in his Keswick spirituality, particularly in the context of his Total Salvation (完全救法, 1945). With a brief biographical sketch of Jia, this paper proposes a spiritual approach––as a complement to Alexander Chow’s tripartite classification––for understanding Chinese theologians like Jia.

1. The Life of Jia Yuming (1880–1964)

Jia Yuming (or Chia, Yu-Ming) was born in Xiaoling village (小嶺村), Changle county (昌樂縣), Shanton province in northern China in 1880. His citizenship changed three times: from a citizen of the Qing empire (1644–1912) during much of his childhood to a citizen of the Republic (1912–1949), and then to a citizen of the Communist regime (1949–1964?) in his senior years. There was a short period in which Jia’s home province was under Japanese occupation during the Second World War.

In his youth, instead of preparing for the imperial bureaucratic examination, Jia was sent to church schools operated by the American Southern Presbyterian Mission. In junior high school, he came to faith. It was recorded that at the age of eighteen or nineteen, Jia experienced a spiritual vision while praying on a river bank around two o’clock in the morning. In the vision, Jia heard a voice from heaven assuring him that his sins were forgiven.[9] In that year Jia read through the entire Bible and developed the spiritual practice of daily Bible reading and prayer.

Later, Jia entered Tengchow College (the forerunner of the first Chinese modern university––Cheeloo University) and studied under Calvin Wilson Mateer (1836–1908) and Watson M. Hayes (1857–1944). He graduated with a B.A. in 1901. Then Jia entered a three-year theological training program at the College’s seminary, graduating in 1903.

After his training, Jia was ordained by the Presbytery and pastored several churches in Shandong province for twelve years. In 1915, Jia was appointed as a professor at the Nanking Theological Seminary. Later, Jia became the vice president of the North China Theological Seminary (NCTS) and president of the Nanking Bible Teachers’ Training School for Women.[10] In 1936, Jia founded the Christian School of Spirituality (later known as the China Christian Seminary of Spirituality) in Nanking. Sim rightfully pointed out that “Jia’s career mirrored the rise of fundamentalism in higher theological education in China.”[11]

In 1929, Westminster College (Fulton, Missouri) awarded Jia an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree, thereby recognizing his theological contributions to China.[12] In 1948, the International Council of Christian Churches invited Jia to participate in their first convention in the Netherlands, and during the conference, Jia was elected as one of its vice presidents. At this time, Jia received wide international recognition. After the Chinese Communists won the Civil War, the elderly Jia was invited to be a leader of the TSPM. However, his participation did not help him escape the fate of being criticized and humiliated publicly during the Anti-Rightist Movement of 1957.[13] On April 12, 1964, Jia passed away at his residence in Shanghai.

2. Jia Yuming’s Theological Contexts[14]

Theologically, there are two broadly accepted ways of categorizing twentieth-century Chinese Christian writers. This first approach is to understand them through the dichotomy of fundamentalism and liberalism. Ralph R. Covell, on the other hand, suggests borrowing traditional Chinese ideologies such as Confucianism and Daoism to understand different theological approaches in modern Chinese theology.[15] Alexander Chow states Covell’s position as follows:

The Chinese Christians of the May Fourth Enlightenment fell into one of the two categories: “Confucian activism” and “Daoist pietism.” Like K. H. Ting, Covell believes that Christians of the first part of the twentieth century could be grouped based on their involvement with the greater culture. The Confucian activist participated in writing and in radical involvement with the concerns of the times, not being afraid of social or political revolution. The Daoist pietist, however, sought to withdraw from the problems of the world and focus on the reform of the individual through the quiet, spiritual life.[16]

Chow criticizes Covell’s proposal, arguing that while borrowing Chinese traditional terminology and ideology to classify Christian theology in China may be convenient, Christianity is a unique spiritual tradition in China.[17]

A third approach, Chow’s tripartite classification, developed from the writings by Justo L. González, Stephen B. Bevans, and Roger P. Schroeder.[18] In this classification, type-A theology is “law-oriented,” as “it was a theology of soul-saving and church expansion.”[19] Under this label, the conservative theology of the foreign missionaries and indigenous Chinese leaders is represented.

Meanwhile, type-B theology is “truth-oriented,” as it “sees mission as a discovery of truth.”[20] With its optimistic anthropology and high view toward culture, type-B theology tends to have “an ‘anthropological’ model (with a basic trust in culture and its revelatory potential) or a ‘synthetic’ model (with a mutual enrichment between culture and Christianity).”[21] Chow notices that this type of theology was first presented by the seventeenth-century Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) and made its return through David Willard Lyon (1870–1949) of the YMCA and Timothy Richard (1845–1919) in the 1800s. Indigenous thinkers and leaders who fell under this type of theology were L. C. Wu (1870–1944), Y. T. Wu (1893–1979), and T. C. Chao’s (1888–1979) early theology. These were labeled as “Liberals” by leaders of type-A theology in the twentieth century.

Type-C theology has Irenaeus of Lyon (CE 130–200) as its forerunner, and it is “predominantly a theology of ‘history’ with all the events of time pointing toward God’s purposes.”[22] Historically this type of theology can be found primarily among Eastern Orthodox writers. In the twentieth century, however, type-C theology appeared among Western theologians such as Karl Barth (1885–1968), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945), Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955).[23] Among Chinese Christians, Chow only identifies Bishop K. H. Ting (1915–2012) as this type’s representative because Ting developed his “Cosmic Christ” from the writings of process theologians and de Chardin.[24]

Though not perfect––as this paper aims to illustrate, using Jia––Chow’s new classification helps students of church history to understand main trajectories in Chinese theology. In his book, Chow chose Watchman Nee, T. C. Chao, and K. H. Ting as representatives of the respective theological types, studying each in detail. When asked about his opinion of Jia Yuming’s classification, Chow stated:

Jia is perhaps a type-A theologian who is moving towards a type-C theology. After writing that book, I became more deeply aware of Wāng Weifan’s works. Wāng develops his theology from Jia Yuming and, in my assessment, is perhaps the one who takes Jia’s theology much farther to a type-C theology.[25]

3. Jia Yuming’s Theological Framework and Hermeneutics

Though Jia’s theology can be categorized under conservative or type-A theology, according to Chow, Jia is unique and different from many of the same camp. In this section, a brief examination of Jia’s theological framework and hermeneutics will reveal this theologian’s uniqueness.

3.1 Theological Framework

After presenting his tripartite classification, Chow details what positions each type is likely to take on doctrines such as sin, salvation (i.e., synergy), and sanctification. Particularly––concerning the topic of sin––Chow observes that type-A theologians closely followed orthodox teaching, which “carried legal and moral qualities,” and they used this doctrine “to emphasize the corrupted nature of humanity and the inability of the individual to reach God without divine help.”[26]

In Jia’s Shen Dao Xue, his hamartiology is federalistic.[27] Commenting on the power and corruption of sin and its relationship with Adam and Eve, Jia explains God’s law and defines sin as “man’s disobedience to God’s holy laws with words, behaviour and will.”[28]

Under the banner of this law-oriented understanding of sin, Jia comprehends Christ’s atonement as penal substitution. Later, Jia wrote that there were three crosses: the promised cross, the fulfilled cross, and the glorified cross. Explaining Christ’s accomplishment on the cross, Jia writes, “How could such a sinless Lord bear the heavy burden of sin and its punishment for us, as he was filled with sin in his body, soul and spirit.”[29] He continues, “It was not the fatuous Pilate, the ruthless Roman soldiers, or the apostatized Jews that nailed the beloved Lord on the brutal cross; it was you and I––our sins––that nailed him on the cross.”[30]

It is clear that on the primary doctrines, such as God, sin, and salvation, Jia was faithful to the Westminster Standards; however, Jia departed from Reformed theology in other essential doctrines. To understand this departure, Chow’s point is vital. He observes that due to “the absence of any mechanical view of causation (like Western ‘A causes B’) in [sic] Chinese mindset [, t]he Chinese mindset has historically tended to be much more organic or, better, biogenerative with ‘ben (origin) producing mo (end).’”[31] Thus, where the Reformed tradition teaches an ordo salutis, Jia and his fellow type-A theologians place their emphasis on human agency. Consequently, though they were “most influenced by Augustine’s teachings, divine monergism is hardly found” in their theology.[32] In other words, due to the influence of Chinese philosophy (i.e., Confucianism) as well as a pragmatic agenda of Christian evangelism and unity, Jia then “Arminianized” his Calvinism.[33] One clear piece of evidence of this compromising trajectory is Jia’s adoption of an anthropological trichotomy. For Jia, the starting point is the imago Dei in God’s creation. With supporting biblical texts like 2 Thess 5:23 and Luke 1:46–47, Jia states,

Man is composed by the elements of spirit, soul and body. Body is man’s physical appearance and form; soul contains senses and desires, and it is the basis of his physique and life; spirit in its existence makes the possibility for one’s communion with the spiritual world. Thus, as body on earth belongs to earth, spirit is heavenly and belongs to God, and soul then mediates between body and spirit. As all man has these three elements, which is not different from the three-layer structured Temple, it can become God’s dwelling place.[34]

Understandably, Jia’s transformation to a trichotomist was influenced by his analogical and plain reading of the Scripture. For Jia, the number three is fascinating, since not only does the Godhead contains three persons, but the temple has three layers, and Jesus also has a threefold office (i.e., king, priest, and prophet). Furthermore, Jia also understands Christian life in three stages––conversion, the new life, and the higher life. Each of these stages relates to the sanctification of a Christian’s spirit, soul, and body.[35] This three-staged sanctification is a main thesis of Jia’s Total Salvation. However, it is worth noticing that Jia’s view of the soul is different from Watchman Nee’s. Whereas Nee had a negative view toward body and soul, Jia saw the soul as being in a stage of having immature and imperfect knowledge of God. Thus in essence, a Christian’s soul is not an enemy per se.[36] For this reason, Jia urged Christians to pursue a higher life––sanctification of the body.[37]

With his fascination with the number three, Jia also controversially applied his trichotomism to the person of Christ. In a diagram, Jia confirmed that the incarnated Jesus is truly God and truly man. He then criticized the popular view of Jesus’ incomplete humanity, which argued that Jesus’ divine spirit substituted the human spirit in his incarnation. Jia pointed out that Jesus has both the divine and human natures. With these two natures, Jesus was crucified and died, and at the cross, his spirit, soul, and body were filled with our sin, and he died as the incarnated Son with two natures. Jia argues that after Jesus’ resurrection there were changes in his natures, as his “divine nature is no longer limited by, nor adheres to, his human nature…his human nature is amplified by his divine nature…and Christ rules over the heaven and earth with his human nature.”[38] The problem here is not Jia’s understanding of the incarnation, but the implication of his anthropological assumptions in the person of Christ, and his attempt at reading his theological system into Scripture.

Another feature of Jia’s theology is his adoption of dispensational premillennialism.[39] Interestingly, both in his Shen Dao Xue and Total Salvation, Jia only acknowledges two kinds of eschatological views, premillennialism and postmillennialism.[40] In examining each view, Jia concludes, “It is not hard to distinguish which view is more biblically sound, and closer to reality. . . . According to the Scripture…Christ must return first, and then there will be the millennium. Jesus will come again before the millennium.”[41] Furthermore, from the diagram (see below) Jia provides in Total Salvation, it is clear that he understood redemptive history within the divisions of particular dispensations.[42] For Jia, the significance of eschatology is in the fact that “without Jesus’ second advent, our salvation cannot be complete,” and it is in the millennium that Christ will enable Christians to become “spiritual beings in communion and accordance with God.”[43]


Figure 1. Jia’s diagram of redemptive history, illustrating his dispensational view, as presented in Jia, Total Salvation, 74.

Furthermore, Jia’s eschatology also affects his ecclesiology. For him, the Church experiences seven stages in redemptive history:

  • the modeled church (which was planned before creation, Eph 1:3–14, 3:9–11)
  • the redeemed church (1 Pet 1:19)
  • the church with marriage covenant (Eph 5:26–27; 2 Cor 11:2)
  • the complete church (Rom 11:25–26; with Gentiles added to the Jewish church)
  • the raptured church
  • the wedded church (Rev 19:7–9)
  • the church that is gloried with Christ (Rev 21:9–10)[44]

By locating present Christians in the “complete church,” Jia urges his readers to understand their Christian duty as building themselves into little temples of the Holy Spirit, to build churches as the great Temple, and to construct a new world with the gospel.[45]

In line with his eschatologically-informed ecclesiology, Jia also advocates for Christian unity. In his work, Jia expresses his disagreement with denominationalism, since

There should be no denominations in the church, either Catholicism or Protestantism. The church can be with or without life, either spiritual or unspiritual. There should be no special promotion for either the local church or the unification of churches. What is truly important is the church of Christ in which Christ walks, the church that is the body of Christ, the church that is the bride of Christ, the church that glories Christ. Amen.[46]

From statements like these, it is not hard to see how Jia’s reading of apocalyptic literature, such as Revelation, influenced his view of the church and the pastoral ministry. For Jia then, it is on the basis of mutual agreement on fundamental doctrines alone that sincere unity can be achieved.[47] This view of unity became the standard view among the fundamentalists and neo-evangelicals.[48]

4. Jia’s Hermeneutics

Wan describes a part of the hermeneutical problem:

in the reading of any text, especially a classical text, the interpreter is ineluctably trapped in his or her own subjectivity and horizons, so much so that the final interpretation cannot but bear some resemblance to the interpreter’s preconceived concerns and questions––namely, his or her “pre-understanding” (Vorverständnis).[49]

Instead of reading the biblical text in its original and canonical contexts and having the Scriptures challenge and shape his theology, Jia read his theological framework (or system) back into the Scriptures.[50] As Zhao Pan pointed out, Jia’s interpretation is framed with his Christ-human theology–– the total salvation is cultivated from body to soul, and to spirit–– and finds its basis on his anthropological trichotomy.[51] Thus, “Jia’s ‘perfect salvation’ becomes both a reading strategy and a programme for spiritual and moral cultivation.”[52] Nevertheless, for Jia, there are requirements for biblical readers, as Wan summarizes:

In order to understand the spiritual meaning of the biblical text and comprehend the mystery of the spiritual world, one’s rational faculties must first be spiritualized (lixing lingxing hua 理性靈性化) and one’s reason must undergo a “baptism by the Holy Spirit”. Then, and only then, can the reader gain common sense as well as spiritual wisdom. “Perfect salvation”, therefore, is actually a spiritual discipline that readers of the Bible must practise everyday, so that they can be “spiritualized”.[53]

In other words, Jia understood biblical interpretation as an inclusive and cooperative work of both God and man.

5. Christ-Human Theology: Sanctification in Jia’s Total Salvation

On December 27, 1944, Jia’s wife Zhu Dexin (朱德馨) passed away. According to Xie Longyi, in three months, Jia wrote Total Salvation in remembrance of his wife.[54] In his magnum opus, Jia summarizes his Christ-human theology. Jia divides Total Salvation into seven sections, each section containing ten chapters. The sections do not necessarily depend on each other. In section 1, Jia examines the person and work of Jesus Christ from eternity past until his second advent. In section 2, Jia uses the temple structure as a guideline and briefly explains the foreshadowed gospel, and believer’s salvation. The title of the third section is “the Cross and I,” and under it, Jia explores topics including “the different crosses,” “the salvation of the cross,” “the shadow of the cross,” “the cross upon Christ,” “passing through the cross,” “the power of the cross,” “the connection of the cross,” “the fulfilment of the cross,” “the loving power of the cross,” and “the centre of the cross.” In the fourth section, Jia uses all rivers or streams found in the Scripture to describe the salvific work of God in believers’ lives, particularly the filling of the Spirit. The number “three” is the key word in section 5, as Jia explains the progress of Christian life, developing his higher life spirituality. Jia then uses the apostle Paul’s life as an example to explain the total salvation in section 6. In the last section, Jia presents a dispensational eschatology, emphasizing the arrival of God’s Kingdom, and explains its relationship to Christian lives in the present age.

In Total Salvation, Jia states repeatedly that the core of Christianity is about life. It is the experience of life, as life is what Christ has given us. Because of Adam’s failure, we lost life; now because of Jesus’ redemption, the life has been reinstated. The reason Jesus reinstated humans’ spiritual life, is because we need this spiritual life, by which we are human beings. This spiritual life is the essence of life. If we lose such spiritual life, we then have lost the very appearance of humanness.[55]

Meditating on Christ’s metaphor of the vine and branches in his Farewell Discourses, Jia declares that “as life thoroughly flows in the branches, the life juice of Jesus should also be thoroughly flowing in us, making the Lord’s life our lives. . . . In fact, it is Christ in us.”[56] In other words, Jia’s theological and spiritual motto was what Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21, KJV). Indeed, this mystical union is federal in essence. As Jia understands it, Christ’s atonement is substitutionary, so Christ’s obedience is accounted to those who believe in him. Believers’ communion with God becomes possible through the mediation of Christ, who in his incarnation, has two natures united in one person.[57] Thus, for believers, their communion with God depends on their union with Christ, in faith and love. For Jia, this communion is what total salvation means. Thus, he states, “The amazing salvation finds its origin in God’s love, and is fulfilled in man’s faith.”[58] It is very clear that Jia placed emphasis on human agency in salvation, which reflects Jia’s inability to think beyond his own cultural and philosophical limitations.

Regarding the effect of sin in the Christian life, Jia’s concern is ethical. Though he understands sin as man’s transgression and disobedience to God’s law, he indirectly denies the continuous effect of the sinful nature in a Christian’s life. For instance, regarding Paul’s struggle in Romans 7, instead of interpreting the struggle as a current spiritual battle between the sinful nature and new life in Christ, Jia comments that it was Paul’s life prior to his conversion.[59] The problem of sin or weakness in a Christian’s life is his incomplete salvation. Here Jia applies his trichotomy, and states that conversion is about “being counted as righteous by faith,” and it is about the salvation of the spirit.[60] For Jia, “if a man’s spirit has been saved, and his soul and body are not yet saved, according to life, he is genuinely saved, as there is life in him, and he has entered eternal life.”[61] The problem for those who have only been saved in spirit is their inability to live a spiritual and holy life, as if they were only in the court of the temple in a biblical metaphor Jia used. Thus, they need to enter the holy place, where their “rationality is spiritualized, and the life is no longer mastered by the soul.”[62] For Jia, the key to this step is to receive the Spirit. Thus, he urges his readers to pursue a spiritual baptism and be filled with the Holy Spirit.[63] Furthermore, Jia points out that there is a higher life. To continue his metaphor, as a person enters the holy of holies, the body will be redeemed, and the total salvation will be fulfilled in the life.[64] For Jia, those who have achieved total salvation are perfect and holy, not only in eternal life, but also in this world. In other words, like John Wesley (1703–1791) and his followers, Jia embraces perfectionism. Consequently, Jia understands that the believers’ goal in sanctification is not to be like Christ or become little christs; rather, it is to become Christ––in whose being the divine and human natures are united. Indeed, this is the meaning of Jia’s Christ-human theology.

On the surface, Jia’s view is identical with the doctrine of theosis found in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, yet the foundation of Jia’s Christ-human theology is Christ’s substitutionary atonement and believers’ mystical union with Christ. The way to become Jia’s Christ-human is by one’s total surrender of the self to God, so that the believer might experience the progress of transformation from being egocentric (自我) to being “true me” (真我), then becoming “lamb me” (羊我), and finishing with “greater me” (大我).[65] Thus, in contrast to Jesus Christ’s descent and incarnation, Jia’s view of sanctification is ascensional, i.e., Christ dwells fully in believers.

6. Critique and Proposal

After examining Jia’s Christ-human theology, Xie Longyi compares Jia with Irenaeus and points out the latter’s influence upon Jia. Furthermore, Xie rejects the view that Jia has “Arminianized” his Calvinism.[66] On the other hand, in two of Wai Leun Kwok’s articles, the author carefully examines how Jia drew his doctrine of sanctification from the Confucian idea of heart-mind and moral cultivation. Kwok then concludes that “Jia’s idea of the Christ-human is blending Christian thought and Chinese culture so that the mystic spiritual life of Chinese men and women can be catered for.”[67]

As it has been argued in this paper, although Jia was trained as a Presbyterian minister, there is evidence of his departure from the Westminster Standards, especially on matters of sanctification. Nevertheless, Xie’s concern and criticism of Kwok is legitimate. With Kwok’s articles, he helps readers be aware of Confucianism’s influence upon Jia, yet it can only prove Jia’s struggle of contextualization. In other words, Jia’s borrowing of Confucian vocabulary and ideas was for a clearer presentation of Christian theology to the Chinese. It is thus not as easy to think that Confucianism was constitutionally significant in the formation of Jia’s doctrine of sanctification.

In David Bebbington’s chapter on the holiness movements in the late nineteenth century, Bebbington brilliantly summarizes,

From the 1870s onwards Evangelicalism was deeply influenced by a new movement. Advocates of holiness teaching urged that Christians should aim for a second decisive experience beyond conversion. Afterwards they would live on a more elevated plane. No longer would they feel themselves ensnared by wrongdoing, for they would have victory over sin. They would possess holiness, enjoying “the higher life”, Initiates spoke “a new spiritual language”. They shared the belief that holiness comes by faith.[68]

Comparing Bebbington’s summary of the Keswick movement in Britain with Jia’s view of sanctification, there are remarkable similarities. Both the Keswick leaders and Jia saw dramatic changes within their societies, as well as decline of general religious interest.[69] Also, both the holiness movement and Jia’s teaching flourished in the context of the excitement of ongoing revivals.[70] Since “Chinese Christianity is largely a reflection of the theological trajectories of the West as conveyed by Western missionaries and Western-educated Chinese Christians,” the link between the Keswick movement and Jia Yuming was much closer than we might imagine.[71]

Bebbington points out that the holiness movement in the later nineteenth century at core was Romanticist, a reaction against the Rationalism of the Enlightenment.[72] Such a feature can also be found in Jia’s thoughts. However, in his case, it was a reaction against the Chinese Enlightenment––the May-Fourth Movement (or the New Culture Movement, 1919). In fact, Kwok’s articles provide the context for this understanding, as many of the nineteenth-century Romantic philosophers were inspired by reading Confucius and Mencius.[73] Also, Jia’s frequent use of poetic language in his Total Salvation is an expression of his protest against theological Sandemanianism.[74]

Therefore, Jia should be read and understood in terms of his spirituality. Being aware of his theological contexts, clearly, Jia Yuming provides a Chinese expression of Keswick theology. Thus, his theology of sanctification should be read and criticized within the context of the Keswick movement.[75]

Regarding the source of Jia’s Keswick theology, it is reasonable to suggest that it was mainly through Jia’s reading and translation of English literature.[76] It is also possible Jia was influenced by some of his American Presbyterian friends, who had been influenced by Charles Finney (1792–1875) and were friendly toward the Keswick movement. Another source was the conservative Baptist theologian Augustus Hopkins Strong (1836–1921), who “apparently was sympathetic to Keswick views.”[77]

In conclusion, this paper proposes that spirituality is a complementary element to Chow’s tripartite classification. Though Chow’s classification makes it easy to distinguish different camps of theologians, it ignores the spectrum within each type of theology. As has been demonstrated in this paper, Jia Yuming’s spirituality––particularly Keswick spirituality––distinguishes him from the rest of the type-A (conservative) theologians.

Special thanks to Hallam Willis of St. Michael's College (University of Toronto) for his editorial help; to Drs. A. Donald MacLeod of Tyndale Seminary, J. Stephen Yuille of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Alexander Chow of Edinburgh University, and to Jonathan and Eunhye de Wit of Toronto Baptist Seminary.

[1]Accents are added to distinguish Wáng of the house church movement, and Wāng of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

Chiu-Hsiang Lin and Kuan-Ing Chang, An Injured Brave: Wang Mingdao’s One Century 受傷的勇士––王明道的一世紀 (New Taipei City, Taiwan: Olive, 2006), 33. On Wang Mingdao, see Thomas Alan Harvey, Acquainted with Grief: Wang Mingdao’s Stand for the Persecuted Church in China (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2002); Lee-Ming Ng, “Wang Ming-Tao: An Evaluation of His Thought and Action,” Ching Feng 16, no. 2 (1973): 51–80; Stephen P. H. Li 李柏雄, “王明道對大眾神學的貢獻 Wang Mingdao’s Contribution to Popular Theology,” China and Church 9–10 (May–June 1980): 19–22; Jonathan Chao, “略述王明道先生對中國教會的貢獻 A Brief Summary of Mr. Wang Mingdao’s Contribution to Chinese Churches,” China and the Church Today 86 (1991): 2–4; Wing-Hung Lam, A Half Century of Chinese Theology 1900–1949 中華神學五十年 1900–1949 (Hong Kong: China Alliance Press, 1998); Wing-Hung Lam, Wong Ming-Tao and the Chinese Church 王明道與中國教會 (Hong Kong: China Graduate School of Theology, 1982); Poling J. Sun, “Jesus in the Writings of Wang Mingdao,” in The Chinese Face of Jesus Christ, Monumenta Serica Monograph Series Vol. 3a, ed. Roman Malek (Sankt Augustin, Germany: Institut Monumenta Serica, 2005), 1137–48; Richard R. Cook, “Wang Mingdao and the Evolution of Contextualized Chinese Churches,” in Contextualization of Christianity in China: An Evaluation in Modern Perspective, ed. Peter Chen-Main Wang (Sankt Augusin, Germany: Institut Monumenta Serica, 2007), 209–23; Gloria S. Tseng, “Bathsheba as an Object Lesson: Gender, Modernity and Biblical Examples in Wang Mingdao’s Sermons and Writings,” Studies in World Christianity 21, no. 1 (2015): 52–65; Fuk-Tsang Ying, “Counterrevolution in an Age of Revolution: ‘Wang Mingdao’s Christian Counterrevolutionary Clique,’” Bulletin of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica 67 (2010): 97–147; Fuk-Tsang Ying, Wang Mingdao’s Last Confession 王明道的最後自白 (Hong Kong: Logos, 2013); Thomas Alan Harvey, “Challenging Heaven’s Mandate: An Analysis of the Conflict between Wang Mingdao and the Chinese Nation-State” (PhD diss., Duke University, 1998); Matsutani Yosuke 松谷曄介, “Yanaihara Tadao and China: His Article, ‘The Ideal of the Nation’ and His Visit to Wang Mingdao矢内原忠雄と中国: 「国家の理想」から王明道訪問へ,” Social System Study社会システム研究 25 (2012): 97–123; Baiyu Andrew Song, “Christ against Culture? A Re-Evaluation of Wang Mingdao’s Popular Theology,” Journal of Global Christianity 3, no. 1 (2017): 48–64.

[2]Harvey, Acquainted with Grief, 7.

[3]Lian Xi, Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010), 189.

[4]Joshua Dao Wei Sim, “Captivating God’s Heart: A History of Independent Christianity, Fundamentalism and Gender in Chin Lien Bible Seminary and the Singapore Christian Evangelistic League, 1935–1997” (master’s thesis, National University of Singapore, 2015), 29.

[5]John Y. H. Yieh, “Cultural Reading of the Bible: Some Chinese Christian Cases,” in Text & Experience: Towards a Cultural Exegesis of the Bible, ed. Daniel Smith-Christopher (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 136.

[6]As Jia acknowledged in the preface, his systematic theology was a combination of his own writings, translations of Augustus Hopkins Strong’s (1836–1921) Systematic Theology (1886), and theological notes of Philip Francis Price (1864–1954) of Nanking Theological Seminary.

[7]For English readers, A Stone Made Smooth (Southampton, England: Mayflower Christian Books, 1981) and Spiritual Food (Southampton, England: Mayflower Christian Books, 1983) are the two available translations of Wang Mingdao’s works. The former is a translation of Wang’s autobiography and the latter, a selection of writings published in his Spiritual Food Quarterly. Additionally, there are a few of Wang’s articles in Arthur Reynolds, trans., Strength for the Storm: Spiritual lessons––from Wang Mingdao, John Sung and other Chinese Preachers––which prepared the Church for suffering (Singapore: OMF, 1988). Although there has been some interest in recent academic publications on Wang, the “Dean of the House Churches” remained relatively unknown except as one of the monuments for the suffering churches under Communist regimes. Comparatively, Watchman Nee received a wider audience in the West, since almost all of his writings have been translated into English. According to the website of Living Stream Ministry, the complete works of Nee contain sixty-two volumes in three sets. Though Nee’s influence upon the Western churches was briefly examined in Liu Yi’s article (“Globalization of Chinese Christianity: A Study of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee’s Ministry,” Asia Journal of Theology 30.1 [2016]: 96–114), a much more detailed and comprehensive survey of his influence is demanded. In the case of John Sung, none of his writings has been translated. Beside two biographies, written by Timothy Tow, John Sung my Teacher (Singapore: Christian Life Publishers, 1985) and Leslie T. Lyall, Flamed for God in the Far East: A Biography of John Sung (London: China Inland Mission Overseas Missionary Fellowship, 1954), there are also a few articles written by Daryl R. Ireland, Jonathan A. Seitz, G. Wright Doyle, and Ka-Lun Leung.

[8]See Zhou Kou, “賈玉銘牧師的慘痛教訓–– (看這些人) 三 The Bitter Lessons of Rev. Jia Yuming––Looking at These Men III,” Nobody (blog), December 5, 2008, http://blog.haleluya.com.tw/nobody/archives/9385.html/.

[9]K. Wai Luen, Christ-Man: Spirituality of Jia Yuming 基督人––賈玉銘的靈修神學 (Taipei, Taiwan: China Evangelical Seminary Press, 2008), 44.

[10]On the Northern China Theological Seminary, see Kevin Xiyi Yao, The Fundamentalist Movement among Protestant Missionaries in China, 1920–1937 (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2003), 139–82; Zhao Yuebei, North China Theological Seminary in Light and Shadow of History 歷史光影中的華北神學院, rev. ed. (Hong Kong: China Intl. Culture Press, 2015); A. Donald MacLeod, “For One Brief Moment: A Chinese Reformed Seminary’s Attempt to Re-establish and Prepare for ‘Liberation,’ 1944–1950,” A Donald MacLeod (blog), accessed May 12, 2017, http://adonaldmacleod.com/china/for-one-brief-moment-a-chinese-reformed-seminarys-attempt-to-re-establish-and-prepare-for-liberation-1944-1950/.

[11]Sim, “Captivating God’s Heart,” 30.

[12]Wai Luen Kwok, “The Christ-human and Jia Yuming’s Doctrine of Sanctification: A Case Study in the Confucianisation of Chinese Fundamentalist Christianity,” Studies in World Christianity 20, no. 2 (2014): 148.

[13]The Anti-Rightist Movement was a CCP response to the Hundred Flowers movement in the same year. The Hundred Flowers movement was a “brief period of liberalization begun in May 1957, when Mao encouraged the ‘blooming of a hundred flowers and the contending of a hundred schools of thought’ and called for the nation’s intellectuals to criticize the Communist party. The resultant outpouring of expression was swiftly cut off by the end of June, when an ‘antirightist campaign’ was launched against those who had spoken out” (Jonathan D. Spence, The Search for Modern China, 3rd ed. [New York: W. W. Norton, 2013], A61). Also see Jack Gray, Rebellions and Revolutions: China from the 1800s to 2000, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 291–303.

[14]On Jia’s historical context, see Song, “Christ against Culture? A Re-Evaluation of Wang Mingdao’s Popular Theology,” 56–60.

[15] Ralph R. Covell, Confucius, the Buddha, and Christ: A History of the Gospel in China (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1985), 182–205.

[16] Alexander Chow, Theosis, Sino-Christian Theology and the Second Chinese Enlightenment: Heaven and Humanity in Unity (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 6.

[17] Ibid., 7.

[18] Justo L. González, Christian Thought Revisited: Three Types of Theology (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1989); Stephen B. Bevan, and Roger P. Schroeder, Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2004).

[19] Chow, Theosis, 11.

[20] Ibid., 10.

[21]Ibid., 10.

[22]Ibid., 10.

[23]Ibid., 10.

[24]Ibid., 12.

[25]Alexander Chow’s personal correspondence to me, May 8, 2017. Used by permission.

[26]Chow, Theosis, 116, 117.

[27]According to Gregg A. Allison, federalism, or covenant theology, is “a Reformed framework for constructing theology that employs the concept of covenant as its organizing principle. Three covenants compose the structure of God’s activity. (1) The covenant of redemption is the eternal agreement of the triune God about accomplishing salvation through the Son. (2) The covenant of works is the divine pact established with Adam that would reward obedience with life and punish disobedience with death. Adam’s failure to keep the covenant nescessitated the next covenant. (3) The covenant of grace is the overarching covenant that promises salvation to people by faith and obedience. It encompasses the Noahic, Abrahamic, old (or Mosaic), Davidic, and new covenants.” Allison, The Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016), 54.

[28]Jia Yuming, Shen Dao Xue 神道學 [Doctrinal Theology], Volume II (Taipei, Taiwan: Olive Love Foundation, 1996), 151. “大凡人的言語行為與存心,背乎上帝聖潔的律法,概謂之罪.” Jia, Shen Dao Xue, Volume II, 161. Also see, Jia Yuming, Total Salvation 完全救法 (Hangzhou, Zhejing: Zhejiang Provincial Christian Council), 30–33.

[29]Jia, Total Salvation, 110.

[30]Ibid., 111.

[31]Chow, Theosis, 120.

[32]Ibid., 121.

[33] On Confucianism’s influence on Jia’s understanding of sanctification, see Kwok, “The Christ-human,” 145–65; Kwok, “Jia Yuming’s Doctrine of Sanctification and the Confucian Nurturing Doctrine of Xin (Heart-Mind) 賈玉銘的成聖觀與儒家心性學.” Sino-Christian Studies 17 (2014): 75–110. In fact, these two articles are identical in content and argument, with only minor differences in style. Leung Ka-Lun points out that due to the influence of the Holiness movements in the West, one of the characteristics of Chinese revival movement in the early twentieth century was pan-moralism. Quoting Klaus Fiedler, Leung pointed out that though the Holiness movements were movements of “Arminianization of Calvinism” or “de-Calvinization,” due to the need of moral application, the Chinese revival movement sought to recapture Calvinism in their belief (Leung Ka-Lun, Evangelists and Revivalists of Modern China 華人傳道與奮興佈道家 [Hong Kong: Christianity & Chinese Culture Research Centre, Alliance Bible Seminary, 1999], 63–64; Cf. Klaus Fiedler, The Story of Faith Mission [Oxford: Regnum Books International, 1994], 210–71). In the case of Jia, as he was trained with Calvinistic theology, his later theological trajectory was rather “de-Calvinization.”

[34] Jia, Total Salvation, 116.

[35] See Ibid., 72–77.

[36]See Jia’s interpretation of Deut 6:5, where he presented a positive view of soul.

[37]Zhao Pan, “Studies in Jia Yuming’s Analogical Hermeneutics 賈玉銘的寓意解經方法研究.” Journal of Religious Studies 2 (2016): 239.

[38]Jia, Total Salvation, 127–28.

[39]“With respect to eschatology, the position that Christ’s second coming will occur before (pre-) his one-thousand-year (millennium) reign on earth. As a view developed by dispensationalism, it differs from historic premillennialism by its belief that prior to the tribulation, Christ will remove the church from the earth (the rapture); thus, it is also called pretribulational premillennialism. Revelation 20:1–6 pictures Christ’s rule over the earth (while Satan is bound) for a thousand-year period, which is followed by Christ’s ultimate defeat of a released Satan, the last judgment, the resurrection of the wicked, and the new heaven and new earth.” Gregg R. Allison, “Dispensational Premillennialism,” The Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016), 63.

[40]Jia, Shen Dao Xue, Volume II, 53–66; Jia, Total Salvation, 41–43.

[41]Jia, Total Salvation, 43.

[42]Ibid., 75, 164.

[43]Ibid., 46, 47.

[44]Jia, Total Salvation, 51–52.

[45]Ibid., 102–103. Sze-Kar Wan, “Competing Tensions: A Search for May Fourth Biblical Hermeneutics,” in Reading Christian Scriptures in China, ed. Chloë Starr (London: T&T Clark, 2008), 99. Sze-kar Wan observes that Jia believed that “spiritual renewal would lead to national salvation,” since his “diagnosis of the problems in China was moral degeneration.”

[46]As quoted by Wan, “Competing Tensions,” 103.

[47]See Delong Wang, “On Jia Yuming’s Thought Regarding ‘Independence and Unity’ 論賈玉銘的‘自立合一’思想.” Journal of Weifang University 17, no. 1 (2017): 5–8. In his article, Wang argues that Jia’s thought regarding church independence and unity is founded on his loyalty to the Church, and his sincere wishes for church growth, rather than xenophobia or wishes for national liberation.

[48]Cf. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Basis of Christian Unity: An Exposition of John 17 and Ephesians 4 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962).

[49]Wan, “Competing Tensions,” 97–98.

[50]Zhao, “Studies in Jia Yuming’s Analogical Hermeneutics,” 239–41.

[51]Ibid., 239; Jia, Total Salvation, 72–87.

[52]Wan, “Competing Tensions,” 104.

[53]Ibid., 104.

[54]Xie, Christ-Man, 58.

[55]Jia, Total Salvation, 142.

[56]Ibid., 143.

[57]Ibid., 144.

[58]Ibid., 145.

[59]Jia Yuming, Essentials of the Bible 聖經要義: Volume Seven, Paul’s Epistles (Shanghai: The National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China and China Christian Council, 2010), 81.

[60]Jia, Total Salvation, 72–74, 135.

[61]Ibid., 73.

[62]Ibid., 74.

[63]Ibid., 75, 225–26.

[64]Ibid., 76, 135–36.

[65]Explained as: “egocentric”—one who knows only self and does not know God or others, who only knows the physical but is ignorant of the spiritual; “true me”—one who knows “Christ died for me, and he lives in me;” “lamb me”—one whose whole life has been Christified; “greater me”—“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2:20). Jia, Total Salvation, 281–86.

[66]Xie, Christ-Man, 304–82, esp. 322.

[67]Kwok, “The Christ-human,” 156.

[68]David W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (Abingdon, England; New York: Routledge, 1989), 151.

[69]Ibid., 152.

[70]Ibid., 152–54; Daniel H. Bays, “Christian Revival in China, 1900–1937,” in Modern Christian Revivals, eds. Edith L. Blumhofer and Randall Balmer (Urbana, IL; Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1993), 160–79.

[71]Chow, Theosis, 11.

[72]Also see Peter Elliott, Edward Irving: Romantic Theology in Crisis (Milton Keynes, England: Paternoster, 2013).

[73]See Irving Babbitt, Rousseau and Romanticism (New Brunswick, NJ; London: Transaction, 1991), 395–97; Joel Kupperman, Classic Asian Philosophy: A Guide to the Essential Texts, rev. ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 95–101.

[74]Sandemanianism has its origin in Scottish minister John Glas (1695–1773), and was set forth by his son-in-law, Robert Sandeman (1718–1771). It was after Sandeman’s name that followers of Glas’ teachings named themselves. Theologically, Sandemanians lay stress on rooting the nature of faith in the intellectual nature of man. In other words, according to John Macleod, they believed “faith is an intellectual assent.” Furthermore, Macleod comments, “With its view of faith Sandemanianism tended to be very orthodox in regard to the certainty with which the purpose of God in grace will work itself out in the salvation of his chosen people, while it held itself coldly aloof from any display of feeling in the exercises of a religious life” (John Macleod, Scottish Theology in Relation to Church History Since Reformation [Reprint; Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2015], 196, 197). Historically, though Sandemanianism was a theological issue in the Scottish churches, it was also introduced among English evangelicals in the eighteenth century. Among numerous English and American critics of it, Andrew Fuller’s (1754–1815) work was “the key polemic against Sandemanianism” according to Nathan Finn in Apologetic Works 5: Strictures on Sandemanianism, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, ed. Nathan Finn [Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016], xv).

[75]For critique on the Keswick movement, see Andrew David Naselli, Keswick Theology: A Historical and Theological Survey and Analysis of the Doctrine of Sanctification in the Early Keswick Movement, 1875–1920 (PhD diss., Bob Jones University, 2006); Naselli, “Keswick Theology: A Survey and Analysis of the Doctrine of Sanctification in the Early Keswick Movement,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 13 (2008): 17–67. Also see David Bebbington, Holiness in Nineteenth-Century England (Milton Keynes, England: Paternoster, 2007).

[76]Some have suggested that Watchman Nee helped Jia to change from dichotomy to trichotomy. However, as Song Gang pointed out, though Nee and Jia worked together for a period of time, they criticized each other’s thoughts indirectly (Song Gang, “Between Fundamentalism and Localization: A Comparative Study on Theological Thoughts of Jia Yuming, Wang Mingdao, and Watchman Nee 基要與本色之間:賈玉銘、王明道與倪柝聲思想比較芻議,” in No Death, No Life: 2011 Symposium on Modern Chinese Christian Theology, eds. Lin Sihao and Chou Fuchu [Taipei, Taiwain: Bible Resource Center, 2012], 341). Additionally, Jia was much older than Nee when they worked together, so it seems unlikely that Nee influenced or even changed Jia’s views.

[77]George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism 1870–1925 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), 257n27. Jia acknowledged in the preface to his Shen Dao Xiu that he was indebted to Strong and his Systematic Theology, and in Jia’s Shen Dao Xiu, there are many places that Jia simply translated Strong into Chinese.


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