Modern Chinese Christianity and the Making of a New Man
Studies in World Christianity
Imprint: Baylor University Press
268 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.00 in
- Published: August 2020
Dubbed the "Billy Sunday of China" for the staggering number of people he led to Christ, John Song has captured the imagination of generations of readers. His story, as it became popular in the West, possessed memorable, if not necessarily true, elements: Song was converted while he studied in New York at Union Theological Seminary in 1927, but his modernist professors placed him in an insane asylum because of his fundamentalism; upon his release, he returned to China and drew enormous crowds as he introduced hundreds of thousands of people to the Old-Time Religion.
In John Song: Modern Chinese Christianity and the Making of a New Man, Daryl Ireland upends conventional images of John Song and theologically conservative Chinese Christianity. Working with never before used sources, this groundbreaking book paints the picture of a man who struggled alongside his Chinese contemporaries to find a way to save their nation. Unlike reformers who attempted to update ancient traditions, and revolutionaries who tried to escape the past altogether, Song hammered out the contours of a modern Chinese life in the furnace of his revivals.
With sharp storytelling and careful analysis, Ireland reveals how Song ingeniously reformulated the Christian faith so that it was transformative and transferrable throughout China and Southeast Asia. It created new men and women who thrived in the region’s newly globalized cities. Song’s style of Christianity continues to prove resilient and still animates the extraordinary growth of the Chinese church today.
Introduction: The Quest to Become New
1 The Dissolution
2 A New Man
3 A New Means
4 A New Location
5 A New Audience
6 A New Woman
7 A New Body
Conclusion: Modern Chinese Christianity
This book is the best scholarly treatment available of John Sung, the greatest Chinese revivalist of the twentieth century. In this provocative study, Ireland has separated fact from fiction. He shows both the vulnerabilities and the brilliance of China’s most famous evangelist. Sung the man comes alive amidst Sung the legend. I recommend this book very highly for all who wish to understand the history of Chinese Christianity and the tantalizing interweaving of twentieth-century global revivalism with modernization.~Dana L. Robert, Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission, Boston University
Daryl Ireland has thoroughly researched sources in Chinese as well as English in preparing this outstanding contribution to ‘the puzzle of Christianity in China.’ The puzzle is how indigenous forms of Christian faith have flourished in an often fiercely hostile environment. Ireland’s convincing answer shows that the life of (John) Song Shangjie is part of the answer. In a remarkable, complex, and sometimes troubling life, Song made a real difference by promoting, in Ireland’s phrase, ‘the furnaces of revival.’ This is a very important book on a very important person.~Mark A. Noll, McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus, University of Notre Dame
This engaging volume offers a new evaluation of revivalist Christianity in twentieth-century China through a biography of its inimitable exemplar, John Sung (Song Shangjie). Ireland’s authoritative study draws on previously unavailable resources to offer a balanced-yet-intriguing portrait of a complex figure of modern evangelism. Through a range of lenses from gender to somatic forces in the body politic and faith healings, Sung’s methods, itinerations, and theology are set against broader trends in the social history of Christianity in China and Southeast Asia.~Chloe Starr, Professor of Asian Christianity and Theology, Yale Divinity School
A deeply researched and insightful book. Daryl Ireland has given us a definitive account of the life of the greatest revivalist in modern China.~Xi Lian, Professor of World Christianity, Duke Divinity School
Ireland advances a theory about Song's reinvention as part of a larger story of Chinese Christianity's 20th-century development. Even more, he teases out how Song and Chinese Christianity offered an alternative to the path of exchanging a feudal past for a modern future. This new man and this new religion profoundly influenced the making of a new China.~Alexander Chow, Christianity Today
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