Volume 28, 2011

China's Modenization I

Richard Madsen
Pages 133-152

Signs and Wonders: Christianity and Hybrid Modernity in China

The Protestant Christianity that came to China in the 19th century was mostly a “modernizing” Christianity that promoted the transition to what Charles Taylor calls an “immanent frame”—a disenchanted world based on natural laws, knowable through scientific reason, which can be used by humans for their mutual benefit. Within this immanent frame, religion is a matter of private belief that cultivates good personal moral character. And there is no place for “signs and wonders”—miracles that suspend the laws of nature. But Chinese modernity has turned out to be a hybrid kind. Especially (but by no means exclusively) in the countryside, the immanent modernity brought from the West has mingled with the enchanted world carried down from Chinese traditions. One sign of this is the prevalence of “signs and wonders” popular Christianity, which has been the most rapidly growing form of Christianity in China. The history of Catholicism in China has similarities to these developments.