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August 31, 2006

Changes in China?

More religious openness in China? Could be happening.

A Christian author has been permitted to sign his books at a press conference at the Beijing International Book Fair, a first, according to Chinese officials.

"This is the first time in the history of China that an international religious leader has been permitted to sign copies of his book in a large public secular venue," said Shen Weiping of the China Association for International Friendly Contact.

The signing was by evangelist Luis Palau, whose book, "Riverside Talks: A Friendly Dialogue Between an Atheist and a Christian," was released Wednesday at a Beijing news conference cut short when the crowd of journalists, photographers and television crews rushed the stage to get autographed copies and interview the authors.

It's the first time such a book has been issued in China, according to Craig Chastain of the Luis Palau Association, because it has a clear statement of the beliefs of Christianity and a description of how to become a Christian.

There were 500 copies of the book prepared for the book fair, but they were snatched up immediately.

I suppose this could be considered propaganda, but considering the description of the book, I kinda doubt it.

Palau wrote the book with Zhao Qizheng, the vice chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and former minister of information for the People's Republic of China.

As he used the book, Palau also used the press attention to explain what is meant when Christians say they follow Jesus or have peace with God.

"I believe with my whole heart that God loves China. I believe He has a special message for China and wants nothing more than to share His love with the entire nation," Palau said.

Zhao told reporters that the book – as well as his friendship with Palau – models how two people with different ideologies and backgrounds can have a dialogue and be friends.

The book was started several years ago when Zhao suggested a project to build bridges and mutual understanding, and the two held a series of face-to-face conversations.

Tapes of those meetings were turned into book form.

The project, the authors said, is a dialogue, not a debate between opposing perspectives – an atheist and a theist, a scientist and a Christian evangelist, a Marxist scholar and a religious scholar, a leader from the East and a leader from the West.

They exchanged ideas and beliefs on ethics, politics, atheism, Confucianism, Chinese and Western cultures, the Bible, religion, history, creation, philosophy and the relevance of Jesus Christ to society.

A book that describes a discussion of the Christian faith with a member of the Chinese government is certainly a big step forward. Yes, they apparently cover a wide range of topics, and perhaps the Christian message of saving from sin is spread thin among all the other information. However, it sounds like it presents the Christian perspective on a number of other relevant topics, something that many Chinese may not otherwise get exposed to. It could break down the disinformation they may have heard. This is certainly a good first step.

Hopefully also, a good first step toward the end of the persecution of Christian in that country.

Posted by Doug at August 31, 2006 03:50 PM

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So long as the gospel is not watered down, and it does not sound like it is watered down from the snippets you provide, then you are right. Any step forward, no matter how small, is valuable in China. Thanks for highlighting this.

Posted by: Mark Sides at September 1, 2006 08:36 AM

i read the book in Chinese version and i have to hand it to Luis Palau to discuss to that level. i too pray that the Good News will reach every Chinese and that God will have a revival in China for His people have long been exposed to anything but His Word. it was a book useful for me cos my dad is an athiest (or free thinker) and he's reading it right now. kinda like a perfect match.

Posted by: enqi at November 23, 2006 01:27 PM

I have read the book as well. I read the English version. I was glad to see Luis really give the opportunity to receive the son. It was a testimony for the father can do. I am glad to have the book here. Also, I have found the 5 love languages in English also. It is great to have some help here, when English I really need are limited. If you have some books to give away, I will take them. Thanks

Posted by: Steven at November 29, 2006 04:34 PM