Over the past decade, Reformed Christianity, broadly based on the theology of Calvinism, has spread widely in China, especially by appealing to Chinese ‘intellectuals’ who constitute most of the house church leaders in urban areas. It draws its moral guidance from a so-called rational or intellectual focus on biblical theology, reinforced by theological training in special seminaries. It consequently rejects the ‘heresy’ of the older Pentecostal Christianity, with its emphasis on charisma, miracles, and theology based on emotional ‘feeling’. This Reformed theology and its further elaboration have been introduced into China in two main ways. The first is through overseas Chinese, especially via theological seminaries in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. For instance, preachings of the famous Reformed pastor Stephen Tong (唐崇荣) have been widely disseminated online and among Chinese Christians. Second, Korean missionaries have established theological seminaries mainly in cities in northern China. This has resulted in more and more Chinese church leaders becoming advocates of Calvinism and converting their churches to Reformed status. This paper asks why Calvinism attracts Chinese Christians, what Calvinism means for the so-called house churches of a Christian community in a northern Chinese city, and what kinds of change the importation of Reformed theology has brought to Chinese house churches. Various significant accounts have addressed this development in China generally. My analysis complements these accounts by focusing on a small number of interconnected house churches in one city, and uses this case study to highlight interpersonal and organizational issues arising from the Calvinist approach.
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