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This book is a scholarly look at the history of this earliest connection between some very thoughtful Catholic missionaries and the Chinese intelligensia. It gives the story of Ricci, Alleni, and also the story of three prominent converts to Christianity, among other things. A good deal of the book is about Matteo Rici, who comes across as a truly remarkable individual, both intellectually and as a human being. Historians, including those here, tend to admire him for adapting Christianity to Chinese culture, at the expense of some arrogant and ignorant missionaries who came later. In my opinion, it was the later missionaries who were off base, in terms of Christian tradition, rather than the Jesuits, in that, in the blindness of European power, they failed to utilize principles of cultural adaptation that had been laid out by central Christian thinkers like Paul, John, Justin, Clement, and Augustine.
As these essays show, the Jesuits held to a policy of "rejecting Buddhism and accomodating with Confucianism." They also tended to exagerate the moral character of Western society. In my opinion, Augustine showed that it is possible to relate Christianity in a more holistic manner to all segments of society, and to be quite frank and honest, in creating an orthodox Christian apologetic that meets the needs of a civilization. Many modern Christian Chinese agree with the Chinese scholar Ye Xianggao in interpretting Christianity not as a rejection of Chinese culture, but rather as its fulfillment. "Ordinary Confucianists do indeed talk frequently of Heaven, but they behave as if Heaven is far away. (The Jesuits), on the other hand, speak of Heaven as connected intimately with us . . . This is most appropriate for awakening the world."
My main criticism is that the scholars involved seem too focused on these particular cases, and contrasting them only to later bad examples, that they fail to relate the story to the larger context of Christian fulfillment theology, of more recent works that expand upon Ricci's excellent example, and, frankly, what God might be up to. But I found several essays worth reading.
author, Jesus and the Religions of ManEast Meets West: The Jesuits in China, 1582-1773 Overview
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