Unknown to many Western Christians, Mr. Wang Mingdao (1901-1991) is one of the most influential and respected Chinese Christian leaders of the 20th century. He was a pastor of an independent church in Beijing founded on the “Three-self principle”. He was the conscience of the Chinese church boldly confronting false teachings and evils at his time. He was a prisoner for Jesus Christ spending two decades in prison suffering for his faith.
Wang Mingdao was born in Beijing where his parents had taken refuge within the Foreign Quarters of Beijing during the Boxer Uprising in 1900. This uprising was a xenophobic reaction against the “foreign devils” in general and Christians in particular. An estimated 30,000 Chinese Christians and 200 foreign missionaries were massacred during this uprising. Terrified at the sight of the rampaging Boxers, Wang’s father hanged himself weeks before he was born.
Wang was brought up by his widowed mother in extreme poverty. Wang had a sharp mind and did well at school. At an early age Wang aspired to become a great political leader and hang a picture of Abraham Lincoln in his home to remind himself. However, Wang became a Christian at the age of 14 and gave up his personal ambition to devote himself to Christian ministry. In 1919 Wang became a teacher at a Presbyterian mission school in Baoding, a hundred miles south of Beijing. Later he came to the conviction of believers’ baptism by immersion. He and his five friends broke ice at a creek in January and plunged themselves in the frigid water in obedience to their consciences. As a result, he was promptly dismissed from the school in 1920.
Later Wang retreated to Beijing’s western hills and read the Bible through six times in sixty two days which gave him a deep love for the Scriptures. He then started a small bible study group in a tiny hut in Beijing. His understanding of the Scriptures and his pious lifestyle impressed many visitors. He was invited to speak at different churches and conferences in Beijing and later in other parts of China. Later the humble bible study group grew into a household gathering and eventually a church. In 1937 the Christian Tabernacle-the name of Wang’s church-was birthed.
Wang is an outspoken fundamentalist in the Chinese churches. The central doctrine of Wang’s theology was regeneration in Christ, upon which Christianity stands or falls. He insisted the inerrant bible as the authority for all Christian doctrine and Christian life. He delineated the justification and sanctification phases of salvation, preaching that a person is justified only by faith, yet the integrity of the believer became the fruits of one’s sanctified life. He often challenged believers to live out lives of personal virtue, which was not a popular position then. In both preaching and writings, he was a strong voice against theological liberalism that was gaining popularity in some denominations in China after the 1920s. He mainly opposed those who...