Christian culture 基督教文化学刊

The Mengzian Matrix for Accommodationist Missionary Apologetics: Identifying the Cross-Culture Linkage in Evangelical Protestant Discourse within the Chinese Writings of James Legge (1815-1897), He Ji

Author: Lauren PFISTER, Professor, Department of Religion and Philosophy, Hong Kong Baptist University



Starting from the concept of “missionaries as scholars” developed by Andrew Walls, this article seeks to identify who would qualify as “missionary-scholars” within the 19th Century Qing dynasty context. Having admitted that there were both foreign and indigenous missionary-scholars in China at that time, it contrasts the accommodationist apologetic approach of these missionary-scholars to the major English Protestant missionary leader, James Hudson Taylor. Subsequently, it defines and elaborates an Evangelical Protestant accommodationist apologetic as presented in sinological works produced by James Legge.

Having done this initial explanatory work, the majority of the article is devoted to exploring how this Evangelical Protestant form of apologetics selectively employed the book of Mengzi as the basis for its own accommodationist apologetic position. This is demonstrated in five Chinese works produced by James Legge and his life-long co-pastor, He Jinshan, and then further illustrated in a later generation of missionary-scholars exemplified by a key work of Ernst Faber.

In conclusion, it is understood through this study that this use of the Mengzian matrix served as the basic structure for a sub-tradition among influential 19th century Protestant evangelical missionary-scholars. It is a sub-tradition which has not previously been identified, elaborated, and highlighted in its discursive roles within the 19th century Qing dynasty. Ultimately this form of accommodationist apologetics was both a contribution to comparative philosophical discussions and a Christian form of “Sinological Orientalism”, employed as a support and justification of Christian claims within the Qing dynasty cultural context.



missionary-scholar; Accommodationist Apologetics; Mengzian Matrix; ethics; James Legge; He Jinshan; Ernst Faber


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