Rev Dr Carver Yu
Abundant Grace Distinguished Professor of Theological Studies
Last July, my book Scaling Higher Grounds: Walking with Great Minds Who Fear the Lord was published in time for the Hong Kong Book Fair. Although it is just a small book with 160 odd pages, however I must say, I am quite pleased with it. The book uses 5 pious servants of the Lord as examples to illustrate a simple truth: that only when a person is deeply captured by what he believes and surrenders to it, only when he can offer his life for his faith, live for it and die for it, then he can truly live, freely and wonderfully. I point out in the preface to my book, “Shallow faith is a deadly spiritual sickness of many Christians today. Upon becoming a Christian, they linger merely in shallow waters of faith and dare not venture into greater depth; or would only remain at the level of personal experiences instead of scaling higher. As a result, they are lukewarm in the faith, stay comfortably in the early stages of their Christian life even after 10-20 years. Such life in faith can only be boring and frustrating.” John Stott put it well, “The church today is 3,000 miles wide but is only an inch deep.” Shallow faith is a serious danger faced by the church today.
As I was writing, I have repeatedly asked myself: Can I be as submissive as Calvin, who gave up his aspiration to be a Classics scholar to devote himself to a life of ministry full of hardship and stress, like a loyal sentinel who would not venture off his outpost by even a single step? Or be like Mother Teresa, absolutely trusting and submissive to the church while holding firmly to the vision she got from the Lord and devoting her life to the lowliest communities in Calcutta without regret, identifying with the outcast and the forgotten, so that they could experience the love of Christ. Among these pious servants I wrote about, what stirs my heart is the pious life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. How would a Christian follow Christ when brought face-to-face with the inhumane savageness of the Nazis? When we come to such an impasse, the only way to follow Christ is to carry our own cross. And it is only in so doing that we can truly experience our faith. I can see from these people that the one big driving force in their pious lives is an in-depth knowledge of their faith coupled with a deep reflection of their theology.
While writing, I could not but remembered my spiritual “big brother” Rev Dr Jonathan Chao. To me, he is an example of being “deep in faith, true in living”. I dedicated my book to him as a token of my respect and admiration.
Two anniversary dates have given me a chance to reminisce about Rev Chao: CGST’s 40th anniversary in 2015 and the 10th anniversary of the death of Rev Chao in 2014.
CGST was established in 1975 with the aim of not just establishing an institution. The vision that brought about CGST was a movement for theological education: a movement for the reformation and renewal of Chinese theological studies aimed at evangelising China and Christianization of Chinese culture. It was the hope that we can develop a mode of theological education that can truly serve the church in China. If we look at this from the perspective of a movement, it actually originated in 1965 when Rev Chao was merely a young student studying theology. His ardour for the need of gospel in China led him to run around for this cause. His heart was consumed by the calling he received from the Lord. As from that time, and for a total of 40 years from 1965 to 2004 (the year when he passed away), he devoted his life to this one single cause: to bring about and develop theological education for the Chinese for the sake of more than 1 billion people in China who have never heard of the gospel. Rev Chao gave his all for this unceasingly. His total selfless dedication to theological education has touched me deeply and the recent 30 odd years of my life has been deeply influenced by it.
Rev Dr Jonathan Chao was in CGST early year
In the second year of my study at Fuller Theological Seminary 40 years ago, Rev Chao visited the seminary in 1974 and shared his vision with a group of Chinese students. He challenged us to dedicate ourselves to China. Just like that, I was pulled into the founding movement of CGST. During my encounter with Rev Chao over the next 30 years, I could clearly see a living example of a life “deep in faith, true in living” in Rev Chao. Although his interest was in church history, he was also a remarkable and profound theologian in dogmatic theology. His theology was lived out in his total dedication and selfless devotion. He has left us for 10 years now, and I still miss my big brother dearly.