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Chinese Term Question.

Controversy regarding the proper name for God in China that came to a head with M. Ricci*; he used the names Shang-ti (or Shang-di; it means high ruler) and T'ien (heaven; divinity), terms for God found in ancient Chinese classics. His successor, Niccolò Longobardi (Longobardo; ca. 1566–1655), rejected the term Shang-ti, holding that it was the name of an idol. Dominicans and Franciscans opposed the use of Shang-ti; Clement XI ruled 1704 that it should not be used. Since then RCs have used T'ien Chu (Lord of heaven). R. Morrison* and Joshua Marshman* used Shen (heavenly spirits; spiritual power) in their Bible translation. About 1840 other Prot. missionaries used Shang-ti for the true God and Shen for idols and for the true God when discriminating adjective is added (e.g., 1 Jn 5:20). Missionaries of the Mo. Syn. at first did likewise. Soon the controversy about the propriety of using an idol name (Shang-ti) for God involved them also; a conf. paper (1924) advocated the use of Shen alone. The Mo. Syn. Miss. Bd. in 1928 allowed use of Shen but allowed no missionary to refuse to use miss. literature having the term Shang-ti. The faculty at Conc. Sem., Saint Louis, the Bd. of For. Miss., the syn. committee, and the missionaries ultimately agreed that Shang-ti could be divested of its heathen connotation and filled with Biblical content. EL

See also China, 6.

1935 Proceedings of the Mo. Syn. (St. Louis, 1935), pp. 168–176.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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