Beginning with the 2022 school year that opens next month, students at Hong Kong’s Gratia Christian College, including those enrolled in the school’s Christian Ministry diploma program, will be required to complete four national security education courses by video and pass the national security course test.
“The book of Romans in the New Testament says that those with authority above are used by God, and we should generally listen to all the arrangements of the government above, otherwise the world will be in chaos,” Dr. Chui Hong-sheung, the president of the college, told the Christian Times of Hong Kong in a July 7 interview. “Whether in Hong Kong, the United States or Australia, there are local governments, and from the perspective of the Bible, God allows them to be in power. As citizens, you should act in accordance with the laws of the government. This is a very basic biblical truth.”
But Voice of the Martyrs Korea CEO, the Rev. Dr Eric Foley, describes the new curriculum and the comments of Gratia’s president as “distressing”.
“As Christians, we are never permitted simply to ‘render unto Caesar’ whatever Caesar asks for,” says Pastor Foley. “Nowhere in Scripture—whether in Romans 13 or anywhere else—are Christians commanded to ‘listen to all the arrangements of the government’. Nowhere in Scripture are Christians taught that failure to listen to the government will result in the world descending into chaos. Nowhere does Scripture teach obedience to the government as ‘very basic biblical truth’. Instead, Scripture teaches that we are to give absolute obedience to God alone and conditional obedience to governments in civil matters. To give Caesar more than that is to commit the gravest sin of idolatry.”
The National Security Law was instituted in Hong Kong in June 2020. It requires universities and schools to teach “National Security Education” to their students. But Pastor Foley says he believes that Gratia College’s national security courses are part of a larger effort in which Gratia is being raised up as a model of government cooperation for other Hong Kong schools to imitate, especially Christian schools.
“I believe that what we see in Gratia is Beijing’s vision for the future of Christianity in Hong Kong, and that vision ought to concern us deeply,” says Pastor Foley. “Dr. Edmund Ng, the head of Gratia’s School of Christian Ministry, spoke by video to the United Nations Human Rights Council on June 24 and said that the National Security Law has, in his words, ‘more fully guaranteed’ the freedoms of speech and religion in Hong Kong. In 2019, Gratia began offering what they call ‘the first government-recognized Higher Diploma in Christian Ministry in Hong Kong’. Li Fucheng, the deputy director of the program, said that Hong Kong’s 15 seminaries were teaching ‘traditional theology courses’ that were ‘only recognized by the industry’—that is, designed to train people only for church service. Wu Ruilong, the program’s director said, ‘Theology courses do not have to be old, they can be well-suited and meet the needs of society.’ In my opinion, it’s a vision of church serving society in the ways judged by the government to be helpful and permissible. The idea that God might call the church to any kind of a prophetic role, or to be anything more than a religious social service agency, is downplayed considerably.”
According to officials at the small privately-funded Christian college, the security courses and testing will not be listed as a graduation requirement, but students who fail the test will be required to re-test until they pass.
“It feels like a kind of ‘double-speak’: not required but still required,” says Pastor Foley. “I have no doubt that the college would insist that all their statements and policies can be easily reconciled with each other. But taken together, in my opinion they form a picture of a school which is more focused on being a government-sanctioned servant of the Hong Kong SAR than in serving the historical body of Christ which transcends every nation.”
Pastor Foley says “Gratia’s prominent emphasis on obedience to government and service to society is a slap in the face to Christians in Hong Kong and mainland China who have experienced persecution as a result of dissenting from increasing encroachment by the Chinese and Hong Kong governments in affairs that are clearly religious, not only civil.”
“Scripture never promises that God and government will always be in proper alignment and that Christians will be OK with God if they just obey their political leaders. In fact, Scripture repeatedly demonstrates exactly the opposite,” says Pastor Foley. “Thousands of Chinese Christians have prayerfully determined that they cannot in good conscience obey certain things their government demands. In almost every case those Christians have willingly and joyfully accepted the government’s extreme punishment for their obedience to God. They are not radical elements disregarding ‘basic biblical truth’. Instead, they are modeling what is actually the ‘very basic biblical truth’ that Gratia and every Christian school should be teaching: Obedience to God is costly in every time and place, and in this world we Christians will always be persecuted for it.”