The objective of this thesis is to discover if it is possible to develop a
Biblically-based solution to the pastoral and missiological problem associated with
ancestor practice. There are three parts in the thesis.
The aim of Part I is to trace the origin and development of ancestor practice up
to the present. I propose that: (1) ancestor practice has its socio- political, religious
and cultural dimensions, (2) its origin lies in the ancestor quest, and (3) it has
undergone three historical developments: an orientation period, a de- orientation
period and a re- orientation period. From this study, it is better to hold a holistic
approach to ancestor practice and avoid any reductionism.
The purpose of Part II is to describe missionaries in China and their encounter
with ancestor practice. Their entries are explained as three encounters: with the
Nestorians a religious encounter, with the Catholics a cultural encounter and with the
Protestants a socio- political encounter. I conclude that from the experience of these
historical encounters the best possible way to tackle the issue of the acceptability of
ancestor practices for Christians is to approach the problem from a `both /and'
The plan of Part III is to apply some Biblical principles to the issue of ancestor
practice and work out a theological model (with Chinese characteristics) to tackle it.
Three suggestions are proposed: (1) a biblical -theological perspective towards its
socio- political dimension, (2) a pastoral perspective towards its religious dimension,
and finally (3) a missiological perspective towards its cultural dimension.
I argue for the potential acceptability of the veneration of the ancestors for
Christians but I also discuss the `fallen' state of the traditional rites. In transforming
traditional ancestor practice, a ritual transcendence is proposed to demythologise the
beliefs of ancestor veneration and transform its traditional practices into modern
social and civil practices in accordance with both the Christian faith and Chinese