Peter Berger is one of the major sociologists of our day. A Lutheran Christian of the ELCA variety, he discusses the explosion of Christianity in still-Communist China, a phenomenon described in that country as “Christianity fever”:
The most reliable source for religious demography is the World Christian Database, headed by Todd Johnson, which has been counting Christian noses worldwide for many years now. Johnson and his associates claim that there were about one million Christians in China in 1970 (a sharp decline from earlier in the twentieth century because of Communist repression), and that there about 120 million today, with some 70 million in unregistered churches. Representing over 9% of the total population of 1.3 billion, this estimate, if correct, would constitute one of the most spectacular explosions in religious history. The WCD people further estimate that, if present trends continue (always an iffy assumption, of course) the Christian population in China will reach 220 million by 2050. This would be a considerably higher proportion of the total population, because of the demographic consequences of the one-child policy. . . .
There are much lower estimates. The CIA World Factbook estimates 3-4% Christians. (Are CIA estimates on religion more reliable than those on weapons of mass destruction?) The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimates 4-5%. The Chinese government comes up with a risible 20 million (but then, presumably, they only count officially registered Christians, or maybe those ex-Marxists engage in wishful thinking). But there is an estimate ever higher than the one by WCD. David Aikman is the author of a book, Jesus in Beijing (2003), in which he predicts a breathtaking future for Chinese Christianity. In a recent lecture which I attended, Aikman mentions a Communist party official who told him of a confidential estimate of 130 million. Aikman thinks that by about 2030 Christianity will have achieved cultural and maybe political hegemony in China.
David Aikman, by the way, is the former journalist with Time Magazine who is now my colleague as a history professor at Patrick Henry College.
HT: First Thoughts