Explaining the Trinity in Chinese Language

Explaining the Trinity in Chinese Language January 25, 2013

One of the glaring weaknesses of missionaries to China is the lack of theological language, as opposed to more general religious language. You may be surprised to know even many Chinese Christians don’t know key terms related to core theological ideas. From time to time. I’ll give my own suggestions for teaching and discussing various biblical doctrines. I warn you, however, that Chinese theological language has not become as standardized as it is the West. So, some may dispute my word selections.

If your Chinese tutor says, “No, we never use that!!”, all I can say is, they’re wrong. I have run into this phenomenon again and again. Besides lack of familiarity with such terms, some people simply have different preferences and confuse that with a word being “wrong.” It feels like night and day sometimes as I travel across China. I rather consistently will hear a class in the south protest the use of a certain word that many in the north use every other sentence.

I enthusiastically welcome any contributions you wish to make in the comments section. Also, if you find mistyped characters, let me know!

Without further delay….

Doctrinal Language

三位一体   –– Trinity

三个位格   –– 3 persons

一体性       –– oneness (having one composition/nature)

一个个体  –– 1 being

一神论      –– monotheism

多神论      –– polytheism

合为一体  –– combine to be one

一个本质  –– one nature

存在于同  ––个本体 –– exist as/in same substance

异端           –– heresy; heterodoxy

Explanatory Language

基础的教义 ––foundational doctrine

难解             ––hard to understand

奥秘             ––mystery

类推             ––argue by analogy

类比             ––analogy

似非而是    ––paradoxical, seems wrong but actually right

反合性 (fǎnhéxìng) ––paradox (No one can agree on best word for this. Dictionaries don’t cut it. This is the best option and is common in Taiwan).

似乎           ––seems as if, seemingly

扮演(什么/不同的)角色 ––play (what/different) roles

协调 ___ 和 ____        –– reconcile (logically)

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