I just read first few pages of The Diary of John Sung; basically the prologue, foreword, introduction, that kind of stuff. And now I can appreciate better the adulation given to Stephen Tong today, although it doesn’t mean that I agree with it. I never really understood the inner working of a Chinese church, but I guess I can get it a little bit better now. Hagiographical practices in Christian biographies are as old as the church itself, but the hyperbolical praise given to and, indeed, pseudo-deification attributed to John Sung (and now Tong) is distinctively Chinese. (Confucian filial piety, to honor your ancestors — in faith, perhaps?)
It is not necessarily bad in itself, though. Indeed, it shows how Chinese Christianity (as any other Christianities) is continuously formed and informed by indigenous Chinese practices.
And, this is quite off-the-topic, but seriously, I think Tong will be inescapably compared with Sung. Consider this sentence written by Hwa Yung, the current Bishop of the Methodist Church of Malaysia in the foreword to the diary:
“His preaching ministry took him all over China and Southeast Asia. His ministry hit the Church like an earthquake. Tens of thousands found Christ, hundreds of churches were revived, and many were physically healed. Talk to those in their seventies and eighties who witnessed his ministry in the 1920s and 1930s, you will invariably see a glint in their eyes.”
Erase the reference to physical healing (or does Tong heal?!), and change the years into late 20th century and early 21st century, and it could fit nicely in a biography of Tong published 20-30 years down the road. And I bet there will be one. For sure.