What theological differences
Three-Self Patriotic Movement
and the house church movement in China?
In an attempt to more directly answer this question, here is my analysis of communist "substitutes" for church, derived from reading mainly two autobiographical works, over and over again. This analysis applies directly to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, but also applies to the puppet churches of Richards experience.
The first work is a book by Richard Wurmbrand titled "In God's Underground". Even though Richard was tortured and imprisoned many years by the communists, he loved his torturers and founded a mission organization to save the same ones who tortured him, the notable Voice of The Martyrs. (Excellent magazine, by the way). Here are two pictures of my book:
This is one of the few books that I have in both print and Kindle formats, and I took an additional picture to show my dog-eared evidence of love for the book, and what I see as the brotherhood of suffering, or the brotherhood of The Cross, or the brotherhood of Martyrs, of which Jesus is first, and that great love that he calls all of us to when Jesus said (my paraphrase) "I want you to deny yourselves [stop being selfish] and take up your [own] cross [and lay down your life for others] and follow me [and my example in every way, including going to my own cross for others]." Here is the official scripture:
Matthew 16:24-26, NKJV: Then Jesus said to
His disciples, “If anyone
desires to come after Me, let him deny
himself, and take up his cross,
and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires
to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for My sake
will find it. 26 For what profit
is it to a man if he gains the whole
world, and loses his own soul?
Or what will a man give in exchange for
I will quote for you my very favorite part of the book. What strikes me is how God describes taking up our own Cross:
I lay on the sofa in my cottage,
reading the New Testament, and in the
days that passed Christ seemed to me
as real as the woman who brought
my meals. But not everyone who
recognizes Christ is saved; Satan
believes, and is not Christian.
I said to Jesus, "You'll never have me
for a disciple. I want money, travel,
pleasure. I have suffered enough.
Yours is the way of the Cross,
and even if it is the way of truth
as well, I won't follow it."
His answer came into my head, like
a plea: "Come my way! Do not fear
the Cross! You will find that
it is the greatest of joys."
When I thought of the Cross previous to reading this, I shied away from it, seeing only the pain. But all of life is pain -- the pain of growth, or of degeneration; the pain of self-investment or opportunity-wasted; doing what's painful now for a better future, or doing what's pleasurable now for a more painful future. But I started seeing the Cross as an opportunity to enter into the Fellowship of The Cross with Jesus. Then, also, we would never have to worry that Jesus might eventually have to say to us, "I never knew you!", for we are following the Law of Love.
Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV “Not everyone
who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall
enter the kingdom of heaven, but he
who does the will of My Father in
heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in
that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not
prophesied in Your name, cast out
demons in Your name, and done many
wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then
I will declare to them,
‘I never knew you; depart from Me,
you who practice lawlessness!’
What a present to be able to give to God and lay at his feet, and it's not just the Fellowship of The Cross, but also the exponential love and paradise on Earth which would happen if all were laying down their lives for each other.
The fellowship of The Cross is also mentioned by God in Yun's book:
The word of the Lord came to me
clearly, [God said] "The reason you suffer
is so you can partake in the fellowship
of my suffering. Be still and know
that I am God. I will be exalted
among the nations. I will be exalted
in the earth." [As I was humbled... then]
Suddenly the fear and pain left me.
[pg. 82/315, Location 1173/4553, Kindle Ed.]
The second work is noted in my other answer, which includes excerpts from the autobiographical book, The Heavenly Man: The remarkable true story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun, by Brother Yun, of the Chinese house churches, mightily used by God in the Chinese House Church revival.
If, as scripture says, "control is as witchcraft", then they are considered to be spiritually equivalent. Indeed, they both control others, by various means, attempting to force that person to bow to (worship & obey) something, which takes away that person's will, but also prevents them from bowing to (worshipping & obeying) God, which takes away that persons' calling, mission, and effect in the Kingdom of God.
If you read these two books, you will clearly see that communism takes every opportunity to come against the true Christianity that works well (for purpose and meaning), because communism really doesn't work very well (for purpose and meaning); and the reason that I say that is because it produces precisely the spiritual vacuum that gives its people an intense thirst and hunger for God. This is also why they take such extreme measures against Christianity (see the books) and why they must -- any true convert to Christ from communism says, basically, "God, I've been looking my whole life for you" and empty communism will never again be acceptable to that person, even in the face of imprisonment, and even execution. Without God, death is a terror and truly tragic, but with God, "Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55 NASB).
So the Theology of communism must be utter terror of God that directly leads to the militant stomping out of Christianity, indeed, even the whiff of religion, because communism is such a dreadfully poor substitute. And yes, stomping out religion plays out in every possible way, including a "honeypot" false Christian church that captures Christians (in their membership) and then makes them of no effect (as much as possible), especially passing on their religion to others, and even more especially passing on their religion to the next generation. (In Yun's time, you could not teach your children your beliefs -- which is against our beliefs!) The other purpose of the "false church" is to make communism seem more acceptable to the outside world.
And let me not fail to mention that none of these descriptions apply to the real believers inside the false church, but the communistic government must be dedicated to, as much as they can, frustrating those believers and preventing them from any evangelism at all, effectively killing Christianity (eventually).
Actions speak louder than words, so don't look at what the communists say about their church (why do they call it "Patriotic?") -- you must look at its actions. Therefore, read the books, both first-person testimonies by people who have given their lives for the souls of communists in the face of threats, beatings, tortures, and many years of imprisonment. Richard even faced intense brainwashing in prison.
So, to compare the Theologies, the one is like hay and stubble which burns up when tested with fire. But the Theology of these two saints is like Gold, which was shown to be of much value when tested in the trials by fire of the various persecutions, beatings, losses, and imprisonments that both saints suffered -- at the hands of the same communist governments that provided phony churches as cheap substitutes as a plan to eventually wipe all religion off the face of the earth.
Listen to this description of the early church:
Acts 2:38-47 NKJV 38 Then Peter said
to them, “Repent, and let every
one of you be baptized in the
name of Jesus Christ for the remission
of sins; and you shall receive
the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39
For the promise is to you and to your children,
and to all who are afar off,
as many as the Lord our God will call.”
And with many other words he
testified and exhorted them,
saying, “Be saved from this perverse
generation.” 41 Then those who
gladly received his word were baptized;
and that day about three thousand
souls were added to them. 42 And
they continued steadfastly
in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship,
in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43
Then fear came upon every soul,
and many wonders and signs
were done through the apostles. 44
Now all who believed were together,
and had all things in common, 45
and sold their possessions and goods,
and divided them among all,
as anyone had need. 46
So continuing daily
with one accord in the temple,
and breaking bread from house to house,
they ate their food
with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47
and having favor with all the people.
And the Lord added to the church daily
those who were being saved.
Doesn't that sound like communism claims to be? ("had all things in common" and "sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.") Yet the church actually realizes this vision, with Love, and without government. (This is actually what the present generation has been told communism will give them -- but they are really searching for Jesus, and the love He causes the world to give for one another!)
Even though they could look superficially similar on the surface, their Theology could not be more different!