The Protestant Missions — March 30, 2011 at 3:07 am

The danger of becoming Luke warm!


The cause:

Some of the causes of the lull in Christian work were in the Church itself. The early fervor had to some extent passed away. Whereas all of the Christians had once felt the responsibility for telling others about their new faith, and had been earnest in leading their friends to accept it, they were now inclined to leave the work of propagation almost entirely to the pastors and evangelists. In the days of rapid growth many persons had come into the churches who were far from being permeated with the spirit of Christ. Christianity was the religion of the West, and in their enthusiasm for Western civilization they had taken the religion as one part of it; now, when seized by the wave of reaction, they wished to put away Christianity with other things that seemed opposed to the spirit of old Japan. It is easy now to say that more care should have been taken before admitting such persons to the churches; yet it is doubtful whether these are the persons whom more stringent rules would have excluded. The words with which they described their experiences and the earnestness that they displayed, seemed equal to what was found in others. In most cases there was no intentional deception on their part. To themselves as to others they seemed to be followers of Christ. Some that dropped out of the churches had been disappointed at the results of Christianity. It had seemed to them that it’s pure doctrines and tested morality must speedily command the assent of all to whom it was made known, and that therefore, by its beneficent influence, the country would soon be purified from evil, and attain the exalted condition that they imagined had already been reached by Christian lands in the West They found that the victory was not so easily gained. They saw some of the Christians fall into sin; they experienced the power of temptation in their own lives; they learned more and more of the terrible evils that still exist in so-called Christian lands; and they were led to doubt whether Christianity was indeed a great power for national and individual salvation.

Nationalism on the rise:

The ultra-nationalistic spirit affected many of the prominent Christians. They wished to disprove the reiterated charge that they were the slaves of the foreigners. The desire to show their independence often led them to oppose the beliefs and the advice of the missionaries, which otherwise they might have accepted. It became the fashion among those who went to America or England to pay special attention to the defects of those countries. Their letters from these lands and their addresses after returning, told of evils that had convinced them that these countries were not superior to their own.

Theological speculations absorbed much energy, and in many cases were chilling to the faith. These were to some extent introduced by the “liberal” missions, but more through books and magazines coming from the West. These were eagerly read by many of the leading preachers, whose minds were naturally inclined to favor whatever was new. Here, too, the desire to show their independence inclined some of them to discard what they had received from their former teachers. While they imagined that their conclusions were reached by their own thinking, it was easy to trace the source of their views to opinions that were then being advocated in the West Many of those that went abroad, even when supported by help gained through the mediation of missionaries, took more interest in seeking interviews with noted advocates of new opinions than in pursuing their studies in the schools to which they had been sent. It was felt that young men hardly showed that they had received any advantage from going so far for study if they returned with the same views that they had when setting out. When they came back to Japan, their friends asked them what new things they had learned. They must at least tell the theories they had heard, and in explaining these they frequently became, almost before they knew it, advocates of the views that at first they intended only to describe. As the narrative proceeds we shall see how, in these and other ways, divisive doctrines gained currency, the faith of many church-members was chilled, and there were defections among those who had been prominent preachers. Many of the less educated members of the Church, while understanding little of the questions under discussion, were stunned by the defection of their pastors, or by being told that much of what they had formerly been taught was false.

The effects that intellectual wanderings have upon the spiritual and moral life are more marked in a country like Japan than in those where early education and a helpful environment may “hold men’s hearts right after their heads go wrong.”

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