The Protestant Missions — June 7, 2011 at 2:04 am

The necessity of having a “Japanese Christianity”.



It was in accord with such sentiments that much began to be said about the necessity of having a “Japanese Christianity.” In 1890, Mr. Yokoi, a prominent Kumi-ai minister, published an article in which he lamented that Christianity as then existing in Japan was in most cases a copy of that found in England and America. In the early experiences of the converts this could not be helped, but now they had obtained sufficient knowledge to be able to select what was suitable for themselves. The day had come for the development of a Japanese Christianity. Though in some points time and place could make no difference in the religion of Christ, in others there must be variety, and Christianity in Japan ought to exhibit some fine qualities not discernible in the older stock. Christianity in the Occident had developed on the basis laid by Greek literature and Roman jurisprudence. The Christianity about to spring up in the East must stand on the pedestal formed out of the religion of Buddhism and the Confucian philosophy. It was desirable to develop a system of theology that, in its essential characteristics should be purely Japanese, and to originate religious rites and ceremonies that should be peculiar to themselves. At first the converts had believed just what the foreigners had told them, and the early preachers, being supported by the missionaries, had refrained from expressing dissatisfaction with the teaching they received. Unless Christianity divested itself of foreign clothes and wore the Japanese dress, it would never accomplish its object. “The time has now come, he said, “for Japanese propagandists to form their own estimate of Christ and to make it known to their fellow-countrymen. We must henceforth think independently and construct without assistance so as to build a Church of Japan.”

Probably most missionaries had recognized that Christianity in Japan must in many outward features differ from that of other countries. Dr. Eby’s paper in 1884, on “The Immediate Christianization of Japan,” had said:

“What we have to do for Japan is to evangelize it, win it for Christ, and I for one care not a rush what church polity is chosen, if only the church be true to her living Head and preserve the soul of charity, the inspiration of living faith. Ecclesiastical form, philosophical statement of doctrine, etc. differ with every race. Whatever the future church of Japan may be, its Christianity will be a Christianity in Japanese mold, and any effort of ours to put the stamp of a hundred isms’ upon it would be childish and futile.”

Similar words might be quoted from other missionaries; but to say that differences must be expected to arise from national peculiarities is far different from urging that such variations be artificially stimulated for the sake of avoiding resemblance to what has been developed elsewhere.

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