Christian theology in Japan takes a number of forms, but still it is meaningful to talk of Japanese Christian theology. On the one hand, Japanese Christian theology could be understood negatively as a nationalistic and introverted theology in Japan; on the other hand, it could be understood positively as an indigenous and original theology in Japan. Moreover, Christian theology in Japan is not merely the theology of Japanese theologians; it is also the theology of Japanese Christians and at the same time Christian theology conducted, while living in Japan, by those who are not Japanese. The reality of Christian theology in Japan will be seriously biased if any one of these categories is missing or is under-represented.
The first stage of Christian theology in Japan begins with the introduction of Catholic Christianity under feudalism in which feudal lords governed society. In this period non-Japanese Christian theology, or western Christian theology brought by missionaries, as well as the theological education of Japanese Christians, are the dominant features. The second stage develops through the introduction of Protestant Christianity, and the reintroduction of Catholic theology under nationalism, within a modernized nation of Japan. While some Japanese theologians emerged from under the nationalistic system, others conformed to it. The third stage begins with the avalanche of missionaries of various denominations who engaged with the process of the democratization of Japan, following its defeat in 1945. Since then the study of western theology and the indigenization of Christian theology have been undertaken in many ways.
CATHOLIC TRADITIONAL THEOLOGY AND KIRISHITAN SYNCRETISTIC THEOLOGY UNDER FEUDALISM (1549 TO 1865)
The arrival of Christianity in Japan dates back to 1549, when the Jesuit priests Francis Xavier (1506-52) and Cosme de Torres (1510-70) landed in
Kagoshima, Kyushu. While committed to the basic tenets of Catholic Christianity, they endeavoured to accommodate the language and customs of the mission field — a method that became the standard model for subsequent missionaries. The missionaries built schools as well as churches, so that they might lead the Japanese to become Kirishitan', the Japanese pronunciation of the Portuguese Christao, meaning Christian.
Alexandro Valignano (1539—1606), a Jesuit visitor, came to Japan in 1579 and played a crucial role in establishing the Christian teaching system. He planned to found seminaries (Seminario) to follow the catechistic education given to children at church schools, and in 1580 two seminaries were set up, one in Azuchi (near Kyoto) and the other in Arima (Shimabara Peninsula, Kyushu). The seminaries were intended to train boys to become priests and lay leaders. The curriculum included Japanese and Latin, classical literature and music, as well as Christian doctrine, church history and moral education. Later, in 1580, a preparatory novitiate (Novisiado) was founded in Usuki, Kyushu, for the graduates from the seminaries. In 1582 a professional college (Collegio) was started in Funai (now Oita), Kyushu, in order to teach theology and philosophy to candidates for the Jesuit priesthood. A plan to establish a more comprehensive university was aborted, because in 1587 the feudal lord Hideyoshi Toyotomi ordered the expulsion of the Christian missionaries. Then, in 1614, the seminaries were closed down in accordance with the isolation policy of the Tokugawa government, which tightened restrictions on Christianity out of fear of western colonization and ideological subversion within Japan.
During this short and adverse period, however, essential theological works were published and used as textbooks by Jesuit priests. The catechism was edited by Francis Xavier and subsequent missionaries. From 1580 Valignano began to edit Catechismus Iaponensis, in collaboration with some Japanese Kirishitans who had formerly been Buddhist monks, finally publishing it in Latin in 1586. This book expounds Deus the Creator against Japanese religions, and explains Christian doctrines, including the Ten Commandments, the sacraments, grace, everlasting life and judgement. In 1591 the definitive version of the catechism, Doctrina Christam, was published in Japanese and in 1592 it was authorized in Nagasaki Province. This catechism includes teaching on being a Christian, the Cross, the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments, canon law, sin and the sacraments. Buddhist terminology was partially employed to translate some of the basic doctrinal terms, and the principle of accommodation was clearly adopted in that Japanese local customs and circumstances were taken into serious consideration.
In 1593 Pedro Gomes (1535—1600), the Principal at Funai college and the Jesuit Vice Provincial in Japan, wrote a college textbook, Compendium catholicae veritatis, published first in Latin and subsequently in Japanese in 1595. This book consists of an introduction to western natural science, Aristotelian philosophy of the soul interpreted by Thomas Aquinas (1225—74) and the Catholic doctrines explicated by the Council of Trent (1545—63). In 1601 Luis de Cerqueira (1552—1614), a Jesuit Bishop, founded a seminary for candidates for parish priests in Nagasaki. One of the seminary's main textbooks, edited and published in 1605 by Cerqueira as Manuale ad Sacramenta Ecclesiae ministranda, covered the sacraments, the church calendar and Gregorian chant. Another influential textbook was Flosculi ex Veteris, edited and published in 1610 by Manuel Barreto (1564— 1620), Jesuit secretary to Cerqueira. This book is a collection of excerpts from the Old and New Testaments, classical literature and biographies of the Church Fathers. Both of these books provided practical help to priests engaging in the ministry and preparing sermons.
In addition to the books written by missionaries, an apologetic theological work, Myotemondo, was written by an intellectual Japanese Kir-ishitan, Fucan Fabian (1565—1621). He was baptized in Kyoto in 1583 and then studied at a seminary, a novitiate and a college. In 1590 he was summoned by Valignano to attend the second Council of the Jesuits at Kazusa in Shimabara Peninsula, where missionary policy and the education of the Japanese Kirishitans was discussed by the missionaries, who included Gomes, Gnecchi-Soldo Organtino (1533—1609) and Luis Frois (1532—79), as well as by the Japanese Kirishitans. Following his critical study of Buddhism written in Nagasaki, Fabian wrote Myotemondo in Kyoto in 1605. This book, which takes the form of dialogues between a Buddhist nun and a Kirishitan woman, refutes Buddhism, Confucianism and Shintoism, and then propounds Christianity. Through this book Fabian points out the empty and irrational theories of these traditional Japanese religions, over against which he argues that Christianity enjoys the absolute and only God, the sovereign Creator, who is utterly different from Buddha and the Japanese gods. Then, in 1606, Fabian entered into a controversy with a celebrated Confucian scholar, Razan Hayashi (1583—1657), in Kyoto Nanbanji church. Hayashi, academic adviser to the Tokugawa government, wrote Haiyasho, which argued for the Confucian understanding of heaven and earth and refuted the view, as explained in Tenshu Jitsugi (True Teaching of the Heavenly Lord), published by the Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552—1611).
But in 1608 Fabian left the Jesuits, along with a Kirishitan woman, and began sending letters that criticized the Jesuits to Pedro Morejon (1562—1639), successor to Organtino in Kyoto. Finally he cooperated with the Tokugawa government in its persecution of Christians in Nagasaki in 1619. In the following year he published Hadaiusu (Deus destroyed), with a dedication to General Hidetada Tokugawa. In order to take issue with Christianity in this book, Fabian deployed the same methodology with which he had once refuted the Japanese religions; that is, he highlighted Christian doctrines he considered to be irrational.
On the one hand, Catholic Christianity permeated Japan gradually and intellectually through churches and schools; on the other hand, it spread over some local areas massively and authoritatively through conversions of their Daimyo, or feudal lords. Some of the Daimyo in Hizen (now Nagasaki), such as Sumitada Omura (1533-87) and Harunobu Arima (1561-1612), became interested in Christianity, partly in expectation of the potential benefits from the economic and military support of Portugal. (Omura was baptized in 1563 by Torres, becoming the first Kirishitan Daimyo, and Arima was baptized in 1580 by Valignano. Arima later founded a seminary in his territory. Sorin Otomo (1530-87), Daimyo in Bungo (now Oita), met Xavier in 1551 and, following the disruption of war, was baptized in 1578 by Francisco Cabral (1533-1609), the successor to Torres. Otomo subsequently founded a novitiate and a college in his territory. In 1582 Omura, Arima and Otomo, following Valignano's advice, dispatched a mission, including four Japanese boys, to Pope Gregory XIII (1502-85) at Rome. The boys returned to Japan in 1590 with western news and goods.
Ukon Takayama (1552-1615), Daimyo in Settsu (now Osaka), is famous for his faithful life. In 1564 he was baptized by Lourenzo (1526-92), a Japanese Jesuit. He contributed devotedly to the construction of Kyoto Nanbanji, a representative church which was finally completed in 1578. He also founded a seminary in Azuchi and in 1581 he celebrated Easter with Valignano on a grand scale. He was consistently dedicated to Christian evangelism, but in 1614 the Tokugawa government banished him from Japan, with other Kirishitans and missionaries including those of orders other than the Jesuits. He died later in Manila. The Franciscans had already visited Japan in 1593, with the Dominicans and Augustinians following in 1602.
A Daimyo's conversion to Christianity was often followed by the mass conversion of his territory. In the early seventeenth century there were about three hundred and seventy thousand Kirishitans in Japan; that is, over one per cent of the population as it was then, and about two hundred and fifty churches. However, the number of missionaries competent to educate and edify newborn Kirishitans was far from enough. From 1549 to i644, when Manshiyo Konishi (i600-44), the last Japanese priest, was arrested and martyred, the foreign and Japanese missionaries numbered only several hundred. Besides which the official proscription of Christianity, issued in i6i2 by the shogunate government, caused such recurrent predicaments as the persecution, martyrdom, banishment and proselytism of Kirishitans and missionaries.
For about two hundred and thirty years, until i873 when the official proscription of Christianity was removed, Kirishitans were left without any leading priests or supporting Daimyo. In 1708, the Jesuit Giovanni Battista Sidotti (1688-1714) landed in Yakushima, Osumi (now Kagoshima), in an attempt to re-evangelize Japan, but he was soon arrested and, in i709, sent to Edo (now Tokyo), where Hakuseki Arai (1657-1725), an influential Confucian politician, interrogated him to find out whether the Christian countries of the west were planning to expand their territories into Japan. Although the lack of such a plot relieved the fundamental reason for the isolation policy of the shogunate government, the government remained closed to missionaries.
Nevertheless, risking their own lives, Kirishitans had already organized underground communities, called Confraria or Companhia, in an effort to hand their teachings and rituals over to the next generations by themselves. But, given the lack of priests, they developed their Christian beliefs and practices in syncretism with local conventional religions and customs, including Buddhism and Shintoism. Once, some of the Kirishitans were taught traditional Catholic Christianity with such spiritual vademecums as the Japanese version (1607) of Exercitia Spiritualia by Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), founder of the Jesuits, the accurate Japanese translation (1596) of Imitatio Christi ascribed to Thomas a Kempis (1379-1471) and the abridged Japanese translation (1599) of Guia de Pecadores by Luis de Granada (i504-88), a Dominican theologian. However, their tradition, which had to depend to a great extent on their memory, became necessarily subject to change and eventual oblivion.
One of the rare extant written materials which demonstrates the syn-cretistic belief of Kirishitans at that time is Tenchi Hajimari No Koto, or Beginning of Heaven and Earth, which is supposed to have originated from a Kirishitan in Nagasaki during the eighteenth century. This book, circulated among underground Kirishitans, records the doctrines of creation, angels, original sin, Mary, the life of Christ and eschatology. It quotes largely from the Old and New Testaments, but it includes Buddhist concepts and local legends and dialects as well; for instance, heaven is associated with the twelve heavenly beings of Buddhism, God is called ' Hotoke' or Buddha, and Christ is once called ' Osho' or Buddhist priest.
A Buddhist element is found also in the Kirishitans' ' orasho'; their pronunciation of oratio or prayer. Some orasho derives from Gregorian chants taught by missionaries; however, when they pray orasho now, it sounds more like sutras chanted by Buddhists than like Christian prayer. For Kirishitans, orasho gradually became monotonous and nebulous out of fear of being overheard by others. Kirishitans had to disguise their Christianity in a variety of ways; hence, almost all Kirishitans belonged to a Buddhist temple or a Shinto shrine. There remains an interesting shrine, Karematsu Shrine, in Sotomecho, Nagasaki Prefecture, where an evangelist named San Juwan has been worshipped.
The underground Kirishitans, called ' Senpuku Kirishitan' in Japanese, followed two different courses when Catholic Christianity was reintro-duced to Japan after the mid-nineteenth century. Some Kirishitans returned to the Catholic Church to have the non-Christian elements shaved off their beliefs and practices. Later, in 1896, the returners, unlike those who held onto their syncretistic customs, were referred to as ' Fukkatsu Kirishitan', or Resurrected Kirishitan, by Francisque Marnas (1859-1932). The syncretized Kirishitans were usually called ' Kakure Kirishitan', or Hidden Christians, although they did not need to hide themselves as strictly as before. Today, a few hundred Kakure Kirishitan households remain, mainly in Nagasaki Prefecture. Most Kakure Kirishitans in Ikitsuki, Nagasaki Prefecture, belong to a Buddhist temple or a Shinto shine, and the items regarded as their divinities include relics and pictures of saints hanging on a wall.
PROTESTANT EVANGELICAL AND LIBERAL THEOLOGIES UNDER NATIONALISM ( 1865 TO 1945)
The re-introduction of Christianity into Japan can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century when western European powers launched into treaties of commerce and amity with Japan, accompanied by Catholic and Protestant missionaries engaged in evangelism. In 1865 Bernard Thadée Petitjean (1829-84), a Catholic missionary of the Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris, found the remaining Kirishitans at Oura Cathedral (Nagasaki) dedicated to the twenty-six saints (twenty Japanese Kirishitans and six Franciscan missionaries) who were martyred by crucifixion in 1597 in Nagasaki, and he devoted himself to guiding them and other Japanese citizens towards Catholic Christianity. Later in the same year, James
Hamilton Ballagh (1832—1920) of the Reformed Church in America baptized the first Japanese Protestant Christian, and in 1872 the Christians baptized by him formed the first Protestant church, Nihon Kirisuto Kyokai (Church of Christ, Japan), in Yokohama. These Christians, called the 'Yokohama Band', attempted to establish an evangelical, non-denominational and self-governing church.
From this group emerged Masahisa Uemura (1858—1925), who was baptized by Ballagh in 1873. His family belonged to a samurai class which had declined as the new Meiji government (1868—1912) began to replace feudalism by returning the feudal territories to the Meiji Emperor in 1869. Uemura sought social advancement, through the new regime, by learning western academic disciplines, including theology taught in Yokohama by Ballagh and Samuel Robbins Brown (1810—80) of the Reformed Church in America. In Yokohama, during Ballagh's sermon, Uemura had a religious experience in which his soul was overwhelmed by the only and true God who is omnipresent, holy and gracious. After studying at Tokyo Icchi Shingakko (Union Theological Seminary, Tokyo, later Meiji Gakuin University), Uemura was ordained in 1880 by the Nihon Kirisuto Icchi Kyokai (The Union Church of Christ in Japan, later Church of Christ in Japan), which was founded in 1876 by the Reformed and the Presbyterian churches.
While engaging in evangelism as a pastor, Uemura published Sinri Ippan (A View on the Truth) in 1884, the first theological book to come from a Japanese Protestant. In his book he considered issues such as the nature of religious truth, the existence of God, human spirituality and Christ's apologetic as set against the Japanese social background of atheistic and materialistic Enlightenment thought. In 1887 he founded Bancho Icchi Church (later Fujimicho Church, Tokyo) and all his work centred around this church, while also committing himself to journalism by publishing such journals as Fukuin Shinpo (Gospel News) and Nihon Hyoron (Japan Review), and also to theological education at Tokyo Singaku Sha (Tokyo Theological School, later Tokyo Union Theological Seminary), which he founded in 1904. His theology was based on an evangelical faith in the incarnation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and in the redemption of human sins by the death and resurrection of Christ on the cross; in addition, he thought that Christianity could purify Japanese social justice as found in samurai ethics.
Another Christian group, the 'Kumamoto Band', was formed in 1876 when Japanese students with a highly nationalistic, Confucianistic and samurai spirit, taught by Leroy Lansing Janes (1837—1909), an American educationalist at Kumamoto Yo Gakko (Kumamoto Western School), took an oath to the effect that they would dedicate their lives to Christianity and its mission. But later in the same year Kumamoto Yo Gakko had to be closed because of its Christianization, and the students were transferred to Doshisha Ei Gakko (Doshisha English School, later Doshisha University), Kyoto, which had been founded in 1875 by Jo Niijima (1843-90), a Japanese missionary from the American Board. In 1886 the American Board organized Nihon Kumiai Kyokai (The Associated Churches in Japan), which shared the characteristics of congregationalism and an independent spirit.
Danjo Ebina (1856-1937), one of the students of the Kumamoto group, was baptized by Janes in 1876. When Janes explained prayer as the obligation of those created to the Lord of all, Ebina, who was from a samurai family that collapsed following the Meiji Government, found in God the new lord whom he should obey and serve. He finished studying at Doshisha and was ordained in 1879 to become pastor at Annaka Church, Gunma and others. He was known as an influential pastor (1897-1920) at Hongo Church (later Yumicho Hongo Church), Tokyo, and as the directive Chancellor (1920-28) at Doshisha. In 1900 he began to publish a journal, Shinjin (New Man). His theology originates from a religious experience in which the baby of God was born in his heart, and its ultimate goal consists in the realization of the Kingdom of God by expanding the ideal human character of the God-man union to the realms of society, the nation and the world.
A serious theological controversy ensued between Ebina and Uemura from 1901 to 1902, surrounding a liberal theology called 'Shin Shingaku' (New Theology). The New Theology, brought into Japan from the late 1880s by missionaries of the Allgemeiner Evangelisch-Protestantischer Missions-verein, the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist General Convention, influenced the Associated Churches in Japan. Such influence was possible because the Associated Churches in Japan were quite independent of the original foreign mission of the American Board, in sharp contrast to the Nihon Sei Ko Kai (Japan Holy Catholic Church), founded in 1887 by the American Episcopal Church; the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel; the Church Missionary Society; Nihon Mesojisuto Kyokai (Japan Methodist Church), built in 1907 by three American Methodist Churches; and other denominations such as the Baptist and the Lutheran churches. Ebina was not the only one to be attracted to this New Theology, which denied the traditional Christian doctrines; in addition, Michitomo Kanamori (1857-1945) transferred from the Kumamoto group and was baptized in 1876 by Niijima.
Uemura regarded the New Theology as highly problematic and potentially destructive for Japanese churches. By applying the theology of the History of Religion School to the Japanese context, Kanamori argued that religious truth was not confined to one religion; on the contrary, he claimed that religions with truth and life would prevail, but that the stories of miracles, rituals, abstinence and interdenominational strife in Christianity were hindrances to the Japanese. Kanamori relativized and reduced Christianity to an open religion by denying the infallible and unique revelation of God in the Bible and the traditional views on the divinity and redemption of Christ. Over against the New Theology as found in Kanamori, Uemura maintained in 1891 in his Japan Review that Christianity was the absolute religion based on the historicity of Jesus Christ as described in the Bible and that Christianity without miracles, including the resurrection, did not deserve its name; although he accepted some of the fruits of biblical criticism.
Furthermore, Uemura in his Gospel News took issue with Ebina over such doctrinal points as the relation between God and Christ and the incarnation of Christ. Ebina in his New Man clarified the religious truth found in the doctrines of the divinity of Christ and the Trinity, but stressed the vital relation between the Father and the Son over the doctrines. Ebina understood this relation on the basis of the Confucianist familial ethics expressed as paternal affection and filial piety, which was in keeping with his own religious experience. Thus, for Ebina Jesus Christ was the ultimate realization of filial piety directed towards paternal affection, and it was through this realization that Christ became God. Ebina also considered the religious consciousness found in Jesus to be universal to all humans, who thereby enjoyed some divinity whether they were Confucianist or Shintoist.
In order to counter Ebina's argument, Uemura pointed out that the Christian doctrines originated from the faith of the original Christians, and he argued that Christ could not redeem sinners if the divinity of Christ and the divinity of humans were relatively continuous with each other. By referring to the New Testament, Uemura attempted to demonstrate that the divinity and the incarnation of Christ vouchsafed his saving power for sinners in this world, although Uemura depended on the term subordination for expressing the Son's relation to the Father in this inchoate period of theological history in Japan.
Hiromichi Kozaki (i856-i938), who was from a Confucian samurai family, accepted Christianity under the influence of the Kumamoto group who had not succumbed to persecution, and of Janes at Kumamoto
Western School, who advised him to pray to God so that the Spirit of God might assist him in understanding Christianity. Baptized by Janes in 1876, Kozaki finished studying at Doshisha in 1879 and went on to establish a number of churches, including the Reinanzaka Church, Tokyo. In 1880 he organized the YMCA with Uemura in Tokyo, becoming its first President and the founder of its Rikugo Zasshi (Rikugo Journal). In the journal he introduced Karl Marx (1818—83) to Japan, in 1881, for the first time. In 1886 Kozaki clarified his understanding of the relation between Confucianism and Christianity in his Seikyo Shinron (New Essay on Politics and Religion). According to his book, the Confucian spirit which points out human sins is confined to particular areas and supports the discriminative social order, whereas Christianity with the gospel of salvation reaches all countries and stresses the equality of all humans. This means that Confucianism leads the Japanese to Christianity, as Judaism was the background of Christianity. In this sense Christianity is the fulfilment of Confucianism and Christianity is conducive to the modernization of Japan, just as Confucianism informed Japanese feudalism.
In 1889 Kozaki delivered a lecture on the inspiration of the Bible at Doshisha, in which he argued that the inspiration of the Bible did not mean its infallibility but pointed to the Spirit's guidance of its authors. Furthermore, in 1903 he contended that the theory of evolution is not contradictory to the Bible; he showed that the Holy Spirit cultivates the Church and he likened the kingdom of God to a growing seed. Although he was open to some aspects of liberal theology, Kozaki defended what he called progressive evangelicalism against the New Theology in his 1911 book, Kirisutokyo no Honshitsu (The Essence of Christianity). He critiqued the New Theology for separating the theology of Paul from the Gospel of Jesus and failing to recognize the serious need for sinners to repent and be born again. Since he understood the doctrine of the Trinity as the development of the original Gospel by spiritually purified human reason, he thought of the theology of Paul as the appropriate development of the Gospel of Jesus and championed the redemption of Christ. After Niijima he assumed the Chancellery of Doshisha (1890—98) and then returned to Reinanzaka Church (1898—1931) as a pastor.
The other Christian group, the ' Sapporo Band', was established under the influence of William Smith Clark (1826—86), an American agronomist at Sapporo No Gakko (Sapporo Agricultural School, later Hokkaido University). After studying western disciplines at Tokyo, Kanzo Uchimura (1861—1930), with a samurai spirit and Confucian ethics, entered the School in 1877, signing the 'Covenant of Believers in Christ' written by Clark and being baptized in 1878 by Merriman Colbert Harris (1846—1921), an American Methodist Episcopalian. After this, Uchimura determined to delve into the mystery of the universe created by God, while wrestling with the theory of evolution in its relation to Christian theism, and also the difficulties of loving two Js (Japan and Jesus) by reconciling patriotism with a Christian worldview. After struggling with the gap between the sin in himself and the ideal holy life before God, under the guidance of Julius Hawley Seelye (1824—95), President at Amherst College, Massachusetts, to whom he was introduced by Niijima in 1886, Uchimura realized that he should focus on Christ who died on the cross for his sin. After studying at Amherst College and Hartford Theological Seminary, Connecticut, he engaged in teaching and journalism in Japan. In 1891 he had to resign his teaching post at the Daiichi Koto Chugakko (The First High School, later part of Tokyo University), because he refused, on the grounds of his Christian faith, to bow to a page of the Imperial Precept on Education which had been signed by the Emperor. He published an autobiography, How I Became a Christian: Out of My Diary, in English in 1895.
From 1900 Uchimura took the initiative in issuing a monthly journal, Seisho no Kenkyii (The Biblical Study, with the subtitle 'Pro Christo et Patria'), and in creating Mukyokai, or the Non-Church Movement and its groups, which focused its mission on Bible studies in house meetings, underpinned by the view that clergy and sacraments are counter-productive to the Christian faith. According to Uchimura, ecclesia means assembly or gathering; thus, Christ intended to form a spiritual assembly based on voluntary faith in him rather than an institutional church with rules and regulations. In 1901 he advised Sapporo Christ Church (later Sapporo Independent Christ Church), founded in 1882 by the Sapporo group which included Uchimura, to abolish the Eucharist and baptism in order for the congregation to learn salvation by faith in Christ, not by the administration of the sacraments. What he endeavoured to clarify is that the authentic church is non-church as the Kingdom of God in this world, in the sense that there is no sacrament nor clergy in heaven. The authentic church, for members of the non-church, is the universe itself, created directly by God, with the sky as the ceiling, grass as the floor, birds as the musicians, mountains as the pulpit and God as the preacher.
In 1917 Uchimura expressed his faith in the Second Advent of Christ, organizing its movement in the following year, in collaboration with Holiness churches in Japan. Then in 1930 Uchimura left a note to the effect that his non-church movement is not for the non-church itself but for faith in Christ on the cross. His theology is evangelical in his attempt to construct it on the basis of his biblical study, and also indigenous in his attempt to mediate Japan and Christianity.
The Yokohama, Kumamoto and Sapporo groups produced Christian leaders of the first generation, who further influenced various quarters of church and society in Japan.
Following the Ebina and Uemura controversy (1901-2), the conference of the Fukuin Domeikai (Evangelical Alliance in Japan) held in 1902 approved evangelicalism with faith in Jesus Christ as the incarnate God of human salvation, a view closer to Uemura's, but within ten years the evangelical tenets were no longer taken up as the agenda of the Alliance. Ebina's liberal Christianity, with its positive understanding of human progress, stimulated social movements. Sakuzo Yoshino (1878-1933), who belonged to Hongo Church ministered by Ebina during his student days, became Professor at Tokyo Imperial University (later Tokyo University) in 1914. In accordance with the imperialistic polity of the 1910s, he championed a democracy which balanced the ruler's obedience to the people's will and the people's obedience to the ruler's spiritual guidance. Shigeru Nakajima (1888-1946), who also belonged to Hongo Church as one of the students of Yoshino, began to teach jurisprudence from 1917 at Doshisha. In 1928 he formed Doshisha Rodosha Mission (Doshisha Labourers Mission, later Japan Labourers Mission in 1929) with Toyohiko Kagawa in order to realize the new Japan, and then he started the movement of Social Christianity in 1930. The main point of focus for Social Christianity is the concept of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the community of God based on personal and voluntary relationships, which underlie the association of members of an institution with regulations and obligations. Such a community does not evolve from class struggles, as Karl Marx argued, but from the development of interpersonal solidarity. Hence, Nakajima understands social practice in terms of the redemptive love of Christ. The love of Christ functions in actual society in such a way that humans do not seek individual salvation, but social reform on the basis of cooperation and service, as Jesus as Christ did to the utmost.
For five years, from 1930, Toyohiko Kagawa (1888-1960) organized and activated 'Kami No Kuni Undo' (The Kingdom of God Movement), a nationwide evangelistic movement with its main emphasis on social reforms for factory workers and farmers. He was baptized by Harry White Myers (1874-1945) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States
(South) in 1904, studied at Meiji Gakuin (1905-7) and graduated from Kobe Theological Seminary (1907-11). In 1909 he moved to the underprivileged area in Kobe to serve and evangelize and then to Tokyo to help those suffering from the Kanto Great Earthquake in 1923. He also studied at Princeton University and Theological Seminary from i9i4 to i9i7. During his years in Kobe and Tokyo, he made an extensive contribution to the improvement of social conditions by establishing unions of labourers, farmers and consumers. While the Kingdom of God Movement was partly stimulated by the American Social Gospel, this social practice was closely connected with his personal conviction that Jesus' love consists in redeeming the missing people.
Tokutaro Takakura (1885-1934), one of the disciples of Uemura, rose up against Social Christianity. He was baptized by Uemura in i906 and studied at Tokyo Theological School until i9i0. After pastorates in Tokyo, Kyoto and Sapporo, he began to teach at the School in i9i8. From i92i he continued his research at Edinburgh, Oxford and Cambridge and was influenced, in particular, by the theology of Peter Taylor Forsyth (i848-i92i). On returning to Japan, in i924, he started his house church (later Shinanomachi Church, Tokyo) and became President at the School. Originally he approached Christianity in order to seek an answer to problems of the self, whereby he came to see that the grace of God was transcendent over the self and that salvation was by faith alone. He put a balanced emphasis on the need for a newborn experience as an evangelical person and also on the need for the reborn event of culture via the arrival of the kingdom of God.
In his main work, Fukuinteki Kirisutokyo (Evangelical Christianity, 1927), Takakura clarified what he means by evangelical Christianity against stereotyped orthodoxy, liberalism, pietism and Catholicism. That is, evangelical Christianity is the religion of the Bible, beginning with the Prophets in the Old Testament, incorporated into the New Testament and enlivened by the Reformers. This Christianity is in sharp contrast with Catholicism and liberalism, which have been amalgamated with non-Christian elements.
Another disciple, influenced and baptized by Uemura, is Seiichi Hatano (i877-i950), a philosopher of religion who later belonged to the church ministered by Takakura. He studied western philosophy under Raphael von Koebel (i848-i923) at Tokyo Imperial University, further under Adolf von Harnack (i85i-i930) in Berlin and under Wilhelm Windelband (i848-i9i5) and Ernst Troeltsch (i865-i923) in Heidelberg from i904 to i906, becoming Professor at Kyoto Imperial University in i9i7.
His works include Kirisutokyo no Kigen (The Origin of Christianity, 1908), Shukyo Tetsugaku (Philosophy of Religion, 1935) and Toki to Eien (Time and Eternity, 1943). He produced pioneering work in the philosophical interpretation of religious experience and regarded religious experience as the crowning personal event in which the transcendent God encounters the self. Humans reach this event through natural life in which they objectify others, cultural life in which they conceptualize others and religious life in which they enjoy interpersonal relations with God and others as thou. He also expressed human love, kept in relation to God and others, as the unification of faith already given and hope yet to be realized, and he found eternity in this love.
In 1929 Toraji Tsukamoto (1885—1973), one of the disciples of Uchimura but independent of him because of his own excessive Non-Churchism, engaged in evangelism by means of his journal Seisho Chishiki (Knowledge of the Bible, with the subtitle There is salvation outside the church'). In 1928 he published articles of severe anti-churchism in The Biblical Study, edited by Uchimura, with the result that he entered into controversy on ecclesiology with Soichi Iwashita (1889—1940), a Catholic priest. Iwashita was baptized in 1901 by Emile Heck (1868—1943), Professor of French Literature at Tokyo Imperial University. He studied under the influence of Koebel and was led by Heck into the Catholic faith, studying further in Paris and Rome and then being ordained in 1925. Tsukamoto rejected the Catholic view that the Church was built on Peter and maintained that the Protestant churches did not stand on Peter's confession: 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God' (Matt. 16:16 RSV). Iwashita argued that the faith of Non-Church, while supported academically by the higher criticism of the Bible, is subjective without the objective authority of the Church as the pledge of truth. Then Tsukamoto contended that the infallibility of the Pope is false and regarded the direct revelation of the Holy Spirit as the rule of faith.
In the 1930s dialectic theology began to infiltrate into the work of Japanese theologians. In 1932 Hidenobu Kuwada (1895—1975), later President at Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, announced his conversion from liberal theology to the theology of Karl Barth (1886—1968). Yoshitaka Kumano (1899—1981), one of the disciples of Uemura and later Professor at Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, enriched the scheme of his theology with recourse to dialectic theology. In 1934 Enkichi Kan (1895—1972), Professor at Rikkyo University, who once studied under Hatano and was a leader of the Student Christian Movement (closely related to Social Christianity), became a dialectic theologian. Keiji Ashida (1867-1936), Professor at Doshisha University, converted to the theology of Barth and introduced it by translation. However, most of them did not develop fully a theology of resistance against Japanese nationalism and the system of Emperors, thereby failing to apply to the Japanese context the criticism which the Theology of the Word of God hurled at Nazism, beside which the liberal theology as found in Ebina, Kozaki and Kanamori tended towards a Christianity religiously compromised by Japanese nationalism.
Some of the disciples of Uchimura steered a more critical course. Shigeru Nanbara (1889-1974), Professor of Politics at Tokyo Imperial University, wrote Kokka to Shukyo (Nation and Religion, 1942), critical research into the nationalism of the Nazis. Tadao Yanaihara (1893-1961), Professor of Economics at Tokyo Imperial University, critiqued the aggressive Japanese foreign policies in Asia so severely that he was compelled to resign his professorship in 1937, although he became Chancellor of Tokyo University in 1951, succeeding Nanbara.
Although the Japanese Imperial Constitution stipulated the freedom of religion in 1889, this freedom was defined on the condition that it should not infringe upon the national order and the duty of the subjects. Thus, the Christian pacifists, pastors and educators against nationalism experienced various levels of oppressions and persecutions. Japanese Christendom itself was finally incorporated into nationalism by the Shukyo Dantai Ho (Religious Organizations Act), which the Imperial Diet passed in 1939, with a view to ruling over all religious organizations, including Christian churches. More than thirty Protestant denominations, in contrast with the Catholic Church as one body, were incorporated into Nihon Kirisuto Kyodan (The United Church of Christ in Japan) in 1941, and their pastors had to minister to the churches under the aegis of the Imperial government in order to support the Japanese wartime regime. This system, however, ended up virtually suppressing the other Asian Christians by forcing them to worship gods at the Japanese Shinto shrines, while the Japanese nationalistic ideology was explicated in the propaganda of the United Church of Christ, insisting that this Church was the authentic and ideal form of Christianity in Japan, replacing western-derived Christianity. When Japan surrendered unconditionally in 1945, some churches were beginning to separate themselves from the United Church of Christ, in order to return to previous denominations or to organize new denominations, whereas others remained within it.
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