Project Japan

 
Factors in the Japanese WorldviewWorldview.htmlWorldview.htmlWorldview.htmlshapeimage_1_link_0shapeimage_1_link_1shapeimage_1_link_2
Theological Factorsshapeimage_2_link_0shapeimage_2_link_1
Missiological FactorsMissiological.htmlMissiological.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0shapeimage_3_link_1
Societal Factors
Societal.htmlshapeimage_4_link_0
Political Factors
Political.htmlshapeimage_5_link_0
Christianity’s Contribution to Japanese Life
 Influence.htmlInfluence.htmlInfluence.htmlshapeimage_6_link_0shapeimage_6_link_1shapeimage_6_link_2
Contact
slwe@mac.com mailto:slwe@mac.comshapeimage_7_link_0

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Sin

As mentioned earlier, sin is considered to be a disturbance of the harmony between gods and a given group of people. The word the Japanese use for “sin” is tsumi which is the same word used for “crime”, so when an evangelist or a missionary claims,  “we all have sinned” or “we are all sinners” the average Japanese may not understand what is being—he or she does not consider himself a "criminal". I believe that the concept of sin is more or less unique to the Abrahamic faiths with their origins in the Middle East. Disobedience of God’s laws is considered sin. Yet, how can sin be understood if the concept of God is not the same as the one in Judeo-Christian traditions, and if it is presented in the absence of the concept of "law", the latter being connected to the Judeo-Christian God?

The Japanese worldview considers that human beings and the world of nature itself are basically good, and there is no need for universal redemption. Purification rituals can cleanse the Japanese from their “sins”. Yet, in Christianity, humanity is regarded as fallen, as rooted in the original sin. Human nature is evil and the world is cursed; it can only be redeemed through Christ Jesus. This makes it hard for the Japanese to understand the Christian concept of sin, and thus so also limits the success of Christianity in Japan.


Ancestors & Salvation

Another problematic area is the question of what happened to Japanese people who died before they had the chance to hear the gospel? Almost every Japanese who is evangelized by Western missionaries asks this question. Of course, missionaries try to answer it as sensitively as possible, but ultimately they will have to mention the word hell. A Japanese woman once told a missionary who was trying to evangelize her that she would rather spend eternity in hell with her ancestors than in the paradise preached by Christians. If the Christian God has no solution to the fact that her ancestors did not have a chance to hear about Jesus, she would rather spend all eternity in hell. In Japanese worldview, ancestors are to be venerated. In Christian doctrine salvation is by choice and if this choice disturbs the harmony with the family’s ancestors, then it is then hard for a Japanese to openly become a Christian.

According to evangelical Christian doctrine, generally, the dead are either in hell or in heaven. They can be in heaven by the personal choice they have made for Jesus Christ. If one did not make this choice, he/she has no place in heaven. He/she will rather be punished for the wrongdoings and mistakes he/she has committed and nothing can change that fact. In the Japanese context, this can be seen as arrogant and insensitive to those who have passed away. There have been many attempts to address this theological doctrine from the perspective of Japanese culture. One of the recent ones is the so-called Sekundo Chansu Ron (セカンドチャンス論) or Second Chance Theory. The concept of Second Chance Theory is simply about salvation for the dead, especially those who have never had a chance to hear the gospel, in Japan’s case, the ancestors. Thus, accepting Western Christianity could disturb the already existing harmony with these ancestors.


 

Theological Factors

The conflict between these two worldviews, that of the Japanese and that of Western Christianity, of course, effects the Japanese view of Western theological concepts, such as sin, life after death, ancestor venerations, the exclusiveness of Christ. Some of these fundamental theological concepts are in direct conflict with Japanese religious views.