The Two Empires in Japan (Centennial Reflections) A Record of the Church-State Conflict by John M.L. Young Published by The Bible Times Press, Tokyo, 1958. 250 pages, $2.00
NOTE: American orders may be lent 10 The Independent Board of Foreign Missions, 246 West Walnut Lane, Philadelphia 44, Penna.
Ecclesiastical compromise has been the undoing of the Church of Christ in Japan in its struggle with the State for spiritual jurisdiction in matters religious. And compromise has becn characteristic of western modernistic scholarship, for “When the crisis came, the combined pressure of State persecution and inner weakness of faith brought almost the entire church to open sin in actual spiritual adultery with the worship of the mythical Sun Goddess of Japan” (Preface XV). Such is the thesis of this book. It is admirably illustrated and demonstrated with factual materials from seventy different sources.
The thesis is demonstrated against the background of the history of Christian missions in Japan in its three basic stages. The standard of judgment is faithfulness to the Word of God.
The first missionary to Japan was Francis Xavier, who in 1549 gained the first adherents to Christianity with a beautiful picture of the Virgin and the child Jesus. Within thirty years 150,000 Japanese had been baptized, and by the end of the century that number probably was doubled. The immediate success of the Jesuits is ascribed to their courage in forthright condemnation of idolatry, sodomy, and abortion. Xavier challenged the Buddhist priests to public debate and utterly routed them by his superior knowledge and logic. However, in the end Catholicism failed and was unceremoniously banished from the Island because no clear line of demarcation between the kingdom of God and that of Caesar, either in worship or in government, had been established. Furthermore, tile Roman priests were found to plot with Portugal to overthrow the Japanese government. This was their undoing, and all foreign missionaries were proscribed for the next 250 years.
The second attempt at evangelizing Japan came as the result of the treaty of 1854 between the United States and Japan, permitting foreigners to reside in several cities by 1859. Soon seven missionaries from the Episcopal, Presbyterian. Reformed, and Baptist churches were on the scene. However, persecution again broke out, since Christianity came into conflict with Shinto (ancestor worship) with its obeisance to the Sun Goddess. An estimated 2000 Christians died in prison between ]868 and 1893. However, international pressure brought about the repeal of edicts banning Christianity, with the result that n measure of religious freedom was enjoyed.
It should be noted that the strong nationalistic spirit of the Japanese early resented foreign influence in their native churches. Dr. Hepburn and others of the Reformed faith insisted on a sound creed for native churches, based on Scripture and patterned after the Westminster Confession of faith. But many of the native churches united in 1877 to form a Japanized Christianity, national and interdenominational, simple and liberal in creed. Pragmatically, this action was justified on the ground that the presence of the overwhelmingly hostile powers of paganism required such unity in things essential, while theological distinctiveness was not considered essential. (How familiar this sounds to one who has boon listening to the debate in the Christian Reformed Church concerning the proposed Union Seminary in Nigeria!) Meanwhile, the theology of the Westminster Confession went by the board. “But,” says the author, “it was just the Calvinistic conviction of the absolute sovereignty of God and the absolute authority of the Bible as the Word of God, ‘the only infallible rule of faith and practice,’ which the Japanese churches needed in their struggle with the demands of the polytheistic empire of the pagan State” (p. 37).
Very soon Higher Criticism, with its denial of the infallibility of Scripture, was introduced in the united church. Christianity was recommended mainly, during the last decades of the previous century, on political, patriotic, and economic grounds.
As the government took over the field of education, the contest between Church and State became more acute. Refusal to bow before the Imperial portrait was considered lese majeste (offense against sovereignty), but no Christian doubted the religious nature of bowing as an act of worship. However, since the church lacked prophetic spirit and militancy it gradually succumbed to the constant pressures of the State. Finally, it cravenly agreed that bowing to the shrines and to the emperor’s portrait were not acts of worship. Soon the whole Church fell into idolatry and was used for nationalistic purposes, during the war, by the State. And the sad fact must be recorded that even to this moment no repentance has been forthcoming on the part of the United Church of Japan, nor have the false leaders, that led the Church astray and perverted the Gospel, been repudiated. During all this time, a small band of missionaries, mostly Orthodox Presbyterians, condemned shrine worship as idolatry and resisted unto blood.
After the Second World War, freedom of religion came to Japan, and 2000 missionaries streamed into the Island. But the story of MacArthur’s magnificent work in granting the new constitution is already dimmed by the fact that Japan is gradually returning to its old ways. This means that nationalism is again strong in the indigenous churches, and that a return to emperor worship in the schools is once more imminent.
Some missionaries have already capitulated to the nationalistic, modernistic Japanese Council of Churches, even waiting for the initiative of the Japanese churches before sending more missionaries. Instead of the gospel, they emphasis relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. Meanwhile the United Church is sponsoring an International Christian University whose teachers “have been consistently exponents of modernist and neo-orthodox schools of thought” (p. 141).
Other missionaries have called on Christians to separate themselves from this apostasy, and have organized The Japan Bible Christian Council. They have also organized !l theological seminary of their own, which the author is serving as president. Mean· while a third group, known as the Evangelical Associntion of Japan, is not averse to cooperation with the National churches in sponsoring the Billy Graham campaign for 1959 as a centennial gesture.
As author Young sees it, the Japanese arc on the road back to State Shinto, with all the tragic consequences for the church of Christ. J3ut there is no hope for biblical Christianity either in liberalism or nco-orthodoxy in this crucial conflict of Church versus State. The only testimony ngainst this fonn of idolatry, with its consequent perversion of Christianity, comes from the orthodox part of the church.
The book of Mr. Young is a study in apostasy. As such it is instructive as well as alarming. However, for those who read A Layman’s Report in tile thirties, this report is no surprise. With the emphasis on culture rather than on the Gospel one could expect nothing else. What did surprise this reviewer was the early start of modernism in Japan, and the revelation of Japanese Nationalism as a definite factor in perverting the Gospel to by God bless our faithful Elijahs and the 7000 who have not bowed the knee to the Emperor! May the church at home set its face as flint against all compromise in its missionary principle and program!
Calvin College, Henry VanTil
Benedetto Croce’s Earlier Aesthetic Theories and Literacy Criticism by Calvin G. Seerveld J.H. Kok, Kampen, 1958. 110 pp.
This brief but concentrated study of Croce’s thought is of importance not only for its subject matter but because of its author, who gives promise of being a thinker deserving attention. In selecting Croce’s aesthetic theories as his area of study, Seerveld has dealt with a subject of central importance in modern thought.
Croce, an idealist of Importance In modern thought, assumed that reality is that which is real for Mind or Spirit, more specifically, that which is related to man in some form of cultural activity. Croce thus shifted the emphasis of idealism from positivism and l0gic to art and history. M.ind finds expression in four stages of activity, each in turn dependent upon that which precedes it. These four activities are the aesthetical, logical, economical, and moral (and hence the ridicule that Croce’s was a philosophy of four words). Thus, knowing presupposes aesthetic vision or intuition, and action, and willing, or ethical activity, both presuppose knowing. Beauty, truth, utility, and goodness are the values which identify reality. Man, however, lives in a reality in process, so that he not only knows reality but by his activity he makes reality; his aesthetic experience is creative.
Positivism bad destroyed reality, and Croce was concerned With reestablishing man in reality, and the aesthetic experience as the basic experience was for him the means thereto. Croce’s attempt was religious (for him philosophy was religion), but not Christian. He gave nevertheless “a secular parallel to the key Biblical motifs of creation, sin and salvation” (p. 83). In effect, he developed a doctrine of inerrancy and inspiration for his aesthetic experience, which became in a sense sacred, blameless, and uncensurable. Art thus becomes eternal, even though particular art passes away, in one sense, because “everything is eternal: everything that has been, is, and will be, appears as a living part of the everlasting, snowballing total actuality of History which is the ever present, creative, universal eternal Spirit” (p. 78). Artistic activity is thus creative in an absolute sense (p. 98), while still part of an eternal flux.
Croce’s theory is especially pertinent in terms of the contemporary conflict over inspiration and inerrancy, in that it reveals that such a doctrine is an inevitability in any consistent system of thought. The question is rather: to what shall we ascribe infallibility, to Scripture, or to the mind or activity of autonomous man? The contradictions in Croce’s solution are in a sense a tribute to his thinking, in that he attempted to face a problem which thinkers increasingly evade. Regrettably, even ostensibly Christian thinkers fail to appreciate the implications of the problem.
Rousas John Rushdoony
The Christian Family and Home by Alexander C. De Jong Baker Book House
This 70-page booklet is a must in every home today. The pastor of the Highland Hills Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids has done extensive reading on the subject and is well acquainted with the changes that have been brought about in our home-life and the dangers that surround our homes. From beginning to end he gives solid Biblical instruction, warning, and mature counsel. This booklet is written to language that can be understood by all, and when occasionally a difficult word is employed the writer takes time to explain. This little book will be read at one reading because of its interesting and up-to-date material. And then it should be read again. Its format and design are a credit to the publisher. We discovered no printing errors.
The author introduces his material under the heading, “Our Present Predicament,” and then in twenty additional chapters takes up a wealth of material including marriage, place of parents and children in the home, their respective tasks, family worship, etc. Each chapter contains eight or nine questions for further discussion. We heartily recommend this material to Society groups for profitable after-recess programs.
The writer warns us against Kinseyian speculation (modem views of sex and marriage) but also against Victorian prudishness and tradition. Throughout Dr. De Jong lays Biblical foundations and builds upon them.
There may be some who doom chapters 11 and 12, which deal with “The Role of Sex,” and “Planning For Children,” rather frank and outspoken. Some may not want to discuss these in a group, preferring private conferences with the pastor or the Christian physician. We may leave this to tho wisdom of the group leader. We would suggest that in future editions the writer, since he has broached the subject, introduce at least parts of the Birth Control Testimony adopted by our Synod (cf. Acts 1936, pp. 136–138) and the recent Report Concerning Birth Control by the Committee of the World Council of Churches, which already has caused considerable reaction.
Parents, you must buy this book and read it. Place a copy in the hand of yow young people. The Church must save our homes. Even older people will enjoy such chapters as, “The Family During The Harvest Years” and “The Family Facing Death.”
The price, 75 cents, in very reasonable.
E. B. Pekelder
Living in a New Country by Tenis C. Van Kooten Guardian Publishing Company, Ltd. Hamilton, Ont. Canada. 157 pages $2.95
This book was written by the popular minister of the Hamilton, Ontario, Christian Reformed Church. Having enjoyed personal contacts with hundreds of immigrants since 1951 he speaks from experience and with a measure of authority.
In eight chapters the writer sheds considerable light on the different experiences and tensions through which those who come from Europe must pass as they make Canada their new home. Three valuable chapters deal with Isolation, Assimilation. or Integration as distinct approaches the immigrant can assume in a strange land. Another chapter deals with Nationalism and Prejudices, while in the last chapter the immigrant’s Heritage is discussed.
W. Stanford Reid of the Mc Gill University of Montreal, who writes a Foreword, comments, “This book should be of great use in helping the immigrant to find his niche in Canada, and in showing the Canadian how he may help the new-comer. One cannot but hope that it may be read widely, and so help out new Canadians to become the best of citizens.”
We can heartily recommend this book to all immigrants, and particularly those who are of a Reformed background. Here is a book that has throughout a strong religious emphasis. In seeking to give counsel to people who leave so much behind, the Word of God is consulted repeatedly.
The central place of the Church in the life of the immigrant and bow the Church should help solve his problems is clearly stated on pp. 80, 81, 136.
One might prefer a more logical treatise with less repetition of material under various headings. And though several spelling mistakes appear (cf. easely p. 11; outbits p. 35; deliniated p. 36); and though ow copy has several blank pages (which should contain printing), the reviewer congratulates the writer with the fruit of his pen. May all of our immigrants retain what is good and worthwhile in their heritage and may they strive to propagate the principles that are found in God’s Word and clearly enunciated in this book.
E. B. Pekelder
Obeying the Great Commission: A Study Manual on Foreign Missions Peter Y. De Jong Baker Book House, Grand Rapids 6, Michigan 1959. $1.00
Here is another sign of the increasing mission interest in our churches. Dr. P. De Jong has rendered a definite service in preparing this manual for the churches.
I think that it is a good manual for it is suggestive and stimulating; it gives one the urge to know more about this fascinating subject. The manual is also fairly comprehensive, for in a small package one can take a dip into the history, principles and methods of mission work. It is also a good manual for Dr. De Jong is humble enough not to claim to know all the answers to the many problems of mission work, but we here have an introduction to many of those problems.
This manual is ideal for study in our many societies, and should feed the mission interest of many. Chapter eleven should lead one to the reading of the books by Nevius and Soltau concerning the method for securing a truly indigenous church, Chapter twenty should spur one on to read some of the recently-published histories of mission work in Japan. Many other sections also should prove to be the springboard to a more intensive study of the subject involved.
I note on page twenty-three, line six, that the word “favorable” should rather be “unfavorable.” I would not be as sure as Dr. De Jong is on page thirty-four that the office of evangelist has passed away. Both on the home front and on the mission field there has proved to be a continued need and use of the evangelist whether we give him the dignity of the office or not. Neither am I so sure that a distinct line of cleavage can be drawn between the official proclamation of the Word and the unofficial dissemination of the Word on the part of every Christian (p. 35). Africa is living proof that God does not so distinguish. And on the same page one is struck by the statement, “But by its very nature mission work is temporary.” The more I see of mission life, the more I get the idea that it is permanent, self-perpetuating. The history of missions is one great example contradicting the truth. It is easy to find missions in Nigeria which have labored for over a hundred years, and today they are expanding their staff.
On page 81, it should be noted that the Dzompere and the Kutev are one and the same people. The tribe intended should rather be the Ichen or Kentu people. Also one would hesitate to make the following sweeping statement of his pagan friends, “Shame and modesty were virtually unknown.”
At the rear of the manual there is a helpful list of Dates To Remember and maps of three of our mission fields.
Why don’t you order a copy today?
Robert Becker, Baissa, Nigeria
The Acts of the Apostles by E.M. Blaiklock Tydale N.T. Commentaries, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan Tyndale Press – Great Britain 1959 –197 pp. – $3.00
The importance attached to the book of Acts has greatly increased in recent years. The author, E. M. Blaiklock, Professor of Classics at Auckland University, New Zealand, is to be commended for the contribution of this commentary. It has been written so that it may have the broadest possible use and the author has very ably accomplished this purpose. The materials are properly divided to enhance the ease in reading.
This reviewer would place a stricture on one conclusion concerning Paul’s Arropagus’ sermon as being very ambiguous. We have in mind this sentence: “The Stoics, especially Seneca and Epictetus, had glimpsed the truth of the unity of mankind under God, but such philosophy lacked ‘a lilting power.’”
Pastors and lay people will enjoy this little volume, and we wish it wide circulation.
John J. Byker
The First Epistle General of Peter by Alan M. Stibbs Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. Tyndale Press – Great Britain, 1959 – 192 pp.
This little volume is another in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries of which R.V.G. Tasker is General Editor.
After a rather lengthy introduction of some 68 pages the reader is treated to a delightful study of the contents of I Peter. In this little commentary one is again pleased with the divisions which tend to make reading and studying pleasant.
The three volumes of this series which I have read and used, seem to be characterized by a liberal regard for divergent views. This is not intended to say that the volume lacks painstaking investigation of questions and discreet conclusions. We would rather say that the authors might often speak with greater finality.
However, one will find that to use this work is both enriching and stimulating.
John J. Byker
Minority of One by Clyde S. Kilby Eerdmans Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 219 pp. $3.95
The reading of Dr. Kilby’s book is a delightful and beneficial experience. The author is chairman of the Department of English at Wheaton College and has taught at tills institution since 1945. The book, a biography of Jonathan Blanchard, displays painstaking work in every respect.
Mr. Jonathan Blanchard was one of the outstanding men of the 19th century. His life spanned most of that century, from 1811–1891. He was known as an unexcelled abolitionist. Two colleges, Knox at Galesburg, Illinois, and Wheaton at Wheaton, Illinois, owed their establishment to him. While he was not their original founder, he is credited with their continued and vital existence. At an advanced age he established the Christian Cynosure, a magazine dedicated to the exposure of Secret Societies. His energies were directed to that end all the day of his death.
The author describes Mr. Blanchard as a man who “in his whole life was never known to recant, change, blink, or swerve from any one principle which he had adopted.” At his funeral be was described thus: “He did not know the first rudiments of fear.”
This age owes a debt to the author for depicting a man of principle and conviction, two qualities badly needed in this day of relativity and compromise.
John J. Byker
Temptation and Sin by John Owen Sovereign Grace Book Club, Distributed by Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Mich. Price $3.95. 322 pages
This volume contains one of the great works of John Owen, the “Prince of Puritan Preachers” of England, having to do with temptation and sin.
The basis of the treatise is Romans 7:21, “I find then a law that when I would do good, evil is present with me.” The author discusses first the seat of this law, which is the heart, and then the nature of the law, which is enmity against God. He goes on at length to expound the deceitfulness of sin and to illustrate its beguiling ways, to demonstrate its power eve in the lives of sincere Christians, and to conclude that all endeavors to mortify sin in our members must be unavailing if assayed in their own strength.
In first section Owen discusses the subject of mortification of sin. In a style that is peculiar to English writers he treats the subject from different viewpoints such as the need of mortification, that it is the work of the Holy Spirit, what true mortification is, the necessity of faith, etc.
The foundation of the second section is Matthew 26:41. “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation.” Here he deals solely with the subject of temptation, its nature and its power.
The third section is written in connection with Romans 7 as he writes about the indwelling sin in believers. The author certainly is not a perfectionist. True to his detailed treatments of the subjects at hand: he discusses tho nature, power, deceit, and prevalency of the remainders of indwelling sin in believers.
Sometimes he is somewhat repetitious and lengthy. His treatment and approach is eminently Scriptural. This is refreshing in an age in which one hears less of sin and in which a social gospel is becoming increasingly prevalent. The book can be of great benefit for those who wish to make detailed studies of these truths or for any minister who intends to preach a series on these subjects.