Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 27, 1952
NUMBER 30, PAGE 8-9a

Japan — The Challenge

Charles W. Doyle, Fort Worth, Texas

(Editor's Note: Brother Charles W. Doyle who went to Japan soon after the war feels that many in America are critical of what is being done, and proposed, in that country because they do not have the true facts in the case. He has asked us if we would be willing to present a three-article series giving a "factual report" of the Japanese work from one who has been on the field and actually knows what is being done. In fairness to the sincere and consecrated workers who have gone into Japan, as well as in fairness to the thousands who have been asked to contribute to a huge program of work proposed for that land, we all want the FACTS as to what is happening. This is the first of Brother Doyle's articles; others will follow in subsequent issues.)

This is a time of unusual opportunity for the church, a time when the cause of Christ is making unprecedented progress both at home and abroad. Among the many opportunities and challenges facing Christians today, and standing possibly at the head of them all, is post-war Japan.

Japan is a nation of over eighty million souls, most of whom know little or nothing about Jesus Christ, not even from a denominational viewpoint. The people therefore are still in ignorance and darkness, still worshipping ancestral spirits, still bowing down before images of stone, still living in superstitious fear of various imaginary nature deities.

As long as such a deplorable condition exists in any part of the world, Christians will be unable to rest in provincial ease and complacency but will be challenged to arise and do something about it. As long as we have the command of Christ "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel," sincere Christians in America will be unable to disregard other people just because their culture is different from ours and they are separated from us by large bodies of water. Surely the Japanese people may also be saved by "calling on the name of the Lord." But they cannot call on him in whom they have never believed, and they cannot believe in him of whom they have never heard. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that preachers of the gospel be sent in order to give the Japanese an opportunity to hear what we in America have heard so long. Or, do we believe that simply because a person is born in Japan, that automatically eliminated him as a recipient of the blessings which God has so bountifully bestowed on us? If we will each consider the question: "What if I had been born in Japan? we will be unable to regard the Japanese unsympathetically.

But Japan today presents not just one of many fields for work, whose prospects are good in the ordinary sense. Japan presents possibly the best, possibly the most fruitful field for Christian evangelism in the world today. For we find in Japan a unique situation, unparalleled in history.

We find a whole nation of people, long misdirected by their heathen philosophers, losing confidence in the men who have guided them and therefore looking for new leadership.

We all know that the militarists controlled Japan and led her into the recent war, but what some do not realize is that the militarists did not exercise their control directly but rather through the medium of the priestly clan, the Buddhist and Shinto priests, It was the priest who had absolute control over the thinking of the people. And the priests in directing the people filled their minds with all sorts of racial prejudice and nationalistic propaganda. "Our nation has never been defeated in war; no foreign invader has ever set his profane foot upon the sacred soil of Japan," they commonly boasted. "Our Emperor is a direct descendant of the great sun goddess, our nation a nation particularly created by and blessed of the gods," they further claimed. Thus, in preparation for the recent war, the priests persuaded the people that Japan was destined to achieve a complete and glorious victory. And the people believed the propaganda so thoroughly that they fought fanatically in the war as if indeed it were a holy and sacred cause for which they were fighting.

However, the priests could not give the people what they promised them. In place of the wonderful triumph full of glory and material gain, the people experienced a humiliating defeat, and for the first time in the history of the Japanese nation an army of foreigners moved in and took over control of the Japanese government. And in 1945 at the close of the war, the Emperor in a nationwide radio broadcast said: "I am not a god; I am not a descendant of the sun goddess as you have been told. That is an idea which the militarists persuaded you to accept that they might better control you in the war."

Now, this statement by the Emperor, together with the humiliating defeat in war, caused the people to be disillusioned, and the confidence they had formerly reposed in their priests was completely shattered. The priests have lost face with the people, and to lose face in the Orient is to lose all prestige and influence.

But this turn of events has left the people in distressful circumstances. Having repudiated their former leadership, they are now without satisfactory guidance. Long accustomed to regimentation and to being told what to believe and how to act, they are like sheep without a shepherd, groping in a sort of spiritual vacuum, seeking and searching for new leadership, looking for a new philosophy of life, welcoming anyone who will say: "Lo here is the way of truth and happiness."

Now, surely we can see that this situation represents a unique opportunity to Christians or to anyone who would desire to influence the Japanese people. They now have ready minds and receptive hearts and the door of opportunity is opened wide. The soil is favorably conditioned for the entering of the seed, and the fields are white unto harvest. All that is lacking is for sincere souls to lift up their eyes to this challenging situation and to enter into the glorious work of sowing and reaping.

The possibilities are great in Japan for a national transformation. If enough Christian guidance could be given at this present time, Japan could become a Democratic nation after a sort; Japan could become a nation greatly influenced by Christian principles. But, unless we who have those principles do more than we have done thus far to see that they are presented to the Japanese people in this hour of opportunity, it is likely that Japan once again will turn to a state of militarism, like the dog returning to its vomit.

Japan may truly be compared to the man out of whom an evil spirit has been cast. The heart of that nation is empty, swept, and clean. Unless we can put something good and truthful into that empty heart, then seven other demons far worse than the first shall enter in and take possession and the last state shall be worse than the first.

What shall we say to these things? Or, more important, what shall you and I do about this matter? The challenge is as much yours as the next man's. To answer this challenge by establishing the cause of Christ in Japan will take more than mere negative criticism of others. It will take a positive demonstration of faith on your part and mine, and I believe the other man will appreciate our showing him the right way. This is the challenge; what will be the nature of our response?