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8 Is the Church Too Western? D URING THE LAST four or five centuries, the expansion of Christianity in the non-European world has been associated with the expansion of Western colonial power. The missionaries went hand in hand with the European explorers and traders and conquerors who sailed unknown seas and discovered new continents or found new contacts with ancient peoples; indeed to a great extent the missionaries were themselves the pioneers in the work of discovery. Consequently it was inevitable that the peoples of the Far East and Africa and the island world of the Pacific should have seen Christianity as something essentially Western, as the religion of the foreigners, the Sahibs in India, the Hairy Barbarians in China and the White Man in Africa and Oceania. And so it is not surprising that the rise of the modern nationalist movement in Asia and Africa with its slogans of anticolonialism and antiimperialism, and the reassertion of the traditions of oriental culture against the West, should be accompanied by a reaction against the influence of Western missionaries and often against Christianity itself. As a rule this reaction has not been a violent one like that which produced the great Is the Church Too Western? 99 persecution of the Christians in Japan in the seventeenth century . It has been political and cultural rather than religious. It has been directed mainly against proselytization and education by foreign missionaries, but it has also led to a demand for a strictly national organization of oriental Christianity and its emancipation from all forms of Western or external control, as we see in the report of the government commission on Christian missions in Madya Pradesh, which proposed that all the Christian Churches in the region should be fused in a single national or provincial body which would be completely autonomous. Now it is obvious that proposals of this kind are irreconcilable with the fundamental principles of Catholicism. If nationalism -whether in the East or the West-denies the right of the Church to exist as a universal autonomous spiritual society, it is a challenge to the law of God and the kingship of Christ. But this does not mean that the Church is essentially Western. On the contrary, the same principle that forbids us to make the Church a national organization also prevents us from identifying it with a particular civilization. The mission of the Church is essentially universal and it is common to all nations and racesto those of the East equally with those of the West. We must however distinguish between this ideal universality and the practical limitations imposed by history on the circumstances of the Church's apostolate. By the nature of the case, the missionary is in some sense a stranger to the nation and the culture that he evangelizes. He comes from outside bringing a new doctrine and initiating men into a new society. But however supernatural is his mission, he is a human being who has been born and educated in some particular society and brings his own cultural traditions with him, and hence in some degree his native habits and prejudices. In this sense it is true the missionary tends to be too Western, so that it is his duty to divest himself of his natural prejudices and become assimilated to an alien environment and culture. As he must translate the Christian Gospel into a new language and speak with strange tongues, so too he must learn to think in terms of an alien culture and accept its social standards and values. IOO The Historic Reality of Christian Culture Yet this is not the real point at issue. For when men talk, as they do today, about the Church's being too Western they are not thinking of this inevitable but accidental dependence of the missionary on his particular cultural background; they mean rather that the Church herself has become occidentalized: that her philosophy and theology, her liturgy and devotion have been so deeply influenced by fifteen hundred years of association with Western culture that she has become estranged from the Oriental world and no longer speaks to it in terms that the peoples of Asia can understand. Before we consider what grounds there are for such an assertion it is necessary to determine what we mean by the word "Western." On the one hand there is our modern Western civilization , which has spread so rapidly through the world during the last century. This civilization is indubitably Western...


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