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New Wine: The Cultural Shaping of Japanese Christianity.

This small volume distills the research and writing of more than four decades of a distinguished missionary career in Japan. The author served as director of the International Institute for the Study of Religions and editor of the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies as well as professor of sociology of religion at Tokyo Union Theological Seminary.

Part 1 contains three chapters on Japanese religion and provides a very important background for understanding the religious culture that has helped to shape Japanese Christianity. Part 2 presents three chapters on Japanese Christianity, addressing directly issues that the title promises.

Though all the chapters contribute valuable insights, three I found particularly helpful. Chapter 1 is a veritable gem of condensed information and interpretation of Japanese religions. Chapter 2 traces the development of the traditional principle of the unity of religion and government and the principle of separation of the two that is written into the present constitution. Chapter 5 shows convincingly that the Japanese ancestral rites and funerary practices have significantly influenced Japanese Christianity.

The final chapter reports and interprets the findings from a questionnaire that reveal differing attitudes and practices, especially concerning the ancestral rites, on the part of Christian and non-Christian Japanese who have or do not have the butsudan (Buddhist altar for ancestral rites) in their homes. Many will be surprised to learn that any Christian homes have the butsudan in them. The questionnaire apparently did not identify mixed households, although such information would have made the results more valuable.

I highly recommend this book to all who wish a better understanding of Christianity in the context of Japanese religions.

E. Luther Copeland is a retired Southern Baptist missionary who served in Japan, 1948-56 and 1975-81. He is currently Visiting Distinguished Professor of Religion, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.
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Author:Copeland, E. Luther
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:298
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