Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How then shall we think of our "good" traditional cultures/virtues if these are derived from the non-biblical, pagan roots?

I have been thinking about the theme with which I dealt on my yesterday's post entitled: Oku (奥): Rediscovering The Depths And The Beauty Of Being In An Innermost Room [Biblical Womanhood And Modesty](here).

As a Bible-believing Japanese Christian who was born and brought up in a pagan culture, this particular theme as to the way how we should view our traditional culture, has been in my mind constantly and ceaselessly. I think I need your help, my dear readers!

My sincere question to you is this;

"Traditional womanhood may not always mean biblical ..." Yes, this is so right. Then, how should we think of our "good" traditional cultures/virtues such as female modesty, gracefulness, obedience, quietness, dedication, simplicity etc?

Should we reject them all together because, after all, these are derived from the non-biblical, pagan roots? Or could we adapt some and take them into our biblical womanhood? But,,,by doing so, does it cause some form of unhealthy "syncretism"?

I am looking forward to hearing from your response, my dear readers!

pictures from here and here.


Irina Glazkova said...

A few years ago, we had a missionary addressing the same issue. They said that Jesus did not come to destroy the cultures. He came to redeem the souls. Every culture has beautiful parts. Christians should only eliminate parts of the culture that contradict the Bible. God tells us through the Bible how to conduct ourselves, how to treat one another, and other things.
If we look in Hindu culture, the part which should be eliminated is cast system, temple prostitution, child exploitation, and so on. We are equal in Christ.
We are all descendants of Noah's family. Cultures came later.
Apostle Paul didn't try to eliminate cultures. He was preaching in diverse churches.
Hopefully it helps,

Kinuko H said...

Dear Irina, thank you so much for your wonderful comment. Yes, it really helped me. Irina, I have a question. Do you have similar kinds of issues in Russian culture and Christianity? If you can share with me about it, I am so grateful. Thank you! with love, Kinuko

Anonymous said...

As a christian,we have to know what bible ask us to be first.But I think that some virtues which our traditional culture has sometimes may help us.Even as Irina pointed out,we should abandon tradition which contradict bible.

I heard that for many Karen(tribe living in Thailand,Burma,etc), creation order and godly marriage rule in the bible were not difficult to accept.Because they already had kept strict monogamy,never allowed devorce,adultery as tradition.

What most important is motive.Why we keep the value? Because of cultural reason or of obeying God? I hope to answer 'to obey God'.


Kinuko H said...

Dear Sanae, thank you so much for your help!! I do appreciate your wisdom. Now I have some more questions to you:)

1) What do you think of the Japanese concept of "Mono No Aware"(もののあはれ)?

Mono no aware (もののあわれ): literally "the pathos of things", and also translated as "an empathy toward things", or "a sensitivity to ephemera", is a Japanese term for the awareness of impermanence (無常 mujō), or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.
(in Japanese: もののあはれ(物の哀れ)は、平安時代の王朝文学を知る上で重要な文学的・美的理念の一つ。折に触れ、目に見、耳に聞くものごとに触発されて生ずる、しみじみとした情趣や、無常観的な哀愁である。苦悩にみちた王朝女性の心から生まれた生活理想であり、美的理念であるとされている。日本文化においての美意識、価値観に影響を与えた思想である。)

I think that the awareness of impermanence (無常; mujo) is purely a Buddhistic idea and it is nothing to do with our Christian concept....right?? what do you think?

2) What do you think of the virtues of the wives of Buke (Samurai)? Have you ever read the book called; "Lives of Great Japanese Women (日本婦道記, 1942–1945)" by Shugoro Yamamoto? I am not very sure about the virtues which were described in this book.

Anonymous said...

Everything changes and will be lost.But God never changes. We christians believe this as a hope never ceasing.

I think that ancient Japanese people also knew fragility of life.I think it is natural that they reached the conclusion 'impermanence' without hope that 'God never changes'.

I have never read the novel.So sorry,I can not answer about what kind of virtue is written in the book.

But I do not think that value of buke is biblical even they value nobility,wife's modesty and chasty.

Lower class Samurai kept monogamy,I heard.But often their marriage priority was function than love.Wife who can not have babies were easily devorced.

And many upper class samurai committed poligamy,Some of them did Shudou(衆道、old Japanese word meaning homosexuality).And wife's jealousy was regarded desgrace.

I remembered Garasha Hosokawa,who was a wife of buke,became a cathoric christian in 16th century.She refused to be taken as a hostage in order to protect the position of her non-christian samurai husband,let his subordinate kill her.Her short poem written before she died is famous.散りぬべき 時知りてこそ 世の中の 花も花なれ 人も人なれ
(Just because of knowing time to fall,flower is flower,person is a human.)
I think that she was a christian who kept having Buke value.


Kinuko H said...

Dear Sanae,

Thank you so much for answering my questions! I've learned many things from your comment. (I felt a touch of pathos in the last poem of Garasha Hosokawa)

"I think it is natural that they reached the conclusion 'impermanence' without hope that 'God never changes'." Yes, I agree with you and I think that this ("impermanence": mujo) is one of the key concepts of the religion of Buddhism. (In Sanskrit: Anitya). As the Bible says, if there was no resurrection of Jesus Christ, then there is no hope for humankind.

1 Corinthians 15:19-20
19 If in Christ we have hope[a] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (ESV)

That's why I am very concerned about the recent Evangelical interest in oriental religions (such as Zen, Yoga, Tibet Buddhism etc..) because these two cannot be mixed nor syncretized at all. "Mujo" and "Eternal Hope of Jesus Christ" cannot abide in us together.

Thomas Merton (1915–1968), a Trappist monk, was one of the most well-known Catholic writers of the 20th century. After meeting the Japanese Buddhist scholar Daisetz T. Suzuki (1870–1966), Merton began a zealous interest in Zen, keeping an active correspondence with Suzuki, eventually producing a collection of essays called "Zen and the Birds of Appetite" (1968). In this work he compares Zen with Christianity, and in later works he began to highlight more and more what he believed to be commonalities between the two religions. However, I believe that this is the dangerous slippery slope to syncretism and by promoting this kind of mixed ideas, we will eventually lose our purity and loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here is the excerpt of the diary of Merton;

"Last night I dreamed I was, temporarily, back at Gethsemani. I was dressed in a Buddhist monk’s habit, but with more black and red and gold, a "Zen habit," in color more Tibetan than Zen . . . I met some women in the corridor, visitors and students of Asian religion, to whom I was explaining I was a kind of Zen monk and Gelugpa together, when I woke up." (Asian Journal, 107)

May our Lord protect all of us from deceptions!

Caro said...

Dear Kinuko, I also think that we should not reject beautiful traditions/values from our culture as long as they are good and don't contradict the Bible traditions/values.
God was probably very happy to create diversity among people, He was so creative by coloring their skin differently depending on whether they live on the planet. He also created cold and iced lands in some places, hot weather and luxurious plants to some other places... It seems that God loves diversity, so we can always be surprised and filled with wonder when we travel and visit new places and meet new people. So of course so much variety among people and places product various cultures, and I think God enjoys this diversity because diversity was His invention. I would say uniformity and globalisation rejoices rather the Devil.
Cultures are so precious, they are the heritage of population's heart.
My grand-father was a lover of his local culture, he enjoyed the particular style of music of his land, and wrote in his diary how much he likes the joyful traditionnal dances of his village. He was so sad that the young generation didn't care about this unique heritage and prefered modern and impersonal culture.
My opinion is similar to Irina : as long as culture is good and compatible with Bible's principles, we can keep loving it. For example Japan has beautiful traditional costume (kimono) as it is modest and feminine, we can keep it ! France has joyful traditional dances, as the moves are chaste, and the intention of these dances are not to worship any false god, we can keep participate in these beautiful dances.
When we talk about syncretism, I think it means that we take some religious pagan things to re-use them in Christian faith. I don't think we can call syncretism, the simple fact to cherish what is good in our culture.

Anonymous said...

Trying to search about Thomas Merton,I knew that there are monasteries in France which accept Zen monks for several months every year.Instead of that,they send their monks and nuns to Zen temples in Japan.They have kept it for more than 20 years.

When I notice it,what first I feel 'What porpose made them do this?'.
Zen has philosophy of 'no depending on people,no depending on God'.I think that Zen
way does not fit in bible at all.

I heard that Zen already became French word.In Europe,many people including christians seem to have interest in Zen. Cooped-up feeling inside churches-losing lively relationship with God may be one of the reasons of this phenomenon.


Kinuko H said...

Dear Caro, thank you so much for your lovely, lovely comment. It seems to me that each word of yours is coming from the world of fairy tales! After reading your comment, my heart just wanted to praise Him for creating us in such a diverse way! "I think God enjoys this diversity because diversity was His invention. I would say uniformity and globalization rejoices rather the Devil. Cultures are so precious, they are the heritage of population's heart. " Amen. I also enjoyed reading your grandfather's story! Thank you for sharing it with me, Caro. "When we talk about syncretism, I think it means that we take some religious pagan things to re-use them in Christian faith. I don't think we can call syncretism, the simple fact to cherish what is good in our culture." I see! That's a great point, too. with love, Kinuko

Kinuko H said...

Dear Sanae, thank you for your research. I was so surprised to hear that there is so called "exchange-program" between French Catholic monasteries and Japanese Zen temples! As you wisely mentioned, this combination is just impossible! Maybe Caro knows about this issue very well. When I was in Germany for mission trip, I was shocked to see and hear that oriental paganism has been welcomed and introduced into various Evangelical churches. I think He must be so sad to see this phenomenon happening in the very land where Reformation took place and that so many devout believers in the past sacrificed their own lives for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They did not compromise at all. But I also see that there are wonderful believers in Europe such as sister Sabine, Caroline etc...Let us continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Europe!

Anonymous said...

Sorry,Kinuko.not every month per 4years exactly,I correct.Not only in France but Belgium,there seems to be a monastery which joins the proglem.
Off course,not all monasteries are like them.

May God keep our sincere brother and sister in EU.


Kinuko H said...

Dear Sanae, thank you for your update!!