More Information
ISBN: 9781783683703
Imprint: Langham Global Library
Format: Paperback
Dimensions (mm): 229 x 152 x 36
Publication Date: 14/02/2018
Pages: 702
Language: English

Japanese Understanding of Salvation

Soteriology in the Context of Japanese Animism


It is no secret that Christianity has been widely rejected in Japan with less than two percent of the population identifying as Christian. The dominant worldview in Japan is deeply animistic, with beliefs such as the Japanese mana-concept, ki (気), the Japanese soul-concept, and the concept of God/god(s), kami (神), being deeply rooted in the culture and fundamentally influencing society. Dr Martin Heißwolf, with his years of experience in Japan, critically examines Japanese animism in light of core Christian beliefs, such as the concepts of “peace” and “salvation.”

Central to Japanese people’s rejection of Christian truth is the diametric opposition of its supernatural message to the natural focus of Japanese animistic folk religion. Heißwolf’s meticulous study is framed squarely within missiological thought and praxis so Christians serving in Japanese contexts are better able to communicate the message of the gospel by more fully understanding Japanese people, people by whom God wants to be known.

Author Bios

Martin Heißwolf

MARTIN HEIßWOLF, a German missionary to Japan, gained his DTh in Missiology from the University of South Africa. His involvement in evangelism, church planting, counselling, community work, and teaching in Japanese society since 1991 have been his basis for listening to Japanese people. It is from this listening that he has gained insights into Japanese oral folk beliefs that have been pivotal to his research into Japanese animism. He and his wife, Andrea, a fellow missionary to Japan, have seven children.


Christian leaders of Japan need to read Heisswolf ’s formative cultural analysis of contemporary culture. He makes overt religious beliefs that are typically hidden but become operational during times of illness and death. This book could reframe Christian proclamation and ministry and revitalize the church to disarm the principalities and powers.

Dr Gailyn Van Rheenen, Ph
Former Executive Director, Mission Alive
Author of Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts

A virtual encyclopedia on animism and its impact on the everyday worldview and religious thinking of the Japanese. A valuable resource to be set alongside Nakamura’s Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples, consulted by anyone who desires a nuanced understanding of how to bring the gospel to Japan.

Randal Gilmore, D.R.S.
Director, Word of Life, Japan
Regional Director, Word of Life, Pacific Rim

Table of Contents

    1. Contents
    2. List of Tables and Figures
    3. Abstract
    4. Transcription and pronunciation of Japanese words
    5. List of Abbreviations
    6. Introduction
  1. Part I: The Context of Salvation
  2. 1. What is animism?
    1. 1.1 What is a worldview?
    2. 1.2 Working-definition: Animism
      1. 1.2.1 Various characteristics of animistic worldviews
        1. Co-existence of material and immaterial things and beings
        2. Holism
        3. “Spiritual” explanation for “natural” events
      2. 1.2.2 Terminological clarifications
    3. 1.3 Christian faith and animism
      1. 1.3.1 Bruce Bradshaw’s Bridging the Gap
      2. 1.3.2 Caution when dealing with occult practices

  3. 2. Japanese animism
    1. 2.1 Japan and Animism?
      1. 2.1.1 The unanimous judgment of many Japanologists
      2. 2.1.2 Various other findings pointing towards animism as basic Japanese worldview
        1. “Spiritual” interpretation for “natural” things
        2. Ordering the world in stories
        3. Conceptions of the “spiritual double”
      3. 2.1.3 Shintoism “even today”?
    2. 2.2 The Japanese Mana-concept ki (気)
      1. 2.2.1 Theory
        1. Ki (気) and the originally Japanese ke (気)
        2. The word-field of ki (気)
          1. Ki (気) as substance
          2. Ki (気) as mana-energy of humans outside of humans
          3. Ki (気) in the Japanese view of nature
          4. Ki (気) in traditional medicine
          5. Ki (気) in Japanese art
      2. 2.2.2 Christian belief and the mana-concept of Japanese animism
        1. “Trying the spirits”
    3. 2.3 The Japanese god concept Kami (神)
      1. 2.3.1 Preliminary considerations
        1. Preliminary considerations concerning terminology
        2. Preliminary considerations concerning linguistics
      2. 2.3.2 The semantic field of Kami (神), “god”
        1. The secular usage of kami (神)
        2. The Absolute as kami (神)
        3. Humans as kami (神)
        4. Spirits as kami (神)
        5. Gods as kami (神)
        6. Animals as kami (神)
        7. Things as kami (神)
      3. 2.3.3 Positive encounter with the god-concept of Japanese animism
        1. The Christian history of the term kami (神)
        2. Formal aspects
        3. Aspects of Content
          1. The mercy of God and motherly tenderness
          2. Repentance and forgiveness – or forgiveness and repentance?
          3. God’s provision and eco-feminism
          4. The “pain” of God and suffering in Asian feminist theologies
      4. 2.3.4 Critical encounter with the god-concept of Japanese animism
        1. Kami (神) is a syncretistic term
        2. Broken and unbroken relationship between God and man
        3. God disposable versus human responsible
        4. Dissonance in the harmonic orchestra of religions
        5. Predisposition: God is
        6. “Natural theology” or revelation theology
          1. Without cognitio supernaturalis no cognitio naturalis
          2. Because of cognitio supernaturalis without fail cognitio naturalis as well
          3. Limits of the cognitio naturalis
          4. Limits of the cognitio supernaturalis
          5. Ralph Cox’ approach for the Japanese context
    4. 2.4 The Japanese soul-concept
      1. 2.4.1 Preliminary considerations
      2. 2.4.2 The model
      3. 2.4.3 The Word-Field Tamashii (魂 or 魄) (soul)
        1. Introduction
        2. Tamashii (魂) (soul) and body belong together
        3. Tamashii (魂) (soul) is the power that moves a human
        4. Tamashii (魂) (soul) moves a human intellectually and emotionally
        5. Tamashii (魂), soul postmortem
        6. Tamashii (魂) (soul) and oni (鬼) (demon)
      4. 2.4.4 The Word-Field Rei (霊) (spirit) / Sudama (魅) (ghost)
        1. Introduction
        2. Closeness to rei (霊) spirit) and tamashii (魂) (soul)
        3. Demarcation of the world-field rei (霊) (spirit)
        4. Definition of rei (霊) (spirit): the extraordinary
        5. Rei (霊) (spirit) as spirits of the dead
        6. Rei (霊) (spirit) as spirits
        7. Rei (霊) (spirit) as “god”
        8. Rei (霊) (spirit) and sudama (魅) (ghost)
      5. 2.4.5 The Word-Field Kokoro (心) (heart)
        1. Introduction: the connection with tamashii (魂) (soul)
        2. Kokoro (心) as knowledge, mind, thinking
        3. Kokoro (心) as will
        4. Kokoro (心) as consciousness
        5. Kokoro (心) as emotions
      6. 2.4.6 The Word-Field Kami (神) (god)
      7. 2.4.7 The Word-Field Ki (気) (energy)
        1. Ki (気) as elan vital
        2. Ki (気) as reason
        3. Ki (気) as emotion
        4. Ki (気) as temperament
        5. Ki (気) as will
        6. Ki (気) as interpersonal factor
      8. 2.4.8 Comparison with the soul-concept of the Old Testament
        1. “Soul,” (נֶפֶשׁ) in the Old Testament
        2. “Spirit,” רוּחַ in the Old Testament
        3. “Heart,” לֵבָב/לֵב in the Old Testament
      9. 2.4.9 Positive encounter with the Japanese soul-concept
        1. Japanese Bible translations and Wolff
        2. The mana-concept ki (気), רוּחַ: revisiting Bradshaw
      10. 2.4.10 Negative encounter with the Japanese soul-concept
        1. Against human immortality,
        2. Eternal life through the personal union with Jesus Christ versus immortality of the soul
    5. 2.5 Sociology in the context of Japanese animism
      1. 2.5.1 Japan as group culture
        1. Chie Nakane (中根千枝): “vertical society tateshakai (タテ社会) as sociological key-term
          1. Collectivism and individualism in the Japanese context
        2. Takeo Doi (土居健郎): Amae (甘え) (dependence) as psychological key-term
          1. The word-field amae (甘え)
          2. Definition von amae (甘え)
        3. Takeyoshi Kawashima (川島武宜): The family structures of the Japanese
          1. The Confucian family constitution of the samurai nobility
          2. The familial structures of the peasant families
          3. Family structures today
          4. Toukyou Monogatari (東京物語)
          5. No autonomy of individuals
          6. Absent sense of responsibility
          7. Holism
          8. Familial structures of social groups
      2. 2.5.2 The relationship with the Living Dead
        1. The unity in the extended family
          1. The psychological aspect
          2. The sociological aspect
          3. The worldview aspect
        2. The family-concept or house-concept ie (家)
        3. The living dead and ethical values
          1. The dead are dependent on the living
          2. The living are dependent on the dead
      3. 2.5.3 Evaluation of some aspects of Japanese sociology
        1. Individualism and collectivism
          1. The preference for individualism
          2. German individualism
          3. North-American individualism
          4. The preference for collectivism
          5. Collectivism in the Old Testament
          6. Collectivism in the New Testament
          7. The socio-anthropological background
          8. Towards a meaningful synthesis
          9. Speaking against the dichotomy between collectivism and individualism
          10. Speaking for the co-existence of collectivism and individualism
          11. A model
        2. Ancestor veneration and the Bible
          1. Ancestor veneration in South Korea
          2. Disambiguation
          3. Japanese terms and concepts
          4. Terms and concepts in the area of Biblical archeology
          5. Towards a differentiated approach
          6. The psychological dimension
          7. The sociological dimension
          8. The theological dimension
          9. Christian ancestor veneration: Possible or impossible
          10. Two case-studies
        3. Amae甘え) (“dependence”) and the Bible
          1. (1) Amae (甘え), “dependence” in the life of Biblical characters
          2. (2) Amae (甘え), “dependence” and Biblical teaching
        4. Overcoming the amae (甘え)-mentality
  4. Part II: Peace as a Central Concept of Soterioogy
  5. 3. The Japanese peace-concept Wa (和)
    1. 3.1 Word-field study of Wa (和)
      1. 3.1.1 Wa (和) as Sum
      2. 3.1.2 Wa (和) as Harmony
        1. Wa (和) as interpersonal harmony
          1. Wa (和) as “being soft”
          2. Wa (和) as “being mingled”
          3. Wa (和) as harmony and Confucianism
        2. Wa (和) as “peace of mind”
      3. 3.1.3 Wa (和) as “Non-War”
      4. 3.1.4 Wa (和) as Japan
  6. 4. The Biblical peace-concept
    1. 4.1 The Hebrew Shalom-concept
    2. 4.2 The Christian Peace-concept
  7. Part III: Four Aspects of Salvation in the Context of Japanese Animism
  8. 5. The theological aspect of salvation
    1. 5.1 Preliminaries
    2. 5.2 The experience of Unheil under the theological aspect
      1. 5.2.1 The theological locus of hamartiology
      2. 5.2.2 “Original Sin”
      3. 5.2.3 “Original sin” and the sin of “pre-existence of souls”
      4. 5.2.4 Causes of sin
      5. 5.2.5 The Nature of sin
    3. 5.3 The experience of Heil under the theological aspect
  9. 6. The cosmological aspect of salvation
    1. 6.1 The cosmological aspect of salvation in Japanese animism
      1. 6.1.1 The experience of Unheil under the cosmological aspect
        1. Fear of spirits
          1. Fear of spirits of living persons
          2. Fear of the spirits of the dead
      2. 6.1.2 The experience of Heil under the cosmological aspect
        1. Heil as knowledge about the future, protection, and harmony
          1. Japanese divination
          2. Practices
          3. Kokkurisan (狐狗狸さん)
          4. New Year lucky tickets mikuji (御籤 or 神籤)
          5. Palmistry
          6. Blood-type divination
          7. Astrology
          8. Unlucky days and lucky days (1): The Rokuyou (六曜)-system
          9. Unlucky days and lucky days (2): The Juunichoku(十二直)-system
          10. Unlucky ages
          11. Shamanism
          12. Apotropaic magic in Japan
          13. Morita-therapy: Morita ryouhou (森田療法 )
    2. 6.2 Discussion with Biblical concepts
      1. 6.2.1 At the mercy of God
      2. 6.2.2 Kingdom-Theology and Power Encounter
      3. 6.2.3 Divination and the Bible
      4. 6.2.4 Shamanism and church leadership
        1. Biblical leadership principles
          1. Directive leadership styles
          2. Partnering leadership styles
          3. Indirective leadership styles
      5. 6.2.5 Apotropaic magic and allegiance to God
  10. 7. The sociological aspect of salvation
    1. 7.1 The sociological aspect of salvation in the context of Japanese animism
      1. 7.1.1 The experience of Unheil under the sociological aspect
        1. Japanese moral terminology
        2. Unheil as shame
        3. Formation of the Japanese conscience
          1. Speaking against the shame-guilt-dualism
          2. The Significant others in Japan
        4. Interaction of shame and guilt
      2. 7.1.2 The experience of Heil under the sociological aspect
      3. Heil as rehabilitation
      4. Naikan-method: naikanhou (内観法)
    2. 7.2 Discussion with Christian approaches
      1. 7.2.1 The experience of Unheil under the sociological aspect
        1. Subjective sentiments of shame and guilt
        2. Objective sin and guilt
      2. 7.2.2 The Experience of Heil under the sociological aspect
        1. Heil as rehabilitation and justice
        2. The death of Jesus on the Cross in the context of the Japanese shame-culture
        3. Social justice in Japan
  11. 8. The anthropological aspect of salvation
    1. 8.1 The anthropological aspect of salvation in the context of Japanese animism
      1. 8.1.1 The experience of Unheil as impurity
        1. The myth of the “happy heathen”
        2. The fuzziness of the Japanese “sin”-concept
        3. Sin tsumi (罪) – dirtiness yogore / kegare (汚れ) – defilement kegare (穢れ)
          1. Defilement as kegare (穢れ)
          2. The field of kegare (穢れ) with guilt
          3. The field of kegare (穢れ) without guilt
          4. Defilement only as yogore / kegare (汚れ)
          5. Defilement only as tsumi (罪)
      2. 8.1.2 The experience of Heil under the anthropological aspect
        1. Differentiation between the rituals of harae (祓え) and misogi (禊ぎ)
        2. Atonement rituals/purification rituals: harae (祓え)
          1. Ooharae (大祓), the “Great Purification”
          2. The hadaka matsuri (裸祭) at Kounomiya Shrine (国府宮神社)
            1. Joya-no kane (除夜の鐘), the “Bell on New Year’s Eve”
            2. Death as purification
        3. Differentiation of misogi (禊ぎ) and kiyome (清め)
        4. Purification rituals: misogi (禊ぎ)
        5. Purification rituals: kiyome (清め)
        6. Apotropaic rituals: mayoke (魔除け)
        7. Hygiene and ritual purity
    2. 8.2 Discussion with Christian concepts
      1. 8.2.1 The experience of Unheil under the anthropological aspect
        1. Biblical concepts of impurity and sin
        2. Unclean spirits
      2. 8.2.2 The experience of Heil under the anthropological aspect
  12. Part IV: The Dimensions of Salvation
  13. 9. The animistic focus on salvation in this world
    1. 9.1 An outline of Gense Riyaku (現世利益), “this-worldly benefits”
      1. 9.1.1 Definition
      2. 9.1.2 History
    2. 9.2 The “Seven Auspicious Deities” Shichifukujin (七福神)
      1. 9.2.1 Ebisu (恵比寿)
      2. 9.2.2 Daikokuten (大黒天)
      3. 9.2.3 Benzaiten (弁財天)
      4. 9.2.4 Bishamonten (毘沙門天)
      5. 9.2.5 Juroujin (寿老人)
      6. 9.2.6 Fukurokuju (福禄寿)
      7. 9.2.7 Hotei Oshou (布袋和尚)
      8. 9.2.8 Summary
  14. 10. Discussion with Christian concepts
    1. 10.1 Salvation and suffering
      1. 10.1.1 Kazou Kitamori (北森嘉蔵) (1916-1998)
      2. 10.1.2 Georg Friedrich Vicedom (1903-1974)
      3. 10.1.3 Reflection
    2. 10.2 Between “this” world and “yonder” world
      1. 10.2.1 Tokutarou Takakura (高倉徳太郎) (1885-1934)
      2. 10.2.2 Masao Takenaka (竹中正夫) (1925-2006)
      3. 10.2.3 Aloysius Pieris (1934-)
      4. 10.2.4 Collectivistic concepts
        1. Sin as collectivistic concept (Andrew Sung Park)
        2. Salvation as collectivistic concept (liberation theologies)
      5. 10.2.5 My own (preliminary) opinion
    3. 10.3 Between “This” world and the “Coming” world
      1. 10.3.1 Aum-Shinrikyou (オウム真理教)
        1. Tibetan Tantra-Buddhism
        2. Apocalyptic thought form the West
      2. 10.3.2 Between eschatology as principle and eschatology as history
        1. Eschatology as principle
          1. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
          2. Ernst Bloch (1980-1959)
          3. Jürgen Moltmann (1926-)
            1. Moltmann’s concept of God
            2. Moltmann’s concept of resurrection
            3. Moltmann’s concept of eschatology
        2. Eschatology as history
          1. World-view framework
          2. “Eschatological tension” and the “interim period”
          3. Continuity passing through discontinuity
      3. 10.3.3 Between world and heaven
        1. Focus on “this world”
          1. The influence of Marxism
        2. Focus on “heaven”
      4. 10.3.4 My own (preliminary) opinion
    4. 10.4 Between redemption and emancipation
      1. 10.4.1 The hubris of Feuerbach
      2. 10.4.2 Anthropocentrism
        1. Positive encounter
        2. Negative encounter
      3. 10.4.3 Horizontalism
        1. Paul F. Knitter
        2. God’s “preferential option for the poor”
          1. Ethical justification
          2. Eschatological justification
      4. 10.4.4 My own (preliminary) opinion
  15. 11. Epilogue
    1. 11.1 Summary
    2. 11.2 Critique
    3. 11.3 Horizon
  16. Appendix 1: Incantations for reiki initiation-rites
  17. Appendix 2: Japanese Bible translations and key-references of Wolff’s Anthropologie des Alten Testaments
  18. Appendix 3: The Incantation of the “Great Purification”
  19. Appendix 4: The “Blessings” of the Shichifukujin (七福神)
  20. Bibliography
  21. Indices