Re-Thinking Missions: A Laymen's Inquiry after One Hundred Years

By William Ernest Hocking; Laymen's Foreign Missions Inquiry. Commission of Appraisal | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
CHRISTIANITY, OTHER RELIGIONS AND NON-RELIGION

AT THE beginning of our century of Protestant missions, Christianity found itself addressing men attached to other religions: its argument was with these religions. At present, it confronts a growing number of persons, especially among the thoughtful, critical of or hostile to all religion. Its further argument, we judge, is to be less with Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism than with materialism, secularism, naturalism. The growth of this third factor, non-religion, alters the relation of the other two: Christianity and the environing religions face at the same moment the same menace, the spread of the secular spirit; the former opponents have become to this extent allied by the common task. It is not surprising if our missions find this realignment difficult, perhaps embarrassing; it compels a thorough re-analysis of the purpose of missions in reference to other faiths. Let us first note how this situation has come about.


1. Growth Within the Mission

In returning, much altered in aspect, to the continent of its origin, Christianity was not approaching lands barren of religion. They were lands, not alone the ancient birthplace of great religions, but until recent times, sources of new religious movements. In all of them to this day religion is naturally a theme of ordinary conversation, the devotion of lives to religion usual and honored, the willing acceptance of privation and suffering in pursuit of religious experience prevalent. The very multiplicity of gods, temples, places of pilgrimage, observances, might serve as a rough index of the large place of religious themes in the daily life of these peoples. Their backwardness in terms of science and its applications was due

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