Debate with Shinto and Buddhist priests

By June 11, 2013

Japan (PNS) — Recently, a Christian with PIONEERS had a friendly debate with a Shinto and a Buddhist priest in front of a well-attended audience in Japan. It had a surprising twist. Here’s the story in the PIONEERS worker's own words:

There is a saying in Japanese, “Minna chigatte, minna ee,” which means “We are all different, but all good in our own way." This philosophy reveals a core attitude of religion in Japan.

Recently I was invited to join a local symposium as a representative of Christianity. I was to speak at a religious session along with a Buddhist priest and a Shinto priest. We shared a casual debate for an audience of 100 people.

The night before our debate and the next day, as I interacted with these two priests, they reflected similar sentiments about the way the Japanese practice religion.

“I think Buddhism is like a recipe book: you play around with a recipe and create something,” one said. “You decide what your soul wants to make. It is your own responsibility what you do with the ingredients."

The next day, our session was well attended, with 100 people filling every available chair in the college classroom. As we debated, the truth and direction that Scripture gives stood in contrast with the idea of living a fulfilled life.

Part of the way through the discussion, the Buddhist priest said, "I am afraid that about 80% of you are probably leaning toward Christianity!" The Shinto priest added, "I also thought he was convincing. It could be because I had had a lot to drink last night, but maybe I will become a believer, too! I need to learn from him."

I felt the prayers of God's people and a special enabling power from God, as I respectfully and repeatedly brought the discussion back to the teachings of Scripture.

At one point the Shinto priest expressed his view of the importance of religion: "I don't think it is necessary to think too deeply about religion. For instance, when you sit down to eat a meal, the main course is the rice. You have the side dishes. If you have pickles to go with the meal, it makes everything taste even better, doesn't it? I think you should think of religion like the pickles. It makes life a little better. If you think of religion as more than that, it will become a burden to you."

In response, I shared the reason why I came to Japan as a missionary: to share the Good News of a message that changed my life. “Salvation through faith in Christ and the forgiveness of sins is the most delicious message of all,” I explained. “Christianity is not a religion, but a daily relationship with a living being.” Coming back to this point time and again, I was able to speak on topics of marriage, death, and bullying.

"He is so convincing in his speech,” the emcee said laughingly. “I thought the Buddhist would become a Christian!"

Later during our panel discussion, the Buddhist priest turned to the Shinto priest and said, "As I was listening to you speak, I wondered: ….we put our hands together to pray, but are our prayers answered? "Is there a god or a Buddha?" Turning to the audience, he asked, "Have any of you ever said such a thing at least once in your life? Shinto worship nature, but can nature forgive you? Nature can't forgive your selfishness. Shinto teaches that nature is your mother and father. That is what you are worshiping."

I nodded my head in agreement at this astute observation and followed by quoting John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Pray that the seeds of Truth that were planted in this Buddhist and Shinto audience will take root and grow into faith in the Creator God. Pray for the continued ministry of PIONEERS in Japan.

Click here to learn more about PIONEERS.

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