Global Missiology English, Vol 1, No 16 (2018)

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Salvation in Jesuss Name Alone:

How and Why Takakura Tokutaro (1885-1934), I, and Others

Have Believed that Claim

J. Nelson Jennings

Published in Global Missiology, October 2018



Takakura Tokutaro (1885-1934) was an influential early-twentieth-century Japanese pastor and theologian. Studying Takakura can provide a window into why and how different Bible-believing Christians can have different foundational impulses for embracing the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. After introducing Takakuras life, context, and ministry, this article examines the fabric of Takakuras thought, including in comparison to intellectual categories more familiar to contemporary, English-speaking Evangelicals. The article then explores differences between Takakuras and others commitments to exclusivity, along with what those differences can teach us about standing for salvation through No other name but that of Jesus Christ.


Takakura Tokutaro (1885-1934) is little known outside of limited Japanese theological circles. However, the lack of familiarity with this Christian pastor and theologian does not correlate with his importance, influence, and interesting traits as an early-twentieth-century Japanese thinker. As I learned through my in-depth study of Takakura (Jennings 2005), this man was pivotal for his day as well as deeply instructive for any subsequent inquirer who would delve into his life, context, ministry, and thought.

Among the many benefits that come from studying him, Takakura gives a window into why and how different Bible-believing Christians can have different foundational impulses for embracing the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. The Christian leader Takakura Tokutaro resoundingly believed and preached that people were saved exclusively through faith in Jesus and his Cross. At the same time, why and how he believed and preached that message was not the same as why and how many other contemporary English leaders believe and preach, I dare say. The firmness and fervency of commitments to salvation exclusively through Jesus and his Cross are the same; however, the internal logic and makeup of the commitments show some variance.

This study will first briefly introduce Takakura Tokutaros life, context, and ministry. The second section will explore further the fabric of Takakuras thought, including in comparison to intellectual categories more familiar to contemporary, English-speaking Evangelicals. Finally, we will explore the differences between Takakuras and others commitments to exclusivity, along with what those differences can teach us about standing for salvation through No other name but that of Jesus Christ.

The Life and Times of Takakura Tokutaro

Takakura was born in the area surrounding the long-time capital city of Kyoto (京都, or capital capital), several hundred miles southwest of the newer capital city of Tokyo (東京, or east capital). His father was a merchant who operated a retail store of household goods. Stated negatively, Takakura was not of the samurai class that characterized the families of first-generation Christian leaders in Meiji Japan. That difference will become important later in our discussion.

The Meiji Restoration of 1868 set in motion a dizzying modernization period in Japan. By replacing the Tokugawa Shogunate, which since beginning its rule in 1600 had effectively prepared Japan to become a unified modern nation, the new oligarchy in 1868 ostensibly restored the imperial household (in the person of the Emperor Meiji) to its earlier prominence. Over the next two decades the oligarchy led Japan into a remarkably rapid and comprehensive process of absorbing Western modernity. All things Western were imported and adapted: education, government, engineering, military, philosophy, dress, food, and most everything else.

On the religious front, some of the young former samurai whose families had been loyal to the Tokugawas but had now seen their families dispossessed of their former favored status found in the Western missionaries Christian message a way of re-creating Japans lost golden age, through faith in their newfound master Jesus Christ. There were three main streams, or bands, of these Christian former samurais that developed, one each that emerged in northern, central, and southwestern Japan. Not long after the impressionable 21-year-old Takakura had moved to Tokyo in 1906 for legal studies, he came under the influence of the leader of the central Japan Christian band (the Yokohama Band), the indomitable Rev. Uemura Masahisa. The Yokohama Band is recognized to have been the most church-centered of the three streams,[1] with Uemura thus being the single most important Protestant church father in modern Japan. Takakura was soon baptized, quit his legal studies, and became one of Uemuras prized students at the latters small new seminary.

After graduating from that seminary in 1910, Takakura followed in Uemuras footsteps and entered the pastorate. Over a decade later in 1921, likely as advised and orchestrated by Uemura, Takakura embarked on a three-year study program in the United Kingdom, first in Edinburgh, then Oxford, then Cambridge. Upon returning to Japan in 1924, Takakura was tapped to succeed Uemura as pastor of the flagship Fujimicho Church and as seminary president. What in fact happened was that, following Uemuras death in 1925, Takakura on one hand did become president of Uemuras seminary. However, enough church members saw that Takakura was cut from a somewhat different cloth than Uemuras, so an agreed-upon compromise was for Takakura to pastor a new church (Shinanomachi Church) that branched off from Uemuras Fujimicho Church.

Having had one book published immediately prior to his studies in Britain, Takakura saw his writing career flourish upon his return to Japan. Of the several articles and handful of books that he wrote, without question Takakuras most representative, influential, and widely known work was his 1927 Fukuinteki Kirisutokyo (Evangelical Christianity). We will examine that book shortly as a convenient way of looking at Takakuras most concise representation of his understanding of the Christian faith.

By this time Japan had bid farewell to the relatively settled Taisho Era (1912-1926) and entered what would become the war-torn Showa Era. As for Takakura, the tidal wave of Barthian theology that hit Japan in the early 1930s drew his students away from looking to him for theological modeling and guidance. Simultaneously, Takakura became ill with what we would today call clinical depression so much so that he committed suicide in 1934. The lonely and broken circumstances surrounding Takakuras death make for a sad backdrop against which we must consider his otherwise lively and fascinating progression as a thinker.

Takakuras Thought

Before examining some of the particular characteristics of Takakuras thought, there are two general considerations that are important to highlight.

A Japanese Man

First, Takakura was a Japanese man who thought, believed, preached, taught, wrote, and lived in Japanese. He read a great deal of theology written in English and in German, and especially during his British sojourn Takakura had to function, at least to a certain degree, in English. Even so, throughout his life Takakura Tokutaro thought and lived in the Japanese language. The fact that he had to incorporate into his Japanese linguistic-conceptual world many ideas that he encountered in English and German simply added to the interesting challenge he faced in articulating to others his passionate understanding of what he came to call Fukuinteki Kirisutokyo.

Second, I have already intentionally noted that we are examining Takakuras thought, not just his theology. Studies of Takakura most all of which are in Japanese have tended to focus on his theology in terms of development and characteristics. Most of those studies have included Takakuras historical context and his self-stated struggle with the problem of the self that led to his conversion. However, only a very few studies have included any role at all for Takakuras pre-conversion experience in shaping his Christian theological understanding (Unuma 1980:49; Jennings 2005:358-359, n.59). Stated more comprehensively, analyses of Takakura have looked at Takakura the theologian rather than taking a more panoramic view of Takakura the human thinker. I have consciously sought to examine Takakura as a man, not just as a theological mind.


Given those two important qualifiers, what are some particular traits of Takakuras thought?

theological traits

With respect to his Evangelical Christianity, Takakuras understanding was Bible-based, Cross-centered, and faith-intensive. These three comprehensive themes are evident enough in the five chapter titles of Fukuinteki Kirisutokyo:

I.                    The Bible and its View of God

II.                 View of Christ

III.              View of the Atonement

IV.              View of the Life of Faith

V.                Special Characteristics of Evangelical Christianity (Takakura 1953:5; Jennings 2005:228)

Early in the first chapter, Takakura pointed[2] to the Protestant Reformers as having rightly claimed the Bible as Christianitys ultimate authority: The sixteenth-century Reformers achieved the purification of Christianityas the religion of the Bible. In the history of Christianity, the time of the Reformers was Christianitys Golden Age as the religion of the Bible, the religion of the Word (Takakura 1953:7-8; Jennings 2005:229). Toward the end of the fifth chapter, Takakura noted the first special characteristic of Evangelical Christianity to be that of a religion of the Word [3] (Takakura 1953:165; Jennings 2005:258). He distinguished the Bible and the Word of God, noting the necessity of the Holy Spirit to give inward testimony and to rouse faith within the Bibles hearers. At the same time, the Bible and Gods Word are inseparable hence the Word of God in the Bible is inspired and has absolute authority (Takakura 1953:21-25; Jennings 2005:232-233).

Takakura tied the Bibles authority to Evangelical Christianitys second overall theme, namely the Cross of Christ and the effect that the Cross has on sinful human beings:

The Bible has authority because it drives us sinners to Christ, and in Him brings us into fellowship with the living God. The dualism of human nature and of the world, the battle between spirit and flesh and between the kingdom of God and this world, is an eternal problem. The living God in the Bible, in the Bibles central focus of the Lord Christ and His Cross, has gathered up this fundamental problem, and has thoroughly solved it (Takakura 1953:27, 29; Jennings 2005:233).

Moreover, approaching God and the Bible apart from beginning with Gods atoning act does not make us sinners righteous before God and does not give the certainty of salvation. Only experiencing the Christ of the Cross, the historic revelation of the Word in necessary relationship with the Holy Spirit, is what guarantees the certainty of salvation[4] (Takakura 1953:166-167; Jennings 2005:258).

Christ and his Cross connect with human beings through the Holy Spirits work, through faith the third comprehensive theme of Takakuras Evangelical Christianity:

The Cross of Christ, Who was buried in a past grave, in order to work on my sin as a present living power, must be through the leading of the Holy Spirit. That which brings the experience of the historical Cross as the eternal Cross and the present Cross is the Holy Spirit [and] faith. In other words, to the one without faith, the Cross of the Lord Christ has no meaning. Faith born through the Holy Spirit establishes solidarity between the Cross of history and my sin (Takakura 1953:109-110; Jennings 2005:247).

Faith as such is divinely initiated and paradoxical in bringing together the external historic fact of Christ and spiritual interiority. It is through having the historic Christ as faiths cause and object that brings what for Takakura is the all-important certainty and conviction [5] needed for Christian living (Takakura 1953:120-122; Jennings 2005:250-251).

Filling out the various angles and nuances of Takakuras description of Evangelical Christianity would require more space. Suffice it here to note the three prominent themes of the Bible, the Cross, and faith as characterizing Takakuras primary theological emphases.

theological influences

Along with all other analyses of Takakura, we should point to two important and clear Christian theological influences on Takakura or to put it differently, two Christian theologians with whom Takakura had very close connections.

As mentioned in Takakuras biographical summary, Uemura Masahisa played a vital role in Takakura coming to faith in Christ and in his developing as a theologian and churchman. Uemura was an early Protestant convert, baptized in 1873. He became the central figure in one of the main Christian denominations in modern Japan, the Japan Christian Church. Uemura founded a seminary, multiple journals, a flagship church, and regular meetings that gathered politicians and other civic leaders.

Takakura learned from Uemura the central places in the Christian faith of the Bible and of Jesus Christ. Takakura also watched Uemura build institutions and seek to reform modern Japan into a new Christian country. However, as a merchants son Takakura did not have the same burden as did Uemura, he of samurai lineage and hence burdened for public matters, for societal and institutional reformation. Thus while he always showed deep respect and deference towards his elder statesman, it is also safe to say that Takakura reacted against Uemuras socio-political vision and instead stressed more pointedly the importance of having a vital, internal faith (Jennings 2005:268-269).

A second theologian with whom Takakura felt an extremely strong affinity was the British Congregationalist P.T. Forsyth. During the second year of his U.K. sojourn, Takakura was engrossed in the writings of Forsyth. I read everything of his I could get my hands on, even articles of his published in magazines. As far as the recent English-American theological world is concerned, I cannot find any other theologian filled with insight that has conviction, and burning with evangelical faith, as much as he. He is certainly a great theologian (Takakura 1925:23; Jennings 2005:171). Among the plethora of Western theologians whose writings he imbibed, Takakura found in Forsyth a theological kinsman and soul-mate.

By Takakuras own testimony, he was helped by Forsyth in two general ways. First, The essence of evangelicalism was forcefully clarified through him (Takakura 1925:23; Jennings 2005:172). Building on having heard Uemuras evangelical emphases for several years, Takakuras extensive encounter with Forsyths writings in Britain crystallized even further such quintessentially evangelical categories as Christ, grace, salvation, moral, and experience (Jennings 2005:173). Second, Forsyth instructed Takakura on the meaning of the Church for Protestantism, plus the vital connection between the Church and theology (Takakura 1925:21; Jennings 2005:175). Forsyths writings on the Churchs dogma or primary theology pointed to what Takakura called the positive, historic, objective, orthodox, and evangelical faith. The Churchs secondary theology is its doctrine. This general schema helped shape Takakuras notion, repetitive of Forsyths, of No theology, no Church. For Takakura, the weak sentimentalism and shallow utilitarianism within the current Christian Church in Japan was deeply related to the lack of recognition of the true meaning of theology. Again reflecting on what he had learned from Forsyth, Where there is no true theology, in fact there is neither strong, deep faith (Takakura 1925:24-25; Jennings 2005:175-176).

An additional theological influence that I believe must be emphasized even though it has not received any attention beyond a slight reference within an analysis of several modern Japanese thinkers (Unuma 1980:49) is that of the formative role that Takakuras family Buddhist heritage played. Takakuras grandparents, great-grandparents, and beyond, most particularly his grandmother (who spent much time with him), were fervent Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land) believers (Oshio 1955:6, 10). Insofar as that religious tradition flowed through the family generations streaming into Takakuras life, some of that traditions characteristic ways of reacting to Gods inescapable presence[6] (Jennings 2011:269-272) no doubt left a lasting impression.

Generally speaking a human beings early influences deeply affect in lasting ways that persons character, instincts, and sensibilities. Put theologically, the Creator-God of Providence significantly shapes the particular relationships he will have with his children through the familial and cultural contexts into which he brings them. As we will further examine shortly (necessarily only partially within this brief study), Takakuras wrestlings with the self, his intuitive approach to formulating theological loci, and his final appeal to the basic importance of having certainty and conviction all stem, I believe, out of the inherited Jodo Shinshu soil of his infancy and youth. God in Jesus Christ came to that particular person named Takakura Tokutaro, tailoring the universal gospel to him as he always does in relating to us his children. Coming to grips with this universal-particular dynamic of the Christian faith is centrally important not only to this particular study of Takakura, but also to thinking theologically in general. We will return to this important theme later.

theological enemies

It is instructive to note as well the theological enemies that Takakura targeted in his Fukuinteki Kirisutokyo. First and foremost was Liberal Christianity. Here is (again, an English translation of) how Takakura stated the matter: Those who advocate a so-called Liberal Christianity have fallen into religious subjectivism. Having received the influences of rationalism, naturalism, [and] humanism, the transcendental, objective side of the Christian faith has been neglected, and Gods immanent side has been emphasized. Such a phenomenon, according to Takakura, had resulted in a loss of true prayer as well as of any certainty of salvation (Takakura 1953:9-10; Jennings 2005:229-230). Takakura repeatedly referenced the fundamental shortcomings of a liberal Christianity that simply shifted with the wind-blown cultural sands of the day and had no conviction or certain foundation.

While not as vociferously as Liberal Christianity, Social Christianity also drew the ire of Takakura the author and preacher. Takakura stressed the churchs primary purpose to be that of exhibiting the glory of Christ, not social service or the fulfillment of its members (Takakura 1953:144-145; Jennings 2005:255). Another strain of Christianity that Takakura explicitly criticized was what he called the Traditional Evangelicalism of his day. Labeling it religious pharisaism, Takakura decried what he saw as mere theoretical creedal commitment that lacked deeply religious, spiritual intuition (Takakura 1953:165; Jennings 2005:257).

underlying traits

In order to get a fuller picture of the characteristics of Takakuras thought, we need to dig underneath his theological traits, influences, and enemies. To explain succinctly here such subterranean findings, I have identified three basic elements of Takakuras thought that help to explain why he thought the way that he did.

First was Takakuras self-professed jiga no mondai (problem of the self). Per reflections he wrote approximately 15 years after his conversion to Christianity, I was baptized because I believed that somehow through Christianity I could solve the problem of the self. I entered seminary not because I intended to become a pastor, but because I thought it would be good to be able freely to read books that I liked, and because I wanted to lead a more earnest and serious life (Takakura 1921b:1-2; Jennings 2005:44). Writing further about his experience, in this case about a decade after his conversion (an experience spawned out of writing a commentary on Romans), Takakura noted his discovery both that Lurking at the bottom of the soul is the evil nature itself, as well as that he thus had to hang onto the grace of forgiveness of sin (Takakura 1921a:146-162; Jennings 2005:307). Takakura had grown from seeking how to free, fulfill, and thoroughly realize (Takakura 1921b:1; Jennings 2005:305) the self into genuinely experiencing Gods forgiveness through faith in Christ, conveyed by the Bibles teaching on sin and Gods grace.

What were the origins of Takakuras jiga no mondai? According to his own explanation cited just now, ego-centric sin would have been Takakura the mature Christians own clear answer. But as noted by other analysts, Takakuras wrestlings with the problem of the self were also connected to his wider socio-economic, intellectual-literary, political, and generational context (Jennings 2005:263-266). The lightning-fast transformation into a modern nation-state that had occurred during the first half of Meiji Japan (1868-1889) quite naturally bred the struggles with self-identity experienced by Takakuras generation.

As an additional, underlying origin of Takakuras problem of the self, I want strongly to argue that his family religious heritage played a central role as well. The religious instincts regarding how to respond to Gods inescapable presence that developed in the young Takakura were conveyed to him by those who raised him, perhaps preeminently by his fervent grandmother. Central to those Jodo Shinshu instincts was the basic, Mahayana-Buddhist goal of realizing the vaporous reality of what we humans imagine to be an independently existing self. Religious practices and teachings that were modeled for Takakura as an infant, boy, and youth ultimately stressed this one goal of realizing that ultimately there is no imagined self. It is no wonder, then, that within his historical context Takakura self-consciously experienced a problem of the self. Given Christianitys translatability and thus its particularistic and contextual character, it is also no wonder that God would have come to Takakura Tokutaro the sinner in a way that was tailored to his instinctive and contextual categories. How Takakura wrestled with God over deep notions about the self was a central component of the whole process of Takakuras conversion to Christ, that is of how Gods Spirit led Takakura in turning all that he was towards Christ.

A second underlying trait of Takakuras thought was his self-described faith logic, soul logic, logic of the conscience, superrational logic, even antirational logic. Takakura also spoke of the importance of having religious insight and religious intuition, not mere human rationality, reasoning, or logic. I see operative here Takakuras instinctive sense of chokkan (intuition), or what has been more philosophically expressed as a subjectivity-only mindset (Jennings 2005:339-340). Takakuras consistently strident critique of subjective Christianity notwithstanding, his deep sense of Gods presence in Christ by the Holy Spirit rang true in his soul in terms of his inherited Mahayana Buddhist, and more specifically Jodo Shinshu, intuitive sense of a self-transcendent and self-extricated consciousness. Such a mindset submerges distinctions between objectivity and subjectivity in accord with a fundamental nondualistic structure of reality in Mahayana thought (Jennings 2005:301).

It is worth specially noting at this point that Takakura expressly advocated the central importance of the objective Christian faith as opposed to a more changeable, fluctuating subjective Christianity. However, what he meant by those two terms kyakkanteki (objective) and shukanteki (subjective) is crucial. Uniformly throughout his writings, Takakuras intended meanings for this pair of terms was not a metaphysical dualism between an external existence and an internal sensibility, but instead a comparison between public-corporate and private-individual. As a mundane example, Takakura once mentioned administering a financial offering to a particular evangelist objectively through the denominational office to the evangelism office. The subjective donor remained associated with the offering that was objectively processed, just as believers subjective faith is ever connected to the Churchs objective belief. But what was important for Takakura was the stability of the Churchs collective or kyakkanteki faith versus the tendency of individual or shukanteki experience to vacillate. Relevant to our present discussion, including in relation to Takakuras operative faith logic, is the point that the ontological freight that comes with the English objective and subjective was largely absent from Takakuras basic notions about the interrelationship between individual and corporate belief (Jennings 2005:246-247, 342-343).

The third underlying trait characterizing Takakuras thought was his fundamentally important concern for certainty and conviction, i.e., tashikasa and kakushin. The ultimate criterion Takakura cited throughout his arguments advocating the various facets of his Fukuinteki Kirisutokyo whether the Word, the Crucified and Resurrected Christ, Gods grace, objective versus subjective faith, or whatever else was that those facets, and not competing alternatives, are what give unshakeable certainty of heart and conviction of soul. As Takakura put it, Faith is most sensitive to the certainty of its object. Furthermore, The most important thing for religious consciousness is Gods objective certainty [7] (Jennings 2005:351).

Any number of factors could have gone into Takakuras default appeal to tashikasa or kakushin as having ultimate value: a volatile family life during his childhood; his rapidly changing intellectual, socio-economic, political, cultural, and religious historical context; his conflicted posture toward the Uemura-brand of Meiji Christianity bequeathed to him; the linguistically challenging array of Western theology he imbibed. I believe that as deeply rooted as any factor was an embedded longing again, inherited from his familys religious heritage - for the shinjin explicated by Shinran, the twelfth-century founder of Jodo Shinshu. Shinrans faith or entrusting in the compassion of Amida Buddha certain trust in Other power versus self power was perhaps the central term in Shinrans thought[8] (Ueda and Hirota, 1989:146-148; Jennings 2005:305, 351). It would be hard to imagine that such a central notion would not have found its way into Takakuras religious instincts that were shaped by his fervent True Land Buddhist grandmother and ancestors.

In sum, his problem of the self, religious intuition, and ultimate longing for certain conviction were fundamental, underlying traits of Takakuras overall thought, including his theological formulations. These traits characterized the boy whom God providentially shaped, the young man to whom God came in the gospel message about Jesus Christ, and the mature man who turned all aspects of himself toward Jesus as Gods Spirit worked in his heart and life.

Takakuras Exclusivity and English-Speaking Evangelicals Today

We can now examine what Takakuras life and times, as well as his characteristic manner of thinking, meant for the manner in which he held to salvation in Jesus alone. To follow the line we were just discussing, Takakura would have argued that such a stress on the exclusivity of Jesus as Savior alone would give conviction that was certain. He said as much in the closing summary of his Fukuinteki Kirisutokyo. There he noted that starting anywhere else than the Word religious sentiment, character, reason, or anything else besides Gods atoning act would not give the strength of fellowship from being seized by the living God, would not certainly bind us to God, would not make us sinners righteous before God, and would not give the certainty of salvation. It was only the absolute authority of the Word that is, experiencing the Christ of the Cross, the historic revelation of the Word in necessary relationship with the Holy Spirit that guarantees the certainty of salvation and keeps ones deity from being a postulate of the self, a dead god[9] (Takakura 1953:165-167; Jennings 2005:258).

Takakuras argumentation did not appeal to what was right or true per se. The Bibles gospel was of course right and true for him, but in the sense that it produces genuine certainty and conviction. As explained above, Takakuras fundamental value of coming to religious certainty and conviction arose out of his dealings with the self, out of his knowing intuitively that tashikasa and kakushin are basic values, and out of his engrained need for certainty and conviction, given his particular makeup. Stated theologically, God shaped and came to Takakura as that particular man with that particular makeup, and (especially important for Evangelicals) the Japanese Takakura thus came to his strong biblical convictions as a result of God the Holy Spirit speaking to him in the Japanese Bible.

For most Evangelicals, an ultimate appeal to certain conviction is by itself an insufficient argument. That is because people may be genuinely certain and convinced of something, but that does not prevent them from being sincerely but genuinely wrong. Instead of someone being convinced of something, what is true, biblical, or reasonably or scientifically persuasive are the criteria we need in standing for the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ. That is because (at the risk of both overgeneralizing and oversimplifying) we are people whom God shapes and convinces in the powerful wake of Greek-philosophical and European-Enlightenment historical contexts, i.e., contexts that give ultimate value to the kind of categories that match our instinctive sensibilities of true authority that is to be believed.

What sorts of categories compel English-speaking Evangelicals today to accept and believe something to be true and truly authoritative? Greek philosophical axioms consistent with the law of non-contradiction are perhaps as fundamental as any. Hence John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 have a basic appeal vis--vis our basic notion that there cannot be two different thes. Jesus claimed to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life, hence there cannot be another. Peter proclaimed that there is no other Name, i.e., Jesus is the Name by which people can be saved hence there cannot be another. An A, in this case the Savior = Jesus, and a non-A, that is the Savior = someone other than Jesus, cannot co-exist.

A related notional category is that of ontological sensibilities, i.e., those concerning existence. The claim that there is no other Savior than Jesus, that Jesus is the unique Savior, inherently means that Jesus exists. Moreover, he exists independently and separately from other existent beings. How else could Jesus be the unique Savior if he did-does not exist?

A third category that we will mention here is an epistemological one. To state the matter first in more everyday terms, the claim of Jesus exclusivity must make sense. It must be intelligible, coherent, and (at least to a certain degree) explicable. The scientific worldview we have inherited allows for a range of understandings of the relative roles that faith, rationality, revelation, evidence, presuppositions, and argumentation play in how people make sense of Jesus uniqueness as the Savior. Even so, there is a consensus that a non-sensical claim is out of bounds of what is acceptable as true and trustworthy authority.

Such a philosophical inheritance is all well and good, but Takakura Tokutaro was persuaded of Jesus exclusive status as the worlds Savior within a different constellation of personal sensibilities. He found the Bible just as persuasive regarding Jesuss salvific sufficiency as do twenty-first-century Evangelicals. Takakura was not, however, preoccupied with extensive argumentation regarding Jesus exclusive place as Savior because trust in Jesus gave certain conviction: end of discussion. Nor was Takakura driven by a basic, unspoken assumption of Jesus independent existence since the aforementioned described subjectivity-only mindset was operative for Takakura.

Takakuras context was not the same context as that of English-speaking Evangelicals, namely one that has inherited the values of a Greek-philosophical and European-philosophical heritage. God shaped and persuaded Takakura Tokutaro within his own context, and God shapes and persuades English-speaking Evangelicals today within our own context(s) one mark of which is not to be aware enough of our contextual particularities. When we start moving into such a discussion of contextual particularity, we can get queasy out of a fear of relativism. That is a legitimate fear, but only if one is entrapped within the contextual moorings that give absolutism and relativism as the only alternatives with respect to Jesuss exclusive claims to be Savior.


One corollary of a comparison of how Takakura Tokutaro and how todays Evangelicals were/are convinced of and advocate Jesuss exclusivity as Savior is the inherent plurality within the one Christian faith. Christianity inherently universal and normative as it is for all humankind is inherently particular and contextually rooted. Takakura and I have confessed the same Jesus, but how we have done that is not identical. Quite frankly, what convinced him is not as persuasive to me as are other factors. Which of us is right? That question itself betrays my contextual location. Which of us embodies and advocates a faith that is more certain and convinced? That question, too, bears contextual marks. All such questions are going to be contextually rooted, since the Christian faith the biblical Christian faith is both universal and particular by nature and in its worldwide expressions.

In the end, we can thank God that he comes to all of us in personal, persuasive, and particular ways. We who by Gods creative and redemptive design are contextually rooted and finite people can know, follow, and share Jesus only within the particular categories of thought and life that God has given us. May he accordingly use all of us his followers to convey the only Savior of the world to others in ways that are faithful to Jesus unique person and work, appropriate in terms of communication methods, and relevant to who people are in all of their particularities (Van Engen and Shaw 2003).


Jennings, J. Nelson (2005). Theology in Japan: Takakura Tokutaro, 1885-1934. American Society of Missiology Dissertation Series, gen. ed., Gary McGee. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Jennings, J. Nelson (2011). The Deity of Christ for Missions, World Religions, and Pluralism, in Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, eds., The Deity of Christ. Theology in Community Series, gen eds., Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway.

Oshio, Tsutomu (1955). Takakura Tokutaro Den (Biography of Tokutaro Takakura). 2nd ed. Tokyo: Shinkyo Shuppansha.

Takakura, Tokutaro, Hitsuzen no Michi (Road of Necessity), in Oncho no Okoku (Kingdom of Grace). Kamakura, Kanagawa Ken: Seisho Kensansha.

Takakura, Tokutaro (1921b). Shukufukuseraruru Made (Until Blessed), in Oncho no Okoku (Kingdom of Grace). Kamakura, Kanagawa Ken: Seisho Kensansha.

Takakura, Tokutaro (1925). Oncho to Shinjitsu (Grace and Truth). Tokyo: Nagasaki Shoten.

Takakura, Tokutaro (1953). Fukuinteki Kirisutokyo (Evangelical Christianity). 7th ed. Tokyo: Shinkyo Shuppansha.

Ueda, Yoshifumi, and Dennis Hirota (1989). Shinran: An Introduction to His Thought. Kyoto: Hongwanji International.

Unuma, Hiroko Unuma (1980). Nishida Kitaro to Kirisutoshatachi (Nishida Kitaro and Christians) Seisho to Kyokai (Bible and Church), January.

Van Engen, Charles, and Daniel Shaw (2003). Communicating Gods World in a Complex World: Gods Truth or Hocus Pocus? Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

[1] The northern, Hokkaido Band was distinctive for its leading member Uchimura Kanzos Mukyokai (No-church) movement, while the southwestern Kumamoto Band while primarily Congregationalist in comparison to the Presbyterian-Reformed missionary roots of the Yokohama Band produced many societal leaders, particularly through what became Doshisha University in Kyoto.

[2] Instead of the more common present tense when describing a published work, here I am using the past tense to keep the focus on the particular, historical character of Takakura and his thought.

[3] Emphasis original.

[4] Emphases original.

[5] Emphasis original.

[6] Reacting to Gods inexcapable presence is my simplest definition of religion, as I have explained elsewhere.

[7] Emphases mine.

[8] Emphasis original.

[9] Emphases original.