The Scientific Mysticism

Open guest lecture Thursday, October 22 about The Scientific Mysticism and Art of Kagawa Toyohiko


22.10.2015 - 10:15

Thursday, October 22, 10:20, Aud. 3, MF - Norwegian School of Theology, by Thomas John Hastings - research consultant for the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia

At home and abroad, Kagawa Toyohiko was far and away the best-known Japanese evangelist, social reformer, writer, and public intellectual of his time.He and his wife Haru and their coworkers founded several religious, educational, social welfare, medical, financial, labor, and agricultural cooperatives, many of which still thrive today. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature twice (1947, 1948) and the Nobel Peace Prize four times (1954, 1955, 1956, 1960). He visited Norway in 1950, drawing huge crowds to his outdoor lectures (see pictures above). Kagawa was an ordained Presbyterian minister, but the leaders and theologians of the established churches in Japan have tended to forget or dismiss this sometimes controversial prophetic figure who sought to live his life in imitation of Jesus and was willing to try to make Christian faith more relevant to the realities of modern Japanese society.

Appealing to the masses with little knowledge of Christianity, Kagawa believed that a positive interpretation of nature and science was a key missiological issue in Japan. He reasoned that a faith rooted in the kenotic movement of incarnation must also support the scientific quest and meditate on evidence for fine-tuning, directionality, and tendency - or what he called “initial purpose”- that was being uncovered by contemporary science (especially evolutionary biology). Through an anti-reductionistic, non-hierarchical, a posteriori methodological pluralism that strives to “see all things whole,” this “scientific mystic” employed Christian, personalist, vitalist, Neo-Confucian, and Buddhist ideas to envision positive, complementary roles for science and religion in modern society.

Thomas John Hastings was formerly Senior Research Fellow at the Japan International University Foundation in New York City, Director of Research, Associate Director, and Houston Witherspoon Fellow in Theology and Science at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, and Professor of Practical Theology at Tokyo Union Theological Seminary while serving with his wife Carol for twenty years as Presbyterian Church (USA) Mission Co-workers in Japan. Besides many publications in Japanese and English, he is author of Seeing All Things Whole: The Scientific Mysticism and Art of Kagawa Toyohiko 1888-1960 (Pickwick, 2015), Practical Theology