A Message from the General Secretary Thoughts about “Passing on the Faith”

Within Kyodan churches, there is a strong trend in age
distribution towards the elderly, and so within this context,
the issue of “passing on the faith” becomes even more
important. If the present trend continues at the same pace,
within ten years the membership will decline by about half,
and the ability of the church to be in mission will radically
decrease. So what is the solution to this dilemma? How
can we pass on the faith to the next generation? I think that
one effective method is to promote the practice of infant
“Passing on the faith” is fundamentally different from
passing on one’s property or money to one’s children. After
all, religious faith is a spiritual and mental thing —an issue
of the heart. One enters the faith by first encountering the
living Christ, placing one’s trust in him as savior, and then
living one’s life in view of that. So it is not something we
can inherit from our parents in the same way we can inherit
property. The only thing that parents can do is to pray for
their child to encounter the Lord Christ through his Word,
and that must not just be through lifting verbal prayers
alone but also through taking practical steps, such as
having that child baptized as a witness towards their future.
From its inception, the rite of baptism has been a spiritual
matter, symbolizing the receiving of eternal life as the
person who has accepted Christ as Savior receives the
blessings of the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
From ancient times, this has been a solemn ceremony in
which the person confesses his or her sins and receives the
Lord’s forgiveness, and it was something that only persons
who confessed Christ as their Lord and Savior received
within the context of the church. However, when it came
to infant baptism, since small children could not do that
yet of their own accord, parents who had received baptism
themselves and were living a life of faith could stand in
place of their children to confess Christ on their behalf to
become members of the Body of Christ, the Church. This
practice was backed by the doctrine of “prevenient grace.”
Thus, the important and glorious task of raising that
child up to be a person of faith in their own right begins
as the parents, who have had their child baptized, work
together with the church that has received that child into
its fellowship. It is for this reason that the catechism was
developed, to serve as a means of faith education by which
the parents and the church community pray together and
work towards that goal from that child’s infancy. The
catechism is a powerful tool in faith education, and so the
Japanese church and laity need to become serious about
educating their children to take on the mantle of Christian
Parents who, with the concept of “freedom of religion,”
choose to let their children simply decide for themselves
when they become adults, often end up allowing them to
pass through their adolescent years idly, without sufficient
guidance. This should not be, and so as the people of God
joyously living out their faith throughout their earthly
journey, they should work together and pray to pass on
that most precious treasure of Christian faith to the next
generation of children and grandchildren. I am confident
that the Kyodan has a bright future if we increase the
numbers of children receiving baptism and if the church
puts its emphasis on faith education. (Tr. TB)
—Naito Tomeyuki, general secretary

「信仰の継承」をめぐって思う 高齢化の著しい教団の教会が取り組むべき課題の一つ に『信仰の継承』ということがある。現在のペースで高齢化が進むと10年後には信徒数半減し、教会の宣教力 は目に見えて衰えていく。ではその打開のために教会はどうすればよいのか。どのように次の世代に信仰を継承していったら よいのか。わたしはその打開策(あまり好きな言葉ではないが)の有力な一つが『幼児洗礼のすすめ』だと思っている。『信仰の継承』は土地財産とか金銭といった物を継承 することとは根本的に異なっている。そもそも神信仰は霊的・精神的な事柄であり、心の問題である。本人が生ける主キリス トと出会い、自らの責任において救い主を信じ、告白して生きるようになることなのである。そうであれば信仰の継承という ことは親が子に財産という物を残すというようなことではない。親ができるのは子どもが主キリストに出会うように聖書の導 きを絶えず祈るということだけである。それも、ただ口先だけで祈るのではなく、具体的に子どもの将来のために祈る証しと して幼児洗礼を受けさせることが大事なのである。 

もともと洗礼は救い主キリストを信じ告白した者が、 父と子と聖霊なる三位一体の神の祝福を受け、主と一つに結ばれ永遠の命が与えられるという霊的な事柄である。昔から、教 会において罪をいい表し、罪を赦して下さる救い主を信じ告白した者のみに行われてきた厳粛な聖礼典があった。ところが幼 児洗礼の場合は幼児であるため、自らの責任において信仰告白をすることができない。そこで、すでに洗礼を受けて信仰に生 きている親が代わって信仰告白をし、キリストの体なる教会がそれを受け入れて幼児洗礼が行われた。それを『先行の恩寵 (めぐみ)』という教理が裏打ちしてきたのである。

そこで子どもに幼児洗礼を授けた親や幼児を受け入れ た教会は幼児を一人前の信仰者に育てていくという重いしかし光栄ある務めが生じる。そのために、親も教会も幼き日より熱 心に祈りつつ信仰教育を施してきたのである。そしてその信仰教育に用いたのがカテキズム(信仰問答書)である。この信仰 問答書は信仰教育にあずかって力がある。日本の教会も、信徒も本気になって自分の子ども達が真実なキリスト教信仰を継承 していくようになるため努めなければならないのである。

『信仰の自由』の名のもとに、信仰については本人が 大人になって、自分の責任において決めればよい、などとのんきなことを言って、子どもの成長期を無為に過ごさせてしまう ことは実は子に対して親として申し訳ないことである。自分が地上を旅する神の民として喜びをもって信仰の生涯を生きてい るのであれば、最も大切な宝とも言うべきキリスト信仰を、次世代を担っていく子や孫に与えるために、熱心に祈り、労すべ きなのである。今後幼児洗礼を受ける者が増し、教会が信仰教育に力を入れていくならば教団の将来に明るい光が刺してくる に違いないと思う。内藤留幸