The Universal Gospel and modern nationalism: The Philippines as a case study
Deats, Richard Louis
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The problem of this dissertation is to examine the relationship between the universal Gospel of Christ and modern nationalism, as seen in the history of four churches in the Philippines. The Philippines provides a significant setting for studying this relationship because of two factors. In the first place, nationalism has had a long and vigorous influence upon the Philippines, having for nearly a century helped shape the life of the nation, not only politically but religiously as well. Secondly, the Philippine churches--Roman Catholic, Independent Catholic, United Church of Christ, and Methodist--have each responded differently to nationalism. Thus, in one nation, a variety of responses by Christian churches to nationalism can be observed and evaluated. The method of the dissertation is twofold. First, it is theological and philosophical, through which five norms are proposed as a means of evaluating the relationship between the Christian faith and modern nationalism. These norms are arrived at in the light of contemporary ecumenical documents, especially those dealing with modern mission theory. They also grow out of the discipline of soctal ethics, in addition to the writer's experience as a missionary in the Philippines. Secondly, the dissertation is historical in method, Case studies of four churches are made in which is traced their development as they have each responded to, and been affected by, Philippine nationalism. The Roman Catholic Church brought Christianity to the Philippines at the beginning of Spanish colonial rule in the sixteenth century. Although the early missionaries enriched the islands by introducing many cultural and religious contributions, by the nineteenth century the Church had largely become a force of exploitation and oppression in the archipelago. Just as the government resisted demands for political reform and steps toward independence, so the religious orders--the real focus of power of the Church in the islands--opposed not only national independence but also resisted the development of an indigenous clergy. When the Philippine Revolution came, it was directed against the Church as well as the state. Much of the conflict between Philippine nationalism and Roman Catholicism has continued into the twentieth century due to the large degree of foreign missionary domination in the Church. The opposition of Roman Catholicism to Philippine nationalism resulted in the formation of the Philippine Independent Church in 1902 by Filipinos who wanted a Church led by Filipinos and responsive to Philippine nationalism. Hindered by poverty, lack of churches, and a shortage of trained priests, the Independent Church failed to grow beyond the two million who initially joined its ranks. Until recent years, it was motivated largely by nationalistic impulses and sought to develop a uniquely Filipino Christianity. The two largest Philippine Protestant churches--the United Church of Christ and the Methodist Church--have both had policies that were in harmony with the objective of Philippine nationalism for self-determination in the religious institutions of the country. At the same time they have not been narrowly bound by nationalistic policies. The United Church of Christ is completely independent in government and policies. Philippine Methodism, however, is organically related to American Methodism. This relationship in Methodism has caused some conflict with Philippine nationalism. An evaluation of the history of each church by use of the five norms substantiates four principal hypotheses: 1) Roman Catholicism has made a generally negative response to Philippine nationalism; 2) until recently, nationalism was the directive force in the Philippine Independent Church; 3) the Protestant churches have made a generally balanced response to Philippine nationalism; and 4) the positive response of Methodism to Philippine nationalism has been partially modified by its lack of autonomy. Further conclusions follow from these hypotheses.
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