Part 3, The Church Expands into the World. Lesson 5 of 10.
Lesson 13. Roman Catholic Missions

Through today’s lesson, we hope you will treasure the fact that God has not neglected Asia, but rather many have sacrificed their lives to bring the gospel to Asia.

  1. Counter-reformation. The Reformation took place in the 1500’s.  Soon many people in northern Europe had left the Roman Catholic Church and become Protestants.  In response, the Catholic Church decided to deal with some of the problems that had prompted the Reformation.  In 1545 meetings called the Council of Trent began, where the Catholics dealt with the challenges presented by the reformers. The resulting movement is called the Catholic Reformation, also called the “counter-reformation.”  They enforced greater morality among the priests and clergy, and they ended some of the misuse of church money. However, they did not adopt the Protestants’ ways of explaining salvation by grace through faith.
  1. Jesuits. In order to bring back the people who had left the Catholic Church to follow Luther and Calvin, the Roman Catholic Church relied upon a new group.  In 1534 a Catholic group called the Jesuits was founded.  (The full name is “Society of Jesus.”) ¹²  They were very self-disciplined and devoted.  Like monks, they took vows of poverty and obedience, and promised not to get married.  They put great effort into trying to get the people of Europe to leave the Protestants and become Catholic again, and met with success.  In 2000, Europe had a population of 729m.  Of those, 285m were Roman Catholics, 104m were Protestants, and 158m, mostly in Russia, were Eastern Orthodox.
  1. Overseas. Since the first European colonizers were Spanish and Portuguese, the pope gave them the responsibility to bring in missionaries and establish Catholicism in the areas they controlled.  They relied mainly on two groups of preachers who had been organized in the 13th century. One group was called Franciscans, because they were followers of a  preacher named Francis.¹ The other group was called the Dominicans, because they were followers of a preacher named Dominic.²  These men did not live in monasteries, but moved about in the countryside to preach to the common people.  Therefore they were well-equipped to become foreign missionaries.  However, the fact that the missionaries had been brought by the colonizers also controlled the  sometimes led to conflicts. Therefore in 1622 the pope formed a system³ to oversee and coordinate missions directly, and the authority of the Spanish and Portuguese gradually faded away.
  1. Disagreements. Later when the Jesuits arrived in foreign countries, there were often disagreements about methods between them and the Franciscans and Dominicans.  The kings of Europe were opposed to the Jesuits for commercial and political reasons, and the pope finally took sides with the kings against the Jesuits.  The result was that in 1773 the Jesuits were suppressed in most countries, and 3000 Jesuit missionaries had to leave their fields.  This was a setback to mission efforts.  In 1814 The Jesuits were restored and are still active today.
  1. Africa. Portuguese settled along the West coast of Africa in the 1500’s and began to evangelize the local people.  There was a remarkable response in one African kingdom.  Soon after 1482, the king of Kongo in Africa was baptized and used much energy to bring his people into the church: his work succeeded.  The king’s son was made a bishop.  Generation after generation of rulers continued to promote the church there, until the kingdom and church faded away in the 19th century.
  1. Later work. Most mission work in Africa by both Catholics and Protestants happened in the 1800’s, after the slave trade was made illegal, and accompanying the creation of colonies by European countries such as England, France, and Holland. Most of these colonies became independent countries in the 1960’s. The church has continued to grow.  In Africa today, the northern part is controlled by Muslims, and in most of those countries Christian missions are illegal.  However Africa south of the Sahara desert has seen great growth in Christianity.  In 2000 AD, Africa, with a population of 805m, has 120m Roman Catholics and 131m Protestants, plus independent Christian churches.  Since in the north 317m are Muslims,  that only leaves 128m, or about one seventh, of Africans who still practice their traditional religion of spirit worship.
  1. South America. In 1492, Columbus sailed to America so it became known to the Europeans.  Since he went in the name of Spain, Spain took the lead in sending soldiers to conquer South America.  Since Spain was a Catholic country, the king of Spain also sent missionaries to bring Christianity to the Indians there.  There was great conflict between the colonizers, who wanted to use the Indians as slaves, and the missionaries, who wanted to protect the Indians.  The king’s concern is shown by the fact that in 1550 the King of Spain stopped sending ships to America while his scholars debated whether it was moral to make the Indians into slaves.  The king did make rules to protect the Indians. However, these rules were often broken because the love of money proved too great for some merchants.  The countries of South America have become mostly Roman Catholic. In 2000, South America plus Mexico had 524 million people, with 461 million Catholics and 49 million Protestants.
  1. Portuguese in India. In the 15th century trading ships from Europe began to come to Asia.  Starting from 1498 Portugal created a base at Goa in India.  The Portuguese government also controlled the missionaries there.  Mission work outside the Portuguese area began when in 1542 the Jesuits entered India.  Most of India had been taken over by Muslims in 1526, and the Jesuits were often invited to the court to discuss religion, but the Muslim ruler did not become a Christian.  A Jesuit who arrived in 1605 is famous because he adopted the clothing and customs of a Hindu.  Many became Christians.  At first the pope approved of his methods, but when the Jesuits were suppressed in 1773, the mission in India was weakened, except where there were Indian priests.
  1. Catholic expansion in India. In 1599 the Roman Catholic church gained control of many of the previous Christian communities in India who lived under Portuguese control in Goa.  The Thomas Christians did not want to follow the Roman Catholic rites, and they installed their own people as bishops whenever they could.  In the 1600’s, the Dutch conquered the Portuguese areas, and later the English conquered the Dutch, and through these developments the Thomas Christians were able to stay independent from the Catholic Church and keep their connection to the non-Chalcedonian church of Syria. Today some of the older groups are under Catholic authority, and some are not.  The first Protestant missionary did not arrive until 1706.  In 2000, India had a population of about one billion, with about 17 million Catholics, 4.5 million Protestants, and 2.7 million non-Chaldedonian believers.

10. Hinduism. In India, the Christian missionaries have spent time to study Hinduism.  Though Hinduism has thousands of gods, yet at a higher level it is believed that all is one, so all are god.  In fact, it is often said that there are three ways to practice Hinduism. There is the way of worshipping the gods.  There is the way of doing meditation and other techniques to arrive at the feeling that all is one.  And there is the intellectual approach to Hindu philosophy.  In Christianity, the root problem that leads to our other problems is “separation from God due to sin;” people suffer because the world has rebelled against God.  In Hinduism, one root problem is the bad deeds that you did in your previous life.  You must receive the bad results of the bad deeds, and that is why you suffer.  If you try hard to do many good deeds, then maybe the next time you are reincarnated you will have a higher ranking in society. When explaining the gospel to Hindus, one must define words carefully.  When you mention God, you must make clear that people are in a different category from God: he is creator, but we are created.  When you mention “born-again,” this does not mean reincarnation, but means we receive new life right now in our present life-times.  When you mention sin, this does not mean your ancestor’s sin, but means that you are accountable to God for your sins.  You can explain that this is a great burden, but that God has removed the burden because Jesus was our substitute, and already took the payment for our sins.¹¹  We will not be reincarnated into another earthly life.  Because of Jesus, we escape all future punishment.  At death we will go directly to him to live forever with him.  In that eternal life there is no suffering.

11. Christian Science. Some new religions have been influenced by ideas from India. Christian Science began in 1866 in America.  This religious group teaches that sickness is imaginary.  If you are sick, they say you do not need to go to a doctor.  But the Bible makes clear that sickness is very real.  It is one of the results of sin being in our world.  One of the ways that Jesus showed His divine power was by healing people that were sick.  One of the ways that Jesus has helped the church to grow is by healing when His people pray.  This is because sickness is real, and a healing miracle is very unusual.  For those times when Gold does not do a miracle, we can thank Him for the way He created our bodies with the ability to fight sickness, and for the people who devote their lives to being doctors and nurses.  Luke, who wrote the Bible book of Luke and the book of Acts, was a doctor.

12. New age. In the 20th century, ideas from India have become more popular around the world.  There are many of these ideas, but one thing they have in common is the Hindu idea that in some way “we are god.”  The name for this movement to adopt non-biblical ways to reach spiritual fulfillment is called “New Age Movement.”  Examples are: believing that gemstones have spiritual power; trying to contact dead people to get messages; believing that certain places in the earth have spiritual power; using Hindu practices such as meditation and yoga.  Others in the movement are interested in reviving practices of pre-Christian religions such as telling fortunes from the stars and worshipping earth spirits.

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 Footnotes.  1)  Francis, from a town in Italy called Assisi,亚西席的佛兰(蘭)西斯    started the Franciscans  方济(濟)会士(會士  in 1209 and it was authorized by the pope in 1223.   2) Dominic 道明    或    多米尼古, from Castile in Spain,   started the Dominicans  多米尼古派  in 1215 and it was authorized by the pope in 1216. 3) The Roman Catholic department for foreign missions is called the “Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.”  11) A Roman Catholic would say “Jesus made a sin offering out of love for us.”
12)  Founded by Ignatius Loyola in 1534, it was approved by the pope in 1540.  耶稣会 (會)