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by Daryl E. Witmer
Test your knowledge of Shinto with the following 10 questions, then read the answers with commentary that follow.
1. Shinto is the native, traditional, national (i.e. cultural) religion of what country?
2. Shinto means:
3. The term for Shinto’s central and ritual act of purification:
4. Shinto’s final holy authoritative inspired texts are known as the:
5. Some Shintoists have built altars right in their homes where certain rituals are carried out.
6. Estimated number of the practitioners of Shinto, worldwide, today:
7. Shinto today represents a fusion of ancient Shinto and what other world religion?
8. Shinto is pantheistic.
9. One major difference between Christianity and Shinto has to do with how a person is
10. Kami, the entities or spiritual forces in which a Shintoist believes, are often associated with natural phenomena such as rocks, evergreen trees, or rice fields, and are believed to actually indwell shrines.
THE CORRECT ANSWERS, with our commentary, follow:
1) b 2) b 3) a 4) c 5) a 6) b 7) b 8) b 9) a 10) a
(1) In many ways, Shinto is Japan. The rituals (ringing bells, clapping hands), the myths, the exquisite architecture of the shrines, and even the vocabulary of this religion are all deeply interwoven with the history and culture of the land.
(3) Makoto means “truth” or “purity in intention,” which would be regarded as the ideal human state.
(3) Kagura is a traditional Shinto sacred dance and music, typically performed by young maidens.
PROBING DEEPER: Are Shinto rituals observed mechanically or thoughtfully by a Shintoist? Does Shinto doctrine matter to a Shintoist? If not, why not?
The Bible says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
(4) Kojiki and Nihongi are ancient sacred writings, but Shinto has no final authoritative Scriptures per se.
(4) I-Ching & Chun-Chiu are two of The Five Classics, part of the canon of Confucianism, not Shinto.
(5) Shinto is very often practiced in the home. A kamidana is the shrine designated for domestic veneration of the kami.
(8) Shinto teaches that there are many gods (kami) which are pro-created by other gods, some helpful and some hurtful. Shinto is, therefore, a polytheistic religious system.
Deuteronomy 6:4 in the Bible says “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!”
(9) Shinto worshipers attempt to purify themselves as they approach a shrine by washing with water and presenting an offering. But will such practices truly cleanse one?
Many religions teach that man can only make himself acceptable to God by performing to certain standards. By contrast, Christianity teaches that it is God alone, by His grace, who can make a man acceptable. Man’s problem is moral, not ritual. Sin is a condition. Only Jesus is able to make a man pure. 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR FURTHER STUDY:
The Compact Guide to World Religions, ©1996 Bethany House; Dean C. Halverson, General Editor
Neighboring Faiths, ©1998 IVP; by Winfried Corduan