Why Send Missionaries To The Heathen? -- By: Edward Norman Harris

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 074:295 (Jul 1917)
Article: Why Send Missionaries To The Heathen?
Author: Edward Norman Harris


Why Send Missionaries To The Heathen?1

Edward Norman Harris

Are the heathen lost without the gospel? Do they need our religion? We sometimes hear it said that they do not; that while Christianity is all right for us, yet Buddhism is good enough for the Buddhists, Hinduism for the Hindus, Mohammedanism for the Mohammedans, Confucianism for the Confucianists, and so on. Why disturb them in their faiths? God cannot condemn those who have never heard the gospel; and if we preach to them, we simply impose upon them a responsibility from which they are now free.

Where shall we find answers to these questions? We might turn to the Scriptures, but in this paper I prefer to seek testimony from the heathen themselves. What do they say of their own religions? Are they sufficient to their needs? Do they save? Are they adequate guides to right moral conduct? Do they strengthen the soul in the midst of the conflicts of life? Do they make it triumphant over death? Do they give promise of a better life beyond the grave? Aside from the question of religion, are the heathen in their own consciences free from the sense of responsibility before God? Are they without condemnation? And the testimony of the heathen themselves

regarding these questions ought to have weight. We are accustomed to attach great importance to Christian experience as an evidence of the truth of our religion; and in these days there are those who even go so far as to claim for it, or for what they call the Christian consciousness, an authority above the Bible. I am neither approving nor disapproving this claim. What I say is, that, aside from divine revelation, the consciousness of the heathen concerning himself and concerning his religion ought to have as much weight in determining his actual spiritual standing and the real value of his religion as the consciousness of the Christian has in determining the validity of his beliefs. If there is any one who ought to know whether his religion is good for him or not, it is the heathen himself.

What do heathen religions do for their followers? Specifically, what hope of salvation do they offer? It will be manifestly impossible within the limits of this article to apply the test fully to all the non-Christian religions of the world. I propose to consider at some length Buddhism, the one with which I am most familiar, and then I may refer briefly to the other heathen cults. I think I shall be able to show that, whatever others may think about him, the heathen himself is conscious of condemnation. His own conscience does not relieve him from responsibility; and, though he may cling tenaciously to his religion, yet in his heart of heart...

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