Authority and Obedience

Romans 13:1-7 in Modern Japan / Translated by Gregory Vanderbilt

by Gregory Vanderbilt (Author)
©2010 Monographs XXIV, 197 Pages
Series: American University Studies , Volume 294


Despite famously small numbers, Christians have had a distinctive presence in modern Japan, particularly for their witness on behalf of democracy and religious freedom. A translation of Ken’i to Fukujū: Kindai Nihon ni okeru Rōma-sho Jūsan-sho (2003), Authority and Obedience is «a personal pre-history» of the postwar generation of Japanese Christian intellectuals deeply committed to democracy. Using Japanese Christians’ commentary on Paul’s injunction in Romans 13: 1-7, the counsel to «let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God…», Miyata offers an intellectual history of how Japanese Christians understood the emperor-focused modern state from the time of the first Protestant missionaries in the mid-nineteenth century through the climax and demise of fascism during the Pacific War. Stressing verse 5’s admonition to «conscience» as the reason for obedience, Miyata provides a clear and political perspective grounded in his lifelong engagement with German political thought and theology, particularly that of Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as he calls for a conscientious citizenry in his modern society. Showing both Christians’ complicity with the state and the empire – including the formation of a unified church, the Nihon Kirisuto Kyōdan – and their attitude toward Christians in Asia, and the complexity of the critical voices of Christians like Uchimura Kanzō, Kashiwagi Gien, Nanbara Shigeru, and many others less well known – Miyata’s work aims not at exposing cultural particularity but at showing how the modern Japanese Christian experience can give meaning to a theology and a political theory of how to live within the «freedom of religious belief».


XXIV, 197
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2009 (October)
Paulus (Apostel) Römerbrief 13,1-7 Exegese Rezeption Japan Politische Theologie Evangelische Theologie Church and State in modern Japan, Uchimura Kanzo, Uchimura KanzM Karl Barth Nihon Kirisuto KyMdan Romans 13: 1-7 religion and nationalism Church and State in modern Japan
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2009. XXIV, 197 pp.

Biographical notes

Gregory Vanderbilt (Author)

The Author: Mitsuo Miyata is Professor Emeritus in the School of Law at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan. A scholar of the history of political thought, he is the author of numerous works on Christianity and politics in twentieth-century Germany and in modern Japan as well as writings for a wider audience on pacifism and on the development of faith. He has been recognized by the German government with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. His recent works in Japanese include Living the History of One’s Own Time: Postwar Democracy and Christianity (2003), Bonhoeffer and His Times (2007), and To Live «After» the Holocaust: Between Religious Dialogue and Political Conflict (2009). He is also the author of Die Freiheit kommt von den Tosa-Bergen: Beiträge zur Überwindung des Nationalismus in Japan und Deutschland (2005). This is the first of his books to appear in English. The Translator: Gregory Vanderbilt earned his Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is completing a cultural history of one Christian organization in early twentieth-century Japan and is now researching the history of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in modern Japan.


Title: Authority and Obedience