So I’ve given a translation of Yasuo Furuya’s thoughts on the word “教会”. Here’s my commentary on it.
I think to a certain degree he has a point, and I think when it comes to the intellectualisation of Christianity he’s spot on. Certainly that intellectualisation is expressed in the vocabulary we use for Christianity in Japan. When I realised that the word for missionary, 宣教師, means “teacher who spreads teachings” I decided to avoid it, and now, on my business card, you will find ミッショナリ - the English word “missionary” in Japanese characters. (Except you won’t quite find that, because I spelt it wrong.)
But there is, of course, a limit to how much role etymology plays in language and communication.
I’m happy to use the word 家内 (inside-the-house) to refer to my wife because when Japanese people hear it, they don’t think “inside-the-house”, they just hear the ordinary Japanese word for wife. Meaning is not defined by etymology, and I don’t think that when Japanese people hear the word 教会 for church they specifically think “teaching-meeting”, any more than when we hear the word “infantry” we think “child soldiers”. (Which is after all what, etymologically, it “means”.)
Meaning is a lot more than simply the sum of the parts, and that’s particularly true of the Church. What counts is not how we experience “Church” as a word, but how we experience it as the fellowship of God’s people.