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In some ways, the Enlightenment notion of religion as essentially rational and universal influenced the approach to South American and Chinese missionary work in the 17th and 18th centuries, in which rather than emphasizing the uniqueness of rationality, theologians argued for the universality of many of the central tenets of the Christian faith, and attempted to show that those tenets were deducible from self-evident premises. This led to a notion that religious differences were based on cultural differences and adaptation of missions to local culture and language. In many ways, ad Gentes represents a return to the theology of mission propounded by the Jesuits before the Chinese Rite controversy, arguing for inculturaltion of Roman missions (adaptation to native cultures) as opposed to imposition of European cultural values as part of religious missions.
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