Monday, June 19, 2006

"Silence" by Shusaku Endo Review, Part 6

Set deeply in the midst of these thoughts of and temptations towards apostasy, we find Endo’s reactions to what he seems to deem a mean and nasty doctrine, too rigid to follow for caring people, and to the view of history that calls us to pay careful attention to those who were not, indeed, ashamed of the Gospel. On page 77, Rodrigues reflects that many Christians would have lived blessed and faithful lives if they had never faced apostasy and persecution. Not only the people in general but the person of Kichijiro, Rodrigues’ Judas, is very often used to further this train of thought. At least four times over the course of Rodrigues’ journey, he meets up with and later is separated from Kichijiro, only to meet him again. At first, Rodrigues is suspicious of him but figures that he is his best hope for a guide in Japan, later to discover that he is an apostate, only to hear his confession, only to be betrayed by him to the officials for the reward of 300 silver coins: “ten times as much” as Christ, Rodrigues reflects. Kichijiro will spend the remainder of his appearances in the novel crying out for forgiveness and protesting that God had made him weak, not strong; for that reason he was unable to resist the temptation to save his own skin by trampling on the fumie and to give into the officials’ threats to turn Rodrigues over to them. Is this claim consistent with what God has told us about the times of temptations and challenges to our faith? Let us see three relevant passages. One is Hebrews 6:17-19:
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain…
Another is 1 Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Finally, Luke 12:4-12:
4"I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
8"And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, 9but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."
The passage in Luke 12 is addressed to “the disciples” in a large crowd, Hebrews 6 to Jewish believers in Jesus, and 1 Corinthians 10 to the church at Corinth. Had we (or the author) the testimony of Scripture in mind when considering the difficult and bitter history of the persecutions of Japan and the Kakure apostates, we would come to different conclusions. This is not, of course, to deny that God could not use apostates to accomplish His sovereign will, nor is it an absolute judgment on anyone who actually does apostatise. It is impossible to read another’s mind, thus one could consider other possibilities, such as a scenario in which an apostate had merely a stated faith at the time of apostasy, the real faith coming only later. I feel as well that making a statement with much more detail than the straight texts I have cited may be beyond my level of knowledge at this time. Let us remember that the burden must be on those who would lighten the severity of these passages in order to “make more room in the Kingdom,” as it were. Endo has not shown any reason to in his book.

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