Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS AND NEWS

Book Reviews

Silence by Shusaku Endo. Picador Modern Classics. 256 pages. Rep Mti edition 2017
***

The new film Silence, from director Martin Scorsese is based on this 1966 novel of historical fiction written by Japanese author Shusaku Endo. Scorsese, who writes the Foreword, had wanted to make a film of this book for many years. In the Foreword he writes about the problem of Judas, a theme that will come up throughout this book.
The novel is primarily written in the form of a journal and also in the third person by its central character, Father Sabastian Rodrigues, a Portuguese missionary. Father Rodrigues and his companion Father Francisco Garrpe arrive in Japan in 1639; the Christian church is underground to avoid persecution. Rodrigues has travelled to Japan to investigate reports that his former teacher and mentor, Christovao Ferreira, has committed apostasy.  The priest had not been heard from since 1633 when he was last seen in Nagasaki.
Their contact in Japan is a drunken man named Kichijiro. He denies when asked if he is a Christian. He is the Judas character in this book. He will show up again and again in the story.  Just when you think you can trust him, he will disappoint you, and then he shows up again. Can he be trusted? Or, will he betray the priests and turn them into the Japanese authorities? The Judas theme is key to this book. Father Rodrigues will often refer to Jesus’ words to Judas, “What thou must, do quickly” (John 13:27).
Father Rodrigues will also compare his situation with that of Jesus. The magistrate, Inoue, who is responsible for the interrogation and torture of all captured Christians, is the Pilate character in the book.
The book includes themes of faith, doubt, silence (of God, the sea, land, night and people), solitude, pain, betrayal, strength, weakness and martyrdom. Does God even exist? He has been silent in the midst of the persecution of the Japanese Christians.
The subject of apostasy is another key to this story. The Japanese not only want the peasant Japanese Christians to deny their faith by trampling on an image of Jesus (referred to as a fumi-e), no, they want priests themselves to commit apostasy. If they don’t, the peasant Christians will be tortured to death.
The book is well-written and very descriptive. You can feel the heat, rain, and the insects that Father Rodrigues encounters in “the swamp”, as Japan is referred to in the book. Tension builds as Father Rodrigues encounters his former teacher Father Ferreira.
SPOILER ALERT!  *** Ferreira has indeed apostatized, taken on a Japanese name, taken on another’s wife and children, and is writing a book to refute the teachings of Christ. He tells Rodrigues that he was to get him to apostatize. He goes on to tell Rodrigues why he had apostatized. ***
We go on to read about what happens to Rodrigues. Will he apostatize? Will he ever hear the voice of God, or will he remain silent?
As I read this book I wondered if I would be able to keep from denying Christ if my wife was being tortured. I pray that I would.

Gospel Hope for Anxious Hearts: Trading Fear and Worry for the Peace of God by Charles Spurgeon. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 170 pages. 2016. 
****

This is the second book I’ve read from the new Rich Theology Made Accessible series, the first one being on prayer by John Calvin.  The book includes ten wonderful sermons by the great Reformed Baptist Charles Spurgeon, preached from the Metropolitan Tabernacle pulpit in London where he served for 38 years. Among the topics covered in these sermons that will encourage believers are care, anxiety, peace, fear and rest. My only suggestion for improvement would be an Introduction to the book, giving the reader some context to these wonderful sermons – when they were preached, why these particular sermons were chosen, etc. I highly recommend this wonderful collection of sermons by Spurgeon, which are great for devotional reading. Continue reading

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My Review of Silence

silenceSilence, rated R
***

Silence is a well-acted film that deals with the subject of apostasy (denying the faith).
The film is directed by Oscar winning director Martin Scorsese (The Departed), and is based on a 1966 historical novel written by Shusaku Endo. Scorsese was given the book in 1988, and has been wanting to make a movie of it ever since. Jay Cocks co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese.
The film is set in 17th century Japan. Father Cristovao Ferreira (Oscar nominee Liam Neeson, Schindler’s List) from Portugal, has gone missing while working as a Jesuit missionary in Japan. He hasn’t been heard from for years. Rumors are that he has committed apostasy (denied the faith). His former students Father Sebastiao Rodrigues (Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge) and Father Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) fail to believe that their teacher and mentor has apostatized. They finally convince Father Valignano (Ciarán Hinds) to let them go to Japan to try to find Ferreira. They will be aided by a drunken Japanese guide named Kichijiro (Yoshi Oida). He is a complex character, not the simple “cut and dry” Judas to Rodrigues that he may appear.
As the priests arrive in Japan, they find a church that has gone underground or hidden, in the midst of persecution. Christianity has been outlawed in Japan, but there are those who remain faithful, despite the lack of priests. Those who are caught and suspected of being Christians are forced to trample on wooden figures of Jesus, called fumie. Those who refuse (and even some who do actually trample on the image of Jesus), are tortured to death. The film depicts Christians being tortured – boiling water poured on them, hung upside down in a pit, tied to stakes in the ocean, etc. That makes this film difficult to watch.
The film is well acted, particularly by Garfield, who deserved an Oscar nomination for his work here, but had already received a Best Actor nomination for Hacksaw Ridge, perhaps taking away his chances for a nomination here. The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto, particularly his depiction of the landscapes of Japan, is excellent, earning the film it’s only Oscar nomination. You can also feel the heat and the irritation of the insects of Japan, as the Japanese persecutors constantly fan themselves.
The film is extremely thought-provoking, as it deals with themes such as silence (of God particularly), faith, persecution, fear, apostasy, and doubt. You’ll be talking about the ending as you leave the theatre. But the theme of apostasy is the key one in the film. Jesus said “Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33).
The film, which had its premiere at the Vatican, is overly long at 2 hours and 41 minutes, and for the most part is pretty slow. The film cost $40 million to make, and will most likely have a limited audience, but was well done and is thought-provoking.