A True(tt) Baptist

{The following article, in a slightly edited and shortened version, appears in the June issue of Word&Way, the historic journal for Missouri Baptists. I enjoyed working on this article and appreciate Editor Brian Kaylor using in the Word&Way.)

Later this month the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention will be held in Phoenix, Arizona. Ninety years ago, in 1927, the annual meeting was held in Louisville, Kentucky. At that meeting, George Washington Truett, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, was elected president of the SBC.

Truett was one of the most outstanding Baptist pastors in SBC history. His life and legacy are well worth reviewing and honoring now, 150 years after his birth in May 1867, which was just 22 years after the birth of the SBC.

TRUETT’S LIFE JOURNEY

Most of you who read this journal know of Clay County, Missouri, where William Jewell College and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary are located. But George Truett was born in Clay County, North Carolina, near the town of Hayesville in the western tip of that state. If you look up Clay Co., N.C., on Wikipedia, you will find Truett’s name is the only one listed in the section titled “Notable People.”

George was the seventh of eight children born in a log cabin to Charles and Mary Truett, a farm couple. Although his parents were faithful Baptists, George did not make a profession of faith and receive baptism until 1886, when he was 19 years old. At that time he was already teaching in a one-room school. The following year, he traveled a few miles south into Georgia and established a new school, where he taught and served as principal until he moved with his parents to Texas in 1889.

Truett’s life journey in Texas was soon filled with momentous events. He was ordained to the ministry in 1890. The next year he was employed by Baylor University to help raise $92,000 to pay the school’s debt—an endeavor that was successful. Then in 1893 he entered Baylor as a student. In June of the following year, he married Josephine, who was his wife until his death 50 years later. Soon after his graduation in 1897 Truett was elected president of Baylor—but he turned down that position because of his commitment to the pastoral ministry. Later that year he was called to be pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas. He accepted that call and served in that position until his death on July 7, 1944.

TRUETT’S MINISTRY AND LEGACY

George W. Truett was a masterful preacher and an exemplary Christian. Louie D. Newton, who was 25 years younger than Truett and an outstanding Baptist pastor in Georgia, wrote, “I say without hesitation that Dr. Truett was the most effective preacher I ever heard and the most inspiring Christian I ever knew.” With that combination of piety and talent, Truett led his church to become the largest Baptist church in the world in both membership and financial strength.

Truett’s ministry was centered in Dallas, of course, but it extended across the country and into much of the world. In 1920 the Southern Baptist Convention assembled in Washington, D.C. On Sunday afternoon, May 16, Truett stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and spoke to a crowd of around 15,000 people—with no PA system! In addition to the Baptists who had come to the convention, there were many government officials in that crowd. His address was titled “Baptists and Religious Liberty.” It became his most famous and most often-quoted talk.

As noted above, he was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1927 and held that position until 1929. Then five years later he was elected to a five-year term as president of the Baptist World Alliance and traveled to a number of the world’s countries during that time.

Because of his highly successful ministry, Truett left an outstanding legacy. Perhaps because of that Capitol sermon in 1920, he became so widely known in Baptist circles that when a baby boy born into Joseph and Lilla Cathy’s Georgia home in March of 1921, they named him Truett. Some of you may recognize his name: Truett Cathy became the founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain.

Back in the early 1960s, Truett Baker was pastor of my home church in Grant City, Mo., and I still have contact with him. Recently he wrote in an email that his father was a personal friend of the noted pastor of FBC, Dallas. So when Rev. W.D. Baker’s son was born in 1934, he chose to name him Truett. (On a personal note, it was of special interest to my parents when Truett Baker was called to be pastor in Grant City. In 1935 his father had performed their wedding ceremony in Patee Park Baptist Church in St. Joseph where he was a member while he served as Enlistment Evangelist for the Northwest Mission Group of Missouri Baptists from 1930 to ’36.)

George Truett’s legacy is seen many others ways other than people named for him. For example, there are Truett Memorial Baptist churches in Hayesville, Ga. (Truett’s hometown); Long Beach, Calif.; and Pearl, Miss. In 1950 the George W. Truett Memorial Hospital opened on the Baylor University campus. Then in 1994 Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary began classes. Prominent Missouri pastors who are graduates of Truett Seminary include Jason Edwards, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Liberty, and Carol McIntyre, pastor of First Baptist Church, Columbia

TRUETT’S EMPHASIS ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Robert Jeffress is the current pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, and he is a present day advocate of “religious liberty.” He sat at table in the White House with President Trump on May 3 and rejoiced when the executive order titled “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” was signed the next day. But for him and other conservative evangelicals, the religious freedom they want seems to be the freedom to use the pulpit for political purposes and for denouncing others, such as LGBT people.

George W. Truett’s emphasis on religious liberty in 1920 was markedly different from that now sought by Jeffress. As a Baptist rooted in the thought and actions of Roger Williams, John Leland, and other Baptist leaders of the past, Truett emphasized the separation of church and state, or “a free church in a free state,” as he articulated it.

Truett espoused religious liberty that meant freedom from government control and freedom to preach the good news of salvation in Christ. This is far different from wanting “free speech” and “religious freedom” to endorse political candidates and to run roughshod over the civil rights of other people.

Baptists today who espouse the historic Baptist tradition find inspiration from the life and ministry of George W. Truett, a true Baptist.

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What about the Benedict Option?

Have you heard of “the Benedict Option”? It has been emphasized for years by Rod Dreher, and his new book, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, was just published on March 14. On that very day, David Brooks wrote in the New York Times that Dreher’s work was “already the most discussed and most important religious book of the decade.” Continue reading

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A Book Not Written

There is no date on any of the pages, but recently I ran across the outline for a book that at one point I had hoped to write. The tentative title was An Apology for Christian Mission in the Modern World: The Particularistic/Universalistic Paradox. 

The outline I drafted for the book appears below. Reading through it makes me sad that because of the pressure of other responsibilities I was not able to do any more on this book other than make the outline. It could have been a good book, I think. But perhaps my teaching and administrative activities made more of a contribution to individuals and the school system than a book with a fairly limited audience would have.

Preface

  1. Who Is Writing?
    • My vocational situation (missionary by call, choice, & commitment
    • My educational background (Christian philosophy / apologetics; dissertation on the meaning of paradox)
    • My social concern (Christian social ethics).
  2. Why Is This Written?
    • The problem
    • An attempt to justify my commitment and my career; many others as well; who we are & who support missionaries; an apology for missionaries.
    • How Will This Be Done?
    • A paradoxical understanding is a way to solve the problem
    • A contribution I can make: no conflict between being a missionary & working with others, dialogue, recognizing God’s universal love, tolerance, etc.
  3. How Would This Be Done?
    • Ch. 1 – The Problem
    • Chs. 2-5 – Positive & Negative Analyses
    • Chs. 6-7 – The Paradoxical Situation
    • Chs. 8-10 – Some ramifications

I. The Problem

  1. The Fact of Plurality
  2. The “Failure” of Christianity
  3. The Results
    • Condemnation of others, conflict, divisiveness
    • Rejection of evangelism, cross-cultural mission

II. The Truth of Particularism (Uniqueness)

  1. The Meaning of Particularism
  2. Jesus as the Special Revelation of God
  3. The Decisiveness of Christ (Braaten: Jesus Christ is “the concrete embodiment of universal meaning.”)

III. The Falsity of Particularism (Uniqueness)

  1. Ethnocentric/Religious Pride
  2. Intolerance (religious wars, racial & cultural prejudice/discrimination
  3. Exclusiveness (divisiveness)

IV. The Falsity of Universality

  1. The Meaning of Universality
  2. The Error of Relativism
  3. The Rejection of Special Revelation & the Decisiveness of Christ

V. The Truth of Universality

  1. The Creator God
  2. The Cosmic Christ

VI. The Category of Paradox

  1. The Meaning of Paradox
  2. The Promise of Paradox
  3. Beyond Either/Or Logicality

VII. The Particularism/Universalism Paradox

  1. Affirming the Truth of Both
  2. Rejecting the Errors of Both
  3. Maintaining the Balance

VIII. The Place of Dialogue

  1. The Meaning of Dialogue
  2. The Value of Dialogue
  3. The Limitations of Dialogue

IX. The Place of Ecumenicity

  1. Mutual Respect
  2. Mutual Sharing
  3. Mutual Action (Cooperation)

X. The Place of Witness

  1. Humility in Approach
  2. Boldness in Word & Deed
  3. Faithfulness to Christ
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Quotes from “The Shack”

{On March 5, I posted an article on my regular blogsite about “The Shack” (see here). I noted the following quotes when I read the book again just before seeing the movie by the same name which was released on March 3.}

William Paul Young, The Shack (2007), 250 pp. (This is the paperback by Windblown Media.)

Much of the book is a response to Missy’s question about “how come [God’s] so mean” (33).

Chapter 5 begins, “There are times when you choose to believe something that would normally be considered absolutely irrational. It doesn’t mean that it is actually irrational, but is surely is not rational. Perhaps there is suprarationality: reason beyond the normal definitions of fact or data-based logic; something that makes sense only if you can see a bigger picture of reality. Maybe that is where faith fits in” (69).

Mack meets Elousia (“Papa”), Jesus (Yeshua), and Sarayu (the Hindi word that means the same as ruach, the Hebrew word for wind/air/spirit/Spirit). Mack asks which one of them is God. “‘I am,’ said all three in unison” (89).

When Mack first talks with Elousia about Missy, she said, “I want to heal the wound that has grown inside you and between us.” And then, “Life takes a bit of time and a lot of relationship” (94). The importance of relationships is stressed a lot in this sixth chapter.

In some ways the book is quite Jesus-centered. Elousia tells Mack that “the truth shall set you free and the truth has a name; he’s over in the woodshop right now covered in sawdust. Everything is about him. And freedom is a process that happens inside a relationship with him” (97).

Elousia tells Mack, “I am far more . . . above and beyond all that you can ask or think” (100). A little later, “To begin with, that you can’t grasp the wonder of my nature is rather a good thing. Who wants to worship a God who can be fully comprehended, eh?” (103).

The Incarnation is presented on page 101: “When we three spoke ourselves into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations this entailed.” And then, “Jesus is fully human. Although he is also fully God he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human [p] being.”

Then Elousia talks about Sarayu: “She is creativity; she is action; she is the breathing of life; she is much more. She is my Spirit” (112).

In the eighth chapter, Elousia explains to Mack, “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it” (122).

Elousia also talks about human freedom, and she says to Mack, “But your choices are also not stronger than my purposes, and I will use every choice you make for the ultimate good and the most loving outcome” (127).

Chapter 11 is a pivotal one, and a type of universalism is presented in it. Mack is brought before a “judge” [and I was not clear who she was or represented, but in the next chapter she is identified as Sophia, “the personification of Papa’s wisdom” (173)]. She says to Mack, “You believe [God] will condemn most to an eternity of torment, away from his presence and apart from his love. Is that not true?” (164). Mack agrees that it is—and then she goes on to emphasize how God loves all his children just like Mack loves each of his children. She says, “You have judged them [his children] to be worthy of love, even if it costs you everything. That is how Jesus loves” (165). Shortly after that she says, “Nothing is as it should be, as Papa desires it to be, and as it will be one day.”

There is a definite “other-worldly” emphasis. Near the end of the eleventh chapter, Mack gets to see Missy in the “afterlife,” although she cannot see him. The judge says to Mack, “This life is only the anteroom of a greater reality to come. No one reaches their potential in your world. It’s only preparation for what Papa had in mind all along” (169).

Jesus says to Mack, “I’m not too big on religion, and not very fond of politics or economics either. . . . What mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three?” (181).

At the end of chapter twelve, Jesus says, “Remember, the [p] people who know me are the ones who are free to live and love without any agenda” (183-4). When Mack asks, “Is that what it means to be a Christian?” Jesus replies, “Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian” (184). Then in references to others, Jesus says, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my
Beloved” (184).

“Does that mean,” said Mack, “that all roads will lead to you?” – “Not at all.” Jesus smiled . . . . “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you” (184).

In the next chapter Papa says to Mack, “Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I needed it to accomplish my purposes” (187).

Mack admits to Papa that he “always liked Jesus better than you. He seemed so gracious and you seemed so . . . “And then Papa breaks in, “Mean? Sad, isn’t it? He came to show people who I am and most folks believe the qualities he portrayed were unique to him. They still play us off like good cop/bad cop most of the time, especially the religious folk” (188).

A little later Papa states, “Faith does not grow in the house of certainty” (191).

Then as a part of the book’s theodicy, Papa explains to Mack, “All evil flows from independence, and independence is your choice. If I were to simply revoke all the choices of independence, the world as you know it would cease to exist and love would have no meaning. . . . If I take away the consequences of people’s choices, I destroy the possibility of love. Love that is forced is no love at all” (192).

At the end of the 13th chapter, Papa emphasizes that “through [Jesus’] death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world.” Then, in responding to Mack’s rejoinder, Papa says, “All I am telling you is that reconciliation is a two-way street, and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally. It is not the nature of love to force a relationship, but it is the nature of love to open the way” (194).

In the next chapter Sarayu says to Mack, “I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they have only the power to accuse” (205).

In the 16th chapter Papa explains to Mack, “I don’t do humiliation, or guilt, or condemnation. They don’t produce one speck of wholeness or righteousness, and that is why they were nailed into Jesus on the cross” (225).

When Mack talks about his wanting to get revenge on the man who killed Missy, Papa talks about redemption and says, “Forgiveness is not about forgetting, Mack. It is about letting go of another person’s throat” (226). She also explains, “Forgiveness does not establish relationship.” And she says that forgiveness is first of all for him, “to release you from something that will eat you alive, that will destroy your joy and your ability to love fully and openly” (227).

In talking more about forgiveness, Papa says that “forgiveness does not excuse anything” (228).

Later Papa says to Mack, “Don’t ever discount the wonder of your tears. They can be healing waters and a stream of joy. Sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak” (230).

Not long before leaving the shack, Sarayu says, “Mack, if anything matters then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again” (237).

 

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“The Post-American”

After nearly five years in Japan, my family and I came back to the U.S. in 1971 for a year’s furlough from our missionary work there. During those years I had been a full-time faculty member at Seinan Gakuin University for five semesters. There was considerable student unrest on campus, much of it protest against the war in Vietnam.

Since we lived in southwest Missouri during our year back in the States, I saw little student unrest in the U.S. directly, but I saw and heard about that unrest on TV and radio. I also read about anti-war protests and other student activities in newspapers and magazines.

During that academic year of 1971-72, I somehow heard about a new movement that called themselves the People’s Christian Coalition. And early on I became a subscriber to their publication which they called The Post-American. The editor of the new 16-page tabloid-style quarterly periodical was Jim Wallis, who was a 23-year-old student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School at the time.

A few years later I purchased a bound copy of the first twelve issues of The Post-American, and it was very nostalgic for me this evening to run across it and to look through it again. Here is a picture of the first page of the first issue.

post-american

Last month I posted an article on this blogsite (see here) about how I was influenced by the book The New Left and Christian Radicalism by Art Gish. I was likewise influenced by The Post-American–and there is an advertisement for Gish’s book in the second issue, so that is probably how I learned about it.

When the first issue of the second volume of the publication was published in Jan. 1973, there were 18 people listed as contributing editors. Gish, who had an article in three of the first four issues, was one of them. You may have heard of some of the other 17, people such as Sen. Mark Hatfield, Richard Mouw, Clark Pinnock, William Stringfellow, and John Howard Yoder.

Later, Wallis and some of his People’s Christian Coalition friends moved from the suburbs of Chicago to Washington, D.C. They changed the name of their community and the publication to Sojourners. And now over 45 years later, Jim Wallis is still Editor-in-Chief of the magazine, which continues to have influence across the nation and the world.

I remain grateful for The Post-American/Sojourners. From  its beginning to the present my understanding of the meaning of Christian discipleship has been and continues to be very favorably impacted by its ongoing emphasis on faith in action for social justice. 

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Criticism of American Christianity

[This is the English summary of a Chapel talk I gave at Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka City,  Japan, on October 24, 1972. My wife and I returned to the U.S. for the first time after spending nearly five full years in Japan as Southern Baptist missionaries. During our year of furlough, as it was called then, I spoke often in Missouri churches and in at least six other states–mostly Baptist churches beginning with the First Baptist Church in Anchorage, Alaska. This Chapel talk was given about three months after returning to Japan. For my regular blog article about this Chapel talk, click on this link.]

Last year in America I found myself very critical of Christian as practiced by most churches and Christians that I saw. I was critical of what appeared to be much more concern for self than others. I was critical because there seemed to be too little concern for four of the great problems of our day: war, poverty, racism, and pollution. I was critical because I felt that American Christianity is too often too much a supporter of the status quo.

In reflecting upon these criticisms, I have come to the following conclusions:

(1) I can understand why many Japanese university students have doubts about Christianity. There is not much attractiveness in Christianity as it is demonstrated by many of its adherents.

(2) In spite of the obvious hypocrisy of some Christians and the limited concern of most, I am still convinced that most of the best, the most genuine, the most conscientious people in America are Christian people.

(3) A person does not become perfect upon becoming a Christian. If we expect Christians to be perfect, we expect too much. When a person becomes a Christian, his knowledge, attitudes, and personality traits do not change immediately. Perhaps that is what we expect. Maybe that is why we are often so critical of Christians. What changes when a person becomes a Christian is his direction, his loyalties, his values. These things can and will change other areas in his life if there is Christian growth and development.

Please remember this: becoming a Christian is not like receiving a prize for winning a race. It is merely the first step in the race. Those who have become Christians have started the race, but no one on earth has yet finished the course and achieved the prize. Even the Apostle Paul, perhaps the greatest Christian of all times, realized his imperfections and knew that the goal was still out ahead. (Read Philippians 3:12-14.)

It is true that I have become critical of American Christianity. But by realizing that Christianity is the start and not the end of the race, I can be a Christian and a proclaimer of Christianity in spite of the criticism that I have. I am not about to get off the track and start looking for something else.

If you are a Christian, I encourage you to join with me in seeking to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

If you are not a Christian yet, don’t you want to get in the race too? I would be delighted to show you where the starting-line is.

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A Further Look at “Silence”

Over the last couple of weeks I have read a number of reviews about Martin Scorsese’s movie “Silence,” based on the 1966 (Eng., 1969) novel by the same name written by Endo Shusaku. Endo (1923-96) was a Catholic Christian who became widely known and read as a Japanese novelist.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

One major problem with most reviews of “Silence” is their, well, silence concerning the historical background and context of the events portrayed in the movie.

Francis Xavier, one of the original seven Jesuits, was the first Christian missionary to set foot in Japan, landing at Kagoshima August 1549. Kagoshima is on the southern tip of Kyushu, the island on which Nagasaki is located in southwest Japan.

Xavier’s missionary activities were so successful that by 1587, Hideyoshi, the most powerful daimyo (feudal lord) in Japan, became so alarmed that he promulgated the Purge Directive Order to the Jesuits in July 1587. That Order included a ban on missionaries.

Hideyoshi’s primary concern was not about religious beliefs. Rather, it was about the power of the Christian feudal lords in Kyushu. The ban was Hideyoshi’s attempt to expand his political power.

Ten years later Hideyoshi took even harsher measures against Christians in Japan: he had 26 Christians (literally) crucified in Nagasaki in February 1597. Six were missionaries and 20 were Japanese believers.

Hideyoshi died in 1598, and after a decisive battle in 1600 Ieyasu became the first shogun of the Tokugawa Era, which lasted until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

In 1614, Ieyasu was so concerned about Spanish territorial ambitions that he signed a Christian Expulsion Edict, banning the practice of Christianity and expelling all foreign missionaries. This decision, made partly through discussions with Englishman Will Adams, is described in the fourth chapter of Oliver Statler’s intriguing book Japanese Inn (1961).

All of this stands behind the characters in “Silence,” beginning with Cristóvão Ferreira the Portuguese Jesuit priest who was a missionary in Japan from 1609 until he apostatized in 1633. The beginning of the movie shows Rodrigues and Garrpe, two young Jesuits priests, deciding to go to Japan in order to find Ferreira, their revered teacher. They arrive there in 1639.

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

The most important thing to keep in mind from the historical background just given is the connection of the missionaries to the European countries that were involved in economic activities, and potentially imperialistic, activities in Japan.

While the movie gives the impression that there was a religious reason for the persecution of the Christians, in reality it was much more based on the fear of foreign political and economic influence in Japan. Religion, especially religious beliefs, was of a far lesser concern.

Many who see the movie think the actions of the Japanese were very cruel—and they were. But we need to remember that at the same time, the same sort of persecution of Jews, Muslims, and even Christian “heretics” was carried out by the ruling “Christians” in Europe.

Actually, the Spanish Inquisition lasted from 1478 to 1834. According to Wikipedia, “Although records are incomplete, about 150,000 persons were charged with crimes by the Inquisition and about 3,000 were executed.”

In a different vein, it is also important to pay close attention to the end of the book, an ending that was amplified in the movie. I found two websites with quotes from “Silence,” but neither had the most important of all, words from the end of the eighth chapter of the book:

. . . the Christ in the bronze [fumie] speaks to the priest [Rodrigues]: “Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. Trample! It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross (p. 183).

Those who miss the significance of those words, miss the whole point of Endo’s book. According to Japanese-American artist and author Makoto Fujimura, Endo gave this explanation of the purpose of his book: “I did not write a book about the Silence of God; I wrote a book about the Voice of God speaking through suffering and silence.”

Surprisingly, Endo’s original title of his novel was “The Aroma of Sunshine”!

fumie

Stepping on a fumie

INSIGHTS FROM FUJIMURA

Makoto Fujimura, just mentioned, is the author of a book titled Silence and Beauty (2016). It is a marvelous book that gives insight into the nature of Japanese thinking, including the nature of the widespread Japanese understanding of beauty as well as silence.

Among other things, Fujimura explains that Endo’s novel is about grace. He writes,

By stepping on the fumi-e, Father Rodrigues inverts into his genuine faith, faith not dependent on his religious status or on his own merit, but a faith in grace— grace that, like the rays of sunshine after a rainy day, provides an aroma of the light (loc. 2263-65).

Then, in spite of the several times Inoue, the Japanese “inquisitor,” refers to Japan as an unproductive swamp for Christianity, Fujimura writes,

Christian faith is more than a mere rational proposition. It can take root deeply in a muddy swamp if it is designed for propagation there, like, for instance, planting rice in rice paddies (loc. 1189-91).

Later Fujimura claims that through Endo,

we may begin to detect the aroma of the sunshine and to see the possibility of the Golden Country of Japan, a country filled with rice paddies, a muddy swamp now resplendent with golden hues of the abundant harvest (loc. 2239-40).

That is the reason why Scorsese dedicated “Silence” to Japanese pastors. However, a review by a young Japanese pastor, while insightful and helpful in some parts, misses the point, even saying that “Silence” will drive Japanese people away from an understanding of God’s love.

I hope that that pastor, and that you who read this, will at some point read Fujimura’s book and learn from his insights.

And while “Silence” is probably too “heavy” for the general public and even though it demands more thoughtful reflection than most people are willing to expend, I do hope there will be many who go see the movie and then spend adequate time thinking and talking with others about its deep meaning.

In this time when the “prosperity gospel” continues to grow in popularity (think about some of those who will be praying at the presidential inauguration on 1/20), this is a good time to consider the gospel of grace for those who are not, and will never be, rich and powerful.

God is not silent. God speaks through suffering–and through the hidden beauty of the gracious Christ on the cross.

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