OSCAR WATCH – Silence: Scorsese’s Epic Apostasy

In the seventeenth century, two Jesuit priests face violent persecution to their faith as they track down their teacher and predecessor who is rumored to have apostatized.

I confess I have not read the book, so I do not know how faithful Scorsese is to Shusaku Endo’s original novel. But in movie adaptation, stories are shaped to the vision of the director, oftentimes subverting the original. So, despite some helpful appeals to the source material, a movie must nevertheless be understood in its own context and presentation apart from the book. And Scorsese seems to have made this story his own.

Christian Bashing is Nothing New

Silence is a timely and poignant, though at times overly long, exploration of the nature of faith in the face of persecution and suffering. For that reason, I applaud the discussion that Silence raises and the soul searching it inspires in the faithful.

Especially in this era of rising Christophobia and persecution of Christians by all forms of fascism worldwide. From the Muslim torturing and murdering of Christians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and other Islamic nations, to the growing tide of violence directed at believers in America, hatred is being increasingly focused on Christians, not for being hurtful in their actions, but simply for believing in God’s Word. And such spiritual devotion is considered a hate crime by many in our culture.

The ultimate end of demonizing Christian beliefs as “racist, bigoted, homophobic, sexist, Islamophobic” and other phobias, is the justification of violence against Christians, the elimination of Christian cultural artifacts and history, and the suppression of the Judeo-Christian faith.

That is why Silence is so poignant at this time. Remember my mantra, movies are not made in a cultural vacuum. They often reflect the zeitgeist of the era, the spirit of the age they are made within. And this era no longer believes in freedom of thought and speech and the free exchange of ideas. It now says to Christians, “Shut up. Your beliefs are bigotry, so you must renounce them and outwardly support the zeitgeist.”

We are not in a post-Christian culture, we are in an anti-Christian culture.

But the trials and tribulations experienced by the Roman priests in this story are rooted in a deeper struggle that all honest believers wrestle with: the silence of God in the face of suffering, spiritual doubts, and weakness of faith.

Christian Lives Matter

The two priests begin their journey to Japan, a feudal country that has made Christianity illegal and killed off most of the Christians or forced them to apostatize. So the remaining believers are forced to hide their faith and worship in secret.

Roman Catholic hegemony in Japan creates the expression that apostasy takes in this Japanese Inquisition: Simply place your foot on an icon image of Jesus and you will live (or spit on a crucifix image). This stomping on the savior begins with individuals’ own lives, but evolves into a more complex moral dilemma.

The Roman priests in the country are forced to stomp on the icon images or many other of their parishioners will die. In so doing, the Japanese break the leaders, and the people follow in their apostasy.

The central moral spiritual question of the film becomes, would you renounce your faith in God to save a multitude of people? Willingness to die for one’s faith is one thing, but willingness to allow others to die for your faith is another.

And as the priests wrestle with God’s silence during their suffering, they conclude with a rather pragmatic conclusion that also reflects the zeitgeist of our era, a very dangerous view, which I’ll explain in a moment under the Spoiler Alert.

Look, suffering and persecution is no mere intellectual topic. It’s real, it’s existential, and to be honest, I can only pray I would have the steadfastness required to remain faithful to my God were I to face such a terror. God knows my weaknesses. In fact, in some ways, most of us could identify with the character in the movie who keeps stomping on the image to save himself, handing in Christians, and then asking for absolution from the priest in apparent genuine pathetic weakness. The guy betrays and repents so often, the audience laughs with a nervous uncomfortableness, for maybe he is the most like us of them all.

Is this not what the Roman system of confession offers, Indulgence? Is this not what Christianity offers? Forgive your brother seventy times seven?

And what’s the big deal of stomping on an image anyway? Can’t you continue to believe in your heart and therefore save lives? The Japanese even try to tempt them with the serpentine offer that it is only a formality. You don’t even have to stomp. Just touch it with your foot.

That’s what I like about the film, it caused me to ask myself the honest questions of my own faith, and weaknesses. It is easy to be a Christian when you are not suffering. Would such suffering refine and purge my own soul? I pray I never have to face that choice.

Spoiler Alert

Though one priest dies trying to save those martyred for his faith, the main character, Rodrigues, chooses to apostatize to save the lives of innocent Japanese. He concludes that their missionary activity has resulted in suffering for the people, not redemption “I’m just a foreigner who brought disaster,” says his apostate predecessor. This is the universal accusation by multiculturalists and other God-haters of all missionary activity. It’s a common theme in missionary movies going way back to At Play in the Fields of the Lord and others. (I write about this in my book, Hollywood Worldviews). It is the worldview of godlessness. Yes, Christians can be jerks and mistake some relative cultural conventions with absolute truths, but that doesn’t relativize all truth. There is transcendence in the Gospel. But not in the mind of a multiculturalist.

The most powerful moment of the movie is when Rodrigues is faced with his image to stomp in order to save others’ lives. The apostate predecessor priest tells him, “If Christ were here, he would have apostatized to save them.” Finally, God breaks his silence and Rodrigues hears a voice tell him, “It’s all right. Step on me.” This act, shot in excruciatingly emotional and literal silence, becomes “the most painful act of love that has ever been formed.”

And herein lies the soul of this movie, or its lack thereof.

Apostasy as an Act of Faith?

The movie seeks to equivocate the act of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross with an act of apostasy. Didn’t Jesus willingly accept the sins of mankind upon himself, like the stomping of our feet? Wasn’t Christ’s separation from the Father a kind of apostasy to save us from our sin? Just like stomping on the image of God saved the Japanese people?

Well, no, actually.

Jesus Christ does not ask us to stomp on him, he does not ask us or command us to sin, because it’s okay, he’ll forgive us. He forgives us despite our sins. Big difference. And it includes repentance, something the priests in the film never did. Jesus then says, “Go and sin no more,” not, “Come now, step on me, again.”

Christ’s separation from God was not apostasy, it was substitutionary atonement. The judge’s son took our guilty place in the electric chair. He paid for our crimes so justice could be fulfilled. The spiritual separation was caused by embracing the Father’s justice, not rejecting him.

Perhaps the movie Silence is not so different from Scorsese’s the Last Temptation of Christ, you know, the one that has Christ rejecting God and apostatizing himself. Do you see a pattern here? I would suggest that there is more autobiography in Scorsese’s filmmaking than his defenders can begin to understand.

Perhaps the way to understand this story is that it too fails to accept or understand transcendence. It seeks to root truth in the immanence of culture or survival, and so therefore, it values survival as the ultimate good, not God. If this life is all there is, then apostasy is justified in the name of saving lives.

Where in all this suffering is the responsibility of the torturers? Not once are we enjoined to consider their guilt in this story. It’s as if they are assumed as a given. If someone dies at the hand of an evil man, why is the believer blamed for their death? To say that people die because you will not renounce your faith is simply to shift the blame from the evil to the good.

It’s Original Blame Shifting from the Garden.

This is not the equivalent of lying to Nazis to save Jews. This is the equivalent of blaming the deaths of the Jews upon those who didn’t hand them in to the Nazis. The banality of evil is nothing compared to the irrationality of evil.

Unfortunately, the spirituality of this movie becomes a justification for apostasy in the name of saving human lives because it rejects the transcendence of God. Ironically, this is exactly what is being demanded legally of Christians now in our culture. Just shut up and go along with the culture. It recommends cultural resignation as the way to ease our pain. In this thinking, we Christians only have ourselves to blame for the suffering that cultural fascists inflict upon us. It creates Judases of us all.

The torture is coming later.

Godawa’s Quibble Corner

I don’t mean to trivialize the honest soul-searching of the story or diminish the true faith parallels, but I found the very Roman spirituality of the film to be part of its Achilles’ heel.

God explicitly commands us NOT to make images for worship in the Second Commandment (Deut. 5:8). So if I were given the opportunity, I would not merely step on the image of Christ, I would stomp on it as an idol condemned by God himself, burn it with fire and grind it to powder like Moses would (Exodus 32:20). Images are part of the problem, not the solution. Harder to sympathize with that. But within that system of thinking, the act of stepping on the image had become equated with rejecting God himself, so for those believers that act was expressive of apostasy. In that sense, I am more concerned about the justification of apostasy, however it is expressed, than the simple symbolic act.

But also, the belief of priestly confession as a requirement for forgiveness of sins imprisoned those Japanese people in fear and faithlessness as much as any Japanese Inquisition. To think that a human priest is required for forgiveness after our heavenly priest Jesus has secured the high priesthood is the worst sort of spiritual enslavement (Hebrews 4:14-5:10). The priest says in the film, that with his arrival, “finally, the people had priests to forgive their sins.” But in contrast, God says, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [and that ain’t confession to a priest].” (Heb 4:14).

The earthly focus on men instead of the direct connection to God is another expression of idolatrous immanence, ironically, more Buddhist than Christian. The movie seeks to equate apostasy with the incarnation of Christ, as if denying God is the same kind of thing Jesus did when he became flesh. But Christ did not reject the Father, he rejected his glory. Those are not analogous, they are radical opposites. Only the obfuscation of postmodern religious double talk can turn something into its opposite. It is perhaps here that the subversion of the Christian faith is the most egregious.

Even more ironically, after that very passage on Jesus’ high priesthood I just mentioned, the Bible talks about the eternal damnation of apostasy (Heb 6:4-7). The Bible has a very different view of apostasy than Silence. And it isn’t justified.

The apostle Paul, suffering for his faith wrote much on the topic.

2 Timothy 2:10–13
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

Being weak and faithless is not the same thing as denying God without repentance. Two different things in the text. The results here are clear, apostasy is not recommended or rewarded. And it is NOT a metaphor for incarnation.

And this is my biggest problem with the story. I have been researching the Neronic persecution of the first century church for my latest novel coming out in February, Tyrant: Rise of the Beast. And the actual Scriptural representation of persecution is much different than that presented in Silence. In fact, the movie is almost a mockery of God’s command to be faithful. At least a subversion of it.

My heart is filled with the humbled respect and admiration of those Christians in the Book of Acts, and in the first century who the apostles and elders admonished to remain faithful in the face of torture and death. To claim that their faithfulness is the cause of their own or others’ deaths is itself an abominable offense of blaming the victim for the crimes of their evil persecutors.

If Peter and Paul would only have shut their mouths and blended into their pagan culture, they might have saved thousands from the arena and expressed the love of God through their silent apostasy. NOT.

This is not a mere hypothetical. This is going on right now with Islamic terror. They murder Christians because we won’t renounce our faith and values and embrace Islam, and they [along with their Left Wing sympathizers] blame us for the terror. All the pseudo-intellectualizing and wordplay that supporters of the film engage in order to redefine apostasy as incarnation amounts to an insult to both early and modern martyrs. It trivializes their suffering.

Appeasing evil men never satisfies them, it only results in more evil.

In the movie, Scorsese attempts to make the priest’s end somehow noble, as his corpse clutches a symbol of a secret unlived faith on his funeral pyre. As if the symbol somehow negates his life of active betrayal to the end. But it really just illustrates the tragic fallacy of delusion in our modern world that tries to oppress Christians by forcing them to keep their beliefs entirely hidden and not to live them out.

In this way, Silence embodies the same illusionary meaning of the modern world that seeks to redefine truth as its opposite in all categories from morality to gender to science to history to truth itself. Apostasy is what the world, the flesh and the devil want. Apostasy in the name of faith is even better.

 

Sign up to get the news of when my novel comes out: I pray it is worthy of the martyrs, “those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Rev 6:9–10.

33 comments on “OSCAR WATCH – Silence: Scorsese’s Epic Apostasy

  • Very interesting. I would love to hear your thoughts on the verse where Paul says I would wish myself accursed for the sake of my brethren and kinsman. The idea that he would actually go to hell for the sake of saving some of those he lovers. IT would have been interesting if the salvation of the Japanese had more to do with eternity at the cost of his life rather than the temporal days on earth, huh? Anyway, I saw the film with Scorses present. IT was evident when he was asked directly about his faith that it was void of a personal relationship with Jesus, but was more a set of ideologies that manifest in moral actions that in themselves become a diety of sorts. Hard to separate a film world view from the director’s world view. Still a profound movie that can be interpreted many different ways.

    Reply
    • You make a good point. While I think the theological point that Paul makes is hyperbolic, I don’t think he would ever deny Christ in order to try to save anyone. But Paul’s sentiment is strong, which is why I welcome the movie as a conversation.
      Yeah, I believe Scorsese’s “Catholicism” is merely humanistic reinterpretation of the transcendent sacred into earthly salvation. A replacement of God with humanity.

      Reply
  • Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “If someone dies at the hand of an evil man, why is the believer blamed for their death?”

    Beats me. Great question. And if I hear that argument advanced, I’ll ask the person why they are blaming the victim instead of the murderous oppressor.

    I’ve read about this historical event several years ago on a different Christian blog. What struck me at the time was that the blog author said that this was the only time in history whereby the Christian faith was exterminated through physical violence.

    That was quite a revelation to me because I have read a text on Church History, and more often than not, Christianity still grows despite physical violence.

    But in this instance, it did not. And of course, this instance had a Roman Catholic flavor which you noted quite well.

    Moreover, I suspect that Scorsese has a Roman Catholic background as well.

    Reply
  • Brian,
    Thanks for the review, I am quite interested in seeing the film and how Scorsese envisions the book. Supposedly, he was given the book by Archbishop Paul Moore right after he saw a pre-release screening of “The Last Temptation of Christ” in 1988.
    I recently did read the book “Silence” by Shusaku Endo and wrote a review. The first half of the book is based largely on the letters of Rodrigues. The second half seems to be brought together through the records of the Japanese.
    I wish theology and belief were easy but it is certain that Catholics have their particular challenges. I wish sin could be quickly stomped out of our lives but sin is both elusive and as apparent as the skin on my arm. These men sent from Portugal were human after all and they were in a particularly horrifying situation. All the while struggling against a Japanese leadership that was intentional and disciplined in its efforts to wipe Christianity out of their country. The difficulty of apostasy seems magnified if one is not killed or allowed to leave but forced to live inside that apostasy.
    Lastly, I was given the book “Silence and Beauty” (Inter-Varsity Press) by Makoto Fujimara, inspired by “Silence”. Apparently, it is getting some good press. I have not read it yet but it is on my list.
    My review of the book “Silence” is here if you are interested: https://shakingdtc.blogspot.com/2016/12/book-review-silence-by-shusaku-endo.html

    Thanks for your time.

    Troy

    Reply
  • The film is a reflection of a true unbeliever’s heart in thinking that the only reward that matters is the reward we receive here on earth. It turns a blind eye to the temperality of earthly lives and lies to itself to believe that this universe “is all there is and all there ever was and all there ever will be.”

    What a mess

    Reply
  • Would you say Jesus and his followers committed apostasy against Judaism? If not, why do Jews and Christians believe different things?

    Reply
    • No. I would say that Jews apostatized from Yahweh. As the apostles said. That is why Jesus said in Matthew 23 and 24 that God judged them and destroyed the temple and holy city was because they rejected Messiah (which was true Judaism).

      Reply
    • I think this article confuses incarnation with with a denial of transcendence. The beauty of the Trinity is that it maintains both transcendence and immanence. Christ’s humiliation was not a rejection of the Father, but of his exalted glory. The writer even admits this when he puts apostasy in quotes: “Christ, who was God, “apostatized” Himself by incarnating into human form.” I think this is a faulty analogy of opposites. Christ did not deny the Father in order to save us, he denied his own glory. Big difference.

      Incarnation is the beauty of denying the self, not denying God. It is humility, not apostasy. It is the transcendent becoming immanent.

      Jesus gives all kind of warnings against denying him in the Scriptures. This movie Jesus turns that on its head and says, “Deny me.”

      We must all recognize our depravity or we cannot be redeemed. There is a big difference between Judas and Peter. Peter repented of his denial, Judas did not. Judas was consigned as lost and the “Son of Perdition.” We need to be like Peter, not Judas. We need to recognize our pathetic and faithless heart and repent. To remain in apostasy as Judas did only leads to destruction.

      The writer of this article writes, “Ferreira, in his apostatized state, was more incarnational than when he was ministering out of the foreign exalted seat of power.” But I think this is incredibly naive and false. Ferreira did not merely deny his “exalted seat of power” (though this is good enough). Ferreira betrayed Christians and Christ continually, not just once, giving them up to the authorities to be persecuted, he wrote a book against the Word of God, and gave up his faith. Friends, this is not “incarnational” this is rationalization. This is the power of rationalization to turn something into its opposite. Complexify the simple and end up deconstructing truth into its opposite. Denying God is NOT incarnation. Judas is NOT Peter. Apostasy is NOT faith. Sorry, I don’t buy it. Gimme some truth.

      Reply
      • Margaret Ouchida says:

        Ha ha, it takes me a lot of reading and re-reading and looking up words to grasp both commentaries.

        I think what has added to my confusion is the definition and re-definition of apostasy in the article by Pastor Bryan. He begins by defining Ferreira’s apostasy as a “doubt of God” which is already either inaccurate or a redefinition. Apostasy, according to Merriam-Webster is a “renunciation of a religious faith” or an “abandonment of a previous loyalty.” It is far more than a “doubt of God.” Indeed, Ferreira renounced God and his faith publicly and in his subsequent words and actions. Then, Pastor Bryan says that Ferreira’s apostasy (doubt of God) transforms or is redefined into a “denial of self.” I think it best to steer clear of redefining words and yes, it seems to me that the redefinition of the word apostasy is an attempt to make it palatable and to justify it by trying to make it other than what it is.

        I do not think that Pastor Bryan was saying that Christ denied the Father in order to save us; I believe that he is in total agreement with you and that he meant Christ denied Himself, His own glory, as he made reference to Philippians 2: 5-8.

        I greatly appreciate the response you penned and I appreciate this forum. Thanks Brian.

        Reply
        • You make some excellent points, Margaret. Yes, redefining words and equivocation are what allow us to rationalize just about anything. I agree with you that Bryan was intending to make the apostasy redefined as denying of self not denial of the Father. But in my haste of jumping to my conclusions and not wanting to rattle on and on, I just jumped to the point. (The point being that the author was forgetting that apostasy is not denial of self, but denial of the Father, so you can’t equate those two as being the same at all) Sorry about that speed writing. But yes, I think your assessment is accurate, in that the train of redefinition goes from apostasy to doubt to denial of self to incarnation. In that light of clarity, the bait and switch becomes more clear. I believe he has the best of intents with unintended consequences.

          Reply
          • Margaret Ouchida says:

            Thanks for all that Brian and for the clarification – I do better when it’s all spelled out and I can follow the thoughts sequentially. I appreciate the sentiments you expressed in your last sentence.

            As I’ve been thinking all this over, it occurs to me that another pitfall in redefining a word is that you skirt the issue since you can no longer address the true meaning of the word. The elephant in the room – apostasy, in its true definition – simply goes unaddressed.

  • Why do you think Endô himself wrote in the appendix of the second edition he was closer to Protestant Christians in that book?

    Fujimura believes it is because of the personal character of faith, but I wonder if it is in relation with what he says about to value signs more than faith itself…

    Reply
  • I appreciate the bold position you stake out on this film, Brian, although I think you misunderstand/misinterpret/neglect its most fundamental message, and it’s a valuable one: that God is present even in our weakness and failure, and is therefore not silent. As someone who values close analysis, I’m surprised that you take the voice of “Jesus” (with his invitation to “step on me”) literally, since there is sufficient ambiguity there to offer an alternative reading, namely that it is merely Rodriguez rationalizing his decision to trample. You also oddly assume that Farreira’s admonition to complete this “act of love” corresponds exactly with the positions of the filmmakers. Everything Farreira says to Rodriguez is wrong. As we see, the young priest obeys him and becomes a “lost” man. But rather than abandoning him, God draws Rodriguez back to himself so that he can continue his ministry as a “hidden” Christian. The trial by fire that the protagonist undergoes feels very Catholic to me, but the film’s depiction of salvation as a private matter between an individual and God, without recourse to the Church, seems more in line with Protestant theology, and quite overwhelms its “Roman” trappings. I believe this is why the more orthodox critics, such as Steven Greydanus, seem unusually reserved in their praise. The greatest religious films ever made, from Dreyer and Bresson and yes, even Scorsese, point out the failure of religious institutions while leaving absolutely no room for doubt as to the reality of God and the mysterious operations of grace throughout creation. By rendering this lesson in a rigorous and beautiful cinematic grammar, Scorsese has added a classic to the genre.

    Reply
    • Nate, I do believe that God is present in our weakness and failure, and even in his silence, so I would not want to be misunderstood.

      I would agree with you that the individual versus the institution is a common motif in such religious films, and I am certainly not adverse to such a theme. But the argument could be made that the movie simply reflects Scorsese’s own apostasy and cultural assimilation. Yes, he decries the institutional abuse, but actually promotes a radical individualism that is equally as wrong, and ultimately rejects the Body of Christ in favor of personal subjective self. The pseudo-religiosity of humanist “spirituality” is not really spirituality at all but a subversion of divine by the human. I’ve read Scorsese himself using the typical “spirituality” versus religious institution meme to justify an essentially humanistic worldview.

      I don’t think is really odd to assume that Ferreira’s “act of love” is the position of the filmmaker, because it is the nature of the storytelling, and Scorsese has pretty much said so himself. You may be projecting a bit of your own view upon the story, which isn’t wrong or bad, but I wouldn’t say it was the intent of the film.

      I think the NYT review captures how Scorsese and other humanists who elevate the human in place of the divine actually think:
      “And yet Scorsese’s “Silence” suggests that inculturation of the usual kind is impossible. Instead, it makes vivid the idea that the act called apostasy can be a shrewd adaptation of religious faith to a hostile culture, and that faith maintained in spite of a believer’s outward acts of apostasy is faith nonetheless.”
      This is humanistic spirituality. Don’t prosletyze cause it’s too judgmental and colonialist. Keep your beliefs to yourself and go along with the culture. Kinda like what they want us to do now.

      Rodriquez wasn’t really a “hidden Christian” and had no ministry, unless you can call betrayal of christians and Christ over and over until the end of his life, a “ministry.” He was an apostate. Despite the fact that we have a hint he still “believed,” he lived a life of denial of Christ to the end. This is the danger of a humanistic “spirituality,” and could very well be most specifically addressed in Peter’s warning that “faith without works is dead.” Salvation in the Bible is not a private matter, it is both private AND public and includes the Body of Christ. Private only is a reduction of faith to personal subjective experience, a kind of idolatry of the self. (BTW, I am not saying that there is no salvation outside Mother Church. I’m not Roman).

      My problem is not as much with the Roman Catholicism, but with the Humanism. I would rather die than live a life of falseness and lack of integrity and constant betrayal just to stay alive.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the reply, Brian. Your points are well taken. My appreciation for Scorsese is as a filmmaker, not a theologian, so I can excuse his admittedly wishy-washy comments to the press and hope that the experience of making the film has brought him closer to the Lord, as it has seemingly done for Garfield. If the artistic task is to enthrall and provoke, then I say he has fulfilled it, and the hard work of untangling and realigning the implications of his work falls to the critics, especially commentators like you who have a firm grasp of Christian doctrine. Frankly, if a dash of humanism is the price I must pay in order to get a film like Silence–perhaps the most serious and artistically successful A-list Hollywood film about religious faith in at least a couple of decades–then I gratefully accept. In the final analysis, the quibbles I have with it, which you may be inclined to read as fundamental flaws, are overwhelmed by the aesthetic-emotional experience of watching it.

        I still don’t believe that we’re meant to trust anything Ferreira says in the second half of the film. He’s too much of a fallen character. Better to heed the only actual sign from above (or is it?) that we are offered. I saw it again with a friend last night, and the climactic scene in which Rodrigues apostatizes reminded him of I 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.” Stepping on the icon and becoming “apostate” was his escape, and, ironically, the first step toward a more lasting and difficult faith. The kind of individualism he must endure from that point on doesn’t undermine the importance of Christian fellowship (so movingly established in the many scenes of congregational worship), but rather demonstrates how it’s possible to maintain a relationship with God under seemingly impossible conditions.

        As for Rodrigues living out his vocation as a Crypto-Catholic, I think a second viewing might cause you to reconsider. Recall the very last shot. Based on the evidence provided by the final scenes, the object he holds in his hands could only have been placed there by a single character, and identifying that character proves my point: that Rodrigues was apostate in public life only.

        Reply
    • Hin-Tai, What are you talking about? Your review was excellent, and said what I didn’t say but should have added! You bring a great voice to the conversation. Much more gracious than mine. But I’m working on it. I am Kichijiro.

      Reply
    • P.S. I hope my new book in February, Tyrant, will give an honorable voice to the martyrs of the first century who faced the horrors of Nero Caesar, and whose blood was the first to water the seed of the Church.

      Reply
  • Good evening -I saw the film earlier today, wrote my review, and have been reading others’ thoughts since. While there was a good amount of exposition verbally, I thought that images mattered quite a bit here. Saving life would always fall in the ‘noble’ category to me, but Rodriges’ life seems to have not been “secret unlived faith” if his Japanese wife slipped his cherished cross into his robe after his body was prepared for cremation. Just a thought!

    Reply
    • Jacob, I hear you. You’re right. Words are not always the most powerful. Visuals and actions can reveal much in a movie outside of words. However, I think his actions of renouncing Christ over and over and collaborating with the Japanese to suppress Christianity and rat out his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ seem to me to be a more powerful expression of the truth than a mere privatized belief that has no effect on anyone outside of his wife knowing about it. It’s almost as if those priests’s apostasy became a curse on the effect of Christianity in Japan, as the fact that to this day it is only 1 or 2 percent of Japan that is Christian. I don’t wish martyrdom on anyone, but the suffering of the early church is a good example of how the refusal to suppress the proclamation of the Gospel may result in some death, but history shows it becomes the seed of the growth of the kingdom. The Gospel is the hope of salvation, not cultural imperialism. Sadly, sometimes we do mix in our cultural norms unnecessarily, but that is not what this movie is about. Silence is the claim that Christianity itself is inherently imperialist and colonialist. It does not separate the culture from the Gospel because it does not believe the Gospel is transcendent.

      Reply
      • Very well said, Mr. Godawa. I always appreciate the clarity and depth you bring in your movie reviews. My wife and I watched Silence last night, and I couldn’t agree more with your cogent analysis. Blessings!

        Reply
  • Hi Brian, that was an amazing exploration of the subtle apostasy of the movie versus the truth of Scripture. You did an excellent analysis, as always! I just cling to the scripture that you quoted (Timothy) that describes how we are to remain steadfast in the face of suffering and persecution. What you underscored: that the persecutors are the responsible people behind the death of Christians and not the person that has clung to his faith in Jesus and not denied Him is absolutely true. Satan is definitely a subtle force because it seems that this movie is pro-Christian when it really isn’t.

    2 Timothy 2:10–13
    Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Jeralynn,
      Yeah, we are in the minority of media Christians who understood that. Even smart otherwise orthodox Christians missed that and liked the movie as if it was about incarnation.

      Reply

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