Just recently, I was able to read the Japanese novel “Silence.” This is a fine piece of literature from Shūsaku Endo’s pen. The plot followed the journey of a priest to Japan in the quest of finding his mentor in the faith who apostatized and evangelizing to the native folk. Below is a discussion between the priest Rodrigues (the novel’s protagonist) and an interpreter to the feudal lord:
‘Father, we are not disputing about the right and wrong of your doctrine. In Spain and Portugal and such countries it may be true. The reason we have outlawed Christianity in Japan is that, after deep and earnest consideration, we find its teaching of no value for the Japan of today.’
The interpreter immediately came to the heart of the discussion. The old man in front with the big ears kept looking down on the priest sympathetically.
‘According to our way of thinking, truth is universal,’ said the priest, at last returning the smile of the old man. ‘A moment ago you officials expressed sympathy for the suffering I have passed through. One of you spoke words of warm consolation for my travelling thousands of miles of sea over such a long period to come to your country. If we did not believe that truth is universal, why should so many missionaries endure these hardships? It is precisely because truth is common to all countries and all times that we call it truth. If a true doctrine were not true alike in Portugal and Japan we could not call it “true”.’
Talk about putting the nail in the coffin of postmodernism and charging forward the relevance of the gospel! I’m looking forward to write more on the pressing issues that the novel laid in its pages.
Excerpt from Shūsaku Endo, “Silence: a novel,” trans. William Johnston (New York: Picador, 2016)