“Silence” Reflections (2 of 2)

Or was it the voice of Satan?

Or was it the voice of Satan?

(Continued from yesterday)

More importantly, what does the Bible say? A few verses come to mind:

Mt 10:32-33 Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
• Mt 26:34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” (See also Mt 26:75; Mk 14:30, 72; Lk 22:61; Jn 13:38)
• Heb 6:6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
• Heb 10:29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

The Lord Himself said He will deny whoever denies Him. Judas betrayed Jesus and was not forgiven; Peter denied Christ three times and yet was restored. For both to be true, there must be a point when a person denies Christ under duress, but not premeditatedly and maliciously, and had not gone to the stage where he tramples under foot the Son of God, beyond which it is impossible to renew him again to repentance. So can someone who had renounced Christ be forgiven and saved? Apparently yes, provided they are truly repentant and have not crossed the line of no return. Only God knows the condition of the heart, and whether that person had crossed that line by pushing away the out-stretched arms of Christ to pull him back.

With respect to the second question, we need to look beyond the immediate suffering to the broader consequences. Why did the inquisitor want the priest to apostate so much? For at least 2 reasons:
• Effect on the congregation – Mt 26:31 I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED. (Also Mk 14:27)
• Effect on the apostate – Mt 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Also Mk 9:42; Lk 17:2)

The objective of the inquisitor, and Satan behind him, is to destroy the infant church by cutting its roots. If the priest apostatized, he will bring down not only himself, but many Christians with him. The devil would have killed two birds with one stone. At the very least, they would lose their crown of life:
Rev 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

To be tortured for one’s faith is a terrible thing, but throughout church history countless have experienced mockings, scourgings, chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about being destitute, afflicted, and ill-treated, but gained approval from God through their faith (Heb 11:36-37). Satan can kill the body but is unable to kill the soul, unless they apostatized and God destroys both soul and body in hell (Mt 10:28). So if I were the priest I would choose for their and my sake to persevere. I just pray that God will strengthen us to endure to the end.

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“Silence” Reflections (1 of 2)

christ-veil-1

We watched two movies over the weekend, both related to religious persecution. Both have the same lead actor and are directed by Catholic directors. The first is called “Silence“, based on a historical fiction about two Portuguese Jesuit priests in the 17th century who went to Japan in search of their mentor, who reportedly apostatized and converted to Buddhism. The second is called “Hacksaw Ridge“, based on a true story of a Seventh Day Adventist conscientious objector who joined the army as a medic and saved the lives of 75 soldiers during WWII’s battle of Okinawa. Both films grab your attention and are worth watching, but while the second was inspiring, the first was disturbing.

“Silence” referred to the silence of God when the Christians were under intense persecution by the local government to recant their faith or face torture and execution. The authorities captured the priests and forced them to renounce Christ by torturing and killing the Japanese Christians before their eyes. They cried out to God for deliverance and protection, but got only dead silence in response. I won’t spoil it for you by giving away the plot, but the haunting questions raised are:
• Are apostates “saved”? Can they be forgiven?
• What would you do if you were in the priests’ shoes? Would you deny Christ to save the peasants? Or would you hang on to your faith and watch them cruelly tortured and killed?

The film depicts the priest’s agony as he watched the farmers being tortured, but ultimately the novel’s author accepts apostasy as the lesser of two evils. The dialog of the Japanese inquisitor stressed stepping on the fumi-e (picture of Jesus) was only a formality. The apostates did not have to mean it. It was only a gesture for show to the authorities. One simple act on the part of the priest and the inquisitor would release the farmers being tortured. Isn’t that the humane thing to do? Wouldn’t any good priest do that? Not to do it was simply the priest’s pride. Wouldn’t Christ understand and forgive him?

All that was the inquisitor’s reasoning, from a human, temporal perspective, tormenting the farmers while using a soft approach on the priest to persuade him to commit apostasy. But what’s important is not what the inquisitor said or what the priest believed, but what God says. In convincing the priest, the inquisitor was literally the devil’s advocate. Since there is no truth in the devil as he is a liar and the father of lies (Jn 8:44), none of his representative’s words could be trusted. He duped the priest by saying it really did not matter, but what does everyone understand trampling the fumi-e to mean? Apostasy! More importantly, what does the Bible say?

(To be continued)