Makoto Fujimura’s book Silence and Beauty (IVP, 2016, 263 pp.) preceded the December 2016 Japan release of Martin Scorsese’s film Silence, based on Shusaku Endō’s novel of the same title. Endō’s work is dark and depressing, full of persecution of Christians, betrayal of faith, ineffectiveness of missions, and God’s apparent silence in the midst of suffering. But it is a must read for all missionaries in Japan—Silence and Beauty tells us why.
Silence and Beauty is a profound reflection on Endō’s book, but it is also much more. Fujimura, a Japanese–American artist, takes us through his personal journey of understanding the gospel in Japan, which led to his eventual conversion. Drawing heavily on Japanese history and arts (especially the writings of Kenzaburō Ōe and Yasunari Kawabata), he helps us understand the essence of beauty in Japan—a beauty he says is born of pain and suffering.
Fujimura shows, through Endō, that Christianity in the Japanese context is not about the triumph of faith but rather about the brokenness of this world pointing us to Christ, and that the Japanese concept of beauty reveals unique insights into the gospel. This book was not written specifically for missionaries in Japan, but it may as well have been, since it asks questions such as: What is the role of Christians and missionaries in Japan? What could and should the Japanese church look like? And, what is the role of the arts in church planting in Japan?
Silence and Beauty challenges our view of missions and the church in Japan while also giving hope in the power of the gospel. I believe it to be one of the most important books in print for missionaries in Japan today. It is my hope that it will spark many conversations among us as we read it and serve together, endeavoring to unveil the gospel of Christ to this great nation.
The Japanese translation (沈黙と美) of Fujimura’s book was released in February 2017.
Reviewed by Roger Lowther
4.5 out of 5 stars ★★★★