[quote="Kevin12, post:1, topic:326010"]
This maybe isn't the ideal space for this question, but I saw an old post on it in the archive, so I thought I'd give it a shot.
I am not the sort of person who will only read Christian novelists or poets, though I do tend to favor them a bit. Yet when I want to read a book by a Christian writer, specifically on a topic like The Life of Jesus, I want to make sure in advance that the author is really orthodox, even if unconventional (like Flannery O'Connor, for example).
From what I have read, Endo's life of Jesus emphasizes Jesus's humanity and de-emphasizes his divinity. I have no problem with that, in itself - indeed, I think many on CAF could do with putting more emphasis on his humanity. But there is a difference between de-emphasis and outright denial. I have heard some say that the book seems to suggest that the Resurrection was probably not a historical reality, and perhaps that it need not be.
On the other hand, I asked the priest at a diocese I went to, a Paulist who I very much respected, who told me that Endo was orthodox and there was no need to worry about him. I also know that more traditional Christians would probably be dissatisfied with any presentation of Jesus's life that took any liberties with the Gospels whatsoever. But still, I would like to hear from someone who has read the book if there is reason for concern or not.
Finally, someone else who knows the book! :D
In a sense, you are right. Endo's picture of Jesus might prove a bit troubling for a number of more conservative people in the West, especially a number of folks here in CAF, given his general downplaying of the supernatural. For instance, he understands the darkness at the crucifixion as a symbolic description of the grief of the disciples, and rationalizes the temptation at the desert as signifying the antagonism between Jesus and the sectarians at Qumran. He also deemphasizes certain details of Jesus' life, such as the question of whether or not Jesus was really born in Bethlehem or whether the resurrection should be taken literally, something that might make a few go up in arms.
In fact, Endo's Jesus is somewhat of a mundane, lowly, powerless figure, a far cry from the triumphant, divine Christ of the West. And that's exactly what he was going for: he felt that the glory and the grandeur of traditional Western Christianity is precisely what is alienating the Japanese from it. He was of the idea that Japan had not accepted (the Christian) God because He has been too frequently presented as an authoritative Father - this of course being the country where the four most dreadful things on earth are considered to be "earthquakes, thunders, fires, and fathers." Philip Yancey said it much better than I could:
His own life story reads like the plot of an Endo novel. As a Christian teenager in prewar Japan, where the church comprised far less than 1 percent of the population, he suffered what he calls "the anguish of an alien." Classmates bullied him for his association with a Western religion. The war only magnified this sense of alienation: Endo had always looked to the West as his spiritual homeland, but these were the people now vaporizing the cities of Japan.
After the war, he traveled to France to pursue the study of such French Catholic novelists as Francois Mauriac and Georges Bernanos. Yet France hardly made him feel welcome either: as one of the first Japanese overseas exchange students, and the only one in Lyons, he was spurned this time on account of race, not religion. The Allies had cranked out a steady stream of anti-Japanese propaganda, and Endo found himself the target of racial abuse from fellow Christians.
During his three years in France, Endo fell into a depression. To complicate matters, he contracted tuberculosis, had a lung removed, and spent many months laid up in hospitals. He concluded that Christianity had, in effect, made him ill. Rejected in his homeland, rejected in his spiritual homeland, he underwent a grave crisis of faith.
Before returning to Japan, though, Endo visited Palestine in order to research the life of Jesus, and while there he made a transforming discovery: Jesus, too, knew rejection. More, Jesus' life was defined by rejection. His neighbors laughed at him, his family questioned his sanity, his closest friends betrayed him, and his fellow citizens traded his life for that of a common criminal. Throughout his ministry, Jesus purposely gravitated toward the poor and the rejected: he touched those with leprosy, dined with the unclean, forgave thieves, adulterers, and prostitutes.
This new insight into Jesus hit Endo with the force of revelation. From the faraway vantage point of Japan he had viewed Christianity as a triumphant, Constantinian faith. He had studied the Holy Roman Empire and the glittering Crusades, had admired photos of the grand cathedrals of Europe, had dreamed of living in a nation where one could be a Christian without disgrace. Now, as he studied the Bible, he saw that Christ himself had not avoided "dis-grace."
Jesus was the Suffering Servant, as depicted by Isaiah: "despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces..." Surely this Jesus, if anyone, could understand the rejection Endo himself was going through.
Endo returned to Japan with his faith intact, yet sensing the need to reshape it, to fashion a suit of clothes that would better fit. "Christianity, to be effective in Japan, must change," he decided. He became a novelist, in fact, in order to work out these issues in print. A lean, sickly man, wearing thick glasses, on the fringe of society, he slipped easily into the bookish life of a writer. He began cranking out novels at the rate of one per year, and his pace has not slowed since the mid-1950s.