Statesboro, GA, USA
I didn't forget that Stephanos.
I just don't think it takes away from the fact that choosing death in this life is still choosing death in this life, no matter what life may be like hereafter. How does "above and beyond" justify choosing what results in murder and death in this life?
"Choosing Death" is a slur of a statement, and it's very misleading. It makes it sound as if Christian Martyrs merely chose death, (as if it were as simple as that), instead of doing the right thing, and dying as a result.
And if doing the right thing versus the wrong thing has any effect on life in the "hereafter" then we should logically conclude that it does matter.
You may say that it doesn't have any effect on the life to come, or that it would be irresponsible and wasteful not to lie to save your own life in such a situation. But Jesus himself said differently. I can take that on authority, and be safe ... but there are also good reasons why he said so. And I'll get into that in a moment.
If you truly believe in God you wouldn't truly reject God if you flattered a tyrant with what he wished to hear and believe was your belief, but God would know you still believed in him in your heart and inwardly.
But Jesus said things like this: "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:33)
Faith in the biblical sense is not merely inward, but very much connected to outward acts. I know this kind of concept is hard for us to get as Americans who live in postmodern times. We are so influenced by the philosophies which lead to individualism and privatized "truth", that such things jar us when we hear them. But that is what the scripture reveals, concerning God's thoughts on denying Jesus Christ before men.
And God can't know that you really believe in your heart, what you are unwilling to say with your mouth in a time of testing. When "believers" are willing to dishonor and deny the truth of Christ, to save themselves, they are really retracting (in action, not just words) the creed that he is the savior of the body, and that the witness for Christ is important, and that there is a rich reward in the life to come.
So I myself I believe that for a Christian to retract his profession of faith in such times, proves that his faith is either false, or very immature ... because he is proving that temporal life is more important to him than Christ, even to the point of lying.
If simply saying and convincing a tyrant that you reject your God and accept his god/religion can prevent a murder, save your life, save a tyrant from commiting that crime, allow you to still live among your family and friends, and perhaps also give you some moment to find a way to the means to eventually move out of the tyrants lands into a place of democracy, rally forces to speak morally and act morally against the religious persecution, and perhaps eventually overthrow it, isn't it worth it?
From a biblical perspective, you certainly haven't "saved" a tyrant from anything substantial, by denying Christ in front of him. One thing, and one thing only will you confirm in his mind ... that all that stuff about love, loyalty, salvation, resurrection, and eternal life (the very essence of the Christian Faith) is a bunch of hooey.
At least with martyrdom, there is a memory in the persecutor's mind (which he will never shake) of a passion and purity that may someday succeed in converting him. One of the Roman soldiers said of Jesus at the crucifixion "Surely this was the son of God". Saul of Tarsus never forgot the stoning of Saint Stephen ... and I have no doubt that it was instrumental in his ultimate conversion to Christianity. And there are doubtless untold stories about men of authority being deeply shaken by seeing stalwart faith remain intact under the knife, and seeing love shine above the worst of human fear. Seeing another flimsy confession wither away won't do them any good, spiritually speaking.
And that bit about finding a democracy (Um Rome WAS the closest thing to a democracy at that time), and eventually rallying a moral cause and overcoming the tyrant ... Your confusing biblical mandates with worldy approaches. That's what this nation is doing right now with the war on Terrorism. (And I have no qualms about the nations of the world defending themselves with the sword, which is to be expected). But mark my words, Terrorism will not be overcome with such methods as ours. And regardless of what one thinks will "work" the best ... For a Christian, the goal is not first to overthrow tyrants. It is to be a witness for Christ and of the Kingdom of God. such honesty and devotion is required of Christians by the words of Christ himself.
I think any one that still at least has a choice may still do something much better for his life and his belief than die for it this life: he can still live for it, even though that may be hard and narrow.
I agree. But aren't there limits to what you would do to live? If forced to would you rape someone in order to live? Probably not, I know you well enough to think not. To you, retracting your Christian profession is nothing more than words. But to Christ (as revealed in scripture) it is much more than that. It is bringing shame upon him and trivializing much of what he taught.
So we both have limits. Don't make "life" (in a vague sense) the determining factor. Even you analyze the conditions of that life, as to whether it is preferable to death. You have reasons for your limits ... But you at least ought to be able to understand the Christian position on this, from being aquainted with those kinds of reasons. Where you differ, is not really in saying that bodily life is always the uppermost concern, but in disagreeing with the value of Christ, and Christian confession.
You say that you don't disvalue Christian confession. And I have no doubt that's true. But it is not the same valuation that is given in scripture. To call an idea "Christian", is to have some standard or criteria, beyond one's own thoughts, or even (excuse the blasphemy here) vaguely moral democratic ideals. And I can't think of anything more appropriate for that, than the words of Jesus himself.
When you flee away you you give up and help no one that is left behind in the hard conditions. And for what? Simply because you couldn't lie about your belief or flatter a tyrant to prevent the worst crime, murder? Instead you will flutter away to heaven and leave your family, friends and countrymen with one less helping hand, oppressed under a tyrant?
Firstly, dying as martyr after exhausting every legitimate means of escape, and every appeal, is not "fleeing away". Rather, it is facing what one must face, if he is to keep any integrity. I already discussed how it would not be good for the tyrant, and the believer to lie and dishonor Christ. Now what about the surviving Church?
I think historically, if you look at the writings of the early Christians, you'll find that martyrdom actually turned out to strengthen the Church. Getting killed in the army may deter some from joining ... but it emboldens others, and steels their courage. That's a worldly example. But the principle is the same. There are many testimonies of people being converted because of the fact that some Christian martyrs stood strong and did not waver.
There were, of course, caricatures and an over-glorifying of martyrdom in some ways ... But have you ever heard the phrase "The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church"? The times of Roman persecution saw an explosion of growth in the Christian Church. That's verifiable history. So to your "one less" argument, I will respond "three more".
And all this can be acknowledged without even hinting the love of death, or justifying murder.
I still do not see how it comes down to that. Life is life and this one counts too, whether it is first, worst, best or last. Once you choose and give into death, that is still a choice of death, a choice that accepted instead of prevented murder.
As I said before. "Choosing life is always the thing to do" cannot be your argument, if you yourself have limits to this concept. We're merely disagreeing about what the limits are. So why do you keep saying that life unconditionally rules? Trust me, I work in an ICU where dying people are often put on life support. That just isn't true.
How and why should choosing to live instead of die under a hardship be deemed as dishonouring Christ?
That's easy. ... if one must dishonor Christ in order to live, then he is dishonoring Christ.
f you choose the end you want, you also choose to accept the means to that end. In this case the means are murder. Instead of preventing it, the martyr gives in to it. That to me is not admirable.
The end that is chosen is not death, but rather to glorify Christ and remain faithful to him. The Christian surely would prevent it if he could do so legitimately. Your means of prevention would not be admirable to God, according to the words of Christ. Again your valuation of Christian profession, and the Bible's valuation are not the same.
You too are using the "ends to justify the means". Your means to the end of "life at all costs" would be to deny Christ yourself, making yourself guilty of trivializing his claims and his sacrificial death for you. At least with the martyr, the means of "murder" does not belong to him. The martyr would not be responsible for the murder, and when you say that he is doing wrong by not denying Christ, and lying, in order to save his own skin ... you are erroneously attributing the guilt of the murderer onto the innocent.
Why, if I may prevent murder by outwardly rejecting God, would I choose not to prevent it? Is obstinancy and outwardness in religion, more important than saving life?
Again, in the Christian view of things, life is far more than physical life now. And though life here and now is very important, if you would be jeopardizing someone's eternal salvation by denying Christ, then no, you shouldn't reject God outwardly in order to save yourself.
Now having said all of that ... I still concede the possiblity of genuine faith hidden in timid people. Nicodemus, in scripture was a man in religious authority, who believed in Christ almost secretly. There were many others mentioned who were like this. But they too seemed to have their moments of standing up for him, is some way or another. And so, faith may be tested, and fail, and be tested again. But Peter's denial was grevious to him, as he wept bitterly about it. And so will a denial of Christ be grievous to all true Christians.