Archive for the ‘Persecution’ Category

Review of "The Myth of Persecution" by Dr. Candida Moss

April 9, 2013

Dr. Candida Moss has provided a popular-level (as distinct from scholarly-level) account of what she calls the “myth of persecution.” Unfortunately, popular-level readers may be misled by the scholarly-style nuances that Dr. Moss uses to make her case. Nevertheless, there are a number of interesting features in her work.

The overall purpose of the book seems to be disabuse readers of the idea that until Constantine Christians hid in catacombs, always fearful that Roman soldiers were about to arrest them and throw them to the lions. There may have been times it was like for certain groups of Christians in certain cities (such as in Rome during the time of Nero after the great fire).

Dr. Moss points out that the vast majority of Christian martyrdom accounts from the ante-Nicene are not historically reliable. Dr. Moss points out the work by the Bollandists who, since the 16th century, have been applying historical methods to the accounts of the lives of the saints. She then takes the six accounts deemed most reliable by the Bollandists and shows how even here the accounts are not strictly historical (see my separate discussion on Polycarp).

In the process, she notes many of the tools historians use, such as looking for anachronisms and legal or other improbabilities. She observes some of these in her criticism of Eusebius, who – in her view – was trying hard to elevate the role of bishops through a variety of techniques (see my separate discussion of her comments regarding ante-nicene bishops).

Dr. Moss also points out that many of the stories of saints and martyrs are either fictions or appropriations. She points out the example of “Saint Josaphat” as relatively indisputable example (see my separate discussion on Josaphat).

Dr. Moss seems eager to address the argument that Christians are the best and/or Christianity is true, because only we Christians have martyrs. She points out that were pre-Christian martyrs (though not called “martyrs”), such as Socrates and Maccabees. She also points out a number of pagan martyrdoms, such as Achilles’ giving of his life as described in Homer’s Iliad. This seems to miss the argument that martyrdom does establish the sincerity of the early followers of Christ (see my separate discussion of the truth value of martyrdom).

Dr. Moss unfortunately de-emphasizes the role of Jesus and of the author of Hebrews in discussing both the certainty of Christian martyrdom to come and the unity of that martyrdom with the past (see my separate discussion of Dr. Moss’ surprising omissions).

Dr. Moss is careful in how she defines “persecution” as distinct from “prosecution.” Thus, for example, a law making it a capital crime to deny that Zeus reigns in Olympus would be one that might lead to prosecution of Christians, even if the author of the law had no idea what Christians are. Likewise, Dr. Moss distinguishes between hatred, prejudice, and the like, and actual attacks. Moreover, Dr. Moss distinguishes between regional persecutions of limited duration and officially sanctioned imperial actions.

While the distinctions are understandable and even, in many ways, legitimate distinction, they can lead to popular-level confusion. For example, some may come away thinking that she is saying Christians are just cry-babies who claim to be persecuted even though they are not. Rather, I think her point is intended to emphasize the need to be cautious in how we employ persecution rhetoric (see my discussion on rhetorical excess here).

Dr. Moss’ book has a number of useful remedies for those with an excessively hagiographic view of church history, notwithstanding her ironic use of a little persecution rhetoric of her own (see my discussion here). Dr. Moss seems to represent a moderately liberal/modern view of the New Testament (she is a professor of New Testament at Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana) and her religious views are not clearly stated (she mentions attending a mass with a colleague, but nowhere explicitly states that she is a Roman Catholic). So, naturally one should use appropriate discernment in reading.


P.S. I don’t intend the above to be a comprehensive review of Dr. Moss’ book. There is certainly much more that could be said, though for now, I have said what I plan to say.

Rhetorical Excess – Religious Persecution and Idolatry

April 9, 2013

Rhetorical flourishes are like any other form of emphasis.  They work well when used occasionally and accurately, and not when used constantly and diffusely.

In her book, The Myth of Persecution, Dr. Moss complains that the religious right in the U.S. is too quick to decry leftist politics as religious persecution.  Claiming that “Christianity is under attack” when Christians suffer any minor harm overshadows the very serious persecution of Christians in places like Africa (the “Voice of the Martyrs” website, which I mention for information only, not endorsement, has many details).
The same thing is true when call everything “idolatry.”  An idol is a manufactured likeness or image of something.  It can be a painted likeness, an engraved likeness, a carved likeness, a molten likeness, etc.  Worshiping even the true God using idols is strictly forbidden.  Moreover, through metonymy we refer to the worship of false gods as “idolatry,” since they are normally worshiped in this way.
But not every sin is literally “idolatry.”  The X-Box game console that your son hasn’t stopped playing for the past ten years is not literally an idol.  It’s sinful that he hasn’t bothered even to try to go get a job, and it’s wrong for him to be so obsessed with something so trivial.  The sports team that your brother can’t get enough of is not an “idol.”  American Idol features living human beings, made in the image of God, not idols.
Not every form of devotion is religious devotion.  While the American Idol contestants are honored in some sense, they are not honored religiously.  Even if someone skips church to go watch football, he is not engaging in a religious observance of football.  
His church skipping is a violation of the 4th commandment (Remember the Sabbath Day) not the 2nd commandment (Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image …).  The X-Box aficionado is probably violating the eighth commandment through indolence and sloth.  When we call a Muslim an “idolater,” we should feel how odd the claim sounds, since Islam is not closely associated with idols.
There is a place for rhetorical flourishes.  The Scriptures actually do this with idolatry in a couple of places.

1 Samuel 15:23For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

Samuel is condemning Saul.  Saul tried to eliminate witchcraft and idolatry from the land.  Then Saul turned around and was stubborn and rebelled against God.  So, Samuel drew a comparison between rebellion and witchcraft and between stubbornness and idolatry.

The point here is to emphasize the heinousness of rebellion and stubbornness, by tying them rhetorically to the heinous and well-recognized sins of witchcraft and idolatry.

Colossians 3:4-7 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: in the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.

Here again, the point of referring to covetousness as “idolatry” is to emphasize its heinousness.  It’s not saying that the 10th commandment is the 2nd commandment (or the 1st commandment).  It’s saying that covetousness is a serious sin.

These are legitimate rhetorical uses of the term “idolatry.”  Yet we can risk watering down the word “idolatry” for using it gratuitously for every sin.  Anything that leads us into sin becomes an “idol” in this rhetorical soup, and thus every sin is “idolatry,” the serving of the thing (the “idol”) that leads one to sin.

At which point people lose sight of both the very real problem of making images supposedly of God (2nd commandment) and of the very real problem of actually worshiping false gods (1st commandment).  By constantly associating less heinous sins with the more heinous sins, we actually can lose sight of the heinousness of the heinous sins.

Christians in the U.S. are not suffering under Diocletian persecution, even if Christians lack full religious freedom, or even if they are being forced to endure laws that bear decreasing resemblance to the laws given to Old Testament Israel in terms of the ideals of Justice.

While some of Dr. Moss’ concerns are probably oversensitive, she makes a good point about the need to avoid rhetorical flourishes.  If we call everything “persecution,” what will we call it when we are forced to pay a “Christian tax” in order to be Christians?  What will we call it when our churches are required to meet secretly and in groups of 20 or fewer?


The Myth of Whose Persecution?

April 8, 2013

Ironically, in the acknowledgments section, Dr. Moss portrays herself as feeling persecuted! She writes (p. 261):

I might not have had the courage to see this book through to completion, were it not for the friendship of Dan Myers, who directed me to various relevant news items, encouraged me to stand my ground, and assured me that I wouldn’t be fired.

And, of course, I certainly hope Dr. Moss is not fired. But this kind of description certainly serves to paint Dr. Moss as a crusader, risking negative consequences for the Truth!

I don’t question that Dr. Moss’ concerns are legitimate. After all I’m sure that many traditionalist Roman Catholics will be unhappy with the contents of her book.

Rather the comment is simply rather ironic in the context of a book that seems to condemn Christians for having a persecution complex.

– TurretinFan

Candida Moss’ Surprising Omission of Jesus and Hebrews’ Appeal to Abel

April 6, 2013

One surprising omission from Dr. Candida Moss’ book, “The Myth of Persecution,” is discussion of Jesus’ own framework for persecution. Jesus, you recall, stated:

Matthew 23:29-36
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, “If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

Here Jesus connects his own persecution and the persecution of his followers with the persecution of the righteous beginning with Cain’s murder of Abel, and extending down to Joash’s murder of Zechariah.

Moreover, while the term “martyr” is not used there by Jesus, the author of the book of Hebrews makes the identification:

Hebrews 11:4
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

Although God is testifying initially, the “he being dead yet speaketh” refers to Abel. Moreover, it is apparent that Abel is the leading example in the Hebrews 12:1 reference to the great cloud of witnesses (μαρτύρων). Of course, it must be conceded that some of the “martyrs” here are witnesses who testified through their life, rather than strictly through their death, like Abel.

This is a surprising omission by Dr. Moss, given that she is quick to attempt to minimize the uniqueness of Christian martyrdom.

Indeed, except briefly at page 5 and then again at page 135, Dr. Moss virtually remains silent regarding Jesus and the relation between Christianity and persecution.

Another surprising omission is the discussion in Revelation (which is Jesus’ revelation to John, do not forget) about the voice of the martyrs crying out for judgment. Here the term is being used in its more technical sense:

Revelation 2:12-13
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

Revelation 6:9-11
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

Revelation 17:6
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

Frankly, I suppose there may be a variety of reasons for Dr. Moss’ omissions of the Biblical data, mostly because she feels that Christians feeling persecuted has strong negative consequences, and she wishes to minimize those feelings.

The one theme she mentions is Jesus’ comment about his followers taking up the cross, which is not just reported once, but numerous times:

Matthew 10:38
And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

Matthew 16:24
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Mark 8:34
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Mark 10:21
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Luke 9:23
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Moreover, while she mentions that some people spiritualize this, other passages cannot be so easily dismissed.  For example, Jesus often referred explicitly to coming persecution:

Matthew 5:10-12
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Matthew 5:44
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Matthew 10:23
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.

Matthew 13:21
Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

Matthew 23:34
Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:

Mark 4:17
And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.

Mark 10:30
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

Luke 11:49
Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:

Luke 21:12
But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.

John 5:16
And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

John 15:20
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

And Paul’s explicit statement:

2 Timothy 3:12
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

While I’m sure Dr. Moss is right to criticize Eusebius for embellishing or even possibly fabricating martyrdom stories from the pre-Constantine era, he is certainly not the author of the Scriptures that teach Christians to expect persecution.  Furthermore, Dr. Moss may rightly be critical of those who sought voluntary martyrdom (although surprisingly I did not see Dr. Moss object to Ignatius’ nearly quasi-voluntary martyrdom).  Nevertheless, Dr. Moss seemed to downplay the Biblical data in her critique.


Please Register Your Bible Study with the Government

May 26, 2009

I was saddened to see that there is religious persecution taking place in San Diego, CA (link to article). The local authorities are threatening to force regular home Bible studies to get government permits or shut down. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see copycat persecution in other jurisdictions within the next few years as radical anti-theists attempt to attack the freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly in every way they can.


H.T. to The Pilgrim for pointing this out to me (link).

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 17

September 21, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 17

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the seventeenth in what has become a multi-part series.

Second Vatican Council (1962-65) – Freedom of Religion Promoted

You will recall that in a previous section, we noted that the “ecumenical” council Lateran IV canonized persecution of the Jews, even to the point of coercing them to prevent their reversion to Judaism if they once freely converted to Christianity. Vatican II contrarily declared:

2. This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

4. The freedom or immunity from coercion in matters religious which is the endowment of persons as individuals is also to be recognized as their right when they act in community. Religious communities are a requirement of the social nature both of man and of religion itself.

15. The fact is that men of the present day want to be able freely to profess their religion in private and in public. Indeed, religious freedom has already been declared to be a civil right in most constitutions, and it is solemnly recognized in international documents.(38) The further fact is that forms of government still exist under which, even though freedom of religious worship receives constitutional recognition, the powers of government are engaged in the effort to deter citizens from the profession of religion and to make life very difficult and dangerous for religious communities.

This council greets with joy the first of these two facts as among the signs of the times. With sorrow, however, it denounces the other fact, as only to be deplored. The council exhorts Catholics, and it directs a plea to all men, most carefully to consider how greatly necessary religious freedom is, especially in the present condition of the human family. All nations are coming into even closer unity. Men of different cultures and religions are being brought together in closer relationships. There is a growing consciousness of the personal responsibility that every man has. All this is evident. Consequently, in order that relationships of peace and harmony be established and maintained within the whole of mankind, it is necessary that religious freedom be everywhere provided with an effective constitutional guarantee and that respect be shown for the high duty and right of man freely to lead his religious life in society.

Frankly, it is hard to imagine a more clear example of a 180 degree change in position from 1215 to 1965 than on the issue of religious freedom. Who knows what a Roman bishop 750 years hence will do with Vatican II? It is an inconvenient truth that the canons and decrees of councils (even those designated “ecumenical”) cannot necessarily be counted on to represent the dogma of Rome, if she chooses to say something different at a later time.


An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 16

September 21, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 16

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the sixteenth in what has become a multi-part series.

Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215) – Jews Officially Persecuted

I must immediately qualify this “persecution” claim, but noting that this is measuring the 4th Lateran Council by the standard of modern-day sensitivities, not by an objective standard.

Lateran IV forbade public offices to Jews, authorized “coercive action” to prevent reversion of “converted” Jews, required Jews and Muslims to wear distinctive clothing, required the Jews to tithe (and the like) on properties they acquired from Christians, and prohibited Jews and Muslims from public places during “Holy Week.” (Canons 67-70)

I think by modern standards, most (if not all) of those things would constitute persecution. This is an inconvenient truth for those who like to imagine that the Catholicism they practice today is the same as the “Catholic faith” practiced by the fathers of the Fourth Lateran Council, and yet who cannot stomach religious discrimination and persecution.


Thoughts on the Gospel and Government

July 12, 2008

One of my friends in an Internet chat room I visit, recently challenged me to consider what form of government is most conducive to the spread of the gospel. I believe this brother wanted to suggest that a pluralistic, liberal (original sense of the word) republican democracy is the best form.

There are ways in which this is true. Freedom of speech gives us freedom to preach. Freedom of assembly gives us freedom to engage in communion with our fellow-saints. Freedom of religion prevents currently prevailing religions from stomping us out using the force of government under color of law. Those are all valid points.

Let me give the reader a counter-point, though. Historically the gospel seems to have spread well at times/places where Christianity was persecuted and at times when there was a hierarchical government. The latter may simply be circumstantial, as the concept of a pluralistic, liberal republican democracy is a modern phenomenon.

With respect to the former issue, persecution provides an intrinsically stronger witness for Christians. It is obvious to everyone that it takes more sincerity to advocate the resurrection of Christ when doing so risks your life, than when doing so may make you a millionaire televangelist. When it is – to all appearances – easy to be a Christian, our faith in Christ is less clearly seen to be genuine.

Consider how Scripture even demonstrates the principle. Recall Job. Satan made exactly this argument: of course Job worships God, he has an easy life; take away his happiness and he’ll curse God.

When Job did not curse God, but rather praised him saying, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” That’s a testimony that the world and the devil are shaken by. That answer leaves little doubt for any but the most hardened skeptic to doubt that Job’s faith in God was genuine.

Thus, a country where Christianity is persecuted provides a way for Christians to demonstrate that they are genuine believers, which combats the widespread current view among non-Christians in liberal democracies that Christians are hypocrites.

Persecution has another advantage as well: it helps us test the genuineness of our own faith. That’s why James, the servant of God, can tell us:

James 1:2-3
2My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

James (to quote John Gill) is speaking of temptations,

not the temptations of Satan, or temptations to sin; for these cannot be matter of joy, but grief; these are fiery darts, and give a great deal of uneasiness and trouble; but afflictions and persecutions for the sake of the Gospel, which are so called here and elsewhere, because they are trials of the faith of God’s people, and of other graces of the Spirit of God. God by these tempts his people, as he did Abraham, when he called him to sacrifice his son; he thereby tried his faith, fear, love, and obedience; so by afflictions, God tries the graces of his people; not that he might know them, for he is not ignorant of them, but that they might be made manifest to others; and these are “divers”: many are the afflictions of the righteous; through much tribulation they must enter the kingdom; it is a great fight of afflictions which they endure, as these believers did; their trials came from different quarters; they were persecuted by their countrymen the Jews, and were distressed by the Gentiles, among whom they lived; and their indignities and reproaches were many; and their sufferings of different sorts, as confiscation of goods, imprisonment of body, banishment, scourgings, and death in various shapes: and these they “fall” into; not by chance, nor altogether at an unawares, or unexpectedly; but they fell into them through the wickedness and malice of their enemies, and did not bring them upon themselves through any crime or enormity they were guilty of: and when this was their case, the apostle exhorts them to count it all joy, or matter of joy, of exceeding great joy, even of the greatest joy; not that these afflictions were joyous in themselves, but in their circumstances, effects, and consequences; as they tried, and exercised, and improved the graces of the Spirit, and worked for their good, spiritual and eternal, and produced in them the peaceable fruit of righteousness; and as they were attended with the presence and Spirit of God, and of glory; and as they made for, and issued in the glory of God; and because of that great reward in heaven which would follow them; see Matthew 5:11. The Jews have a saying, “whoever rejoices in afflictions that come upon him, brings salvation to the world.” (T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 8. 1.)

With all those things in mind, we must continually call to remembrance the fact that we are to honor whatever form of government that we find ourselves under, as having divine authority. As it is written:

Romans 13:1-7
1Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Blessed be God who has given us ministers of justice as well as minister of the gospel,


What’s Not to Like?

July 7, 2008

At Dave Armstrong’s blog, a post entitled: “Why is the Catholic Church so Hated?” caught my eye (to give you some background, Dave Armstrong is himself a papist). The format of the post is as follows:

1) A “Presbyterian” woman makes a claim that she sees a lot of “hatred” for “the Catholic Church.”

2) A former “former Presbyterian” woman responds by attributing the “hatred” to “hell” attempting to prevail against “the Catholic Church.”

3) Finally, Dave suggests that the “hatred” is a function of (1) the size of the target, (2) the widespread “misrepresentation,” and (3) the “very strict morality” taught by “Catholic Christianity.”

The post is interesting because it omits glaring reasons for true hatred and because it mistakes judgment for hatred.

Reasons for true hatred:

1) Association with Christianity. Rome claims to be Christian, and consequently receives some of the antipathy provided generally towards Christians by those who hate God.

2) History of Persecution: there are many folks that have not forgotten the history of persecution by the Vatican either in the form of Inquisitions, papal armies, and crusades or in the form of exhortations to “secular” rulers.

3) Scandals. There are people who truly hate the Vatican because of corrupt and scandalous activity by its priests and bishops – that can especially be the case for victims and their families.

4) Personal Experience. There are people who truly hate the Vatican because they have had a “bad experience” with Catholicism. This could be as simple as being rapped on the knuckles with a ruler by a nun in gradeschool or much more complicated, involving a priest taking sides in a family dispute.

These are all notable causes why there is true antipathy – true hatred toward the Vatican, which is often then directed to individual members of the church of Rome.

On the other hand, much of what is called “hatred” is not hatred at all. For example, most of what the first woman in Dave’s post viewed as “hatred” is actually an expression of judgment, namely that the Vatican does not preach the Gospel, and that faithful devotion to the religion taught by the Vatican does not lead to salvation.

The second woman improperly assumes that “the Catholic Church” is the true church, and that consequently any desire to be separate from that church must be hell-based. If her assumption were correct, it would be a reasonable line of thought. The problem, of course, is that it is not the case that the Church of Rome is the true church.

Dave’s own comments are not as far from the mark. Surely, part of the volume of negative things (all of which get labeled “hatred”) is a factor of the size of Catholicism. The errors of Ebionite heretics while heinous are not a significant voice on the scene. The errors of Rome, with its claimed billion plus members, are a significant voice.

It should be noted, though, that Islam is the target of similar “hatred” in the form of saying that Koran-observing Muslims are not saved, are not the true followers of Jesus, etc. (i.e. any negative comment, particularly about eternal things) Furthermore, it’s fair to say that most Christians in the English-speaking world know less about Islam than they know about Catholicism. As the number of Muslims rapidly increases in the English-speaking world, you can expect to see less emphasis on the errors of Rome in favor of emphasis on the errors of Mecca and Medina. And, of course, there are people who truly hate Islam because a 9/11 terrorist killed one of their friends or family members, or some similar reason.

Dave’s comment about misrepresentation is less accurate. Surely there are misrepresentations of the Church of Rome out there, but the true hatred is not based on those misrepresentations. Even the hatred-so-called – the negative comments – are for the most part based on the truth, not on misrepresentations.

Finally, there is a seed of truth in Dave’s comment about “very strict morality.” There are those who reject the Church of Rome because of its emphasis on works righteousness, and specifically its legalistic rules of “morality.” Surely there are people who hate the Church of Rome because she continues to acknowledge the truth that homosexual behavior is sinful, immoral, and should not be done. On the other hand, rejection of the legalism of the Vatican is Biblical and proper. It’s not hatred, but judgment.

All in all, the reason for this post is to highlight and differentiate the reasons for hatred of the church of Rome and the condemnation of the false doctrine and counterfeit gospel of Rome. The former is generally unjustified, though perhaps one might feel righteous indignation reading an account of the persecution of the Albigensians. The latter is fully properly, and is not hatred in the colloquial sense at all, but the exercise of godly discretion and wisdom – something with respect to which I’m afraid the nameless “Presbyterian woman” that Dave first mentions seems to be deficient.


(link to Dave’s post)

Poor Gen. Pace

September 27, 2007

General pace recently made headline news for stating that homosexual behavior is sinful, and that he will not condone it (link). He immediately got labelled a “bigot” by those who either don’t recognize that homosexual behavior is sinful or who do not care.

The reason that I use the adjective “poor,” though is not so much because Gen. Pace is the target of name-calling – but because Gen. Pace seems to have been so battered by it that he is ready to compromise.

Currently, U.S. military law prohibits both adultery and homosexual relations. These are excellent rules that are enforced, and should continue to be enforced. The U.S. military is one of the last places in America where the 7th commandment’s prohibition on adultery and homosexual activity is enforced, largely because of action’s taken by America’s Supreme Court and by the apathy towards sexual immorality felt by most Americans.

Let’s be clear: Adultery and homosexual acts are both sinful, and both deserve severe criminal consequences. God justly authorized Moses to use capital punishment for both offenses, and it would be just for any modern government to do the same. I’m not taking this opportunity to say that a lesser punishment would necessarily be wrong, just pointing out that capital punishment would be just.

There are a lot of folks who don’t like that view: they hate the truth that sexual relations outside of marriage are sinful, and for them it is headline news when a General stands up and says (even heavily qualified, the way poor Gen. Pace put it) that such actions are wrong.

Gen. Pace, in the unlikely event that you read this, be strong! Don’t be afraid to state without qualification as to your upbringing that sex outside of marriage is wrong, is sinful, and is immoral. Don’t feel compelled to compromise just because many people who were guilty of such sins have contributed much (in other regards) to America. Surely they have, and so have many others who do immoral acts.

I can tell from your comments that you will not, but I wish to exhort you, sir, not to compromise on moral issues. Ever, sir.


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