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Posts Tagged ‘martyrdom’


Some of my uncles growing up were in construction. Most of my brothers-in-law are in construction. So as I think about the 2nd part of Bavinck on the Christian Life, I think about a construction metaphor. If the first part was the foundation, the second would be the framing.

There were only two chapters in the second part. Recall that the foundations were creation in God’s image, the Law and union with Christ. The two chapters in this section are Imitating Christ and Worldview.

Bavinck understood the Christian life as one of imitating Christ. We need to see this in terms of God restoring His image in us, in accordance with the Law, through our union with Christ. I say this because may have seen the Christian life as imitating Christ, but meant something different.

Recall as well that this is intended to be an ordinary life, not viewed as radical. We partake of earthly goods, but they are not ultimate goods. We enjoy them as part of God’s good gifts, but they are temporal and temporary. As the song goes, hold on loosely.

Bavinck looked at the historical patterns of this theme. Bolt summarizes this for us. Bavinck identified dangers and wrong turns.

The early Church was a persecuted Church. This is because they claimed to be the only true religion, and Christ claimed their ultimate allegiance. Rome did not like that. With martyrdom a real possibility, it unfortunately became “regarded as a matter of glory and fame” (pp. 106). It became pathological, similar to what we see with radical Islam today.

Monastic separation created a divide between clergy and laity. Professional Christians tend to breed “incompetence and an unspiritual life-style.” He noted the rise of the Waldensians, and others, who simplified doctrine and emphasized holiness. Soon you also saw the rise of the “mendicant armies” who exalted poverty above all other virtues. Medieval mysticism came to see Jesus as model, not Mediator and Redeemer.

Any view of imitating Christ that neglects Him as Redeemer is sub-biblical and rejected by Bavinck. This brings us back to union with Christ as the primary element of imitation. He believed we were not to simply look and act like Jesus, but to be transformed inside.

Bolt then brings us to the Sermon on the Mount. Bavinck’s views shifted, with his latter view more nuanced. World War I lay between point A and B. It helped him see some problems with his understanding, and deepened his understanding. Bavinck understood it in its original context as to His disciples who would face persecution. We cannot simply woodenly apply it to our circumstances. The Sermon was about obeying the law of God in your circumstances. Our circumstances may be different, and therefore our obedience may look differently. They lacked power in culture, and were to let their light shine. “If the early church had tried to transform its world through cultural engagement, it “would have quickly drowned in the world’s maelstrom.” (pp. 115)” As Christianity loses power in the West, we need to recognize how we imitate Jesus will change. We will become more like the early church. We can’t focus on cultural engagement, but “simply” preach the Good News.

Bolt summarizes all this with “our following Jesus in lawful obedience is grounded and shaped by our union with the whole Christ. (pp. 117)” Therefore we focus on our obligations, not our rights. This is hard for sinful, self-absorbed people.

The chapter on worldview is more theoretical. Bolt covers specific aspects of the worldview in which we fulfill our vocations and imitate Christ in part 3 of the book. The concept of a Christian worldview appears to be first articulated by Kuyper in his Lectures on Calvinism at Princeton. Bavinck would also talk and write much about this topic. While the particulars were nearly identical, their methodology was different, as was their application. This lead to some conflict between the two men in later years. Kuyper was the more “dogmatic” of the two, and comes across as an autocratic leader. Bolt traces this history, and I won’t repeat it.

But one key area went back to regeneration. Kuyper viewed, at the risk of reductionism, regeneration creating two kinds of people with two kinds of science. Bavinck was more open to receiving the science done by unregenerate Christians. As image bearers, they could see something of the truth too. Kuyper was engaged in cultural conflict, Bavinck was more open to learning from non-Christians.

For Bavinck, a worldview broke down into thinking, being and doing. The relationship between these is important. For Bavinck,, being is first. As we become self-aware we think and do. Bolt notes that “worldview follows faith and union with Christ; it does not create faith and is no substitute for it. (pp. 125)” Worldviews are how we navigate our way through the world, other humans and God.

For the Christian, our worldview is about God revealing Himself to us, as well as revealing truth about ourselves and the world. God is faithful and good, revealing these things truthfully and reliably. While he acknowledges the distortions caused by sin, he doesn’t focus on them like Kuyper and Van Til.

“The essence of the Christian religion consists in the reality that the creation of the Father, ruined by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and re-created by the grace of the Holy Spirit into a kingdom of God.”

These frames, built on the foundation, will direct our understanding of the Christian life. We’ll get to that next time.

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There are not many contemporary books on the on-going persecution of Christians so when I had the opportunity to get a review copy of The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution I took it. This is an important book and I encourage American Christians to read it, but it is not without its weaknesses. It is helpful for American Christians to understand what their brothers and sisters in many parts of the world experience. This is not a book about what American Christians experience. It goes outside of our experience and this is important to do. This is why I think they should read it. They need to pray for their siblings in Christ, and also themselves because such persecution may not be too far away for us.

The author, John Allen Jr., is a senior news correspondence and has many connections around the world to gain access that others may not have. He also draws on the research of a number of government and private agencies that track these things. As a result he will talk about bigger picture systematic persecution as well as more personal stories. These stories are not pretty and they can be difficult to read. For instance, in the introduction he talks about the Me’eter military camp and prison in Eritrea ( a country I hadn’t even heard of before) that is pretty horrifying to consider. Here the one-party nation, ironically called the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, continues to imprison, torture and rape its citizens who are without legal representation and often without medical care in this desert prison. Though their actions are well-documented this has not been a matter of concern for the press, the UN or any nation.

The weaknesses of the book are obvious in some ways. It is hard to write a book like this. Due to the number of narratives it often feels disjointed. While they all follow a similar theme they aren’t connected by characters. This is not the author’s fault, but just the nature of the type of book he’s chosen to written. The reader can feel overwhelmed at times. At others confused as he will make mistakes in how he communicates this material. There are paragraphs in which he shifts from one event to another when there is no specific connection between the events except what all of them have in common.

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It is currently my birthday month, which means I get to pick the movies we watch. Lately that hasn’t been many due to very busy schedules. This past weekend I scanned through our Netflix queue looking for a movie that would be fairly interesting for CavWife.

I chose For Greater Glory thinking this would fill the bill. It is a bio pic as the subtitle notes: The True Story of the Cristiada. The events take place in Mexico in the late 1920’s. The Mexican Revolution had some similar roots as the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. The Revolution began in 1910 and slowly morphed into a Civil War. Like many nations at the time, 5% of the people owned 95% of the land in Mexico. The powers that be courted the Roman Catholic Church to maintain stability.

After the War was over, a series of anti-clerical laws were established to limit the influence of the Catholic Church in the politics of the country. They also thought this was important because many of the clergy were from Europe.

The movie begins after Presidente Calle (played by Reuben Blades) has taken office. There was always a threat of a coup, and this drove his policies as well as those of his predecessor, Obregon. He had increased the pressure on the Catholic church including the deportation of foreign born priests and prohibiting the wearing of clerical garb in public. As you might imagine it all went downhill from there.

The Cristiada is the name of the war between the state and the Cristeros. Eventually the Cristeros hired Enrique Gorostieta (played by Andy Garcia) to be their general as a result of his prominence in the civil war. While not a faithful Catholic, his wife (played by Eva Longoria) was. He was interested in religious liberty. He would eventually lose his life in the fight for religious liberty in Mexico.

The movie is interesting, and also disturbing. There is a compelling enough story. At times the way it is told, and the story itself is disturbing.

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Over 50 years ago, the death of U.S. missionaries in Ecuador shocked the nation.  Life Magazine covered the story, providing pictures of the massacre.  For many people, the story ended there.  For the families of the martyred missionaries, it did not.  Some of their families ended up returning to the tribe that had slain them.  Then grace happened.  Much of the tribe, known by anthropologists as one of most brutal cultures, laid down their life of revenge at the end of the spear.

Steve Saint’s father Nate was one of the men killed that day.  His aunt Rachel was the first to re-establish contact with the Waodani Indians.  Soon Nick’s wife joined her in living among the tribe.  Young Steve Saint grew up among the very people who murdered his father.  His aunt would remain there until her death, leaving only for vacations.  Upon her death, Steve traveled back to Ecuador for her funeral.  They asked him to stay.  The movie End of the Spear chronicles the story to that point as Steve finally comes to understand what had happened all those years ago.

The Grandfathers is the final installment (so far anyway) of the story.  It is primarily about his son Jesse, and the time he spent there as a teenager.  Unlike End of the Spear, it is more of a documentary (though not quite) than a movie.  I screened it with some friends, one of whom is a pilot and who volunteers with United Indian Mission.  We were all left wanting more.

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