Muslim attacks on two Coptic churches in Egypt left at least 44 dead. As we pray for those victims, we must remember they aren’t just victims. They are martyrs.
They went to their martyrdom with humble resignation, rendering their souls to God. They knew in advance that living for their faith in the Islamic world meant they might one day die for it.
They accepted that with bowed heads. They knew that, even as there’s death in life, there’s life in death. They also knew that Christianity was not only weaned on the blood of martyrs but in fact born out of it. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” as Tertullian wrote.
Their deaths, while unimaginably awful for their friends, families and brothers in Christ, served their faith by making it deeper – and their church by making it stronger.
Contrast that with the obscene travesty of Christianity widely practised within all European confessions, emphatically including the Church of England.
A recent poll shows that a quarter of British people who, when filling forms, routinely identify themselves as C of E, don’t believe in the Resurrection of Christ. Only 31 per cent believe the NT account unequivocally.
One has to realise that the word ‘Christian’, as commonly used, shares the modern fate of so many other terms, that of denoting something that has nothing to do with its real meaning.
A Christian is someone who believes in the Holy Trinity, one of whose hypostases incarnated as fully God and fully man. He died a martyr’s death on the cross to redeem our sins, then rose on the third day and went to heaven, where he will remain until he comes again to judge the quick and the dead.
That’s all. There are numerous other, derivative characteristics of a Christian, moral, sacramental, ecclesiastical and so forth. Some of them leave room for interpretation and disagreement. But this one doesn’t. It’s a sine qua non.
Someone who doesn’t believe in it may still be a lovely person, kind, just, generous, charitable – choose your own attribute. But one thing he can’t be is a Christian. He doesn’t fit the definition.
For those putative Christians this is too simple to understand. One such was Leo Tolstoy, who, having written sublime novels, proceeded to excrete 50 volumes of unmitigated drivel, most of it aiming to redefine Christianity (in the spirit of crass commercialism, may I suggest my own book on this subject, God and Man According to Tolstoy).
The Orthodox Church excommunicated Tolstoy for his heresies. Today’s Anglican Church not only welcomes such nonsense but in fact propagates it itself.
Hence the Rev Lorraine Cavanagh, acting general secretary for Modern Church, a champion of ‘liberal Christian theology’ (which is neither liberal nor Christian nor theological):
“An adult faith requires that it be constantly questioned, constantly reinterpreted. To ask an adult to believe in the Resurrection the way they did at Sunday school simply won’t do and that’s true of much of the key elements of the Christian faith.”
I wonder if the Rev Lorraine (an oxymoronic title by the way) has read Tolstoy’s response to having been excommunicated by the Holy Synod in 1901. I doubt it: she doesn’t strike me as a bookish type. This kind of stuff must simply be in the modern air, for she repeats exactly what Tolstoy wrote, albeit in less robust language.
Remember that this is Tolstoy’s protest against the excommunication. One wonders how different a ringing endorsement would be: “…not only many, but almost all educated people in Russia share my disbelief… [Compare with “An adult faith requires that it be constantly questioned…”]
“That I have rejected the church that calls itself Russian Orthodox is perfectly true… in theory the teaching of the church is a perfidious and harmful lie, while in practice it is a collection of the crudest superstitions and sorcery, hiding completely the entire meaning of Christian teaching… I reject the incomprehensible trinity and the myth, these days meaningless, of the fall of the first man, the blasphemous story of a god born of a virgin to redeem the human race… You say that I reject all the rituals. That is perfectly true… This [the Eucharist] is horrible!”
If only the Rev Lorraine and our other ‘liberal theologians’ had Tolstoy’s literary genius. They’d already have succeeded in killing Christianity in England stone-dead, rather than merely pushing it to the edge of a precipice.
This woman doesn’t even belong in the pews, never mind at the altar. And she’s clearly too feeble-minded to understand what she’s saying.
A chemist who denies that a molecule of water holds two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen is neither questioning nor reinterpreting chemistry. He’s simply proving that, far from being a chemist, he’s someone ignorant of chemistry.
“And fear not them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul…” says the book that, according to her, no adult can any longer believe.
In that sense, the likes of the Rev Lorraine Cavanagh are worse than those Islamic ghouls. The latter can only kill Christians; the former are trying to kill Christianity.
The Coptic martyrs, RIP.