Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Coptic Christian Martyrs & Evangelical Politics

So evangelicals and fundamentalists are among those who are calling the Coptic Christians killed by ISIS 'martyrs'. I want to say, I agree. If dying because you believe in Jesus Christ doesn't make you a martyr, I don't know what does. I am in awe of people who continue to have faith in Christ when that faith puts you in as much danger as it does for Christians in the Middle East today.

However, I find it interesting that evangelicals and especially fundamentalists join me in that identification. Because Coptic Christians have some pretty strange beliefs, by most Christians standards and certainly by most evangelical standards. They are NOT fundamentalists. They practice infant baptism. They do not believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. They have beliefs about Jesus' Christ nature that is markedly different from mainline Christianity.

I, for one, do not think any of this disqualifies them from being Christians and have full membership in the people of God. Nor do I think it should detract from their status as martyrs. Yet I think that if many stood up and publicly pronounced their beliefs in America, they would be rejected as genuine Christians by a large number of fundamentalists.

Fundamentalists do not usually judge people or movements by a simple devotion to Jesus Christ. They rather tend to judge by the content of the particular beliefs. Just on the issue of infant baptism, many evangelicals would have a big problem. I know there are a good number of baptist churches who would deny that the baptism of those Coptic Christian martyrs was even valid, because it was done to them at infancy. An even greater number may deny their status as true Christians because they, like me, are not plenary interrantists. A great many would even consign these people to Hell for what they believed. Not all, maybe not even most, but a large number would.

So why are particular beliefs not important now? Probably because their are political points to be scored, and they matter more for many evangelicals than they should. What this should cause them to do is re-examine how they judge the validity of the faith of other Christ-believers. "By their fruits ye shall know them." If this martyrdom, this brave standing up for Christ in the face of the risk of death, is not proof of the genuineness of their faith, I don't know what is. But if proof of their genuineness, than also proof that being a true Christian does not mean standing within the narrow field of doctrine within which many evangelicals and all fundamentalists stand.

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