Persecution

Has Marcion Invaded our Churches?

By Dr. David Barker Marcion, a 2nd C AD theologian, rejected the OT (and some of the NT) because he viewed it as “pre-Christian” or “less-than-Christian.” The question needs to be asked as to whether the church has continued this thinking by avoiding lament psalms in general and rejecting curse (imprecatory) psalms in particular. In both the liturgies of mainline churches as well in the Scripture reading practice of evangelical churches the following section of Psalm 139 is commonly left out (a confession made to me by a worship leader in one of our Baptist churches):

If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them as my enemies. (vv. 19-22)

To omit this section and other “psalms of violence” in our rhythms and practices of prayer and worship does the following:

  • It refuses to affirm the full authority of the Bible. Yes, these psalms are poetic and hyperbolic, but that is part of what it is to affirm all Scripture as “God-breathed.”
  • It disobeys the Apostle Paul’s instruction to sing the psalms; and there does not seem to be an exception for the supposed “less-than-Christian” ones. If fact, he used imprecation himself (Gal 1:8-9), as did Jesus and other NT writers.
  • It removes the voice of the victims of violence and makes them/us “speechless and apathetic in the face of the overwhelming power of their suffering” (Erich Zengler, A God of Vengeance? [Westminster John Knox], 85).
  • It marginalizes a voice of worship when the Apostle Paul said of God, “’It is mine to avenge, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom 12:19 quoting Deut 32:35).
  • It fails to recognize the multi-faceted nature of God’s character described in both violent and anti-violent texts found in both Testaments.
  • It fails to embrace the Abrahamic Covenant, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse” (Gen 12:3) as a legitimate inheritance of the church (Rom 4:16-17; Ga 3:29).

So, when it comes to ISIS and other movements that propagate terror, violence, and brutality, a voice of worship of God is:

Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. (Ps 3:7)

Yes, we refer vengeance/justice/judgment back to God. No, it is not a prayer for personal vengeance (Jesus’ teaching to love our enemy [cf. Prov 25:21] comes into play here).

Marcion was declared a heretic because of his view of Scripture. I wonder if we have unwittingly allowed Marcion back into the church.


 

David Barker serves as academic dean and vice president of academics and student affairs, Heritage Theological Seminary, Cambridge, ON. This article originally appeared on the seminary’s blog.

Audio from Andrew Fuller Conference 2015 Now Available

Plenary sessions from the 2015 Andrew Fuller Conference are now available for download at the links below. The conference was held September 15-16 and examined the theme of “Persecution and the Church.” Also available for download is the preconference which dealt with “Martyrdom in the Early Church: Reality and Fiction.” This pre-conference was co-sponsored by the Center for Ancient Christian Studies.

Breakout sessions from the main conference will be posted soon.  

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Preconference:

Session 1 - Jarvis Williams

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-preconference-01-jarvis-williams.mp3

Session 2 - Greg Cochran

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-preconference-02-greg-cochrane.mp3

Session 3 - Bryan Litfin

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-preconference-03-brian-litfin.mp3

Session 4 - Panel Discussion

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-preconference-04-panel.mp3

Conference:

Session 1 - Tom Schreiner

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-conference-01-tom-schreiner.mp3

Session 2 - Brian Vickers

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-conference-02-session-brian-vickers.mp3

Session 3 - Bryan Litfin

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-conference-03-session-bryan-litfin.mp3

Session 4 - Jason Duesing

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150915-andrew-fuller-conference-04-session-jason-duesing.mp3

Session 5 - Steve Weaver

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150916-andrew-fuller-conference-05-session-steve-weaver-archive.MP3

Session 6 - Nathan Finn

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150916-andrew-fuller-conference-06-session-nathan-finn-archive.MP3

Session 7 - Benjamin Hegeman

http://cdn.sbts.edu/media/audio/andrew-fuller-center/20150916-andrew-fuller-conference-07-session-benjamin-hegeman-archive.mp3

Special Pre-Conference: Martyrdom in the Early Church

Join us Monday, 14 September 2015, in Louisville, KY for a pre-conference co-sponsored with the Center for Ancient Christian Studies on “Martyrdom in the Early Church: Reality and Fiction.” The event is free to all students, faculty, and friends.

This event will precede our annual two-day conference that will be held on September 15-16, 2015 on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. To learn more and to register for the conference, click here.

“In order that we too might be imitators of him”: The Death of Polycarp and the Imitation of Jesus

By Shawn J. Wilhite and Coleman M. Ford

The Martyrdom of Polycarp offers an eyewitness account to the death and martyrdom of Polycarp from the church at Smyrna to the church at Philomelium (Mart.Pol. Pref.). As the narrative unfolds, some of the motifs that emerge relate to imitation. That is, the narrative of Polycarp’s death evoke the reader to imitate the death of Polycarp (Mart.Pol. 1:2).

This AD 2nd century event details three different martyrdom accounts. It praises the nobility of Germanicus, who fought with wild beasts and encouraged the “God-fearing race of Christians” through his death (Mart.Pol. 3:1–2). It discourages the concept of voluntary martyrdom as Quintus “turned coward” when he saw the wild beasts. Such voluntary pursuit of martyrdom does not evoke praise from fellow sisters and brothers because the “gospel does not teach this” (Mart.Pol. 4).

However, the narrative details the “blessed Polycarp” and his noble death (Mart.Pol. 1:1). These events are aimed to demonstrate how the “Lord might show us once again a martyrdom that is in accord with the Gospel” (Mart.Pol. 1:1). So, the narrative models for the reader a martyrdom that is worthy of imitation as it is patterned after “the Gospel.”

The Martyrdom account portrays Polycarp as a model of Christ’s life. For example, Polycarp waited to be passively betrayed (Mart.Pol. 1:2). The night before Polycarp’s betrayal, he is praying with a few close companions (Mart.Pol. 5:1). He prays “may your will be done” prior to his arrest (Mart.Pol. 7:1; cf. Matt 26:42). Furthermore, Polycarp is betrayed on a Friday (Mart.Pol. 7:1) and seated on a donkey to ride into town (Mart.Pol. 8:1)—similar to the “triumphal entry” and garden of Gethsemane events. On the verge of death, Polycarp offers up a final call to the Father (Mart.Pol. 14:3). While Polycarp is tied to the stake, an executioner is commanded to come stab Polycarp with a dagger (Mart.Pol. 16:1). Even the execution offers a similar to the confession of the centurion’s statement “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Mart.Pol. 16:2; Luke 23:47).

Not only do Polycarp and the surrounding events reflect a similar Gospel tradition, the villains in Polycarp’s story are re-cast in light of the passion villains. Polycarp is betrayed by someone close to him (Mart.Pol. 6:1). The captain of the police is called “Herod” (Mart.Pol. 6:2; 8:2; 17:2). The author(s) of the Martyrdom make sure to slow the narrative so that the reader makes the necessary connection to the Gospel accounts by saying, “who just happened to have the same name—Herod, as he was called” (Mart.Pol. 6:2). Moreover, those who betrayed Polycarp ought to “receive the same punishment as Judas” (Mart.Pol. 6:2). There is an army to capture Polycarp, similar to the Gethsemane scene (Mart.Pol. 7:1). The band of captors recognizes the piety of Polycarp in a similar way the group of soldiers bowed before arresting Him (Mart.Pol. 7:2; cf. John 18:6).

The Martyrdom narrative mimics the Gospel passion narratives. Whether it focuses on the personal character traits of Polycarp, the narrative of Polycarp’s journey to death, the secondary, seemingly accidental themes, or even the story’s villains, the Martyrdom of Polycarp is reshaped around gospel tradition.

As the narrative of the death of Polycarp unfolds, Polycarp’s character mimics the Lord so “that we too might be imitators of him” (Mart.Pol. 1:2). The blessed and noble characters of martyrdom are modeled after the narrative of Jesus tradition so as to invite readers to imitate Polycarp as he is imitating the Lord Jesus (Mart.Pol. 19:1).

Those in the early church saw patterns to imitate in the life of Jesus in regards to how to conduct oneself in the wake of impending martyrdom. Today, many Christians are faced with how to imitate those patterns as well. Both in America where persecution comes in word and thought, and in places like Syria where martyrdom is a real and present danger, reading Polycarp and other early Christian martyr stories empowers believers to follow the ultimate pattern which is Christ.

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headerJoin us on September 15-16, 2015 on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for this conference on Persecution and the Church in order to learn from examples from church history  and around the globe that will encourage believers today to face persecution.

Announcing the 2015 Conference: Persecution and the Church

header We are pleased to announce the conference theme for this year's conference is Persecution and the Church. We believe this is a timely topic as the church is experiencing persecution globally. The topic will be approached from biblical, theological, and historical perspectives. The conference will be held on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on September 15-16, 2015.

From the conference website:

Jesus Christ plainly told all who followed him as their Lord and Savior that they would suffer persecution—and in the history of the church over the past two thousand years this has undoubtedly been the case. There is clear evidence that along with the globalization of Christianity over the past two hundred years, the persecution of the church has likewise intensified.

In this timely conference, we will be looking at this history of persecution and its contemporary manifestations from a biblical and theological standpoint. The goal of the conference is to enable participants to be both more informed and more prayerful. To that end, this conference will conclude with a concert of prayer for the persecuted church.

Speakers:

  • Jason G. Duesing (Professor of Church History and Academic Provost at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)
  • Nathan A. Finn (Dean of the School of Theology and Missions and Professor of Christian Thought and Tradition at Union University)
  • Ben Hegeman (Adjunct Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at Houghton College)
  • Bryan M. Litfin (Professor of Theology at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago)
  • Thomas R. Schreiner (Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Biblical Theology and Associate Dean of the Southern Seminary School of Theology)
  • Brian Vickers (Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Biblical Theology at Southern Seminary)
  • Steve Weaver (Senior Fellow of Andrew Fuller Center and Adjunct Professor of Church History at Southern Seminary)

Schedule:

Tuesday, September 15

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Conference Check-In
1:30 p.m. General Session I: Brian Vickers “Persecution and Paul”
3 p.m. General Session II: Tom Schreiner “Persecution in Revelation”
5:30 p.m. Dinner
7 p.m. General Session III: Bryan Litfin “Roman Persecution of the Ancient Church”
8:30 p.m. General Session IV: Jason Duesing “The Persecution of the Anabaptists”

Wednesday, September 16

8 a.m. Breakfast (Optional $5 add-on)
9 a.m. General Session V: Steve Weaver “Baptists and Persecution in Virginia”
10:30 a.m. General Session VI: Nathan Finn “Communist Persecution of the Church, 1917-1989″
Noon Lunch
2:30 p.m. Short Papers
5:30 p.m. Dinner
7 p.m. General Session VII: Ben Hegeman “The Church and Islam”
8:15 p.m. General Session VIII “A Concert of Prayer for the Persectued Church”

You can learn more about the conference and register here. We hope to see you there!