The ultimate persecution

I was at the Congress on the Lutheran Confessions in Minneapolis last week, giving a paper on how those confessions teach the doctrine of vocation. I had to zip in and out, missing most of the conference (though it did prevent me from posting anything on Friday). Still, I did get to hear a paper by Rev. Fredrik Sidenvall of Gothenburg, Sweden, entitled “Confessing the Faith in an anti-Christian Culture.” It was about the woeful state of Christianity in Sweden, in society but more importantly in the state church. Rev. Sidenvall is involved in the confessional underground in that country. He actually didn’t make it to Minnesota, his flight being grounded by that Icelandic volcano! Still, his paper was read for him, and I got a lot out of it. I’ll be posting samples of what he said.

Early in his paper, he said that even worse than living as a Christian in an anti-Christian culture is living in a culture where Christianity is tolerated. He cited a quotation from Luther: “No persecution is the ultimate persecution.”

Why is that so?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • saddler

    When one is hated, a battle is acknowledged and a recognition of a position. When one is merely tolerated, it comes close to being ignored.

    I heard someone say one time, “If they are talking about you, they are thinking about you.”

  • saddler

    When one is hated, a battle is acknowledged and a recognition of a position. When one is merely tolerated, it comes close to being ignored.

    I heard someone say one time, “If they are talking about you, they are thinking about you.”

  • fws

    this does not make sense to me.

  • fws

    this does not make sense to me.

  • Tom Hering

    “’No persecution is the ultimate persecution.’ Why is that so?”

    Toleration is disengagement, so a group that’s tolerated is a group that’s marginalized – their views are dismissed from the main conversations in society.

  • Tom Hering

    “’No persecution is the ultimate persecution.’ Why is that so?”

    Toleration is disengagement, so a group that’s tolerated is a group that’s marginalized – their views are dismissed from the main conversations in society.

  • CRB

    Because Jesus said, “I have overcome the world”

  • CRB

    Because Jesus said, “I have overcome the world”

  • http://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics/dp/1606088203/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272288570&sr=8-1 Matt C.

    If we accept that natural man hates God and take seriously Jesus’ warnings that the world will hate us for following him, then broadly speaking, there are only two options in a non-Christian culture: Either we are doing things which the world finds intolerable, or we are not doing what we ought to be doing.

    If we are indeed being tolerated in an non-Christian culture, then the latter is clearly the case.

  • http://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics/dp/1606088203/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272288570&sr=8-1 Matt C.

    If we accept that natural man hates God and take seriously Jesus’ warnings that the world will hate us for following him, then broadly speaking, there are only two options in a non-Christian culture: Either we are doing things which the world finds intolerable, or we are not doing what we ought to be doing.

    If we are indeed being tolerated in an non-Christian culture, then the latter is clearly the case.

  • Manxman

    I think this quote by Elie Wiesel sheds some light on this topic – “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

    When Christians and our truth no longer produce anything but total indifference from those around us living in darkness, it is a sign that we and our ideas and God have been totally devalued.

  • Manxman

    I think this quote by Elie Wiesel sheds some light on this topic – “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

    When Christians and our truth no longer produce anything but total indifference from those around us living in darkness, it is a sign that we and our ideas and God have been totally devalued.

  • CRB

    Because Jesus said, “I have overcome the world”. AND HE HAS!

  • CRB

    Because Jesus said, “I have overcome the world”. AND HE HAS!

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Fredrik Sidenvall is one of my favorite theologians of the 21st century. He edits kyrka och folk. Or ” church and people” and always has a firm grasp of the Bible and Confessions coupled with a pastoral heart and concern for the people. We need more voices like his in the Lutheran world.
    My guess from the snippet here is just what ha already been said, it is to be ignored completely. But to not be persecuted at all might make one wonder if he is a Christian at all. And that would be a horrible anfechtung.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Fredrik Sidenvall is one of my favorite theologians of the 21st century. He edits kyrka och folk. Or ” church and people” and always has a firm grasp of the Bible and Confessions coupled with a pastoral heart and concern for the people. We need more voices like his in the Lutheran world.
    My guess from the snippet here is just what ha already been said, it is to be ignored completely. But to not be persecuted at all might make one wonder if he is a Christian at all. And that would be a horrible anfechtung.

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    How Christ-like can you be if nobody wants to crucify you?

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    How Christ-like can you be if nobody wants to crucify you?

  • CRB

    Mike,
    What do you mean, “Christ-like”?

  • CRB

    Mike,
    What do you mean, “Christ-like”?

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    I was just parroting something I saw on somebody’s Facebook profile. Are you challenging me to actually think about what I write, or something?

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    I was just parroting something I saw on somebody’s Facebook profile. Are you challenging me to actually think about what I write, or something?

  • CRB

    Mike,
    Not really. I just cringe when I hear Evangelicals speak in
    this manner. Based on your previous posts, I didn’t think
    you espoused that sort of theological position.

  • CRB

    Mike,
    Not really. I just cringe when I hear Evangelicals speak in
    this manner. Based on your previous posts, I didn’t think
    you espoused that sort of theological position.

  • Andrew Z.

    http://across.co.nz/NorthKoreaPersecution05.html

    I wonder if Christians living in the countries described in this link would agree that tolerance is worse.

  • Andrew Z.

    http://across.co.nz/NorthKoreaPersecution05.html

    I wonder if Christians living in the countries described in this link would agree that tolerance is worse.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Andrew Z.
    I think the thing is, is that there are levels and degrees to persecution. To be a Christian is to be persecuted for your faith at some level, in some way.
    No, I don’t know that I would enjoy the type of persecution that the North Korean Christians experience. Though in a way, being as they are the body of Christ with us, we all experience it together. The toe is not impervious to what is happening to the eye.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Andrew Z.
    I think the thing is, is that there are levels and degrees to persecution. To be a Christian is to be persecuted for your faith at some level, in some way.
    No, I don’t know that I would enjoy the type of persecution that the North Korean Christians experience. Though in a way, being as they are the body of Christ with us, we all experience it together. The toe is not impervious to what is happening to the eye.

  • bunnycatch3r

    No persecution is tantamount to being of no consequence.

  • bunnycatch3r

    No persecution is tantamount to being of no consequence.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    Tertullian said “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Prolonged, intense persecution has in some cases led to the extinction of the church, such as in Turkey and much of North Africa.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    Tertullian said “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Prolonged, intense persecution has in some cases led to the extinction of the church, such as in Turkey and much of North Africa.

  • EGK

    The Collect for Peace includes the petition, “that we, being delivered from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness.” If this is a bad thing, why are we constantly praying for it at Vespers? Even if the church expects persecution, we are not to pray for it.

    Also, a word of caution. Simply because the Reformed hold to a particular turn of phrase doesn’t necessarily mean it is wrong. They have perhaps a distorted emphasis on some very important things (including the Real Presence, the omnipresence of the complete God-Man, an overemphasis on the third function of the law [guide for behaviour] at the expense of the centrality of the second [showing us our sin]), but that doesn’t mean that they don’t get some things right (Trinity, original sin, vicarious satisfaction, justification by faith, etc.) Christians who are justified by faith are indeed being remade into the image of God. Sanctification is a reality! Holy living is not an option! Yet our works are received by God for Christ’s sake and for no other reason, since the law always accuses, even in our good works.

  • EGK

    The Collect for Peace includes the petition, “that we, being delivered from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness.” If this is a bad thing, why are we constantly praying for it at Vespers? Even if the church expects persecution, we are not to pray for it.

    Also, a word of caution. Simply because the Reformed hold to a particular turn of phrase doesn’t necessarily mean it is wrong. They have perhaps a distorted emphasis on some very important things (including the Real Presence, the omnipresence of the complete God-Man, an overemphasis on the third function of the law [guide for behaviour] at the expense of the centrality of the second [showing us our sin]), but that doesn’t mean that they don’t get some things right (Trinity, original sin, vicarious satisfaction, justification by faith, etc.) Christians who are justified by faith are indeed being remade into the image of God. Sanctification is a reality! Holy living is not an option! Yet our works are received by God for Christ’s sake and for no other reason, since the law always accuses, even in our good works.

  • fws

    EGK @17

    add to that list of what calvinists and other evangelicals get entirely wrong is sanctification . and they teach a different 3rd use than we do. they do not merely emphasize their 3rd use too much.

    The calvinist 3rd use makes sanctification a combination of law + gospel, love/works + faith. for lutherans sanctification is completely God´s work from start to finish.

    what calvinists (and many lutherans) call sanctification is called mortification of the flesh/old adam by luther and the confessions.

    how do we know the difference when st paul and the confessions are talking mortification/law/old adam or sanctification/justification/new man?

    simple: if it is in the imperative (do this!) or subjunctive/conditional tense, then it is about us doing anything, trying harder, pressing towards the mark, increasing in works of righteousness, then this is about killing the old adam. it is about the Holy Spirit with us cooperating, in killing the old adam and subduing and controlling him.

    if it is about the indicative tense it is gospel and sanctification: christ in us example “you ARE washed, you ARE sanctified.

    if a passage is about us not yet being completely sanctified, it is talking about the believer as both new man and old adam. in that case, killing the old adam is a progressive process and the entire process is complete at death.

    summary:

    new man = gospel = sanctification = christ in us and this as fact not as process = who we are. we know this is true only by faith.

    old adam = law= needs to die = what we were = mortification. mortification IS a process that will be complete at our death. we know this is true by everything we see and do.

    anctification, the new man, is always complete, (how could christ-in-us be anything but?) yet the believer is not yet completely regenerated/sanctfied precisely because the Old adam still shares real estate within the believer with the new man.

  • fws

    EGK @17

    add to that list of what calvinists and other evangelicals get entirely wrong is sanctification . and they teach a different 3rd use than we do. they do not merely emphasize their 3rd use too much.

    The calvinist 3rd use makes sanctification a combination of law + gospel, love/works + faith. for lutherans sanctification is completely God´s work from start to finish.

    what calvinists (and many lutherans) call sanctification is called mortification of the flesh/old adam by luther and the confessions.

    how do we know the difference when st paul and the confessions are talking mortification/law/old adam or sanctification/justification/new man?

    simple: if it is in the imperative (do this!) or subjunctive/conditional tense, then it is about us doing anything, trying harder, pressing towards the mark, increasing in works of righteousness, then this is about killing the old adam. it is about the Holy Spirit with us cooperating, in killing the old adam and subduing and controlling him.

    if it is about the indicative tense it is gospel and sanctification: christ in us example “you ARE washed, you ARE sanctified.

    if a passage is about us not yet being completely sanctified, it is talking about the believer as both new man and old adam. in that case, killing the old adam is a progressive process and the entire process is complete at death.

    summary:

    new man = gospel = sanctification = christ in us and this as fact not as process = who we are. we know this is true only by faith.

    old adam = law= needs to die = what we were = mortification. mortification IS a process that will be complete at our death. we know this is true by everything we see and do.

    anctification, the new man, is always complete, (how could christ-in-us be anything but?) yet the believer is not yet completely regenerated/sanctfied precisely because the Old adam still shares real estate within the believer with the new man.

  • ptl

    amen to fws and ekg….there is something similar in Luthers “Bondage of the Will” where he turns upside down Erasmus’s attempt to turn the Law into the Gospel and the Gospel into the Law…more specifically, although it has been many years (and several glasses of wine, ha!) Erasmus tries to portray God’s patience with Pharoah as the Law since it allowed Pharoah to harden his heart, whereas he talks of the Law of God as Gospel because it inspires fear and brings us to the Gospel. Well, something like that, although it is late….but it is not unusual to confuse the two and it takes a guy like Luther to straighten out the difference between the Law and Gospel. thanks to fws and ekg for seeing thru the sophistry!

  • ptl

    amen to fws and ekg….there is something similar in Luthers “Bondage of the Will” where he turns upside down Erasmus’s attempt to turn the Law into the Gospel and the Gospel into the Law…more specifically, although it has been many years (and several glasses of wine, ha!) Erasmus tries to portray God’s patience with Pharoah as the Law since it allowed Pharoah to harden his heart, whereas he talks of the Law of God as Gospel because it inspires fear and brings us to the Gospel. Well, something like that, although it is late….but it is not unusual to confuse the two and it takes a guy like Luther to straighten out the difference between the Law and Gospel. thanks to fws and ekg for seeing thru the sophistry!

  • Larry

    The ultimate persecution
    Share |
    by Gene Veith on April 26, 2010
    in Church
    I was at the Congress on the Lutheran Confessions in Minneapolis last week, giving a paper on how those confessions teach the doctrine of vocation. I had to zip in and out, missing most of the conference (though it did prevent me from posting anything on Friday). Still, I did get to hear a paper by Rev. Fredrik Sidenvall of Gothenburg, Sweden, entitled “Confessing the Faith in an anti-Christian Culture.” It was about the woeful state of Christianity in Sweden, in society but more importantly in the state church. Rev. Sidenvall is involved in the confessional underground in that country. He actually didn’t make it to Minnesota, his flight being grounded by that Icelandic volcano! Still, his paper was read for him, and I got a lot out of it. I’ll be posting samples of what he said.
    Early in his paper, he said that even worse than living as a Christian in an anti-Christian culture is living in a culture where Christianity is tolerated. He cited a quotation from Luther: “No persecution is the ultimate persecution.”
    Why is that so?

    “No persecution is the ultimate persecution.” I don’t know if this is the same quote I read years ago in Heiko Oberman’s great book “Luther man between god and the devil”, which I highly recommend to anyone. I can’t at this time recall the chapter and page but the quote was from Luther saying, “The ultimate persecution is no persecution at all”. That stunned me and I discussed it with some friends at length never coming down on what Luther meant by it, because it so seemed to fit American Christianity in particular. Until one day I read where Luther was saying that faith thrives in persecution and so when there is “no persecution” (in an active sense) THAT is the ultimate persecution for faith. It is literally killing of faith. That seems to be the case when Christianity becomes accepted per se. Psychologically it also makes a great deal of sense, one’s faith is tested very harshly when no persecution is occurring in the active sense, the faith does not flee to the “only hope” so easily but unbelief begins to wonder “is it really true”. Another way to look at it is that it is always easier to talk about Christ crucified to the dying and at funerals or during tragedies, everyone experiences this, but when it’s just “regular times” its much more “hush hush”.

    It seems what Luther is getting at is the “persecution” is ultimately in whatever form it takes that which makes us doubt in the trust of Christ crucified for us which is dearest to our souls. A man can endure physical pain at various levels, but the “is Christ true” is unbearable. In fact the physical pain is a persecution primarily seeking to do the later, cause the doubt. But that doubt can be implanted even more painfully without the physical persecution. This is why Paul calls Ishmael’s laughter in Galatians a persecution of Isaac. Calvin actually does a wonderful job commenting on that in his commentaries and draws this back to Christ’s persecution on the cross, that the verbal assaults at Christ on the cross (that he was abandoned of God, etc…) were worse to His incarnate soul than the physical suffering He suffered (Luther says the same thing in other places).

    Larry

  • Larry

    The ultimate persecution
    Share |
    by Gene Veith on April 26, 2010
    in Church
    I was at the Congress on the Lutheran Confessions in Minneapolis last week, giving a paper on how those confessions teach the doctrine of vocation. I had to zip in and out, missing most of the conference (though it did prevent me from posting anything on Friday). Still, I did get to hear a paper by Rev. Fredrik Sidenvall of Gothenburg, Sweden, entitled “Confessing the Faith in an anti-Christian Culture.” It was about the woeful state of Christianity in Sweden, in society but more importantly in the state church. Rev. Sidenvall is involved in the confessional underground in that country. He actually didn’t make it to Minnesota, his flight being grounded by that Icelandic volcano! Still, his paper was read for him, and I got a lot out of it. I’ll be posting samples of what he said.
    Early in his paper, he said that even worse than living as a Christian in an anti-Christian culture is living in a culture where Christianity is tolerated. He cited a quotation from Luther: “No persecution is the ultimate persecution.”
    Why is that so?

    “No persecution is the ultimate persecution.” I don’t know if this is the same quote I read years ago in Heiko Oberman’s great book “Luther man between god and the devil”, which I highly recommend to anyone. I can’t at this time recall the chapter and page but the quote was from Luther saying, “The ultimate persecution is no persecution at all”. That stunned me and I discussed it with some friends at length never coming down on what Luther meant by it, because it so seemed to fit American Christianity in particular. Until one day I read where Luther was saying that faith thrives in persecution and so when there is “no persecution” (in an active sense) THAT is the ultimate persecution for faith. It is literally killing of faith. That seems to be the case when Christianity becomes accepted per se. Psychologically it also makes a great deal of sense, one’s faith is tested very harshly when no persecution is occurring in the active sense, the faith does not flee to the “only hope” so easily but unbelief begins to wonder “is it really true”. Another way to look at it is that it is always easier to talk about Christ crucified to the dying and at funerals or during tragedies, everyone experiences this, but when it’s just “regular times” its much more “hush hush”.

    It seems what Luther is getting at is the “persecution” is ultimately in whatever form it takes that which makes us doubt in the trust of Christ crucified for us which is dearest to our souls. A man can endure physical pain at various levels, but the “is Christ true” is unbearable. In fact the physical pain is a persecution primarily seeking to do the later, cause the doubt. But that doubt can be implanted even more painfully without the physical persecution. This is why Paul calls Ishmael’s laughter in Galatians a persecution of Isaac. Calvin actually does a wonderful job commenting on that in his commentaries and draws this back to Christ’s persecution on the cross, that the verbal assaults at Christ on the cross (that he was abandoned of God, etc…) were worse to His incarnate soul than the physical suffering He suffered (Luther says the same thing in other places).

    Larry

  • Larry

    Oops, I meant to only post my comment but accidently copied the whole thing (sorry about that):

    “No persecution is the ultimate persecution.” I don’t know if this is the same quote I read years ago in Heiko Oberman’s great book “Luther man between god and the devil”, which I highly recommend to anyone. I can’t at this time recall the chapter and page but the quote was from Luther saying, “The ultimate persecution is no persecution at all”. That stunned me and I discussed it with some friends at length never coming down on what Luther meant by it, because it so seemed to fit American Christianity in particular. Until one day I read where Luther was saying that faith thrives in persecution and so when there is “no persecution” (in an active sense) THAT is the ultimate persecution for faith. It is literally killing of faith. That seems to be the case when Christianity becomes accepted per se. Psychologically it also makes a great deal of sense, one’s faith is tested very harshly when no persecution is occurring in the active sense, the faith does not flee to the “only hope” so easily but unbelief begins to wonder “is it really true”. Another way to look at it is that it is always easier to talk about Christ crucified to the dying and at funerals or during tragedies, everyone experiences this, but when it’s just “regular times” its much more “hush hush”.

    It seems what Luther is getting at is the “persecution” is ultimately in whatever form it takes that which makes us doubt in the trust of Christ crucified for us which is dearest to our souls. A man can endure physical pain at various levels, but the “is Christ true” is unbearable. In fact the physical pain is a persecution primarily seeking to do the later, cause the doubt. But that doubt can be implanted even more painfully without the physical persecution. This is why Paul calls Ishmael’s laughter in Galatians a persecution of Isaac. Calvin actually does a wonderful job commenting on that in his commentaries and draws this back to Christ’s persecution on the cross, that the verbal assaults at Christ on the cross (that he was abandoned of God, etc…) were worse to His incarnate soul than the physical suffering He suffered (Luther says the same thing in other places).

    Larry

  • Larry

    Oops, I meant to only post my comment but accidently copied the whole thing (sorry about that):

    “No persecution is the ultimate persecution.” I don’t know if this is the same quote I read years ago in Heiko Oberman’s great book “Luther man between god and the devil”, which I highly recommend to anyone. I can’t at this time recall the chapter and page but the quote was from Luther saying, “The ultimate persecution is no persecution at all”. That stunned me and I discussed it with some friends at length never coming down on what Luther meant by it, because it so seemed to fit American Christianity in particular. Until one day I read where Luther was saying that faith thrives in persecution and so when there is “no persecution” (in an active sense) THAT is the ultimate persecution for faith. It is literally killing of faith. That seems to be the case when Christianity becomes accepted per se. Psychologically it also makes a great deal of sense, one’s faith is tested very harshly when no persecution is occurring in the active sense, the faith does not flee to the “only hope” so easily but unbelief begins to wonder “is it really true”. Another way to look at it is that it is always easier to talk about Christ crucified to the dying and at funerals or during tragedies, everyone experiences this, but when it’s just “regular times” its much more “hush hush”.

    It seems what Luther is getting at is the “persecution” is ultimately in whatever form it takes that which makes us doubt in the trust of Christ crucified for us which is dearest to our souls. A man can endure physical pain at various levels, but the “is Christ true” is unbearable. In fact the physical pain is a persecution primarily seeking to do the later, cause the doubt. But that doubt can be implanted even more painfully without the physical persecution. This is why Paul calls Ishmael’s laughter in Galatians a persecution of Isaac. Calvin actually does a wonderful job commenting on that in his commentaries and draws this back to Christ’s persecution on the cross, that the verbal assaults at Christ on the cross (that he was abandoned of God, etc…) were worse to His incarnate soul than the physical suffering He suffered (Luther says the same thing in other places).

    Larry

  • L. H. Kevil

    How could we get a copy of Rev. Sidenvall’s paper? Perhaps you could post it on Cranach? Thanks for telling us about it.

  • L. H. Kevil

    How could we get a copy of Rev. Sidenvall’s paper? Perhaps you could post it on Cranach? Thanks for telling us about it.


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