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Non-Orthodox martyrs


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#1 Peter Farrington

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Posted 15 December 2006 - 04:07 PM

I am not sure where this should go so I will start it here.

When I was growing up my Dad would often speak about a group of evangelical missionaries who had been martyred in 1956 in the Ecuadorean jungle by a savage native tribe called the Aucas, indeed they were always known to me as the Auca Martyrs.

On my recent flight out to Finland I was reading an account of their lives and mission written by Elisabeth Elliott, the widow of Jim Elliott, one of the missionaries. It is a most moving book, and it was a sorrowful pleasure to read it again. Indeed I was nearly in tears as the plane came in to land at Helsinki.

Nate Saint, the pilot of the group, is also famous for having developed the technique of allowing a piece of cargo on the end of a very long line to be dropped from a slowly circling plane so that it ended up hanging in space just above the ground.

I also discovered that my Dad knew a Dr Tidball, and English missionary, who had inspired the Auca Martyrs and who had worked with them in Ecuador as a mentor.

I highly commend the book. It is called Through Gates of Splendour. In fact the last hymn they sang before they left their wives and friends was the hymn that contains that line.

These men are an inspiration to me. I grew up with the words of Jim Elliott often being commended. He said,

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

These men gave up excellent opportunities and futures in the US to give their lives sacrificially as missionaries in the Ecuadorean jungles, entirely so that by their witness some people who had never heard of Christ might hear and believe. Their entire lives were given over to service of Christ in a manner I have never come close to, even as an Orthodox with all the benefits that gives me.

Once I was blessed to hear Elizabeth Elliott speak and even though I was only just starting to move in a more 'catholic' direction out of my evangelicalism, I felt that the Martyrs were there in some glorious sense. (I don't allow myself to be bound by feelings about things, but I did sense a spiritual presence while she spoke).

I wonder how Eastern Orthodox view such things? These men were not Orthodox. Their worship would have been pretty much what I was used to as a Plymouth Brother. But as far as I can see they knew their Bibles, and their Lord, much better than I do.

I have heard some Eastern Orthodox say that men such as these are not martyrs and their future state is entirely left to God since they are not part of the Church. But I find it very hard to believe that. Can someone who does not know Christ in a living and saving manner say,

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

Hard cases to not make good laws. I am not asking that anyone say that everyone who has a warm feeling about God is in the same position as the great spiritual fathers and mothers of the Church. But I am asking about those who knowingly and willingly sacrifice their lives for Christ. Are they throwing their lives away for nothing, as some have indeed said to me, or by their sacrifice do they receive an Orthodox baptism of blood and join the ranks of the Church triumphant?

I wonder what the wider view is?

Peter

#2 Antonios

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Posted 15 December 2006 - 05:46 PM

Are they throwing their lives away for nothing, as some have indeed said to me, or by their sacrifice do they receive an Orthodox baptism of blood and join the ranks of the Church triumphant?



Hi Peter,

It truly is a shame that someone would say to you that they have "thrown their lives away for nothing". I find that to be a truly un-orthodox statement to say about anyone who has sacrificed their own life for the good of another, whether Christian or not. My understanding is that although they have not been 'declared a saint' by the Orthodox Church, doesn't mean they have not found favor with God or is not ranked among the saints in the here-after. We, as a Church, pray to God for all His people, especially such martyrs who have sacrificed everything out of love for Christ.

#3 Tanya Hoadley

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Posted 15 December 2006 - 07:36 PM

Dear Peter,

Soon we will be commemorating the Holy Innocents slain by Herod in Bethlehem.

Perhaps the teachings of the Fathers on this may provide some insight.

In Christ,
Tanya

#4 Peter Farrington

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Posted 15 December 2006 - 08:28 PM

Dear Tanya

Yes, they are a good example. I wonder also if some have to hand the names of other martyrs received as such by the Church who were never baptised.

St Cyprian says:

When any die for the confession of Christ without having received the washing of regeneration, it avails as much for the remission of their sins as if they had been washed in the sacred font of baptism.

and it would seem that the Fathers base this in part on the words of our Lord Himself who says:

Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven.

I wonder then if the Church in any time or place has venerated those who died for the confession of Christ and yet were outside the formal bounds of the Church at the time of their confession? I wonder if the Churches have said anything about those who have suffered in the Communist lands, or under the Muslim Yoke for instance, who might have been Protestants or Catholics?

Peter

#5 Paul Cowan

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 01:12 AM

Hello Peter:
I read the Lives of the Saints on the OCA site every day as spiritual food of those Great people form old. I read many stories of pagans (soldiers mostly) who are doing the torturing or participating in the crowds one minute and the next minute they are being beheaded for their confession of being a Christian.

If the Church can call them Saints and martyrs who were pagans just minutes before they were killed, how much less can other Faiths not be recognized for their confession of Christ? It seems to me to be a bit too critical for the Church to have a monopoly on Saints and Martyrs.

I agree as above, God knows the heart. Who are we to say who is not worthy of a martyr's baptism or crown? I would hope the Church does not have a private country club mentality to whom God will consider one of these great confessors of the Faith. (Oh, you are not Orthodox/ you are not special enough, so you can't be a saint or martyr.)

May God bless all who have gone before us and who pray for us before Him in Heaven. I need all the prayers I can get. Orthodox or other.

Paul

#6 Father David Moser

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 04:26 AM

There is a difference here between a person who is a martyr and a person who is commemorated by the Church as a martyr. We commemorate those who suffered and were martyred for an Orthodox confession of faith and we do not pass judgement one way or the other on those outside the Church who suffer and are martyred for their confession of Jesus Christ.

Fr David Moser

#7 Peter Farrington

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 10:22 AM

Dear Father

I am always confused by the idea that 'we do not pass judgement one way or the other on those outside the Church who suffer and are martyred for their confession of Jesus Christ.'

Because it seems to me that in saying that for instance these Auca Martyrs are outside the Church they have indeed been judged and found wanting.

And by merely calling them martyrs and not a person commemorated by the Church as a martyr we do seem to devalue their sacrifice, as though their witness to Christ even to death in the Ecuadorean jungles is less a witness than my own just because God has given me the blessing of finding a home in Orthodoxy.

If we do not claim them as our own then our silence is a negative judgement.

For myself, I would be proud to stand behind them in the Glory of Eternity and have no doubts at all that they are welcomed by God into his heavenly home. I have not yet begun to live for Christ as they, and many others who are not formally Orthodox, have done.

By their fruits they are known.

Peter

#8 John Charmley

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 11:36 AM

Dear Father

I am always confused by the idea that 'we do not pass judgement one way or the other on those outside the Church who suffer and are martyred for their confession of Jesus Christ.'
Peter


Dear Peter,

I can see the distinction that Fr. David is making, and if it seems valid to him and other Orthodox, I feel no inclination to pursue the matter further. As the vicar who received me into the Anglican Church many years ago said to me after my confirmation: 'You know, there are going to be a lot of very surprised souls in Heaven, not least those who will find God's judgements less narrow than their own; but that is the glory of the living God!'

Only God knows whom He will recognise as martyrs. In the meantime those who worship Him can distinguish themselves by their particularism and think what they wish; He will, we hope, forgive us our sins.

As we are told in Revelation 3:2

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.

As I stand in the fear of Judgement, I judge not. But I am humbled at the sacrifices my fellow Christians, of all denominations, make in Christ's name, and I bow my head before their memory eternal in silence.

In Christ,


John

#9 Kris

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 01:34 PM

There is a rather famous phrase which says that "the martyrdom of heretics is suicide." However, I believe this to be a reference to those who give up their lives in defence of their particular heresy, and not simply someone outside the Church who dies confessing Christ.

The Fathers equate martyrdom with baptism. Therefore, I don't see how anyone who dies for the sake of Christ - unless they died consciously renouncing the Truth of His holy Church or something akin to this - can be viewed as being outside the Church.

If martyrdom for the sake of Christ equals baptism, then it also equals reception into the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

In XC,
Kris

#10 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 03:27 PM

Martyrdom is not just a human act of sacrifice for the sake of Christ. Rather it is living in an ecclesiological reality in which we live within Christ even while surrounded by death. It is a particular kind of submission to Christ through which He overwhelms death.

This is only found within the Church just as a man standing in the sunlight only can do so by standing before the sun.

Not to say that others are not attracted by the light.

But standing directly in the light of the Sun is something different from this. And this is what the Church acknowledges in Her canonizations of the martyrs.

This also answers our questions about those who were not baptized but yet gave their lives in an act of martyrdom. Almost always this was done when they saw the martyrs. In other words when they saw the light of Christ acting
they were attracted by this same light and did likewise as the martyrs.

We come to the very same point then that for the Church martyrdom refers to a particular kind of openness to Christ's grace as it manifests itself in the face of death.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#11 Peter Farrington

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 04:06 PM

I'm not sure how the well attested martyrdom of blood can be equated with living in the ecclesial reality of the Church. It seems to me that all the Fathers, especially of the period of greatest persecutions, understood that there was something special about those who sacrificed their lives for Christ even while outside the ecclesial reality of the Church.

What was special about the martyrdom of blood was that it brought those who were outside the community of the Church into it.

It may well be that those Christians who do sacrifice their lives for Christ in martyrdom have not experienced as bright a light of Christ as those who are blessed to be Orthodox, but it is the same light, and their witness even without the fulness of the light which we experience is in many regards even more commendable than the sacrifice of those who have known the fulness of life in Christ.

I agree very much with your point,

[quote]We come to the very same point then that for the Church martyrdom refers to a particular kind of openness to Christ's grace as it manifests itself in the face of death.[quote]

and if I understand you correctly then we are in complete agreement that the martyrdom of those outside the visible bounds of Orthodoxy indeed bears witness in a mysterious way to that openness to Christ's grace even outside of Orthodoxy.

Peter

#12 Father David Moser

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 05:29 PM

Because it seems to me that in saying that for instance these Auca Martyrs are outside the Church they have indeed been judged and found wanting.

And by merely calling them martyrs and not a person commemorated by the Church as a martyr we do seem to devalue their sacrifice, as though their witness to Christ even to death in the Ecuadorean jungles is less a witness than my own just because God has given me the blessing of finding a home in Orthodoxy.

If we do not claim them as our own then our silence is a negative judgement.


I think you put words into my mouth according to your own "spin" on what I said. I never said or implied that their sacrifice or death were anything less than martrydom, but simply that we do not commemorate them in the Church.

You must remember that in the Church *we* do not decide whom we are to commemorate as saints - this is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. Should there be some special revelation today regarding these men and their sacrifice (akin to the multitude of miracles already in the Church by which the lives and struggles of previously unknown martyrs are made known), then I certainly would have no qualms about composing a service in their honor, painting an icon and including them in the menaion. However, there is an order to the Church and that order is given to us by the Holy Spirit. I do not doubt that there are a multitude of "cradle" Orthodox martyrs who are unknown and unsung because their lives and struggles have not been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit - that doesn't make them any less martyrs or any less saints and does not place them outside the kingdom of heaven, it simply means that we have not been given the task to commemorate them.

The Holy Spirit directs the life of the Church through the tools of Holy Tradition, Holy Scripture, and the grace of the Episcopacy. We cannot just take any of that into our own hands because "it makes sense to me" - that is not Orthodoxy, that is protestantism.

Fr David Moser

#13 Peter Farrington

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 05:57 PM

Dear Father

Yes you are right that doing things simply because they seem right to us is a form of protestantism, though of course I never said that should be done, and asked rather that we look at the teaching of the Fathers about the baptism of blood and the numbers of martyrs commemorated by the church who were never baptised in water and formally became members of the Church on earth.

I am glad I misunderstood you when you spoke about those who were not formally members of the Church but gave their lives freely as a sacrifice to Christ.

I agree with you, if I have understood you correctly this time, that these were true martyrs, even though it has not been given us to commemorate them. I don't think that Tradition asks more of us than to recognise those who give their lives for Christ, as being members of His Church - this is what Sy Cyprian and others say. My concern is with the opinion that would wish to insist that their martyrdom is a suicide. This is a view which many outside of Orthodoxy in the UK would find offensive, repulsive even.

The issue of commemoration is just as you say, a matter for the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I am not sure that the Auca Martyrs should be commemorated, but it does seem to me that they should be commended and celebrated.

Peter

#14 Father David Moser

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 06:41 PM

In general, I think that we are indeed in agreement here.

My concern is with the opinion that would wish to insist that their martyrdom is a suicide.


I think that more accurately this comment should be applied to those who give their lives to defend a recognized heresy - and even then it is difficult, nay impossble, for us on earth to make such a judgement for we do not know the state or condition of men's hearts.

I am not sure that the Auca Martyrs should be commemorated, but it does seem to me that they should be commended and celebrated.


It is not unknown or unOrthodox to take examples from those who are not Orthodox Christians when they express that which is Orthodox either by their words or by their lives. Does not the Greek Church hold the pre-Christian philosophers, such as Plato and Socrates, in esteem for their ideas which "foreshadowed" the Christian teachings? Did not even the Holy Apostle Paul use such quotations in his arguements with the philosophers in Athens? Do we not in this day use examples and quotations from non-Orthodox sources in our homilies and in spiritual writings in order to make a point? (Fr Seraphim Rose often referred to the teachings of his Taoist past - and even compiled sufficient notes that a book was published in his name from them posthumously. One need not agree with everything he says to recognize the beneficial influence of these "non Orthodox" sources on this Orthodox writer) I have seen people make reference to Einstein, Ghandi, Mother Theresa and others in order to illuminte an Orthodox teaching - why can we not then take the example of these martyrs as well? (btw, in my "former" evangelical protestant life, these "auca martyrs" were held in high regard and I even had the chance to meet some of the families on occasion).

Fr David Moser

#15 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 07:04 PM

I think you put words into my mouth according to your own "spin" on what I said. I never said or implied that their sacrifice or death were anything less than martrydom, but simply that we do not commemorate them in the Church.

You must remember that in the Church *we* do not decide whom we are to commemorate as saints - this is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. Should there be some special revelation today regarding these men and their sacrifice (akin to the multitude of miracles already in the Church by which the lives and struggles of previously unknown martyrs are made known), then I certainly would have no qualms about composing a service in their honor, painting an icon and including them in the menaion. However, there is an order to the Church and that order is given to us by the Holy Spirit. I do not doubt that there are a multitude of "cradle" Orthodox martyrs who are unknown and unsung because their lives and struggles have not been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit - that doesn't make them any less martyrs or any less saints and does not place them outside the kingdom of heaven, it simply means that we have not been given the task to commemorate them.

The Holy Spirit directs the life of the Church through the tools of Holy Tradition, Holy Scripture, and the grace of the Episcopacy. We cannot just take any of that into our own hands because "it makes sense to me" - that is not Orthodoxy, that is protestantism.

Fr David Moser



Along the very same lines are those whom we have known outside of the Church who have been righteous in their own way.

Why is it not correct for example to say that because a Protestant minster is God-fearing and sees himself as acting within the Church this makes him the equivalent of an Orthodox priest if we could just see it?

Because within the Church we not only speak of actions or intentions behind the actions; but actions which within the Church reach a depth & significance they cannot otherwise attain. And certainly within the Church we gain the experience & we sense the difference between reality as found within the Church and that outside of it.

The reality of the Church & that outside of it are two different things. It's not even correct to speak as if an equal desire for Christ can be found both in the Church and outside of it. For precisely it is within the Church that the will & desire are resurrected and given a depth and significance they can never reach outside of the Church.


Of course these two realities don't have to pitted against each other. The righteous Protestant minister according to his intention could very well after this present life also find himself standing before the Light of Christ.

The point though is that no matter how righteous a person is outside of the Church their desire and actions are incomplete in a way not found within the Church. For them fulfillment of their desire must await the time after this life when all will stand before Christ.


In Christ- Fr Raphael

#16 Peter Farrington

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 07:10 PM

Dear Father

I agree entirely with your post, not as though my agreement counts for anything.

I am glad that you met some of the families associated with the Auca Martyrs. I only used those as an example. It seems to me that it is especially in martyrdom that the divisions and separations of Christians are overcome by Christ Himself, as the sacrifice of the martyr is a life given to and for Christ Himself since it is at the point of martyrdom that the other issues which cause division and separation become rather or entirely secondary.

When I have seen photos of the work they were conducting in Ecuador it seems to be something that I would have been very comfortable with as a Plymouth Brother - and so would have questions about nowadays. But

I wonder if their death for Christ transcends such questions in their case?

Not that their form of evangelicalism is therefore beyond criticism - I don't think it is, but rather that in their martyrdom they themselves found Christ beside them on the beach saying 'Today you will be with me in paradise'? They were not standing there for the sake of evangelicalism but for Christ Himself.

Is it the same with Mother Teresa? Her life does not require us to dogmatise about Roman Catholicism, but it does allow us to celebrate Christ in her, and her service of Christ? Does she, and the Auca Martyrs, make us reflect on our own service, seeing that we call ourselves Orthodox, while we consider them heterodox in various ways, yet they seem to have lived a more selfless and Christ-like life than us (me).

Peter

#17 Peter Farrington

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 07:17 PM

It's not even correct to speak as if an equal desire for Christ can be found both in the Church and outside of it.


Though I agree with most of your post Father, I can't agree with this bit. I have known too many completely Christ-centered evangelicals and catholics to believe that this is true.

And indeed too many selfish, mediocre and compromised Orthodox, myself included.

There are many 'better' Christians in the world than many Orthodox. We cannot disguise this by talking about how there is a mystical life that it not known by those outside the Church. Lets face facts, there are lots of bad Christians within the Orthodox Church who have only been baptised and only turn up for major feasts. And there are lots of Christians entirely devoted to Christ outside Orthodoxy whom God is at work in while perhaps no Orthodox have ever bothered to speak to them.

I could never state that the desire for Christ outside of the Orthodox Church is less than that within it. My experience of others does not support that point of view.

Peter

#18 Antonios

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 07:22 PM

Does she, and the Auca Martyrs, make us reflect on our own service, seeing that we call ourselves Orthodox, while we consider them heterodox in various ways, yet they seem to have lived a more selfless and Christ-like life than us (me).


Very well put, Peter. I, for one, am awed and inspired by such vailant and faithful Christians, Lord have mercy on them, and at the same time truly humbled by how far short I find myself and how often I struggle in fighting the good fight. Their greatest gift they offer us is their shining example in how much they loved. We could all learn from them.

#19 Peter Farrington

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 07:25 PM

Hi Antonios

I am rather put in mind of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. He was not Jewish, he was not ceremonially clean, and there was much in the Samaritan form of religion which could be criticised. Yet our Lord chose him as an example of how we should live.

Peter

#20 Scott Pierson

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 08:19 PM

Is it possible that martyrs who are visible outside the Church are not often commemorated because the title of "saint" or "martyr" would give a greater doctrinal authority to their teachings which may not be in line with Orthodoxy. Certainly being recognized as a Saint doesn't make one an infallible teacher but it does grant a certain prestige to one wittings / teachings and their place within the Church tradition. The consensus of the saints and fathers is very important in terms of being able to deduce the teaching of the Church and if we include a large number of people who teach say protestant theories regarding salvation, eschatology, ecclesiology , etc... bad things might happen? People could then make the argument "well saint (insert protestant) teaches salvation by faith alone and he was a saint, do you think you know better than the saints!"

Maybe people who make heroic sacrifices for Christ outside the Church should be honored and remembered in some other manner. As Father pointed out above about Plato and Socrates they have been honored by the Church and some of the fathers (they have even been called Christians before Christ ) but we never labeled them Saint Plato or Martyr Socrates. The one instance I can think of (yeah I admit I was wrong earlier on the subject) in which a person who was visibly outside the Church was named a Saint (Saint Isaac of Syria) that persons writtings/ teachings were perfectly inline with Orthodox teaching something that would be very rare indeed if the person in question was a protestant.

I guess honoring them as martyrs but not as saints might not cause to much confusion. I'm just afraid that people who wish to "reform" the Church could point to the offical acceptance of their comemoration as an aknowledgment by the church that such teachings are not heretical. I could just be a little to paranoid though.




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