Friday, December 2, 2011

"Relevance," and Mockery of the Holy Martyrs – Part 5

Surely, Christians must realize that loyalty to their religion is only one of many competing priorities in life. There are many legitimate desires to persue. There are many obligations to be fulfilled. But Christian religious loyalty gives them such lop-sided personalities, which dwell upon ideas and priorities that are completely out of touch with the rational World. Sure, they're "nice" people and all, but they seem so difficult for normal people to connect with. Surely, they would get along much better with others in the World if they worked a little harder at being "well-rounded" in their loyalties.

And ought not such division of loyalty become the character of their most important source of teaching, their own "Holy Book" itself? This would be most effective in their rehabilition, would it not? Surely, it would be no great feat to introduce changes consistent with Worldly philosophy and priorities – not violently all at once, mind you, such that the older generations who have been schooled in older and vastly irrelevant versions of their "Holy Writings," would immediately discover them and vociferously object, but subtly in iterative versions, little by little, over generations. It would hardly be noticed, especially if attributed to "lack of clarity," and those who might suspect could be dismissed as paranoiacs or exhibiting signs of dementia, and thus rendered voiceless. And who could object to this? Hadn't the Christian "Holy Book" changed in its character and teaching as each generation subtly altered its meaning according to contemporary standards? Isn't this how "Oral Tradition" worked all along, and continues to work?

Cecil B. DeMille's, The Sign of the Cross, Part 4

FOX'S BOOK OF MARTYRS: The Ten Primitive Persecutions

The Fourth Persecution, Under Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, A.D. 162

Marcus Aurelius, followed about the year of our Lord 161, a man of nature more stern and severe; and, although in study of philosophy and in civil government no less commendable, yet, toward the Christians sharp and fierce; by whom was moved the fourth persecution.

The cruelties used in this persecution were such that many of the spectators shuddered with horror at the sight, and were astonished at the intrepidity of the sufferers. Some of the martyrs were obliged to pass, with their already wounded feet, over thorns, nails, sharp shells, etc. upon their points, others were scourged until their sinews and veins lay bare, and after suffering the most excruciating tortures that could be devised, they were destroyed by the most terrible deaths.

Germanicus, a young man, but a true Christian, being delivered to the wild beasts on account of his faith, behaved with such astonishing courage that several pagans became converts to a faith which inspired such fortitude.

Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna, hearing that persons were seeking for him, escaped, but was discovered by a child. After feasting the guards who apprehended him, he desired an hour in prayer, which being allowed, he prayed with such fervency, that his guards repented that they had been instrumental in taking him. He was, however, carried before the proconsul, condemned, and burnt in the market place.

The proconsul then urged him, saying, "Swear, and I will release thee; --reproach Christ."

Polycarp answered, "Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?" At the stake to which he was only tied, but not nailed as usual, as he assured them he should stand immovable, the flames, on their kindling the fagots, encircled his body, like an arch, without touching him; and the executioner, on seeing this, was ordered to pierce him with a sword, when so great a quantity of blood flowed out as extinguished the fire. But his body, at the instigation of the enemies of the Gospel, especially Jews, was ordered to be consumed in the pile, and the request of his friends, who wished to give it Christian burial, rejected. They nevertheless collected his bones and as much of his remains as possible, and caused them to be decently interred.

Metrodorus, a minister, who preached boldly, and Pionius, who made some excellent apologies for the Christian faith, were likewise burnt. Carpus and Papilus, two worthy Christians, and Agatonica, a pious woman, suffered martyrdom at Pergamopolis, in Asia.

Felicitatis, an illustrious Roman lady, of a considerable family, and the most shining virtues, was a devout Christian. She had seven sons, whom she had educated with the most exemplary piety.

Januarius, the eldest, was scourged, and pressed to death with weights; Felix and Philip, the two next had their brains dashed out with clubs; Silvanus, the fourth, was murdered by being thrown from a precipice; and the three younger sons, Alexander, Vitalis, and Martial, were beheaded. The mother was beheaded with the same sword as the three latter.

Justin, the celebrated philosopher, fell a martyr in this persecution. He was a native of Neapolis, in Samaria, and was born A.D. 103. Justin was a great lover of truth, and a universal scholar; he investigated the Stoic and Peripatetic philosophy, and attempted the Pythagorean; but the behavior of our of its professors disgusting him, he applied himself to the Platonic, in which he took great delight. About the year 133, when he was thirty years of age, he became a convert to Christianity, and then, for the first time, perceived the real nature of truth.

He wrote an elegant epistle to the Gentiles, and employed his talents in convincing the Jews of the truth of the Christian rites; spending a great deal of time in travelling, until he took up his abode in Rome, and fixed his habitation upon the Viminal mount.

He kept a public school, taught many who afterward became great men, and wrote a treatise to confuse heresies of all kinds. As the pagans began to treat the Christians with great severity, Justin wrote his first apology in their favor. This piece displays great learning and genius, and occasioned the emperor to publish an edict in favor of the Christians.

Soon after, he entered into frequent contests with Crescens, a person of a vicious life and conversation, but a celebrated cynic philosopher; and his arguments appeared so powerful, yet disgusting to the cynic, that he resolved on, and in the sequel accomplished, his destruction.

The second apology of Justin, upon certain severities, gave Crescens the cynic an opportunity of prejudicing the emperor against the writer of it; upon which Justin, and six of his companions, were apprehended. Being commanded to sacrifice to the pagan idols, they refused, and were condemned to be scourged, and then beheaded; which sentence was executed with all imaginable severity.

Several were beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to the image of Jupiter; in particular Concordus, a deacon of the city of Spolito.

Some of the restless northern nations having risen in arms against Rome, the emperor marched to encounter them. He was, however, drawn into an ambuscade, and dreaded the loss of his whole army. Enveloped with mountains, surrounded by enemies, and perishing with thirst, the pagan deities were invoked in vain; when the men belonging to the militine, or thundering legion, who were all Christians, were commanded to call upon their God for succor. A miraculous deliverance immediately ensued; a prodigious quantity of rain fell, which, being caught by the men, and filling their dykes, afforded a sudden and astonishing relief. It appears that the storm which miraculously flashed in the face of the enemy so intimidated them, that part deserted to the Roman army; the rest were defeated, and the revolted provinces entirely recovered.

This affair occasioned the persecution to subside for some time, at least in those parts immediately under the inspection of the emperor; but we find that it soon after raged in France, particularly at Lyons, where the tortures to which many of the Christians were put, almost exceed the powers of description.

The principal of these martyrs were Vetius Agathus, a young man; Blandina, a Christian lady, of a weak constitution; Sanctus, a deacon of Vienna; red hot plates of brass were placed upon the tenderest parts of his body; Biblias, a weak woman, once an apostate. Attalus, of Pergamus; and Pothinus, the venerable bishop of Lyons, who was ninety years of age. Blandina, on the day when she and the three other champions were first brought into the amphitheater, she was suspended on a piece of wood fixed in the ground, and exposed as food for the wild beasts; at which time, by her earnest prayers, she encouraged others. But none of the wild beasts would touch her, so that she was remanded to prison. When she was again produced for the third and last time, she was accompanied by Ponticus, a youth of fifteen, and the constancy of their faith so enraged the multitude that neither the sex of the one nor the youth of the other were respected, being exposed to all manner of punishments and tortures. Being strengthened by Blandina, he persevered unto death; and she, after enduring all the torments heretofore mentioned, was at length slain with the sword.

When the Christians, upon these occasions, received martyrdom, they were ornamented, and crowned with garlands of flowers; for which they, in heaven, received eternal crowns of glory.

It has been said that the lives of the early Christians consisted of "persecution above ground and prayer below ground." Their lives are expressed by the Coliseum and the catacombs. Beneath Rome are the excavations which we call the catacombs, whivch were at once temples and tombs. The early Church of Rome might well be called the Church of the Catacombs. There are some sixty catacombs near Rome, in which some six hundred miles of galleries have been traced, and these are not all. These galleries are about eight feet high and from three to five feet wide, containing on either side several rows of long, low, horizontal recesses, one above another like berths in a ship. In these the dead bodies were placed and the front closed, either by a single marble slab or several great tiles laid in mortar. On these slabs or tiles, epitaphs or symbols are graved or painted. Both pagans and Christians buried their dead in these catacombs. When the Christian graves have been opened the skeletons tell their own terrible tale. Heads are found severed from the body, ribs and shoulder blades are broken, bones are often calcined from fire. But despite the awful story of persecution that we may read here, the inscriptions breathe forth peace and joy and triumph. Here are a few:
    "Here lies Marcia, put to rest in a dream of peace."

    "Lawrence to his sweetest son, borne away of angels."

    "Victorious in peace and in Christ."

    "Being called away, he went in peace."
Remember when reading these inscriptions the story the skeletons tell of persecution, of torture, and of fire.

But the full force of these epitaphs is seen when we contrast them with the pagan epitaphs, such as:
    "Live for the present hour, since we are sure of nothing else."

    "I lift my hands against the gods who took me away at the age of twenty though I had done no harm."

    "Once I was not. Now I am not. I know nothing about it, and it is no concern of mine."

    "Traveler, curse me not as you pass, for I am in darkness and cannot answer."
The most frequent Christian symbols on the walls of the catacombs, are, the good shepherd with the lamb on his shoulder, a ship under full sail, harps, anchors, crowns, vines, and above all the fish.


Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Torturing and raping young boys was great sport for the pagan Romans... utterly sickening, even in the sterilized version of it suggested in this video clip. As was stated in the post Post-Modernism, Pop-culture, Transcendence, and the Church Militant, our “concept of 'family' in Western Culture today, and of relationships within the family, results entirely from Christian influence in society”. The value we place on women and children, “cannot be applied or used to interpret or characterize those relationships in pagan Roman culture at large during the Apostolic period.”

“This is not the place to describe the exposure of children, or the various crimes by which ancient Greece and Rome, in the days of their highest culture, sought to rid themselves of what was regarded as superfluous population... Assuredly, St. Paul’s description of the ancient world in the first and second chapters of his Epistle to the Romans must have appeared to those who lived in the midst of it as Divine even in its tenderness, delicacy, and charity; the full picture under bright sunlight would have been scarcely susceptible of exhibition. For such a world, there was only one alternative – either the judgment of Sodom, or the mercy of the Gospel and the healing of the Cross.”

Anonymous said...

Hello Doug, long-time-no-see! I hope the Advent Season is a blessing for you and your family. I read the two paragraphs and I got to thinking, "How can you describe something this morbid without any mentioning of the following."

"This IS the place to describe the exposure of children. Joel Hochmuth..utterly sickening, even in if people foolishly believe that they live in a sterilized Luthern Synod. Most pastors have been silent in-light of this recent but devastating event. Intrepids cannot hide in the dark anylonger, least "we receive the judgment of Sodom."

In Christ,
Rebecca Quam

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the spelling. L-u-t-h-e-r-a-n

In Christ,
Rebecca Quam

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


I was confused by your comment. Who's "hiding in the dark"?

What exactly are you hoping for from us regarding the Hochmuth situation, and why? What need is there for Intrepid Lutherans to address any of that? As far as we know, it's being dealt with. The man has already been fired. The WELS website already publicly acknowledged his arrest. He's already facing trial. We aren't about to try him in the court of public opinion or pretend to be the investigators of his case.

So, what would you like to see accomplished here?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the quick response. Other than the pastors and blog followers, NOBODY south of Chicago has even heard about this. None of the pastors around here have informed any of the members. One person did know, and she was visiting from MLC. You are correct Pastor Redecki, the person was fired and is going to trial. The problem that I have was that full disclosure should have been mandatory, but it was not. Most people do not read the WELS website. Needless to say, that the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal does not have delivery in Texas. I agree that we do not need to hold a court on the Intrepid blog. Why didn't the pastors foward SP Schroeder's WELS Togeter message to the parishners? That was the point I was trying to make. Long-story-short we expose the ELCA, Roman Catholics, and Penn state in adult bible class, yet we sat NOTHING of the WELS. Intrepids has been a blessing and leading voice, and I stand firm with the Gospel centered people dedicated to God's truths that are dicussed on this blog. I just thought you should know that the full discloser was not carried through all channels.

In Christ,
Rebecca Quam

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

I see, Rebecca. I figured most pastors would inform their congregations of this. I informed my congregation in Bible class, and have already encouraged all of them to sign up for the "Together" e-mail broadcast. Beyond that, I didn't feel the need to have a special after-church discussion of it or anything. But I would at least expect pastors to alert their congregations somehow.

It always unnerves me when I hear Lutherans talking about how glad they are that they're Lutheran, since the Roman Catholics et al. have had so many problems with sexual abuse. The same abuse has surely taken place in every Lutheran synod, and of course, the ability to cover such things up increases exponentially with size. The apostate church is not a denomination. It lurks within every denomination, including ours.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Rydecki said: "The apostate church is not a denomination. It lurks within every denomination, including ours." That is so true.

The Apostle Paul warned the Church to beware (be aware) of false teachers. (Acts 20:28-31). If that warning does not apply to a particular denomination, then that denomination has no business calling itself church.

Rick Techlin

Joe Krohn said...

I agree, Rick. One needs to erase synod and denominational lines...churches make up these organizations. Testing what the pastor preaches and teaches will reveal if an individual church is true to the Word.

Joe Krohn

Post a Comment

Comments will be accepted or rejected based on the sound Christian judgment of the moderators.

Since anonymous comments are not allowed on this blog, please sign your full name at the bottom of every comment, unless it already appears in your identity profile.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License