The history and causes of persecution

Ignatius of Antioch fed to lions in Rome

Why are Christians persecuted? What is God’s purpose for it? Why do people do it? How are believers to meet it? Roy Stults has compiled the church’s reactions and responses to persecution from its earliest centuries. Chapter eight offers deeply perceptive insights into persecution from theologians of the last sixty years. Download your free copy of the entire book in PDF format now.

Mom in prison for sons

Firmin Abauzit was born into a Huguenot family in France in 1679. After King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, depriving Huguenots of civil liberties and the right to worship as Protestants, Firmin’s mom helped the ten-year-old escape from France. For two years he and a brother hid out before making their way to Geneva. Firmin went on to become an internationally-known scholar and scientist (unfortunately, family with different religious views destroyed most of his works after his death). His mom, however, went to prison for her role in helping her sons leave France where authorities had attempted to force a Catholic education on them. She eventually escaped herself and joined her sons.

William Prynne suffered for outspoken Puritan views

William Prynne, a Puritan lawyer, wrote Histriomastix, or the Player’s Scourge, directed against the sinfulness of play-acting, masques, and revels. This aroused the indignation of the British court because he unwisely declared actresses were whores. Since Queen Henrietta Maria enjoyed plays and sometimes took part in performances herself, his statement was considered seditious.

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Grafton learns the cost of Bible printing

Grafton’s mark was a young tree (graft) growing out of a cask (tun).

The early printers of the Bible incurred great risks. Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch, together with Miles Coverdale, were entrusted to arrange for the printing of Thomas Mathew’s translation. The work was given to the printers in Paris, as the English printers were not very highly esteemed. The book was nearly completed when the Inquisition effectually stopped the further progress of the work by seizing the sheets, and Grafton with his companions were forced to flee. Richard Grafton and Whitchurch contrived to obtain their types from Paris, and the Bible was completed in 1539. Thus they became printers themselves, and as a reward for his labor, when the Roman Catholics again became rulers in high places, Richard Grafton was imprisoned. Continue reading “Grafton learns the cost of Bible printing”

George Whitefield’s Theology of Persecution

Whitefield preaching.

George Whitefield was a well-known evangelist during the Evangelical revival in England in the eighteenth century, a co-laborer at times with John and Charles Wesley. Although he did not suffer martyrdom, he suffered ridicule and knew what it was to be excluded from pulpits. Therefore he could speak first hand of persecution. One of his more famous sermons was titled, “Persecution Every Christian’s Lot.” In it he presented a biblical perspective on Christian suffering. 

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Origen’s take on persecution

[Imaginary portrait of Origen]

Origen was the son of a martyr and himself suffered imprisonment and torture late in life. A teacher and theologian, he wrote on persecution as one who had witnessed it and who was prepared to experience it. Although he suffered for his faith, contemporary church leaders condemned some of his teachings because they veered into heretical territory. Continue reading “Origen’s take on persecution”

Sentenced to Siberia

Basil Malof in 1939.

Basil Malof (born William Fetler—he changed his name because Fetler had been forced on his grandfather by German occupiers) was a successful Protestant evangelist in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), and publisher of the first religious journal in Latvia, Kristigais Vestnesis (Christian Herald). Converted at fifteen, he was baptized at night because the Orthodox Church persecuted evangelicals. Continue reading “Sentenced to Siberia”

Elisha Paine and the Freedom to Worship

When Elisha Paine preached as a Baptist, Massachusetts authorities threw him into a dirty prison at Worcester for unlicensed preaching (February 1743). He refused to post bond, believing to do so was to comply with an unbiblical and corrupt system. After his release in May, he continued to preach in that area for two weeks, then preached throughout New England from July into December. By the end of the year had given over 240 sermons. Continue reading “Elisha Paine and the Freedom to Worship”

Fifty Captives Freed for a Blind Man

In July 1900, Boxers martyred “Blind Chang” at Chaoyang, China.

Formerly an alcoholic, thief, gambler, and member of the notorious gang known as Vegetarians, he had become blind after expelling his wife from their home and forcing his daughter into prostitution. He made his way to a mission station where he was given a place to stay. There he heard the gospel and was transformed by the power of Christ. Continue reading “Fifty Captives Freed for a Blind Man”