November 2010 - Vol. 44

A New Kind of Saint
by Donald G. Bloesch

The church in every age needs models, people in whom the passion and victory of Jesus Christ are palpably manifest. As Christians, we are all called to be saints, but there are some who have been specially chosen by God to make a public witness that patently reveals the judgment of God upon human sin. We are all called to radiate the light of Christ, but only some are given the privilege of bearing this light in the face of open and flagrant opposition. We are all expected to take up the cross and follow Christ, but only some carry a cross that poses a direct challenge to the principalities and powers of the world. Only some therefore can be considered saints in the special sense of being public signs of the passion and victory of Jesus Christ. 

This is not to denigrate the unsung and unknown saints who have had to break with friends or family or who have lost jobs or the hope of promotion for taking a stand for what they know to be right. Or the mother who has been left on her own to care for five children and who survives on next-to-nothing and a living faith in God. But it is to insist that those singled out for public rebuke and opprobrium, especially those who die for the faith, should be given signal recognition and honor by the church, since the sufferings of these people become dramatically visible to the world at large. 

…I suggest that the models of the future will again be the martyrs and confessors of the faith,* those who are persecuted primarily because of their Christian identity. 

These are people who will suffer for the sake of the gospel itself and not simply for the cause of social righteousness. These are the people who will boldly confess that Jesus Christ alone is Savior and Lord....The demonstration of a Christian life will still be important, but it is the proclamation of the gospel that will arouse the special ire of a secularized world. Life and words, of course, go together, but the stumbling block that will elicit the rage of the world is Jesus Christ himself and those who bear witness to him (cf. John 15:18-20; Acts 4:24-26). 

What I am suggesting is that the Christian message itself will become the object of ridicule. The life of discipleship will be derided precisely because it calls attention to the gospel, to its claims and imperatives. We are entering an age in which the simple confession of faith becomes the dividing line between the reprobate and the elect, the oppressors and the oppressed, the children of darkness and the children of light. 

What the church needs today is... people who will stand firm for the faith even at the risk of losing life, possessions, and respectability.

* Confessors are those who confess the faith under persecution but do not actually suffer death for their convictions. Church historians have traditionally referred to these people as “white martyrs.”

[excerpted from the book, Crumbling Foundations, by Donald Bloesch, (c)1984 by The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan]

Donald Bloesch (1928 – 2010), who died this past August, was a noted American evangelical theologian. 

He wrote numerous books, including Wellsprings of Renewal: Promise in Christian Communal Life, Crumbling Foundations: Death and Rebirth in an Age of Upheaval,The Battle for the Trinity: The Debate Over Inclusive God-language, A Theology Of Word & Spirit: Authority & Method In Theology

He was raised in the Evangelical and Reformed Church, in which his father and both his grandfathers were also ordained ministers. From 1957 until his retirement in 1992, he was a professor of theology at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, USA, where he continued as a professor emeritus.


Evangelical missionaries and martyrs: Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Jim Elliot in the jungle of eastern Ecuador [See related article here]

From Jim Elliot’s journal:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. (1949)

God, I pray Thee, light these sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus. (1948)

Father, take my life, yea, my blood if Thou wilt, and consume it with Thine enveloping fire. I would not save it, for it is not mine to save. Have it Lord, have it all. Pour out my life as an oblation for the world. Blood is only of value as it flows before Thine altar. (1948)

Gave myself for Auca work more definitely than ever, asking for spiritual valor, plain and miraculous guidance. . . .” (May 1952)

Edith Stein, a Jewish teacher and philosopher who found Jesus Christ and became a Carmelite nun, died in the gas chamber at Auschwitz [See article here]

It was my first encounter with the cross and the divine power that it bestows on those who carry it. For the first time, I was seeing with my very eyes the church, born from its Redeemer’s sufferings, triumphant over the sting of death. That was the moment my unbelief collapsed and Christ shone forth – in the mystery of the cross (written in 1917). 

I keep having to think of Queen Esther who was taken from among her people precisely that she might represent them before the king. I am a very poor and powerless little Esther, but the King who chose me is infinitely great and merciful. That is such a great comfort (letter, 1938). 

Dieterich Bonhoeffer
a young Lutheran pastor, fearlessly preached the Gospel in the face of Nazi persecution. He was executed in 1945. 
[See brief bio  here.]

Excerpt from The Cost of Discipleship:

Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the Gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

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