2010 - Vol. 44
New Kind of Saint
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,
Foundations, by Donald Bloesch, (c)1984 by The Zondervan Corporation,
Grand Rapids, Michigan]
Bloesch (1928 – 2010), who died this past August, was a noted American
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.
missionaries and martyrs: Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Jim Elliot in the
jungle of eastern Ecuador [See related article here]
Jim Elliot’s journal:
is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. (1949)
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)
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)
myself for Auca work more definitely than ever, asking for spiritual valor,
plain and miraculous guidance. . . .” (May 1952)
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]
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
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).
young Lutheran pastor, fearlessly preached the Gospel in the face of Nazi
persecution. He was executed in 1945.
brief bio here.]
from The Cost of Discipleship:
grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without
Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
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
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.