On Copts, “Real” Christians, and Who’s Saved

Our friends over at Pulpit and Pen have  ignited a proverbial firestorm this week.  As you’ve surely heard, 21 Christian men were savagely executed by ISIS in Lybia.  As most of the world mourns these men and their sacrifice, someone is quick to play the “they aren’t really Christian” card.

Do Southern Baptist leaders and other evangelicals really not know what a Christian is or how you become one? Is it being born into an ethnic group that denies the dual-nature of Christ in his full deity and humanity? Is it embracing a meritorious, works-based salvation nearly identical to that of the Roman Catholic church? Is it in aggressively denying salvation by a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ? We ask because that’s what Coptic ‘Christians’ believe. This really isn’t new, and we have to wonder why our leaders don’t know what Coptics believe and if they do, what on Earth makes them think they should be categorized as Christians.

Do our brethren at P&P really not know the definition of tact?  Twenty-one men who were proclaiming their love of Christ as they were having their throats cut were executed.  This is what is written in response?  Oh, they don’t adhere 100% to my interpretation of theology, so they’re not really Christian?

Think about that for a moment.  These men, who died because of their faith in Christ, have just been written off as hell-bound by P&P.  Consider the following:

What’s at stake, you see, is the Gospel. May God forbid our (good and honorable) desire to show sympathy for temporal suffering lead us to say careless words that might lead to eternal suffering. The Coptics, by their confession, believe in salvation-by-works. They need to be evangelized, and they need to come to Christ.

“…need to come to Christ.”  They were praying to Christ as they were killed.  How much closer could they have come before meeting him in person?

Sure, they believe in Holy Sacraments in addition to, not in place of, belief in Christ, as most high-church congregations/sects/etc. are wont to do.  So what?  Provided they express a personal, sincere love of Christ, does it truly matter what they include as part of their devotions to him?  (Ritual sacrifice and burnt offerings aside, of course.)

This strikes me as a profoundly inappropriate thing to say at this time.  Twenty-one brothers in Christ were just murdered by terrorists.  Is that the best launching point for a diatribe on works-based salvation?

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2 thoughts on “On Copts, “Real” Christians, and Who’s Saved

  1. Seems to me you think that works-based salvation and “brothers in Christ” are not two contradictory terms. We are not saved by martyrdom. That’s an Islamic belief. Catholics have been martyred for their faith. Mormons have been killed for their faith. Servetus was killed for his faith. Does their devout faith in “Jesus” save them if they trust in a combination of Christ’s atonement and their own good needs? Certainly not.

    They were praying to Christ when they were killed, you say. You ask, “How much closer could they get before meeting him in person?” Let me remind you that many will say to him on that day, “Lord, Lord…(a profession of faith, btw), Did we not [do all these fine works] and Jesus will say to them, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Trusting in their works (and martyrdom is one of those fine works), is not salvific.

    Considering tact, we’ll remind you Jesus in the book of Luke, when messengers ran in and broke the news that some very fine Jews were massacred in the temple. Jesus said, “And ye, likewise, will perish unless you repent.” Tragedy is not the time to obscure the Gospel.

    We’d love to make the gate wider and the way broader in times of tragedy, gentlemen. We really would. But we can’t.

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    1. Seems to me you think that works-based salvation and “brothers in Christ” are not two contradictory terms.

      If their belief and worship includes a faith in Christ, then I do not believe they contradict. If they pray to God, believe in His Son, and wish to do his will, they are no different than I. They simply put a greater emphasis on the works which spring forth; required as opposed to evidential.

      Does their devout faith in “Jesus” save them if they trust in a combination of Christ’s atonement and their own good needs? Certainly not.

      So even if they do believe in and worship Jesus, they aren’t “saved” because they believe they need to perform good works in addition? We are encouraged to do good works, and we are told that faith without good works is dead. If someone, in their zeal to ensure they are doing said works, places some sort of salvific importance upon them, is it so unbiblical that they lose their salvation or never truly attain it? If so, this would easily lead to a legalistic, works-based faith where the work itself is ensuring that one doesn’t rely upon works for their salvation!

      “Lord, Lord…(a profession of faith, btw), Did we not [do all these fine works] and Jesus will say to them, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Trusting in their works (and martyrdom is one of those fine works), is not salvific.

      I never claimed that works in themselves were salvific. My point was that their belief in such does not negate any saving faith in Christ they may have. In which case, the quoted scripture does not refute my point.

      I believe in sola fide and sola scriptura. If one believes in Christ and desires to follow him, that’s it. Everything else is unnecessary in my opinion. But if doing good works grants them a bit of comfort, so what? It isn’t necessary, but it doesn’t condemn them to hell.

      Many of us become so wrapped up in the dogma and philosophy we study that we fail to understand the love and meaning behind it. We develop a “if you disagree with me, you’re wrong” attitude that is entirely contrary to God’s message of love. God took on human form, died an excruciating death for us, and all we can do is tell those who believe a bit differently that they’re wrong and going to hell?

      All of that aside, the point of my post wasn’t about good works, salvation by faith alone, or the doctrinal intricacies that take years of careful study to understand. It was about the horrible timing of the quoted post and the “don’t worry, they weren’t real Christians anyway” tone that went with it. Twenty-one people who professed a Christian faith, however flawed you may feel that faith to be, were killed because of that faith. Is that really the best time to bring up a sola fide debate?

      Tragedy is not the time to obscure the Gospel.

      Nor is it an opportunity to make a point.

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