Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Weekly Recommendation: "Foxe's Book of Martyrs"

When I was a teenager, something that both frightened and encouraged me while always leaving me fascinated was stories of various martyrs throughout history. One of the first books I picked up recounting the many accounts of martyrs throughout the history of the church is John Foxe's "Foxe's Book of Martyrs." I have read this book a number of times and to this day find myself fascinated, encouraged, and frightened. I am always reminded of the truth that compared to these great men and women who were willing to suffering greatly for the gospel, I am an utter and complete wimp.

Oh, if only I had faith like these great men and women of God!

The stories in this book are rather grotesque as many have been rather creative in how to torture and murder God's elect. Christians were beheaded, crucified, burned, boiled, dragged, decapitated, branded, inpaled, eaten alive, raped, frozen, shot, and other horrific forms of execution.

But there is one thing that the reader must be aware of: Foxe is writing in a time, as a Protestant, when Catholics were the enemy. Much of Foxe's book covers the many wars, battles, fights, and executions between Protestant and Catholics during the centuries of Reformation. Foxe is very bias towards Protestants and says strong things about the Catholic Church. This bias clouds his judgments at times. Foxe frequently condemns the blood shed on account of Catholic barbarity and yet ignores the same ruthless acts of Protestants. Nonetheless, one is blown away by the boldness of Christians throughout the centuries regardless of the cost.

This book also serves as a good survey of Church History especially regarding the Reformation. Foxe gives special attention to men such as John Wycliff, William Tyndale, John Huss, Martin Luther, and the St. Bartholew Massacre. This is a fascinating read that will leaving you nausiated, and yet with a new sense of boldness.

The reason I am recommending this classic book (originally published in 1563) is because this Sunday we will be looking at Matthew 5:10-12 where Jesus says that Joy belongs to those who are willing to be persecuted for the sake of the gospel. Christians in America are clueless to what it means to be persecuted for their faith. The best we can do is to loose a friend, to be ignored, or to not get a promotion at work. Sadly, we think this is normal. A brief look of a book like this will bring us back to reality.

At the same time, I want us to think about why Christians aren't being persecuted so heavily in our culture. The culture is increasingly becoming post-Christian. Although there are increasing signs of persecution through taxes, hate crimes, etc., most Christians are oblivious to persecution. Why? I think it is because Christians have adopted a false gospel. The gospel is an offense. That is why so many of our brothers and sisters have been persecuted throughout the years. People only get angry when offended, and sadly, the cheap grace we preach today does not call men to repent leaving them either spiritually broken or offended.

I encourage everyone to read this book and be gripped by the hard truths of the gospel and go out boldly and live the faith Christ has called us to live.

For More:
You can read the entire book online by clicking here.
You can also download and listen to the entire book for free by clicking here.
See also the Voices of the Martyrs, USA ministry webpage which continues the legacy of John Foxe
DC Talk has also published two books in the tradition of Foxe called Jesus Freaks: Volume 1, Volume 2

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