Russell and Duenes

The Inquisition and Modern Secular States

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Many today figure that they can silence Christian arguments by pulling out the trump cards of “the Inquisition” or “the Crusades.” In other words, whatever the sins of modern, enlightened secular cultures may be, they are nothing compared to the sins of the Church. Should the topic come up, the secularist figures that all he need do is trot out the Inquisition, and apparently Christians are supposed to demur in stony silence.

No one is denying that the Christian church has committed many sins over the centuries. The church is, after all, made up of redeemed sinners. And there is not much to be gained by arguing that, comparatively speaking, the church’s sins “aren’t that bad.” All sin is bad, whether religious sin or irreligious. But I do think that fans of secularism, who argue that secular cultures have brought us into great moral and cultural enlightenment in the face of narrow, bigoted Christians, ought not to be allowed the pleasure of foisting falsehood upon unsuspecting Christians. As Hunter Baker writes in his piece, The Soul of Liberty,

It is well to recall the late Richard John Neuhaus’s observation that those who believe that the record of the secular enlightenment is relatively spotless compared to that of the church are essentially in denial. “Those who tell the story this way overlook the fact that in three hundred years the Inquisition had fewer victims than were killed any given afternoon during the years of Stalin’s purges and Hitler’s concentration camps.” He could easily have added Mao’s violent Cultural Revolution, which empowered crazed teenagers to beat senior citizens with belt buckles if they appeared to lack sufficient zeal.

Oh, and we ought not to let secularists cherry-pick their secular governments either. They may like to sing the praises of, say, Canada or Sweden, while disowning Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Red China, and North Korea. Nothing doing. Again, the point is not “tit for tat.” The point is, one simply cannot point to Christianity as some sort of bogeyman, responsible for all that ills us. Our culture isn’t big on owning the good and the bad in one’s own commitments. Yet we must, if we want to have intellectual and moral integrity. Further, it may in the end help us to turn our focus where it belongs, onto the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom there is perfect love and integrity, and in whom there is power to save us from our sins, both personal and cultural.



Written by Michael Duenes

May 14, 2012 at 1:29 pm

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