There’s been an uproar over an article written by the Pulpit & Pen website over whether or not the recent beheading of Coptic Christians actually involved the death or real Christians. I have to be cautious in writing this because I want to be sensitive about the emotions that are involved in this yet do so without compromising the truth. The reality is that there are Coptic Christians who have a genuine gospel-oriented testimony, but sadly the majority do not. The problem Westerners have in describing these men is that Coptic simply means “Egyptian”, and Coptic Christian can be just as general as “American Christian”. To a Muslim, an American Christian, for example, could be Catholic, Presbyterian, Mormon, or Baptist even though we Christians know there is an ENORMOUS difference among those groups. Thus it would have helped critics of the martyrs to first determine whether they were Orthodox Coptic Christians (which is about 85-90% of the Copts) or Coptic Evangelicals (which as with “American Christians”, makes up a variety of denominations).
Getting emotional @ ISIS murders doesn’t change the gospel nor make those they kill any more or less a Christian. Martyrdom is not what defines a Christian. If it were, then we could declare Muslim terrorists Christians because they died for what they believed in, or Japanese Kamikazes or my modern day Jewish brethren in the flesh who have continued to reject Christ but are yet murdered for being Jewish. What ISIS did to the 21 Copts and continues to do is reprehensible, but don’t be so quick to jump on the trend wagon of those who hail their “Christian” martyrdom.
If I kill you because of your religion, that does not necessarily mean that my accusations were right. Hitler killed many Jehovah’s Witnesses during WW2 because they professed Christ, but anyone that has done even a cursory examination of the Watchtower knows that they do not believe in the foundational truths of the gospel. Most Coptic “Christians” do not ascribe to the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and as such, it is inappropriate to refer to them as Christians without knowing exactly what particular branch of Coptic Christianity they held to.
That being said, I happen to be personally close to a few Coptic Christians and know some that are genuine believers. But the majority of the Coptic Community are not, and I have to say that the amount of believers among the Copts are the exception not the rule because the gospel of the Coptic Christian churches is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. If anything was made more clear about where the mainstream Coptic Church stood, it was in 1988 when their “Pope” (Pope Shenouda) signed a concordat with Rome agreeing with the Catholic definition of Christianity and Christology.
The reason this is important is because when you’re dead; that’s it. You don’t get a do-over. If we are going to encourage someone to die for what they believe, then we owe it to them to make sure that they get the gospel right before they are martyred, and that those who die do so for the right reason. Encouraging people to die for a lie is worse than the heinous acts committed upon the victims.
You can be angry and disgusted at what ISIS did without conceding that they were actually accurate in what they described as Christianity and Christians. They often get that wrong anyway even when debating ‘orthodox’ Christians. Let’s not cheapen the gospel by making emotionalistic exceptions. Although it is unfair to broad-brush all of the Coptic Christians as heretics, it is equally erroneous to give them all the stamp of gospel approval merely because a terrorist group killed them over their profession. Granted, I question the tactfulness and timing of Pulpit & Pen’s article on this, but now that it’s ‘out there’, it needs to be addressed, and so we have. I doubt there has been anyone that has went after Pulpit & Pen, JD Hall in particular, with the fervor that we have. But you can’t simply disagree with EVERYTHING that someone says merely because they have become your theological adversary. Not even Jesus went that far with the Pharisees. See Matthew 23:3. Of the 2 times a day JD Hall’s broken clock might be right about something, this may be one of them.
Nevertheless even this article may be a bit premature without determining just exactly what denomination the 21 belonged to. I will see what I can find out later on just what denomination they were a part of. Either way, it is sad, unjust and wicked what was done to these men. It’s a pattern that I am all too familiar with and it’s only the beginning of more to come. Revelation 6:9-10. It’s a sober reminder to Christians that they that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12), but that “precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints”. Psalm 116:15.