The Faith of Coptic Christians

As Southern Baptist leaders expressed Christian solidarity and outrage over the murder of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya, others began raising questions about the validity of calling these men Christian martyrs. Some of the confusion comes from the fact that the International Mission Board listed the majority of Egyptians (which would include many Coptic communities) as an unreached people group, those needing missionary focus. The question they raised was, “How can unreached peoples be considered Christian martyrs?”

To be honest, when I first heard this question I wondered why anyone could respond this way to an act the entire world was condemning. However, upon further reflection I thought that perhaps the question deserved a response from a Southern Baptist theologian and missiologist. I cannot judge the motive of those asking the questions. If anyone has less than honorable intentions, they may never be convinced. But those who are legitimately curious have a right to expect a theological and missiological answer from one who has ascribed martyrdom to the men.

  1. We must remember there is a difference between people group and personal faith.

I have not talked to anyone at the International Mission Board about this particular situation, but I have been inside the mission community long enough to understand how things work. When a mission agency studies a country one of the first questions they ask involves natural groupings of people. This information is used to guide missionary strategies for the different people groups. In many predominantly Muslim countries there are historic Christian minorities (we actually owe our very faith to their legacy, but that is a story for a different day). These people are born into this social group without regards to any personal expression of faith. They are also involved in cultural and religious activities which are tied to this social group. They are identified as “christian” socially. When evangelical mission agencies make decisions about “reached” and “unreached” they are asking different questions – questions about personal faith in Christ. This nuance is often lost when the conversation moves beyond the missionary community.

Southern Baptists have not suddenly changed our definition of what it takes to become a Christian. However, it is indeed possible for a cultural group, a people group, to bear the name “christian” yet remain almost entirely unreached. It is also possible for individuals within an unreached people group to be genuine Christians. In such cases, we are dependent on what we can see of their individual witnesses.

2.  This side of heaven, we only know the genuineness of a person’s faith based on their testimony and lifestyle.

The 21 men who were killed on the beach in Libya were killed BECAUSE of their professed faith. The sadistic evil doers made this profession on their behalf before the murders. Their captors confessed that these men were “people of the cross.” In this testimony I hear the echoes of Daniel’s enemies who said they could not find any fault in him unless it was his faith. These men were killed because their captors believed they were Christians.

I can assume (and yes, it is only an assumption) that these Islamic extremists would have pressed for, and been content with, these men converting to Islam. Based on my knowledge of these types of situation, I imagine these men were provided opportunities to renounce their faith and embrace the faith of their captors. Clearly they did not. They were murdered because they were men “of the cross.” On the basis of this testimony through the lips of their captors, and their lifestyle “not loving their lives even unto death,” Southern Baptists (and the rest of the Christian world) are right to hallow these men as martyrs and identify with them as brothers in the faith.

Our show of solidarity is not a declaration that the entire Coptic community is Christian. Rather, it accepts the testimony of these 21 men as valid based on profession and demonstration. We accept the testimony of a Baptist and would mourn their martyrdom even if we had not known them personally, though we all know that many who carry the label Baptist are not regenerate. In the same way, it is good and right that we identify with our brothers “of the cross” whose lives were taken because of this testimony.

Our solidarity with them does not make an entire people group Christians, and was never intended to do so. But based on what we have seen from a clear witness in front of a watching world, that same solidarity should also not be interpreted as cowardly or in any way abandoning the faith.

May these men receive the reward of their faith and may the Lord judge their murders with justice and most of all, may he grant to us all the faith to face whatever opposition we will with the same faithfulness they demonstrated on that Libyan beach.

Hebrews 13:3

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32 Replies to “The Faith of Coptic Christians”

  1. There was this Attic politician in Greece who showed the leading politicians of the (about) forty Greek city states how he could break one stick after another on its own but could not break a bundle of forty sticks tied together. Which then let these states form an alliance against the Persians. If Christians wait on the sidelines a little while longer the Islamic fighters who see true Muslims as part of a unified “Umma” will overrun them everywhere except in their heartlands. Christianity is all about the dignity and value of EACH human life. Even the Muslims’. So these schisms are for theological colleges but should not divide humanity where its very values are threatened!

  2. I wanted to share two links which relate to the people group aspect of this post. First, according to Joshua Project there are a total of 6,795,360 Orthodox Egyptians who comprise 13.5% of the total Egyptian Arab population. Figured slightly differently, the IMB’s Church Planting Progress Indicator reports 8,365,648 Egyptian Copt’s. Other sources estimate there are as many as 12 million Orthodox Christians living in Egypt. Here are the links to each source.

    http://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/11722/EG#religion
    http://public.imb.org/globalresearch/FormServerTemplates/CPPI.xls

  3. According to reports these 21 Coptic Christians were tortured for bring Christian, and were told to denounce Jesus in order for the torture to stop. None of them denounced Jesus.
    These 21 murdered Christians are more Christian than those who say they are not Christian. Who died and made you God and gave you the right to judge who is or is not a Christian.

    The narrow minded bigots who are judging these murdered Coptics (and judging others) are sinning and bearing false witness. They obviously do not believe in that part of the Bible, or else they would not be condemning these men to hell. Talk about cherry picking Scripture.

    According to Evangelicals, Pentecostal, and whomever else is saying these Coptic Christians are not really true Christians obviously do not know Christian history. The Coptic Christians are one of the oldest Christian churches. St. Mark founded the Coptics.

    By the narrow definition by Evangelicals and others of who is or is not a Christian, then the original 12 Apostles would not qualify as a “true” Christian. Neither would the ancient Christians.

    Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and whomever else, do not have a monopoly or a patent on Christianity. Evangelicals and others of their ilk do not have a patent on Scripture interpretation. Just because they, Evangelicals and other bigots, think they are right, does not make it so.

  4. Thanks for this Scott.

    I have been involved in ministry in Egypt now for more than 25 years and one of my greatest privileges in these years have been my friendship and association with the Coptic Church. Some of my greatest heroes of faith are Coptic CHRISTIANS and some of the most committed believers I have met in life are members of the Coptic Church. I honor them not because of their theology or because of the denomination but because of their love for Christ as born-again, spirit- filled, Bible-believing believers and their total commitment to obedience, holiness, faithfulness and relevance.

    Anyone who questions the fact that Coptic believers are Christians, like a recent article in Pulpit & Pen, has obviously never met Coptic believers and those who find it worthwhile to give a theological judgement on a denomination that has stood faithfully through years and centuries of persecution simply reveal their ignorance and arrogance in a matter that is close to the heart of our Saviour; unity.

    We recently accompanied a group of Pastors from a Reformed background in Egypt and after attending an Easter Service in a Coptic Church in upper-Egypt, the moderator of this denomination explained that this was probably the purist service, theologically, that he has ever witnessed. The word Coptic simply means ‘Egyptian’ and is the oldest Church in Christian history. But it is not theology that determines whether Coptic believers are Christian or not, it is their relationship with Christ. I have come to love Coptic CHRISTIANS in their love for Christ. Sure, there are Coptic believers who follow Christ as a tradition but show me any denomination anywhere in the world that does not deal with this problem.

    But, even those who follow from a point of tradition, still make a daily choice in a nation where they are a minority and face persecution. More than many Christians in the west can say. My heart weeps when I read articles written by people who suddenly become judge, jury and accuser of people they have never met and then decides who is Christian and who are not. We are called to be ‘fruit inspectors’ (Matthew 7:16) not judges. Let God decide who are Christians and who not – He that judges the heart and not the theology. I weep when I remember my brothers and sisters in Egypt, their sacrifices and their witnesses, and how an article of this nature (in Pen and Pulpit) nullifies their testimony of faith. The nameless author will do well to travel to Egypt and meet fellow believers who confess the same Christ, who read the same Bible, who witnesses of the same saviour, who seeks the same Kingdom, who are filled with the same spirit and who DO NOT share the same security and safety. AND YET, they give their all so that the witness of Christ will not be extinguished in the Arab World.

    Thanks therefore for your input Scot and for you Biblical response

  5. I am a genuine, born again, Christ confessing believer. When I saw those men, who are not part of the Protestant evangelical mainstream, die for their faith in Christ (or what they thought was faith in Christ), it immediately challenged me. How would I, who am allegedly “clear” on historic biblical doctrines, face decapitation on that beach?

    Needless to say, I have been extremely exercised by this event.

  6. I write this with an extremely heavy heart. I say with overwhelming sympathy that I am broken for this loss. I cannot, however, help but question what seems to be an implication of this article. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that you are saying that these men are certainly believers of Christ when you write these statements:

    “Southern Baptists (and the rest of the Christian world) are right to hallow these men as martyrs and identify with them as brothers in the faith.” And “We are affirming that these men are our brothers based on the profession of their captors and the expression of their faith at the moment of death.”

    If you are saying that these men are saved, which is seems that you are, I cannot help but disagree, unless we have some way of proving that they were, in fact, not self-proclaimed Coptic Christians. Anyone who is killed for their faith is certainly to be seen as a victim of horrific aggression, however that does not mean that their faith for which they were martyred is to be considered a salvific one. A Hindu who dies for their faith is a courageous martyr for their faith, but they are unfortunately without the atonement of Christ in their death.

    Coptic Christians believe in Jesus, but they also believe in a very overt doctrine of faith by works in addition to belief in Jesus. They have confessions to their priests, prayers to their saints and communion, which they believe are salvific works when added to a belief in Jesus. This is not a simple denominational issue which can be overlooked but rather a foundational doctrine of salvation through faith alone in Christ alone.

    Paul, addressing those who were advocating salvation by faith in Christ in addition to works writes:

    As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. – Galatians 1:9

    Note that the teachers in Galatia were not advocating for a salvation that was outside of Christ but simply a salvation that was not in Christ alone. They too would have said they believed in Jesus. However, they also believed that faith alone could not save a man, but rather faith coupled with outward actions. In Galatia it was circumcision. For Coptic Christians, it’s communion and prayers to the saints along with many other actions.

    This doctrine is also supported in the following verses:
    Romans 5:1, Eph 2:8-9, Romans 3:28 and Romans 4:5

    Please, please, please do not think I am unfeeling as I say these things. I assure you that the fact that I believe these Coptic Christians were brutally martyred for a belief that was not even salvific brings even more anguish to my heart than those who were under the impression that these men knew Christ. I do not wish it were true that these men were not saved but cannot help, in defense of the true Gospel which is by faith alone in Christ alone, to say with a sad heart that these men, if genuine Coptic Christians, did not have a saving faith in Jesus. This is all the more reason to go and share the true Gospel with the unreached people group of the Coptic Christians in Egypt.

    I hope these men were not Coptic Christians who believed in a salvation of faith in addition to works. I hope that they were genuine followers of Christ, but that is unlikely the case. In fact, from what I’ve seen, we have no reason to believe otherwise. Please tell me if we do though. I would love to stand corrected.

    Your first point is that “we must remember there is a difference between people group and personal faith.” I think your implication here is that the personal faith of these men could be different from non-salvific faith of their people group. I agree with this, but I do not know if we have any reason to believe that, in this certain circumstance, the faith of these men is in fact a faith that is different from that of their people group.

    Your thesis is stating that they are indeed saved because they believed in Jesus. Unfortunately if their faith in Jesus was also coupled with a faith in their own good deeds, then I say, with a heavy heart, that their faith in Jesus, even if held to the death, was in vain. It is not necessarily the strength or vigor of our faith but more so the object which redeems the sinner. Unfortunately, one of the objects of their faith was works.

    You say that their captors believed them to be “men of the cross” but I do not think that the terrorists’ standards of being a true follower of Christ are reliable sources for genuine salvation. I do not think that the terrorists would see the differences of “faith alone” or “faith plus works” as an issue by which to deny someone from being considered “men of the cross.” I believe the terrorists’ main issue would be that these men are not true Muslims no matter which cult or legitimate group of Christianity they associated themselves with.

    I fear that in a loving heart to sympathize with these families and stand boldly against the horrific acts of these terrorists, you could be mistaken for validating an unbiblical belief which is Coptic Christianity. We can stand firm against terrorism and have great sympathy for these families without feeling obligated to imply that these men, who for all intents and purposes should be considered Coptic Christians, believed in obtaining salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, being that their official doctrine would deny that claim.

    Please do let me know if we have any reason to consider these men something other than Coptic Christians. It would be a great joy to me to know that they were legitimate followers of Christ. Until then, I will show my sympathies toward these families through prayers that they would hear the true gospel of Christ and by genuinely asking the Father if he would have me go to Egypt and share with this unreached people group.

    P.S. I know Scott and I know he believes in salvation by faith alone in Christ alone and would also consent to the fact that anyone who does not believe in salvation by faith alone in Christ alone is not a true follower of Christ. I am not arguing that he does not believe these things but only that an implication of the above essay could be mistaken to mean just that if detached from personally being aware of his soteriological stances.

    1. Erin,
      Thanks for your reply. I appreciate your kind words and clarity. Your compassion and concern are evident. Let me try to address one point you raise. My saying that these men were martyred for the Christian faith is not a blanket declaration they were all saved. These are actually different points. As I wrote in the post, this side of heaven, we cannot know their relationship with the Lord. However, we do know that they were killed because of Christ. It is not our place to pronounce them “saved” but it is good and right that we honor them as Chrisitan martyrs and brothers in the faith.

      I appreciate your questions and concern about upholding the purity of the faith. That point, as important as it is, is actually beyond the scope of this post.

      Blessings on your work – we pray for you!

    2. Erin,

      Thank you for writing. It is very clear what you believe about the Coptic Church and it provides a helpful and challenging perspective. Your insights apply specifically to this community, and how evangelism should be prioritized among them if their religious beliefs about Jesus are found to be lacking. Your thoughts also reinforce the truth of the gospel, which is that salvation is by grace through faith; anything added to this is a different gospel. No matter the vocabulary, iconography, or liturgy used by Christian groups there are certain biblical teachings that cannot be compromised.

      Scott wrote in the article, “It is also possible for individuals within an unreached people group to be genuine Christians. In such cases, we are dependent on what we can see of their individual witnesses.” And in reply to your post wrote, “It is not our place to pronounce them “saved” but it is good and right that we honor them as Christian martyrs and brothers in the faith.”

      I think we are in agreement that calling someone a martyr is in fact an explicit pronouncement of someone’s personal saving faith in Jesus. While one could be considered a martyr for many good causes, to be considered a Christian martyr, that person must possess saving faith in Jesus. I think we agree that there ought to be more to Christian martyrdom than simply dying “because of Christ.” I don’t know what all is meant by that phrase, but it is vague enough to potentially include a wider group than those who possess saving faith in Jesus. Again, I don’t know how it is possible to call someone a martyr, honor them as brothers in the faith, but not pronounce his status as a true follower of Jesus. I will admit here that my definition of martyr may be too restrictive, and stand to be corrected if necessary.

      Since you generally question the authenticity of the faith of Coptic Christians, you are hesitant to ascribe martyrdom to these men and “honor them as brothers in the faith.” Without having been personally acquainted with any of these men, you depend solely on their church affiliation in order to ascertain their status as Christian martyrs.

      If this is really your position, then I can imagine you have difficulty with a lot of the reporting today on Christian persecution around the world. For how can we really know what these “Christian martyrs” actually believed? Maybe the solution is to stop honoring “martyrs” as special saints, and treat all professing Christians the same after they die, knowing that God alone knows their heart. I don’t see another way to resolve the tension. Like you have already said so well this is a really difficult thing to discuss, but important nonetheless.

      1. Thank you Scott and Logan for reading my post and your encouraging words! I apologize for the length of this post. I will address a few different thoughts. I realize this is a sensitive topic and I’m thankful for your ability to read the heart of my post (to guard the purity of the gospel). In response to other comments (which may or may not have been directed at myself), I would like to say that if there are Coptic Christians who do believe in salvation through faith alone in Christ alone that is awesome! I hope these 21 were of that group.

        This is the official statement of not just one but all of the Coptic Christian doctrinal statements concerning salvation that I have seen “Members of the Coptic Christian Church believe both God and man play roles in salvation, God through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ and humans through works of merit, such as fasting, almsgiving, and receiving the sacraments.” I would also add that they believe it is necessary for salvation to receive baptism and to confess sins to the priests.

        For those of you who do not think believing good works will earn salvation is a salvific issue I would encourage you to read Galatians. I will also go ahead and say you will disagree with my post. For those who do think this is a salvific issue I assume you will agree with my reasoning.

        We still should not ignore the fact that the confessed doctrine of the official Coptic Christian Faith is salvation through works along with faith in Jesus, which is in fact not the gospel. Saying that there are saved Coptic Christians is like saying that that there are regenerate Buddhists. If I found a self-proclaimed Buddhist who believed the genuine gospel and rejected all of the non-biblical points of Buddhism, I would affirm him as a regenerate brother. I would also feel the need to inform him that he is indeed not a Buddhist but a Christian. If this man was then martyred for his faith in Jesus, I would write CNN to stop calling him a Buddhist martyr and ask them to call him a Christian martyr (in spite of what the man called himself).

        I realize now, upon further research, that some people use the word Coptic to simply mean Egyptian. If these men are simply being called Coptic Christians because they are Egyptian Christians, I stand corrected. However, the overwhelming majority of writings point to them believing the official Orthodox Coptic Christian belief, not simply just being Egyptian Christians.

        On a separate issue, one which I believe Logan articulated well, Scott (a man for whom I have great respect) is saying we can call these men “Brothers in the Faith” and “Christian Martyrs” based on the fact that their murderers called them Christians. I have previously stated that taking notes on biblical semantics from terrorists is not ideal. I’d prefer the Greek New Testament or at least a decent commentary if I had the choice. Let’s say however that these men are what they say they are. Let’s say they follow the doctrine of the official Orthodox Coptic Christian church and believe in salvation by works plus faith, and, therefore, are not regenerate believers of Christ. I believe all evidence points toward this assumption being made. If this is true, should we both call them “Brothers in the faith” and honor them as “Christian Martyrs?”

        Firstly, let’s discuss the biblical term of the word “Brother.” The outstanding majority of the time the New Testament uses the word brother (adelphos) it is referring to another Christian (a person who has saving faith in Jesus.) As a matter of fact the Bible uses “False-brothers” (pseudadelphos) when referring to the Judaizers. The Judaizers were people who preached a gospel of salvation by works plus faith in Jesus.

        With that said, I do not think that biblical language lends itself toward calling anyone “brother” who does not have saving faith in Jesus Christ. Unless you are using the word brother to simply imply a deep-felt closeness, for example, if we were to say our “Jewish brothers” or “Hindu brothers” I would hesitate. Even if this is the case, we should specify that this is our meaning as opposed to the usual biblical use of the term which refers to another member of the Church.

        Secondly, the article above states that we should call these men brothers in the faith. I can only assume when you say “faith” you mean the same “faith” which is used in Ephesians 2:8 (For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God). The official Coptic Christians do not believe in this “faith” therefore I do not know why we would call them brothers in the faith. Would you be willing to call Hindus, Muslims or Mormons “brothers in the faith?” If so, why? Of what faith are you speaking? I would conclude that we should only refer to Christians as brothers in the faith if we desire to use biblical language.

        Thirdly, you also state that we should honor them as Christian martyrs. If someone who does not believe in the gospel dies but they are not saved they were indeed a martyr, and a martyr for a faith which CNN might call Christianity. However I do not believe that Jesus would call this Christianity. With that said, if we wanted to use biblical language we would not honor them as Christian martyrs. I think it is really still honoring them as courageous and brave men to say that they were martyrs for their faith. However, to then proceed to define this faith as Christianity seems unbiblical to me. I would like to limit my use of the term Christian martyr to that of the Bible’s usage.

        I agree with Logan, that to call someone a brother in the faith and a Christian martyr is to explicitly affirm their salvation if we are using biblical language. I do not blame the average news reporter at CNN for their lack of depth concerning their theological semantics but I hold that we should preserve these words as having the same overt salvific implications that the Bible meant them to have.

        Lastly, everyone returns to the fact that we cannot ever ascertain who is saved and who is not saved. I agree to an extent but we do know that those who do not believe in salvation by faith alone in Christ alone are not saved. This is not my opinion but rather that of the New Testament. So if a person who has a faith which denies this salvific doctrine dies, I do not feel judgmental to say that, unless they repented and became a Christian before they died, they will be judged accordingly. If an unrepentant Hindu dies I do not mind saying that they did not know Christ. The same is true of any religion or doctrinal teaching which rejects the basic truths of the gospel.

        I do not mind saying if a self-proclaimed Christian dies he might not be saved. That is not because there is anything wrong with his stated faith but because his genuineness may be questionable. However, if a self-proclaimed follower of any other religion dies, I do not have a problem with saying that unless they rejected their faith they were not in Christ no matter how genuine said faith is. So we cannot say who is saved and who is not saved, but we can say which faith those who are saved must hold and which faith those who are not saved must hold in order to be called so. Therefore we can, in some way, assume who is and who is not saved. We can assume that those who die having both professed and seemingly practiced their faith in Christ alone for salvation are most likely saved. We can also assume that those who die having professed and or practiced any other faith, with fervor or not, are not with Christ. In which case I do not think we should call them “brothers in the faith” or “Christian martyrs.” No more than if the Terrorists who killed them died for their own non-salvific faith.

        I would like to end with the same application. I write these truths with a heavy heart hoping and desiring for all to be saved through faith in the true gospel. I myself serve overseas and love teaching the truths of the gospel. I think these 21 men were brave and courageous. I think these terrorists are horrible people who should be punished. I hope that every Coptic Christians is freed from their false view of a partially works-based salvation. I pray these terrorists accept the truth of the gospel before they are judged by God. I hope that many Christians from many different people groups will stand up and go to the Coptic peoples, these terrorists and any other lost people group on earth for the sake of God’s glory among the nations and the soon-coming Kingdom of Christ.

  7. I appreciate your article and your concern. We live in Egypt and lift up the name of Jesus to the lost here. We are deeply grieved and hurt by the murder of these Copts. We pray for the families and the Copts here and also the Muslim majority here. We have experience witnessing to these groups daily. The doctrine of the Coptic church is not Biblical. Their traditions of confession to the priests, works based salvation, praying to saints and communion to receive Christ are anti Biblical. We witness to them about justification by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work. Many listen, but the adamant followers of the Copt faith insist that baptism, communion and works are a part of justification. They are adamant in their beliefs because of what their early Fathers and their fathers say in their churches. If you were to tell them they are not a Biblical Christian because of their lack of faith in Christ alone for salvation, they would respond by saying works is part. They cannot deny their church and their faith. We praise the Lord for some that have trusted in Christ alone and are now serving in the church. The Islamic oppression is great and has been for 100s of years. Of course they would not become Muslim because it would be a denial of their faith (no matter how wrong, family, tradition, etc.). I pray that these trusted in Christ alone for salvation, but simply because they did not deny their faith and become Muslim is not Biblical evidence for salvation. Many Muslims die for their faith but the source of their faith is not Biblical. Christ alone is sufficient for salvation so we lift up his name to all here praying that many will repent of their dead works and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I know this may not be a popular response, but we deal with Copts and Mulsims daily and see the out working of these faiths. We pray to use this time to be a comfort to the Copts here and to show them love with our hands and words. We already have seen God open up doors of utterance here. Thanks for your hard work for the King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    1. David Thanks for your work in Egypt. I pray the Lord will strengthen you and will give you great fruit in your labor. I pray the Lord will send many more laborers to your field! I appreciate your comments here. They are extremely helpful.

      1. Thanks, Scott. We will be praying for your ministry, as well. May God continue to use you to cause others to think and love for the worthy Christ.

  8. It’s a shame that Scott should even had to have written that piece. When ISIS declares war on the “nation of the cross”, i.e., us, it’s not the best time to be splitting hairs on whether the “Christians” they murdered are actually saved according to the definition established by the IMB. These men proclaimed the name of Jesus, refused to deny Him unto death, and spoke only his name as they were being slaughtered. For anyone to voice a personal opinion on the authenticity of their doctrine at a time like this is an embarrassment.

  9. Let me get this straight. Instead of asking yourself “What is it about the environment of faith in which these men lived that gave them this courage and steadfastness in Jesus?”, you’re asking “Are they martyrs inspite of them not being Baptist?”??? That’s really kind of shocking coming from a group that has no connection whatsoever to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Christ and lives on today in the hearts of these and millions of other Christians who fail to meet your absurd standard of who a Christian is.

    1. Sherif, Thanks for your response. Actually, I am not questioning the faith of these men, just the opposite. We are affirming that these men are our brothers based on the profession of their captors and the expression of their faith at the moment of death. Our position is that only the Lord can judge the hearts of men and our eternal destinies do not rest on denominational identities but on our personal relationship with God in Christ.

  10. Your comments concerning the Christianity of Coptic Christians and your high and mighty opinion of your theological position sickens me. It is not your place to judge other Christians and decide if they fit the mold. Wise up and shut up. Southern Baptists aren’t the only true Christians. You write like a fool.

    1. Sam, Thanks for your concerns. I think you have misunderstood the purpose of this post. There have been no claims that Southern Baptists are the only true Christians. Sorry if the tone confused you.

      1. Your inference in the article is that that Coptic community is not Christian by your definition. Your only problem seems to be bringing this up after the savage killing of some of them at the hands of the radical Muslims. I am not Coptic but I have great respect for a fellow Christian group that has lived and professed their faith in Christ for two thousand years in spite of Muslim persecution. You, nor any other Christian, has the standing to judge this group concerning their Christianity. It seems quite clear to me that these men, representative of the Coptic community, put their faith in Christ Jesus alone and that is the bottom line concerning their Christianity and the Coptic community that they represent.

        1. Sam – thanks for your question and clarification.

          The article addresses one specific question that arose among some Southern Baptists. The question surrounded the fact that the Southern Baptist mission agency (International Mission Board) had identified minority, ethnic Christian communities (including Copts) as communities in Egypt needing missionary focus. The intention of this post was to make a distinction between the needs of an ethnic group and the personal relationship of individuals. It is not my intention to set myself up as a judge of an entire community. If, as you said, these men placed their faith in Christ for salvation then you are agreeing with my point.

        2. Sam,

          I see a double standard when you write, “You, nor any other Christian, has the standing to judge this group concerning their Christianity,” then immediately pass a verdict yourself: “It seems quite clear to me that these men…put their faith in Christ Jesus alone and that is the bottom line concerning their Christianity and the Coptic community that they represent.”

          What criteria do you use to formulate your “definition” of authentic Christianity? Does it include the Bible? Does it include historic statements of orthodoxy? Do you even allow for the possibility that some groups who self-identify as Christian may directly contradict essential tenets of biblical teaching?

          This post does not deal directly with the question of whether or not the faith and practice of Coptic Christians represents orthodox Christianity, and thereby confers salvation to its adherents. However, some comments made below do directly address this, with some sincerely and sorrowfully claiming that the gospel believed by Coptic Christians constitutes in many ways a sub-Christian message.

          Passing judgment on which Christian groups are in or out is not enjoyable or even authoritative. Furthermore, it has already been stated repeatedly, but in all kinds of churches around the world, there are individuals who claim to be Christians (I’m one of them) and there is simply no way to know 100% the eternal destiny of another person, because that is a matter between him and God. This is true regardless of anyone’s affiliation! Yet the exercise of discernment in this matter can prove beneficial for a variety of applications. I hope we can all keep in mind that it is God who saves, and he is looking at more than our church affiliation.

  11. Great job here.

    I know the author knows this, but I will add it here. An unreached people group has less than 2% of its population as professing Christians. With that fact, it is easy to see that these 21 men could definitely be men of faith, and still be part of a group of people (nation, people group, etc.) that is unreached.

    “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”–Tertullian

  12. God bless these brave men, who did NOT renounce their faith in JESUS!!!!Glory be to God in the Highest! I hope that I would be that brave during such a terrible trial.

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