I haven’t written in a while, and usually have little to say about world politics, but I have been watching the news a little more closely the last few days. I have been talking to friends in Tunisia as the events have unfolded there. Many expect freedom to follow the ousting of long-time Tunisian President Ben Ali, but these are precarious times. While I do not know enough of the politics of the region to offer much insight, I do have several questions and concerns as I watch the situation unfold.

As opposition parties are given a voice and the country attempts to form a unity government composed of these different parties, there are several ways this could shake down. In opening up the government to opposition parties, there is the possibility that extremist groups could get a foot hold. While Ben Ali had many faults, one of the things he seemed to do well was protect against violent Islamic extremism. With these safeguards being removed, extremist parties could very well find themselves in positions of power. Al Qaeda already recruits from Tunisia and trains militants in neighboring Algeria. Does this open a door for their involvement in Tunisian politics that would never have been possible under Ben Ali? I doubt the Tunisians would allow Al Qaeda to openly sponsor candidates, but what about smaller extremist groups or Al Qaeda fronts? Separately, what would a democratic state in Tunisia do to Al Qaeda recruiting in the country? Would it lessen their base, or anger those who recognized the new state as a rejection of Islamic values in favor of Western (i.e. Christian) ideas?

As media censorship is removed and more Tunisians discover the non-Muslim world, what effects will this have? How will this change how the ordinary Tunisian sees the world?

What does this mean for the rest of the Arab world? Similar demonstrations have taken place in Algeria, Egypt, and Jordan. Several governments are already talking concessions. Kuwait is trying to pay off the public. Is Tunisia the first in a series of revolutions that will shake up the Arab world? What does this mean for the future of Islam in the region? Does Islam begin to fracture? Does the balance of power in Islam spread westward or into Africa (which is fast becoming the center of global Christianity)?

The other question I posed to a friend there was simply, ‘What does freedom look like for Tunisians?’ (especially religious freedom). Currently, Christians can legally meet together and form churches, but proselytizing is illegal, and Christians have been repeatedly arrested and threatened by the police. Will this change? There really is not a model in the Arab world for what Tunisia is going through. While there is religious freedom in Lebanon, there is a large population of Christians. In Tunisia, Christians only number in the thousands. Will they be free? Do they receive a seat at the table in the new government? Will laws against proselytizing be removed? Will Tunisia allow missionaries to enter the country?

What does this shift in the political landscape mean for Christians in Tunisia? Will Tunisians finally discover their pre-Islamic Christian history? From all I have seen and heard, I think Christianity is growing in Tunisia and could gather steam. I sense that Christianity could begin to spread rapidly at any moment, as it is doing in neighboring Algeria. Perhaps the change in political climate could be the spark that starts a forest fire.

If you’re reading this from Tunisia, or for that matter, anywhere else in the Arab world, please comment. I would love to hear what others are thinking about this situation. Or even if you’re looking at this from the outside and see something I’m missing, leave a comment. What do you see happening?

Click here to hear an interview with a Tunisian friend of mine on Chicago’s Moody Radio.

It seems like everyday there is someone new arguing that Christianity needs to be more inclusive. The argument often stems from cultural observations on pluralism. People point to the fact that the generation growing up is surrounded by pluralism. Their friends are Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist, New Agers, atheists, etc. How can we continue to be exclusive of people we know so personally, love, and respect?

This very question reveals the naivete of our generation. Christianity was not birthed in a religiously monolithic society, nor has it ever truly enjoyed one, with the exception of perhaps in a few areas. Our society is religiously pluralistic. But so was the pagan Roman society that Christianity found itself in from its beginning. In fact, our religious pluralism pales in comparison. As hard as Western culture tries to shake Christianity, it cannot escape its roots.

The argument that “Christianity must change or die” is laughable at best. The Church Fathers would surely have had a good chuckle at this one. These men knew pluralism like we can’t fathom. There were gods for everything. Traveling to a new town? Don’t forget to bring back an idol of the local deity. They had mystery religions, Judaism, Roman cults, emperor cults, Greek deities, Persian deities, Egyptians deities, and so on and so forth. There were stoics and cynics and mystics and shamans. Christians stood out in the midst of them all. Their response to the challenge of pluralism? The more you kill us, the more we grow.

Early Christians were imprisoned, beaten, and killed for their faith, but they knew the truth what the Apostle Paul said when he spoke of his own sufferings:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…

Paul knew that when people saw him suffer, they saw Jesus suffer. Christianity need not retreat in the face of pluralism. We have faced this scene before and won.

But we cannot call for doctrinal revisionism either. It is the purity of Christian doctrine that separates it. We’ve had a more inclusive Christianity for three hundred years. It’s called liberalism. It has infected every mainline denomination in America at one point or another. From Presbyterians to Baptists, and Lutherans to Methodists, not a single denomination has escaped. The call by some such as Brian McLaren and Greg Boyd to do away with core doctrines, such as substitutionary atonement, cannot be heeded.

Do they have some parts of the message correct? Absolutely. Christianity can and should show concern for the poor. Christianity does show concern for the poor, but this does not in any way require a doctrinal trade off. We can be conservative, orthodox Christians, AND love the poor. But loving the poor without the core doctrines of Christianity is not love at all. Love requires discernment (Phil 1:9), which McLaren and those following in his footsteps lack.

McLaren’s “New Kind of Christianity” is no Christianity at all. You can keep your religion Mr. McLaren, I’ll take the ancient faith.

Below is the letter known as The Martyrdom of Polycarp. This is the earliest recording of a Christian martyrdom we have outside of the New Testament. The following is from the Loeb Classical Library Apostolic Fathers II. It can also be found in Michael Holmes’ The Apostolic Fathers, which is available in my bookstore under my recommendations.

THE Church of God which sojourns in Smyrna, to the Church of God which sojourns in Philomelium, and to all the sojournings of the holy catholic church in every place. “Mercy, peace and love” of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be multiplied.


1. WE write to you, brethren, the story of the martyrs
and of the blessed Polycarp, who put an
end to the persecution by his martyrdom as though
adding the seal. 1 For one might almost say that all
that had gone before happened in order that the
Lord might show to us from above a martyrdom 2 in
accordance with the Gospel. 2. For he waited
to be betrayed as also the Lord had done, that we
too might become his imitators,” not thinking of
ourselves alone, but also of our neighbours.” For it
is the mark of true and steadfast love, not to wish
that oneself may be saved alone, but all the brethren


1. BLESSED then and noble are all the martyrdoms
which took place according to the will of God, for
we must be very careful to assign the power over all
to God. 2. For who would not admire their nobility
and patience and love of their Master? For some
were torn by scourging until the mechanism of their
flesh was seen even to the lower veins and arteries,
and they endured so that even the bystanders pitied
them and mourned. And some even reached such
a pitch of nobility that none of them groaned or
wailed, showing to all of us that at that hour of
their torture the noble martyrs of Christ were absent
from the flesh, or rather that the Lord was standing
by and talking with them. 3. And paying heed to
the grace of Christ they despised worldly tortures,
by a single hour purchasing everlasting life. And
the fire of their cruel torturers had no heat for
them, for they set before their eyes an escape
from the fire which is everlasting and is never
quenched, and with the eyes of their heart they
looked up to the good things which are preserved
for those who have endured, ( which neither ear hath
heard nor hath eye seen, nor hath it entered into
the heart of man,’ but it was shown by the Lord to
them who were no longer men but already angels.
4. And in the same way also those who were
condemned to the beasts endured terrible torment,
being stretched on sharp shells and buffeted with
other kinds of various torments, that if it were
possible the tyrant might bring them to a denial by
continuous torture. For the devil used many wiles
against them.


1. BUT thanks be to God, for he had no power over
any. For the most noble Germanicus encouraged
their fears by the endurance which was in him, and
he fought gloriously with the wild beasts. For when
the Pro-Consul wished to persuade him and bade
him have pity on his youth, he violently dragged
the beast towards himself, wishing to be released
more quickly from their unrighteous and lawless
life. 2. So after this all the crowd, wondering at
the nobility of the God-loving and God-fearing
people of the Christians, cried out :
“Away with the Atheists; let Polycarp be searched for.”


1. BUT one, named Quintus, a Phrygian lately come Quintus
from Phrygia, when he saw the wild beasts played
the coward. Now it was he who had forced himself
and some others to come forward of their own
accord. Him the Pro-Consul persuaded with many
entreaties to take the oath and offer sacrifice. For
this reason, therefore, brethren, we do not commend
those who give themselves up, since the Gospel does
not give this teaching.


1. BUT the most wonderful Polycarp, when he
first heard it, was not disturbed, but wished to
remain in the city ; but the majority persuaded him
to go away quietly, and he went out quietly to a
farm, not far distant from the city, and stayed with
a few friends, doing nothing but pray night and day
for all, and for the Churches throughout the world,
as was his custom. 2. And while he was praying he
fell into a trance three days before he was arrested,
and saw the pillow under his head burning with fire,
and he turned and said to those who were with him :
“I must be burnt alive.”


1. AND when the searching for him persisted he
went to another farm ; and those who were searching
for him came up at once, and when they did not
find him, they arrested young slaves, and one of
them confessed under torture. 2. For it was indeed
impossible for him to remain hid, since those who
betrayed him were of his own house, and the police
captain who had been allotted the very name, being
called Herod, hastened to bring him to the arena
that he might fulfil his appointed lot by becoming a
partaker of Christ, while they who betrayed him
should undergo the same punishment as Judas.


1. TAKING the slave then police and cavalry The arrival
went out on Friday about supper-time, with their
usual arms, as if they were advancing against a
robber. And late in the evening they came up
together against him and found him lying in an
upper room. And he might have departed to
another place, but would not, saying, “the will of
God be done.” 2. So when he heard that they had
arrived he went down and talked with them, while
those who were present wondered at his age and
courage, and whether there was so much haste for
the arrest of an old man of such a kind. Therefore
he ordered food and drink to be set before them
at that hour, whatever they should wish, and he
asked them to give him an hour to pray without
hindrance. 3. To this they assented, and he stood
and prayed thus filled with the grace of God
so that for two hours he could not be silent, and
those who listened were astounded, and many
repented that they had come against such a venerable
old man. that he might fulfil his appointed lot by becoming
partaker of Christ, while they who betrayed
should undergo the same punishment as Judas.


1. Now when he had at last finished his prayer,
after remembering all who had ever even come his
way, both small and great, high and low, and the whole
catholic church throughout the world, the hour came
for departure, and they set him on an ass, and led him
into the city, on a “great Sabbath day.”
2. And the police captain Herod and his father Niketas met him
and removed him into their carriage, and sat by
his side trying to persuade him and saying :
“But what harm is it to say, ‘Lord Caesar,’ and to offer
sacrifice, and so forth, and to be saved ? “But he at
first did not answer them, but when they continued
he said: “I am not going to do what you counsel
me.” 3. And they gave up the attempt to persuade
him, and began to speak fiercely to him, and turned
him out in such a hurry that in getting down from
the carriage he scraped his shin ; and without turning
round, as though he had suffered nothing, he walked
on promptly and quickly, and was taken to the arena,
while the uproar in the arena was so great that no
one could even be heard.


1. Now when Polycarp entered into the arena Poiycarp’s
there came a voice from heaven: “Be strong, Polycarp,
and play the man. “And no one saw the speaker,
but our friends who were there heard the
voice. And next he was brought forward, and there
was a great uproar of those who heard that Polycarp
had been arrested. 2. Therefore when he was brought
forward the Pro-Consul asked him if he were Polycarp,,
and when he admitted it he tried to persuade
him to deny, saying:
“Respect your age,” and so
forth, as they are accustomed to say :
“Swear by the genius of Caesar, repent, say :
‘Away with the Atheists'”;
but Polycarp, with a stern countenance
looked on all the crowd of lawless heathen in the
arena, and waving his hand at them, he groaned and
looked up to heaven and said: “Away with the
Atheists.” 3. But when the Pro-Consul pressed him
and said : “Take the oath and I let you go, revile
Christ,” Polycarp said: “For eighty and six years
l have I been his servant, and he has done me no
wrong, and how can I blaspheme my King 2 who
saved me ?”


1. BUT when he persisted again, and said:
“Swear by the genius of Caesar,” he answered him :
“If you vainly suppose that I will swear by the genius of
Caesar, as you say, and pretend that you are ignorant
who I am, listen plainly : I am a Christian. And if
you wish to learn the doctrine of Christianity fix a
day and listen.” 2. The Pro-Consul said: “Persuade
the people.” And Polycarp said: “You I should
have held worthy of discussion, for we have been
taught to render honour, as is meet, if it hurt us not,
to princes and authorities appointed by God. But
as for those, I do not count them worthy that a
defence should be made to them.


1. AND the Pro-Consul said: “I have wild beasts,
I will deliver you to them, unless you repent.” And
he said: “Call for them, for repentance from better
to worse is not allowed us ; but it is good to change
from evil to righteousness.” 2. And he said again
to him: “I will cause you to be consumed by fire, if
you despise the beasts, unless you repent.” But
Polycarp said: “You threaten with the fire that burns
for a time, and is quickly quenched, for you do not
know the fire which awaits the wicked in the judgment
to come and in everlasting punishment. But
why are you waiting ? Come, do what you will.”


1. AND with these and many other words he was
filled with courage and joy, and his face was full
of grace so that it not only did not fall with
trouble at the things said to him, but that the Pro-
Consul, on the other hand, was astounded and sent his
herald into the midst of the arena to announce three
times : “Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian.”
2. When this had been said by the herald, all the
multitude of heathen and Jews living in Smyrna
cried out with uncontrollable wrath and a loud
shout : “This is the teacher of Asia, the father of
the Christians, the destroyer of our gods, who teaches
many neither to offer sacrifice nor to worship.” And
when they said this, they cried out and asked Philip
the Asiarch to let loose a lion on Polycarp. But he
said he could not legally do this, since he had closed
the sports. 3. Then they found it good to cry out
with one mind that he should burn Polycarp alive, for
the vision which had appeared to him on his pillow
must be fulfilled, when he saw it burning, while he
was praying, and he turned and said prophetically
to those of the faithful who were with him,
“I must be burnt alive.”


1. THESE things then happened with so great speed,
quicker than it takes to tell, and the crowd came to-
gether immediately, and prepared wood and faggots
from the work-shops and baths and the Jews were
extremely zealous, as is their custom, in assisting
at this. 2. Now when the fire was ready he put off
all his clothes, and loosened his girdle and tried also
to take off his shoes, though he did not do this before,
because each of the faithful was always zealous, which
of them might the more quickly touch his flesh. For
he had been treated with all respect because of his
noble life, even before his martyrdom. 3. Immediately
therefore, he was fastened to the instruments
which had been prepared for the fire, but when they
were going to nail him as well he said: “Leave me
thus, for He who gives me power to endure the fire,
will grant me to remain in the flames unmoved even
without the security you will give by the nails.”


1. So they did not nail him, but bound him, and he His last
put his hands behind him and was bound, as a noble p
ram out of a great flock, for an oblation, a whole burnt
offering made ready and acceptable to God ; and he
looked up to heaven and said: “O Lord God
Almighty, Father of thy beloved and blessed Child,
Jesus Christ, through Whom we have received full
knowledge of thee, the God of Angels and powers,
and of all creation, and of the whole family of the
righteous, who live before thee! 2. I bless thee, that
Thou hast granted me this day and hour, that I may
share, among the number of the martyrs, in the cup
of thy Christ, for the Resurrection to everlasting
life, both of soul and body in the immortality of the
Holy Spirit. And may I, to-day, be received among
them before Thee, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice,
as Thou, the God who lies not and is truth, hast
prepared beforehand, and shown forth, and fulfilled.
3. For this reason I also praise Thee for all things,
1 bless Thee, I glorify Thee through the everlasting
and heavenly high Priest, Jesus Christ, thy beloved
Child, through whom be glory to Thee with him and
the Holy Spirit, both now and for the ages that are
to come, Amen.”


1. Now when he had uttered his Amen and
finished his prayer, the men in charge of the fire lighted
it, and a great flame blazed up and we, to whom it
was given to see, saw a marvel. And we have
been preserved to report to others what befell.
2. For the fire made the likeness of a room, like the
sail of a vessel filled with wind, and surrounded the
body of the martyr as with a wall, and he was
within it not as burning flesh, but as bread that is
being baked, or as gold and silver being refined in a
furnace. And we perceived such a fragrant smell
as the scent of incense or other costly spices.


1 . AT length the lawless men, seeing that his Polycarp’s
body could not be consumed by the fire, commanded death
an executioner to go up and stab him with a dagger,
and when he did this, there came out a dove, and
much blood, so that the fire was quenched and all
the crowd marvelled that there was such a difference
between the unbelievers and the elect. 2. And of
the elect was he indeed one, the wonderful martyr,
Polycarp, who in our days was an apostolic and
prophetic teacher, bishop of the catholic church in
Smyrna. For every word which he uttered from his
mouth both was fulfilled and will be fulfilled.


1. BUT the jealous and envious evil one who resists
the family of the righteous, when he saw the greatness
of his martyrdom, and his blameless career from the
beginning, and that he was crowned with the crown
of immortality, and had carried off the unspeakable
prize, took care that not even his poor body should
be taken away by us, though many desired to do
this, and to have fellowship with his holy flesh.
2. Therefore he put forward Niketas, the father of
Herod, and the brother of Alee, to ask the Governor
not to give his body, “Lest,” he said, “they leave the
crucified one and begin to worship this man.” And
they said this owing to the suggestions and pressure
of the Jews, who also watched when we were going
to take it from the fire, for they do not know that
we shall not ever be able either to abandon Christ,
who suffered for the salvation of those who are being
saved in the whole world, the innocent for sinners,
or to worship any other. 3. For him we worship as
the Son of God, but the martyrs we love as disciples
and imitators of the Lord ; and rightly, because of
their unsurpassable affection toward their own King
and Teacher. God grant that we too may be their
companions and fellow-disciples.


1. WHEN therefore the centurion saw the conten-
tiousness caused by the Jews, he put the body in the
midst, as was their custom, and burnt it. 2. Thus
we, at last, took up his bones, more precious than
precious stones, and finer than gold, and put them
where it was meet. 3. There the Lord will permit us
to come together according to our power in gladness
and joy, and celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom,
both in memory of those who have already contested,
and for the practice and training of those whose fate
it shall be.


1. SUCH was the lot of the blessed Polycarp, who
though he was, together with those from Philadelphia,
the twelfth martyr in Smyrna, is alone
especially remembered by all, so that he is spoken of
in every place, even by the heathen. He was not
only a famous teacher, but also a notable martyr,
whose martyrdom all desire to imitate, for it
followed the Gospel of Christ. 2. By his endurance
he overcame the unrighteous ruler, and thus gained
the crown of immortality, and he is glorifying God
and the Almighty Father, rejoicing with the Apostles
and all the righteous, and he is blessing our Lord
Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls, and Governor
of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic
Church throughout the world.


1. You, indeed, asked that the events should be
explained to you at length, but we have for the
present explained them in summary by our brother
Marcion; therefore when you have heard these
things, send the letter to the brethren further on,
that they also may glorify the Lord, who takes his
chosen ones from his own servants.
2. And to him who is able to bring us all in his
grace and bounty, to his heavenly kingdom,
by his only begotten Child, Jesus Christ, be
glory, honour, might, and majesty for ever.
Greet all the saints. Those who are with us, and
Evarestus, who wrote the letter, with his whole
house, greet you.


1. Now the blessed Polycarp was martyred on the
second day of the first half of the month of
Xanthicus, the seventh day before the kalends of
March, a great sabbath, at the eighth hour. And he
was arrested by Herod, when Philip of Tralles was
High Priest, when Statius Quadratus was Pro-Consul,
but Jesus Christ was reigning for ever, to whom
be glory, honour, majesty and an eternal throne,
from generation to generation, Amen.