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Pray for Youcef Nadarkhani

In wonderful, tolerant Iran, Youcef Nadarkhani could be killed very soon for "abandoning Islam" (in the sense of not actually abandoning the practice of Islam but of embracing another religion after having been "born" a Muslim) and, more recently, for refusing to affirm that Mohammad was the prophet of God. Here is a fairly detailed discussion of the present situation.

(Side note: Any commentator who tries to discuss the unrelated issue that Robertson introduces in the last minute or so of the video shall be instantly slain. Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

We need to pray earnestly for Nadarkhani that his life will be spared and that he will continue to be true to the Lord Jesus Christ.

But we need to pray for him for another reason as well: Youcef Nadarkhani is a non-Trinitarian. He expressly disavows the Trinity. The (apparently Pentecostal) religious group to which he belongs affirms only that God "is revealed" as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All I've been able to read indicates that their position is some variety of modalism. In other words, Pastor Nadarkhani is a Christian heretic.

Nonetheless, he quite obviously loves Jesus Christ and is clinging to that love for Jesus under circumstances of enormous persecution. Now, I frankly admit that I don't entirely know what to make of this. In one sense, Pastor Nadarkhani is not technically my "Christian brother." In another sense, however, he has a fair chunk of the truth that goes to make up Christianity, in contrast to Islam, and his steadfastness even to the point of being willing to suffer martyrdom has got to mean something. I think we should pray not only that his life is spared, not only that God will continue to give him strength to persevere, but also that he will come to a full knowledge of the truth of God--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Comments (55)

Iran not only persecutes some "Christians" but also persecutes with extreme vengeance Bahias, Druze, and some sects of Alawis. Some minority groups like Sunnis, Jews, and Armenian Orthodox Christians are tolerated. Many Bahias have suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Iranian regime.
I agree that Christians should pray for the salvation of Youcef.
Should Christians seek to impose our western standards of religious tolerance on non western nations? Should Christians in the West be more concerned about the persecution of Christian heretics then we are of the persecution of those who have diverged from the mainstream of Islam.
[Sentence edited out. Please re-read my caveat under the video. We are not discussing that topic on my threads, period. Sorry if this strikes you as autocratic, but blogging is an unremunerated task, and the ability to be a bit of an autocrat so as to lighten one's work load is one of its only compensations. LM]
I have a larger question. What should the Christian attitude be toward heretical groups like the Monophysites? What should the Christian attitude be toward Miaphysite groups like the Armenian Orthodox Church. What should our attitude be toward those who adhere to Monothelitism? Should we regard anyone who knowingly rejects the definitions of the Council of Chalcedon as a brother in Christ?

Should Christians seek to impose our western standards of religious tolerance on non western nations?

Petitioning the Iranian "government" for Youcef's life is hardly "imposing" anything. If we have some influence of this kind, yes, we certainly should use it to try to prevent horrific injustices like this.

Should Christians in the West be more concerned about the persecution of Christian heretics then we are of the persecution of those who have diverged from the mainstream of Islam.

Yes, I think it makes sense that we are more concerned. Youcef is committed to the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that no Muslim is. That provides a legitimate bond.

What should the Christian attitude be toward heretical groups like the Monophysites?

I read a very interesting historical article recently by Robert Spencer arguing that the Monophysite controversy was largely a misunderstanding, which explains why a recent monophysite patriarch was able to issue a common statement on the nature of Christ with John Paul II (I believe it was.) I'm no expert on the many designated heresies, but my strong impression from that article was that being a monophysite was a far cry from denying the Trinity outright (which I'm sorry to say Pastor Nadarkhani does do--I've heard the audio clip).

What should the Christian attitude be toward Miaphysite groups like the Armenian Orthodox Church. What should our attitude be toward those who adhere to Monothelitism? Should we regard anyone who knowingly rejects the definitions of the Council of Chalcedon as a brother in Christ?

I don't know enough to answer each of these questions in detail but would simply say that not all refusals to affirm the language of Chalcedon are created equal, and it may be that some should be regarded as merely differences of wording and therefore as lying within the realm of orthodox Christianity.

Modalism and the outright denial of the Trinity aren't, in my opinion, among such unimportant wording differences.

We ought to pray for (and work for) the valid religious freedom of ALL individuals, including those who are in error about the right religion.

However, we Christians have an additional bond with those who hold belief in Christ. General social principles teach us that we ought to concern ourselves (more than in general for all men) more with those who are our closer neighbors. Someone who shares part of my faith is more my _nearer_ neighbor than someone who holds nothing of my faith, all other things being equal. I doubt that Youcef can properly be called a Christian, given that he probably wasn't baptized (since baptism requires not only using the water and saying the words but also intending to do what the Church intends, and that includes calling on the three Persons who are, each, God. And given that he apparently doesn't believe in 2 of the two or three most important doctrines of Christianity - that God is a Trinity, and that Jesus Christ is the second Person become man. But whether he believes in Christ as a Christian or as something else (as do also the Mormons, for example), by believing in Christ he holds fast to something of the faith of Christians.

I think the Christian attitude toward all those who participate in part of the Christian faith but not the whole of it is to earnestly pray and hope for their coming to the fullness of faith, and consider that they are either (a) a full brother in Christ, or (b) potentially someone who may soon be a full brother in Christ if by God's grace they embrace that full truth. How do you treat your sister's very close boyfriend who it appears may soon become your brother in law? I fail to see why we need a special way of dealing with each group of people who in error hold only to a part of the faith.

I don't know about "impose," but to characterize freedom of conscience (and its subcategory, freedom of religion) as a "Western standard" is an error, I think.

God, by making men in His image, grants them great freedom to do as they choose. But He intends that freedom to be used to love Him and each other. The details of His limitations on our exercise of free will are God's Moral Law.

One part of God's Moral Law is that dealing with the use of force against other human beings. As a general rule, God's Moral Law prohibits this; however, we are granted a warrant under God's Moral Law to use force against other human beings under certain circumstances, generally having to do with deter, halting, or punishing one person's wrongful assault on the unalienable rights and intrinsic dignity of another. The more distant an action is from being that kind of assault, the more tenuous our warrant to use force to prevent, halt, or punish that action. When an action is utterly disconnected from being that kind of assault, no warrant to deter, halt, or punish it by force exists.

That is why at the individual level, force is authorized in the defense of innocent persons against criminal attack...but not for, say, revenge. That is why at the national level, the Just War doctrine requires a serious threat or harm by one country against another, not just a dislike for the other country's culture. And that is why, in the intermediate level which falls between the individual and the national, that of the police power of the state, we ought to criminalize abortion (which clearly assaults the unalienable rights and intrinsic dignity of a person) but not the voluntary purchase of condoms (which doesn't...although of course it does assault someone's unalienable rights if you force them to purchase condoms, or health coverage including condoms, in violation of their conscience).

At any rate, all of this has to do with God's Moral Law in the most fundamental areas. It is not a Western thing, it is a written-on-the-human-heart thing. Freedom of conscience ought not, therefore, be characterized as a distinctively Western standard.

A man who loves Jesus and holds some non-Trinitarian version of Christianity is a bit wrong, though not as far wrong as a Muslim. But even were he in a Catholic country, the government would have no just authority under God's moral law to compel him to act against his conscience by professing Trinitarianism, on pain of death. That is to do great injury to the man's human dignity and unalienable rights. His non-Trinitarianism, while erroneous, does not constitute an assault on anyone's dignity. It is thus not the kind of wrongness which, under God's Moral Law, any other human being may oppose through the use of force. We can (and should, when the occasion is right) oppose it by persuasive argument. But we have no warrant to kill the man for it. And neither does any other human being under the sun, Western or Eastern, for they are all subject to God's Moral Law.

So they're objectively wrong to do this, and saying so is no imposition of values any more than it is an imposition to say that the Law of Gravitation works just as well in Persia as in Rome.

Now, invading them to make them stop would be an imposition. (We must always draw the distinction between persuasion and force.) But it would be an imposition of rightful conduct, not of Western standards. It is not as if we were invading to force Ayatollahs to wear neckties and loafers.

All the same, we shouldn't invade, either, over this. Just War also has a threshold of proportionality, and this doesn't come close, even if that pastor is wrongly executed. And there is a notion in Just War of a difference between internal and external affairs; this is, sad to say, an internal evil.

Thomas, I expect you already agree with most or all of the above, and that it is pure overkill for me to have been so nit-picky about a few words ("impose our western standards") which you used, perhaps, without taking great care to be precise.

But I thought it ought to be said, for clarity's sake.

RC, I'm glad you said it. Good analysis.

Tony, I like your "sister's boyfriend" analogy. I would be inclined to say that a Mormon is more like your sister's school buddy whom you hope she won't start dating and that a non-Trinitarian "Christian" is more like the sister's boyfriend. :-)

Modalism and the outright denial of the Trinity aren't, in my opinion, among such unimportant wording differences.
I agree. Youcef is a leader of a cult. He does not worship the Jesus of historic Christianity. He does not love the Jesus Christ of the Bible. I doubt that he was baptized with a Trinitarian Baptism. Therefore the concern we have for Youcef should be that he hear the Gospel and repent, believe, and be baptized.

A few years ago I heard that the Russian government, at the urging of the Orthodox Patriarch, was refusing to register some cultic religious groups like United Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. I was not troubled by Russia's refusal to give any recognition to these cults.

I think their is a difference as to the level of concern we should have for Roman Catholics, Canonical Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Calvinists, Baptists and other Chalcedon Christians on the one hand, and those who have departed from orthodoxy on the other hand.

A recent Monoophysite patriarch was able to issue a common statement on the nature of Christ with John Paul II.

They were able to issue such a common statement because the Bishop of Rome was satisfied that those Oriental Orthodox are not Monophysite heretics at all but closer to Miaphysite in their understanding of the nature of Christ. The canonical Orthodox Patriarchs and some Anglican's still thought these Oriental Orthodox were in grievous error.

I see no more obligation to defend the religious liberty of the heretical "Christian" groups then I do the Bahais or Druze.

Thomas, even if one grants the hypothesis that Bahias or cultic groups don't deserve the same effort from us to protect their religious liberty, do you think that it might be practically useful to do so anyway?

A few years ago I heard that the Russian government, at the urging of the Orthodox Patriarch, was refusing to register some cultic religious groups like United Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. I was not troubled by Russia's refusal to give any recognition to these cults.

Considering that a) in Russia, a refusal to register a group may, even in these days, result in a certain amount of actual persecution (and certainly did in the Soviet Union) and that b) the Orthodox are also inclined and have been for many a decade to attack the religious liberty of Baptists, because they don't like the competition, this sort of thing sets off alarm bells to me. Sorry if that's overly blunt or offensive, but I've had this opinion for a long time. For example, evangelical Christians, undeniably Trinitarian, etc., are supposed to be banned from holding children's clubs which Orthodox children attend, even with their parents' permission. The kind of talk I've heard about that would nearly lead one to believe that those wicked Baptist evangelicals were trying to sell the little kids cocaine. So I don't really have sympathy for the throwing around of the word "cult" and attempted "cult suppression" in oppressive societies and by oppressive regimes.

I'm highly hesitant to use any such language of Youcef Nadarkhani. I stick by what I said in the main post and in the exchange with Tony above.

He expressly disavows the Trinity. The (apparently Pentecostal) religious group to which he belongs affirms only that God "is revealed" as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

So he believes that the one God is revealed as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit...
Does he deny that Jesus is God and Man?
I'm interested, how do we know he is a "heretic" and not just someone who holds to a more literal biblical interpretation?

In the Quicunque vult salvus the western Church professes her belief that whoever wishes to be saved must, above all else, adhere to the true Catholic faith. Whoever does not keep this faith pure and undefiled will certainly perish everlastingly. The true Catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, without mixing the persons or dividing the Substance. [My translation/paraphrase, I don't have a Prayerbook with the English translation in hand]
Let us assume Youcef Nadarkhani has quibbles with the word Trinity. If he was not a cultist he should still be able to affirm that he believes in, and worships one God in three persons, and three persons in one God.
All orthodox branches of the western Church [Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran & Calvinist] accept the Quicunque vult salvus as an Oecumenical creed of the Church Catholic. Canonical Eastern Orthodoxy has not adopted the western creed but affirms the same faith in their liturgy.
Sadly Youcef does not affirm the Catholic faith, but knowingly rejects it; therefore I am constrained to call him a leader of a cult.

Sadly Youcef does not affirm the Catholic faith, but knowingly rejects it; therefore I am constrained to call him a leader of a cult.

I guess I'm a heretic too - since I'm not a Catholic! Oh well.
At least in this country the sentence for heresy isn't death (at least not yet anyway!)

Chucky said: I guess I am a heretic too since I'm not a Catholic!
Catholic as I use the term refers to the churches that adhere to the faith set forth in the Apostles creed, the Nicene Creed, the Chalcedonian Creed and the Athanasian Creed [Quicunque vult] The Roman Catholic Church along with conservative Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed Churches all adhere to those creedal statements.

The Roman Catholic Church along with conservative Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed Churches all adhere to those creedal statements.

Well I don't belong to any of those either so I guess I'm still a heretic!

I find it interesting that, in a post about a "heretic" being condemned to death my an Islamic court, we are debating whether or not he really is a heretic by Christian standards.

Now, Chucky, don't troll. You don't have to belong to any of those named denominations not to deny the existence of God in three persons. However, I think the point about quibbling over the word "Trinity" is a sufficiently relevant one that it is one of the reasons I'm treating lightly on this one. I haven't had a chance to discuss the doctrine of the Trinity with Pastor Nadarkhani and would be interested to see how a conversation would go. When he's not in danger of death anymore, that is...

I do _not_ call him a "cultist" and actually, I think there is an interesting category of Christian heretics like the Arian John Milton. Fortunately, it's God who decides who goes to heaven, not I. While I won't call anyone who denies the Trinity a Christian brother, I also definitely recognize degrees. Actually, as I use the word, "heretic" is not an insult. It's a step up from, say, "adherent to a totally non-Christian religion." If someone has a lot of Christian doctrine right and doesn't believe something crazy like, I dunno, that God used to be a man and that we will one day become gods (ahem), but he gets it wrong on the Trinity, I'm worried about his eternal salvation, and I'm praying for his soul, but I consider him a lot closer to being a Christian than if he were a Muslim or a Hindu.

That is to say, "heretic" is a bad thing to be, but depending on who you are, it's a lot better than other things I could call you.

I also think there's a big difference between being part of a heretical Christian denomination in Muslim totalitarian Iran, of all places, under persecution and threat of death for being *in any sense whatsoever* "Christian" rather than Muslim, and being a cocky adolescent author (former pastor) in Grand Rapids, making big bucks off of intentionally obscure and pseudo-intellectual books while deliberately trying to lead the evangelical church in America into doctrinal heresy and left-wing politics.

There are heretics and then there are heretics. I'd much rather see Rob Bell pilloried, metaphorically speaking anyway, than see harm come to so much as a hair of Pastor Nadarkhani's head. I despise the former and admire the latter.

Should Christians in the West be more concerned about the persecution of Christian heretics then we are of the persecution of those who have diverged from the mainstream of Islam.

Here's a rhetorical question for you. Why should we give a damn about the Jews who reject their Messiah if we throw our half-brothers, the minor heretics like Nadarkhani, to the wolves?

We are all praying for this man's life. The obvious point, however, is that if an individual leaves Islam, he becomes an apostate and becomes subject to death. This is the law throughout Islam. This law has been in effect for some 1400 years or so. We, in western civilization, having grown up in a land of freedom and liberty with a rule of law are outraged and shocked at this. But, if we study Islam, we know this type of action is just normal within Islams law code. Now, let us study Islam and begin to formulate a plan of action that will rid the planet of our mortal enemies.

Dear me, this comment thread seems to be attracting some very odd comments. I request both of the last two commentators to watch their steps. I leave your comments unedited only for clarity's sake, but may not next time.

Mike T, I completely agree that we should not throw Nadarkhani to the wolves. But bag the comments about the Jews.

Whirlwinder, you are right about apostasy and Islam, but *in charity*, I'm going to pretend your last sentence refers to attempting by shining the light of Jesus forth through missions to convert all the Muslims. Capice?

But bag the comments about the Jews.

I see you missed my point about the Jews (that there are many Christians who would throw a brother or half-brother in Christ to the wolves while considering it unthinkable to abandon the Jews).

* Not that I support abandoning the Jews; I am probably the strongest supporter of Israel on this site.

Do you ever read my personal blog? Never mind. Don't answer that. You can just go and check it out.

Lydia;
Your blog is hardcore in its support of Zionism. Sadly, when compared to other things I regularly read it is hardly extreme on the issue. Mike has a point. Many Dispensationalists are extremely worked up in their support of Israel but have no concern for our Palestinian Christian brothers.

I am also hard-core on not discussing Israel at W4. As in, really hard-core. If you want you can go and try to give me a hard time in the fully moderated comments at my personal blog, though...Have fun. :-)

By the way, that wasn't what Mike T said, so I don't think it would be wise to try to co-opt his comment. He was referring to those making negative comments about Pastor Nadarkhani, about whom I do not believe he shares your opinions. What he said was quite clear.

Lydia, I get all worked up thinking about Islam and how America is handling their threat here at home. I belong to a church that supports missionaries to Islam in England, India, Iran and Indonesia so I spend hard money trying to convert them. Given that thought, I look around our country and the 'stealth jihad' that is being waged agianst us and I just want to scream. Islam has been at war with us since before the Clinton era and we are sitting on our haunches just treating this an nothing. If Islam had the numbers in America that they now have in Europe, our country would be in chaos and how many of these jihadis with their blood lust up do you think would respond to the gospel? While we are on the subject of the church, have you heard many pastors speaking out about the threat of Islam to western civilization? You can count their numbers on one hand. American christians and indeed the entire population are woefully ignorant of Islam and their plans for our country. Lydia, why don't you and the guys get together with an action plan that will wake up America. 9/11 did not seem to get a good reaction much less a concerted effort to meet the challenge. Bush declared a War on 'Terror' whatever that is, and called Islam a religion of peace. Stupifying. Then he went on to war agaisnt Iraq to 'democraticize' their country. Democracy is not in the Islamic lexicon, as they want to dominate the world and make dhimmis and slaves of the non-muslims. Bush probably still thinks that there is some form of democracy in Iraq. His thinking is what passes for intelligence in our government. What kind of disaster do you think will wake up the people? America seems slow on the uptake regarding the threat of Islam.

Does the freedom of conscience extends to preaching error?

It violates one's intrinsic dignity and inalienable rights to profess something one does not believe in but does one has a right to preach an error and lead others onto it? That is to mislead others?

I don't think so and the State is even justified taking actions such as burning the books of one that preaches error and even incarcerating him if he persists in misleading the innocent.

Isn't this what the Catholic Church says?

In one sense, Pastor Nadarkhani is not technically my "Christian brother" (for he is a non-Trinitarian). In another sense, however, he has a fair chunk of the truth that goes to make up Christianity, in contrast to Islam, and his steadfastness even to the point of being willing to suffer martyrdom has got to mean something.
Lydia McGrew

It means Pastor Nadarkhani may well be part of what Catholic Christians recognize as the invisible Church.


John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us."
Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.
Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
Mark 9:38-40 (NAB)

These passages of the Gospel suggest to me that Pastor Nadarkhani, who is about to perform a mighty deed (witnessing at the price of his life) for Jesus, is "for" Jesus and His body, the Church. All Christians would do well to give Pastor Nadarkhani "a cup of water to drink", i.e. spiritual and corporal works of mercy (prayer, including prayers that he be given the graces necessary to understand and accept the truth of the Trinity; and support for his release from his oppressors in Iran).

He was referring to those making negative comments about Pastor Nadarkhani, about whom I do not believe he shares your opinions.

Indeed. I was about to make a comment about cultural Catholic Mary worshipers who are so devoted to Marian devotions that you'd think they're practicing a form of Wicca-Christianity syncreticism, but figured that a comment about the Jews might hit both Protestants and Catholics a little better.

And before Gian and Thomas can condemn this man for believing something which a bunch of holy rollers mislead him on, let them declare anathema all of the Catholics petitioning for Mary to be called the "co-redemptrix" who should know better than to believe Mary has any role in the redemption of sinners.

Okay, okay, Mike, I actually agree with you and your point is made, but I also try not to have rampaging Protestant things like that said either. Let's all play nice. :-)

This comment by Micha Elyi is well-taken:

Pastor Nadarkhani, who is about to perform a mighty deed (witnessing at the price of his life) for Jesus, is "for" Jesus and His body, the Church. All Christians would do well to give Pastor Nadarkhani "a cup of water to drink", i.e. spiritual and corporal works of mercy (prayer, including prayers that he be given the graces necessary to understand and accept the truth of the Trinity; and support for his release from his oppressors in Iran).

I don't agree about the invisible church, because I think trinitarian belief is required there, but I think this about being "on our side" is good. It's important to remember too that Islam is an absolute monotheism and it's therefore not too surprising that Christian heresies that deny the Trinity would be popular in Muslim countries. Not that it's done Nadarkhani any good with his Muslim persecutors!

To satisfy Mike I declare an anathema on the error that Maria Theotokos is co-redemptrix.
This thread has strayed far from the original topic.
For the sake of ecumenical unity, I wonder why someone has not brought up Michael Servetus, who was justly condemned by the Roman Catholic Inquisition, and by Martin Luther and executed in Geneva at the behest of Jean Calvin.

For the sake of ecumenical unity, I wonder why someone has not brought up Michael Servetus, who was justly condemned by the Roman Catholic Inquisition, and by Martin Luther and executed in Geneva at the behest of Jean Calvin.

Christian heresy is for Christians to punish, if it's going to be punished at all. Non-Christians have no more a right to do that than they do to sit on the throne of St. Peter, lead the Anglican Communion or any other position of authority over Christian religious activity.

Christian heresy is for Christians to punish, if it's going to be punished at all.

But actually, contra Gian, I'm glad to say that most Christians nowadays have accepted a concept of religious freedom that precludes burning anybody at the stake nor imprisoning people for "leading people into theological error." Call this notion of religious freedom "Enlightenment" if you will. That'll only make me say, "Well, thank goodness, then! The Enlightenment got something right."

I have no problem with "punishing" theological heresy by refusal of certain types of fellowship--as in, not inviting modalists to your special Christian theological round table discussion and calling them "Christian brothers." Not inviting them to preach at your church. Not letting them become members of your church.

Lydia: Now, Chucky, don't troll. You don't have to belong to any of those named denominations not to deny the existence of God in three persons.
I'm not trying to troll, I'm sincerely interested in this pastor's doctrine! I've never heard of modalism before and I'm wondering if it may solve some of my own problems reconciling the trinity doctrine with the concept of divine simplicity. (I know there are explanations having to do with "personhood" as opposed to "parts" etc... Let's just say I find those explanations---or at least my understanding of them---unsatisfying intellectually.) I've been tempted to ditch divine simplicity in favor of the trinity, but now I may not have to! (I'm probably even more of a heretic now though!!)

That unchecked preaching of error leads to and has actually and very visibly led to social decay is hardly disputable.

Is constitution a suicide pact?

Lydia,
I was arguing from the perspective of Govt in question. I don't think they are Enlightened.

I am not concerned about the peculiar theology in this particular case.

The teaching of theological errors such as errors about the Trinity has led to social breakdown, and if we don't stop it we're making the Constitution a suicide pact???? I mean, where to start? I don't even think I'll try. Gian, I'm sorry, but you just need to put this in perspective. Either you don't understand the notion of freedom of religion that I would support or, more likely, you disagree with it. But comments about "making the Constitution a suicide pact" are just silly in either event. Theological differences such as those between orthodox Christians and heretics are *precisely* the types of things the founders of the U.S. had in mind when they put freedom of religion into the Constitution. If you think that's "suicidal," then I guess you disagree with a major premise of the United States founding. Which is, of course, perfectly possible. But there it is. Nadarkhani _should not_ be in danger of anything, including imprisonment, for his beliefs and teaching.

Gian says that the Civil State is justified in incarcerating those cultists who preach error.

unchecked preaching of error leads to and has actually and very visibly led to social decay is hardly disputable

The Roman Catholic Church is hardly alone in holding this position.
Article 36 of the Belgic Confession [1561] says that one of the jobs of the civil magistrate is to remove and prevent all idolatry and false worship.
Article XXIII Section 3 of the Westminster Confession of Faith [1647] says that one of the jobs of the civil magistrate is to ensure that all blasphemies and heresies are suppressed.

That's all well and good, but I think it should go without saying that we ought to oppose on principle an Islamic state taking on that role since, well, it is a state based on blasphemy and heresy.

Lydia said;

Theological differences such as those between orthodox Christians and heretics are precisely the kind of things the founders of the US had in mind when they put freedom of religion in the Constitution.

I am not an expert on U.S. history, but I don't believe this to be the case. When the Bill of Rights was added to the US Constitution, the goal was to protect America from an established Church at a national level. Granted the founding fathers were concerned about protecting robust religious and political debate but the did not share an Enlightenment understanding of freedom of religion. Delaware expressly restricted suffrage to trinitarian protestant Christian. Unitarians and Quakers were not welcome there.

I don't think so and the State is even justified taking actions such as burning the books of one that preaches error and even incarcerating him if he persists in misleading the innocent.

Isn't this what the Catholic Church says?

Actually, Gian, no that is NOT what the Catholic Church says. You can read Dignitatis Humanae and see it for yourself.

What the Catholic Church teaches is that nobody has the right to teach error per se. That is, there is nothing about error of its own nature that gives you any right to teach it.

What you do have a right to do is teach the truth that you hold. This is a natural and civil right, which the state is obliged to uphold. Since your teaching of truth may be bound up in some admixture of error, the state is in a quandary. The solution is that, out of regard for the truth that you have and may teach, the state is not to obstruct your teaching of error unless your teaching error is done in such a manner as to overturn still more important (or urgent) goods of the community. One example of this is when you teach error without due regard for the truth: you "thought" that Catholics really do worship Mary, so you taught it to your Protestant friends, but you didn't make any attempt to actually verify the reality. So you "thought" it without any suitable adherence to standards of truth. The state can properly land on you with civil penalties (libel for instance is against the law) for that kind of negligence of proper regard for the truth. There ARE ways to teach heresy that are offenses against due civil regard for the truth and for other's rights, and the state may address those.

[This is an aside to Mike and Thomas. Nobody else need tune in.]

To satisfy Mike I declare an anathema on the error that Maria Theotokos is co-redemptrix.

No way, Thomas. Mary was just carrying out St. Paul's admonition, "making up for what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ."
[Now, back to our regularly scheduled program. :-)]

Every state has, and MUST have, the inherent capacity to say of a possible religion: sorry, that's too freaky, irrational, and unfounded, to be accept as a "religion", and too opposed to our culture to leave in peace in all respects. (Moloch-worship is a prime example, Wicca another.) I don't have a problem with a state judging Islam on these standards, with the potential of finding that it comes up short. I know a (not very practicing) Muslim who said "religion isn't supposed to make sense, you just have to obey it."

Well, I wouldn't be surprised then if a well-ordered state could legitimately say "it doesn't make sense." If only _our_ country comprised a well-ordered state.

Tony said,

No way, Thomas. Mary was just carrying out St. Paul's admonition, "making up for what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ."

I take this to be a reference to Colossians 1:24.
I see no reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the text. None of the Nicene or ante Nicene Fathers that I consulted see a reference to our Lady in this text.

"the state is not to obstruct your teaching of error unless your teaching error is done in such a manner as to overturn still more important (or urgent) goods of the community"

By this, an Islamic state would be justified in suppressing teaching of an unorthodox Christianity while making some allowances for teaching of the Orthodox Christianity.

This is rather my position. The freedom of religion has been made absolute whereas it was not intended so by the Founders or the subtle position of Catholic Church. Discrimination is necessary. The Enlightenment regards all religions as equally absurd and irrational thus they absolutize the freedom of religion.

While the older order did not regard religious belief as an absurdity per se and thus made fine discriminations.

So we are under no obligation to view freedom of religion through Enlightenment lens.

"Every state has, and MUST have, the inherent capacity to say of a possible religion"

Can such a state be described by a theory of state in which the state is merely a servant of the people and the entire authority of state is delegated by the people to the state?.

Or by the theory that says that State has an autonomous existence separate from the people.

Gian,

Again, do you want an Islamic state getting in the middle of Christian theological fights?

Thomas, you make a good point about the states having the power to have established religions at the state level. And that is a useful historical caveat to what I said. However, I stand by what I said as to the type of differences the founders had in mind. What they were ruling out at the federal level were precisely laws trying to mandate religious conformity on the very sorts of theological points we are discussing here--suppressing Jews, Quakers, etc., at the federal level. Gian suggests _imprisoning_ those who teach heresy! You don't think the founders would have said that that was the kind of thing they were trying to make sure didn't get voted in at the federal level? You bet they would, even though they left the states free to do a lot of stuff they would not allow the federal government to do.

Gian says this,

By this, an Islamic state would be justified in suppressing teaching of an unorthodox Christianity while making some allowances for teaching of the Orthodox Christianity.

This is rather my position. The freedom of religion has been made absolute whereas it was not intended so by the Founders

The suggestion here is that the American founders meant by "freedom of religion" something that nonetheless included "it is justified to suppress an unorthodox Christianity." Which would, presumably, mean at the federal level as well. Hence, for example, a federal law could have been passed requiring the registration of all churches and their examination for whether they are "unorthodox Christianity" and the imprisoning of pastors such as Nadarkhani who teach unorthodox Christianity, and the founders would have shrugged off references to the First Amendment by saying, "Oh, we didn't intend freedom of religion to be an absolute."

This is an historical absurdity. I cannot understand how anyone could think such a thing.

If the position of the Catholic Church is that it is just and good to imprison people who teach theological error and that this is compatible with freedom of religion at the level of government where the imprisonment occurs, that simply means that the position of the American founders *should not* be classified as the same as the position of the Catholic Church.

Yes, I will happily say it: Their position was far more "Enlightenment" than that.

Tony, I think any court in the land would, rightly (and this has been true for decades, not just in contemporary times) dismiss any attempt by a Catholic to sue a Protestant for writing, "Catholics worship Mary" as libel or slander. Such debates are likely to come down to _distinctly_ religious matters of definition of a sort that the secular law should not be taking sides on. As, for example, does "worship" include, "To speak to a dead human as to a highly exalted being, seeking the aid of that dead human"? No doubt a canny rampaging Protestant would say that it does, and no doubt a suing Catholic would say that it doesn't. Definitely, the law should not get involved in even trying to assess penalties over such a debate.

1) The American State did suppress Mormon religion and obliged it to modify certain of its fundamental doctrines and practices.
I would support if American State similarly suppresses present day Oriental cults and sects.

1) A Govt is a Govt. The American practice of claiming limited Govt by citing constitutional limits on the Federal level while keeping quiet about more extensive Govt at State and local level confuses the matter.

It seems that the American practice and permissions for State and local level can be likened more to the post-revolution France.

MikeT,
I am not concerned about theology at all.
All I said was that any State would be justified in having an opinion about strangeness of a cult.

The American State did suppress Mormon religion...
I am not an American historian so I could be wrong and subject to correction on this point; but I do not believe the U. S. government took direct action to suppress the Mormon religion. Actually what the U. S. Government did is not suppress the Mormon religion but outlaw polygamy. The Latter Day States cultists who were not part of the Brigham Young crowd were not affected. The Brigham Young wing of the Latter Day Saints movement, a large part of which had migrated to Utah, were deeply impacted by the decision to outlaw polygamy. Their "Prophet" then had a revelation that polygamy was not for today. That paved the way for Utah to be admitted to the Union.
Tony, I think any court in the land would, rightly (and this has been true for decades, not just in contemporary times) dismiss any attempt by a Catholic to sue a Protestant for writing, "Catholics worship Mary" as libel or slander.

The point is not whether the courts can get into religious disagreements and settle them, it is that the principles by which we respect the truth are rightly embedded in the law with violations to be punished, and people who violate those principles can be taken to task by the law even when they are motivated by teaching religious thoughts. If a Protestant were to claim "The Pope teaches Catholics should worship Mary" without even attempting to check and validate the claim with reference to facts, he cannot claim "religious liberty" when he is sued and he cannot back up the claim with anything that he himself can point to in proof, under his own lights. The requirement to be able to back up your claims about what someone else says is a requirement that applies to ALL claims, religious or not, so claiming "religious liberty" doesn't allow you to escape responsibility. The principle is not a religious principle, and the state can apply it even in a claim with religious content. That's all I was saying.

The suggestion here is that the American founders meant by "freedom of religion" something that nonetheless included "it is justified to suppress an unorthodox Christianity." Which would, presumably, mean at the federal level as well.

I am not sure how that follows logically. Presumably the founders were OK with states doing things about religion that was put out of bounds for the federal gov. So, for example, a state could maintain a test of faith for government office. Saying so doesn't logically suggest that this means the fed gov should have been able to do so under the Constitution. I am glad we don't still have such tests (which were all pro-Protestant) but that's beside the point.

If the position of the Catholic Church is that it is just and good to imprison people who teach theological error and that this is compatible with freedom of religion at the level of government where the imprisonment occurs,

Well, it is not compatible with my understanding of Catholic teaching, nor with the presentation I put above. It simply isn't. What is compatible with Catholic doctrine is that the teaching of something (truth or error) may be punished by the state when that teaching violates underlying principles of _teaching_ truth. (Simply being error is not that violation.) So, teaching your theory by intentionally mis-stating the opponent's theory is a defective adherence to principles of truth. Teaching the young, the uneducated, the simpletons, the ignorant in a manner which is calculated to confuse and obscure a difficult truth is another. The punishable offense is not being in error, nor teaching error, but the manner of teaching, doing something that damages the common good because the way you are going about the teaching.

Presumably the founders were OK with states doing things about religion that was put out of bounds for the federal gov.

Right, Tony. Exactly. That's what I was saying. I understood Gian, above, to be implying that the Founders' idea of "religious liberty" would have permitted imprisoning people for teaching and spreading wrong doctrine, which is, well, crazy. Thomas replied to what I was saying by pointing out the disfavoring of Quakers in Delaware. I don't think that's relevant to what the First Amendment meant for precisely the reason you give. No incorporation doctrine at the founding means that the states didn't have to follow the First Amendment. Hence, we can't reason from what the states did to, "Ah, this must have been consistent with the 'free exercise of religion' as envisaged in the First Amendment."

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