Too Many To Jail: The Story Of Iran’s Christians, by Mark Bradley
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Kregel Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.]
As someone who has read books on the troubles of Christians in Iran, one of which is a major source of this book , this book seeks to present Western Christians with a particular perspective about the Church in Iran. Its aims and motives are simple: it wants to show that despite persecution, Iranian Christians are becoming rapidly more numerous, are worthy of our prayers and support, and are “orthodox” in the main . It wants to show the legitimacy of the house church as a form of organization that is successful in meeting the spiritual needs of new Iranian Christians and evangelizing to unreached people. The book also seeks to claim that Iran’s history and culture (particularly the praise given to Jesus Christ in the Sufi and Shia branches of Islam) as well as the growing lack of confidence in the spiritual leaders of the Islamic Republic due to their brutality and corruption makes Christianity more fertile there than in many other countries.
These claims are transparent and open. This book is the third in a series dealing with Iran, and it comes free of hidden agendas and with a message that will likely be cheered by many readers. This cheer will be felt in spite of the fact that the book dwells at length at the horrors and persecutions that Christians suffer in Iran, from social discrimination and the inability to attend university to arbitrary beatings and jailing as political threats to the ruling regime (especially those who will not and cannot keep silent) to stabbings and rape and torture by secret police. Not only does the book progress from a discussion of the troubled relationship between Iranians and their government, and show some shrewd insights about Iranian culture, as well as a lengthy discussion on house churches and an application on Turtullian’s maxim that the blood of martyrs was the seed from which the post-Apostolic Hellenistic Church grew, it contains a brief history of Christianity in Iran before 1979, a lengthy and painfully detailed list of Iranian acts of aggression towards Christians, and the final testament of Medi Dibaj a few weeks before he was kidnapped and stabbed to death in three appendices.
The real question when reading this book is whether the author is a credible witness to what he speaks of. To be sure, he seeks to protect his confidences by avoiding certain details that might bolster his case, or at least put him on the record as to the size of Christian fellowships in Iran, but it is clear that he has a certain stake in the outcome, a certain interpretation of the facts on the ground that he wishes to present. It is clear that the author does not willfully deceive, but at the same time it is very possible that the author may be subtly biased by his own perspective and the sources that he uses. There is nothing wrong about this–it is the case for everyone who seeks to make a case about anything. Every reader will have to decide whether to accept the interpretation of the author or to suspend judgment, as it is likely that few if any readers will possess alternative evidence by which to judge this book’s claims of a massive Christian spread in a country whose ways are not transparently open to Westerners. That said, this is a book of great interest to believers wishing to pray for strength and greater biblical understanding on the part of Iran’s new Christians, however many there are.
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