A Martyr’s Grace: 21 Moody Bible Institute Alumni Who Gave Their Lives For Christ, by Martin J. Newell
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
From time to time I read about martyrs and martyrdom and my thoughts about the subject are not unlike that of many others , including the famous Dwight L. Moody, who said that he did not seek out martyrdom but believed that if he had been called to be a martyr that God would give him a martyr’s grace to deal with it. As a religious educational institution that has been important in missionary efforts throughout the world, Moody’s has had a lot of martyr’s over its time and this book seeks to recover the memory of some of them and put their deaths in the context of the spread of Christianity over areas as well as the encouragement of local brethren as to the seriousness of their faith, both of which this book manages to accomplish in a thoughtful way. This is not the sort of book that one reads for laughs, but if you want a serious book that reflects upon the relationship between physical and spiritual warfare, this is certainly a worthwhile one and it would be interesting to see other influential seminaries write their own martyrologies.
This book is divided pretty simply in that it tells the biographies of 21 Moody Bible Institute alumni who were martyred by a pretty strict definition of the term, and they are organized by the place where they were martyred: the Middle East (1), China (8), Africa (5), Southeast Asia (3), and Latin America (4). Most of the martyrs are Americans but some come from Canada and Sweden, for example. Among the Americans, most come from Greater Yankeedom, including one from Portland, Oregon and some from the Midwest and New England, as well as one from Virginia. Most of the martyrs died during military conflicts–including the Boxer Rebellion, the Hut Tax War of Sierra Leone, and World War II, but some died because of the hostility of local heathen cultures to the new beliefs of Christianity or the mistaken belief that missionaries were decimating their local population with diseases like the flu in one case. The author manages to do a good job at putting martyrdom in a context and shows how varied it can be and how many reasons missionaries can find themselves the victims of violence, where not one of the perpetrators was ever brought in for earthly justice.
The book does lead to some interesting and thought-provoking insights. For one, we see that physical warfare and conflict is often related to spiritual warfare. Many martyrs die in the midst of popular uprisings where missionaries are assumed to be working in cahoots with imperialists or run afoul of Communists. At times martyrs have been critical of local customs like female genital mutilation, which has led to societal conflict, and the book does a good job at reminding us of the relationship between the physical world and its conflicts and the deeper dispute over spiritual worldviews. The author also does a good job at showing how the faith of local brethren often gave encouragement to honoring the memory of martyrs and being inspired by them, and how some martyrs lived and died in an obscure fashion, some were quite controversial figures, and still others were lauded as being heroic believers almost immediately upon their deaths. Although the reader will likely have no interest in being a martyr, it is a noble thing to honor martyrs and this short book of about 200 pages does that in an excellent fashion, being honest but not excessive in its discussion of the circumstances of the life and death of these brave men and women for Christ.
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