“Cry aloud, spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” — Isa. lviii. 1.
… This notion of truth is retained in the Church of Rome: and the work itself is appropriated by them unto themselves alone. Unto them, and them only, as they suppose, it belongs to take care of the propagation of the faith of the gospel, with the conversion of infidels and heretics. Whatever is done unto this purpose by others, they condemn and abhor. What do they think of the primitive way of doing it, — by personal preaching, sufferings, and holiness? Will the pope, his cardinals and bishops, undertake this work or way of the discharge of it? Christ hath appointed no other; the apostles and their successors knew no other; — no other becomes the gospel, nor ever had success. No; they abhor and detest this way of it. …
By these it is that they design to propagate the faith and promote Christian religion; and if hell itself can invent a more deformed image and representation of the sacred truth and work, which it is a counterfeit of, I am much mistaken. …
2. The next part of this image, the next way used by them for the propagating of the faith, and the conversion of them they call heretics, — is the Inquisition. So much hath been declared and is known thereof, that it is needless here to give a portraiture of it. It may suffice, that it hath been long since opened, like Cacus’s den, and discovered to be the greatest arsenal of cruelty, the most dreadful shambles of blood and slaughter, that ever was in the world. This is that engine which hath supplied the scarlet whore with the blood of saints, and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, until she was drunk with it. And this is the second way or means whereby they propagate the faith of the gospel, and endeavour, as they say, the conversion of the souls of men; this is the second part of that image which they have set up instead of the holy appointment of Jesus Christ.
John Owen, “Sermon XVI. An humble testimony unto the goodness and severity of God in his dealing with sinful churches and nations; or, the only way to deliver a sinful nation from utter ruin by impendent judgments: in a discourse on the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, Luke xiii. 1-4.”, The Sermons of John Owen
John Owen lived from 1616-1683. The Inquisition lasted for hundreds of years, with the last execution based on it occurring in 1826.
Nobody can be expected to offer a defense of the Spanish Inquisition. And no one today openly claims to be the ideological heirs of the Inquisition. The closest thing I’ve seen was an attempt to salvage the reputation of the church by pointing out that the state actually carried out these tortures– which Owen here calls a shambles, a reference to a slaughterhouse– and the church at that time can hardly be blamed if it merely came up with lists of crimes against the faith.
The question is whether all who, today, share the feelings, or advocate any of the methodologies that made it happen can be called to repent of such. Some liberals may say any belief in absolute truth leads to Inquisitions. The absurdity of this notion, as shown by Tim Keller, is that this belief is often held as an absolute truth. In contrast to both modern liberals and the Inquisition, Owen claims the means of Christianity are “personal preaching, sufferings, and holiness.” Does the church do this today? Do you know any ardent advocates for one of these three that is a role model for all three?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, Please let us publicly affirm the conscience of those who feel revulsion at these terrible acts done in the name of the Church of Rome, in the name of Christianity and Jesus. Show us ways to witness to these people without the blasphemy of saying it was done with good intentions or that its victims didn’t suffer that much. Expunge from us all wrong means and feelings that in the past led to a literal shambles of our neighbor’s bodies and property. Let us see how we can spread your kingdom primarily with “personal preaching, sufferings, and holiness.” AMEN.