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Monday, August 05, 2013

The Math of Martyrdom

It has been said, correctly, that the 20th century produced more Christian martyrs than any previous century, and probably more than several previous centuries combined.

It is also said that the attacks on Christians are increasing.

Both statements are undoubtedly true.

But, to be fair, let's consider the math for just a moment and consider carefully what we mean by "increasing."

There were 1 billion people in the world in 1804.
There are 7 billion people in the world today.
So, do the math.

Even if Christian persecution dropped by 50% since 1800, such persecution would STILL produce many more individual martyrs today than it had in 1800, if only because there are a lot more Christians today than there was then. In order to show that the rate of martyrdom were increasing, we would have to measure martyrdom on a per capita level, rather than simply a raw numbers level. I've never seen anyone make such a measurement.

This doesn't make the sacrifice of any individual martyr less important, nor is it any less sad that someone would see fit to kill a Christian simply because that person is a Christian.

It's just that we can't very well say, "Ah! Three hundred Christians were killed this year while only 200 Christians were killed in 1913, therefore persecution is 30% worse today than in 1913!" nor can we say with complete certainty, "Oh, Christian persecution is increasing because the number of martyrs this century is so much higher than in the previous century!"

Christians are supposed to be deeply devoted to the truth. Thus, we need to keep these facts in mind when we discuss persecution and martyrdom.

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