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Persecution by Christians.

1. Persecution, or infliction of penalties for deviation from an acknowledged standard of religious belief, is an invasion of man's original rights that are his as an individual personally accountable to God. Wrong in principle, it is foolish as a policy. M. Luther*: “We neither should nor can force anyone to faith” (WA 30 II, 400). Persecution is rooted in mistaken religious zeal, ignorant fanaticism, the natural malice of the human heart, and sometimes also in the idea that uniformity in religion is essential to the welfare of the state. Constantine* I, who agreed with Licinius* in granting equal toleration to all religions, banished Arius (see Arianism) and Athanasius.* Theodosius* I made certain religious deviations capital crimes. Priscillian and 6 supporters were executed at Trier 385 (see Priscillianists).

2. Jerome* (appealing to Dt 13:6–10) and Augustine* of Hippo (appealing to Lk 14:23) advocated physical measures against errorists and heretics. Leo I (see Popes, 2) approved the execution of the Priscillianists (Epistola xv ad Turribium) and advocated the death penalty for heresy, as did Thomas* Aquinas (Summa Theologiae, II, ii, q. xi, art. 3). The 33d of 41 alleged heresies of M. Luther condemned by Leo X (see Popes, 20) was that it is against the will of the Spirit to burn heretics.


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod


Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
All rights reserved.

Content Reproduced with Permission

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