The Meaning of Martyrdom – A Powerful Influence on Religious Freedom

The Meaning of Martyrdom – A Powerful Influence on Religious Freedom

Read about the meaning of martyrdom in a man who had a great impact on religious freedom influencing men like John Wickliffe and John Huss.

A Baptist appears

Around the year 1137, a Baptist by the name of Arnold appeared in Rome. A very intelligent and zealous man, he had been educated in the finest of schools and studied abroad under great men. He had also developed his public speaking skills and had  developed a reputation as a great orator.

Upon his arrival in Rome, he was very bothered by the heresy that he saw in the Catholic doctrine. He began expressing these errors by preaching them in the streets. The common man quickly received him and he became known as the Apostle of Religious Liberty. 

As his following grew, they became known as Arnoldists. The Roman Catholic church took alarm at this threat to their power and formed a  council to address him.  They found him guilty of heresy and  sentenced him to perpetual silence.

Persecution begins

This beginning of persecutions caused Arnold to flee to Zurich, Switzerland where he found great success, even leading a local Catholic cardinal to faith in Christ.  However, persecution once again arose, and he was forced to flee once again. This time though, he decided not to flee for safety, but to the heart of the beast. 

He developed a plan to return to Rome and attempt to preach to the people once again.  To the surprise of many, he was able to persuade some of the Senate and brought about changes in favor of religious freedom.  This struck a blow to the power and influence of the pope (Eugenius III) who eventually withdrew from Rome.

This created an open door for religious freedom, but not for long.  From a distance, the pope regained his following and power and returned to the city with a vengeance.  The pope laid an ecclesiastical censure forbidding anyone from exercising any religious discussion outside of the Catholic church. 

Sacrifice is made

Arnold moved to Tuscany, but was seized and brought back to Rome.  There he was put before a Catholic Council, condemned, crucified, and burnt.  His ashes were then thrown into the Tiber River. 

While the religious hierarchy celebrated his death, they presumed that his following had died with him.  They could not have been more wrong. The tone that he struck for religious freedom and the meaning of martyrdom continued to ring through future generations, influencing men such as John Wickliffe and John Huss.

We hope you enjoyed this piece of Baptist history authored by our pastor, Dr. Jim Willoughby, Temple Baptist Church in Kokomo, IN. For more articles like this, we invite you to visit our blog. For more information about our church, visit our homepage.

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