“Better to Light a Candle” – Pierre-Charles Toureille (1900 – 1976)

From Kairos Journal (an excellent online resource):

Pastor Pierre-Charles Toureille risked his life during World War II to keep Jews out of Nazi death camps.(1) At the beginning of the war, before many people could fathom Hitler’s true intentions, he served under the Protestant Federation of France (FPF) as chaplain for refugees in southern France. His job was to make living conditions in the internment camps as comfortable as possible. When it became clear the Jews were not being merely relocated but killed, Toureille pushed his colleagues to adopt a more aggressive stance. They refused, preferring instead to maintain their cordial relations with German authorities. Thus rebuffed, Toureille began secretly hiding Jews in his own church-members’ homes or smuggling them to safety in Switzerland. He finally resigned in frustration from the FPF in 1945.

Some years later, Toureille wrote about the Christian Church’s mission in the world. In true evangelical fashion, he pointed to a fate even worse than physical death in a German gas chamber–spiritual death. In the face of an enemy so terrible as that, he said, the Church simply cannot afford to stand on the sidelines.

There is a Buddhist saying, adopted by the Quakers as a motto for their aid to the needy: “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” It is in passing the light to others that one disperses the shadows… I often see boxing matches on television where the boxers lose because they only defend themselves without ever attacking. The same is true today for the Christian Church. It is by going on the offensive that the Mission will save the world.

Please understand me: it is not uniquely the church’s mission to save men socially, economically, politically. But above all else, it is the church that must save men’s souls. If the church does not accomplish this task, nothing else will. A church that does not evangelize is useless on earth. If the Church does not go to the front, with zeal and faith, the world will die, however it might be magnificently equipped technologically, monstrously rich and developed, endowed with superior social legislation and possessed of the best possible material conditions for living comfortably–this world will die because it has no soul. Unless the world has this peace of the soul that authentic conversion and the assurance of eternal life can give, all is useless and in vain. The night comes, when no one can work. Let us work, then, without cease. (2)

Footnotes:

(1) For other examples of pastors being faithful to their calling during the Holocaust, see Kairos Journal articles, “The Pulpit at Le Chambon” and “The End – A Beginning.”

(2) Tela Zasloff, A Rescuer’s Story: Pastor Pierre-Charles Toureille in Vichy France (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), 211

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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