Pope v. Islam

Forester analyzed the Muslim (& media) reaction to the Pope’s speech. Chilli dug up and posted the Pope’s entire speech, verbatim. I stand in the middle, and present a well-contextualized chunk of the Pope’s speech, without commentary. Read below, and see what you think about the Pope’s message versus Islam’s response. When you’re done with this exercise, go read this thoughtful response to the whole Danish cartoon thing — substitute “Danish cartoon” for “Pope speech”, and the essay will be just as instructive.

Here’s about 10% of the Pope’s speech, surrounding the quote in question.

…I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on – perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara – by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur’an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between – as they were called – three “Laws” or “rules of life”: the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point – itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole – which, in the context of the issue of “faith and reason”, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached“. The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.

At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?…

OK, I lied (a little).  Instead of commentary, I’ll ask questions (because what does a blogger love more than comments?).  Answer all of the following questions.  Show your work.

  1. Is the emperor correct in his assessment of what “Mohammed brought [to Judaism + Christianity] that was new”?
  2. Is the emperor correct that “God is not pleased by blood”?
  3. Is the emperor correct that “not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature”?
  4. Is the emperor correct in logically connecting the previous two with each other?
  5. Is the emperor correct that “To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death”?
  6. Is Ibn Hazn correct that “God is not bound even by his own word”?
  7. Is Ibn hazn correct that “Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry”?
  8. Is the Pope required (reasonably to be expected) to qualify such inflammatory quotes with his opinion of the accuracy of the quote?
  9. If so, is the last sentence of the first paragraph up yonder (“It is not my intention to discuss…”) sufficient qualification?
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34 Responses

  1. Of course I look like a jerk for being the one to jump out and calling a spade a spade. So I will let you know that I’ll be writing two more posts on this most recent iteration of Muslim protest. One will cover how Christians should respond to such a speech, if the tables were turned; the other will ask Muslims, and answer on behalf of Christians, precisely this question from Honor and Insult:

    Does their respect for their religious leader imply that others must respect him too?

  2. Well I certainly wasn’t calling you a jerk! Now get to work and answer the questions!

  3. 1. Yes. Even Joseph Smith brought some entertainment with his apostasy. But Mohammed – no.
    2. Yes. Given what he meant by his statement. God was pleased by the shedding of the son’s blood. But that is not what was meant.
    3. Yes. But how would I know? It does seem to me that I have to use reason to arrive at this answer.
    4. Yes. It seems obvious that humans are wired to like trying to obey laws, even though incapable of it.
    5. Yes but his observation isn’t worth much, since for the Christian being convinced is a secondary thing. Or you can play this game: Pick one 1)”Who by taking thought can add a cubit to his stature” 2) “He who is convinced against his will remains of the same opinion still” 3)Augustine’s faith seeking understanding not the other way around.
    6. and 7. This is childish. Reminds me of “Can God make a rock so big even he can’t lift it.?
    8. No. He wouldn’t have offerred the quote if he thought it wasn’t accurate.
    9. Exempted from answering based on my response to 8.

  4. If only I had time to sit back and really think about this stuff. One of the most frustrating things about blogging is my own lack of time to really chew on a response.

    My own sense (based on not enough thought and reading), is that we have turned a corner here. I posted another article on my blog — still not sure how I feel about it — called Jihad, the Lord’s Supper and Eternal Life. In it, the author states: “The Islamic world now views the pontiff as an existential threat, and with reason. Jihad is not merely the whim of a despotic divinity, as the pope implied. It is much more: jihad is the fundamental sacrament of Islam, the Muslim cognate of the Lord’s Supper in Christianity, that is, the unique form of sacrifice by which the individual believer communes with the Transcendent. To denounce jihad on theological grounds is a blow at the foundations of Islam, in effect a papal call for the conversion of the Muslims.”

    This is incredible, if true (and I have the sinking feeling that it is). The only ironclad way for a radical Muslim to get to God is by martyrdom? Is this so?

    When a Christian hears that, say, Mormons or JWs are targeting Christians for conversions, our response is to run to the Scriptures and attack their ideas/worldview with God’s truth. The radical Muslim response is to go to the sword. Why?

    Look, the conservative strains of Islam and Christianity (and Judaism for that matter) all have the same “problem” in the eyes of modernity: we all have the nerve to read our Holy book and take it seriously. Christianity and Judaism (since they are both TRUE) have a “radicalism” that results in caring for your enemies and looking after the poor and widows, even to our own detriment. (The ultimate expression of the Christian warrior, to me, is the nun who was recently shot in the back by radical Muslims. As she lay dying, she was muttering “I forgive. I forgive.” The full story is also on my blog).

    I need to read more of the Koran, but my belief is, all these radicals are doing is living out the teachings of their master to the fullest. I could be wrong about that. Perhaps they are really twisting a “religion of peace.” The Pope was putting this out there for discussion. What kind of faith spreads itself by the sword? What kind of faith puts a gun to the heads of prisoners (as happened to the two CNN hostages) and forces them to “convert”?

  5. What are you, an English teacher?

    1. Is the emperor correct in his assessment of what “Mohammed brought [to Judaism + Christianity] that was new”?

    I’m not familiar enough with the entirety of Islam to answer. But if Mohammed indeed commanded that his faith be spread by the sword, then that certainly qualifies as “evil and inhuman.” Christians absolutely deplore such conduct.

    2. Is the emperor correct that “God is not pleased by blood”?

    As Bruce aptly answered above, God was pleased to shed the blood of His own Son as a sacrifice for us. According to Romans chapter 13, God is also pleased by the shedding of blood through capital punishment, when it is exercised against those who do wrong:

    Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

    But is God pleased when individuals shed each other’s blood? In some cases under the Old Covenant this was true, but it is no longer true under the New Covenant. Our required attitude toward anyone we view as an enemy is clearly spelled out in Romans chapter 12:

    Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    3. Is the emperor correct that “not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature”?

    Yes, insofar that reason is understood in light of God’s Word. It should be kept in mind that pursuit of Godliness often seems unreasonable in the eyes of the world. From 1 Corinthians chapter 1:

    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

    God is a God of order, and we are to act in a way that is orderly. But that order, that reason, sometimes looks different from points of view that are hostile to or ignorant of God’s Word.

    4. Is the emperor correct in logically connecting the previous two with each other?

    Yes. Forced conversion through the threat of violence is completely unreasonable.

    5. Is the emperor correct that “To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death”?

    Yes. In fact a truly reasonable soul will stand against any effort to coerce conversion through threats.

    6. Is Ibn Hazn correct that “God is not bound even by his own word”?

    What kind of chaos would that create? The universe is orderly. Does that not speak to the orderliness of God’s own nature?

    7. Is Ibn hazn correct that “Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry”?

    More insanity. God’s wisdom is above our own, and may at times conflict with our own understanding — but that does not mean it is purely absurd. Satan is the father of confusion, not God.

    8. Is the Pope required (reasonably to be expected) to qualify such inflammatory quotes with his opinion of the accuracy of the quote?

    Required? Perhaps not, but it certainly would be prudent.

    9. If so, is the last sentence of the first paragraph up yonder (”It is not my intention to discuss…”) sufficient qualification?

    Sufficient? I think it could have been couched better. I’m not blaming the Pope for the current fiasco — I just think he could have sandwiched such an inflammatory quote in a clearer way.

    Now I’m out of questions, but I’m not out of things to say. Just because the Pope could have spoken with more prudence doesn’t mean that the Muslim reaction is justified. When I get some time I’ll post what I believe would have been a far better response, crafted on behalf of Christendom were the tables turned.

  6. In some cases under the Old Covenant this was true

    Before too much protest, I should explain that these individuals were acting on behalf of the state when the state was not performing its due role in exercising capital punishment.

  7. @Chilli:

    The only ironclad way for a radical Muslim to get to God is by martyrdom? Is this so?

    My understanding is that martyrdom is a guaranteed shortcut to 70 virgins. But I don’t think even the most radical muslims are saying it’s the only possible way.

    we all have the nerve to read our Holy book and take it seriously….all these radicals are doing is living out the teachings of their master to the fullest. I could be wrong about that. Perhaps they are really twisting a “religion of peace.”

    My understanding is that a fundamental (Koranically consistent) Islam is not a religion of peace. Check out from the church library the R.C.Sproul CD series “The Dark Side of Islam”, as well as the Mars Hill Conversations CD with Bernard Lewis (or the shorter interview on Mars Hill Tape #59), or read the FAQ from jihadwatch.org.

  8. P.S. I meant question 7 as kind of a trick question. One of the most obvious differences between Israel and the Canaanites was human sacrifice. Yet God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son.

  9. Rube, I think its 72, dark-eyed virgins, but why quibble?? I know there are other ways, but — at least by my understanding and reading about Islam — it is the only “for sure.” From what I understand, dealing with Allah in terms of salvation is always hit or miss. At death, even a devout Muslim has no assurance of salvation, as we might understand it. The martyr, on the other hand, “knows” he’s going to wake up in paradise. Think about how psychologically powerful that is. Thanks for those other resources, I’ll check them out.

  10. I’ll get to this, Ruberad, probably tomorrrow night. Work is crazy right now. Kathleen Parker had a very cogent editorial about the whole situation today (her tongue is usually sharp, but this time it was tinged with sadness.)

  11. And hey, while I’m throwing around links like they’re going out of style, also check out http://www.muslimchristiandialogue.net!

  12. And will wonders never cease? A COW prof today whose religious convictions are very different from my own asked me to speak to the annual clergy academy next spring on interfaith dialogue. An audience of mainline clergy from the area…interesting.

  13. This short response will not do justice to the issues Ruberad and Forester raised, but at least it comes after I have had a chance to read the entire speech. First, I want to differentiate the Pope’s speech from the Danish cartoons. Perhaps we can sympathize with our Muslim friends if they felt offended by both “texts,” but anyone who has seen or heard either ought to realize that clearly the cartoons were meant to offend but the Pope’s speech was not. Surely motivation should play a role in whether we accept a person’s apology.

    That raises a deeper question, however. We can also assume that the Pope knew what he was doing when he quoted the 14th century Byzantine emperor-under-seige. No one gets to be Pope by blundering so significantly as this appears to be. (Similarly, I doubt Rushdie was ignorant of the kind of reception the Satanic Verses would get–he just knew too much. But that’s another story.) True, the quote was embedded (but very early for those who hadn’t wanted to wade through the whole speech) in a sophisticated argument against a misuse of reason in the west, a reason that shoves religion off into its own sideshow unrelated to the concerns of enlightened scientific-minded people, who are now upset that the religious sideshow impinges on them. One newspaper editorial I read made the point that the quote deliberately illustrated the otherwise heavy speech, but in so doing exposed the central issue very well. I have to conclude that Benedict chose his illustration with care, however much I wish he had found one that served his purpose with less inflamatory prose.

    Benedict was seeking a dialogue with “reasonable” Muslims because reason is at the heart of his understanding of faith. (Some might argue with this point, but at the very least, none of us would want to say faith is irrational even though we do not believe that reason can save us in any sense. Hopefully, we all employ reason as we talk with our non-Christian friends because Christianity makes the most sense of the world as we know it. Our reason is corrupted by sin, but not eradicated. But that too is another story.) In doing what he did, Benedict spoke the truth as he understands it. Dialogue in its finest sense should be based on the truth. Spoekn in love, it brings truth and people together. The Qur’an does contain verses that urge violence as a last resort. The Qur’an does contain a verse that says there must be no compulsion in religion. I don’t have the time to explore the context of those verses in this post, but that will be part of my task in the next few months of work. How does a reasonable believer put those two together? Muslims must wrestle with their “hard verses,” as must Christians the ones that trouble them from the Bible. They ought to be able to explain them to those from outside their faith who want to understand. They ought to be able to discuss them with other Muslims who differ about their interpretation.

    The last couple of sentences of Benedict’s speech read “The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur–this is the programme with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. ‘Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God’, said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadthof reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures.”

    When I try to understand the difference between the two faiths, it isn’t enough for me to point to the Crusades in shame or the good works of Christians (both in and outside Muslim lands)in pride…or to compare the best of one faith with the worst of the other. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. Rather, I want to make a simple comparison (that thus far upset no Muslim here in the states). It’s a quote from Rev. Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC spoken in a sermon right after 9/11. “Jesus,” he said, “rode a donkey into the city to die; Muhammad rode a horse out of the city to conquer.” The difference is striking, more so as you think about its implications. But Muslims do not seem to take offense because it is a historical fact: Muhammad was a political ruler and political rulers get entangled in messy, deadly conflicts (no motivations impugned by making that statement….). It opens up a door to talk about Jesus’ purpose and methods and the power of love to conquer what a sword cannot force. I think that it is consistent with true dialogue.

  14. Nice response, Aunt Barbara. I like how you found an image (Jesus on donkey to die, Muhammad on horse to conquer) that illustrates pretty much the same principle that the Pope was targeting, but without causing offense.

    And I agree in principle that we shouldn’t “compare the best of one faith with the worst of the other.” Best should be compared with best — otherwise we’re just knocking off strawmen.

    My own post on this subject (I still need to write the next two) came from a sense that addressing only the best in worldwide Muslims is becoming an increasingly strenuous exercise in cognitive dissonance. When we see case after case of Muslims issuing violent and (I would say) credible threats in return for verbal insults, yet continue to insist that Islan is a peaceful religion — I begin to fear that such cognitive dissonance on our part is in fact becoming an enabling behavior.

    When the cat berates the mouse for complaining that the cat wants to eat it, should the mouse hush up to preserve a respectful dialogue between them? That’s a horrible illustration, I well admit. I’m just trying to address what I believe is becoming an excessive abandonment of reason and even common sense. A reasonable cat would recognize it’s only natural for the mouse to complain. The mouse’s additional protest that the cat is being unreasonable may be ineffective — you are certainly working to craft a wiser response, which I respect — but that doesn’t mean that a better course would be for the mouse to allow the cat to berate it into silence.

    Incidentally, you wrote that “the Qur’an does contain verses that urge violence as a last resort.” Last resort to accomplish what? There’s a vast difference between self-defense and evangelism. (I really, really need to begin reading the Qur’an.)

  15. Incidentally, I will go ahead and criticize my own illustration. The reason the cat/mouse analogy is unhelpful for two reasons. First, it suggests a natural and permanent hostility between Muslims and Christians, which may not necessarily be the case, and which we should all seek to overcome. Second, most Muslims would reverse the roles and view themselves as the mice about to be swallowed up by the cross-worshipping cat of the West.

  16. The simplest answer to your frustration, Forester, is that no genuine dialogue can take place without speaking the truth (or at least the truth as the participants see it, acknowledging that none of us sees truth fully). Perhaps the Pope was simply speaking the truth, similarly to how you would have done, about the increasingly irrational use of violence in the Muslim world. What might have allowed someone in that world to *hear* what he said would have been a friendship with him. (I wonder how many friends someone at that lofty level actually has??) A face-to-face encounter based on the trust engendered by friendship. Evidently he is inviting a group of Muslim leaders to the Vatican next week for some face-to-face talks. Let’s pray that friendships develop so that they can speak the truth to each other in love.

    As for the Qur’an’s passages: The one about the use of the sword against infidels is in Surah 9. Surah 2:256 is the famous “no compulsion” verse. Juan Cole, whom Ruberad’s grandfather is so fond of reading, says that Surah 2 is a late surah (as is 9) written from a position of strength, not one of accomodating weakness as the early Meccan surahs (early but higher numbers and later in the text). He didn’t say so, but the implication is that 2 abbrogates 9. It’s my impression (that I have not yet checked out) that 2 is something of an amalgamation from various periods; I would trust the Pope’s experts as much as I would Juan Cole’s. In any case, jihad is a very flexible notion, meaning anything from a Muslim equivalent of sanctification (struggle against the forces of sin in oneself) to the struggle to achieve knowledge to a struggle against an enemy first in self-defense but then finally in aggression when self-defense does not work. Because the common feeling in the Muslim world today is one of being threatened by the overwhelmingly powerful west, whether politically or culturally, for some that is enough justification for the kind of violence we are seeing. (I don’t know what justifies the kind of Sunni/Shia violence we also see in Iraq each day.) Most of the wonderful western-educated Muslims I know, however, believe that the spiritual/educational meanings override the political and military ones, but they are not making the critical decisions in our world, alas.

  17. I took a little time this afternoon to study this issue. In doing so, I was reminded that there are belligerent verses in Surah 2 as well (the longest surah in the Q). So any contextualizing of the peaceful verse as late must take into account the other contradictory ones. It’s not as simple as Juan Cole makes out. If you want to read (yes, I know, put these books on the stack by your chair) two relevant texts: The Place of Tolerance in Islam by Fadl (a set of essays) and the chapter called “The Suicidal in Contemporary Islam” in Kenneth Cragg’s Faith at Suicide. Cragg is the foremost Christian Islamist in the late 20th century, and Muslims know his inherent fairness. He says straight out in that chapter that the move to Medina sealed the character of the religion. “In Medinan conflict that religious ‘ultimate’ of mission became an institutional absolute, no longer only ‘speaking in His Name,’ but contesting for His cause” (91). The Pope is in good company.

  18. I mistakenly labeled Cragg as an Islamist. In reality he is an Islamicist–a student of Islam.

  19. It’s worth noting that Bernard Lewis (referenced above) is another western Islamicist who is fair enough in his analysis that his books are reprinted in arabic for Muslim countries, and also in Israel (I guess in Hebrew?).

    it suggests a natural and permanent hostility between Muslims and Christians, which may not necessarily be the case, and which we should all seek to overcome.

    I’m not sure I quite agree with that. Physically, yes, I hope for an end to violent hostility. But Spiritually, Christians and Muslims are heretics and infidels to each other, and bridges of theological compromise and agreement can only result in unscriptural liberalism on both sides. It’s my impression that the liberal Muslims who are out there claiming that Islam is a peaceful religion are the equivalent of our liberal Christians who are out there denying that sin is sin, and that the resurrection was real, etc. I.e. those liberals have jumped ship at a fundamental level, and are not truly [Muslim|Christian].

    There is no hope of convincing any Muslim that their religion is incorrect, if Christians are not willing to put a stake in the ground and assert that our religion is correct (and vice versa). The problem is (apparently) that truly Biblical Christianity prevents us from prosyletizing with the sword, while truly Koranic Islam allows(/encourages?/requires?) for it, which puts us at a disadvantage in the temporal realm. But isn’t that partly what it means to love your enemies, turn the other cheek, etc.?

  20. Physically, yes, I hope for an end to violent hostility. But Spiritually, Christians and Muslims are heretics and infidels to each other, and bridges of theological compromise and agreement can only result in unscriptural liberalism on both sides.

    Then we’re in sync. My statement wasn’t as shallow as you seem to be taking it — I had in mind the passage I quoted earlier from Romans chapter 12: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Of course I’m not advocating that Christianity be watered down.

    Incidentally, I’ve finally posted one of my promised follow-up posts:

    seedlings: hoping for a different muslim response

  21. I’ve never had the time to actually research this, but I am wondering if Aunt Barbara has the expertise to based on something she said up above. She mentioned shame when it came to the crusades.

    I have heard others talk about the crusades and explain that if it wasn’t for them, or maybe just one of them, that we would all be Muslim. I have also heard it said that the common discussion today of the shamefulness of the crusades is actually not true, and that not so many people really died and that it wasn’t really a holocost, etc.

    Anybody know for sure from maybe primary sources? :)

    Jeff

  22. That’s a fun question, Jeff, and we should be careful in the way it’s approached. Defensiveness of Christians isn’t what Christianity is about. Christ Himself was willing to be executed as a criminal; we should not shy away from identification with misguided crusaders. Something that happened as long ago as the Crusades is an easy concession to make in order to demonstrate that Christianity is not about morality, it is about forgiveness … and that the kingdom of God is spread through truth, not swords. If we are perceived as attempting to defend the Crusades, we may give the poor impression that a clean record is necessary for salvation, and that Christians are more focused on group mentality than on our One Perfect Crusader, who achieved His victory against the foes of sin and death.

    I tried to convey something akin to this in a recent post.

  23. I was also recently given to understand (don’t remember from where) that (a) the Crusades were started by an initial Muslim offensive, so the Christian part was defensive, and (b) it was really not a religious conflict, but a geopolitical conflict between empires. In any case, it was probably a Christian error to administer it as a crusade of the Holy Roman Empire, instead of a defensive, just war by an alliance of states. The fact that one side of the Crusades consisted of Christians should have been largely irrelevant.

    So even though the Crusades may not have been Christianity’s ‘fault’, there is still plenty of room for Christianity to have been at fault in their response. Not that I actually know the history — I’m just speculating.

  24. Even though it’s from an Atheist website, this top-(Google)-rating timeline of the Crusades is the only one I could find that had anything to say about what happened before Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade in 1095, and from my very quick skim of the VERY exhaustive timeline, it seems to be quite objective.

    The color coding (green for Muslim, blue for Christian) shows in the first section “Before the Crusades” how Islam spread between 600-1000 from Jerusalem, all across North Africa and southern Europe, through Italy, France, and Spain. Whether that justified a military Papal response is a separate question.

  25. How’s this for an original source — historical reports of Pope Urban II’s Council of Clermont, where he initiated the First Crusade thusly:

    All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins.

    Can we get any virgins, Pope? No? Well, it can’t hurt to ask, right?

    Whoever, therefore, shall determine upon this holy pilgrimage and shall make his vow to God to that effect and shall offer himself to Him as a, living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, shall wear the sign of the cross of the Lord on his forehead or on his breast. When,’ truly’,’ having fulfilled his vow be wishes to return, let him place the cross on his back between his shoulders. Such, indeed, by the twofold action will fulfill the precept of the Lord, as He commands in the Gospel, “He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”

    That’s just wrong. I’ll blog about this later.

  26. Since when do historical facts have much to do with how people FEEL about their history? I know that the Muslim world “won” the Crusades and that the response of Christendom was to Mulsim geo-political pressures. Therefore, the Muslim world should logically not feel shame over the Crusades, but nonetheless, it does. There’s plenty of shame to go around as a few of the previous posts point out. It’s not about comparing whose hands have less blood on them. A good book to consult in this regard (Watch out, Jeff. Aunt Barbara specializes in recommending books :):)) is The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf.

  27. Forrester,

    Just asking about the facts. Don’t read motive into it.

    Rube, interesting. Definitely a wrong power play of manipulation on the part of the Pope. :(

    Aunt Barbara, recommend away! I’ll never finish the ones I already own, what’s a few extras on the list I won’t get to! :)

    Thanks,

    Jeff

  28. The last time I read a comment from you, Jeff, you were explaining that civic governments should be executing heretics. The next thing I read from you, you’re suggesting that we should all be grateful that the Crusades prevented Islam from taking over the world.
    I’m sure you can appreciate how difficult it was to ignore the dotted lines between those dots.

  29. Weird — I get to play peacemaker between my two peacemakers!
    Forester, you should know that the whole person of Jeff is much more than just a Theonomy apologist, which is about all that you can see of him on this blog.
    Which makes me wonder; what if I could turn off all of the comment attributions on this blog, and read it all again? How differently would all of the comments read, if they had to stand alone, rather than having the content of every other comment somebody has made smuggled into it?
    I also wonder what it would be like to do blog-battle with somebody I’ve never met. Forester and limejelly don’t know each other, and Jeff and Bruce don’t know each other, but all of the blog discussions I have had with strangers (that I can remember) have been ones of agreement.

  30. How have you made it this far without a vicious verbal attack from a complete stranger? Truly, RubeRad, you are a wonder!

    (By the way, I don’t have the limejelly discussions in mind. Those are peachy-keen compared to some of the stuff I’ve seen written about me. If you think I’m exaggerating, consider yourself lucky for not receiving the same education I have about just how sordid and vindictive people on the internet can become.)

  31. Forester, you should know that the whole person of Jeff is much more than just a Theonomy apologist, which is about all that you can see of him on this blog.

    An excellent admonishment, by the way. Thank you. At some point in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future we hope to visit you in San Diego, and perhaps then, Jeff, I can meet you in person. It’d be my first time meeting someone in real life that I came across in the blogosphere.

  32. Forester, I’m really eager to meet you as well. On the blog, that’s about all I’ve been interested in talking about. It’s my baby pet theology that I think needs more explanation and understanding. I’ve gone wrong somewhere with Rube and you all, but I’m new to blogging and some friends have explained to me that sometimes the written world of blogging is not the best place for open discussions. Sometimes I feel that the verbal discussions with Rube get us on a much better understanding of one another, even though we still cross our lines.

    As for my questions above regarding the crusades, I can understand you ‘jumping to conclusions’ and ‘reading between the lines,’ but if you read carefully, I only posed questions based on what I have heard. Instead of asserting that maybe they aren’t something to be ashamed of, I quoted that I’ve heard that and then asked if anybody, especially Aunt Barbara, was familiar enough with the truth so that they could confirm or deny the allegations I mentioned I heard.

    This really was a way for me to step back, and take another look at something that I never double checked for myself. That was my motivation, not ‘necessarily’ the desire to vindicate the crusades.

    Jeff

  33. Oh, btw, I still (sincerely) believe that it is God’s will for the state to execute heretics. :)

    But, the thought occured to me that maybe we have different definitions of a “heretic.”

    But, that’s not for this post and I don’t want to write very much on that now.

    Bless you,

    Jeff

  34. Fair enough, Jeff, fair enough. I’m sorry for dragging your sincere question back into the theonomic muck. :-) It was nice to see RubeRad’s blog move on to other matters recently. This thread was about Islam and the Pope, and I should have left it there.

    Okay, back to the Crusades, everyone …

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