Tag Archives: Christian

Correcting four myths about the history of the Crusades

Crusader
Crusader

Here is an interesting article from Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

Intro:

The verdict seems unanimous. From presidential speeches to role-playing games, the crusades are depicted as a deplorably violent episode in which thuggish Westerners trundled off, unprovoked, to murder and pillage peace-loving, sophisticated Muslims, laying down patterns of outrageous oppression that would be repeated throughout subsequent history. In many corners of the Western world today, this view is too commonplace and apparently obvious even to be challenged.

But unanimity is not a guarantee of accuracy. What everyone “knows” about the crusades may not, in fact, be true. From the many popular notions about the crusades, let us pick four and see if they bear close examination.

The four myths:

  • Myth #1: The crusades represented an unprovoked attack by Western Christians on the Muslim world.
  • Myth #2: Western Christians went on crusade because their greed led them to plunder Muslims in order to get rich.
  • Myth #3: Crusaders were a cynical lot who did not really believe their own religious propaganda; rather, they had ulterior, materialistic motives.
  • Myth #4: The crusades taught Muslims to hate and attack Christians.

Here’s the most obvious thing you should know. The Crusades were defensive actions:

In a.d. 632, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, North Africa, Spain, France, Italy, and the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica were all Christian territories. Inside the boundaries of the Roman Empire, which was still fully functional in the eastern Mediterranean, orthodox Christianity was the official, and overwhelmingly majority, religion. Outside those boundaries were other large Christian communities—not necessarily orthodox and Catholic, but still Christian. Most of the Christian population of Persia, for example, was Nestorian. Certainly there were many Christian communities in Arabia.

By a.d. 732, a century later, Christians had lost Egypt, Palestine, Syria, North Africa, Spain, most of Asia Minor, and southern France. Italy and her associated islands were under threat, and the islands would come under Muslim rule in the next century. The Christian communities of Arabia were entirely destroyed in or shortly after 633, when Jews and Christians alike were expelled from the peninsula.6 Those in Persia were under severe pressure. Two-thirds of the formerly Roman Christian world was now ruled by Muslims.

What had happened? Most people actually know the answer, if pressed—though for some reason they do not usually connect the answer with the crusades. The answer is the rise of Islam. Every one of the listed regions was taken, within the space of a hundred years, from Christian control by violence, in the course of military campaigns deliberately designed to expand Muslim territory at the expense of Islam’s neighbors. Nor did this conclude Islam’s program of conquest. The attacks continued, punctuated from time to time by Christian attempts to push back. Charlemagne blocked the Muslim advance in far western Europe in about a.d. 800, but Islamic forces simply shifted their focus and began to island-hop across from North Africa toward Italy and the French coast, attacking the Italian mainland by 837. A confused struggle for control of southern and central Italy continued for the rest of the ninth century and into the tenth. In the hundred years between 850 and 950, Benedictine monks were driven out of ancient monasteries, the Papal States were overrun, and Muslim pirate bases were established along the coast of northern Italy and southern France, from which attacks on the deep inland were launched. Desperate to protect victimized Christians, popes became involved in the tenth and early eleventh centuries in directing the defense of the territory around them.

If you asked me what are the two best books on the Crusades, I would answer God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades by Baylor professor Rodney Stark and The Concise History of the Crusades by Professor Thomas F. Madden. If you get this question a lot from atheists, then I recommend you pick these up. Anything by Rodney Stark is useful for Christians, in fact.

New poll: few Millennials describe belief in God as “very important”

Beliefs of millennials and boomers
Beliefs of millennials and boomers

I saw a very interesting article that compared the attitudes of young people about things like patriotism, religion, freedom, etc. The numbers are very discouraging.

So, here’s the article from the Washington Examiner:

The importance of patriotism, faith in God, and having children is significantly lower among millennials and Generation Z, compared to previous generations.

In a new poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, nearly 80% of people aged 55-91 said being patriotic is important to them, while only 42% of millennials and Generation Z, or those aged 18-38, said the same. Thirty percent of millennials and Generation Z said religion was important, compared to the over 75% of baby boomers, with just over 30% of millennials and Generation Z saying it was important to have children.

Areas where the younger generations had placed higher importance compared to boomers were tolerance for others and self-fulfillment, with financial security being almost tied between the two age groups.

I’m sure that everyone has seen other polls showing the decline of Christianity, especially in mainline and Catholic churches. Evangelicals are declining less, but they are still declining.

The reason I linked to this post is because I’ve noticed that some Christians don’t really think that there is anything to be concerned about. Everything is working fine, they say. Whatever we’re doing right now must be working, because there is no decline. We’re winning, and if you think otherwise, then you’re just complaining.

Well, I don’t really know why there is this decline, all I can do is speak from my experiences. I’ve met people through my blog who did lose their faith in college, and I’ve met ex-Christians in my office, too. I asked them what the problem was, and it seems to be that when they were growing up, they often bullied into behaving like a Christian without being able to ask any questions about whether it was true. And then as soon as they got to college away from their parents and pastors, they just dumped the whole thing.

I remember listening to an amazing lecture a while back by Dr. Scott Waller. I think it was a lecture he gave for the Stand to Reason “Masters Series in Christian Thought” in 2003. The lecture was about Postmodernism in the University. Postmodernism is the view that there are no true or false views, especially with “soft” issues like religion and morality. In the lecture, he talked about how a father had sent his devout Christian son to university, and the son had returned an atheist after one semester. I remember Dr. Waller quoting the son telling his parents “I have come to think of my time growing up in this house as the dark period of my life”. The father was very upset. So Dr. Waller told him what to do. He said, you’re going to need to read a few books on the most common questions that your son has, and then work through the answers with him. And he made a little pile of books about common questions that college students ask, and pushed the pile across the table to the father. And the father pushed the books back across the table to Dr. Waller, and said “well, I don’t have time for reading so many books… but could you just talk to him instead?”

Another thing that seems to cause a lot of young people to  leave the faith in college is sex. Now if I were trying to convince someone to be responsible about sex, I’d try to show them studies and statistics to explain why there really are best practices to relationships and marriage. For example, I’d might show them that the number of premarital sex partners increases marital instability, or that sliding into cohabitation early tends to make marriages less stable. But this takes a bit of work, and you have to work through it with the young people. I just don’t know if parents really reason with their kids like this. But in churches, I’ve noticed that trying to make an argument using evidence isn’t very popular. To me, if I were trying to be convincing to someone about something, I would use evidence. It’s just natural to me to make a case if I’m trying to be persuasive. But making a case just hasn’t been a really big priority in the churches I’ve attended.

So, I guess if I had to give any advice to parents of children, or pastors in churches, it would be that Christianity is in decline, and we need to do more than just order people to memorize Bible verses and creeds, go to church, etc. It’s hard for me to know what’s really going on in everyone’s home, and in everyone’s church. But I don’t think that whatever we’re doing in our homes and churches is working to convince young people that belief in God is very important.

Was Hitler a Christian? Is Nazism similar to Christianity?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

One of the strangest things I have heard from atheists is the assertion that Christianity is somehow connected to the fascism, such as the fascism that existed under Adolf Hitler. Two posts by Jewish author Jonah Goldberg from National Review supply us with the facts to set the record straight.

Let’s start with the first post.

Here are some of the points:

1) Hitler wanted Christianity removed from the public square

Like the engineers of that proverbial railway bridge, the Nazis worked relentlessly to replace the nuts and bolts of traditional Christianity with a new political religion. The shrewdest way to accomplish this was to co-opt Christianity via the Gleichschaltung while at the same time shrinking traditional religion’s role in civil society.

2) Hitler banned the giving of donations to churches

Hitler banned religious charity, crippling the churches’ role as a counterweight to the state. Clergy were put on government salary, hence subjected to state authority. “The parsons will be made to dig their own graves,” Hitler cackled. “They will betray their God to us. They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable little jobs and incomes.”

3) Hitler replaced Christian celebrations with celebrations of the state

Following the Jacobin example, the Nazis replaced the traditional Christian calendar. The new year began on January 30 with the Day of the Seizure of Power. Each November the streets of central Munich were dedicated to a Nazi Passion play depicting Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch. The martyrdom of Horst Wessel and his “old fighters” replaced Jesus and the apostles. Plays and official histories were rewritten to glorify pagan Aryans bravely fighting against Christianizing foreign armies. Anticipating some feminist pseudo history, witches became martyrs to the bloodthirsty oppression of Christianity.

4) Hitler favored the complete elimination of Christianity

When some Protestant bishops visited the Fuhrer to register complaints, Hitler’s rage got the better of him. “Christianity will disappear from Germany just as it has done in Russia . . . The Germanrace has existed without Christianity for thousands of years . . . and will continue after Christianity has disappeared . . . We must get used to the teachings of blood and race.”

5) Hitler favored the removal of mandatory prayers in schools

In 1935 mandatory prayer in school was abolished…

6) Hitler favored the banning of Christmas carols and nativity plays

…and in 1938 carols and Nativity plays were banned entirely.

7) Hitler abolished religious instruction for children

By 1941 religious instruction for children fourteen years and up had been abolished altogether….

And now the second post.

8) Hitler opposed the ideas of universal truth and objective moral absolutes

…Just as the Nazi attack on Christianity was part of a larger war on the idea of universal truth, whole postmodern cosmologies have been created to prove that traditional religious morality is a scam, that there are no fixed truths or “natural” categories, and that all knowledge is socially constructed.

Practically everything this man believed was 100% anti-Christian. But he fits in fine on the secular left.

Conclusion

Adolf Hitler was a man influenced by two big ideas: evolution and socialism. His party was the national SOCIALIST party. He favored a strong role for the state in interfering with the free market. He was in favor of regulating the family so that the state could have a bigger influence on children. And he favored the idea of survival of the fittest. His ideas are 100% incompatible with Christianity and with capitalism as well. Christians value individual rights and freedoms, small government and the autonomy of the family against the state. The commandments about not coveting and not stealing are incompatible with redistribution of wealth from those who produce to those who “need”. The differences are clear and significant. The Bible favors voluntary charity by individuals and churches. It does not favor redistribution of wealth by a secular government to equalize life outcomes regardless of personal responsibility.

Ignorant atheists and their myths

In a recent debate between Matt Dillahunty and David Robertson, Dillahunty made the claim that Hitler was a Christian, because in a campaign speech, he told a Catholic audience that secular schools were bad, and religious schools were good. Dillahunty thought that this meant that Hitler was a Christian. Robertson asked him when those words were spoken, and whether they formed the basis of any POLICY after Hitler was elected. Dillahunty didn’t know, because he just cited the quotation without knowing anything about the context, or about the historical period. Robertson informed him that the words were spoken in a campaign speech, prior to Hitler’s rise to power, and that nothing in Hitler’s policies ever took the words seriously after he came to power. It was the equivalent of Obama claiming to support natural marriage, then legalizing same-sex marriage once elected. He lied in order to be elected. This kind of ignorance is very prominent in the atheist (“secular humanist”) community, which survives on mythology which is never subjected to rational inquiry. Here’s another good example of this ignorance.

Incidentally, Dillahunty later said, in the same debate no less, that he “didn’t know” if the Holocaust was morally wrong. Right – because on atheism right and wrong are meaningless concepts, rationally speaking. They are reduced to personal preferences only, where each opinion is as valid as the opposite opinion, since there is no objective standard by which to judge different opinions. That’s why atheists can’t make moral judgements about anything, they just have preferences, like their preference for certain foods and certain clothes. Very important to realize this when talking to atheists, because they use moral language to describe their personal feelings and opinions.

Whenever I hear atheists speculating about whether Hitler was a Christian, I immediately know that they have not investigated anything very carefully, and are merely being insulting. It’s not worth having a conversation with people who are stupid AND insulting.

Are Mormon doctrines supported by philosophy, science and history?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

This post presents evidence against Mormonism/LDS in three main areas. The first is in the area of science. The second is in the area of philosophy. And the third is in the area of history.

The scientific evidence

First, let’s take a look at what the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, believes about the origin of the universe:

“The elements are eternal. That which had a beggining will surely have an end; take a ring, it is without beggining or end – cut it for a beggining place and at the same time you have an ending place.” (“Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 205)

“Now, the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos – chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existance from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beggining, and can have no end.”
(“Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 395)

A Mormon scholar named Blake Ostler summarizes the Mormon view in a Mormon theological journal:

“In contrast to the self-sufficient and solitary absolute who creates ex nihilo (out of nothing), the Mormon God did not bring into being the ultimate constituents of the cosmos — neither its fundamental matter nor the space/time matrix which defines it. Hence, unlike the Necessary Being of classical theology who alone could not not exist and on which all else is contingent for existence, the personal God of Mormonism confronts uncreated realities which exist of metaphysical necessity. Such realities include inherently self-directing selves (intelligences), primordial elements (mass/energy), the natural laws which structure reality, and moral principles grounded in the intrinsic value of selves and the requirements for growth and happiness.” (Blake Ostler, “The Mormon Concept of God,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Summer 1984):65-93)

So, Mormons believe in an eternally existing universe, such that matter was never created out of nothing, and will never be destroyed. But this is at odds with modern cosmology.

The Big Bang cosmology is the most widely accepted cosmology of the day. It denies the past eternality of the universe. This peer-reviewed paper in an astrophysics journal explains. (full text here)

Excerpt:

The standard Big Bang model thus describes a universe which is not eternal in the past, but which came into being a finite time ago. Moreover,–and this deserves underscoring–the origin it posits is an absolute origin ex nihilo. For not only all matter and energy, but space and time themselves come into being at the initial cosmological singularity. As Barrow and Tipler emphasize, “At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo.

[…]On such a model the universe originates ex nihilo in the sense that at the initial singularity it is true that There is no earlier space-time point or it is false that Something existed prior to the singularity.

Christian cosmology requires such a creation out of nothing, but this is clearly incompatible with what Mormons believe about the universe. The claims about the universe made by the two religions are in disagreement, and we can test empirically to see who is right, using science.

Philosophical problems

Always Have a Reason contrasts two concepts of God in Mormonism: Monarchotheism and Polytheism. It turns out that Mormonism is actually a polytheistic religion, like Hinduism. In Mormonism, humans can become God and then be God of their own planet. So there are many Gods in Mormonism, not just one.

Excerpt:

[T]he notion that there are innumerable contingent “primal intelligences” is central to this Mormon concept of god (P+M, 201; Beckwith and Parrish, 101). That there is more than one god is attested in the Pearl of Great Price, particularly Abraham 4-5. This Mormon concept has the gods positioned to move “primal intelligences along the path to godhood” (Beckwith and Parrish, 114). Among these gods are other gods which were once humans, including God the Father. Brigham Young wrote, “our Father in Heaven was begotten on a previous heavenly world by His Father, and again, He was begotten by a still more ancient Father, and so on…” (Brigham Young, The Seer, 132, quoted in Beckwith and Parrish, 106).

[…]The logic of the Mormon polytheistic concept of God entails that there is an infinite number of gods. To see this, it must be noted that each god him/herself was helped on the path to godhood by another god. There is, therefore, an infinite regress of gods, each aided on his/her path to godhood by a previous god. There is no termination in this series. Now because this entails an actually infinite collection of gods, the Mormon polytheistic concept of deity must deal with all the paradoxes which come with actually existing infinities…

The idea of counting up to an actual infinite number of things by addition (it doesn’t matter what kind of thing it is) is problematic. See here.

More:

Finally, it seems polytheistic Mormonism has a difficulty at its heart–namely the infinite regress of deity.

[…]Each god relies upon a former god, which itself relies upon a former god, forever. Certainly, this is an incoherence at the core of this concept of deity, for it provides no explanation for the existence of the gods, nor does it explain the existence of the universe.

Now let’s see the historical evidence against Mormonism.

The historical evidence

J. Warner Wallace explains how the “Book of Abraham”, a part of the Mormon Scriptures, faces historical difficulties.

The Book of Abraham papyri are not as old as claimed:

Mormon prophets and teachers have always maintained that the papyri that was purchased by Joseph Smith was the actual papyri that was created and written by Abraham. In fact, early believers were told that the papyri were the writings of Abraham.

[…]There is little doubt that the earliest of leaders and witnesses believed and maintained that these papyri were, in fact the very scrolls upon which Abraham and Joseph wrote. These papyri were considered to be the original scrolls until they were later recovered in 1966. After discovering the original papyri, scientists, linguists, archeologists and investigators (both Mormon and non-Mormon) examined them and came to agree that the papyri are far too young to have been written by Abraham. They are approximately 1500 to 2000 years too late, dating from anywhere between 500 B.C. (John A. Wilson, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1968, p. 70.) and 60 A.D. If they papyri had never been discovered, this truth would never have come to light. Today, however, we know the truth, and the truth contradicts the statements of the earliest Mormon leaders and witnesses.

The Book of Abraham papyri do not claim what Joseph Smith said:

In addition to this, the existing papyri simply don’t say anything that would place them in the era related to 2000BC in ancient Egypt. The content of the papyri would at least help verify the dating of the document, even if the content had been transcribed or copied from an earlier document. But the papyri simply tell us about an ancient burial ritual and prayers that are consistent with Egyptian culture in 500BC. Nothing in the papyri hints specifically or exclusively to a time in history in which Abraham would have lived.

So there is a clear difference hear between the Bible and Mormonism, when it comes to historical verification.

Further study

If you want a nice long PDF to print out and read at lunch (which is what I did with it) you can grab this PDF by Michael Licona, entitled “Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock“.

Toxic masculinity: Heroic Chick-Fil-A employee jumps through drive-through window

Chick-Fil-A manager asks customers to pray for sick employee
Chick-Fil-A manager asks customers to pray for sick employee

In America today, there is widespread opposition to male nature. Male aggression should be suppressed by the state. Weapons like guns or knives should be banned by the state. Public schools should discourage men from being masculine. When women are mistreated by the immoral men they freely choose, it shows that all men are immoral. Are men good for anything?

Here’s a story of a good man using a weapon to protect a little child, as reported in the Daily Wire.

Excerpt:

On Wednesday, a teenage boy working at a Chick-fil-A in Flowery Branch, Georgia, looked through the drive-thru window and noticed that a 6-year-old boy in a car in the drive-thru lane was choking. Not wasting a second, Logan Simmons jumped through the drive-thru window and ran to the car, where he found the mother of the boy begging for someone to help her save her child from being choked by a seatbelt that had gotten tangled around his neck. Simmons said later, “You could see he was turning red and losing pigmentation in his face … I just jumped out the window and ran straight down to the car. I think it was the quickest option. It was right there and I saw the other car right there.”

The quick-thinking Simmons yanked out his pocketknife and cut the young child free. After the incident, Simmons recalled, “I’m still kind of shocked right now myself that all this has happened.”

Simmons’ mother Teri told WSBTV, “He’d been home for a couple of hours and he said nonchalantly, ‘I saved a kid’s life today,’ and I was like ‘What?’” She added, “I’m amazed he didn’t panic. As his mother, I would have panicked. I’d be running around going, ‘Oh my gosh! What do we do?’”

An hour after the incident, the boy’s mother called Simmons and thanked him.

Christians should always be different, and this isn’t the first time a Chick-Fil-A employee has seized the moment to express their Christian convictions through actions:

Behold:

Simmons’ actions are characteristic of Chick-fil-A employees; The Daily Wire reported in late August 2017 that a female manager at a Houston Chick-fil-A sent a boat to help an elderly couple to save their possessions in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey…

In June 2018, a video showed a Chick-fil-A employee running after a customer who had driven away without their order.

In May 2019, The Daily Wire reported that employees at an East Ridge, Tennessee, restaurant helped a customer change a flat tire on his truck after it broke down in the drive-thru lane.

I think it’s significant that he was carrying a knife. Young men should always carry something sharp, just so that they are prepared for challenges like this. Although in the UK, a state run by secular leftist feminists, carrying a knife like that would be illegal. Because law-abiding men cannot be trusted to use weapons responsibly in the secular left UK.

Here’s the video of him jumping through the drive-through window:

So, initially, I wanted to go on a rant about how masculinity is shamed by feminist elites. But I have been thinking about how pastors portray Christianity in American society, and I wanted to say something about that instead.

Acting on moral convictions

First point is about how secular leftists don’t risk themselves for others, because they think they only have one life, and the purpose of that life is their own happiness. A secular leftist kills an unborn child in order to continue his or her own happiness. There’s no higher objective moral law to override selfishness. Why rock the boat of societal expectations to save someone else? After all, unborn babies aren’t going to praise you for saving them, but you’ll get a lot of praise from powerful people if you support sexual irresponsibility and murdering innocent children. Just like you would get a lot of praise from slave-owners for defending slavery.

Isaiah 6:8 Here I am, Lord. Send me!
Isaiah 6:8 Here I am, Lord. Send me!

Bottom-up Christianity

Christianity used to be understood in a more masculine way. Following Christ used to mean training your character and making practical decisions.

Character:  Christians trained their character by setting boundaries on themselves to avoid sinning. The futher back you stood from sin, e.g. – not drinking AT ALL, not having sex AT ALL, not gambling AT ALL, not wasting money on fun AT ALL, the easier it was for you to take action that the people around you didn’t have the moral certainty to take. After all, a person who drinks, pursues recreational sex, etc. is focused on their own desires. Desire is poison. The more you take action to satisfy your desires, the less sensitive you become with the needs of people around you. The more you worry about making non-Christians approve of you, the less you are able to take bold actions that reflect your own Christian convictions. Bold moral actions come from the discipline you build up from thousands of unseen actions to be self-controlled.

Today, Christians treat God as a cosmic butler and supernatural gumball machine. Who sets the overall direction of a Christian life? Well, each person does, through their feelings. God “leads” them to do whatever they really feel like doing. I have met women who felt led to divorce their husbands or have extra marital affairs. Why? Because Christianity isn’t about self-denial and self-sacrifice. It’s about living your best life now. God doesn’t speak to you through the words of the Bible. He speaks to you through your feelings. And his job is to make your feelings-driven desires “work out”. Instead of being sober, chaste, prudent, self-controlled and frugal, you need to take reckless actions in order to produce feelings of happiness and exhilaration. Zip-lining! Travel! Skydiving! Surfing! Shacking up with an atheist. Living in New York City and paying $2500 in rent.

Be moral, Be practical, Be ready

Being moral means focusing on holiness. Say no to things that make you feel good in the moment. Say no to drinking and recreational sex. Say no to getting the approval of non-Christian friends.Don’t let the culture set your priorities for you.

And I want Christians to be more practical. Instead of treating Christianity as a cosmic fire brigade that rushes out to save you from the messes you make with reckless hedonism, instead do boring things that work. Cultivate skills that can be used to help others. Don’t spend money on fun. Study hard degrees. Be a good steward of your money. Give to other Christians who run enterprises that serve the Lord.