Tag Archives: Muslim

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.

What should Christians bring up when discussing truth with Muslims?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

I have some experience dicussing Islam because my mother’s side of the family is all Muslim. My go-to argument has always been to confront them about the Qur’an’s claim that Jesus did not die of crucifixion. But I noticed a different argument from Laura Powell, who knows far more about this topic than I do. Do you think her approach is the best one?

She writes about it over at Gospel-Centered Discipleship:

The crux of the argument is this: The Qur’an affirms the inspiration, authority, and preservation of the New Testament Gospels;[2] yet the Qur’an also contradicts the Gospels on major theological and historical points. Therefore, the Qur’an cannot be reliable.

According to the Qur’an, the Gospel is the trustworthy, reliable revelation of God given as a guidance for mankind (Qur’an 3:3-4). These Scriptures from God were available and trustworthy when the Qur’an was revealed in the 7th century A.D., and those who had access to them were repeatedly told to obey them, judge by them, submit to their teaching, and stand fast upon them. In other words, according to the Qur’an, the Gospels are the inspired and authoritative words of God.

Qur’an 5:47 says, “And let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed—then it is those who are the defiantly disobedient.”

Furthermore, Qur’an 5:68 states, “Say, ‘O People of the Scripture, you are [standing] on nothing until you uphold [the law of] the Torah, the Gospel, and what has been revealed to you from your Lord’” (see also 6:114; 3:3-4).

What I like about her argument is that she’s just taking the words of the Qur’an seriously, and asking the Muslims who claim to believe it what’s going on here. Why say that the gospels are unreliable today, when the Qur’an said that the gospels were reliable, yesterday.

My argument about the death of Jesus requires us to ask Muslims “where is the non-Muslim historian who thinks that Jesus did not die?” There isn’t one.

But my argument requires that the Muslim know something about historical scholarship, to know what non-Muslim historians think.Laura’s argument has wider appeal, because it doesn’t require that the Muslim have any knowledge about history – only knowledge about what their own holy book says.

She concludes with this:

What we see here is that the Qur’an teaches the inspiration, authority, and preservation of the Gospels. The Qur’an was intended as an Arabic version of the message of truth found in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, but this presents a huge problem for Muslims because the Qur’an contradicts the Christian Scriptures on essential doctrines. Most notably, the Qur’an teaches that Jesus was not God incarnate, he did not die on a cross, and he was not raised from the dead (Qur’an 4:157; 5:116).

Here’s the dilemma for Muslims: If the Gospels are not trustworthy, then the Qur’an is false because it teaches that the Gospels are the inspired, perfectly preserved, authoritative words of God. But if the Gospels are trustworthy, then the Qur’an is false because it teaches contradictory, mutually exclusive facts about key issues. Either way, the Qur’an is false.

This, of course, is a huge problem for Muslims. The validity of Islam rests upon the reliability of the Qur’an, just as Christianity rests upon the truth of the divinity, death, and resurrection of Jesus. If the Qur’an is unreliable, then Islam is a false religion.

I like that she’s comfortable having disagreements with people. That’s not very common in the church today, in my experience.

By the way, this is the same Laura who wrote that really good article about how she found a better way to discuss her Christian worldview when she moved on from sharing her testimony. I blogged about it here.

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.