Tag Archives: Roman Catholicism

Correcting four myths about the Crusades

Here is an interesting article from First Principles Journal. (H/T First Things)


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.

This is always good to know for when you are answering Muslims.

MUST-HEAR: Jennifer Roback Morse on contraceptives, divorce, cohabitation, SSM and ART

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

I often tease women for being too focused on happiness and feelings, but Dr. J isn’t like that at all. She is all about economics, incentives, and moral boundaries. She thinks about the big issues. She once chastised me in an e-mail for being too emotional. I think she has had it with the feelings-based arguments from the socially-liberal left.

This lecture does not repeat much from her previous lectures.


The MP3 file is here. (93 minutes, 43.5 Mb)

Keep in mind that this speech was given to Wisconsin Catholic seminarians, so there is a lot of rah-rah Catholic stuff. I’m an evangelical Protestant, so I just smile when she talks about that. At least there was no Mary in it. Yay!


– contraception does not reduce the abortion rate
– contraception is bad because it makes sex a recreational activity
– contraception fails, which leads to the need for abortion
– 80% of abortions are done on unmarried women
– teenagers do not think that contraceptives will FAIL for them
– they don’t understand that the probabilities is PER ACTION – more actions increases probability
– the more you rely on something that has a small chance of failure, the more chance you will get a failure
– more sex, means more chances for a person to get a failure
– older women are naturally less fertile, so they skew contraceptive effectiveness figures higher
– contraceptives are most likely to fail for the young, the poor and the unmarried
– contraception means that women cannot ask men to promise to marry them before sex
– the pressure for a man to marry if the woman gets pregnant is gone
– the presumption is that the woman will have an abortion
– women who want to get married are at a disadvantage to get male attention now
– because men will prefer women who are willing to have an abortion if they get pregnant
– when people argue for these social changes, they don’t accurately assess consequences
– they think that they can have the happiness-making freedom without damaging anything else
– they think that no incentives will be created so that others start to act differently
– example: no-fault divorce – there were terrible consequences that were minimized by the social engineers

– people who wanted this believed myths in order to get the happiness-making freedom for the adults
– they said that divorce would be less harmful for children than if the parents stayed together
– they argued for no-fault divorce because they wanted happiness and didn’t care about children
– in a low conflict marriage, it is better for children if the parents stay together
– in a high-conflict marriage, it is better for children to divorce
– but for high-conflict divorce, you could have gotten a divorce for cause
– what people pushing no-fault divorce really wanted was to divorce to pursue happiness elsewhere
– there is also a financial incentive to divorce for no reason – alimony, child support, property
– but divorce really disrupts the lives of the children
– the VAST MAJORITY of divorces are in low-conflict situations
– the social norm was that low-level conflict meant that you stayed married for the sake of the kids
– a pregnancy after a re-marriage is devastating to children of the first marriage
– not being able to have a normal relationship with both biological parents is devastating to children
– what often drives people into co-habitation is the fear of screwing up their own marriages
– pro-divorce people want women to re-marry afterwards to provide kids with a “father-figure”
– the presence of a stepfather increases bad behavior in the kids, as well as risk of abuse
– but actually, stepfathers spend little time with kids, and draws mother away from the kids
– biological fathers spend the most time with the children
– disciplining the children is more complex with a non-bio dad
– normally, dads wants the kids to behave, and moms want the children to be happy
– often, the woman will forbid the father from disciplining the children
– the father will just drop out of parenting completely when his authority is not respected

– social engineers understate the risks of co-habitation and overstate the risks of marriage
– but research shows that co-habitation makes no positive contribution to marriage
– feminists love to say that marriage is very risky, but without comparing it to alternatives
(feminists don’t like marriage because of the “unequal gender roles”)
– when compared with the alternatives, like co-habitation, marriage is better on every measure
– feminists say that married women do not report abuse in marriage, that’s why marriage LOOKS better
– but murders HAVE TO BE reported, and co-habitation results in NINE TIMES more murders than marriage
– children are killed FIFTY TIMES more with co-habitation with an unrelated adult than with 2 bio-parents
– the live-in boyfriend is the culprit in 85% of these cases

Same-sex marriage:
– alternatives to marriage change rules and incentives, it is NOT the same thing as marriage
– necessarily, one of the parents will not have a close relationship with one bio-parents
– social engineers say that mothers and fathers are interchangeable – but they are different
– SSM undermines the presumption of paternity, and substitutes state-ordered parenting
– the public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers to fathers, and parents to children
– SSM elevates private purposes for marriage over and above the public purpose of marriage
– SSM will lead to fathers being marginalized from the family
– the state will have to force people to equate SSM and natural marriage

Artificial reproductive technology:
– it is the next substitute for marriage
– highly educated career women do not have to prepare for a husband to get a baby
– her behavior through her life changes because she doesn’t have to care about marriage

Can a person disagree without being hateful or inciting violence?

Ari is an Orthodox Jewish blogger who writes at Jennifer Roback Morse’s Ruth Blog. Ari and Dr. J often write in defense of traditional marriage. As a result of that, they often get a number of pro-same-sex-marriage commenters who claim that mere disagreement with same-sex marriage is basically a hate crime. Well, Ari doesn’t think that pro-SSM people should freak out at him for believing in traditional marriage, and he doesn’t think that he is committing a hate crime. In fact, he would really like it if the pro-SSM people took his disagreement with same-sex marriage as… disagreement with same-sex marriage – instead of calling him names and attacking his character.

Now, let me ask you a question. If you were Ari, and you wanted to explain why disagreement is NOT hateful, and why disagreement with people is NOT dangerous and DOES NOT lead to violence, what would you do?

Well, Ari knows very well that conservative evangelicals like me disagree with him on whether Jesus is the only way, and that we think that having correct beliefs about who Jesus was and what his death accomplished are required in order for a person to be found worthy to be raised to eternal life with God in the general resurrection at the end of the age. So what he decided to do, in a fairly respectful way, is to explain how he feels about the evangelical Christians who 1) disagree with him on theology, 2) think that he should change his mind, and 3) try to persuade him that he should accept their view.

Here is an excerpt, but you WILL read the whole thing. (I have removed the name of the person he links to as an example of Protestant views)

Ari writes:

How does it make me feel?  Honestly, my most notable reaction is amusement.  Am I offended?  Maybe a little.  But if I am at all offended, not very much.  I could see how a soul more sensitive than I am would be deeply offended.  (I would tell such a soul to get over it).

As for me, I understand my own point of view.  I’m secure in that point of view, and if [the Protestant] cares to disagree, there is neither anything I can do about it nor anything I would want to do about it.  Were I cornered into a debate with [the Protestant], I know how to advance my point of view and the logical underpinnings of that view… I can say similarly if, instead of [the Protestant], I would be forced into a debate with notable atheist pseudo-rationalists Ricky Dawkins, Danny Dennet or Sammy Harris.

How does he respond to disagreements with Protestants or atheists? He debates them. He doesn’t call them names. He doesn’t claim they are inciting violence. He doesn’t pass laws to silence them. He doesn’t force them to pay fines. He doesn’t put them in jail. He doesn’t seize their children. He doesn’t enact laws to force his views on other people in the schools. He doesn’t pass laws to force private companies to do sensitivity training of all employees. He doesn’t award grants and scholarships on the basis of agreement with him. Etc. He debates people who disagree with him. And if they don’t agree with him, he leaves them alone.

Ari continues:

As you can see, although [the Protestant] has said, in absolutely no uncertain terms, that I am going to hell, I do not see any role for the government to shut him up.  Indeed I would be horrified if the government believed my precious self-esteem to be so important that it would take it upon itself to shut [the Protestant] up for me.

How would Dr. J feel if similarly confronted by [the Protestant]’s cartoon wrath?  I don’t have a clue, but I would be extremely surprised if her reaction was vastly different than my own.  Does [the Protestant] have similar feelings about Dr. J’s Catholic faith?  Why, yes. Yes, he does.

I trust that Dr. J. can defend her point of view to her own satisfaction, and to the satisfaction of those who share her faith.  That I would likely disagree with her defense of her faith (which I don’t share) is irrelevant.  The world’s a big place.  I understand that it contains many people with many other points of view.  I don’t expect others always to agree with me.  Indeed I would be foolish to believe that.  I would be a tyrant if I insisted that force be used to make others agree.

Now, do I think [the Protestant] is a hateful man?  I have no idea.  I have never met him.  But, from reading a bit of his work, it seems to me that [the Protestant] has the best of intentions.  He truly thinks I’m going to go to hell.  He wants to save me from that fate.  I would have to say that this fate, as he describes it, sounds more than a bit unpleasant.  I commend him for his good intentions.  However, I do think he’s wrong.

Should I condemn [the Protestant] for bothering me with his point of view?  No.

Rodney Stark discusses the admirable aspects of the missionizing impulse as follows:

Imagine a society’s discovering a vaccine against a deadly disease that has been ravaging its people and continues to ravage people in neighboring societies, where the cause of the disease is incorrectly attributed to improper diet.  What would be the judgment on the society if it withheld its vaccine on the grounds that it would be ethnocentric to try to instruct members of another culture that their medical ideas are incorrect, and to induce them to adopt the effective treatment?  If one accepts that one has the good fortune to be in possession of the true religion and thereby has access to the most valuable possible rewards, is one not similarly obligated to spread this blessing to those less fortunate?  I see no flaw in the parallel– other than the objection that the religious claims my not be true, which objection misses the phenomenology of obligation.  (One True G-d, Page 35).

So, stop all the whining about “hate.”  Maybe the people who disagree with you don’t really hate you.  Maybe they just disagree.

I could not agree more. I wish I could shout this from the roof-tops! I wish we could all disagree respectfully – clarity, not agreement.

You need to read Ari’s post. It will be on the test. So get your butt over there and read it right now. And leave a comment telling Ari that he is brilliant!

By the way, Ari is my friend on Facebook, and so is Dr. J. I don’t entirely agree with either of them on theology. I think they are both mistaken at least in part. But I also think that they are both excellent morally, and highly effective on issues like marriage and abortion – issues where we are allies. In fact, I would not even put myself on the same scale as either of them if I were considering morality and effectiveness. They are heroes, and I am nobody. (Although you can follow my blog – that would make me somebody). It’s enough for me that they know that I have a different view than theirs, and that I have reasons for believing my view is better than their view. I do not insist that they celebrate all of my views, and I am thankful that they do not use the law to force me to celebrate all of their views. That’s tolerance.

Furthermore, let me say one thing about Hell. Protestants do not believe that the degree of punishment is the same for everyone who chooses to separate themselves from God by rejecting Jesus Christ. The duration is the same (eternity), but the degree of punishment is based on your actual sins. There is no moral equivalence been morally good non-Christians and people like Stalin, and they are not going to be treated equally in the afterlife.

Christianity and the doctrines of exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism

Are you familiar with the differences between exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism? This article from Leadership University explains all three of them.

Here’s exclusivism:

The following is a succinct explanation of the central characters and ideas behind each position. The exclusivist position has been the dominant position of the church as a whole through much of its history until the Enlightenment. Major representatives include Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Hendrick Kraemer, D.A. Carson, William Lane Craig, and R. Douglas Geivett.

Key to this position is the understanding of God’s general and special revelations. God is manifested through creation (general revelation), but Man has responded by freely going against this revelation and, thus, stands guilty before a holy God. However, God has demonstrated a reconciliatory mercy through His word and deed, fulfilled completely in Jesus Christ. The historical person of Jesus, then, is the unique, final, decisive, and normative self-revelation of God to Man (special revelation). Exclusivists believe that Jesus Christ is the sole criterion by which all religions, including Christianity, should be understood and evaluated. Calvin Shenk explains:

Christ did not come just to make a contribution to the religious storehouse of knowledge. The revelation which he brought is the ultimate standard. Since in Christ alone is salvation and truth, many religious paths do not adequately reflect the way of God and do not lead to truth and life. Jesus is not, therefore, just the greatest lord among other lords. There is no other lord besides him.

Specific texts often employed by exclusivists include Acts 4:12; John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 3:11; and 1 Timothy 2:5-6.

And inclusivism:

Inclusivism is a blanket term to characterize a sort of “middle way” between exclusivism and pluralism. Most prominent within mainline Protestantism and post-Vatican II Catholicism, its notable proponents (in one formor another) include Karl Rahner, Raimundo Panikkar and Stanley Samartha, and Hans Kung. Evangelical theologians such as Clark Pinnock, Norman Anderson, and John Sanders have also identified themselves with this position. Herein, the agnosticism associated with the latter option above is replaced with outright optimism. Christian salvation is not confined to the historical or geographic extent special revelation has spread, rather it must be available to all cultures, irrespective of age or geography.Salvation is still posited wholly in Christ and his salvific work. Specific knowledge of this work, however, is not necessary for the effect (i.e., salvation) to apply to those within a different religious culture who have responded to the general revelation available. Once again, Shenk explains:

Inclusivists want to avoid monopolizing the gospel of redemption. They acknowledge the possibility of salvation outside of Christian faith or outside the walls of the visible church, but the agent of such salvation is Christ, and the revelation in Jesus is definitive and normative for assessing that salvation. Jesus Christ is believed to be the center, and other ways are evaluated by how they relate to him. Other religions are not just a preparation for Christ, but Christ is actually present in them.

The fundamental differences between exclusivism and inclusivism… are the nature and the content of “saving faith.” The former emphasizes explicit faith while the latter points to an implicit faith.

And pluralism:

Finally, there is the pluralist position. This is undoubtedly the most difficult of the three to define in any general sense. The spectrum of pluralistic thought is as wide as it is long. The focusof this particular study will examine the contributions of its key figures: Paul Knitter, John Hick, and Wilfred Cantwell Smith. Just as in the previous positions, the interpretative range within just these three individuals varies. It is fitting, however, to focus primarily on them since they are the most vocal and influential figures espousing pluralism today.

Hick and Knitter argue the case for pluralism on the following grounds: (1) ethically, it is the only way to promote justice in an intolerant world; (2) in terms of the “ineffability of religious experience,” so no religion can claim an absolutist stance; and (3) through the understanding that historical and cultural contexts must be the filter for any absolute religious claim. Hick has argued that all world religions attempt to relate to the unknowable Ultimate Reality (or, the Real), but because of their various cultural and historical contexts these attempts are all naturally different. Hence the various conceptions of the Real and the salvation(s) sought. The common soteriological goal, toward which all religions strive, though, is rooted in the desire to transcend self-centeredness and, in turn, encounter a new (unexplainable) experience with the Real. But, he emphatically emphasizes the fact that there is “no public evidence that any one religion is soteriologically unique or superior to others and thus has closer access to Ultimate Reality.”

Therefore, with pluralism, Christ is no more definitive or normative than any religious figure or concept. Or, as Andrew Kirk explains, “Rather than confessing that Jesus Christ is the one Lord over all, this view asserts that the one Lord who has manifested himself in other names is also known as Jesus.” By “crossing the Rubicon,” as Hick and Knitter illustrate, Christians are encouraged to abandon any claim of Christian uniqueness and the possibility of absolute revelation, accepting the fact that the Christian faith is one among many options.

Now maybe you didn’t know this, but Roman Catholics seem to have taken a turn away from exclusivism and towards inclusivism in the last century.

So, I thought I would post a rebuttal to the Roman Catholic embrace of inclusivism from one of my favorite Christian apologists, Greg Koukl.


There are some issues of Christianity that are intra-Nicene, intramural discussions between believers, in which I think a charitable person can easily see how another Christian can hold a different view because there are things that are difficult to understand in Scripture. For instance, though I’m Reformed in my soteriology, my understanding of salvation–I’m a Calvinist–I am sympathetic to an Arminian perspective because I can see how they, in lines of reasoning from the New Testament and verses themselves from the New Testament, can come to their view. So, though I would disagree, and I think they’re mistaken, I understand how they can see it.But there are other positions that I cannot understand because there is no New Testament evidence in favor of it, and, to the contrary, almost to a word, as the New Testament touches the issue, it says quite the opposite.

Earlier this week, I was honored, flattered, and, frankly, humbled to have a very unique opportunity on Monday to address an audience of about 150 Jewish people that were in the midst of Jewish High Holy Day services–morning services, evening services–at kind of a pause time in the afternoon, in which my host and I and another guest had a discussion about Jews and Christians. The three of us were on the panel:  my host, Dennis Prager, a man I have a tremendous admiration and affection for, and Greg Coiro, a Roman Catholic priest and a professional friend. I’ve known both of these men over 20 years and have been in many discussions, both in private and public on the air with Dennis and Greg Coiro.

It was in this opportunity that, in a sense, the ancient quarrel of sorts, theologically, was revisited, that I’ve had in the past many years ago when we were talking about this in interfaith dialogues. This difference of opinion is a historically new development in Roman Catholicism that stunned me when I first encountered it in the early days of being on Religion on the Line in the late eighties, a radio panel Dennis Prager hosted for many years. The priests on the panel uniformly held the conviction, informed by Vatican II, that Jews don’t have to believe in Jesus in order to receive the benefits of Jesus’ salvation. This is a view called “inclusivism.” It’s not the same as pluralism, but in my view, it seems to have the same impact: “Yes, Jesus is necessary for salvation, but you don’t have to believe in Jesus to benefit from Jesus.”

Now, at this afternoon panel recently, the very first question that came up was whether trust in Jesus is necessary for salvation. “Greg, do you believe that? Do Protestants believe that?” I answered, “Yes, I believe that. And no, not all Protestants believe that. But let me try to explain it to you in a way that doesn’t sound so stark. Let me try to give it some perspective.” I explained that it wasn’t as if God was up there looking down at a bunch of religious clubs and prefers some over others. He used to prefer the Jewish club and now He prefers the Christian club. It may sound that way to many when this doctrine of Christianity is put forward: Jesus is the only way of salvation; you must believe in Jesus in order to benefit from what Jesus did.

Talk about Daniel in the lions’ den. Anyway, click through and read the whole article to get an idea of how to make your stand for exclusivism in difficult places. By the way I am not a Calvinist (I accept some Calvinist doctrines, but not irresistible grace), but I think Greg is right to defend exclusivism. I realize that I have a lot of Roman Catholic readers, and I hope that you won’t be too upset that we disagree on this. In fact, I’m hoping that you’ll change your minds and agree with me!

For a general article defending the Christian doctrine of exclusivism, check out this article by William Lane Craig. One of my favorites, from way way back to when I was an undergraduate.

If you want to hear Paul Knitter in a debate, check out the Greer-Heard forums. The 2009 forum can be had as MP3s for $15, and you will not be disappointed with the response by Doug Geivett. The 2005 set with Crossan is also worth buying. If you really really like them, then get the 2008 one with Bart Ehrman and Dan Wallace. Chuck Quarles’ response will knock your socks off. I actually met him at the EPS apologetics conference this year. Doug Geivett’s response is worth the price of the whole set. Unfortunately, that Crossan set is not on MP3 – you have to get CDs. Crossan and Ehrman are back for the 2010 and 2011 forums, but I have not heard those yet.

MUST-LISTEN: Jennifer Roback Morse explains how socialism undermines family

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

New podcast featuring Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse discussing marriage and family. You can skip through the first 5 minutes because it’s just introductory. This is a great interview – highly recommended! There is a fair amount of Catholic stuff in the interview, so be forewarned. The interviewer just goes through some of her essays and asks her about them.

When I hear a woman who has this much of an understanding about what marriage is about and what forces are arrayed against marriage, it just makes me want to run out and get married, because she makes it sound so interesting that I want to try it out and see if everything she says is really true. She has such a good understanding of who her opponents are and what they think and what they are trying to accomplish. A very serious woman.

The MP3 file is here. (54 minutes)


Why are socialists so hostile to the natural family? (essay)

  • socialists oppose monogamy
  • socialists view marriage as a structure that oppressive because of gender roles
  • socialists favor “group marriage”
  • socialists believe that children should be raised by the collective, not by parents
  • socialists intend to achieve this by imposing their vision through government power

How does the welfare state discourage people from having children? (essay)

  • high taxes make having more children unaffordable
  • state regulation of marriage and parenting opens door to risk of legal trouble
  • welfare payments to individuals means that relationships can be exited easily
  • e.g. – women can divorce and substitute welfare for a husband/father

What is the sandwich generation? (essay)

  • boomers complained about having to take care of children and elderly parents
  • with the normal timing for having children, this doesn’t happen
  • but if child-bearing is delayed, then this problem occurs
  • also, there are fewer siblings available to help with aging parents
  • this opens up the need for government to take over care for dependents
  • women are encouraged to focus on education and career during fertile years

What is the effect of welfare states mandating high minimum wages? (essay)

  • minimum wage laws increase unemployment rates
  • if you require employers to pay high wages, then employers offer fewer jobs
  • young people are just not productive enough to get those jobs
  • so young people stay in school more and delay adulthood and child-bearing
  • welfare states also make it hard to fire people, causing more unemployment
  • when government raises minimum wages and benefits, it hurts young people
  • when young people finally get a job, they are already in their 30s

How do Catholics respond to the socialist emphasis on equality? (essay)

  • making everyone equal requires the abolition of differences between people
  • for example, feminists try to make men have the same careers as men
  • but this requires women to diminish the fact that they want children
  • Catholics don’t want to make everyone equal, but to defend the weak
  • Christianity supports private property (thou shalt not steal)
  • Christianity supports the family as being ordained by God
  • Rerum Novarum says that inequality and imperfection in society is OK

Who is excluded from socialism’s drive for equality? (essay)

  • children are excluded from equality because they are dependent
  • children impose obligations on people to take care of them
  • the same is true for the elderly