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I studied in Methodist school from kindergarten to high school, but I never heard of Crusaders until I went to college - and people at church don't talk about it either.

As far as I know, Crusaders have a very bad reputation (at least in the movies.) But what does it really mean for the modern Christian?

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You might want to catch up on history with this - here's a crash course on the crusades. Very interesting subject. youtube.com/watch?v=X0zudTQelzI . And unusually for me, that doesn't attack anyone's views - it merely explains the various crusades in the historical context. –  Marc Gravell May 14 '12 at 19:14
    
yeah, I watched that. That's historical view, which inspired me to asked for the religious point of view here :) –  Phelios May 15 '12 at 2:06
    
If you were looking for answers from a particular tradition (Catholic / Mormon / Protestant / etc.) it might be worth clarifying that, as I get the impression the answer is heavily dependent on the tradition. –  Jas 3.1 May 15 '12 at 7:11
    
@Jas3.1, I think I'm more interested in the general view (the core believe system view). I mean, without looking at the particular tradition, the one that is acceptable by every traditions (I hope there is). –  Phelios May 15 '12 at 9:02
    
Yeah... I actually thought it was generally recognized that what I posted was true. I was disturbed to learn that there are so many people out there attempting to justify the Crusades. (But hey, I could be wrong... I'm not God.) –  Jas 3.1 May 15 '12 at 16:21

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Robert Spencer, who is one of the leading Christian authors on Islam has a fascinating insight into the crusades in this video - The Crusades, Fact & Truth.

The Crusades have a bad reputation, because, as Spencer explains, Westerners have a healthy attitude of self-criticism. Such self-criticism is completely absent in Islam. Spencer points out that it was the invasion of the Turks that began the Crusades.

While it is true that many of the Crusaders did evil acts, the Crusades in themselves were a defensive measure and not an offensive one. Should Christians be ashamed of those Crusaders who commited evil? Sure. Should Christians be ashamed of the Crusades themselves? Never.

When soldiers came to John the Baptist asking him what to do, he didn't tell them to put their swords away, but

"Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages." (Luke 3:14)

The Bible also says that there is

"a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up" (Ecclesiastes 3:3)

Often, Jesus statement of "turning the other cheek" is quoted to suggest that any act of self defense is against the teachings of Christ. But I answer that somebody slapping you on the cheek doesn't kill you, whereas if someone tries to kill your body, you are obliged to defend yourself, because your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19).

"If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are." (1 Cor 3:17)

The implication of this statement is that if you allow your body to be destroyed, then you shall be held accountable for it. Jesus also said,

"But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one." (Luke 22:36)

Paul says that rulers are servants of God to execute God's wrath on the wrongdoer.

"But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer." (Rom 13:4)

The Bible on many occasions praises soldiers. One of the first gentile converts to Christianity was a Roman centurion, Cornelius (Acts 10) and we don't see any demand being made on him to leave his position as a centurion. On another occasion, Jesus marveled at the faith of another centurion (Matthew 8:10). I therefore do not see any reason why a Christian cannot serve in the army.

Had the Crusades not taken place, the entire western world might have been under subjection to Islam today. As a Christian, I shall never be ashamed of the Crusades. Many Christians gave their lives for saving their brethren.

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It was interesting to hear a detailed explanation of this viewpoint, but you took a lot of verses out of context to justify it. –  Jas 3.1 May 15 '12 at 6:50
    
I actually love this, but disagree. Jesus didn't fight back (which He absolutely can) when he is crucified. And until now, you still can heard that people died defending his believe in Jesus, and they are honoured as Martyrs. –  Phelios May 15 '12 at 9:08
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@Phelios I neither agree nor disagree with your point about Christ, but it is rather off-topic and out of context. Christ did not resist because His death was His purpose in being on Earth. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison. Your point about martyrdom is much closer to being on topic, but I disagree also that a comparison of individual martyrs and nations with militaries is a valid comparison. –  San Jacinto May 15 '12 at 15:20
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Your arguments amount to (A) What Jesus didn't say (in Scripture), which is a dangerous hermeneutic - see John 21:25. (B) Arguments from Ecclesiastes, a book which is descriptive, not prescriptive. (C) A verse about what God will do, which is not an instruction to believers. (D) Luke 22:36, which is a heavily debated passage (you are also not considering context - see v. 49-51.) (E) An argument about authority being from God, but by that argument you could justify Nero's slaughter of the early Christians. Context: submission to authority, not slaughter of Muslims. –  Jas 3.1 May 15 '12 at 16:16
    
@Jas3.1 (A) Agreed for some of the arguments. But again, if scripture is silent on something, should we do it or not do it? (B) To whom is the verse - "there is a time to kill" addressed? (C) God will destroy me if I destroy my body. My argument takes the implications of that into consideration. (D) As you said, it's debatable. You have your opinion. I have mine. (E) "We must obey God not men" when it comes to moral issues. However, submission to legitimate authority is valid if the authority doesn't violate Christian principles. That fits with Luke 3:14. –  LoveTheFaith Jun 4 '12 at 2:33

By the end of the first millenium the Turks, who held control of the Holy Land for four centuries, began to demonstrate a renewed aggression towards non-Muslims. Pilgrims to what are still considered the holiest places in Christianity were being molested and, as the Byzantine empire was not sufficiently strong to stop it (and, in fact, they were showing themselves to be incapable of defending the historically Christian territories), the option was either ignore this problem or retaliate in force.

There are a number of lessons which can be gleaned.

  • This is a direct application of one understanding of Just War theory. When, exactly, is it OK to go to war? (is it OK to cross the street so that you can beat up a mugger?)
  • While the intentions were good (even the fourth crusade, which sacked Constantinople, was well intentioned), there were a number of compromises made which made it so that despite the piety of the crusaders, they eventually did things which were less than honorable.
  • Many a well-intended cause is destroyed through pride.
  • Perhaps one of the better lessons, however, is that this does not need to be a black eye for Christianity. Rather, this was a limited military action in response to a series of massive military actions.
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Why did it happen?

The Crusades happened during a time when the Bible was not widely available to believers. Only the highest Church members had access to it. So when the leaders made statements about God's will no one could really argue - except on the basis of "having a different opinion", which was received as rebellion and heresy. Simply put - they didn't know what the Bible said.

What does the Bible say?

Jesus continually made statements like the following:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” - John 18:36

When the mob came to seize Jesus with swords and clubs, His disciples were ready for a fight! But watch how Jesus rebukes them.

When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. - Luke 22:49-51

After the death of Jesus, Paul explains the following to the early Christians:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. - Ephesians 6:12

What can we learn?

I think the clear lesson we can learn from the Crusades is the importance of knowing your Bible. Yet even with such blatant examples from history, Bible illiteracy remains one of the biggest problems in the church today. Yesterday I read the following quote from a book on Spiritual Disciplines:

Do you realize that... you can read through the entire [Bible] in seventy-one hours? In no more than fifteen minutes a day you can read through the Bible in less than a year's time... And yet the majority of Christians never read the Bible all the way through in their whole life. - Donald S. Whitney

We have been given more in the way of Scripture than any generation before us. We have all 66 books, entire fields of Biblical sciences devoted to clarifying the original wording, concordances, dictionaries, online search tools, commentaries, ... the list goes on and on. It is difficult to consider this without considering the following words of Jesus:

From everyone who has been given much, much will be required - Luke 12:48

The lesson from the Crusades has never been more relevant: Read your Bible!

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-1 for the, "It happened because they couldn't read the Bible." Many of the leaders of the crusades could and did read the Bible. –  cwallenpoole May 14 '12 at 18:13
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Also, saying that, "The Pope's word was law" really isn't accurate in any sense of the word... ever. –  cwallenpoole May 14 '12 at 18:16
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@cwallenpoole, i think, Jas meant that it's not sufficient to just read the Bible, it must be understood right. Anyway, there is a fact - Christ didn't fight with brute force, so crusades are wrong from Christianity's point of view. –  arrowdodger May 15 '12 at 7:37
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@cwallenpoole The question isn't whether God uses brute force, but whether God calls His disciples to use brute force. Also, you are using verses about the ultimate justice at the end of time to justify man carrying out such judgment prior to the end of time. 1 Cor 4:5 says, "Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes..." –  Jas 3.1 May 15 '12 at 16:06
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@cwallenpoole and Jas 3.1: Please take extended discussions like this to Christianity Chat. Thank you. –  Caleb May 15 '12 at 20:04

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