This question goes out to any denomination.

Why was St. Augustine okay with using force to convert unbelievers to the faith, which also resulted in the eventual Roman Catholic Church's inspiration for the Crusades?

As mentioned by Bruce Shelley in his book "Church History in Plain Language":

For Urban and the popes who followed him the Crusades were a new type of war, a Holy War. Augustine had laid down the principles of a “just war”: It was conducted by the state; its purpose was the vindication of justice, meaning the defense of life and property; and its code called for respect for noncombatants, hostages, and prisoners. All these evaporated in the heat of the holy cause. Urban appealed for crusaders in the name of the church; the purpose of the Crusades was the conquest of the infidels in the Holy Land; and this high calling excused somehow the total disregard for noncombatants and prisoners.

Also per this link:

Urban pulled ideas from St. Augustine to justify the calling of a holy war to get rid of enemies of Christianity, and Urban had Pope Gregory VII to thank for already having a group loyal to the papacy so Urban’s work on power was already partially done (Asbridge, 25-28). Asbridge points out that “A central feature of Urban’s doctrine was the denigration and dehumanisation of Islam (33).”

As a follow up what caused him to be for that strategy when it came to conversion?

  • What's the connection between Augustine's ideas and the Crusades? Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 19:43
  • 2
    In Bruce Shelley's "Church History in Plain Language" and this article (uo-medievalchristianity.weebly.com/crusades.html), the authors noted that Pope Urban pulled ideas from Augustine's call of a holy war to rid Christianity of its enemies, which later led to the Crusades.
    – Philip
    Commented Dec 22, 2018 at 8:15
  • I cannot see that you have presented a single shred of evidence that Augustine believed in salvation through coercion. Nor are the crusades anything to do with a belief in salvation through coercion. Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 19:57
  • ^If you click the link and read the comment below, you'll see that there are historical records of such behavior from Augustine. I hope you didn't reply to me or downvote just because your personal hero of the faith was suddenly uncovered for the human being that he was, Andrew. That would go against everything this community is trying to avoid at best. At worst, your own bias is showing. I encourage you to read up on church history, as it is filled with people who struggled with making doctrine relevant in their time as we do today.
    – Philip
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 3:21

1 Answer 1


This is a highly controversial topic as there are many people that have a high view of Augustine. However, what He introduced in to the Church is nothing less than Gnosticism. The more I read the ante-Nicean (prior to the council) church writings, the more I see our view of scripture is not nearly as literal as there's was.

Augustine spent years as a disciple of Manichean Gnosticism. This group denied man's free will, man's ability to cease sinning, and that God has pre-determined some for hell and some for Heaven. When Pelagius debated Augustine, Pelagius largely quoted what Augustine believed before he became a disciple of Mani.

Here are a couple of quotes from Church leaders before Augustine;

I find, then, that man was constituted free by God. He was master of his own will and power…For a law would not be imposed upon one who did not have it in his power to render that obedience which is due to law. Nor again, would the penalty of death be threatened against sin, if a contempt of the law were impossible to man in the liberty of his will…Man is free, with a will either for obedience of resistance. (c. 207, Vol. 3, pp. 300-301) (Tertullian)

And again, who are they that have been saved, and received the inheritance? Those doubtless who do believe in God and who have continued in His love… and innocent children, who have had no sense of evil. (Irenaeus)

There is set before us life upon our observance [of God’s precepts], but death as the result of disobedience, and every one, according to the choice he makes, shall go to his own place, let us flee from death, and make choice of life. (Ignatius)

We…have believed and are saved by voluntary choice (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 217) (Clement of Alexandria)

Thus although we are born neither good nor bad, we become on or the other and having formed habits, we are with difficulty drawn from them. Pg 273 vol.8 (Clement)

Certain ones of those [Gnostic’s] who hold different opinions misuse these passages. They essentially destroy free will by introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation and by introducing others as being saved in such a way that they cannot be lost. (Origen)

This is a common theme in their writings - and all of these opinions of were formed through a plain literal reading of what scripture plainly says.

Only this have I found: I have discovered that God made men upright, but they have sought out many schemes. - Ecclesiastes 7:29

And the little ones, whom you said would become captives— your children who do not know good from evil, will enter the land I give them and possess it. - Deuteronomy 1:39

But if it is unpleasing in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve - Joshua 24:15a

“Why are you angry,” said the LORD to Cain, “and why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you refuse to do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; you are its object of desire, but you must master it.” - Genesis 4:6-7

The use of force was precipitated because He denied mankind's God given free will. He denied our ability to choose, and put upon mankind a "ruined nature" that had to be baptized out with a sprinkling as a baby.

As some additional resources I highly recommend checking out the scroll publishing channel on YouTube, that has the majority of their audio CD's. I also recommend using the Early Christian Dictionary and comparing it to scripture and what is taught today.

Let God be true, and every man be a liar.

  • 1
    Thank you. I read your insight in Bruce Shelley's "Church History in Plain Language" but didn't connect that personal belief to why Augustine actually justified a holy war. And - so far in my reading - all the church fathers had their flaws as well, but aren't mentioned in popular media. Luther OKed rich masters to kill their, rioting servants. John Wyclif still held on to some sacraments. Calvin was guilt-tripped into the faith by William Farel instead of doing it willingly. And yes, I also agree with you that these men took Scripture too literally without understanding its contexts.
    – Philip
    Commented Dec 22, 2018 at 8:23
  • 1
    It wasn't the "literal"ness of their interpretation. It was taking the scripture and applying philosophy to it. They created a class of Theologians, modern day Pharisees that tell us what scripture means. The Old and New Testaments as we call them today were written in the common tongue of their day. (Koine Greek) God didn't want a theologian class between God and man. Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 20:52
  • 1
    Got it Morris. Thank you again for your insights. :-D
    – Philip
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 2:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .