Monday, January 4, 2016

Don’t Blindly Condemn The Christian Crusades

               Christians have been habituated into apologizing and condemning the crusades. Popular Christian website, “,” reflects this notion, “the crusades should not be referred to as the “Christian crusades.” Most of the people involved in the crusades were not truly Christians, even though they claimed to be. The name of Christ was abused, misused, and blasphemed by the actions of many of the crusaders.”1

            But aren’t there two sides to a coin?

            Didn’t the crusaders do anything right? Should we blindly believe the popular thought process that the crusades be unequivocally condemned?

            Seven crusades were undertaken over a 150 year period (AD 1099 to 1254). Jerusalem was successfully recaptured after the first crusade. The second crusade reestablished the captured territories of the first crusade. Subsequently, Jerusalem and many other recaptured territories were conquered by Muslims, so a third crusade was undertaken.

            The fourth crusade was as much a disaster as the third, for the crusaders sacked the Christian controlled Constantinople. The fifth, sixth and seventh crusades were also unsuccessful, for at the end of the seventh crusade, the Islamic forces captured all the crusader territories. All in all, the crusades were unsuccessful and disastrous.

            Encyclopedia Britannica offers pertinent information about the Christian crusades, “Crusades, military expeditions, beginning in the late 11th century, that were organized by western European Christians in response to centuries of Muslim wars of expansion. Their objectives were to check the spread of Islam, to retake control of the Holy Land in the eastern Mediterranean, to conquer pagan areas, and to recapture formerly Christian territories; they were seen by many of their participants as a means of redemption and expiation for sins…” (Emphasis Mine).2

            Given this historical backdrop, there are several facts to comprehend.   

1. Crusades Were Not Unprovoked Aggressions

            To begin with, why were the crusades undertaken?

            The Christian crusades were in response to the Islamic invasion. Had the Muslims not captured the Christian territories, the crusades may not have been carried out. Hence, the crusades were not unprovoked aggressions. This is the first fact.

2. The Bible Supports Just-War

            The notion that the Christian crusades were an appropriate response to the Islamic conquests presupposes the validity of the “just-war” view. The just-war view believes that a war be fought (a) with a just cause - an act of defense (b) with a just intention (c) as a last resort (d) as a declaration by a legal government (e) with limited objectives (f) with appropriate and proportionate means (g) to ensure the protection of the noncombatants and the proper treatment of the wounded.3

            Just-war view is endorsed by the Bible.

            Although Christ is the prince of peace, Christ will annihilate Satan by means of war. That Christ’s disciples owned swords lends credence to the fact that Christ endorsed weapons for defense. Significantly, the Bible sanctions wrath and terror by the governing authorities to eliminate evil (cf. Romans 13:1-5 et al.). This is the second fact.

3. Crusades Were To Protect Christians

            Pope Urban II’s crusade contained both just and warped reasons.

            The just reasons were to defend the Christians in the Middle East and Europe against Islamic incursions (from 7th through to 10th century) and to protect pilgrims and churches in the Holy land.

            Warped and faulty theology snaked into the crusades. Pope Urban II promised complete forgiveness of sins and the Kingdom of heaven upon those who undertake the war. It is atrociously unbiblical to seek forgiveness for sins through acts of violence.

            Faulty theology combined with misguided mobs led to the gory violence against the Jews in the first crusade. However, Pope Urban condemned violence against Jews. Moreover, Pope Urban, at any point in time, did not call for conversion of Muslims by force.

            Although there were warped reasons, the third truth is that the crusades had just reasons, which were to protect Christians and the Christian states from cruel opposition.

4. Without Crusades, Christianity Could Be Extinct

            The Muslim kingdoms became more powerful after the crusades. History informs us that Muslims were en route to capturing the entire Christian world after the crusades.

            However certain intriguing incidents prevented further Islamic aggressions. The death of Sultan Mehmed II ruined his plan to capture Rome. Then rainstorms delayed the progress of Suleiman the Magnificent to capture Germany. 

            Interestingly, the Renaissance that led to humanism and scientific revolution enabled Europe to expand on a global scale. While the Muslim world regressed, Europe became wealthy and powerful. Thus the Muslim threat was neutralized economically.

            The fourth fact to consider is this. Thomas Madden, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University, reckons that Christianity may have been extinct if not for the crusades, “Whether we admire the Crusaders or not, it is a fact that the world we know today would not exist without their efforts. The ancient faith of Christianity, with its respect for women and antipathy toward slavery, not only survived but flourished. Without the Crusades, it might well have followed Zoroastrianism, another of Islam's rivals, into extinction.”4

5. Religion Not The #1 Cause For Wars

            Finally, why or when do we discuss the Christian crusades?

            Crusades are typically invoked to accuse Christianity or religion per se of atrocities committed in the name of God. This accusation either strives to debunk God’s existence or highlight the hypocrisy seemingly inherent in religion.

            But facts reveal that irreligion claimed more lives than religion. So religion is not the #1 cause of wars.

            According to the “Encyclopedia of Wars,” 1763 wars have been waged until now. Out of 1763 wars, a very low 6.98% or 123 wars were attributed to religion. Of the 123 wars waged in the name of religion, 66 were Islamic. If Islamic wars are removed from this equation, wars waged in the name of religion are less than 4%.5

            CARM quotes statistics from R. J. Rummel’s Lethal Politics and Death by Government, which reveals that lives lost during religious wars pales in comparison to the number of people who died in the hands of non-religious dictators: 6

            Joseph Stalin               - 42,672,000

            Mao Zedong               - 37,828,000

            Adolf Hitler                - 20,946,000

            Chiang Kai-shek         - 10,214,000

            Vladimir Lenin            - 4,017,000

            Hideki Tojo                 - 3,990,000

            Pol Pot                        - 2,397,000

Conclusion: How Do We Understand The Crusades

            Crusades need not be unconditionally condemned.

            If ISIS were to conquer a particular region in India or USA or any country for that matter, would not these countries retaliate to regain control or protect their territories? Likewise, crusades were in response to the unjustified Islamic aggression.

            Moreover, the Bible endorses just war. So from a biblical perspective, the crusades, as a just war - in response to an unjustified Islamic aggression, cannot be unequivocally condemned.

            However, atrocities committed during the crusades cannot be defended. The crusades violated the just-war stipulations. So an apology for the atrocities committed during crusades is in order.

            Mere apology would not suffice. Warped reasons that caused these atrocities should be examined and corrected to prevent future mishaps. Faulty theology, misguided and unruly campaigns are some causes for those atrocities.

            The sole cause for these reasons is the Satan. Satan will exist until the Lord’s return. So evil will continue to be perpetrated by the Satan under the pretext of some reason or the other.   

            Will religion cause wars and atrocities in the future?

            Religions that espouse martyrdom and killing their enemies could wage unjust wars.

            Christianity, if properly understood, should not cause unjust wars. But evil reigns in every gullible and spiritually immature man, so there are possibilities that radical and militant Christianity, which violate the Bible, could cause violence and wars. This cannot be ruled out. Such Christian militant outfits are in existence.

            But unjustified violence is not innate to Christianity. Old Testament cannot be cited as a pretext for violence. When the woman caught in the act of adultery was brought before the Lord, the Pharisees recommended her to be stoned according to the Old Testament laws.

            But Christ exposed the depravity inherent in every human to teach the accurate application of the Old Testament laws by highlighting that the one without sin cast the first stone.


Websites referenced were last accessed on 4th January 2016.






6 Ibid.                                                                                 

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