Friday, February 06, 2009

Kenneth Cragg on the Crusades

The Crusades were served with a devotion that, had it been wise and true as it was fervent and undaunted, would have blessed the Eastern world. [...] The really important matter was not the possibility of pilgrimage but the obligation of witness. Christ's concern was, and is, for men not monuments, for souls, not sanctuaries.

Kenneth Cragg, The Call of the Minaret, Third Ed. pp. 238, 9
Oxford: Oneworld 1956, 2000

9 comments:

Samuel said...

The Crusades were in my view a wise and necessary response to Islam's war machine. Had it not been for Islam, and had Christianity been dominant in the lives of the people of the Middle East, the Middle East could have been comparable to Europe and more blessed than it is now.

Just one wrong turn in history, by only one man, is all it takes to regress it for more than a thousand years.

From the Middle East said...

43 ​“You have heard that it was said, ​‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, ​Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 ​so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 ​For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,8 what more are you doing than others? Do not even ​the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be p​erfect, ​as your heavenly Father is perfect."
- Matthew 5:43-48

14 "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 ​Live in harmony with one another. ​Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.8 Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but ​give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, ​live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, ​never avenge yourselves, but leave it​ to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, ​“if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." - Romans 12:14-21

Samuel said...

Those are for human relations (and in the context of Christians being persecuted, as Jesus & Paul stressed), not for international & national affairs between states. Or else it would mean we cannot have prisons or laws that punish criminals; and states would be unable to defend themselves against a threatening power. The two situations are not to be confused, hopefully.

I believe that is the case even for a Christian state. (Granted that perhaps it is an issue on which some Christians may be divided.) Christians did go to wars under Constantine, for example, and subsequently---following the Old Testament model, when God had His reasons for instructing His people to go to war.

From the Middle East said...

Brother Samuel,

Just imagine if all of the Christians involved in the Crusades chose to obedience to Jesus and His Kingdom above obedience to man.

Peace to you brother,
From the Middle East

PS - Somehow I do think that when one person is running a sword through another, whether it is at the behest of a government or his own thoughts and emotions, it is intensely personal.

Samuel said...

Of course, FTME, it is never an easy proposition, I agree. However, a Christian needs to weigh between thrusting a sword at his enemy versus the enemy doing so on his own people. If I let this enemy live then I have allowed him to kill my own people, which would then be a much graver sin resulting from my own inaction; it is as if I had killed my own people. This, I will not let happen, if I am a Christian soldier in battle.

Just imagine if all of the Christians involved in the Crusades chose to obedience to Jesus and His Kingdom above obedience to man.

But how is it clear that Jesus intended what he said (to persecuted Christians in the first century) to apply to all (Christian) wars at the state level? It seems to me that there is at least some room for interpretation here. I think that there are many situations to which Jesus' beatitude applies, and other situations to which it was not aimed.

From the Middle East said...

Brother Samuel,

I few thoughts and I must be about some other things:

You said:
If I let this enemy live then I have allowed him to kill my own people, which would then be a much graver sin resulting from my own inaction; it is as if I had killed my own people.

I'm pretty sure God does not think "our people" are more important than "their people." Good Samaritan, love your ENEMIES, no Jew or Greek, etc. This is the point I was making. People are made in the image of God. Not some, all. And there are no qualifications in terms of race or ideology. We are all created by God.

You also said:
But how is it clear that Jesus intended what he said (to persecuted Christians in the first century) to apply to all (Christian) wars at the state level? It seems to me that there is at least some room for interpretation here. I think that there are many situations to which Jesus' beatitude applies, and other situations to which it was not aimed.

I find this line of argumentation quite intriguing in light of our conversation here. I suppose Muslims do not get the same liberty in interpreting the "violent" passages in their book. I know that was slightly off-topic and more relevant for the other conversation, but I thought it worth pointing out.

As to the content of your argument:
1. I think you are explaining away Jesus' and Paul's words, but I'll bite. What, exactly is the difference, from God's perspective, in killing a person because someone else (a government) told you to do it and because they were about to martyr you for your faith? Why would God want His people to react differently in each case?
2. While I am completely comfortable with the Old Testament, you said elsewhere that: "As far as Paul is concerned, the OT law was nailed to the cross, along with stoning. We are now under a New Covenant." In light of this, can you give me some New Testament passages stating we should kill our neighbors for one reason or the other (remember that I am referring to God's people and what we should do, not what some godless government is doing).
3. I do not see the burden of proof being upon me to "prove" that when Jesus said not to kill people who seek to kill me and Paul said to bless those who curse me and to overcome evil with good and not repay evil for evil, that, somehow, this only applies to people who are after me for "religious" reasons. That is a totally Western concept (compartmentalization of different aspects of our lives). Neither Jesus nor Paul thought this way.
4. I am not commenting on what your government of choice has done/is doing. Rather, I am commenting on whether or not people who are devoted to God should kill other people. It seems against the entire New Testament.
5. For the record, I grew up with more than 30 firearms in my home and was taught from an early age that military service is good and that we shoot burglars through the door. I'm what we call in the South a redneck!

I have more, but am a little sleepy now. Good visiting with you again brother.

Peace to you,
From the Middle East

Samuel said...

I'm pretty sure God does not think "our people" are more important than "their people."

Then you will have to tell that to God Himself since He already directed the Israelite wars recounted in Joshua (as you cited in a previous post). Apparently, God did think that the people of Israel, lead by Joshua, are more important than the people of Jericho (even if they were made in His image).

I find this line of argumentation quite intriguing in light of our conversation here.

You had the word "here" linked to a dead link, so I could not tell what you meant.

I suppose Muslims do not get the same liberty in interpreting the "violent" passages in their book.

Of course they do. They have interpreted it the way their prophet has acted and taught them (as I detailed out in my other post where I cited the Hadith's sayings of Muhammad). Does that mean Muslims cannot re-interpret their Quran? Of course not, but the problem will be that historically the actions of their prophet and his followers have not been in accord to a rationalized re-interpretation, but more in accord to how Islam acted in the past and is acting today. That's where the rubber meets the road.

What, exactly is the difference, from God's perspective, in killing a person because someone else (a government) told you to do it and because they were about to martyr you for your faith? Why would God want His people to react differently in each case?

Dare I speak for God? You will have to ask Him on His perspective. As for my perspective (not necessarily God's, of course), I would say that a Christian could view the two situations as one; that is, just as the Lord can work thru the actions of others, so it is possible that, as a Christian soldier, my obedience to my gov't (as Paul taught) is consistent with my being a martyr for my faith (since I could potentially die in war). The two situations need not be mutually exclusive, FTME.

In light of this, can you give me some New Testament passages stating we should kill our neighbors for one reason or the other (remember that I am referring to God's people and what we should do, not what some godless government is doing).

My comment, to which you are alluding, does not imply that the New Testament states what you are asking. The main point is that the NT does not say what a Christian should or should not do in the context of being a soldier in a state's armed forces. That question is left open-ended. Paul stated that we are to be "submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready, for any honest work" (Titus 3.1). That could include a state's defense forces.

3. I do not see the burden of proof being upon me to "prove" that when Jesus said not to kill people who seek to kill me and Paul said to bless those who curse me and to overcome evil with good and not repay evil for evil, that, somehow, this only applies to people who are after me for "religious" reasons. That is a totally Western concept (compartmentalization of different aspects of our lives). Neither Jesus nor Paul thought this way.

I have to confess that I have no idea what you mean here. Could you please paraphrase and perhaps explain more clearly what you mean? Are you constraining the situation to 'religious' wars? I was referring to wars in general.

To kill and to murder are different things. Of course, we are not to murder, and we agree on that. But no where in the Bible does it say that we cannot defend ourselves or to fight against a pending threat (even if we are faced with the prospect of killing an enemy in battle). If it is completely against your conscience, that's perfectly fine, you have the right to follow it. But for myself, and judging by the history of the Church, there is a time for peace and a time for war (Ecclesiastes 3). Are you saying that if you were in Joshua's shoes you would not follow the Lord's command to do battle?

Rather, I am commenting on whether or not people who are devoted to God should kill other people. It seems against the entire New Testament.

So you're saying that if you knew someone was going to kill your wife and children, and have the power to stop him by shooting him, that you would not try to stop him and let him go ahead? The head of the family should be prepared to protect and defend his family.

What about the Old Testament? Is it against the Old Testament? Are you suggesting that perhaps you see a conflict between the Old and New in this regard? Just to be clear: we're not talking about murder, of course, but about going to war with another state, where you have enemies coming after you and your country needs to take action in self-defense. Unless I strongly believe that my gov't is in the wrong to go to war, I will defend her, for that will be my Christian duty---just as it would for me to defend my wife and children from someone who wants to kill them. My country is like my family.

I'm what we call in the South a redneck!

Well, it doesn't look that red from here. :-)

From the Middle East said...

Brother Samuel,

I'm going to kind of rush through this and will have to bow out. Apologies, I have a lot of thoughts on both this thread and the other one, but cannot make these conversations a priority at this time. I'll try to address your questions in the order you posted them:

1. God did not consider the Children of Israel "more important" than the people in Jericho. Rather, he judged the people justly. And, as soon as some prophet shows up that can convince me he speaks on behalf of God and that God has ordained me kill someone or join some military, I will. However, these days we tend to offer people who speak on behalf of God psychiatric treatment instead of killing at their command. And he is going to have a hard time explaining how his words trump Jesus' command to love our enemies.

2. If you are going to argue for an Old Testament military, let's go all the way. No standing military and we only go when God clearly tells us to go....

3. The link was to the same one you linked to. The point is that when you speak with Muslim clerics about what you think the clear meaning of their texts are, you claim they are twisting what is written in order to make it look good for us. My point is that we all go through hermeneutical gymnastics because we want God to tell us to do what we already want to do or what we already think he should say. You claim the Muslim does this & then you do it here! Admittedly, this point does not fit as well with the conversation here as it does with the one about the death penalty for apostasy in Islam.

4. So, it is okay to kill your enemy if the military says to do it? Is it okay if you are an Iraqi and fight for Saddam, but happen to be a Christian? Would that be submission to the government that is appropriate? How about if you feel your colony is not being fairly represented and is overly taxed, is it okay to rebel against them... Britain was, after all, the authority prior to the revolutionary war. Were the forefathers of the U.S. in sin by revolting? There are huge ethical implications to saying, "I'll just be obedient to my government." What if Jesus commands the opposite action? Like turning the other cheek and loving our enemies.

5. On your point number 3: you seem to imply above that we should love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us for our religious beliefs, but not if our governments are at war. I am saying that Jesus' & Paul's words apply to Christians in all situations. We should ALWAYS bless those who curse, do good to evildoers & love our enemies... regardless of whether they are "religious" enemies or "political" enemies or "tribal" enemies or any other kind of enemies by the world's standard.

6. If I were in Joshua's shoes, I pray I would do exactly as God instructs. But I am not, the Messiah has come forth. The Kingdom has been opened to ALL peoples. And my marching orders are to make disciples of ALL nations. Hard to do while I'm shooting at them! My more specific order in representing God's Kingdom are to bless those who curse, do good to those who do evil to me, follow Jesus example and to love my enemies. Those are our CURRENT marching orders from our King. If he changes them, I desire to be obedient his will.

7. Your "What would you do if someone were going to kill you or your family question" is best answered in a book by John Howard Yoder called "What would you do?" It is a very quick read, but brings out some basic flaws in the question and then answers the question.

But, to answer you question, I am not a pacifist. I believe in taking action, just not violent action. After a thorough study of violence in the Bible, my wife has requested that I never kill someone on her behalf. She is convicted that she would prefer to suffer injustice rather than commit violence against her Master's will. I would however give my life for hers any day of the week. I hope that God's Spirit gives me the grace to love my enemy if that day ever comes, but, again, my flesh and upbringing will be hard to overcome in that instance... I pray for faithfulness to God and Him alone.

8. Is it against the Old Testament? In the other stream you threw out the Old Testament as "nailed to the Cross." Again, following the Old Testament pattern/model is fine. Just let me know which prophet is hearing directly from God that Jesus' words no longer apply. Wait, before the prophet comes, we need to set up our country like God intended Israel to do. So, how can we convince Obama to dismantle our army & get rid of his position, president (king), first so that we can depend totally on God for the victory. We should also not depend on high-tech stuff (chariots, etc back then) - big bombs and other stuff now. I know all of that sounds ridiculous, but if you want to go with Old Testament governmental structure and ethics, let's go all the way bro! When God says kill 'em, I'll kill 'em. But the truth is that He has spoken to no prophet as He did to Moses and Joshua about taking the land. Rather, He has instructed his people to love their enemies.

9. Jesus' parable of the "Good Samaritan" very clearly points out that our neighbors are not just those who live near us. I do not consider my country to be like my family, but I do consider my brothers and sisters in Christ to be family. Would you kill an "enemy" soldier who is also brother in Christ at the behest of your government?

10. Jesus has confronted me in many ways. One of those is in my views of people and violence. We are to overcome by good. It goes against every redneck bone in my body... but my allegiance must be to the King and not to my upbringing.

I pray that, even if you do not agree with my stance of nonviolent action, it will help you to see that all who oppose violence are not pacifists. Many of us are quite active in stomping out injustice by loving our enemies.

Peace to you brother,
From the Middle East

Samuel said...

1. God did not consider the Children of Israel "more important" than the people in Jericho. Rather, he judged the people justly.

Well then it is possible that He may want us to go to war for such a just judgment, as He has done in the past. If going to war in OT times was just in God's eyes, then so can wars today be just as well.

2. If you are going to argue for an Old Testament military, let's go all the way. No standing military and we only go when God clearly tells us to go....

Why do you need to go to extremes? I didn't argue for an OT military but only that a Christian has the right to defend his country, and go to war, when he is called to. This could be God's will and His way of judging "justly" as you alluded earlier.


The point is that when you speak with Muslim clerics about what you think the clear meaning of their texts are, you claim they are twisting what is written in order to make it look good for us.

That's because the new meanings they give, in the instance we're talking about, are contrary to their historical practices, including current threats and conflicts Islamists create around the world--in accordance with their scriptures. I heard Muslims say such things about the women issue it would make you think that Muslim women are even freeier, more reformed and more educated than Western women, but again their history of treatment of women is sadly clear to anyone who studied a little Islamic history. So it becomes, in your words "hermeneutical gymnastics," in order to put on a good face behind an ugly situation. The bottom line, of course, is that they often lie and politic in order to fool the enemy. It's tactical, and an intelligent Christian should not fall for it.


My point is that we all go through hermeneutical gymnastics because we want God to tell us to do what we already want to do or what we already think he should say. You claim the Muslim does this & then you do it here!

All I did was to point out the consistency between the straightforward interpretation of their Quranic scriptures and hadithis (in the issue discussed above)---i.e., the non-apologetic interpretation---and how they actually practiced it in history and what their leaders have said and done. The rise of the Islamist threat today underscores that all the more---and following the pattern from their past. I think we need to remember that the fall of the last Islamic empire, the Ottomans, to western Christians was a crushing blow to Muslims.

Furthermore, with Muslims it is not only hermeneutics, but politics. Islam being both a religion and a political system mixes up its hermeneutics and politics in very complex ways it becomes very difficult to set them apart. And the politics, of course, is what raises suspicion and mistrust.

4. So, it is okay to kill your enemy if the military says to do it?

Yes, especially if the enemy poses real threat to your country. One has a duty to protect one's country. That's my firm belief.

Is it okay if you are an Iraqi and fight for Saddam, but happen to be a Christian? Would that be submission to the government that is appropriate?

That's up to the Iraqi Christian. He will have to follow his own conscience and beliefs.

How about if you feel your colony is not being fairly represented and is overly taxed, is it okay to rebel against them... Britain was, after all, the authority prior to the revolutionary war. Were the forefathers of the U.S. in sin by revolting?

No, our forefathers were not in (religious) sin for revolting even if they were sinning against royalty. Christians cannot turn away from oppression and exploitation, even as Jesus did not. Sometimes they will need to act.

In the case of the Revolutionary war, it was not about religion (being Christian had nothing to do with it), but about the British King's numerous injuries and misdeeds recounted in the Declaration of Independence.

I am saying that Jesus' & Paul's words apply to Christians in all situations. We should ALWAYS bless those who curse, do good to evildoers & love our enemies...

Yes, in principle, but not blindly, and certainly not always. Jesus did not always bless. He cursed the Pharisees in his vitriolic condemnations of them in his Woe's (e.g., Matthew 23). Sometimes you have to be firm and rough. Christians were not called upon to be the world's pussycats. There's a "time to kill, and a time to heal ... a time of war, and a time of peace ... A time to love, and a time to hate" (Eccl.).

Your comments about yourself and your wife are touching even if too idealistic. However we live in a harsh world where such ideals would spell a country's doom were it to follow it (and have no military). As much as I cherish my Christian beliefs, I'm glad to separate church from state, so that the state can deal with the hard realities of life (and protect people like you). In any case, may the Lord bless you, your wife, and your family, and keep you safe from harm. I apologize for bringing them into such an unpleasant example.

But, to answer you question, I am not a pacifist.

Then, according to the dictionary definition of the word, you cannot be opposed to violence (even if you choose not to do it yourself), and perhaps even not against war.

8. Is it against the Old Testament? In the other stream you threw out the Old Testament as "nailed to the Cross."

No I didn't, i said most of its laws (mostly levitical), which were done away with the inception of Christianity.

Would you kill an "enemy" soldier who is also brother in Christ at the behest of your government?

Soldiers on opposite sides in a war do not take time to discuss matters to find out what their religious backgrounds are. They shoot! But if I'm lucky, we can always take a brother in Christ as a POW. :-) It is possible, though, that in the process that I kill a Christian soldier on the other side since he is following his own country. That can certainly happen, and has happened many times before and all thru history (e.g., during the US Revolutionary and Civil wars).

I pray that, even if you do not agree with my stance of nonviolent action, it will help you to see that all who oppose violence are not pacifists.

Sorry but that sounds inconsistent, since not being a pacifist means one is not against war hence not against violence. (Please look up definition of 'pacifist.')