What about the Crusades?

The Crusades


This history and apologetic for the Crusades is suitable for junior or senior high school social studies or history students.

Pope Blessed Urban II and the first crusade

Urban had been a Cluny monk and an assistant to Pope Gregory. For a time, be had been a prisoner of Henry IV. When Urban was elected, Rome was held by the imperial anti-pope. Urban spent the first three years of his reign in south Italy, but he held councils and improved ecclesiastical discipline. Finally the forces of Countess Matilda of Tuscany, who had supported Gregory against Henry all along, defeated Henry at Canossa. Urban entered Rome, but the anti-pope still held the strong places. Urban didn’t sit on the Papal throne until six years after his election.

Urban’s main achievement was convoking the Council of Clermont, November 1095, which called the First Crusade. The Byzantine Emperor, Alexius Commenus, had sent a desperate appeal to Urban for armed knights to defend Christianity against the Moslem enemy. When the Pope laid the Emperor’s pleas before the knights in Clermont, the main concern of the noblemen there was not so much the defense of Byzantium as the rescue of the Holy land from Moslem domination. Palestine had been under Moslem control since the days of the Caliph Omar, but at least the Arab Moslems had allowed Christian pilgrims to visit the places made sacred by the life of Christ. The SeIjuk Turks, now the dominant Moslem power, had, on the other hand, closed off the Holy Land.

Thus the Pope concluded his speech to the council with these words: “Men of God, men chosen and blessed among all, combine your forces! Take the road to the Holy Sepulcher assured of the imperishable glory that awaits you in God’s kingdom. Let each one deny himself and take the Cross!” With a shout — “God wills it” — the Assembly rose. They adopted a red cross as their emblem, and within a few hours no more red material remained in the town because the knights had cut it all up into crosses to be sewn on their sleeves. Because of their emblem (crux is the Latin word for cross) they were given the name Crusaders.

It is important to understand that the Crusades were a just war. The Church is frequently attacked on the question of the Crusades, sometimes on the grounds that the Christian nations of Europe were the aggressors and encouraged to be so by the Popes, sometimes on the grounds that this kind of war was inappropriate for Christians to fight, and sometimes on the grounds that immoral things happened on the Crusades. Each of these objections can be countered, showing that the Crusades were a just war.

First, the Christian nations of Europe were definitely not the aggressors. As we have seen in earlier chapters, the Moslems had been aggressors against the Christians since the seventh century. Their attacks on Christian countries were still going on in the eleventh century. In 1071 the Turks had attacked and virtually annihilated the Byzantine army at Manzikert. It was this defeat that led the Byzantine Emperor to appeal to the Pope for aid against the Moslems. The Christian countries of Europe were clearly justified in defending themselves against Moslem attacks and also in going on the offensive in order to prevent future attacks. At no point did the Crusaders attack the Moslem homeland, Arabia, but only those originally Christian territories that the Moslems had conquered.

Second, it certainly was and is appropriate for Christians to defend themselves and the innocent and helpless against attacks, which is exactly what the Crusaders were doing. It is also appropriate for Christians to try to regain lands which their enemy had conquered, as was the case with the Holy Land. The religious significance of the Holy land makes it even better that Christians try to regain it rather than worse, since Christians had every right to govern the lands where Christ had walked and to protect them from desecration.

Finally, there were certainly abuses during the Crusades, most notably the Sack of Jerusalem and the Sack of Constantinople, both of which are discussed below. But an immoral action during a war does not detract from the justice of the cause of the war. The immoral action should be condemned, as Godfrey de Bouillon condemned the Sack of Jerusalem and Simon de Montfort condemned the Sack of Constantinople, but the war itself remains just.

To read the rest of this article click –>The Crusades

2 Responses

  1. Dear whom it may concern:

    The claim was made here that it is appropriate for Christians to both defend themselves and to fight to regain lands, but the Scriptures teach that our warfare is not against flesh and blood, we do not war according to the flesh, and our weapons are not carnal but mighty in God for casting down arguments that are against God (Ephesians 6: 10-20; 2 Corinthians 10: 3-6).

    From whence is the authority that says “We may fight wars according to the flesh”?


    • Hello Joe,

      All scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim 3:15) means the OT is just as inspired as the NT.

      In OT, God commanded the Israelites to defend their nation by force of arms at various times. It is even said that there’s a season for everything under heaven, including “a time to kill” (Eccl 3:3). In NT, Jesus told the apostles to “let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one” (Lk 22:36). He also strongly commended the faith of a Roman centurion and healed his servant (Matt 8:5-13). Paul also stated that the state “does not bear the sword in vain” but is “God’s servant for your good” (Rom 13:4). Many early Christians were soldiers and one of them, Cornelius, was called “a righteous and God-fearing man” (Acts 10:22). In Heb 11:32-34, OT men and their military acts were extolled: “… Gideon, Barak, Samson … David and Samuel and the prophets who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness … escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became might in war, put foreign armies to flight.”

      So a Christian is not a total pacifist. The concept of a “spiritual warfare” is not a justification or excuse for remaining a bystander when your wife or daughter or a
      “neighbor” is raped and killed in front of you. The decisive victory at the Battle of Lepanto saved Christian Europe from the aggressive expansion of Islam. Today, we are again in a time when there is a virulent hostility toward Christianity including a global violence and many jihad campaigns. We are reminded of the crusaders, who under a united Christendom rallying around the Pope, were able to respond to thwart the advance of Islamic ambitions.

      There is no radical departure of morality between OT and NT: God does not change. We just need to interpret the Bible on its own terms and in its totality. One of the main weaknesses of Protestantism is a lack of the development of moral theology.

      What do you think?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: