I sat down and read this review this morning and it upset me so much, I had to write a reply. Chalcedon wants to tell us how wonderful The Crusades were.
Here's a link to a book review on Chalcedon's website. Chalcedon is the organization started by the patriarch of Theonomic Reconstructionism RJ Rushdooney who died back in 2001.
Review of God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades
By Lee Duigon
This is a perfect example of showing Sacralist historiography at work both in the book and the reviewer. If you want to see how they play with history and current events in the name of Worldview, then please read this interaction. I have a brief intro, and then I directly interact with this book review.
Unabashed Constantinians, these folks wish to recast the Middle Ages as a time of wonderful Sacralist Unity, something to emulate rather than criticize. They freely admit they would return to such a time, though avoiding the Theological errors of the Papacy.
Instead, a Theonomic Christendom is what they envision which would substitute Free Market Capitalism for Feudalism and a few other modifications along those lines.
Of course, to the Medieval Underground, the Protoprotestant congregations, cells, and conventicles scattered throughout Europe, medieval Roman or Byzantine Christendom was every bit as oppressive as Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany. These people lived in fear for their lives but happily risked them for the sake of the gospel. Were the Chalcedon faction or their proxies to ever gain power, the faithful remnant would find itself in a similar situation once more.
Duigon begins his review by asserting:
How very grand and self-important, to “apologize” for something that happened a thousand years ago! But it is told, virtually without dissent, that the Crusades were an altogether wicked enterprise, a senseless aggression against innocent and inoffensive people, and that the whole Muslim world has been stewing over it ever since: and that this justified grievance of theirs excuses any Muslim violence against the West today.
While no one justifies the initial violence brought forth by the Muslim conquerors in the 7th century, the reality was by Pope Urban’s call for Crusade in 1095, these people had already held these lands for approximately 350 years. It wasn’t like the Crusaders were going to go in and give the old resident’s their houses back. This was by that time, an established civilizational and cultural shift. It was no longer part of the Byzantine Sphere.
Islam is usually perceived as a monolithic entity which is as false a category for Islam as it would be if applied to Medieval Europe. The Seljuk Turks had been pushing from Central Asia and at this time had the entire Muslim world in disarray. They had crushed the Byzantines and Manzikert in 1071. That’s in southeastern Turkey on today’s map, the Sejuks had effectively sliced the Byzantine belly and were in the process of overrunning all of Anatolia.
The ‘glory’ of the Macedonian Emperors was past and the Byzantine Empire was in trouble. Of course Stark the author of this book, and Duigon the reviewer will not take into account that Christian groups like the Paulicians who had been savagely persecuted by the Byzantine Empire actually collaborated, appealed to, and sometimes allied with the Muslim Invaders. I’m not justifying it. I’m just saying that was the state of things. More than 100,000 Paulicians had been murdered by their Sacralist Byzantine overlords just a few generations before. They had no love for representative of ‘Christ’ who sat on the throne in Constantinople.
I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone say the Muslim anger over the crusades ‘justifies’ their violence today. I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Yet, the Crusades represent something of a transformation of the relationship between Christendom and Islam on the Eastern Front. They had of course been in a constant of war in the west, as the Reconquista was long underway in Spain.
One who reads histories of the Crusades will often find the Crusading knights to be bloody and treacherous, stabbing each other in the back and everyone else all along the way. Yet, this is war, this conquest. You can’t call it re-conquest, because it was evident the Crusaders, many under Norman impulse had no interest whatsoever in returning these lands to the sphere of Constantinople. These were adventurers from the Western lands who wanted to establish new Levantine kingdoms which is what they did. They established Outremer, the overseas Crusader States. Hence, this was a conquest.
Of course we could also point out this is all in the context of assuming the validity of Christendom, assuming the validity of Holy War. And I guess we’re not going to talk about how the spiritual impetus was holy war for the forgiveness of sins. We’ve come a long way from New Testament Christianity. Though Roman Catholic, it is the same Judaizing Spirit, the same misunderstanding of the Christo-typological nature of the Mosaic covenant at work in Theonomic Reconstructionism. It is at its root, the same spirit and error that brought us the Medieval Papal Antichrist. Hence, men like Duigon and Stark are keen to protect and promote it. See how they twist history.....
Duigon next asserts:
. It is further suggested that the Crusades is the reason why Islam fell so very far behind the West culturally, technologically, politically, and economically (p. 4).
All of this, says Rodney Stark, is balderdash.
Stark’s argument is so clear and cogent that he can sum it up in one paragraph. And here it is:
“The Crusades were not unprovoked. They were not the first round of European colonialism. They were not conducted for land, loot, or converts. The Crusaders were not barbarians who victimized the cultivated Muslims. They sincerely believed that they served in God’s battalions.” (p. 248)
Well, those who blame the Crusaders for everything would be guilty of the same oversimplifications these Theonomists are guilty of. Acre fell in 1291 ending the Crusader states. The Mamluks of Egypt had risen to leadership in the Muslim world and were also contending with the Mongols. In fact it was the Mamluk leader Baibars who was the first to actually stop the Mongols and defeat them in battle in 1260 at Ain-Jalut. No one had ever done that before. The Mongol Hulagu had destroyed Baghdad in 1258, an event along the lines of the fall of Rome to the Muslim world at the time. Did the Muslims have a harder time dealing with the Mongols due the Crusaders? Absolutely. Did the Crusaders try to forge alliances with the Mongols. Absolutely. There was a Franco-Mongol alliance that helped lead to the titanic battle at Ain-Jalut.
So as usual, we have an oversimplification. No Neutrality Worldview Teaching has given Theonomists a historiography that teaches them...they know. They know how to interpret history and feel justified, I guess?...in either ignoring facts or perverting them for their agenda.
It was the first round of Colonialism. Land and loot were what motivated some people. Converts were the motivation of many a monk. All armies are barbaric. And as far as serving in God’s battalions, that’s true, many of them did. And of course, for us to interpret this, as Christians, we allow Theology and History and meet, and we must utterly condemn the notion that these Crusaders were in any way shape or form serving the Kingdom of God.
Truth matters, in and of itself. History matters, too. No one in the West today seems angry that waves of Muslim invaders attacked and conquered Christian lands, subjecting the inhabitants to centuries of assorted persecutions, to this day. The first wave consumed the Middle East, Persia, Egypt and North Africa, and Spain. The second engulfed Anatolia and Constantinople, and the third crashed against the walls of Vienna in the very heart of Europe. It wasn’t for want of trying that Muslims failed to conquer all of Europe and the entire Mediterranean. That’s history, and the background against which the Crusades must be considered. (The whole story is given in Chapter One, “Muslim Invaders.”)
A public school teacher-in-training once said to me, “It’s okay to teach the kids things that aren’t true, as long as it makes them feel good about themselves.” In the case of the Crusades, Westerners are taught things that aren’t true to make them feel bad about themselves
Oh, I think there are plenty of Greeks, Bulgars, and Slavs who would object to the Duigon’s statement. If he means Western Europe, then perhaps that’s true. Of course, I guess we’re going to ignore how the Western powers gobbled up the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. The British had already controlled Egypt since they took over in collaboration with the Turkish Sultan in the early 1800’s. It had been conquered by Napoleon, a fascinating story Donald Rumsfeld should have read before he wanted to invade Iraq.
The British created the Arabian kingdoms of Saudi Arabia, and Trans-Jordan. They also created the modern state of Iraq, and set up the Mandate in Palestine which would later give European Jewry the auspices of setting up the modern state of Israel. Persia came under western domination and had long been involved in clashes with Tsarist Russia. The French created Syria and Lebanon in addition to their holdings in Muslim North Africa. Basically by the time the dust from World War I settled, virtually the entire Muslim world was on its knees, the whole of the Middle East was in Western hands. Turkey was free, but under the genocidal secularist Ataturk. Collectively, they had a little reason to be upset. The Arabs were happy to be free from the Turks, but 20th Century politics would continue to anger and frustrate the Arab Street as they would see their leaders as corrupt proxies for Western interests and the people suffering the effects of corruption.
Did they tie all this in with the Crusades? Sure. Anyone would. Even many of the Europeans drew parallels. The British General Allenby while marching into Jerusalem in 1917, allegedly declared, “Today, the Crusades have ended...”
The French General Gouraud marched into Damascus and kicked Saladin’s tomb announcing, “We’re back!”
The Allenby line might be apocryphal, but Gouraud’s actions and the perceptions on the street were nevertheless true.
As far as the Muslims trying to conquer Europe, yes, that did happen. Empires do that. This is the theology of the Beast as the Apocalyptic literature teaches us. All Beasts are forms of Sacralism, man-made theocracies, states demanding worship because they are the sons of the God, those who hold the mandate of heaven.
So again, a right Christian worldview and historiography teaches us the Muslims were evil, the Crusaders were evil, and the Byzantines were evil. Theologically in some ways the Christian expressions are worse, because they deceive people in the name of Christ.
Stark and Duigon are also going to ignore that fact that as Ottomans stood outside the gates in Vienna in 1683, they had Hungarian Protestant allies fighting with them against Habsburg Vienna. You see, the Hungarian Calvinists though it was better to be ruled by Turk than a Habsburg. It was a saying of theirs. Think about that. It was better to be ruled by a Muslim Sacralist state than a Christian one. The Muslims let them worship freely, but Christian Sacralists won’t allow for that. Their version demands total conformity.
I’m not defending the Hungarian Reformed of Transylvania. Their legacy through history ends being fairly sad as well, though I find it ironic that Calvinists in 21st Century America would side with the Habsburgs over and against their co-religionists.
Christians must stand against faked-up history no matter how it makes people feel about themselves.
I absolutely agree. That’s why I’m writing this review of your review.
Some of the Facts
Far from being unprovoked, the Crusades only began after more than 300 years of non-stop Muslim aggression against the Christian world. Finally, in 1095, the Byzantine Emperor wrote to the Pope, asking for military aid.
A few years earlier, the Caliph of Egypt destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, along with many other Christian churches and sacred sites throughout the Holy Land. Muslims murdered and enslaved Christian pilgrims. Weighing the known historical evidence, Stark concludes, “In any event, mass murders of Christian monks and pilgrim were common … These events challenge the claims about Muslim religious tolerance” (pp. 84–85). The Pope and his preachers alluded to these numerous incidents, exhorting Christian knights to defend their fellow Christians.
Again this is all cast in Sacralist categories. And as we’ve explained elsewhere, the Turkish arrival had the Muslim world in turmoil. It was largely in a state of chaos in the late 11th century
when the First Crusade arrived. It has been suggested had the Crusaders come a century earlier or later, they wouldn’t have even made a dent.
Notice how Christian here is defined in the Sacralist third category....the Cultural Level of the Visible Church. It’s not just the doctrine of the visible church, it’s the added tier of culture-christian. It is a category unknown to Scripture.
Did the Crusaders go east to get rich? Hardly—going on a crusade was an expensive undertaking. “Nor were the Crusades organized and led by surplus sons,” writes Stark, “but by the heads of great families who were fully aware that the costs of crusading would far exceed the very modest material rewards that could be expected; most went at immense personal cost, some of them knowingly bankrupting themselves to go” (p. 8).
Having conquered the Holy Land, the Crusaders established little kingdoms there. These could not survive without enormous subsidies from Europe—and so they must not be viewed as colonies in any meaningful sense. Colonies are expected to be profitable to the mother country, as India was to Britain. We all learned in school—didn’t we?—how King George and Parliament wrung profits out of their American colonies.
This is just not a true statement. It’s once again an oversimplification. Were some of the Crusaders led by heads of great families? Sure. But were many surplus sons and especially Norman adventurers... yes.
Modest material rewards? I don’t call become a feudal lord in the rich east a modest material reward. For many of these knights, they were landless and were obviously drooling at the prospect of great wealth and power. Often they had family that was more than willing to help bankroll them. If they found success, great doors of trade and commerce would open up. On a positive note that is incidental not meant to support the paradigm, the Crusades did open up the doors between East and West. And the West undoubtedly benefited more from it.
What a strange little interpretation and justification for not calling these Colonies? Okay, fine they weren’t ‘colonies’...they were conquered enclaves in the East that had familial, political, ecclesiastical, cultural, and economic ties with Western Europe. After a marriage or two, these kingdoms are INTIMATELY tied in with the whole European feudal order. This was probably one of the most ignorant statements the author made in this review.
“In any event,” says Stark, “to identify the Crusader kingdoms as colonies in the usual sense is absurd … In terms of political control, the kingdoms were fully independent of any European state. In terms of economic exploitation, it would be more apt to identify Europe as a colony of the Holy Land, since the very substantial flow of wealth and resources was from the West to the East!” (p. 173).
This shows a gross misunderstanding of the politics and economics of the Crusades and Stark is playing games with the word ‘colony’ because he doesn’t like its connotations.
I think I’ve already proved my point above.
The Myth of Muslim Civilization
Were the Europeans that barbaric, and the Muslims that advanced, as current revisionism has it? In a chapter entitled “Western ‘Ignorance’ Versus Eastern ‘Culture’”, Stark turns the conventional wisdom upside-down.
“To the extent that Arab elites acquired a sophisticated culture,” he declares, “they learned it from their subject peoples” (p. 56). Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and Hindus, already civilized and cultured when Muslims conquered them, went on being civilized and cultured afterward, with their new Muslim overlords the beneficiaries of their efforts—be it scholarship, architecture, commerce, or shipbuilding. Much of the achievement of “Muslim civilization” was the work of non-Muslims (see p. 59 for some prominent examples) forced to adopt Arab names and publish their work in Arabic. For as long as there was a great pool of cultured non-Muslim subjects on which to draw, Arab civilization flourished. When, after centuries of persecution and forced conversion to Islam, that pool dried up, the Muslim world went into decline.
Regardless of where they learned it, all histories agree, even the Crusaders...they were in awe of the East. It’s one of the great themes of Western Literature, Poetry, and Song. The Crusaders were in awe of the Muslims and the Byzantines.
Somehow Stark thinks the Crusaders aided the Muslims in scholarship, architecture, commerce, or shipbuilding? That’s quite an assertion. I don’t think any credible historian would agree regarding scholarship and architecture. The Muslims far excelled in these fields. As far as commerce and shipbuilding...I’m not sure in what way he would mean this? The Muslims were already competent seamen and to the south in Arabia had been crossing the Indian Ocean for centuries riding the monsoon to India and back...over open ocean, something Westerners were still afraid to do in 1492.
As far as other races contributing to Muslim culture...didn’t the same thing happen in Europe as the Germanic peoples, Slavs, etc... were ‘christianized’ or as I would put it, Sacralized. What of the Jewish contribution in Europe?
Europe, meanwhile, forged ahead of Islam in such areas as transport (pp. 67–68), agriculture (pp. 69–70), and military technology and doctrine (pp. 70–76). “Even if we grant the claims,” says Stark, “that educated Arabs possessed superior knowledge of classical authors and produced some outstanding mathematicians and astronomers, the fact remains that they lagged far behind in terms of such vital technology as saddles, stirrups, horseshoes, wagons and carts, effective plows, crossbows, Greek fire, shipwrights, sailors, effective armor, and well-trained infantry. Little wonder that crusaders could march more than twenty-five hundred miles, defeat an enemy that vastly outnumbered them, and continue to do so as long as Europe was prepared to support them” (p. 76).
Okay, so since this is a review of a review and I don’t have Stark’s book in hand I have to go with Duigon’s interpretation and my own knowledge of history.
Transport? Well I’ve already asserted the Muslims were superior seamean. Also they certainly knew a bit more about caravanning across the desert. Agriculture? Though I don’t recall reading about Qanat’s in Palestine. Look it up on Wikipedia. They’re underground aqueducts common throughout Persia and North Africa and they are amazing even with today’s technology.
As far as military technology and doctrine, this is patently false as the only reason the Crusader’s had any success was due to the Turkish-caused chaos in the Levant. Once the Muslims got it together under Saladin, the Crusades is just a story of defeat after defeat for the Westerners.
Even though Stark has shown he has no trouble perverting the facts to support his agenda, even he has to admit the Muslims were for more knowledgeable in the realm of academics. To suggest the Crusaders were superior in anything to do with horses shows a complete and utter lack of knowledge of the history of horsemanship and cavalry. The Turkish-Kipchak Mamluks were superior horsemen. That’s the legacy of Central Asia! Their unstoppable cavalries! This is the legacy of the Huns, Pechenegs, Cumans, Seljuks, Mongols etc....These were the very types of forces that beat the Crusaders. The Kipchaks were Turkish people that formed the basis for the Mamluks.
I’ve already addressed the issues regarding the ships. Greek fire was never in the hands of the Crusaders, that was a Byzantine state secret. As far as crossbows, armour, and infantry...well, who won?
Three Black Marks
In popular thought, the three blackest marks against the Crusaders are violence against the European Jews, a wholesale massacre of innocents following the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, and their sacking of Constantinople, a Christian city, in 1204. Dr. Stark inquires into the truth concerning these outrages.
The First Crusade (1095–1099) consisted of three smaller “crusades” intended to meet at Constantinople and invade Muslim territory as a united force. Two of them accomplished this: the “Princes’ Crusade,” led by French and Norman nobles, and “the People’s Crusade” led by Peter the Hermit. The third group, the “German Crusade,” never arrived. It was this group, not the others, that attacked the Jews, mostly in the Rhine Valley.
This was done in spite of strenuous efforts by the German bishops to protect the Jews (pp.126–127) With the memory of these atrocities still fresh when the Second Crusade got under way in 1145, St. Bernard of Clairvaux successfully intervened to stop a second anti-Jewish pogrom on the Rhine.
So just because the German group didn’t make it, does that somehow excuse what they did? Yes, the Catholic hierarchy condemned the violence of the mob. But Sacralism is the source of all Western anti-semitism and bears much of the guilt for all that anti-semitism has brought the world. So, it was the system that Stark and Duigon want to defend that led to those types of attitudes among the populace, and the political and economic order that forced Jews into situations, like being moneylenders as opposed to landholders, that helped foment the whole situation.
Bernard of Clairvaux though elevated by many Protestants is not to be admired. He helped promote the 2nd Crusade and bears just as much guilt.
So, yes, some of the Crusaders—but most of them, not—were guilty of murdering German Jews. Far from acquiescing to this, the Church did everything in its power to stop it.
What about the bloodbath in Jerusalem? Stark explains that by the conventions of medieval warfare, cities that resisted invading armies were customarily punished severely if taken by the enemy—a tradition going back to the Assyrians and the Romans in ancient times. “Granted,” he says, “it was a cruel and bloody age, but nothing is to be gained either in terms of moral insights or historical comprehension by anachronistically imposing the Geneva Convention on those times” (p. 158).
Even by the standards of the day, what the Crusaders did in Jerusalem was an absolute murderous slaughter. That event became embedded in the psyche of the people of that region. It was blood-orgy.
What’s even more pathetic, was that so many of the inhabitants weren’t even Muslims. The cosmopolitan and sophisticated Crusaders that Stark wants to portray didn’t know the difference between Jews and Muslims.
It happened. It’s history. Yes, we don’t have impose the Geneva Convention, nor do we have to glorify and vindicate murder in the name of Christ.
Perhaps we ought to set against Jerusalem the Muslims’ recapture of Antioch in 1268, complete with “a massacre that even shocked Muslim chroniclers … an orgy of torture, killing, and desecration” (p. 231), but “barely reported in many recent Western history of the Crusades” (p. 232). Be that as it may, massacres in captured cities are hardly an unusual feature of the history of this fallen world, nor an invention of the Crusaders.
As for the sack of Constantinople, this only occurred after some 200 years of Byzantine treachery and double-dealing—including a secret imperial alliance with Saladin against the Third Crusade (p. 198) in 1189. In 1204 the straw that broke the camel’s back was the emperor’s launching of a surprise attack on the Fourth Crusade’s fleet, which had
assembled at Constantinople—at the emperor’s invitation!—to resupply before attacking Muslim Egypt. With their fleet destroyed and in danger of starving on the shore, the Crusaders turned on the author of their misfortunes and took the city (pp. 213–217). Better men have done worse, with smaller provocation.
No one here is trying to defend the recapture of Antioch. Perhaps they wouldn’t have been so violent if the Crusader’s hadn’t been there?
As far as Byzantine double-dealing....all sides were engaged in that from day one. The Crusaders never had any intention of giving those lands back to Constantinople. They had established the new Holy Roman Empire in the West which was a direct attack on the authority of Byzantium’s claim to political leadership of Christendom.
Did they attack the 4th Crusade’s fleet? If you bother to read about the fiasco of the 4th Crusade then you will understand why. The Doge of Venice basically commandeered the Crusading army and was gunning for Constantinople. They got involved in the politics of the city and were supporting a claimant to the throne. It gets complicated and the way Stark and Duigon are presenting it shows again either a kind of simplified ignorance or just willful manipulation of the story.
What is really troubling is that such a book as this had to be written in the first place. The facts about the Crusades were just lying around, as it were, waiting to be picked up and displayed. No extraordinary detective work was required. All Rodney Stark had to do was “synthesize the work of these specialists [historians, et al.] into a more comprehensive perspective, written in prose that is accessible to the general reader” (p. 9). In this he has succeeded admirably.
What he means is...filter it through Sacralist Historiograpy so it supports what we want it to say.
Is it irrelevant that long after the last Crusader was driven from the Holy Land, Muslim armies in 1453 took and sacked Constantinople, the capital of Eastern Christendom, renamed it Istanbul, converted its famous churches into mosques, and hold it to this day? Was it hard feelings over the Crusades that impelled Turkish armies in the sixteenth century to spread out through the Christian Balkans, advancing ruthlessly until stopped at last at Vienna and Lepanto? Was it those long-dead Crusaders who gradually over the next 400 years transformed the rampaging Ottoman Empire into the Sick Man of Europe?
Muslims didn’t rediscover their resentment of the Crusades until the Ottomans lost their power to conquer Christians and the Muslim world was forced to confront a Western world that had had a Reformation and an Industrial Revolution, and leaped into the modern age while the lamp of Islam guttered out. There had to be a reason for it. It had to be somebody’s fault—it couldn’t be the inherent backwardness of Islam. And so the Crusades became—along with the founding of the state of Israel—an all-purpose explanation for everything that’s gone wrong for Islam in the last four centuries. Somehow, if not for the Crusades, places like Afghanistan and Sudan and Saudi Arabia would be way ahead of the West today.
More Sacralist interpretation of events. Sure the Muslims defeated themselves in the end. After 1683, it was one long decline. This coupled with the events of the 20th century have done much to contribute to a certain angst and frustration for many in Middle East, a pessimism about the world. As far as the Muslims rediscovering the resentment...that’s also quite an assertion that I don’t think Stark can prove.
Again, everything is put into big simplified sweeps. Read the history of the Sudan. Read what happened with the British, the rise of the Mahdi, and the aftermath. Afghanistan was the battleground of the Great Game between Tsarist Russia and British India, although Afghanistan’s once great civilization had already been decimated by Mongol scion Tamerlane in the 14th century.
Westerners have bought into the myth of the evil, unprovoked Crusades that wrecked a brilliant Muslim civilization and now fuels Muslim jihads against the West. Perhaps Rodney Stark is right in attributing the hatching of this myth to Enlightenment historians who wished to abase and discredit the Church (p. 6), to the benefit of humanism.
Whatever the case, we cannot make rational or righteous judgments about the present if we are basing them on a lot of hokum about the past.
We applaud Dr. Stark for setting the record straight.
Sadly, Stark and Duigon have done a great disservice to the Truth and show themselves not only woefully ignorant of History, but indeed wholly ignorant of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, its nature, principle, and imperative.
This is an end justifies the means historiography at work. This is what so-called Christian Worldview, Kuyperian-Van Tillian thought in application has given us. Defend the Monism at any cost.
The story of the Crusades is the tale of agents of murder and death for the Antichrist. But for the Sacralist who calls someone like me Gnostic....it is they who end up with Manichaean understanding of history. They want to cast the camps into good and bad instead of understanding a right Biblical anthropology in application to the history of the world.
This is the telos of Sacralism. The end result. We end up lying about history and current events, despising the truth that’s right in front of our faces. We justify rape and murder because in the end it’s for the best.
While we certainly don’t have to accept all the conclusions of humanistic historical interpretations, I would rather read a secular historian who is trying to report the story anytime over this type of revisionist propaganda given by Stark. I wanted to respond to it, because it is on the rise. Increasingly the historical record is being perverted by the agents of antichrist.
This is the kingdom of Satan entrenched within the Church of Jesus Christ. Beware of men such as these!