APOLOGETICS315 INTERVIEWS Professor Clay Jones in regards to church history and the Crusades. He deals with some myths and corrects many historical errors in understanding. Apologetics315 interviews can be uploaded via i-Tunes for free:
Assistant Professor of Apologetics, Biola University
Dr. Clay Jones (D. Min and M.Div) is Assistant Professor of Apologetics in the graduate program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. For several years, Jones was the host of “Content for Truth,” a weekly, call-in-talk radio program (nationally syndicated through the USA Radio Network), which sought to provide a forum for how to think Christianly about issues of the Bible, theology and culture. He has also authored Prepared Defense, an interactive apologetics software program, along with diverse encyclopedia articles on theodicy, evil, and suffering; journal articles on why God ordered the destruction of the Canaanites, and has a forthcoming book, Why God Allows Evil. Dr. Jones has been on the pastoral staff of two large churches and continues to speak widely on why God allows evil; how to think about the Crusades, Inquisitions, Witch-hunts, etc.; the glory that awaits the Christian in heaven; and related topics. (His blog can be found here: CLAYJONES.NET)
I deal — somewhat — with the beginning of the crusades and their cause in an older post, reproduced below:
This is from a philosophy 101 class my son and I took at a local community college. Francis Collins, one of America’s leading scientists and head of the Genome Project for America – one of the most important scientific programs of our day, stepped outside his expertise and tried to don on a cap of a historian at times. Here is my critique of a portion of Collins book for class:
b. Faith in God is harmful, since “throughout history terrible things have been done in the name of religion” (p. 39).
Another favorite of the skeptic. Here Collins drops the ball in my opinion. I will critique two aspects of his work: i. his understanding of Islam, and ii. His understanding of comparative crimes.
i. Collins is getting out of his genre a bit. If I met him I would probably hand him two books by Robert Spencer. Quickly, before I quote Spencer. Muhammad personally ordered (and partook in) the slitting of 900 throats of men, women, and children. Jesus, when Peter cut off the Roman soldiers ear, told Peter to put the sword away and healed the soldiers ear.
The nine founders among the eleven living religions in the world had characters which attracted many devoted followers during their own lifetime, and still larger numbers during the centuries of subsequent history. They were humble in certain respects, yet they were also confident of a great religious mission. Two of the nine, Mahavira and Buddha, were men so strongminded and self-reliant that, according to the records, they displayed no need of any divine help, though they both taught the inexorable cosmic law of Karma. They are not reported as having possessed any consciousness of a supreme personal deity. Yet they have been strangely deified by their followers. Indeed, they themselves have been worshipped, even with multitudinous idols.
All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of searching for religious light. Confucius, late in life, confessed his own sense of shortcomings and his desire for further improvement in knowledge and character. All the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character; some of them altered their practical policies under change of circumstances.
Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent God-consciousness, a consistent character himself, and a consistent program for his religion. The most remarkable and valuable aspect of the personality of Jesus Christ is the comprehensiveness and universal availability of his character, as well as its own loftiness, consistency, and sinlessness.
Not to mention that just saying the Crusades were wrong is almost jeuvinile. Robert Spencer talks a bit about the lead up to Christendom finally responding — rightly at first, woefully latter.
The Third Crusade (1188-1192). This crusade was proclaimed by Pope Gregory VIII in the wake of Saladin’s capture of Jerusalem and destruction of the Crusader forces of Hattin in 1187. This venture failed to retake Jerusalem, but it did strengthen Outremer, the crusader state that stretched along the coast of the Levant.
The almost Political Correct myth is that the crusades were an unprovoked attack by Europe against the Islamic world. I can see with quoting Tillich and Bonhoeffer, although worthy men to quote, they are typically favorites of the religious left. Robert Schuller and Desmond Tutu on the back of the cover of Collins first edition are also dead give a ways. So PC thought is entrenched in Collins general outlook on religion and life. Continuing:
The conquest of Jerusalem in 638 stood as the beginning of centuries of Muslim aggression, and Christians in the Holy Land faced an escalating spiral of persecution. A few examples: Early in the eighth century, sixty Christian pilgrims from Amorium were crucified; around the same time, the Muslim governor of Caesarea seized a group of pilgrims from Iconium and had them all executed as spies – except for a small number who converted to Islam; and Muslims demanded money from pilgrims, threatening to ransack the Church of the Resurrection if they didn’t pay. Later in the eighth century, a Muslim ruler banned displays of the cross in Jerusalem. He also increased the anti-religious tax (jizya) that Christians had to pay and forbade Christians to engage in religious instruction to others, even their own children.
Brutal subordinations and violence became the rules of the day for Christians in the Holy Land. In 772, the caliph al-Mansur ordered the hands of Christians and Jews in Jerusalem to be stamped with a distinctive symbol. Conversions to Christianity were dealt with particularly harshly. In 789, Muslims beheaded a monk who had converted from Islam and plundered the Bethlehem monastery of Saint Theodosius, killing many more monks. Other monasteries in the region suffered the same fate. Early in the ninth century, the persecutions grew so severe that large numbers of Christians fled to Constantinople and other Christians cities. More persecutions in 923 saw additional churches destroyed, and in 937, Muslims went on a Palm Sunday rampage in Jerusalem, plundering and destroying the Church of Calvary and the Church of the Resurrection.
A pastor once made mention to me that to paint a picture of the crusaders in a single year in history is like showing photos and video of Hitler hugging children and receiving flowers from them and then showing photos and video of the Allies attacking the German army. It completely forgets what Hitler and Germany had done prior.
While the church withheld the Bible from most, so the misuse of it wasn’t the case as much as a drive for political supremacy – and in fact was the catalyst for the Reformers and pre-Reformers getting copies of it into the laities hand so they could actually read what the Bible said on such matters – the response by the West’s only large organization to the Islamo-Fascism of the day was in fact a net-good. (Actually showing that God can bring good out of the bad.) This response may have been carried out wrongly at times engendering people’s fears and prejudices, however, the Bible played no role in these fears or prejudices. Mainly because the people involved in these atrocities had no access to a Bible. That aside, the totality of the Crusades [good and bad] was a net moral good for our planet and shows God’s providence over the course of history.
The Bible seems to be bloodier than an R-rated horror movie. Why is there such an emphasis on blood? Michael Brown explores the Bible and bloodshed with New Yorkers and tourists in and around Washington Square Park.
What do people following the primary religions of the world do to receive a clean slate with God following wrongful behavior? Find out when Dr. Michael Brown takes to the streets and even the river to obtain an answer.
Dr. Michael Brown discusses the question “was Jesus a false prophet” in this episode of Think it Thru.
The reason for this post is to respond to the idea that the NAZIs were in any way Christian or were supported by the Church or that Hitler was friends with the church. OR, for that matter, were anything but socialists. This post should be connected with my updated post, “NAZI OCCULTISM.” As well as a post discussing Luther’s anti-Semitism and the distinction between [conservative] Confessing Lutheran’s in Germany at the time and the more socially liberal socialist [state-run] Lutherans: Defending “Lutheranism” from Martin Luther’s Fall from Grace
Between these three posts one should be equipped to respond to this lack of knowledge in regards to history.
“Every powerful movement has had its philosophy which has gripped the mind, fired the imagination and captured the devotion of its adherents. One has only to think of the Fascist and the Communist manifestos of this century, of Hitler’s Mein Kampf on the one hand and Marx’s Das Kapital and The Thoughts of Chairman Mao on the other.”
~ John Stott
Here, for instance, are some verses from a Hitler Youth anthem:
We are the happy Hitler Youth;
We have no need of Christian virtue;
For Adolf Hitler is our intercessor
And our redeemer.
No priest, no evil one
Can keep us
From feeling like Hitler’s children.
Not Christ do we follow, but Horst Wessel!
Away with incense and holy water pots.
Singing we follow Hitler’s banners;
Only then are we worthy of our ancestors.
I am no Christian and no Catholic.
I go with the SA through thick and thin.
The Church can be stolen from me for all I care.
The swastika makes me happy here on earth.
Him will I follow in marching step;
Baldur Von Schirach, take me along.
~ Hitler Youth Song
(The two books in bold I own)
Gene Edward Veith, Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1993), 67;
See Ernst Christian Helmreich, The German Churches Under Hitler: Background, Struggle, and Epilogue (Detroit, MI: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1979), 267.
Horst Wessel was the composer of the party anthem. Baldur von Schirach was the Reich Youth Leader. See Hermann Glaser, The Cultural Roots of National Socialism (Austin, TX: Univ. Texas Press, 1978), 43, 56n.
In Mein Kampf, he presented a social Darwinist view of life, life as a struggle, and presented national socialism as an antidote to both Judaism and communism. His party attempted to develope a new form of religion with elements of de-Judaised Christianity infused with German and Nordic pagan myths, but this was resisted by the Christians. ~ Professor Thies
“I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality…. We will train young people before whom the world will tremble. I want young people capable of violence — imperious, relentless and cruel.” ~ Hitler
On a plaque hung on the wall at Auschwitz; found in, Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God (Nashville, TN: W Publising Group, 1994), 23.
“The stronger must dominate and not mate with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher nature. Only the born weakling can look upon this principle as cruel, and if he does so it is merely because he is of a feebler nature and narrower mind; for if such a law [natural selection] did not direct the process of evolution then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at all…. If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.” ~ Hitler
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, translator/annotator, James Murphy (New York: Hurst and Blackett, 1942), pp. 161-162.
“Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition…. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity…. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.” ~ Mussolini
Mussolini, Diuturna (1924) pp. 374-77, quoted in A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist (Ignatius Press; 1999), by Peter Kreeft, p. 18.
The Above Video Description:
Nuremberg Day 28 Church Suppression
Colonel Leonard Wheeler, Assistant American Trial Counsel, on Jan. 7, 1946, submitted the case regarding the Oppression of the Christian Churches and other Religious Groups in Germany and the Occupied Countries. He stated that the Nazi conspirators found the Christian churches to be an “obstacle to their complete domination of the German people and contrary to their master race dogma”.
The Indictment charged that “the Nazi conspirators, by promoting beliefs and practices incompatible with Christian teaching, sought to subvert the influence of the churches over the people and in particular the youth of Germany”.
Here as well is a quote from a much lauded biography of Hitler and his time in power. Note that he wanted to ultimately destroy the Christian churches with a materialist faith (Any of the large quotes below come from books I own and have read in full or in-part):
Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1952/1962), 388-390.
Hitler had been brought up as a Catholic and was impressed by the organization and power of the Church. Its hierarchical structure, its skill in dealing with human nature and the unalterable character of its Creed, were all features from which he claimed to have learned. For the Protestant clergy he felt only contempt: ‘They are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them.
They have neither a religion they can take seriously nor a great position to defend like Rome.’ It was `the great position’ of the Church that he respected, the fact that it had lasted for so many centuries; towards its teaching he showed the sharpest hostility. In Hitler’s eyes Christianity was a religion fit only for slaves; he detested its ethics in particular. Its teaching, he declared, was a rebellion against the natural law of selection by struggle and the survival of the fittest. “Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.” From political considerations he restrained his anti-clericalism, seeing clearly the dangers of strengthening the Church by persecution. For this reason he was more circumspect than some of his followers, like Rosenberg and Bormann, in attacking the Church publicly. But, once the war was over, he promised himself, he would root out and destroy the influence of the Christian Churches. “The evil that is gnawing our vitals,” he remarked in February 1942, “is our priests, of both creeds. I can’t at present give them the answer they’ve been asking for but… it’s all written down in my big book. The time will come when I’ll settle my account with them…. They’ll hear from me all right. I shan’t let myself be hampered with judicial samples.”
Earnest efforts to establish self-conscious pagan rites roused Hitler’s scorn: “Nothing would be more foolish”, he declared, “than to reestablish the worship of Wotan. Our old mythology had ceased to be viable when Christianity implanted itself…. I especially wouldn’t want our movement to acquire a religious character and institute a form of worship. It would be appalling for me, if I were to end up in the skin of a Buddha.”
Nor is there any evidence to substantiate the once popular belief that he resorted to astrology. His secretary says categorically that he had nothing but contempt for such practices, although faith in the stars was certainly common among some of his followers like Himmler.
The truth is that, in matters of religion at least, Hitler was a rationalist and a materialist. “The dogma of Christianity,” he declared in one of his wartime conversations, gets worn away before the advances of science…. Gradually the myths crumble. All that is left is to prove that in nature there is no frontier between the organic and the inorganic. When understanding of the universe has become widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light, but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity…. The man who lives in communion with nature necessarily finds himself in opposition to the Churches, and that’s why they’re heading for ruin for science is bound to win.
It was in keeping with this nineteenth-century faith in science replacing the superstitions of religion that Hitler’s plans for the rebuilding of Linz included a great observatory and planetarium as its centrepiece.
Thousands of excursionists will make a pilgrimage there every Sunday. They’ll have access to the greatness of our universe. The pediment will bear this motto: “The heavens proclaim the glory of the everlasting.” It will be our way of giving men a religious spirit, of teaching them humility – but without the priests. For Ptolemy the earth was the centre of the world. That changed with Copernicus. Today we know that our solar system is merely a solar system amongst many others. What could we do better than allow the greatest possible number of people like us to become aware of these marvels?… Put a small telescope in a village and you destroy a world of superstitions.
Here as well is a respected biography on Hitler by Ian Kershaw. He notes that Hitler was trying to get his followers to “lay off” the Church till after the war was won — the main point being that there was nor room for Christianity in this future Utopia:
Ian Kershaw, Hitler: A Biography (New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2008), 382, 661, 785, 969.
In February 1937 Hitler made it plain to his inner circle that he did not want a “Church struggle” at this juncture. The time was not ripe for it. He expected “the great world struggle in a few years’ time”. If Germany lost one more war, it would mean the end. The implication was clear: calm should be restored for the time being in relations with the Churches. Instead, the conflict with the Christian Churches intensified. The anticlericalism and anti-Church sentiments of the grass-roots party activists simply could not be eradicated. The activists could draw on the verbal violence of party leaders towards the Churches for their encouragement. Goebbels’s orchestrated attacks on the clergy through the staged “immorality trials” of Franciscans in 1937 — following usually trumped-up or grossly exaggerated allegations of sexual impropriety in the religious orders — provided further ammunition. And, in turn, however much Hitler on some occasions claimed to want a respite in the conflict, his own inflammatory comments gave his immediate underlings all the license they needed to turn up the heat in the “Church struggle”, confident that they were “working towards the Führer.”
Hitler’s impatience with the Churches prompted frequent outbursts of hostility. In early 1937, he was declaring that “Christianity was ripe for destruction”, and that the Churches must yield to the “primacy of the state”, railing against any compromise with “the most horrible institution imaginable”. In April, Goebbels reported with satisfaction that the Führer was becoming more radical in the “Church Question”, and had approved the start of the “immorality trials” against clergy. Goebbels noted Hitler’s verbal attacks on the clergy and his satisfaction with the propaganda campaign on several subsequent occasions over the following few weeks. But Hitler was happy to leave the Propaganda Minister and others to make the running. If Goebbels’s diary entries are a guide, Hitler’s interest and direct involvement in the ‘Church struggle’ declined during the second half of the year. Other matters were by now occupying his attention.
Hitler put forward once more his vision of the East as Germany’s “future India”, which would become within three or four generations “absolutely German”. There would, he made clear, be no place in this utopia for the Christian Churches. For the time being, he ordered slow progression in the “Church Question”. “But it is clear,” noted Goebbels, himself among the most aggressive anti-Church radicals, “that after the war it has to be generally solved… There is, namely, an insoluble opposition between the Christian and a Germanic-heroic world-view.”
…and in line with his undiluted social-Darwinistic beliefs, to take his people down in flames with him if it proved incapable of producing the victory he had demanded.
…in its maelstrom of destruction Hitler’s rule had also conclusively demonstrated the utter bankruptcy of the hyper-nationalistic and racist world-power ambitions (and the social and political structures that upheld them) that had prevailed in Germany over the previous half a century and twice taken Europe and the wider world into calamitous war.
I also wanted to add this comparison of ideals/ethos that drove some of the worst socialists of the day. Here Andy Bannister notes Stalin’s admission that “socialism proper” is at war with Christianity:
Stalin once stated: “You know, they are fooling us, there is no God … all this talk about God is sheer nonsense.” But Stalin was not content with mere words; he also acted on them. In 1925, he actively encouraged the founding of the League of Militant Atheists, which for over twenty years acted out its slogan, “The Struggle Against Religion is a Struggle for Socialism.” It began with popular campaigns in the media against religion, aiming to persuade citizens that religion was irrational and toxic. But soon things became considerably more violent:
Churches were closed or destroyed, often by dynamiting; priests were imprisoned, exiled or executed. On the eve of the Second World War there were only 6,376 clergy remaining in the Russian Orthodox Church, compared with the pre-revolutionary figure of 66,140. One dreadful day, 17 February 1938, saw the execution of 55 priests. In 1917 there were 39,530 churches in Russia; by 1940, only 950 remained functional.
Andy Banister, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist: Or, The Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments (Oxford, England: Monarch Books, 2015), 23.
Here we see a stark admission of the ideals/ethos driving Hitler:
“We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are determined to destroy this system under all conditions.” ~ Hitler
John Toland, Adolph Hitler: The Definitive Biography (New York, NY: Anchor Books, 1976), 223-225.
Did Hitler, like Stalin, kill the religious? At least 3-million Polish Catholics were holocaust victims. Note especially the systematic massacre of the clergy and religious orders:
Repression of the Church was at its most severe in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany, where churches were systematically closed and most priests were either killed, imprisoned, or deported. From across Poland, thousands of priests died in prisons and concentration camps; thousands of churches and monasteries were confiscated, closed or destroyed; and priceless works of religious art and sacred objects were lost forever. Church leaders were targeted as part of an overall effort to destroy Polish culture. At least 1811 Polish clergy died in Nazi Concentration Camps. An estimated 3000 clergy were killed in all. Hitler’s plans for the Germanization of the East saw no place for the Christian Churches.
[In the Diocese of Chełmno] It is stated that a large number of priests have been shot, but neither the number nor the details are as yet known, as the occupation authorities maintain an obstinate silence on the subject… The Churches have almost all been closed and confiscated by the Gestapo… all the crosses and sacred emblems by the roadside have been destroyed… 95% of the priests have been imprisoned, expelled, or humiliated before the eyes of the faithful… and the most eminent Catholics executed.
— Excerpts from Cardinal August Hlond‘s report to the Vatican.
Hlond reported similar outrages and terror in the Dioceses of Katowice, Łódź and Włocławek which had also been incorporated into the Reich. In his final observations for Pope Pius XII, Hllond wrote:
Hitlerism aims at the systematic and total destruction of the Catholic Church in the rich and fertile territories of Poland which have been incorporated into the Reich… It is known for certain that 35 priests have been shot, but the real number of victims… undoubtedly amounts to more than a hundred… In many districts the life of the Church has been completely crushed, the clergy have been almost all expelled; the Catholic churches and cemeteries are in the hands of the invaders… Catholic worship hardly exists any more… Monasteries and convents have been methodically suppressed… [Church properties] all have been pillaged by the invaders.
— Excerpts from Cardinal Hlond’s report to the Vatican
It would seem that Hitler’s socialism had the same outcome in every way as Stalin’s.
Here is my final update for a while, and it regards how the NAZI Party was taking away church property and replacing church programs with socialist ones:
J.S. Conway, The Nazi Persecution of the Churches 1933-45 (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1968), 255-259.
From the beginning of 1941 such new and stringent measures were taken against the churches by the Nazi authorities that more damage, it was said, was done ‘physically and morally by the land raids of the Gestapo than by the air raids of the RAF’.
The number of expropriated church properties rose rapidly. In a secret circular addressed to the Gauleiters on 20 March, Bormann wrote:
Many valuable church properties have had to be sequestred lately, especially in Austria; according to reports from the Gauleiters to the Führer, these sequestrations were frequently caused by offences against ordinances relating to the war economy (e.g. hoarding of food-stuffs of various kinds, textiles, leather goods, etc.). In other cases they were caused by offences against the law relating to malicious attacks against the State [Heimtϋckegesetz], and in others because of prohibited possession of firearms. Obviously, no compensation is to be paid to the Churches for sequestrations made because of the above-mentioned reasons. . . .
The reasons given for the seizures were the need for auxiliary hospitals or resettlement centres for refugees and evacuated children, or, alternatively, acts of hostility to the State perpetrated by members of the religious orders, particularly the Jesuits. If an individual member of a monastic community was adjudged guilty of an offence, it was seized upon as a pretext for the closure of the whole institution. In actual fact, the Churches’ properties were expropriated solely for the Nazis’ own ends, each of the Nazi leaders making a bid for what he considered their most appropriate use. Dr Ley in June 1940 argued in favour of using monasteries as homes for the Aged or for the Kraft durch Freude. In April 1941 Bormann suggested that Church orphanages should be taken over for the housing of evacuees, a move to which Hitler agreed. In a circular issued from Hitler’s headquarters in May 1941, Bormann decreed that
the Nazi State and movement cannot permit children to be brought up in denominational kindergartens according to Church principles, or along the lines of denominational divisions. Today this question can be finally cleaned up by withdrawing permission from the organizers of Church-sponsored institutions for children. In justification, the special role of the Party in this area should be stressed.
The requisite orders were accordingly issued, and by 31 July all Church kindergartens had been seized by the Gestapo and transferred to the sponsorship of the Nazi Welfare organization.
The requisitioning of monastic properties had first been adumbrated by Himmler, in December 1939, when, in his capacity as Reich Commissar for the Strengthening of the German People’s Community (Reichskommissar far die Festigung deutschen Volkstums), he had ordered the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle in Berlin to take over `suitable accommodation which could be used for the housing of returning Volksdeutsche’. When, eleven months later, Cardinal Bertram protested that the decree had been used to requisition entire monasteries and convents and to evacuate their inhabitants, his protest was ignored. In January 1941 Himmler ordered the complete evacuation of all such Church properties without compensation. War-time necessity, the Cardinal was informed, was a sufficient justification for the measure, and the question of compensation, could be settled after the end of the war. In December 1940 the Gauleiter of Alsace ordered all Church organizations to be dissolved and their property confiscated. In Innsbruck, Gauleiter Hofer coerced the Premonstratensian Order into ‘selling’ their monastery at Wilten to the provincial government of Tyrol. In Silesia no less than 60 monasteries and church institutions were seized. In Luxembourg, 400 priests were expelled on Hitler’s personal orders; all the institutions run by members of Catholic Orders were confiscated and their inhabitants were transported across the border into the diocese of Trier; all hospitals in the territory were declared secular institutions. In Lorraine, the Warthegau, Lower Austria and South Germany where the measures were particularly severe, the Church authorities estimated that by the beginning of May no less than 13o monasteries and Church institutions had been confiscated.
This was only the beginning. A letter from the Party headquarters for Mainfranken on 24 April 1941 informed the local Party organizers that :
By order of the Gauleiter, I request from you an immediate report on the situation of all monasteries and convents in your area. A short description of each building should include its size, its place in the countryside, and its activities or participation in agricultural work. Very important is an account of the transportation facilties, since the rural setting of many monasteries makes them very suitable for the needs of the Kraft .lurch Freude (Hotels, Rest houses, holiday and sports resorts). Furthermore your report should include the view of the County Party leader on the future use of these buildings. Since the matter is being treated as very urgent on the national level, I am asking for an immediate reply by return of post, in an express and registered letter.
The German bishops and the Roman Curia itself immediately launched a protest. For some time past the Papal Nuncio had almost monthly complained either verbally, by letter, or with a Verbal Note to State Secretary Weizsäcker about similar sequestrations, some of them involving considerable properties. In May 1941 he again protested against the abruptness with which the confiscations had been carried out without prior warning either to himself or to the Church authorities. Weizsäcker’s reply was a curt statement to the effect that the war-time need for housing was so great that further requisitions could be expected. Rome could draw only one conclusion. In a letter to the German Embassy dated January 1942, the Curia protested that because of
the increasing difficulties put in the way of the religious Orders and Congregations in the spiritual, cultural and social field, and above all the suppression of abbeys, monasteries, convents, and religious houses in such great numbers, one is led to infer a deliberate intention of rendering impossible the very existence of the Orders and Congregations in Germany.
In June 1941 Cardinal Bertram again bitterly complained that, ‘at a time when the whole German people were united in a decisive struggle for the future of our country’, the rights of Catholics were disregarded and overridden throughout the land. In the regions of Trier, Kassel, Saxony, Thuringia, Cologne, Aachen, and Silesia, he stated, church kindergartens had been expropriated, such Catholic insignia as crucifixes and religious paintings had been removed, and teachers and nuns had been expelled. Catholic parents, he averred, were alarmed by these events, which contravened the provisions of the Concordat and served to strengthen the impression ‘that a systematic campaign for the destruction of all that was Christian was now in process’.
Despite the Nazis’ oft-repeated desire not to exacerbate tension between Church and State, restrictions on Church work continued to multiply. On I June 1941, the Church press was totally suppressed for the duration of the war in contrast to the press of the German Faith Movement and the anti-clerical pamphlets of the Ludendorff Publishing House, which continued to be published though on a reduced scale. In April, new regulations for the pastoral care of patients in hospitals were promulgated, whereby priests were prohibited from entering the hospitals unless specifically requested by patients and with the approval of the medical authorities, and Church welfare agencies were replaced by the National Socialist Welfare organization and the Winter Aid Programme. In the same month religious education in Saxony was abolished altogether; the Ministry of Education in Berlin prohibited the use of prayers at school assemblies; and the gradual removal of crucifixes and religious paintings from every school was ordered by the Bavarian Ministry of Education.
On Bormann’s instructions, every pastor who resigned his office and, preferably withdrew from the Church, was to be offered a government job; and Hitler himself ordered that any Jesuits serving in the Army were to be declared unfit for service and released. Anti-clerical propaganda was stepped up in an attempt to alienate the sympathy of the laity from their clerical leaders, and anti-church literature denigrating the sacraments was handed out free of charge. On 12 June the Gauleiter of Baden, Robert Wagner, announced to an enthusiastic audience of Party followers in the Festival Hall in Karlsruhe that
when our foreign foes lie at our feet, then we will tackle the foes at home; there are still some running around the country in purple and ermine.
“…we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
John Adams, first (1789–1797) Vice President of the United States, and the second (1797–1801) President of the United States. Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, 11 October 1798, in Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull (New York, 1848), pp 265-6.
And this great quote and commentary:
And Montesquieu got even more specific when he broke down which Christian religions he believed were better fit for certain governments:
When a religion is introduced and fixed in a state, it is commonly such as is most suitable to the plan of government there established; for those who receive it, and those who are the cause of its being received, have scarcely any other idea of policy than that of the state in which they were born.
When the Christian religion, two centuries ago, became unhappily divided into Catholic and Protestant, the people of the north embraced the Protestant, and those of the south adhered still to the Catholic. The reason is plain: the people of the north have, and will for ever have, a spirit of liberty and independence, which the people of the south have not; and therefore a religion which has no visible head is more agreeable to the independence of the climate than that which has one. In the countries themselves where the Protestant religion became established, the revolutions were made pursuant to the several plans of political government. Luther having great princes on his side would never have been able to make them relish an ecclesiastical authority that had no exterior pre-eminence; while Calvin, having to do with people who lived under republican governments, or with obscure citizens in monarchies, might very well avoid establishing dignities and preferments.
In other words, the Catholic version of Christianity is best for monarchies, while Protestant/Calvin faiths are suited to republics…or so says Montesquieu.
The below if an extended quote from a book that I highly recommend for the beginner if you are truly interested in this endeavor. A list of other resources can be found in my BIBLIOGRAPHY section of a paper for school. I will also include MLA and APA for helping the student to quote. from Joshua Charles book, LIBERTY’S SECRET. Enjoy:
John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book, 1987), 54-61.
[APA] Eidsmoe, J. (1987). Christianity and the Constitution. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
[MLA] Eidsmoe, John. Christianity and the Constitution. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987. Print.
Charles Louis Joseph de Secondat, the Baron Montesquieu of France (1689-1755), was cited by the founders of this nation more frequently than any other source except the Bible. His best-known work, The Spirit of Laws, distinguished four forms of government: monarchy in which the guiding principle is honor, aristocracy in which the guiding principle is moderation, republican democracy in which the guiding principle is virtue, and despotism in which the guiding principle is fear. His main contribution to the thinking of the founders of this nation was the concept of separation of powers between legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. This concept is so vital to the American constitutional system.
Because he lived in France and taught in French universities during the time of the philosophes, Montesquieu is sometimes identified as a deist. But he was born a Catholic, and remained a Catholic to his death. He did have some private questions concerning Catholic dogma. Stark suggests that Montesquieu moved closer and closer to Christian orthodoxy as he grew older, noting Montesquieu comment that the establishment of Christianity among the Romans would be an absurdity if it were merely a natural historical event.2 In any event, he received Communion shortly before he died, and he emphatically declared his belief that the elements were the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.3
Montesquieu believed all law has its source in God. As he says in the opening of The Spirit of Laws: “God is related to the universe, as Creator and Preserver; the laws by which He created all things are those by which He preserves them.”4These laws apply to the physical world and human beings. Men make their own laws, but these laws must conform to the eternal laws of God.
Particular intelligent beings may have laws of their own making, but they likewise have some which they never made…. Before laws were made, there were relations of possible justice. To say that there is nothing just or unjust but what is commanded or forbidden by positive laws, is the same as saying that before the describing of a circle all the radii were not equal.5
[p.55>]Montesquieu believed man was basically evil and self-centered. His pessimism was due to the fact that he felt intelligent beings do not choose to follow God’s laws:
But the intelligent world is far from being so well governed as the physical. For though the former has also its laws, which of their own nature are invariable, it does not conform to them so exactly as the physical world. This is because, on the one hand, particular intelligent beings are of a finite nature, and consequently liable to error; and on the other, their nature requires them to be free agents. Hence they do not steadily conform to their primitive laws; and even those of their own instituting they frequently infringe….
Man, as a physical being, is like other bodies governed by invariable laws. As an intelligent being, he incessantly transgresses the laws established by God, and changes those of his own instituting. He is left to his private direction, though a limited being, and subject, like all finite intelligences, to ignorance and error: even his imperfect knowledge he loses; and as a sensible creature, he is hurried away by a thousand impetuous passions. Such a being might every instant forget his Creator; God has therefore reminded him of his duty by the laws of religion. Such a being is liable every moment to forget himself; philosophy has provided against this by the laws of morality. Formed to live in society, he might forget his fellow-creatures; legislators have, therefore, by political and civil laws, confined him to his duty.6
He compared Christianity to Islam and declared Christianity superior partly because of the better government it promotes, “a moderate Government is most agreeable to the Christian Religion, and a despotic Government to the Mahommedan”:
The Christian religion, which ordains that men should love each other, would, without doubt, have every nation blest with the best civil, the best political laws; because these, next to this religion, are the greatest good that men can give and receive….
The Christian religion is a stranger to mere despotic power. The mildness so frequently recommended in the gospel is incompatible with the despotic rage with which a prince punishes his subjects, and exercises himself in cruelty….
While the Mahommedan princes incessantly give or receive death, the religion of the Christians renders their princes less timid, and consequently less cruel. The prince confides in his subjects, and the subjects in the prince. How admirable the religion which, while it [p.56>] only seems to have in view the felicity of the other life, continues the happiness of this!7
In addition he explained that “the Catholic Religion is most agreeable to a Monarchy, and the Protestant to a Republic,” because “the people of the north have, and will forever have, a spirit of liberty and independence, which the people of the south have not; and, therefore, a religion which has no visible head is more agreeable to the independence of the climate than that which has one….” This was more true of Calvinist societies than Lutheran societies.8
In his writings, Montesquieu explained the role of religion in fostering values which find expression in civil laws. He pointed out that this is also true in non-Christian societies. He expressed the orthodox conviction that Christianity is a religion revealed by God himself. “In a country so unfortunate as to have a religion that God has not revealed, it is necessary for it to be agreeable to morality; because even a false religion is the best security we can have of the probity of men.“9 Thus, even a false religion can positively affect society if it fosters values which find expression in good laws.
While Montesquieu’s countrymen followed the way of the radical philosophes which ultimately led to destruction, the American founding fathers were receptive to his views. He recognized the value of religion, Christianity in particular, in fostering good laws and good government. Knowing the sinful nature of man, he advocated separation of powers by which power checks power. That was Montesquieu’s main contribution to the thinking of the founders of this nation: the separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.
Noted for literary quality and readability as well as for legal and historical scholarship, Sir William Blackstone’s famous Commentaries on the Laws of England are rated as the most famous treatise on common law.
Blackstone (1723-1780) was an English barrister whose talents and inclinations were more suited to teaching law than to practicing law. Harvard Law Professor Duncan Kennedy describes Black-[p.57>]stone’s Commentaries as “an important 18th-century treatise that all legal scholars have heard of but practically no one knows anything about.”10 One reason may be that Blackstone’s God-centered view of law is out of fashion in today’s legal community.
Throughout the latter half of the 1700s and the first half of the 1800s Blackstone’s popularity in America was uneclipsed. It is said that more copies of Blackstone’s Commentaries were sold in America than in England, that his Commentaries were in the offices of every lawyer in the land, that candidates for the bar were routinely examined on Blackstone, that he was cited authoritatively in the courts, and that a quotation from Blackstone settled many a legal argument.11
The founders of the nation read Blackstone with great interest. At least one delegate to the Constitutional Convention, Charles Cotes-worth Pinckney of South Carolina, had been Blackstone’s student at Oxford and was Blackstone’s firm disciple. James Madison wrote in 1821, “I very cheerfully express my approbation of the proposed edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries…”12
The founding fathers drew three major points from Blackstone. The first was his conviction that all law has its source in God. Blackstone wrote about various categories of law, one of which is the law of nature:
Law of Nature. This will of his Maker is called the law of nature. For as God, when He created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when He created man, and endued him with free will to conduct himself in all parts of life, He laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that free will is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws.
Considering the Creator only a Being of infinite power, He was able unquestionably to have prescribed whatever laws He pleased to His creature, man, however unjust or severe. But as he is also a Being of infinite wisdom, He has laid down only such laws as were founded in those relations of justice, that existed in the nature of things antecedent to any positive precept. These are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the Creator Himself in all his [p.58>] Dispensations conforms; and which He has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions. Such, among others, are these principles: that we should live honestly, should hurt nobody, and should render to everyone his due; to which three general precepts Justinian has reduced the whole doctrine of law….
This law of nature, being coeval with mankind and dictated by God Himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this…
Blackstone then described revealed law, the law of God as found in the Bible.
Revealed Law. This has given manifold occasion for the interposition of divine providence; which in compassion to the frailty, the imperfection, and the blindness of human reason, hath been pleased, at sundry times and in divers manners, to discover and enforce its laws by an immediate and direct revelation. The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the Holy Scriptures. These precepts, when revealed, are found upon comparison to be really a part of the original law of nature as they tend in all their consequences to man’s felicity. But we are not from thence to conclude that the knowledge of these truths was attainable by reason, in its present corrupted state; since we find that, until they were revealed, they were hid from the wisdom of the ages. As then the moral precepts of this law are indeed of the same original with those of the law of nature, so their intrinsic obligation is of equal strength and perpetuity. Yet undoubtedly the revealed law is of infinitely more authenticity than that moral system, which is framed by ethical writers, and denominated the natural law. Because one is the law of nature, expressly declared so to be by God Himself; the other is only what, by the assistance of human reason, we imagine to be that law. If we could be as certain of the latter as we are of the former, both would have an equal authority; but, till then, they can never be put in any competition together.
Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human law should be suffered to contradict these.13
For the founding fathers, a second significant point in Black-stone’s writings was the role of judges. In Blackstone’s view, judges discover and apply law; they do not “make” law. This closely [p.59>] follows from Blackstone’s underlying view of law as part of the revealed law of God or the law of nature. Judges were not a source of law. There are only three sources of law—general custom, the court precedents which present-day judges are not free to alter; special custom, rights of private parties that had ripened into rights by prescription; and statute law, that which was passed by Parliament. In respect to the latter, the role of the judge is to interpret the will of the legislature, not to substitute his own ideas in their place.14 Blackstone, like Montesquieu, saw three branches of government, but envisioned the legislative as superior to the judiciary.
A third significant point in Blackstone’s Commentaries was his expert systematizing of the common law of England. While this systematizing was needed in England, it was even more necessary in America because America was a new nation that did not have England’s long traditions.
The common law of England is generally founded on biblical principles. The Anglo-Saxon Alfred the Great, for example, started his legal code with a recitation of the Ten Commandments and excerpts from the Mosaic law. There were additions to the Anglo-Saxon law. In the eleventh century Henricus Bracton systematized the common law according to Roman law as revised by the Justinian Code. The result was a Christianized version of the Roman law.
The Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament influenced the commercial law of England and the rest of Europe. Throughout much of the Middle Ages the church prohibited money-lending at interest, based on the interpretation of certain passages of Scripture. The Jews interpreted these Scriptures differently and were willing to lend money at interest. Often the only place one could borrow money was in the Jewish community. Jewish scholars such as Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon (Maimondes) codified the Jewish law and it formed the basis for much of English commercial law.
The canon law of the church and the emphasis on individual rights found in the Viking[p.60>]law from portions of England controlled by Norwegians and Danes also influenced English common law.15 The noblemen who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in A.D. 1215 came mostly from areas which had been under Viking control. While the Vikings were not Christians until about A.D. 1000, their emphasis on individual rights was consistent with biblical principles.
Although for a time it was popular to belittle Blackstone and his beliefs,16 his views are becoming increasingly valued by legal scholars. One of Blackstone’s former students, Jeremy Bentham, charged that Blackstone was an arch-conservative and an “enemy of reformation.” But, fortunately, Bentham never gained the following in America that he had in England.
The 1986 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica puts it well: “Blackstone’s description of the law as it existed was accurate and comprehensive, and was of great use to those who wished to reform it.”17 The author adds that it is “amusing” (the 1911 edition changes this word to “curious”) that even today Blackstone’s Commentaries “probably express the most profound political convictions of the majority of the English people.”
The common law of England is part of the Christian heritage of America. That so much of it survived the migration to America is due in large part to Sir William Blackstone.
John Locke (1632-1704) was the British philosopher and political theorist who inspired a generation of Americans to thoughts of independence and the rights of man. His best-known works are his “Essay Concerning Human Understanding” and his two treatises “On Civil Government.”
John Locke was born into a Puritan family, the son of a rural Calvinist lawyer who fought on the side of the Puritans in the English civil war. He was educated at Calvinist institutions and emerged with a Calvinistic world view although he was a bit more moderate than some Calvinists.
Locke, sometimes identified as a deist and freethinker, was actually a staunch and fervent Christian. He placed a higher value[p.61>]on human reason than most orthodox Christians; but he used his powers of reason to arrive at Christian truths. According to his understanding of original sin, children are born neither good nor bad, but rather with a “tabula rosa” or “blank slate” upon which good or bad can be written during life. He wrote a treatise titled “The Reasonableness of Christianity,” in which he attempted to prove the truth of Christianity. Locke believed that if he showed people how logical and reasonable Christianity was, everyone would accept it. He did not realize that most objections to Christianity come from the heart and not the mind.
He was a pious man,18 and always held a high view of Scripture. Locke studied the Bible extensively and wrote paraphrases of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians, as well as “An Essay for the Understanding of St. Paul’s Epistles, by consulting St. Paul himself.” These were published after his death. He derived his view of Scripture largely from Richard Hooker’s “On the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.” Hooker, an Anglican theologian, took a middle-ground position between the Catholics who placed church tradition on a par with Scripture, and the Puritans who stood for Scripture alone. Hooker argued that where the Scripture is clear, Scripture alone must govern. Where Scripture is unclear, church tradition may be employed to help interpret it; and where both Scripture and church tradition are unclear, or where new circumstances arise, reason may also be employed to apprehend God’s truth.19
Locke frequently cited the Bible in his political writings. In his first treatise on government he cited the Bible eighty times. Forty-two of these citations are from Genesis, mostly chapters 1 and 3. Twenty-two biblical citations appear in his second treatise in which he argued that parents have authority over their children based upon the creation of Adam and Eve and their offspring. He also argued that man has the right to possess property since God gave the earth to Adam and later to Noah. He based the social compact which government is established upon “that Paction which God made with Noah after the Deluge. “(4)20 His basic doctrines of parental authority, private property, and social compact were based on the historical existence of Adam and Noah.
John Locke made two major contributions to the thinking of America’s founding fathers. The first was his doctrine of natural law [p.62>] and natural rights which the founding fathers were acquainted with from other sources but found most clearly expressed in Locke’s writings. He based both of these concepts on Scripture:
Human Laws are measures in respect of Men whose Actions they must direct, albeit such measures they are as have also their higher Rules to be measured by, which Rules are two, the Law of God, and the Law of Nature; so that Laws Human must be made according to the general Laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive Law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made.21
Locke identified the basic natural rights of man as “life, liberty, and property.” This phrase is part of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution as well as the Declaration of Independence, where Jefferson expanded “property” to “pursuit of happiness.”
Second, Locke contributed the theory of social compact: the idea that men in a state of nature realize their rights are insecure, and compact together to establish a government and cede to that government certain power so that government may use that power to secure the rest of their rights. The social compact theory is similar to the Calvinist idea of covenant. The social compact theory, like the covenant, allows the government only the power God and/or people delegate. This is the cornerstone of limited government. It finds expression in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution and in the Declaration of Independence which states that governments exist to secure human rights and “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
2)Werner Stark, Montesquieu, Pioneer of the Sociology of Knowledge (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961), pp. 14-16.
3) Robert Shackleton, Montesquieu: A Critical Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), pp. 395-96.
4) Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws (New York: Hafner, 1949, 1962), 1:1.
7) Ibid., 24:27-29.
9) Ibid., 24:32.
10)Duncan Kennedy, “The Structure of Blackstone’s Commentaries,” Buffalo Law Review (1979), 28:203-375, 209.
11)Lutz, “Relative Influence of European Writers,” pp. 195-96.
12) Madison, quoted by Verna M. Hall, The Christian History of the Constitution of the United States of America: Christian Self-Government with Union (San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1962, 1979), p. 130A.
13) Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, quoted by Hall, Christian History of the Constitution, pp. 140-46.
14) Kennedy, “Structure of Blackstone’s Commentaries,” p. 250.
15)Thamar E. Dufwa, The Viking Laws and the Magna Carta: A Study of the Northmen’s Cultural Influence on England and France (New York: Exposition Press, 1963), pp. 32-92. For a general discussion and detailed documentation of the Christian and Jewish influence on the development of English common law, see John Eidsmoe, The Christian Legal Advisor (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984, 1987), pp. 26-29.
16)“[Blackstone] had only the vaguest possible grasp on the elementary conceptions of law. He evidently regards the law of gravitation, the law of nations, and the law of England, as different examples of the same principle—as rules of action or conduct imposed by a superior power on its subjects. He propounds in terms a fallacy which is perhaps not quite yet expelled from courts of law, viz., that municipal or positive laws derive their validity from their conformity to the so-called law of nature or law of God. ‘No human laws,’ he says, ‘are of any validity or contrary to this”’ (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1896, s.v. “Blackstone, Sir William”; cf. 1911 ed.).
17) Encyclopedia Britannica: Micropedia, 1986, s.v. “Blackstone, Sir William.”
18) Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia: Knowledge in Depth, 1986, s.v. “Locke.”
Lanier Theological Library (2014) – Does the Christian faith hold up under scrutiny? What does science tell us about the plausibility of a god? Can we trust the alleged eyewitness testimony of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus? These questions are worth investigating in order to find an answer solidified in fact and evidence. Mark Lanier uses his experienced legal eye to examine the plausibility of the Christian faith. Bringing science, current knowledge, and common sense together in a courtroom approach, Mark intends to elucidate a rich understanding of God and a strong foundation for Christian faith. Buy Lanier’s book Christianity on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Christian Faith.
…But what I would argue is that science entered early Christian and medieval Europe by a process of cultural osmosis. For one of the formative and enduring features of Christianity, from the AD 30s and 40s onwards, was its social and cultural flexibility. One did not have to belong to any given racial or cultural group, wear any approved style of clothing, cut one’s beard in a prescribed way, speak a special holy language, or follow essential rituals to be a Christian. Women in particular, amazingly, considering their limited social role in antiquity, were drawn to Christianity in large numbers, as the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles make clear, where they are shown as openly expressing their views. They were even the original witnesses of the resurrection, while St Paul’s first European convert was Lydia of Thyatira, a Greek merchant woman.
In fact Christianity moved into the pre-existing social, legal and administrative structures of Greco-Roman paganism, as Greek civic virtue became infused with Judeo-Christian charity. Roman legal objectivity absorbed key aspects of the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes to create a concept of social justice; even the modes of dress of late Roman officials became the vestments of Christian priests; while words like “bishop” and “diocese” derived from classical administrative sources. Christianity, instead of overthrowing the genius of Greece and Rome, simply absorbed its best practical components, and allied them with the teachings of Jesus. The law codes of Christendom, moreover, came to develop non-theological components. The circuit judge system set up by King Henry II in the twelfth century, for instance, might have carried resonances of the assistant judges of Israel appointed by Moses in Exodus, or the judgment towns visited by the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel, but in practice it administered a new, practical English “Common Law”, and the judges often sat with that innovation of the age, a twelve-man lay jury.
This is how medieval students in Oxford, Paris, Bologna, or Salamanca came to study the pagan philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, the classical Latin poetry of Virgil, and the humane ethics of Cicero along with the Gospels. And very important for the rise of a civil society in which there was an acknowledged saeculum or non-theological exclusivity, the law students at the medieval Inns of Court in London, then as today, learned a pragmatic, case-based evolving civil law that was not especially theological in its foundation. For medieval Christendom was open to non-Christian ideas, provided that they could be reconciled in their broader principles with Christianity.
Exactly the same thing happened with science. The astronomy of Ptolemy, the physics of Aristotle, and the medicine of Hippocrates became part of the curriculum in Europe’s great new universities by 1250. Indeed, it was generally accepted that many honest pagans had glimpsed key truths of God’s creation, and who could blame the wise Socrates and Aristotle if they happened to have been born 400 years before Jesus, for their wisdom and honest contributions to learning were beyond question. This is how ancient science came to slide effortlessly into the Christian world, for it was useful for making calendars, treating diseases, and explaining the physical nature of things from the facts then available.
But, you might ask, when talking about science and Christendom, what happened in monotheistic Islam? It is an evident fact of history that, after its initial military conquests in the century after AD 622, Muslim scholars in Baghdad, Cairo, and southern Spain encountered the scientific and medical writings of the Greeks, which they translated into Arabic. And amidst a galaxy of figures such as Ibn Jabir in chemistry, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) in medicine, Ibn Tusi in astronomy, and Al-Haythem (Alhazen) in optics, Arabic science took the Greek scientific tradition further, research-wise, than anyone in Europe over the centuries AD 800-1200. But then, due to a variety of factors embedded within Islamic culture, it stalled and came to a standstill, especially after their last great scientist, the astronomer Ulugh Beigh of Samarkand, was murdered, it was said, by one of his own sons in 1449.
There has been much discussion among scholars as to why Islamic science declined as an intellectual and technical force, and why Christian Europe after 1200 developed a momentum which absorbed — with full acknowledgment — the achievements of the great Muslim scholars and scientists, and accelerated in an unbroken line of development down to the present day. For Islam, just like Judaism and Christianity, is a monotheistic faith, seeing the God of Abraham as the original and only creative force behind the universe. So why did the Islamic monotheistic tradition stall scientifically, while the Judeo-Christian tradition flourished? I think much has to do with a broader receptivity to classical Greco-Roman culture.
As was shown above, Christianity grew directly out of a combination of Judaism and wider Greco-Roman culture. Jesus the man was incarnated as a Jewish rabbi who preached in vernacular Aramaic and could read Hebrew, yet whose teachings, not to mention the commentaries of his disciples, were committed to posterity in Greek and, somewhat later, in Latin. The Jesus of the Gospels, moreover, respected Caesar, the Roman state and its officials; and his disciples even held an election to decide whether Barnabas or Matthias should be co-opted into the Twelve after Judas’s treachery; while St Paul, a Jewish native of the Hellenized “university town” of Tarsus in Cilicia (now Turkey), argued like a Socratic philosopher in his letters and was deeply proud of being a hereditary Roman citizen. Islam, on the other hand, came about in a very different way. The Prophet Mohammed’s roots lay in the essentially tribal society of the seventh-century-AD Arabian peninsula, east of the Red Sea. Tribal custom and not Greco-Roman “civic virtue” moulded its social and cultural practices, and Islam’s lack of a theology of free grace and atonement gave emphasis to an internal legalism that could all too easily generate centuries long sectarian disputes, such as those between the Shi’ites and the Sunnis. And while I fully admit that Christendom has had its own spasms of internal violent reprisal, most recently witnessed in the Troubles in Northern Ireland, I would suggest that Christendom’s classically derived constitutional, negotiated, approach to politics has always provided mechanisms for containment and reconciliation. This has been seen most notably in the active cooperation between the Roman Catholic and Protestant mainstreams, often on an overtly religious level, although splinter groups can remain active until changes in public attitudes eventually render them obsolete.
Islam took from Greco-Roman culture what it found useful in the territories it conquered. These included Greek astronomy, optics, medicine, chemistry, and technology, each of which it amplified and expanded, producing major treatises, often based upon freshly accumulated and carefully classified observational data. Chemistry came to owe an enormous debt to Arabic researchers, as would astronomical, medical, and botanical nomenclature. Indeed, well over a dozen major Arabic works made their way into Europe, where they were translated into Latin, influencing figures like Bishop Robert Grosseteste and Friar Roger Bacon of Oxford, and began to be widely studied in detail in the post-1100 European universities. (On the other hand, I am not aware of the foundational works of European science, such as those of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Vesalius, or Harvey, being translated into Arabic until recent times.) And among other things, that astronomical computing instrument known as the astrolabe, upon which the poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the first technical “workshop manual” in the English language around 1381, was a sophisticated Arabic development of a device first outlined by Ptolemy in the second century AD.
Yet while Greek ideas were profoundly formative upon Arabic concepts of the natural world, Islam did not absorb other key ideas of Greek and Roman culture which would become formative to Christian Europe. Greek democratic political ideals, “civic virtue”, and legal monogamy (divorce and mistresses notwithstanding) never became an integral part of Islam as they did of Christendom. Nor did the descent of kingship through holy anointing, which began with Samuel, Saul, and David in 1 Samuel in the Old Testament and entered early Christian kingship practices as the act of coronation, and is still enshrined in the person of HM Queen Elizabeth II.
It is for these reasons, I would argue, that modern science is a child of Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman parentage, and why I speak of Western science as becoming the dominant style of thinking about the natural world and humanity’s inquisitive relationship with it. Indeed, it is not just about the science and technology, but about the social, intellectual, and cultural assumptions and practices in which modern science is embedded. The very institutions within which science has grown up over the last 900 years, moreover, testify to this inheritance: universities with enduring corporate structures borrowed from Greek and Roman linguistic and civic practice; learned societies — such as the Royal Society of London after 1660 — which were self-electing, self-governing bodies modelled on the “collegiate”, “civic virtue” style Oxford and Cambridge colleges; and rich, free-trading merchant-driven cities such as London, Florence, Venice, Nuremberg, Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Hamburg.
As will be shown in more detail in the following chapters, historical Christianity has never been rigidly literalistic in its interpretation of the physical world of Scripture, and it is that very flexibility that has made the faith so versatile and adaptive in its social expression over 2,000 years. A faith that made its first utterance among Aramaic-speaking fishermen and farmers around Galilee (occupying a land surface area no bigger than modern Birmingham), quickly went on to enchant Greek-writing scholars, led to the conversion of the Roman Empire, encompassed people between Mesopotamia, Spain, Britannia, and Ethiopia by AD 600, would inspire the new Latin-speaking universities of Europe by 1200, would engraft onto itself the science, philosophy, legal and social practices of the high classical Mediterranean, would explore possible connections between the teachings of Jesus and the writings of Plato and Virgil, and whose Scriptures would be translated into the vernacular languages of Europe by 1550. Christianity would then go on to inspire the natural theology of the Royal Society Fellows, be the driving force behind the abolition of slavery, supply the moral and spiritual tools that constitute the best and noblest aspects of what we now call “human rights” — and become the prime target for some of the bitterest abuse that many twenty-first-century sceptics feel compelled to heap upon religious belief (and I have heard a good deal of that at first hand!).
Indeed, considering the magnitude of Christianity’s moulding influence upon Western civilization, and its provision of that rich soil in which post-classical science could flourish and grow, it is hardly surprising that, in this imperfect world, it has detractors…
Allan Chapman, Slaying the Dragons: Destroying the Myths in the History of Science and Faith (Oxford, England: Lion Publishing, 2013), 18-23.
…Victor Davis Hanson has taken down Obama’s version of the Golden age of Islam:
In his speech last week in Cairo, President Obama proclaimed he was a “student of history.” But despite Mr. Obama’s image as an Ivy League-educated intellectual, he lacks historical competency in both facts and interpretation. … Obama … claimed that “Islam . . . carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment.” [In fact] medieval Islamic culture … had little to do with the European rediscovery of classical Greek and Latin values. Europeans, Chinese, and Hindus, not Muslims, invented most of the breakthroughs Obama credited to Islamic innovation. … Much of the Renaissance, in fact, was more predicated on the centuries-long flight of Greek-speaking Byzantine scholars from Constantinople to Western Europe to escape the aggression of Islamic Turks. Many romantic thinkers of the Enlightenment sought to extend freedom to oppressed subjects of Muslim fundamentalist rule in eastern and southern Europe.
Andrew Bostom has skewered the myth that Cordoba was a model of ecumenism:
Expanding upon Jane Gerber’s thesis about the “garish” myth of a “Golden Age,” the late Richard Fletcher (in his Moorish Spain) offered a fair assessment of interfaith relationships in Muslim Spain and his view of additional contemporary currents responsible for obfuscating that history:
The witness of those who lived through the horrors of the Berber conquest, of the Andalusian fitnah [ordeal] in the early eleventh century, of the Almoravid invasion — to mention only a few disruptive episodes — must give it [i.e.: the roseate view of Muslim Spain] the lie.
The simple and verifiable historical truth is that Moorish Spain was more often a land of turmoil than it was of tranquility. … Tolerance? Ask the Jews of Granada who were massacred in 1066, or the Christians who were deported by the Almoravids to Morocco in 1126 (like the Moriscos five centuries later). … In the second half of the twentieth century a new agent of obfuscation makes its appearance: the guilt of the liberal conscience, which sees the evils of colonialism — assumed rather than demonstrated — foreshadowed in the Christian conquest of al-Andalus and the persecution of the Moriscos (but not, oddly, in the Moorish conquest and colonization). Stir the mix well and issue it free to credulous academics and media persons throughout the Western world. Then pour it generously over the truth … in the cultural conditions that prevail in the West today, the past has to be marketed, and to be successfully marketed, it has to be attractively packaged. Medieval Spain in a state of nature lacks wide appeal. Self-indulgent fantasies of glamour … do wonders for sharpening its image. But Moorish Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch.
Serge Trifkovic also has a general take-down of the overblown account of the accomplishments and comity of the Islamic Golden Age in his FrontPage article, The Golden Age of Islam is a Myth.
Armed with new archaeological evidence, Scott makes the compelling case, originally put forward in 1920 by Henri Pirenne, a Belgian historian, that Classical civilization did not collapse after the fall of the Roman empire but was gradually attrited by the onslaught of Arab armies and raiders. The Islamic Golden Age came close to permanently destroying the classical humanistic culture of the West.
Hanson has pointed out the factual errors in Obama’s paean to Islam’s Golden Age. Andrew Bostom has skewered the myth that Cordoba was a model of ecumenism Trikovic has shown that the continuation of learning, science, technology of the “Golden age of Islam” prospered in spite of Islam and not because of Islam and now we have Emmet Scott skewering the myth that the Golden Age of Islam saved Classical humanistic Western culture. What is next? The glory of Sharia?