How do we answer to nonbelievers the history of the Crusades and the repercussions on the Platinum Rule of Christ?

I came across this question in my apologetic quest. I then went to to get to the bottom of it, at least, understand how the Crusades got started and its history. Its impact weighs heavily on us even till now. Can anyone here explain it to us as how ought we to answer those skeptics and opposing unbelievers out there? Truly we dont want to “misrepresent God” but to be used by Him in all areas of our lives, being true “ambassadors” as far as we are able.

For those interested need to read this first:


The crusades were a response to Islamic take over of Christian communities. Not saying they didn’t commit war crimes but they didn’t come about for no reason. You can read more about it here on Answering Islam. There are references at the bottom of that web page if you want to dig deeper in to Islamic crusades.

While I don’t believe in forcing a nation into submission I do believe in helping out brothers and sisters in Christ who are being enslaved, killed, and tortured. It’s the same concept of someone were to break into your home. Would you watch them kill you loved ones or would you do all that you can to stop the evil act? Love would prompt you to stop evil as quickly as possible. I’m not condoning all that the soldiers did during the crusades but it isn’t right to solely blame Christian crusaders as if they just wanted to invade and take over for the fun of it. It was war and retaliation to a nation that was doing its own crusade and guilty of the same crimes.

In short, the crusades were rough and not everything about it was right, but it was a response to save the Christian brothers and sisters who were being enslaved and slaughtered.

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@mutts Great question :slight_smile: I’m not a historian, but here are a few thoughts.

  • lots of things have been done in the name of Christ that do not truly represent Christ. In fact, the Scriptures warn this will happen often. So if you want to evaluate Christianity, you need to look at Jesus - not at people who have misused His name. Ask people a simple question, “Do you think Jesus would have done that?” Try to point them back to Jesus.
  • history is often more complex than the sound bites we hear. As Luna is noting, the crusades were complicated and evil was done by both sides. I’m not a historian, but I found Thomas Madden’s perspective interesting. I’d need to study more to have a truly balanced historical perspective though…

Perspective of a Catholic Scholar

Thomas Madden is a Catholic Scholar who has done a lot of work on the crusades. In the following article he debunks some common myths about the crusades. I do not know enough history to be certain of the quality of all that he says, but it is nonetheless an interesting perspective worth considering.

During the Middle Ages you could not find a Christian in Europe who did not believe that the Crusades were an act of highest good. Even the Muslims respected the ideals of the Crusades and the piety of the men who fought them. But that all changed with the Protestant Reformation. For Martin Luther, who had already jettisoned the Christian doctrines of papal authority and indulgences, the Crusades were nothing more than a ploy by a power-hungry papacy. Indeed, he argued that to fight the Muslims was to fight Christ himself, for it was he who had sent the Turks to punish Christendom for its faithlessness. When Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his armies began to invade Austria, Luther changed his mind about the need to fight, but he stuck to his condemnation of the Crusades. During the next two centuries people tended to view the Crusades through a confessional lens: Protestants demonized them, Catholics extolled them. As for Suleiman and his successors, they were just glad to be rid of them.

It was in the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century that the current view of the Crusades was born. Most of the philosophes , like Voltaire, believed that medieval Christianity was a vile superstition. For them the Crusades were a migration of barbarians led by fanaticism, greed, and lust. Since then, the Enlightenment take on the Crusades has gone in and out of fashion. The Crusades received good press as wars of nobility (although not religion) during the Romantic period and the early twentieth century. After the Second World War, however, opinion again turned decisively against the Crusades. In the wake of Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, historians found war of ideology–any ideology –distasteful. This sentiment was summed up by Sir Steven Runciman in his three-volume work, A History of the Crusades (1951-54). For Runciman, the Crusades were morally repugnant acts of intolerance in the name of God. The medieval men who took the cross and marched to the Middle East were either cynically evil, rapaciously greedy, or naively gullible. This beautifully written history soon became the standard. Almost single-handedly Runciman managed to define the modern popular view of the Crusades.

Since the 1970s the Crusades have attracted many hundreds of scholars who have meticulously poked, prodded, and examined them. As a result, much more is known about Christianity’s holy wars than ever before. Yet the fruits of decades of scholarship have been slow to enter the popular mind.


In my email box today, I got a notice about a free Credo course on the crusades (by Gary Habermas, I think). I haven’t listened to this one, but I’ve had a good experience with this site.