Crusading Protestant Style

One of the joys of ecclesiastical deism is that Protestants don’t have to answer readily for the political and cultural consequences of the Crusades, a phenomenon that as Andrew Wheatcroft shows, etched into the memories of the West and East perceptions that still inhabit planet earth. After all, if the church did not exist between 500 and 1500, the Crusades were not the church’s business.

Still, as off-putting as the Crusades were, Protestants were not as squeamish in employing the word as they should have been. For most of his career, for example, Billy Graham’s urban revivals were known as “Crusades.” And until a decade or so ago, Wheaton College’s mascot was the – that’s right – Crusader. (They changed to the lame and uninspired Wheaton College Thunder.) And then we had Campus Crusade for Christ, recently renamed Cru. This cultural insensitivity is likely another consequence of ecclesiastical deism – not knowing church history leads to incalculably bad appropriations of it.

Twentieth-century evangelicals were not the only Protestants who could not resist invoking the imagery and language of the Crusades:

Gradually, the common meaning of “crusade” in the English language became a metaphor for a sustained and powerful action in a good cause. But the older sense of the cross and holy war was still a potent symbol. Nor was the specific enmity to Muslims completely lost. I remember singing at school a hymn by J. E. Neale, which had been popular since first published a century before. Neal had reworked a text by Andrew of Crete.

Christian, dost thou see them
On the holy ground?
How the troops of Midian
Prowl and prowl around?
Christian, up and smit them,,
Counting gain but los:
Smite them by the merit
Of the holy cross.

. . . . Neale’s usage was atypical, and he later produced a more anodyne version. The “troops of Midian” were transmuted into “the powers of darkness.” Perhaps he considered this more appropriate to the mission fields? Likewise, “infidel,” which had still been in use in the early nineteenth century, fell out of favor with hymn writers. “Heathen lands” and “pagan darkness preplaced the wastelands of the infidel. Perhaps “infidel” was too precisely associated with Mediterranean Islam? However, in 1911, Robert Mitchell returned directly to the language of “crusade” in its original bellicose sense:

Hark to the call of the New Crusade,
Christ over all will King be made;
Out to the world let the challenge ring:
Make Christ King!

His refrain elaborated the theme:

Hail to the King of kings! Triumphant Redeemer!
On march the solders of the New Crusade.
This is the battle cry: Christ made the King?
And to our Sov’reign we allegiance bring:
Prince, Guide and Counsellor He shall be.
Carry the standard to victory!
Hail to the call of the New Crusade:
Make Christ King!
Strong is the foe of the New Crusade,
Sin in its armour is well arrayed;
Into the fight we our best must fling:
Make Christ King!

There were hundreds of missionaries to the Holy Land at the time that Mitchell wrote, but the big battalions of evangelism directed their attention elsewhere. Nevertheless, the essential terminology of “crusade” and conquest remained a constant presence in Christian discourse and activity.

Nineteenth- and twentieth-century evangelicals crusaded, as they believed, for a spiritual victory, not for territorial conquest. But the word does not allow so facile a separation. This ambiguity between a holy war in a spiritual sense and a victory over the temporal forces of darkness had a long degree. Two seventeenth-century near contemporaries, John Bunyan and Thomas Fuller, both wrote books entitled The Holy War. Bunyan’s allegorical intentions were clear from this title: The Holy War Made by Shaddai upon the Diabolus foe the Regaining of the Metropolis of the World or The Losing and Taking Again for the Town of Mansoul. It was publsihed in 1682. Thomas Fuller’s The Historie of the Holy Warre was equally popular. (197-98)

Billy Graham, Wheaton College, and Bill Bright got it honestly.


49 thoughts on “Crusading Protestant Style

  1. In the spirit of “Cru” we’re changing our church name from (insert noun) Presbyterian Church to “Chu”.


  2. Amazing how much hipster church marketing speak can sound like Newspeak.

    “Join us Sunday for post-sermon Uni-sac at Byte 2.0 metro campus.”


  3. When the church (as the church) and Sessions Presbyteries and GAs, defend the lives of the very young, handicapped, and very old (“useless eaters”, a la Nazis), is this a CRUSADE? Or, maybe, obeying Jesus’s Commandment #2: love our Made-in-God’s-Image neighbors, as we love ourselves? (Sometimes a Crusade)? Love, Useless Eater? Brother Bob Morris


  4. EriK, since commenting above, I have glanced through a number of recent DGH posts, the usual avalanche by you. I am astounded that such as you has said many times (as recently as 5/31) that my much less frequent comments are so hard to understand. Do you “get” my thing on “Crusades”, above”? Love, OB


  5. EriK, No one I know of is killing “useless eaters” in the U.S. TODAY. I think we should not repeat the blindness of many Christians (many Lutherans) in the Nazi days of 1920s – 1940s. In the U.S. NOW we have plenty of sleeping Christians who think “politics” should not be a part of church interest! ‘Nuff said! I hope I am clear again this time. Love, OB


  6. Old Bob,

    If anything seniors in the U.S. are far wealthier than their younger cohorts, and they demand more social security, more medicare, with no regard for those working to pay the bills or the sustainability of the system. Our seniors are eating just fine.


  7. I suspect the Alexian Village looks a lot like Bushwood:

    If I have to listen to my parents and in-laws (3 totally retired, 1 working part time) in their 60’s talk about how much free time they have much more I’m going to puke.


  8. Speaking of useless eating, crusades, and evangelicalism. I took the grandson tonight to Chik-fi-holy (mainly for the indoor playground). Their wifi would not allow OL to load. Hmm, I thought. I typed in “gospel coalition” and BAM — it loaded. So the evangelical eatery has a confessional filter. Now you know.


  9. C-dubs, the eatery probably picked up on the metrosexual vibes up in here. I bet those sandwiches taste a little gay though, right?


  10. Well, it was nuggets if you must know. And they weren’t getting a such a vibe from me. There may be meta tags on the OL site like “pampered chef” and “cat stroker” though.


  11. And Zrimly, I have a tractor and a nasty terrier instead of a Prius (or worse, a bus pass) and a Persian.


  12. “He’s trying to escape, shoot him!!!”


    “Are you gonna let him escape, shoot him!!”


    “Kill him!!! Kill that SOB!! Shoot him!!!!”


    game ball…


  13. One for OB and other pietists frequenting this blog:

    A cowboy, who just moved to Wyoming from Texas , walks into a bar and orders three mugs of Bud. He sits in the back of the room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn. When he finishes them, he comes back to the bar and orders three more.
    The bartender approaches and tells the cowboy, “You know, a mug goes flat after I draw it. It would taste better if you bought one at a time.”
    The cowboy replies, “Well, you see, I have two brothers. One is in Arizona , the other is in Colorado . When we all left our home in Texas, we promised that we’d drink this way to remember the days when we drank together. So I’m drinking one beer for each of my brothers and one for myself.”
    The bartender admits that this is a nice custom, and leaves it there.
    The cowboy becomes a regular in the bar, and always drinks the same way. He orders three mugs and drinks them in turn.
    One day, he comes in and only orders two mugs. All the regulars take notice and fall silent. When he comes back to the bar for the second round, the bartender says, “I don’t want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your loss.”
    The cowboy looks quite puzzled for a moment, then a light dawns in his eyes and he laughs.
    “Oh, no, everybody’s just fine,” he explains, “It’s just that my wife and I joined the Baptist Church and I had to quit drinking.”
    “Hasn’t affected my brothers though .”

    [I assume the two brothers were either Lutherans, Presbyterians, or atheists]


  14. George,

    Good one! That reminds me of this one:

    Why are Baptists so vehemently against fornication?
    Because it may lead to dancing


  15. Brilliant George! I’ll keep that one in my Baptist joke file for sure. Here’s one…

    Q: What’s the difference between taking one Baptist fishing and taking two?

    A: If you take two they won’t drink any of your beer, if you take one, he will drink them all…

    Back to changing diapers and wistfully longing for the time when I had time to post at OL. If you guys remember, pour one beer out for a fallen homie, b/c it will be a while before my schedule allows more frequent posting…. Wait, what in theee heck am I talking about, don’t waste a perfectly good beer, just remember that some OldLifer’s make the ultimate sacrifice — placing parenting above life on the interwebs, then slug them suds down. I am counting down the days until Daddy’s little princess starts watching Sesame Street so I can get back to the more serious priorities in life – visiting OldLife and scouring the web for BBQ info.


  16. Jed – for some us here it’s the other end of the spectrum, grandkids. New grand daughter coming up on 10 months. Unfortunately, they live on the East Coast and we don’t get to see her very often, but they’re supposed to be coming to the Midwest around the end of the month.

    But when you return to surfing for BBQ info take a look at this one, if you haven’t already seen it. It’s basically a SIG for those who own a Weber Smoky Mountain Smoker, but it full of good recipes that apply to anyone with good a good smoking apparatus.


  17. Hey OLT guys! I read the comments after my 2 comments. Well, I tried! EriK: How could you EVER say Old Bob is hard to follow? What a deluge of “humor” and incomprehensible junk Old Bob had to wade through just now. I guess y’all scared Richard Smith and others away? I still believe y’all ought to listen to the head of my alma mater, WTS, Dr. Peter A. Lillback. Read his insightful, “Wall of Misconception”. What are y’all thinking—ugh— talking about? Ever tried to be CONstructive? Us “useless eaters” here @ Alexian try a lot. It is Biblical! If our country continues on its plunge, y’all could some day become REAL “useless eaters” and toast like the many sleepy Christians who slept through Hitler’s rule. Love, Old Bob BTW, Elaine and I are exiting the “Only Pure Church” after being members since the early 1950s. Some thanks to OLT and their ilk. And to the “dilemma” illustrated by the Feb? 2012 New Horizon’s cover. Please don’t just comment on some single point I made?


  18. goes well with:

    Invite two baptists over to watch the game and no alcohol will flow

    Invite one baptist over to watch the game and your beer fridge will be emptied.


  19. Old Bob,

    I am sad to hear you are leaving a denomination after 60+ years.

    I am a little curious about the reasons. I visited a PCA church a while ago that had as its backdrop behind the pulpit a projection of what was supposed to be an image of Christ. Should that be my reason to leave or not join any PCA church?

    What about if a PCA elder on a blog promotes the signing of the Manhattan Declaration? Should that be my reason to leave or not join any PCA church?

    While there are good reasons to leave a church or denomination, are a blog or a magazine cover two of those reasons?



  20. Jed – I am counting down the days until Daddy’s little princess starts watching Sesame Street so I can get back to the more serious priorities in life – visiting OldLife and scouring the web for BBQ info.

    Erik – You might have more success getting her to watch the Today Show. Oh, wait, you were talking about your daughter.

    My wife currently has 10 episodes of “Dr. Phil” clogging the DVR.


  21. George/Jed,

    My soon-to-be son-in-law works for a BBQ place and has become adept at smoking meat. He even has his own smoker. Nice addition to the family.


  22. Old Bob,

    The Baylys and Clearwood Fellowship await you with open arms.

    Kind of crazy to leave a local church because of some knuckleheads like us online, though.


  23. “Dear” DGH and his olt fans— After reading all the comments @ this post, I think y’all are in the same negativistic, yet “funny”, choir. The sensible congregation has all left. Many good guys like Pete Lillback probably never entered your “church”. I have visited several times. I leave y’all to sing your faulty music to each other in your olt choir loft. And the empty pews! (Hard to love ones who bring such division into His Body, but I will yet again sign off): LOVE, OB.


  24. EriK, I don’t think you and olt guys are knuckleheads, but I think you and DG have come close to giving OB that label w.o. using the word. Do you understand my last (both senses) comment? L, OB


  25. One thing to reflect on Old Bob: You often tell us how blessed you’ve been and how well your family has done. The entire time this has unfolded there have been people saying that the country was going to hell in a handbasket, yet you’ve thrived in spite of this. Could it be that a lot of people make their living telling us that the country is going to hell in a handbasket?


  26. Eric, it’s OK, I speak “Old Bob”. Let me translate: “You are a temperamentally defective nabbering nabob of negativism.” Peace, out.


  27. I think one reason Bob breaks the Lillback rule is that he thinks it’s only about devotion to one’s myths about the american founders. But his confusion of kingdoms is related to his confusion of law and gospel, so that he reads conditionality into all the covenants. And a conditional gospel is bad news for all sinners.

    Covenant and Election in the Reformed Tradition, by David J. Engelsma, Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2011, 288 pages; $28.95;

    Not all want covenant and election joined together.. Many would maintain and defend a conditional covenant (and justification/salvation), even though that doesn’t fit well with the Reformed doctrine of unconditional election. That’s why this book by Engelsma, is so significant. Engelsma has distinguished himself as a an ardent defender of the indispensable link between God’s covenant of grace and His election of His people in Christ.

    Engelsma begins his book by tracing the history of the “crisis” in covenant theology over its relation to the doctrine of election in Reformed churches culminating in the present federal vision heresy. He then launches into a staunch defense of a covenant theology governed by the doctrine of God’s sovereign, gracious, unconditional election, enlisting these witnesses: the (Dutch) Reformed Baptism Form; the Canons of Dordt (which responded specifically to the Arminian view of condi-tional election and salvation); the Reformation gospel of salvation by sovereign grace ; Calvin’s doctrine of the covenant; Dutch theologian C.Graafland (whose major work showed that Calvin taught that the covenant was governed by election); and Herman Bavinck (who himself clearly and concisely joined covenant and election together in his Reformed Dogmatics).

    In connection with Calvin’s teaching on the covenant, Engelsma spends an important chapter countering Peter A. Lillback’s “preposterous proposal” that Calvin separated the doctrine of the covenant from that of election—cf. Lillback’s book The Binding of God: Calvin’s Role in the Development of Covenant Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001).


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