|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
The successes and failures of previous wars against Islam inform us - if we view them through the lens of Scripture.
In his inaugural address, United States President Donald Trump stated this goal for his administration: "We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth."
Is this possible? And if so, what value would it have? We learn the answers as we look at the successes and failures of previous wars against Islam through the infallible lens of Scripture.
The Crusades of the Middle Ages
Principal among the conflicts between the West and Islam were the Crusades of the Middle Ages. The purposes of the first wave of Crusades in the late 11th century were twofold, and both served the global-dominion aims of the Roman papacy. First, the Crusaders were commissioned to conquer Palestine and recover the "holy sepulcher" through the defeat of Islam by force of war. Second, once the land was conquered a Middle Eastern kingdom sponsored by the Roman Catholic pope, with Jerusalem as its capital, was to be established.
Let us put these goals in Biblical terms: The aim of the Crusades was to replace the bondage and oppression of one false religion with that of another. The Romanist church-state was to displace Islamic caliphates. But Rome's priestly inquisitors were no less murderous than Islam's rulers. Rome also subjected those it branded as heretics to various diabolical tortures, and put them to death by burning them alive or beheading them. Rome's so-called "Christendom" had nothing to do with the true Christ of Scripture, or His kingdom.
Although there were other political causes, the immediate cause of the first Crusades was the Muslims' mistreatment of Roman Catholics who went on pilgrimages to Jerusalem and other Biblical sites to supposedly gain favor with God and reduce their time in purgatory. Those who went on the Crusades, for the most part, also did so in the belief that they would gain God's favor and reduce their years in Rome's fictitious flames.
Did the Crusades Have Any Biblical Value?
The Crusades had Biblical value in that they amply demonstrated Jesus' statement to Pontius Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." (John 18:36). Man could not establish the kingdom of God by force of war, nor could he find favor with God by such methods.
Some self-described Evangelicals have gone so far astray from the truth as to say that true believers in Christ need to apologize to Muslims for the Crusades. That would be reprehensible. The Crusades stemmed not from authentic Biblical Christianity, but from another Jesus, another gospel, and another spirit that are contrary to God's Word (2 Corinthians 11:4). It is the false church of Rome that owes the apology, if any is to be given.
The Crusaders marched under the banner of the cross - but it was the cross of Romanism, not the true cross of Christ. The Holy Spirit's words through Paul ring out against them:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."
Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)
But in the providence of God, the Crusades did help pave the way for the Protestant Reformation by helping to check the expansion of Islam into Europe, and by further institutionalizing Romanism's ecclesiastical and theological abuses, against which the Reformers would speak out with such boldness. The Reformers could not see that clearly in their time; we see it only from the vantage point of intervening centuries.
What About War With ISIS?
What does all of this say concerning the present warfare being waged by the United States, Israel, and Russia against ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Such warfare has no more basis in authentic Biblical Christianity or its propagation than did the Crusades of centuries past. But God will use the present warfare against ISIS as He intends, just as He did the Crusades of centuries past. We know not what His specific purposes are, because "the secret things belong to the Lord our God" (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Some self-described Evangelical commentators claim to understand God's detailed agenda in the present conflict with ISIS. But their assertions are speculation at best, and often involve the worst kinds of Scripture-twisting. God's specific purposes will only be known in the hindsight of history - and more vitally, when history has been culminated and Christ comes in judgment. But two things we do know with certainty: God will have all the glory, and even in these dark days He is working all things together for the good of those whom He has called to eternal glory.
I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another (Isaiah 42:8).
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:20-28)
A strong case can be made that the United States' intervention in Iraq beginning in 2003 ultimately produced ISIS and its horrors. Much of the history of the world is, from a human vantage point, the history of such unintended evil consequences. Such will always be the case when "the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 'Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.' " But in this evil day, as in all days of history, "He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision" (Psalm 2:2-4).
Christ the Conqueror
It is Christ, not fallen man, who will put all enemies under His feet. Islam, like Romanism, is inherently not a religion of life, but of death - often of physical death, but always of spiritual death. But we know Christ will conquer that last enemy as well.
But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For "He has put all things under His feet." But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. (I Corinthians 15:25-28)
For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying: "What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet." For in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we do not yet see all things put under Him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:5-9)
Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
He brings the princes to nothing;
He makes the judges of the earth useless.
Scarcely shall they be planted,
Scarcely shall they be sown,
Scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth,
When He will also blow on them,
And they will wither,
And the whirlwind will take them away like stubble.
"To whom then will you liken Me,
Or to whom shall I be equal?" says the Holy One.
Since we have been called out of this present evil world by such a powerful and faithful God,
let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:1-2, 28-29)
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