In 711, a Muslim army invaded and conquered most of what is now Spain and Portugal. What followed was an intermittent and complex season of warfare and crusade known today as the Reconquest, or Reconquista as Christian Kingdoms to the north and east fought to recapture these regions. The movement spanned generations and continued even after the last Muslim kingdom fell in 1492 as the remnants of Islam were prosecuted and expelled. Despite all of its political and social underpinning, the Spanish Reconquista was equally an ideological conquest fueled by a robust crusade theology. While physical armies fought and conquered, the true crusade was one of ideology.
Folquet de Marselha (1150-1231) is a fascinating figure. Though certainly not modern in his theology and philosophy, his multifaceted professions and rise to prominence have an almost modern tenor. “A troubadour, then a Cistercian monk, and finally Archbishop of Toulouse (1205-31),”he is a fine case study of the theological perspectives of reconquest and crusade during the period. His basic message offers the pragmatic observation that fighting Muslims in Spain would spare the crusaders the risks experienced during a long, Mediterranean Sea voyage to the Holy Land. However, it is his new addition to the already familiar doctrine of earning one’s salvation through fighting for God that tells us how highly he valued the crusade in Spain.
In a bizarre hermeneutic, if also an effective sales tactic, Folquet argues that the initial Muslim conquest of Spain was actually a positive action instituted by the providence of God to bring about salvation for those who would fight in the crusade.Claiming the event was an act of greater grace than the death of Christ on the cross since it offered a means of direct salvation, the archbishop broke new ground in soteriology to be sure.While his sentiments are not widely repeated among his contemporaries, the fact that he is not criticized for this teaching and the mere fact that this idea is a possible extrapolation of the theology of the time demonstrates not only the unique interpretations of medieval theology regarding salvation but also the true belief that the Church was indeed operating as the strong right arm of the Almighty Himself.
Continue reading “Salvation Doctrines of the Spanish Reconquista”
The transition between the Medieval and Renaissance eras was volatile for the disciplines of theology and philosophy with the events of the Protestant Reformation contributing to the debate from a parallel plain as well. On the eve of this season of change, it is not surprising to see Catholic theology and the highest form of art mingling into one – especially in the city of Florence, Italy. It was there that in 1425, sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455) began a 27-year-long endeavor to craft the “Gates of Paradise.” Completed in 1452, the enormous work was created specifically to become the monumental doors of the Florentine Baptistery. While the doors themselves are a magnificent bronze casting containing ten panels that depict various characters and scenes from the Old Testament, the work is widely hailed as a revolution in visual perspective leavng behind the flat, two-dimensional medieval style in favor of robust realism. However, what it did not leave behind was the equally robust doctrine of the supremacy of baptism in the Medieval Era.
Continue reading “Gateway to Paradise: Medieval and Renaissance Views of Baptism”
It has happened to all of us. We read the writings of a famously deep thinker and are forced to reread the words repeatedly to decipher their meaning. For the modern communicator it is vital to combine brilliance with eloquence. What good is a profound observation if no one can understand its meaning? Some of the most brilliant scholars struggle to communicate to young students because they cannot distill and simplify their thoughts well. As you might assume, this is not a new difficulty. Continue reading “Pascal, Anselm, and the State of Communicating Deep Ideas to an Unsuspecting Public”
Worried about why so many un-reached people groups are Islamic, or are you bothered that no one seems to have compassion for Muslim refugees fleeing civil wars in their homeland? Modern day people of faith often struggle to understand other religions, but this is not a new problem. The wall of fear between Christians and Muslims was built long ago – sometimes on bloodstained battlefields and sometimes in the library. Continue reading “Did Medieval Christians Believe Muslims Worshiped Satan?”