Gospel Meditation, Jesus Heals a Man with an Unclean Spirit, Mark 1:21-34


Mark 1:21-34

Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit &

Jesus heals many

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passages of Scripture.
  6. Reread them. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Jesus teaching in a synagogue in Capernaum, may indicated that Jesus was somewhat known. It has been suggested that Jesus had relocated to that city.
  8. Jesus’ presence stirred up a demon in a man who was ‘demonized’. The demon(s) knew Jesus was the “Holy One of God” in startling contrast to anyone else present.
  9. Jesus told “them” to be silent and come out of the demonized man.
  10. It was not neat and clean; there was a commotion and loud screaming from the man as the demons fought their exit.
  11. This ‘exorcism’ was far different than anything the observers had experienced before. Here was someone with authority. And Jesus’s fame spread.
  12. Leaving the synagogue He entered the home of the brothers Peter and Andrew, which must have been less than a Sabbath’s walk away from the synagogue. James and John were also present, and the four constituted all of Jesus’ disciples at that point.
  13. Peter’s mother was ill, she had a fever, and the family told Jesus about it. He took her by the hand, lifted her up, and the fever left her – she was healed. She was strong enough, immediately, that she commenced to serve them.
  14. The word spread, about both the expelling of demons and the healing, so that people needing help descended upon Jesus at Peter’s family home.

Jesus Calls the First Disciples


Jesus Calls the First Disciples

Mark 1:16-20

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Baptized by John, tempted by Satan, arriving back in Nazareth of Galilee, Jesus begins to call disciples.
  8. No one of the Twelve volunteered; they all were called or chosen by Jesus directly.
  9. Jesus had met Andrew and Simon (Peter), and likely James and John, at the time of the baptism by John.
  10. Perhaps Jesus had asked about where they lived and worked. He sought them out. First Andrews and Peter.
  11. “Follow Me” Jesus said, and this served as an invitation to join Him as a disciple. Generally students applied directly to rabbis in order to join their rabbinical school.
  12. “Fishers of men” – a metaphor, not to be taken literally. Now people, whom the Father seeks and loves, will be the focus of the rest of their lives.
  13. Immediately they followed Jesus. Likely they returned home to say goodbye and pack a bag. Not told this though.
  14. Then James and John – two sets of brothers, all fisherman, and who probably knew each other.
  1. It is an adventure of the highest order to follow Jesus, one

from which we never retire. And Jesus is always walking

just ahead of us, encouraging us along the way.


Mark 1:9-15


Mark 1:9-15

The Baptism, Temptation and Beginning of Jesus’s Ministry

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Jesus submits to John’s baptism, and no one is sure exactly why. He did not need cleansing from sin.
  8. John at first refused to baptize Jesus, but then Jesus responded that it was “to fulfill all righteousness.” (see Matthew 3:15) It remains a mystery.
  9. The voice from heaven, the Father, affirms the Son, and not only to those present but also to and for Jesus, the Son.
  10. Verse 11 is a sharp reminder that Jesus is completely human as well as deity, the paradox of the God-man.
  11. Here again we see the humanity of the Messiah, being tempted, and by the devil in fact. Was it possible for Jesus to fall into the temptation: the answer must be yes. If not, Jesus would be a ‘fake’ man like the Gnostics reasoned.
  12. “Forty days” – may be taken symbolically as forty for a symbol for that which was dreadful.
  13. Angels ministered to Jesus, and in what manner we do not know and it is not helpful to attempt to fill in the gaps.
  14. John is arrested soon after the baptism, perhaps the plan of God since John’s ministry was completed.
  15. Jesus begins now with the declaration that the kingdom of God is at hand, or begun. Where Jesus is, there is the kingdom.
  16. Repent and believe in the gospel – nothing has changed.


Gospel Meditation A Lamp Under a Basket & The Parable of the Growing Seed


Mark 4:21-29

A Lamp Under a Basket & The Parable of the Growing Seed

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. The first parable, “a lamp under a basket” continues the theme of the sower of seed. Now instead of sowing, the metaphor is letting the light shine for all to see.
  8. The metaphor of fire is used by Jesus. Fire was light and heat, vital to the people in that day and this.
  9. Clearly, a lamp was put on a stand not under a basket or a bed.
  10. The Light is Jesus and His Word, His Gospel. The Gospel was not held by the disciples as a mystery or a secret – the opposite of much religion of that day. Not for the elite, but for all.
  11. Those who broadcast, those doing the work, will be given more and more opportunity to do so; and sadly there is the opposite.
  12. This principle is evident in most every endeavor people undertake.
  13. Our second parable, the parable of the growing seed, again it plays off the parable of the sower.
  14. It is assumed that the sower, the farmer, the evangelist is busy scattering the seed on the ground. We already know that there are any number of places, four really, the seed could fall upon.
  15. Patiently the farmer waits for the seed to do its work, which it always does when the seed is good and healthy.
  16. The sower does not understand how it all works, indeed, he does not have to. Time and again the sower spreads the seed and time and again he watches the miracle take place. With an actual farmer the miracle is built into the process. With the witness the harvest is purely miraculous.
  17. The Holy Spirit does the work from beginning to end. First a person sees their own sinful nature as well as their hopeless efforts to relieve themselves of their sin. Only then will they see their need of the Savior’s sacrifice on the cross.
  18. The farmer knows the harvest will come and that there will be rejoicing.


Gospel of Mark Meditations


Mark 1:1-8 John the Baptist’s Ministry

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Mark has no genealogy or birth narrative, rather he begins right in with the ministry of John the Baptist.
  8. The prophet Isaiah, here the first part is from Malachi 3:1;

the second part is from Isaiah 40:3. The major prophet is

generally quoted before the minor prophet.

  1. In that era, prior to the arrival of a king or military chief,

the way would be prepared, and the coming announced.

  1. Baptism, a common practice among devout Jews, focused

on repenting of sin, and the people then would have

understood that a new day was coming.

  1. The longed for Messiah of God was about to appear – this

was John’s message. The prophets had long spoken of this

day and now it was here.

  1. John was the proto-typical prophet, like Elijah (see 2 Kings

1:8), and looked the part as well.

  1. John made it as clear as he could that he was not the

Messiah himself; the Messiah was so much greater that even

John was not worthy to perform the most menial or lowly

tasks for this one sent from God.

  1. The baptism was one of placing the whole body into and not

     with water. Greek grammar makes this clear.

  1. Allowing oneself to be baptized meant repenting of sin and

declaring a longing to see the Messiah.

  1. The One Coming would baptize in the Holy Spirit.

Gospel Meditation The Gospel of Mark # 1


Introduction to Mark’s Gospel

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Mark, called John Mark. John his Jewish name, Mark his Greek name.
  8. John, son of Mary whose home it is thought was where the Last Supper took place.

(see Mark 14:51-52) It is thought Mark followed Jesus and the disciples to Gethsemane and witnessed the betrayal. He also was apprehended.

  1. The author of Mark is not so named, but sold tradition has it that it was John Mark.
  2. This is likely the first gospel written, and written from Rome while Mark was with Peter. The date may be as early as A D 49. Other reliable scholars say about 52. Mark was close to Peter, and Mark’s Gospel is often referred to as Peter’s Gospel.
  3. It is likely that Matthew’s Gospel followed Luke’s and both dependent upon Mark’s or both were at least familiar with it. About 91% of Mark is found in the two other synoptic (with the same view) gospels, Matthew and Luke.
  4. Mark was on the first missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas. (see Acts 13:5) But mid trip, Mark returned home for some unknown reason. (see Acts 13:13)
  5. Barnabas and Mark were cousins, not uncle and nephew, as seen in Colossians 4:10.
  6. Paul and Barnabas had a falling out when Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them on a second missionary trip, but Paul refused. (see Acts 15:36-41)
  7. There was a reconciliation between Paul and Mark as can be seen in Colossians 4:10 and 2 Timothy 4:11.
  8. Mark, not a leader necessarily, but a trusted and faithful follower and of both Paul and Peter — and more so a faithful follower of Jesus.
  9. Mark never gave up despite personal conflicts and his Gospel, the first, is written to gentiles and shows his missionary mindset.


The Fundamental Error of Islam

The Fundamental Error of Islam

  1. A. Ibrahim, Imam of the Islamic Center of Mill Valley writes in A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam states:

Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified. It was the plan of Jesus’ enemies to crucify him, but God saved him and raised him up to Him. And the likeness of Jesus was put over another man. Jesus’ enemies took this man and crucified him, thinking that he was Jesus.

Imam Ibrahim backs this up with a quote from the Qur’an:

(…They said: “We killed the Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of God.” They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but the likeness of him was put on another man (and they killed that man)…Qur’an 4:157

The fundamental error of Islam is that it only appeared that Jesus was crucified. This is essentially Docetism. Matt Slick provides a perfect explanation of this Gnostic error.

Docetism was an error with several variations concerning the nature of Christ. Generally, it taught that Jesus only appeared to have a body–that He was not really incarnate (Greek, “dokeo” = “to seem”). This error developed out of the dualistic philosophy which viewed matter as inherently evil–that God could not be associated with matter and that God, being perfect and infinite, could not suffer. Therefore, God as the word, could not have become flesh per John 1:1, 14, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us . . . ” This denial of a true incarnation meant that Jesus did not truly suffer on the cross and that He did not rise from the dead.

The basic principle of Docetism was refuted by the Apostle John in 1 John 4:2-3. “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” Also, 2 John 7, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

Ignatius of Antioch (died 98/117) and Irenaeus (115-190), and Hippolatus (170-235) wrote against the error in the early part of the second century.

Docetism was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

The Gnostics were of two kinds, docetics and adoptionists. The docetics said that it only appeared that Jesus was crucified, but in fact someone else, often Judas, was crucified instead. The adoptionists said that the Christ adopted Jesus and abandoned Jesus on the cross.

The result for both forms was the same: Jesus the sinless Lamb of God, both God and man, did not die on the cross and thus did not take our sin upon Himself. Therefore, there is no salvation in Christ.

Many sects and cults over the centuries have taken a Gnostic stance and thus substituting their own teaching as the means of salvation.






Off the Charts

Off the Charts[1]

“Off the charts”—this is the phrase that opens the door for the prophets, prophetesses, and others who claim God, angels, or whatnot are speaking to them and revealing the future in “these last days,” because we are no longer in a time and place that the Bible covers, so it is no longer speaking to us.

The rationale is that, due to the fact that the end of history is upon us—an erroneous assumption that is nothing but speculation and based on nothing biblical at all—God is revealing details and events that are not described in the Bible.[2]

When questioned, the proponents of new extra biblical revelations respond, “How do you know God is not revealing new things to the Church?” and “How can you be so certain this is not happening now?” This form of questioning places people like me in a difficult place, since there is little to appeal to of a factual nature. I cannot point to studies, numbers, or other verifiable documentation to support my position. And, on the other hand, neither can those who are open to new revelations appeal to any objective evidence for their claims. Many of us will appeal to Revelation 22:18-19:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of the prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city which are described in this book.

Certainly the “off the charts” proponents will say that the admonition not to add or subtract from the Book of Revelation is merely an ancient form of copyright and is not applicable to the rest of the Bible and does not actually mean that one should not prophesy about these last days.

However, an examination of two other biblical passages suggests this concept to be at least questionable if not downright faulty. First, Deuteronomy 4:2: “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.” Second, Deuteronomy 12:32: “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” Thus it may be concluded that the warning not to add or subtract can equally be applied to the whole of Scripture.

Despite the obvious, those who are already trapped into believing the contemporary prophets will find it difficult to turn from and expose them. By trapped I mean, once a group or church commits to the words of its prophets about the future, naysayers will not be welcomed and minds will close.

Revelation 22:18-19 may in fact be an ancient form of stating, “Don’t touch this writing,” and legitimately so, as it is a thoroughly biblical warning. In addition, the attempt to justify “new improved truth” and revelations by the “thus saith the Lord” prophets ignores the fact that the Book of Revelation brings us right up to the grand finale, right to the Second Coming of Christ, the Day of Judgment, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, the new heaven and the new earth—there is no more history after that, only eternity in the presence of God. And Revelation perfectly corroborates both what Jesus said in Matthew 24 and Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 2.

The history, tradition, and councils of the Church down through the ages make it clear that the Bible is the sole source for Christian faith and practice. It has been the Protestant branch of the Church that has more carefully adhered to this policy, but now, however, we see this being largely abandoned by what I have sometimes called the Fourth Branch of Christianity, the charismatic/Pentecostal branch. It is here where we find the vast majority of those who declare we are off the charts and must open up to fresh words from God.

Sarah Young, Kat Kerr, Patricia King, Lorna Byrne, and many more

Jesus is talking to people now—so promises Sarah Young in Jesus Calling. It is very much like He is on the other end of the phone. Kat Kerr gives a constant flow of messages about what she just heard the other day, directly from God. Patricia King is in on it as well, the high priestess of prophetesses in the Bethel network, receiving messages from the Source. And one of these King predictions is that we are going to have a whole lot of contact with angels in 2015. And angels, being close to God, will be revealing many new things and imparting much needed wisdom. Though in a bit of a different category, the Irish lady Lorna Bryne is constantly, minute by minute, in touch with all sorts of angels and souls.

It is all okay, because we are off the charts. The Bible is not needed now; all we need is an angel, a direct call from Jesus, or even a chat with the Almighty in the “throne room” to find direction, comfort, and wisdom.

The persons mentioned above relate messages, however comforting and assuring, that are essentially false. Sarah talks about Jesus all the time; in fact, Jesus is the focus of the conversations. He is warm, comforting, and full of mercy, but of the ordinary human kind. There is something decidedly missing, namely the Jesus of the Bible. Kat Kerr is as spiritual as one can get, full of Bible phrases, and she loves Jesus. Patricia King is much the same, and all the Jesus talk is enough to convince most people that nothing could be the slightest bit wrong. Lorna Byrne, well she is far from sounding like an evangelical Bible believer, but she does throw in a “Jesus” or two from time to time. Are Christians being deceived? The answer is, they are.

Philpott, why are you writing this?

I am alarmed when I see Christians falling into deception, especially when those who promote and champion these deviations represent such a large swath of the Christian community. Since these views are widely and publically disseminated, it invites people like me to make comment. That is the way it is in a free society.

Five of Sarah Young’s books are among the top twenty-five best selling Christian books in 2014. Kat Kerr is a sensation wherever she travels and is currently on a world tour. Patricia King is easily the most respected and popular prophetess in the Bethel/IHOP/Kansas City Prophets/Morning Star/Toronto-Arnott network, as is made evident in her many YouTube videos. Lorna Byrne is big in the UK and is attracting many new adherents. Her books, Angels in My Hair, Stairways to Heaven, and A Message of Hope from the Angels are all on the bestseller lists in the UK. She is now making an impact in America as well.

Now you understand why I am writing this. And there is one more reason.

I am the pastor of a church; I have a congregation to care for. I read John 10:7-18, and I find Jesus cautioning about wolves who would harm the sheep. Then I read Paul’s warning to the elders of the church at Ephesus:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves ill arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert…   Acts 20:28-31a

Concluding remark

This type of warning is something in which I wish I did not have to engage; there is enough work already. I find myself in solidarity with Jude 3: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”


[1] This discussion is intramural in nature, that is, between Christians.

[2] This is not the only period in history that Christians have supposed theirs was the last generation and that Jesus’s Second Coming was imminent.

Religion is the Cause of all the Trouble in the World

Religion is the Cause of all the Trouble in the World

The incident

On my way to the ATM machine at my Chase Bank in Corte Madera I walked by a biker who loudly and angrily yelled into his cell phone, “Religion is the cause of all the trouble in the world!”

Punching in my PIN number I listened to more of the one-sided conversation: “Religion has got to go! The zealots are standing in the way of controlling climate change.”

What did the guy sitting astride his Harley mean by religion? Christianity—likely. Hinduism—likely. Buddhism—maybe. Islam—very likely.


In a way I agreed with him. Religion has, does, and always will produce conflict among peoples, nations, and tribes, but that is far from the whole story.

I thought about other “isms”. Atheism is an ism. Materialism, capitalism, socialism, communism, fascism—these are also isms. What about democraticism or republicanism? Are these isms?

Communism has known a few rather infamous adherents. Think of Lenin and Stalin, and the latter a mass murderer if ever there was one. Pol Pot of the killing fields fame, a communist. Mao is also in the communism fold, and how many millions did he put away?

Fascism—Hitler and his cronies are about as religious as one could get—about his own brand. Don’t imagine that Hitler was an actual Christian; no, he hated the Christian Church, and its destruction was on his list right after the Jewish people.

Shintoism and Buddhism had Japanese zealots in that era, and their atrocities against the Chinese and Koreans—egregious.

I could go on, digging deeper into history, but I hope to have made my point.


 We are all religious. No one is without an ism, including those who embrace Darwinism. We are born to believe in something, and we do, and there is usually a group already organized who has the ism all laid out in neat slogans, platitudes, and doctrines.

Mel Gibson’s film, Apocalyto, described the Aztec takeover of the Mayan culture in the sixteenth century. That primitive and native religion, which is essentially shamanism, may be one of the world’s largest religions, however unorganized the practitioners are. The Aztecs and their religion make the Islamic State beheaders look like beginners.

I have an ism, you have an ism. If that biker at the bank expressed his own ism to its logical extreme, would he advocate worldwide suicide so the animal and plant kingdom could survive? Pollution and global warming—maybe the humans ought to be phased out and allow other life forms to dominate. Some call this “ultimate environmentalism”.

Fundamentalism—it’s idealists are found among all the other isms. They are the ones who want to go back to the basics and nothing but the basics. The Salafis in the Islamic far right want to live like Muhammad and the first few generations who followed. (Al-Baghdadi, the 8th Caliph and head of the Islamic State is a Salafi.) Seventh century customs and practices—their ideal way to go, but maybe not with the camels and sandals.

Toxic and Cultic

Most ordinary religious people simply carry on and desire to live out their lives in peace. Yet, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians all have their fundamentalists, and we read about them in the papers from time to time. It is among the idealists, the fundamentalists, where things can go wrong. They take matters into their own hands and crush the infidels if necessary. Their way or the highway, since their doctrines are pure and righteous, without which all is lost.

We are all vulnerable to being cultic and dangerously toxic; this is especially so for those who think they are immune. Yes, there is a certain comfort and security in thinking you have it all down, with all questions answered and nothing to get confused about. This is the zone of the cultic mentality, where anyone out of step must be set straight, even dealt with severely. When the cult has political dominance, this process can become exponentially horrific. Imagine life in an Islamic State, if their power was absolute and Sharia Law was practiced across the board. Scary indeed.

Is my ism better than your ism? It may well be, but then what? For me, I believe Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. I know that some will follow Jesus, others will not. If fact, I know that there will only be a few who follow Jesus at any given time. In Matthew 6:13-14 we find Jesus saying:

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

This does not mean that I will harbor ill will towards those who do not see that Jesus is the Savior as I do. I may make reasonable efforts to be a witness for Christ to those who do not know Him, and this is my way of being loving. However, the person who rejects Jesus does not become my enemy but is instead someone to pray for and continue to love and witness to.

The anti-religious biker

 Even that biker is religious; he simply has a different religion, something he holds as the most important thing, even if it is a negative. He just doesn’t realize his “something” is a religion. What you follow as the ultimate truth is your religion. I am a follower of Jesus; this is my religion and my spiritual path. For those who assume that serious spirituality can be without religious practice, such spirituality is a hobby only. Saying, “I am spiritual but not religious,” is an empty claim.

The biker is entitled to his ism. So are you. So am I. So is the Muslim, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the communist, and so on. The problem is the extremist, the fundamentalist, and the self-righteous, who is convinced everyone else must believe as he does. Or else!

Religion is the cause of all the trouble in the world.

 We might as well accept this as fact.

To put it another way: Show me a troublemaker who has no religion, no set of values or ideas about what is real and ultimately significant. Go ahead, do it, and I will be satisfied. I am confident that neither you nor anyone else can. Strong convictions that lead to strong action comes from religion.

The real trouble

 Isms are one thing; the people who embrace them are another. The real trouble is the people, that is, us. And I mean all of us.

The “weeping” prophet Jeremiah stated it clearly: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

This means all hearts, yours and mine. Here is what Jesus said about it: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone” (Matthew 15:19-20a).

Jesus was arguing with the religious authorities of Judaism. There were many rules about almost everything, and in this passage the question had to do with eating food with unwashed hands. It was a religious rather than a hygienic issue. Jesus took the opportunity to point out that the best of religious observance did not go to the heart of the matter. In this case, they had disconnected the spiritual basis from the religious practice, leaving the practice empty.

Ideas are powerful; they may motivate, inspire, or take you over to the point you become a slave to the idea. The idea slaves are then sanctioned to protect, promote, and defend the group against outsiders and unbelievers. This goes for dictators of any stripe, plus Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Christians. Remember, we all are vulnerable.

Indeed “It is me, it is me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”

Were the Crusaders and Inquisitors Christians? Yes, No, Maybe

Were the Crusaders and Inquisitors Christians?

Yes, No, Maybe

Part One: The Crusaders

“Crusader” is a negative word to many, and maybe deservedly so, but we may have to reconsider that reactive position. Following is a brief summary and examination of the history of the crusades themselves. Perhaps we will be able to determine just how Christian or un-Christian the crusaders actually were.

There were eight crusades in all, from 1095 to 1294. Oddly enough, no Arab tribes played much of a role, if any, in fighting the crusaders. This is not to say that Muslim armies were not involved, but exactly who within Islam actually participated is another issue.

The French, led by Godfrey of Bouillon, initiated the first crusade. The purpose was to wrest control of Jerusalem away from the Muslim Seljuk Turks, who had taken it in 1070. Jerusalem had previously been part of the Fatimid Empire, composed mostly of Shia Berbers from North Africa, and during their control of the Holy City, Christians were allowed to visit their special religious sites. But such was not the case with the Seljuks, who violently persecuted the Christians and desecrated and destroyed churches. After a time, Pope Urban II called for the rescue of the Holy City from the Islamic infidels.

Bouillon, certainly a member of the Roman Catholic Church, managed to murder 70,000 Muslims and even burned down synagogues crowded with Jewish people hoping to escape the violence around them. Despite the slaughter, many of the European soldiers married local Muslim women and perhaps Jewish women, as well; they settled down, and for at least forty years the Christians and Muslims lived peacefully side-by-side.

The second crusade in 1144 was undertaken when a Kurdish army from Mosul (now in the modern state of Iraq) attacked a Christian fortress in Edessa (now in the modern state of Turkey). As a result, Pope Eugenius III called for a crusade. Two Christian armies, one French, the other German, were completely decimated by the Seljuk armies while on their way to join the battle at Edessa. A monk named Bernard of Clairvoux was engaged in this one. Following the crusade nearly forty more years of peace ensued.

The third crusade was dominated by the famous Kurd, Saladin (1137–1193), who became the Sultan of Egypt. His army defeated the crusader army at the Horns of Hittin on July 4, 1187, a site just above the Sea of Galilee. It proved to be the most famous of all the battles during the crusade period. Jerusalem surrendered, and Saladin dealt humanely with the survivors; there was no sacking or murdering, and the city was kept open to Christian pilgrims. But Jerusalem’s fall inspired the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa to call for a third crusade in 1189. He led a French army into Turkey, where he died crossing a creek. The Seljuks quickly destroyed his army.

There was, however, more to the third crusade. King Richard the Third of England (the “Lion Heart”) gathered an army of Norman Knights, set off for the Holy Land, and proceeded to capture Acre and Jaffa on the Mediterranean Coast, even defeating Saladin at the battle of Arsuf.

The two commanders treated each other with respect and signed a peace treaty on September 2, 1192, the terms of which left Jerusalem in the hands of the Muslims, while the Christians retained the coastal areas where Acre, Caesarea, and Jaffa were located.

Pope Innocent III in and around 1195 called the fourth crusade. This one had nothing to do with the Holy Land or Muslims, but the goal was to free up Jerusalem. The French crusaders entered Constantinople, home of the Greek Orthodox Church, who resented the presence of the Roman Catholics and rose up against the crusaders. In the battle that resulted, the crusader ‘Western’ Christians did not kill many Greek ‘Eastern’ Christians, but they did completely pillage the city. After a short period, the crusaders made off with their loot and headed for home. Nothing was accomplished.

Pope Honorius III, Innocent’s successor, who could not accept the results of the fourth crusade and called for a fifth, fomented the fifth crusade. This time mainly Germans and Hungarians marched off to Jerusalem by way of Egypt in 1217. The army spent three years in skirmishes with the Kurdish Ayyubids in Egypt. They failed to make headway and finally called it quits and sailed home.

The sixth crusade’s outstanding personality was the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II who was the grandson of the famous Barbarossa. Now Jerusalem was ruled by John of Brienne, whose daughter was married to Frederick II, and thinking that marriage gave him authority over Jerusalem, he called for the sixth crusade in 1225. Due to the knowledge and negotiating skills of the remarkable Frederick, the crusade was peacefully conducted without one battle or casualty.

Frederick had studied a great deal about Islamic literature, science, and philosophy, which gave him a solid platform for interaction with the leader of the Islamic army, Malik al-Kamil, who was the nephew of the great Saladin. The two leaders resolved the confrontation by signing a ten-year treaty in 1229. (Ten years was the maximum time allowed for a treaty according to Sharia Law.) Christians and Muslims alike welcomed the terms of the treaty. Unhappily, the new pope, Pope Gregory IX, hated Frederick and refused to ratify the treaty, denouncing it vigorously.

Things went from bad to worse after Sultan Kamil’s death in 1238, when a maverick Turk from Russia named Baibars led a Mameluk (Muslim) army against Jerusalem, sacking it and slaughtering the citizens in 1244.

King Louis IX of France called the seventh crusade. In 1250 he brought an army to Egypt and sailed up the Nile to Cairo, where Baibars demolished his army. Baibars warred against everyone, Christian and Muslim alike, in an effort to establish his power and authority. His hate and murderous anger was mostly directed toward Christians, and he attacked one city after the other along the Mediterranean coast—Caesarea, Safad, Jaffa, and Antioch. He killed and enslaved thousands of Christians. Jerusalem was now firmly in the hands of Muslims, and the seventh crusade came to an end.

The eight crusade flowed out of the outrage perpetrated against Christians in the seventh crusade. Louis IX demanded a new crusade in the year 1270. His plan was to come through Tunis on the way to Egypt, but a few days after landing in Tunis he died of dysentery.

Baibars had not conquered one target, Acre, the site of a truly strong fortress. He died in 1277 (these crusades could last years), and his successor, Sultan Khalil, managed to finally defeat the crusaders at Acre in 1291, killing or enslaving some 60,000 Christians there.

Impact of the Crusades

 The crusades deepened the divide between the Eastern and Western wings of the Catholic Church, a rift that was already underway.

Related to that, the crusades greatly weakened the Byzantine Empire, which succeeded the Holy Roman Empire.

The crusades also permanently embittered relations between Christians and Muslims, and they are used to this day to rationalize a continuing hatred that often erupts into violence. The fact that both Christians and Muslims committed horrible atrocities is often forgotten or conveniently submerged. Muslims have cited Christian crusader actions as justification for their own brutality. This is not a surmise, but openly declared by contemporary Islamic jihadists, whose portfolio of rallying cries includes something close to, “Remember the crusades.” They legitimize their call for revenge by pointing to what the Christians did in the crusades. This is completely disingenuous, of course, but nevertheless effective.

Promotion of religion by force of arms demonstrates weakness of ideals, ethics, and message. To spread the faith by means of intimidation is the worst possible program, one that no one can really respect. Not only the Muslims but also Christians have been guilty here. (This topic will be explored in greater detail in the second section of this essay, the Inquisitors.)

As early as the fifth century, and many say long before, becoming a Christian required baptism by an ordained priest of the one Catholic and Apostolic Church. Faith and grace now abandoned, the Church became a power structure and fell into the same tactics employed by any other secular institutions. Some use the word “Christendom” to describe the Church as empire combining religion with the state.

The crusades marked a departure from the Church’s mission to preach the Gospel to all nations. By picking up the sword, it was giving in to the barbaric culture of that day. The Church was intertwined with the state, the state using the Church and the Church using the state to advance goals and consolidate power.

As a result, the core doctrine of conversion was severely compromised. To coerce a person into leaving one faith for another is absolutely unbiblical. Requiring a choice of whether to convert, die, or pay the tax is not exactly proper evangelism, but the Church was guilty of this just as were the Muslims, and contemporary Muslims still employ these means. It cannot be said today that the Christian Church advances by means of force and fear.[1]

The same crusader mentality that was seen in the crusades also resulted in the persecution of whom we today call evangelical Christians, especially those who reject infant baptism, transubstantiation (Jesus being actually present in the Bread and the Cup), and the necessity of receiving other sacraments in order to go to heaven—in other words, those who adhere to salvation by grace alone, faith alone, and Christ alone.

The story of two ancestors of mine might be of interest now. The first is about Sir John Philpott.

John Philpott was a “Salter and Pepperer” (a grocer) who lived in the latter part of the fourteenth century in London, England, while the One Hundred Years War with France was underway. He relied on his merchant fleet to bring foodstuffs into England from the Continent, but with a combination of a weak English king and an aggressive French king, Philpott’s business was faltering. He was able, however, to convince the English king to allow him to outfit his ships into a navy and be crewed by convicts from London’s prisons, of which there were plenty. The result was a series of victories by Philpott’s navy, and on the strength of that he was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1388 and 1389. He was a faithful Christian, and in his will he left 100 pounds to the poor of London at Christmas time. In the old city of London there is still Philpott Lane where a plaque commemorating this faithful Catholic and Christian man has been installed.

Then there was another Englishman, again named John Philpott, this time living in the sixteenth century. He was a Puritan, meaning he hoped that the newly founded Church of England that broke away from the Roman Church, precipitated by King Henry VIII, would be purified, that is, would conform more closely to what we see of church in the New Testament. Philpott was forced into the Court of the Inquisitors and found guilty. Refusing to recant, he was burned at the stake in 1555. (Burning at the stake was used, because it was thought that would make a bodily resurrection impossible.)

Part Two: The Inquisition

 Although the story of the development of the Church in the centuries leading up to the “Dark Ages” (stretching from approximately 500 to 1500 A.D.) is not so easy to uncover, there is evidence that the faith of Jesus and the early disciples was not extinguished. That it was diverted, perverted, and undermined, especially toward the ending of the third century, is fairly plain history, at least as evangelicals read it.

During that dark time, the vibrant faith we see in the New Testament gradually shifted to a more formalized, mechanical, ritualistic, even magical understanding of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. Especially after the so-called conversion of Constantine in the early fourth century, people became members of the Church and counted among the faithful despite their never hearing the real Gospel message nor knowing much of anything about the core doctrines of Scripture.

The power of the Church over salvation, the only really important issue in life, was under the control of an ecclesiastical hierarchy. Those who rebelled against this were the targets of the Inquisition, the first Court of which was formed around the year A.D. 1231 and continued for some three or four centuries. From the Church’s point of view, the Inquisition was necessary, because many good Catholics were turning away from the doctrines of the Church, especially after publication of the Bible in common languages, which allowed people to see what the Bible actually said and taught. For nearly a thousand years it had been hidden in a dark covering of non-intelligible Latin, Greek, or Hebrew.

Reacting against the common person’s new biblical understanding and its effect of causing questions about the Church’s doctrines, the Church then considered ‘heresy’ to be the most heinous of all crimes.[2] There is evidence that many of the Church leaders were troubled by the means selected to keep the Church pure. Often the Church would plea with the secular authorities that sentences to be carried out mercifully. However, we know that the Cathari (or Albigenses) and the Waldenses were persecuted, sometimes to death, during the 1220s by the order of Pope Gregory IX.

Fringe Christian groups were not the only ones to find their way into the court of the Inquisition, a court with judge and prosecutors. As with John Philpott in 1555, the point at the center of the trials had to do with the elements of the Mass, otherwise known as Communion, Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper. Along with the Reformers (i.e., Martin Luther and John Calvin), Philpott believed the bread of the Eucharist was just bread and the juice in the cup just juice. But the Church had developed the concept that the bread was transformed by an act of the priest into the actual body, the flesh, of Jesus. Likewise, the juice invisibly became the actual blood of Jesus.

Two Latin words were actually pronounced by the priest before the Mass began—“hocus pocus”—and when the words were pronounced, the magical power inherited from Peter and passed down through the priesthood transformed the substances, shazam!

How this came to be is not possible to describe here, but there is an actual history to it. The short version is this: The Church had become far too Western in its understanding of the Middle-Eastern document we call the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. And when Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6:53-55), the Roman Church took these words literally.

To take Jesus’ words literally, however, would have been impossible for a Jewish person in that era, the previous era, and the following era. And the early history of the Church clearly reveals that the passage was taken metaphorically, after all the Church was mostly made up of Jews for about a generation. The point was that the disciples were to trust in and believe in Jesus as the Savior and that His death on the cross, with His broken body and shed blood, was the once-forever sacrifice for sin. Therefore, long after the ‘Eastern’ sense of things was lost, the ‘Western’ mindset misunderstood much of the nature of and means of redemption or salvation.

The Inquisition was aimed at Christians, but Muslims and Jews were also tried, and many were executed. It is only natural that Muslims and Jews would have a negative reaction to this, and it is certainly possible that it yet lingers as something else horrible that ‘Christendom’ did.

During the period of the Inquisition there were undoubtedly thousands of bishops, priests, and regular members of the Church who sincerely thought they were being faithful Christians on both sides of the Inquisitors’ charges, those targeted and those hurling them. Undoubtedly, there were thousands of Christians who were horrified at what was being done. And during the period of history when the church and state were wed, significant resistance was virtually out of the question. Such resistance did come, in 1517, under the inspiration of a Catholic monk named Martin Luther.


Were those who conducted the Inquisition real Christians?

Were the crusaders real Christians?

Were the Muslims who fought against the crusaders real Muslims? Or, to put it another way, are those Muslims who engage in violent jihad the real Muslims?

To these questions the answer is, Yes, No, and Maybe.

Looking at Christians

It must be said that no one could possibly know for sure whether real and actual born again Christians committed atrocities against Muslims and Jews, in that day or in this. Even had a group of careful observers watched the murder of Muslims and Jews at the hand of people known as Christians during the crusades and at other times, would it have been clear which was the right conclusion? The proper answer would have to be No!

Why is this so? The core of the answer lies in the mystery of conversion. Sure, one can be baptized, join a church, and reform his or her life, but this is far from genuine Christian conversion. Being a part of a church does not mean one is a Christian. Conversion means that the Holy Spirit indwells the one believing in Jesus, the one who has had all sin removed and forgiven. It is a profound spiritual experience, not an intellectual or emotional one. It is something God does completely apart from anything an individual can do. It is miracle and mystery. Every pastor who has ministered to a congregation for ten or more years knows that in that congregation are those who have truly been born again and those who have not.

Not that every real Christian does right and lives right. A Christian is growing up into the fullness of Christ, little by little, first as an infant, then a toddler, young child, older child, adolescent, teen ager, young adult, adult, older adult, and senior. Still after a lifetime of maturing, the Christian is not anywhere perfect until in heaven and in the presence of our holy God.

Is it possible that a Christian could be deceived into thinking that killing and persecuting others because they believed differently is justified? Yes, it is possible.

Might Christians commit horrific acts because they were told to do so by powerful religious authorities? Yes, it is possible.

Would a biblically literate Christian believe they were serving God by persecuting or even killing “infidels”? No, unless there was some unknown source of intimidation going on behind the scenes, and/or such Christian had his or her mind bent to the point that they became merely tools of evil.

Perhaps the right answer for all of these questions is, maybe!

Would persecuting or killing a non-Christian win approval with God? Would it ensure a place in heaven? To both of these, the answer is an unequivocal, No!

Would defending the cause of Christianity, the Church, a Christian leader, or anything else in all creation through harming others merit the favor of God? Certainly not! Would dying in defense of the God of Scripture assure a place in paradise? In no way!

This is my solemn opinion as a follower of Jesus.

Looking at Muslims

 It is understood by a growing number of Christians and non-Christians alike that what is observed in the Islamic State (IS), and all those who practice violent jihad, does not represent true Islam. However, this is debatable.

Muhammad did force non-Muslims into submission and made them pay a tax to stay alive. Muhammad did behead captured enemies, or at least ordered such and then observed the process. He did cut off the hands of thieves. He did arrange that captured women and children be sold as slaves. He did permit captured women to be taken as concubines; in fact, his last wife was a beauty he had rescued from a Jewish tribe that the Muslim army had defeated. Muhammad authorized lying if and when the cause of Islam was being defended or advanced. He did practice forced conversions. Whatever Muhammad did in his lifetime, as spelled out in the Qur’an, found in the Hadiths or in the biography of Muhammad written by Ibn Ishaq, are being imitated by the Islamic State now. And this the Caliphate does not deny but proudly embraces.

Not only not deny, but IS would view non-compliance to be at minimum weakness, if not downright apostasy. This is the present state of affairs. Muhammad taught that Islam would be global and the entire world would then be at peace, and it was the task of Muslims to bring this about. Anything less than is un-Islamic.

Then there is Salafism. This term describes Muslims who practice a conservative, even radical form of their faith. They attempt to imitate Muhammad and hope to live under Sharia Law. It is just that they cannot do so except in a place where it is politically and culturally possible. “Most Salafis are not jihadists, and most adhere to sects that reject the Islamic State” writes Graeme Wood in his March, 2015, article in Atlantic entitled, “What ISIS Really Wants.” They might, however, if given the chance, be every bit as strict as violent jihadists. Wood states that Salafis might implement “monstrous practices such as slavery and amputation – but at some future point.” The Salafis’ stated agenda is to purify their personal lives, including personal hygiene, and to be faithful in prayer and observance of all standard forms of the main rituals of Islam.

Are all those who promote and are part with violent jihadists real Muslims? If the answer is No, then it must be asked, “How could this be?”

There are many reasons why one would turn to violent jihad other than wanting to live like Muhammad. Is it possible that young men and women living in very poor circumstances, without much of a future, could be recruited into something they would later regret? Perhaps peer pressure overcomes them. Perhaps boredom, hopelessness, or a strong sense of inferiority might trigger the desire for a radical change in living. By means of the Internet, which jihadists use but detest at the same time, they recruit these vulnerable youth.

The Internet also shows clearly what is available in the western world, and could envy be an instigating element that plays on the Muslim mind? Or, might a motivator be a chance for a quick ticket to paradise and seventy-two virgins, which may appear to be about the only way to get love?[3] Might young men and women be driven to distraction, to a cultic or toxic state of mind and made willing to do about anything to lift themselves out of depression and despair?

Since Islam is both religion and state, which predominates? Or is there such a blending that there is no religion or state, just Islam? Islam is yet very much tribally oriented, one tribe against another, which is plain to see in daily news stories. Is the Muslim fighting for Muhammad, the imam, the umma (Muslim community), the political boundary, or just what? This question might receive a hundred different answers, and silence as an answer could be expected.

Are all fighters with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the various Shia and Sunni militias, even with ISIS, true Muslims? Yes, No, and Maybe! Only God knows.

Kent Philpott

February 25, 2015

[1] Instances of wrongly motivated attempts to convert so-called “primitive” people groups were occurring well into the nineteenth century, e.g., forcing of Western/Christian culture and religion on native Americans on reservations and similar activities by Britain in India. Broadening the argument to include these examples or others is not possible in the space allowed, but we acknowledge needing to discuss this elsewhere.

[2] One is reminded of the mindset of extreme fundamentalist Muslims today, i.e., ISIS.

[3] Have you ever wondered at how confused Muslim sexuality must be, in places dominated by the imams at the mosques for sure, what with honor killings, female circumcision, arranged marriages, veiled females, often from head to toe, polygamy, no dating, no public canoodling, no nothing really, and everything associated with love and sex declared to be sin and worthy of lashes and other forms of mistreatment.