4.3 —The Muslim Threat & Catholic Missions (24 min video)
The following transcript was automatically generated and may contain errors in spelling and/or grammar. It is provided for assistance in note-taking and review.
Well, welcome back. In today’s lesson, we’re gonna talk about two different things that ultimately do go together, uh, in a very interesting way. Uh, we’re gonna talk about the Muslim threat that Kristin Dun experienced at the time period we’re looking at, and we’re also gonna talk about many of the incredible missions, uh, that were sent out, especially by the Jesuits during this same time period. Now, in order to understand the, uh, the Muslim threat at this time, we take a look at an empire that was the empire of the Ottoman Turks.
Uh, the ones who ultimately gave the nation of Turkey, uh, its name. They had conquered a very ancient civilization of Asia Minor that had been ruled by many previous civilizations prior to it, and had been Christian for thousands of years.
It was an expansion that would not really stop until the 1680s. In fact, uh, Byzantium, the eastern part of the Roman Empire didn’t actually fall until the year 1453, but it provided a huge influence for Columbus’s desire to retake, uh, that area that had always been Christian. And 1529, for example, we see the city of Vienna right in the heart of Christendom, a great German city laying or being laid siege to by the Turks, led by one of their greatest leaders of all times, Suleman magnificent.
The, the Turks will be driven back from vie 1529, but they’d be back in the year 1683, uh, for the final time as it turned out. But still, they always were a significant threat. In fact, they, they pressed on the frontiers of Germany and placed those like Vienna, and they controlled almost the entirety of the Black Sea and the various mouths of the rivers, especially the Danube that float into that sea.
Uh, they control most of the Eastern Mediterranean and conquered islands like roads and Crete and eventually Cyprus. Uh, they also were known for raid various Christian lands. Uh, they often would capture Christians sometimes in far away places like Western and northern Europe, and would often turn them into slaves. Uh, when they were not turned into slaves. They often became Jan area if they were young enough. That is, uh, Jan series were essentially Christian children taken from captured lands, especially the Balkans, for example, in Southeast Europe that were essentially taught a radical Islamic view of life and were trained to essentially be terrorists or suicide soldiers in battle.
In fact, they were used in suicide charges against the, uh, the Germans at Vienna in 1529. And even though most of them died, it caused an incredible mental disturbance amongst the people who saw all of these young people that had been brought up in Christian homes lease initially die for the cause of Allah.
In fact, there’s such an issue in terms of not just Janissaries, but in terms of becoming a slave amongst Islam, that Martin Luther actually commented on it and gave advice that if you found yourself in a group of captured or captives that is who are going to become slaves in some Muslim dominion, then you should choose amongst, uh, one amongst you to actually serve as priest or essentially pastor.
Uh, he was kind of arguing for the fact that we’re all part of the priesthood of believers, but it just, the context shows you what they were actually facing on, um, what was not entirely an uncommon basis.
Well, anyway, with that kind of as our background, we’re gonna take a look at a very singular battle. Now’s the battle of Le Pento, which occurred in the year 1571. Uh, Le Pento was actually a naval station. Uh, the Turks occupied the Gulf of Corinth in Greece, and the plan of the Pope at the time was to gather all the great navies of Chris and Dunn and go and attack this Turkish navy that was dominating and causing an expansion of the Turks throughout all of Europe.
In fact, the Turks made it very clear that they wanted to capture all of Europe and make it one giant house of Islam. Well, the problem with this plan was, first of all, the Holy Roman empire, they did not want to help in this endeavor because they had just recently made a peace treaty with the Turks, and were actually paying them 30,000 dcos per year just to leave them alone. It was bribe money. Uh, France didn’t want to help because the expedition was only being led by the Pope, but was also being led by the Spanish Hapsburgs and France hated the Spanish Hapsburgs.
And France also didn’t want to, um, help in any possible way, the German Hapsburgs who might gain more power or get out of their paying the 30,000 due cost per year. If the Turks were defeated in battle, uh, the English of course, were asked to help, but they didn’t really want to help because the Spanish Habsburgs were Catholics, and if they helped them, then it might give the Catholics too much power.
The Venetians also did not want to help because they would, again, give Spain too much power, and they didn’t wanna limit their power. In other words, we see this whole intense division between sacred and secular. Again, there’s a focus on secular values that actually trumps any mode of justice or any common cause of coming together and actually protecting the common people of Europe together against what were real threats from the Ottoman Turks, all the same.
Uh, the Venetians did finally agree to help the Spanish, uh, specifically when the Pope told them that they could finance the entire expedition with money of the church.
But they were ultimately led by kind of a curious character in history. He’s actually the son of the Spanish King. His name is Don John of Austria, and Don John of Austria gathered together this fleet of incredible, uh, gales to go and fight the Turks at their, their home base, so to speak.
They’re in Greece, this incredible, uh, naval fortress, and it came just after news of the fall of the island of Cyprus came to the Christian throughout Europe, it was actually discovered that the Turks who had conquered the island had slaughtered over 20,000 civilians and had taken the leader of Cyprus and played his skin off of him, stuffed it with straw, and sent it back to Constantinople to hang as a trophy for what they were going to do to the rest of Europe.
Uh, in other words, it could either be seen as incredible fear, which I’m sure it caused, or it could be seen as incredible motivation for men like Don John of Austria, who recognize that he actually had a duty and a job, a mission to accomplish here, to stop this kind of specific butchery from expanding throughout all the areas of Europe.
Well, even so, lap panto, the battle of it that occurred in October 15th, 71, was an incredible victory for the fleet of John. John. They, they just narrowly beat the Turks. In fact, at one point, the Turks were winning on one wing of the battle there in the Gulf of Corinth, and the Christians were winning on the other side, at which point Don John decided on a very ambitious gamble.
He broke his ship apart from the protection of the rest of his fleet, and he charged straight at the flagship of the Turkish Admiral, a man by the name of Mu Ali, and Don John defeated him, boarded his ship, beheaded him in battle, and then raised his severed head on a flagpole so the rest of the Turkish fleet could see it.
Uh, this so demoralized the torch that they gave up of their 222 ships that they had, they would lose 167 of them. It was a decisive battle that saw at least a partial end to the real threat that Turks had posed for so many years. What this did was it kind of allowed Christendom to expand. Now, we’ve seen how the Spanish and the Portuguese expanded often through exploitation. We’ll also, of course, see how even when they brought exploitation, curiously enough, because the Bible was a part of their worldview, they also often brought things like an into corruption.
But the way that was really done, however, the people that really spoke out against corruption in these new, in these new world lands, uh, the people who really brought things like education and medicine and logic and science in the new world were often Christians, specifically Jesuit missionaries.
Now, before we even talk about the Jesuits, there’s kind of a, an unspoken, unopened part of history for, for many of us here in America that we never really talk about, and that is the church in the eastern part of the world, specifically in the Middle East, specifically in places like Africa, specifically in places like Europe, or I’m sorry, not Europe, but Asia. Now, often we think of Christianity as being censored in Europe, and often when we think of missionaries, we think of white people coming from European nations or in later times, coming from the Americas and going to people of a different skin color in Africa and in Asia and so forth.
And often it was seen as kind of an extension of colonialism and extension of these great empires that had often, uh, taken too much advantage of these other nations.
The problem is that that’s not an entirely accurate story. Where we do see elements of that from time to time, we have to understand that Christianity actually began in Asia. It actually began there in the city of Jerusalem, and it extended throughout Syria, throughout Lebanon, throughout Armenia, for example, which is actually the very first nation in history to adopt Christianity.
And all of those places, you will still find vibrant Christian churches, you’ll still find vibrant Christian Church. The cops, for example, in Egypt, whose Coptic language actually has kept alive the ancient Egyptian language. That probably is the most similar thing to what the Pyramid builders spoke. Uh, you’ll find incredible Christian churches in places like Ethiopia, uh, that took the ancient city of Axiom, a great city from antiquity, and it became a major center for Christianity in early days, uh, right in the heart of Iraq.
The former area that we often call Mesopotamia, there were incredibly vibrant a Assyrian churches. You often hear about them in the news, especially when dealing with terrorist organizations such as IS or isis. Uh, it’s also in places like India where we see, uh, Christian groups and Christian organizations that go all the way back, possibly to as early as the first or second century ad because they claim that Thomas, the disciple of Jesus was actually the founder of them.
In fact, the modern day state of core where most of these tic Christians are located in southwest India, has a huge population of Christians.
Curiously, also has the highest literacy rate in India, the highest left life expectancy rate is considered to be the least corrupt state in modern day India, and often has a better treatment and quality of life for women than the rest of India.
Even in China itself, so far away from both Jerusalem and Europe had a Christian population. Uh, they were an historian, which means they did not believe that Mary gave birth to Jesus. That was always as that has always been seen by Christianity as a heresy. But even so, we have to understand there at least was some element of Christianity in that far away nation, and from a very early time, well over a thousand years ago.
So Christianity had already been in these places. It was reduced over time, uh, due to things like the Mongol invasions or due to things such as the dictator TA lane, who in the 14th century called himself the Sword of Islam and was said to be responsible for massa occurring 5% of the world’s population at the time. However, uh, the, this whole story of the Eastern Church, something that I encouraged you to read more on, in fact, if you take a look at the author Philip Jenkins in his book, the Next Christendom, you’ll, you’ll have a good picture of this in greater detail, but this was something that was already there. So when the Jesuits came along, uh, the Jesuits, by the way, were, uh, known as the Society of Jesus, and they were, uh, a mail order that was focused upon spreading education and the gospel to the places they went.
And they were founded in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola and his good friend, Francis Xavier, uh, both of whom went out on missions of, as Francis Xavier, was especially influential in missions in India, and helped inspire missions to China, actually came with inside of China and, and died on board a vessel hoping to get there.
And what what’s incredible about these men is that even though they often came sometimes on the heels, uh, for the great fleets and the great cargo ships of the Spanish or the Portuguese, or even sometimes, uh, the English or the Dutch, even though they came that way, uh, they did not come for conquest.
They did not come for profit. They came for service and they often risked their lives against their own governments to help the natives. They also went to places that nobody else had gone to. Uh, for example, in the year 1624, it was a Jesuit missionary who was the first westerner to visit Tibet, having crossed the Himalayan Mountains to go and meet that people and introduce the gospel to them.
That was a place that was so far inland and so dangerous to get to that there was seen as no profit there in terms of money.
But of course, the Jesuits saw a profit that had eternal qualities to it, much more so than silver and gold. All the same was incredible. The Jesuit. Something that Philip Jenkins points out is that they always worked with the local cultures. They went to. They did not try to change all of their customs. They often translated things into the local language. They often adopted local dress and so forth. We’ll see the same practices applied by the Victorian missionaries of the 19th century. Another thing that made them so successful and what is often called the greatest century of missions, but that’s a course, other story all the same. The Jesuits established vibrant churches, vibrant uh, diocese in places like Mexico and Peru and Bolivia and Chile in the Philippines. Uh, even in the Congo. In fact, this is interesting, the, the Portuguese who arrived in Africa in the 14 hundreds by 1491, uh, there was a Congolese King. His name was King Moba naa. And he actually became a Christian having experienced the Christian mission of the Portuguese, just showing you that there was something about them that he found attractive.
It was their message, uh, not any desire for gold or profit or power. In fact, the Portuguese, uh, political people and the people that were there for money, they stuck to the coast cause that’s where they could make money. Uh, Congo, on the other hand, was further inland. So the people that went inland to the Congo, there was not much to gain in terms of finances by going there. It was strictly a risky gospel mission. And by the year 1516, it was set of another Congolese Christian King. His name was King aso. It was said that better than we, he knows the prophets and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He knows all the lies of the saints and all things regarding our mother, the holy Church. It was something that would actually, that would be this knowledge and his devotion to sincere faith that would actually cause him to be declared the defender of the faith, a title that had been given to Henry Thei or rather despicable English king, but given also to this rather noble African king who embraced the gospel message.
All of this happening in the heart of Africa, due to the works of these early missionaries and India, similar things happened. The Jesuit showed up there as early as 1579, actually met the Al Emperor Emperor Abar, who actually welcomed the missionaries and welcomed their new ideas.
Uh, by 1605, another Jesuit came to India. His name was Robert Day Nobili. And what made day Nobili so effective at bringing the gospel message was that first of all, he adopted the dress of Hindu teachers, what are often called gurus, and he taught the gospel message using the stories, using the environment and the language as much as possible of the Indian people.
Even learned the Sanskrit, uh, written language began to write in it and did not try to change everything he saw about the Indians, such as their rigid caste system.
He saw it as a problem, but he recognized that if he tried to change that first, then he would probably be dismissed. After all. What was at stake here was eternity in salvation. So he focused upon that first, uh, the Jesuits also, uh, went to Japan as early as 1549, also adopted the silk dress of the Japanese by 1601.
There were native Japanese pastors. These are people that were actually Japanese, born and raised in Japan, knew the language and the culture from birth. They became committed Christian missionaries and pastors. As a result, it’s estimated that the Japanese mission had hundreds of thousands of Christians by the early 16 hundreds. However, it would come to an end, largely because the Dutch in the English, seeing a problem with the Jesuits actually making the Japanese too independent and making them less easy to be exploited, convinced the Japanese, the Jesuits were there to conquer their country.
As a result, the Japanese throughout time would persecute the Jesuits and would also persecute Japanese Christians, often crucifying them a method that they, uh, curiously learned from the gospel story.
And what’s curious though is that the Japanese Christians managed to survive. In fact, the judges have come back time and time again, always bringing their message with them. And the Christians actually managed to survive, especially in the great Japanese city of Nagasaki. That is until 1945 when we dropped an atomic bomb upon that city ending what was probably the remaining Christian community in that area. So I think that’s another story altogether. Jesuits also had success, however, and the nation of China also adopted the local silk dress of Chinese noblemen, especially the scholars. Um, and with through the work of such men as Mateo, Richie and Michelle Rugeri in the year 1589, uh, it said that these men brought new languages.
They brought knowledge of astronomy. They brought mathematics. They brought things like clocks and watches, books, maps, and musical instruments to the Chinese, many of whom had never seen these things or never knew how they could properly be applied.
So they didn’t just bring within the gospel message. They actually showed how an orderly and logical God actually changes the way that you approach the world actually affects how we can worship him through incredible things such as musical instruments and especially music theory.
Not only that, but they made new maps for the Chinese. Uh, they corrected astronomical calculations for the Chinese. They reformed the calendar for them. They even made superior cannon for the Chinese army all the time, explaining the gospel using various references from ancient Chinese texts. So the Chinese saw a common story in the gospel that connected to all of their old ideas. Uh, that’s why the gospel in the church was so successful in China, because the Jesuits only did that. But they even translated part to the scripture. They made a worship that was written in Chinese. This is had an incredible effect, and as one of the many reasons why the Jesuits were so successful in these other nations, it was something that would not actually come to an end until unfortunately, uh, the early 18th century when the Vatican wanting to take greater control over the Jesuits began to forbid things like the scriptures and worship being in native languages or began to forbid things like the peoples of these other areas, having their own pastors.
That’s really what caused an end of the church in these places. But that of course, would come back in terms of missions because as I mentioned earlier, the Victorians would bring it back in the 19th century.
Finally, the, uh, the, the Jesuits and the Catholics also had incredible work in Latin America. It was there in Latin America that they brought gospel hope to many of the natives, many of the mestizos, those who were part Spanish or part European, and also part native by opening everything from schools and universities to medical centers and hospitals by compiling dictionaries and grammars for native languages by becoming chief explorers of interior lands of South America that nobody had gone to by even doing things like recognizing the usefulness of the drug, declining for actually combating malaria, but all the same.
These Jesuits also may set up distinctive missions, especially in places like Paraguay, where they allow the natives to speak their own language because they themselves learned the language.
It was there that they taught the natives, the scriptures in their language, trans scriptures into the native tongue as well. And they farmed together using modern techniques. They also taught the natives how to sing, how to play musical instruments. Uh, they managed to enjoy festivals together that included very unique and creative games, and even had, uh, original plays written by the Jesuits. Uh, they also taught the natives how to make complex things like watches, lace and musical instruments. Uh, this had such an impact even on Europe, that even amongst enlightenment thinkers, many of whom were skeptics of the church, such as the, uh, thinker, the Elbe, he said the Jesuits have established a monarchal authority in Paraguay that is founded solely on their lenient methods of government.
They are masters of the country because they have rendered happy the people under their sway. In other words, they didn’t use force. They simply used the gospel and their own service to convince the natives. Even Voltaire, somebody who was certainly not a friend of the Jesuits or of the Catholic Church, called their work in Paraguay, a triumph of humanity, sadly, and the Jesuits would not be around to stay because they were eventually persecuted, not in these new lands, but back in Europe.
And by 1755, the various missions of Paraguay were all but extinct due largely by attacks, by the Portuguese military armed of the superior artillery, all the same.
It’s an incredible work that they accomplished. Something that we should register in our minds as we take a look at this entire season of history.