The newest book in the Christian History Project series, researched and produced by the SEARCH (Society to Explore And Record Christian History), has just come in the mail. Our Albertan Ted Byfield is the president of the Association.
The Foreword by Ted Byfield begins like this:
"Of all twelve volumes in our series, this one will be, or ought to be, the most discouraging to any practicing Christian. So much goes wrong in the two centuries it covers. We haven the appalling spectacle of the Great Western Schism, which for years puts two rival bishops in each diocese and two rival priests in many parishes. In France we have the unspeakable cruelties of the Hundred Year's War, and a half century later, the appalling spectacle of the Rodrigo Borgia papacy, followed early in the succeeding century by the sack of Catholic Rome by a Catholic army.
In the East the Tartars after nearly two hundred years of bloody oppression are finally driven out, though some see tartar rule as leaving in its wake an indelible cynicism which henceforth coexists with Christian faith in Holy Russia, causing a sort of national schizophrenia to persist right down to the twentieth-first century. And while Spain is finally reclaimed for Christianity after seven hundred years of Muslim occupation, this victory is offset in the East by the loss to Islam of the great Christian bastion of Constantinople, and the conquest by the Muslim Turks of the Christian Balkans."
Ted Byfield continues by drawing on Chesterton, who explains that Christianity has "advanced from Jerusalem, not by unrelieved expansion, improvement, and ever loftier moral witness. To the contrary, it has been punctuated by a succession of deaths (he counts five in all), each followed by an amazing resurrection" (beginning with Christ's). The fourth death was the end of the whole medieval order, which we read about in this volume. It sets the stage for the triumph beginning in Volume 9, (yet, to be produced), where "passionate Christianity burst out of Europe and spreads to the ends of the earth."
I've read part of Chapter 1, which deals entirely with Dante, the Divine Comedy and "the troubling concept of purgatory".
There is also a little something on the Knights of Rhodes, to whom I skipped forward to, because Bror Erickson, who translated Bishop Bo Giertz' "The Knights of Rhodes", a Christian historical novel, (who graces this blog with some comments here) and others, might find it interesting.
"Towards the Mediterranean coast, however, the Ottomans began encountering an enemy they could not defeat: the Knights Hospitaller, who had retreated to the island of Rhodes after the Crusades. For the next two centuries the invaders would try to destroy the Hospitallers, and would fail. In their final encounter at the mid-Mediterranean island of Malta in 1565, the knights, although vastly outnumbered, would in effect doom the Ottoman dream of re-conquering Spain and taking Europe from the west." (p. 118,119)
I am mentioning the Knights of Rhodes because I just read the book. Overall, I've been thinking that our society should revisit the crusades and the times more thoroughly. We know barely anything about them, but keep throwing them out as if they were some kind of argument, without discussing anything or knowing much. Perhaps, a movie series could be made of it.
Lately, we have seen soap opera type treatment of historical times in the HBO series "Rome" and the CBC series "The Tudors". Though the treatment with its indulgence of images of sex and violence, could be deemed unnecessarily explicit, at least someone is dealing with the history. Perhaps, a slightly more tasteful series could be made of the late middle ages, including the crusades, the renaissance and the reformation time.