The slow steady collapse of Muslim Spain which took place over a century, and culminated in Ferdinand and Isabella's great victory in 1492, was a disaster for two groups of people, the Anabaptists and the Jews. The Muslims were by no means sympathetic to Anabaptist or Jewish theology, but the Koran stipulated that non-muslims who would pay a tax were to live unmolested in their territories. The Catholic Church had no such provision. It was either convert or die.
As a result, learning in Greek and Hebrew flourished in the universities of Muslim Spain. The great Albigensian Civilization which was composed of Christians dating back to apostolic times rejected the Roman Catholic Church. They were nestled at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain and were destroyed when Muslim power could no longer secure their safety. The might of Muslim arms held back the ravages of Rome but as the Muslim power base shrank, the Catholic Church waxed bold against that civilization until in 1300AD a great crusade wiped it out. Along with every man woman and child, all traces of the word of God were wiped out with them. As thoroughly as the English Catholic Church destroyed the great Celtic Church a century earlier, the crusaders demolished the Albigensians in the Catholic church's mad quest to prove omnipotent.
Ironically, the catastrophic event that destroyed the only spot where Jews and Anabaptists could worship without fear of death, the capture of the last Muslim stronghold in Spain also caused Ferdinand and Isabella to fund Christopher Columbus's discovery of America. The North American shores were to prove a land of unbridled liberty and freedom for Jews and Anabaptists. Such is the providence of God.
Catholic apologists often comment that we would not have a bible without the preservation and labor of Catholic scholars. That is decidedly not true. We have a perfect word of God despite the Catholic Church. When the powers of the inquisition swept into the conquered areas of Muslim Spain, great bonfires were lit with centuries of manuscripts. What manuscripts survived were smuggled into England over the century and a half that the Muslim Kingdom shrunk.
John of Gaunt was a friend of Wycliffe's and of the Lollards. He owned thirty castles throughout English territory and in each one he had the political and military might to nullify the king's writ. Jewish and Anabaptists scholars found refuge in the walls of his castles, and there the word of God flourished with an infusion of understanding and scholarship unknown on the continent. Later renditions of the Wycliffe Bible show a deep understanding of the original languages. When Erasmus came to England, he declared to his surprise and delight that he found the learning of England to be above anywhere on the continent.
The Greek and Hebrew texts of the King James Bible are more of a product of Muslim Spain than Rome and her minions. The Catholic Church was far more responsible for giving England the faux documents that are now endlessly retranslated into sillier and sillier bibles. If you love the NIV or ESV, thank the Catholic church. If you love the King James Bible, thank God for the providence of God who raised up the Muslim kingdoms to preserve the word of God.
When I witness to Muslims in the United States, I tell them that I am a Baptist and that the Muslims protected my people for 700 years. It is only fitting that Muslims find safe harbor in a land where the Baptist doctrine of the freedom of conscience is the law of the land. It has never failed to quietly surprise my listener, and in every case in has left an open door.
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