The Gospel to the Mongols – Part I

The Gospel to the Mongols – Part I

As I grow older I grow increasingly interested with history.  One fantastic story is the rise of the Mongols led by Genghis Khan in the 13th century.  The military might of this people was astonishing.  They were unmatched on the battlefield for their time.  They took over most of Asia, the Middle East and large portions of Europe before they self destructed.  One fascinating portion of this story is the interaction between the Khan’s and the Christians (Pope) and between the Khan’s and the Muslims (Caliph) in Baghdad.

In this two-part blog post I will share the interactions between these groups and  the result of the interactions.  I will also dream about what could have been had the Pope preached the same gospel to the Khan’s, that the apostle Paul recorded in the first 3 chapters of Ephesians. In part II of this post I will attempt to write my own version of this gospel letter to the Khan’s aligned with Ephesians 1-3.

A great place to hear this entire story from a secular perspective is on the podcast called Hardcore History with Dan Carlin, Dan did an amazing podcast series on the Mongols called the Wrath of the Khan’s. Check it out in iTunes.

Carlins Khans

The background about this interaction with the Christians and Muslims is that the Khan’s are conquering wherever they go. They have already routed both Christian and Muslim armies with surprising ease. Amazingly no countries seem to be able or willing to join forces to defend themselves against these armies.  The Mongols were ruthless in their conquering ways and there almost seemed to be a destiny attached to the Mongols that no one could overcome.

In Rome Pope Innocent IV was in charge and you can find his entire 1400+ word gospel letter here. If you don’t want to read all of this here is my quick summary:

The letter is very long and it seems to be written in a way that only another devout Catholic theologian could understand. Makes me wonder if Pope Innocent understood that he was speaking to mostly uneducated people from another language.  There is lofty, wordy and deep doctrine which was probably way over the head of the Khan’s, assuming it was even translated properly.  Pope Innocent does spell out the story of the fall of man and the virgin birth and the death of Jesus for the sins of man but, it is difficult to pull that out of the letter.  The letter’s tone seems to me conciliatory, it was an appeal, it was not aggressive and threatening which possibly may have saved Rome so I give Pope Innocent a lot of credit for this letter.

The Khan’s response is what I would expect, he barely understood it, you can find the text of the Khan’s ~400 word letter here.  It was full of questions, he questions if it were not God’s will for them to take over the world, well then why was it happening? The best statement we see in both the Christian and Muslim response from the Khans is “we shall see what the will of God is.”

The interaction between the Mongols and the Muslim Caliph in Baghdad was quite different.  The Caliph came off as derogatory, threatening and superior to the Mongol King.  The Mongol seemed indifferent about Christ and Muslim religions, they were out to conquer the world, they cared not for the different Gods and religious disputes.  They felt like it was their destiny from heaven to conquer. When the Caliph threatened and insulted the younger Khan, the result was devastating.  The Mongol armies came down to Baghdad and absolutely annihilated every man, woman and child in the city, including the Caliph himself.  It was probably one of the most brutal and horrible scenes of murder, rape and destruction in history.  The damage done to the Muslims was great, the effects of this no doubt are still with us today, over 700 years later.

You can see the Mongol-Caliph interaction here.

Rome was not routed and destroyed but unfortunately Baghdad was.

In Part II of this post I will write (with the benefit of hindsight), what I think would have been a better gospel letter to the Mongols based mostly on Paul’s gospel recorded in Ephesians 1-3.  I will also dream about all that would have changed in history had the Mongols responded to Jesus Christ in the late 1240’s.