HomeMST Reviewvol. 21 no. 2 (2019)

On the Merit and Demerit of Being a Christian: Missiological Reflections in the Wake of Medieval Arab Sources Relating the Christianization of Russia

Thomas Mooren



In 988, Vladimir the Great was baptized and the Christianization of Russia could begin. While this seems to be an historical secure date, things are different regarding the circumstances surrounding this baptism. Only the Arab sources tell us that baptism could take place because of a military alliance between Byzantium and Russia. The alliance was needed, because of an internal rebellion in the Byzantine empire and that this rebellion could only be quelled with Vladimir’s help. The recompense for Vladimir was the marriage with Anna, the emperor’ s sister. There is one other thing only the Arab sources tell us. The marriage could take place only after Vladimir was baptized. Anna categorically refused to be “handed over” to a man who had a religion different from her own. The next thing the Arab sources reveal is that some Russians were not happy with Christianity since it did not allow to make a living by the sword, which meant ruin and starvation for the people. The way out of this situation was to find a religion other than Christianity that allowed the practice of the sword again (i.e., plunder and jihad) and this was Islam. Given this development the present study tackles the basic question of the relationship between religion and power. Can religions survive without the sword? And what does it mean specifically for Christianity in light of the “peaceful way of love” inaugurated by Christianity’s “founder”, Jesus of Nazareth? In the past, Christianity has succumbed to the attraction of power in spite of the “founder’s” principles. However, will or even can the future be different? The question is also vital for Islam, but here the problem has to be “solved’, if it can ever be “solved”, in accordance with the rules and regulations of the “Holy Book”, the Qoran, the revelation of God for the Muslims.