Columbus & Cortez, Conquerors for Christ
New Leaf Press, 1992, 304 pages.
By John Eidsmoe
Reviewed by John Sanidopoulos
Did Christopher Columbus exploit the people of America – or did he evangelize them? Did Hernando Cortez subjugate the people of Mexico – or did he liberate them?
These are two of the questions posed by John Eidsmoe, a U.S. Reserve Air Force Lt. Colonel, who serves as a law professor at Faulkner University. Columbus & Cortez, Conquerors for Christ counters what Eidsmoe terms “the assault on Western culture” by media elites and liberal scholars on American university campuses. Eidsmoe surmises that this attack on culture is in actuality an attack on values – the biblical values upon which our nation was founded.
Eidsmoe makes the case that history is the unfolding of God's plan for the human race, and by secularists trying to secularize history, they have distorted history and shut our eyes to the greater Providential events which shaped our nation. He includes two sections to give the reader a historical understanding of the events which shaped the Age of Exploration.
“Explorers Before Columbus: For Odin or Christ?” traces the Christian influence in America to the the Viking explorers who had become Christianized in the tenth century by Norway’s King Olaf. Christianity was brought to Greenland and later to “Vinland” (Newfoundland or New England) by none other than Leif Erickson, who was converted by the preaching of Olaf. Sixteen churches were established in Greenland by Leif Erickson, and while the influence of his Christianity on Vinland is mere conjecture, the Greenland colonies flourished until the 1500s and were the first Christian colonies in North America.
“The Crescent or the Cross?” deals with the Muslim conquest of North Africa and Spain in the eighth century. The Muslims advance northward to France was finally driven back to Spain by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours. The Crusades – a futile attempt by Christian Europe to overcome Islam by force – were fought during the five centuries of world domination by Islam. Making no excuses for the travesty of the Crusades, Eidsmoe includes this section of the book as a valuable background to understanding the European mindset of 1492. Isabella and Ferdinand spent much of their reign driving the last Muslims out of Spain. They hoped that Columbus’ voyages to the Indies would bring enough gold to finance a Last Crusade to the Holy Land and drive the Muslims out of Jerusalem.
If the Spanish monarch’s motives in financing Columbus’ voyages were less than exemplary, the misconception that Columbus himself sailed for selfish reasons is refuted by Eidsmoe. The reader is given an insightful glimpse into the personality, temperament and character of Columbus as Eidsmoe makes extensive use of Columbus’ journals and the writings of those who knew him. The popular practice of Columbus bashing of our day is rebutted by the words of Columbus himself.
Many books have been written on Columbus and most of these volumes paint a secular gloss over Columbus’ true motivations. Yet the information contained in Columbus & Cortez was readily available to all Americans over a century ago when numerous volumes were published around the time of the Columbian Exposition of 1892. Sadly, the historical revisionists of the 20th and 21st century have sought to obscure the Christian character of a great man to fit their own political agenda. If there is to be a reversal of this trend, the rarer volumes, such as Eidsmoe’s, need to be studied and critiqued.
Whether you believe or agree or not that America was founded upon biblical principles and the hand of God played a pivotal role in establishing America, this book has great value for Americans today and especially students because it asks the important questions about Columbus and Cortez and it gives fair answers based on the historical facts. Columbus and Cortez are not presented as perfect human beings or even perfect Christians. They were flawed men, no doubt. One thing is for sure however, is that the way they have been slandered as invaders, colonizers, inflicters of genocide, economic exploitation, racists and immoral is not true or fair or accurate. This being said, Eidsmoe does not try to whitewash or dismiss the sins of these explorers. Rather, he shows with evidence that the sins of these men were committed by dedicated Christians who had the right intentions but given the times and circumstances did some wrong things. If we are judging them by standards we hold today, we could very well lose perspective of historical realities. The historical records free from the biases of the modern age paint a very different picture than what American children are presented in schools today.
Around twenty years ago, when I was first exposed to Howard Zinn's The People's History of the United States, I studied some of the primary sources, which Zinn obviously did not, and if he did it was to distort the facts to serve his particular bias. My conclusions were very different, especially about the person of Columbus. Eidsmoe comes a lot closer to the correct historical perspective than Zinn and all those who follow his narrative of American history. For this reason alone, this book is highly recommended, because it sets the right perspective for how Columbus and Cortez should be viewed by the modern age, not as infamous and evil men, but as heroic explorers who faced unfathomable circumstances and who paved the way for the modern world to exist.