Revolutionary Christianity or Anti-Revolutionary Christianity?

“The movement within which Bavinck rose to prominence, neo-Calvinism, found much of its initial momentum as a rebellion against the influence of the French Revolution across Europe. This struggle to counter this impact of the Revolution exerts a defining influence upon much of Bavinck’s thought on Christianity and culture….

The Revolution was an attempt to cast aside all the old distinctions of class and power: liberty, equality, and fraternity were the new values. Gone were concepts like monarchy, social class, and theism. The new de facto deity, reason, was set in direct opposition to divine revelation. The change attempted in Revolutionary France was highly ambitious: it was a movement of re-creation, an upheaval instigated to change every aspect of French life. The nineteenth-century Revolutionary intellectual Edgar Quinet recognized that such a sudden break with an entire social system could only happen if the preexisting sense of social inter connectedness between citizens was broken: those who have, until now, existed primarily in relationship to each other within a common culture must suddenly think of themselves primarily as individuals. Quinet recognized this has central not just to the French Revolution, but to all evolutionary movements. Thus, in order to change an entire society, all the old social connections had to disappear, and the ‘individual’ had to take their place.

The great irony perceived by the likes of Bavinck and Kuyper was that although revolutionaries were told of their new found individuality, in reality they became far more homogeneous than in the pre-Revolutionary world. Revolutionary France was a place where all were pressured to dress and speak alike, where human worth did not exist beyond one’s social standing (hence the drive for a homogenized society), and where institutions like Christian theism, as pro-social diversity were see as obstacles to those goals.

Having seen these ideals taking hold in France, Bavinck was motivated to combat their influence in Dutch culture. That context sets the scene for his thoughts on the family as a united social entity. His argument was that the family is not an arbitrary collection of individuals, who may or may not have much in common by way of belief. Rather, he argues in favor of the family as an organism made up of distinct but complementary people who together form the building blocks of society.

Introduction — The Christian Family
James Eglinton — pp. XIV – XV

1.) The success of the French Revolution was not limited to the fall of the Bastille. The success of the French Revolution was the beginning of the end for Christendom in the West, for the anti-Christ principles of the Revolution lived on in the turmoil in Europe in 1815, and 1848. The anti-Christ principles of the Revolution came to the states with the work on the Jacobins between 1861-1877. The anti-Christ principles of the Revolution found a permanent home in Russia for 70 years in 1918. The ideals and principles of the French Revolution continue to form and shape the world that we occupy today. The “Liberty” of the French Revolution remains today the attempt of fallen man to find Liberty from God. In point of fact Revolutionary “Liberty,” is lawlessness. The “Equality” of the French Revolution remains today as the ongoing attempt to level all distinctions by insisting that all hierarchy arrangements are merely social constructs to be deconstructed. The “Fraternity” of French Revolution remains today as the bumper sticker meme to “Co-Exist,” and the ongoing recitation of the the Fatherhood of God of all men and the Brotherhood of all men.

2.) For Bavinck the Revolutionary Worldview had to be opposed by all right minded Christians because Revolutionary ideology is part of the disordered sin sick reality that nature was poisoned with. Revolutionary ideology creates sick reality because it identifies sin w/ nature, and creation w/ the fall, and so in order to attack sin and the fall they attack nature and thus seek to pull down God’s institutional created social order that includes family, state, and society, preferring instead a sinful social order where God’s diversity is blended into a humanistic Unitarian sameness. This creates the sick reality that neo-Calvinism has always opposed.

3.) What Eglinton teaches us about Bavinck and the neo-Calvinist school is that they opposed this Revolutionary model that attempted to overthrow God’s ordained social order that was antithetical to Revolutionary “Liberty,” “Equality,” and “Fraternity.” This anti-Revolutionary Calvinism of men like Groen van Prinsterer, Bavinck, and Kuyper found later Calvinist Theologians like Dabney in 19th Century America and Rushdoony in 20th century carrying the anti-Revolutionary torch of the Neo-Calvinist founders.

This reminds us that there remains a thread of anti-Revolutionary fervor that has been characteristic of Biblical Calvinism. In this anti-Revolutionary Calvinism we find the insistence that any Christianity that makes peace with the desideratum of the continuing Revolutionary vision is a Calvinism that is no Calvinism.

4.) The press towards individualism that Eglinton mentions as the consequence of Revolutionary ideology, ironically enough, ends up in a vicious collectivism. When all mediating institutions, as created by the Christian social order, with its model of jurisdictionalism, are destroyed by Revolutionary “Equality” the consequence is a bland sameness where individualism is completely lost.

5.) The lack of this kind of basic understanding of how Biblical Calvinism, as the essence of Biblical Christianity, results in the consequence that modern Christianity reinterprets itself through the grid of Revolutionary ideology. When “Calvinists,” and all other “Christians,” refuse to understand what has occurred, with the success of Revolutionary ideology, is that Christianity is interpreted through the lens of “Liberty,” “Equality,” and “Fraternity.” What this means is that modern Christianity is, in the majority report, Revolutionary Christianity. Instead of challenging the continued onslaught of the Revolution, what happens is that Christianity seeks to make peace with Revolution. A modern Church, that is not self-aware that it must be anti-Revolutionary, ends up discipling its people into being “sanctified” subscribers of the Revolution. Christians who are not epistemologically self-conscious regarding the ongoing Revolution are Christians who stand in the way of Reformation.

6.) Indeed, it is not going to far to say that Christianity that is interpreted in the grid of Revolutionary thought is a different Christianity that is interpreted through the grid of anti-Revolution.

7.) Anti-Revolutionary Calvinism finds in the death of Christ the healing of the Cosmos and a deliverance from personal and individual Revolution that results in the healing of social order Revolution.

8.) There is a neo-Calvinism that is claimed by Leftist Christians. They do agree that all things must be interpreted through a biblical gird but their biblical grid has already itself been reinterpreted through a Revolutionary grid. Neo-Calvinist who advocate for a social order that is consistent with Revolutionary goals is not neo-Calvinism.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

2 thoughts on “Revolutionary Christianity or Anti-Revolutionary Christianity?”

  1. “In point of fact Revolutionary “Liberty,” is lawlessness.”

    R.L. Dabney traced this kind of notion of liberty to infidel philosopher Thomas Hobbes – that it stands for “doing WHATEVER I want to do and can get away with, except insofar I am restrained by social convention.” No mention of restraints posed by God’s Law:

    “Our fathers valued liberty, but the liberty for which they contended was each person’s privilege to do those things and those only to which God’s law and Providence gave him a moral right. The liberty of nature which your modern asserts is absolute license; the privilege of doing whatever a corrupt will craves, except as this license is curbed by a voluntary “social contract.””

    One could call the “social contract” as a secularized travesty of the Biblical concept of Covenant. Beautiful Orwellian logic here (or should we call it proto-Hegelian, as things turn dialectically into their total opposites):

    “Rousseau’s striking phrase that man must “be forced to be free”[8] should be understood this way: since the indivisible and inalienable popular sovereignty decides what is good for the whole, then if an individual lapses back into his ordinary egoism and disobeys the leadership, he will be forced to listen to what they decided as a member of the collectivity (i.e. as citizens). Thus, the law, in as much as it is created by the people acting as a body, is not a limitation of individual freedom, but its expression.”

  2. It’s CALVIN vs. HOBBES!

    Here Dabney delves deeper into the Hobbesian foundations of Liberalism – the social-contract theory leads either to tyranny (omnipotent government) or anarchism (no government at all):

    “The popular theory of man’s natural rights, of the origin of governments, and of the moral obligation of allegiance, is that which traces them to a social contract. The true origin of this theory may be found with Hobbes of Malmesbury. It owes its respectability among Englishmen, chiefly to the pious John Locke, a sort of baptized image of that atheistic philosopher;* and it was ardently held by the infidel democrats of the first French revolution. According to this scheme, each person is by nature an independent integer, wholly sui juris, absolutely equal to every other man, and naturally entitled, as a “Lord of Creation,” to exercise his whole will. Man’s natural liberty was accordingly defined as privilege to do whatever he wished. True, Locke attempts to limit this monstrous postulate by defining man’s native liberty as privilege to do whatever he wished within the limits of the law of nature. But this virtually returns to the same; because he teaches that man is by nature absolutely independent, so that he must be himself the supreme, original judge, what this law of nature is.”;size=100;view=image

    “All government, therefore, is not only of the nature of restraint; it is essentially restraint upon one’s rights. The advocates of the theory distinctly represent government as of the nature of a natural evil and wrong, but adopted as an expedient against the worse evil, anarchy; and therefore the obligation to obey it has no higher source than expediency. But worse yet; if there is any such thing as intrinsic morality, government is an immoral restraint, for it is a restraint upon rights. Whatever good government may bring us, it is of that species which St. Paul reprobates, as “doing evil that good may come.”

    The great Hobbes was therefore perfectly consistent, in teaching that there is no original morality in acts, and that there was at first no such thing as right, distinct from might. Morals are factitious distinctions invented under civil society for expediency. Let the thoughtful reader consider how this monstrous conclusion uproots all obligation, and order, and allegiance. No man can hold the theory of the origin of government in the social contract, unless he either holds, with Hobbes, this damnable error, or with some abolitionists, (who are thoroughly consistent here,) that all government is immoral.”

    Some non-religious Rightist thinkers have also come to the same conclusion:

    “Schmitt, however, appealed to Hobbes as a foil for liberal democracy. Thus, Strauss argued, Schmitt’s critique of liberal democracy was insufficiently radical, for Hobbes is actually the true founder of liberalism. Although the Leviathan seems anything but liberal, the premises from which Hobbes seeks to deduce it are the basic principles of liberalism.”

    Can’t we often see that even while Lefty-Liberals are rhetorically expressing support for freedom and yet more freedom, they are with their actual deeds supporting an all-grasping Leviathan state, that is supposed to provide welfare for all?

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