“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.