The French Revolution & The Modern Church

“By Revolution I do not mean one of the many events whereby a Government is overthrown. Nor do I just mean by it the storm of upheaval that has raged in France. Rather, by Revolution I mean the whole inversion of the general spirit and mode of thinking that is now manifest in all Christendom.

By Revolution ideas I mean the basic maxims of liberty and equality, popular sovereignty, social contract, the artificial construction of society by common consent, — notions which today are venerated as the cornerstone of constitutional law and the political order….

The consequences of the Revolutionary ideas cannot be combated with any success unless one places himself outside their influence, on the ground of the anti-revolutionary principles. This ground is beyond reach, however, so long as one refuses to acknowledge that the foundation of justice lies in the law the ordinances of God. Bonald has expressed this truth in the concise and pregnant words, ‘The Revolution began with the declaration of the rights of man; it will end only with the declaration of the right of God.'”

Groen Van Prinesterer
Unbelief and Revolution — Lecture I — Introduction

The Revolution that Gr.v. Pr. speaks of we call “modernity.” It is the unfolding of a whole scale skepticism wherein God’s Word and Law are overthrown in favor of autonomous man’s fiat word and law. Modernity, is the social order and cultural filth that all of us have been swimming in for our whole lives, as our Parents, Grandparents and Great Grandparents swam in it for their whole lives. Because we have swam in it our whole lives we cannot envision anything else. Indeed, when someone comes to us championing the overturn of modernity we rail and scream because modernity, as Van Prinsterer describes it as become our mother’s milk and our way of life. Indeed, it is so much our way of life that it is actually championed as the norm in most “Christian” Churches. This is evidenced by the fact that most of our clergy corps dedicate themselves to helping the rank and file laity fit in and adopt to Modernity as if the worldview of Revolution is the norm of the Christian.

Quite to the contrary I would contend that our Christian Churches should be training centers for identifying the Revolution worldview that Van Prinsterer puts his finger on. As ministers we need to be teaching God’s people the anti-Revolutionary principles that Gr. v. Pr. speaks of. This can not be done apart from returning to the foundation of justice which lies in the ordinances and law of God. As ministers we need to be teaching God’s people the art of successful protest and resistance against the Revolutionary principles that have seized the day.

Gr. v. Pr. was not the only one who recognized this problem. Writing over 100 years later after Gr. v. Pr, Erik von Kuehnelt Leddihn could write in a very similar vein,

“The French Revolution is still with us in every way. Not only are its ideas ever-present, but there is much in its historic evolution that can teach us — in North America no less than in Europe. Its initial period began with the undermining of traditional values and ideas, coupled with the demand for moderate reforms. With Voltaire a whole series of scoffers, facile critics, and agnostics in the literal sense of the term made their appearance. They subverted religion, convictions, traditions, and the loyalties on which state and society rested. The process of decomposition and putrefaction always starts at the top — in the royal palace, the presidential mansion, among the intellectuals, the aristocracy, the wealthy, the clergy — and then gradually enmeshes the lower social layers. In this process it is interesting to notice how the high and mighty develop a sense of guilt and with it a readiness to abdicate, to yield to expropriation, to submit to the loss of privileges, in other words, to commit suicide politically and economically. For this masochist act, however, they are well prepared by the ideological propaganda coming from their own ranks…. The members of the nobility who took active part in the intellectual or political undermining of the ancien regime and then participated in the Revolution are very numerous, without their support the French Revolution is well-nigh unimaginable…. One is inevitably reminded of the fact that, statistically speaking, the natural death of states and nations as well as of classes and estates, is not murder but suicide. However, this act of suicide is usually preceded by a period of delusions and follies. Quen deus vult perdidi prius dementat.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
Lefism — pg. 88

I would only add here that before political and economic suicide can be committed that theological suicide must first be committed, since politics and economics descends from Theology. I would also observe that when Leddihn speaks of “ideological propaganda,” as Christians we should understand that such ideological propaganda is but a form of theological propaganda.

Leddhin’s observation in this quote supports Christopher Lasch’s, inked 20 years after Leddihn, in his book, “Revolt of the Elites.” In that book Lasch lays the deterioration and decline of the West squarely at the feet of the cultural elite. Lasch cites chapter and verse on how the cultural elite had become the cultural despisers of Western tradition and values. Lasch contends that the overthrow of the West was not orchestrated by the masses, contra Ortega y Gasset’s, “Revolt of the Masses,” but that we have been damaged from within by our cultural gatekeepers.

Morris Berman’s book, “The Twilight of American Culture,” also factors into this theme. Berman, like both Lasch and Leddihn, sees the unraveling of American culture although Berman is inclined to lay the fault at the feet of mass-produced cutlure. Still, that mass-produced culture that Berman speaks of, I would contend, comes from those elites that Lasch excoriates and that Leddihn puts in the dock and which first started with the French Revolution.

Our problem in the West today is that our best and brightest no longer believe in what made the West the West. Groen van Prinsterer, and Leddihn teaches us that the “Un-Westing” of the West began with the French Revolution and has continued unchecked as Biblical Christianity has lost its power to challenge the various incarnations of the French Revolution that have propelled its agenda of “anti-Reformation,” for each subsequent generation.

The Christian church in the West is failing its calling when it refuses to identify at every turn how our current culture is but the successful incarnation of the anti-Christ principles of the French Revolution. That the Church has not figured this out is seen in its inviting the enemy into its bosom via the music we play during worship, its embrace of the whole concept of “social justice,” the way we divide up our families in worship and in a host of other ways.

If we desire Reformation we must first understand that it will never come to pass until we first put off the worldview of the French Revolution.

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.

One thought on “The French Revolution & The Modern Church”

  1. Mighty fortress

    Teachers false inside beware.

    Common kingdom lesser care,

    Not our business, theirs out there,

    Inclusive human 4-H fair,

    Government by man’s decree

    Progressive law democracy,

    Shuns restraints and limitations,

    Adulterations incantations,

    Leaders mocking Holy law,

    Tearing down by tooth and claw,

    Building up with blah blah blah,

    Telling us their rules are favors.

    While ignoring their behaviors

    Safe inside its hallowed halls,

    Church it takes its base on balls,

    Covering its skin that crawls

    With cozy insulated shawls,

    Underneath their silent bells,

    Speaking up within their shells,

    “Can’t help sinner’s sinning,”

    Give way you underpinnings,

    Foundations of restraint,

    “Rulers gods just ain’t”

    A game, two teams, all winners,

    “jetzt sind wir alle Berliner”

    With such a silent chorus,

    Transparent mighty fortress

    Just punting on the river

    With nothing to deliver.

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