Impression of the French Revolution on 18th Century Europe and Relevance to Up to date Christianity


Occasions of 1789 shaped the catalyst that exploded the powder keg of collected grievances in France. Certainly “the French Revolution started when Louis XVI referred to as the States-Normal to supply cash for his bankrupt authorities” (The World Guide Encyclopedia, Vol.7, 1991, p.450). The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 produced intense hostility to Christianity as a result of “the Roman church was recognized by the individuals with the sooner authorities of France and suffered enormously” (Harman and Renwick, 1999, p.170). Lefebvre (1947) noticed that in a complete inhabitants of most likely twenty three million, there have been actually not a couple of hundred thousand monks, monks and nuns, and 4 hundred thousand nobles. The remainder constituted the Third Property. This secular occasion reveals the modern Church the peril that awaits a nation that rejects God. The purpose of the statement is that though the French Revolution negatively affected Christianity, the try at deChristianization was unable to blot the ‘religion of our fathers dwelling nonetheless’.


In accordance with Noll (2000), “quite a lot of long-festering situations had ready the way in which for this assault on Christianity” (p.247). Paradoxically, a few of these have been of Christian origin. Centuries earlier, Augustine had declared that man shouldn’t have dominion over man, for he’s a rational creature made within the picture of God. Bellarmine, the Jesuit Cardinal opined that it relied on the consent of the individuals whether or not kings, consuls or different magistrates have been to be established in authority over them. He additional noticed that the individuals ought to change a kingdom into an aristocracy if there was legit trigger. Latourette (1953) due to this fact referred to the French Revolution as “a secularized model of the heavenly metropolis as perceived by Christians” (p.1007).

Earlier than the outbreak of the revolution in France, unhealthy financial, political, social and authorized situations, the profitable instance of the English Revolution of 1689 and the American Revolution of 1776 have been fused by the event of an ideology that rationalized the proper of well-liked revolution towards Louis XVI. This ideology was the results of the teachings of the philosophes. Whereas Rousseau and Montesquieu offered the political ambiance for revolution, Voltaire criticized the church. Cairns (1981) admitted that there have been grounds for criticism of the Roman Catholic Church in France. It owned a lot land and was as accountable because the secular state within the dealings with the individuals. The general public resented varied tithes imposed by the church, rigorous repression of non secular dissenters, and the non-productive monkish orders. Nichols (1932) suspected that “the best reason behind the hostility of the church was its huge wealth and the egocentric use manufactured from it” (p.96) because the plenty have been ruined by merciless taxation on the expense of upper clergy who have been usually lazy, luxurious and immoral.

If the seventeenth century was the age of orthodoxy, the eighteenth was the age of nationalism, a results of chilly orthodoxy and scientific developments. The lethal end result was that “revelation tended to take the again seat to motive and information gained by sense notion” (Vos, 1960, p.99). When scientists investigated the type of the universe, they shaped the thought of a clockwise universe – God’s world was seen as gigantic, well-ordained big clock.


The French Revolution is seen as a turning level as a result of it was seen as an vital stage in a succession of actions that later unfold throughout the globe to in the end have an effect on the lifetime of mankind.

It’s noticed that the results have been particularly critical for Christianity since they introduced actions which struck on the privileges and standing of the Roman Catholic Church. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen on August 26 1789 held that “the supply of all sovereignty is situated within the nation; no physique, no particular person can train authority which doesn’t emanate from it expressly” (Noll, 2000, p.247). The peasants have been relieved of a burden which had taken a couple of twentieth of their produce when tithes have been abolished. Consequently, the church was disadvantaged of certainly one of its chief sources of income. Church land, which comprised a couple of fifth of the realm of France was confiscated and have become the property of the state. In July 1790, the Civil Structure of the Clergy was enacted by the Nationwide Meeting. Amongst different issues, bishops have been to be elected by the voters who selected the civil officers and the pope was merely to be notified of their alternative. Cost of the clergy by the state was no blessing in disguise because the former was to take an oath of allegiance to the latter. [It must be observed that Spener criticized caesaropapism (doctrine of state control over the church) in his significant publication way back in 1675]. The pope’s energy was decreased to that of stating the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. Certainly “churchmen felt this new act meant secularization of the church they usually have been violently against it” (Cairns, 1981, p.390).

Not like the state of affairs in the US, separation of church and state by the French Revolution and later within the Soviet Union and its sphere of affect was an try and completely exterminate the church and to switch it with nationalism. The Roman Catholic Church and the French state have been utterly separated throughout the reign of terror of 1793 and 1794 when so many have been executed for counter revolutionary actions.

The programme of deChristianization gained momentum when the conference decreed {that a} commune had the proper to surrender the Catholic type of worship. The calendar adopted on October 3 1793 made each tenth day reasonably than Sunday a day of relaxation. On November 7, 1793, the Archbishop of Paris appeared earlier than the Conference and “solemnly resigned his Episcopal capabilities” (Encyclopaedia Britiannica, vol.15, 1989, p.498). A sure Mademoiselle Maillard, an opera dancer, sporting the three colors of the brand new republic on November 10, 1793 was enthroned because the goddess of Purpose upon the excessive altar of Notre Dame, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Paris, and there she acquired the homage of the revolutionists. Notre Dame was rechristened the Temple of Purpose. One other step adopted by the Conference was the ordering of church buildings and parsonages for use as faculty homes and poor homes thus successfully stopping public and official worship. The Feasts of Purpose each at Paris and elsewhere quickly “degenerated into mere orgies, disreputable girls enjoying the a part of goddesses and enacting bacchanals within the church buildings” (Martin, 1877, p.552). The precarious state of affairs throughout the Reign of Terror compelled many Christians to surrender their belief in God. Assessing the state of affairs, Kuiper (1964) identified that “it isn’t doable to say what number of Protestants in addition to Catholics renounced their religion right now, however the quantity was massive” (p.310). Though the Conference handed a decree reaffirming the precept of the liberty of worship, the Listing and its regime have been mainly anti-Christian. The pursuits of Christianity and European civilization have been not considered two expressions of the identical actuality. In different phrases, there was a sign of the demise of Christendom.

Kings initially seen themselves as God’s representatives on earth and regarded all disobedience and rise up to be sinful. A harmful feeling of infallibility, appreciable serenity and moderation due to this fact gained management of monarchs. The French Revolution utterly repudiated this divine proper of kings and “asserted the doctrine that the proper to rule got here from the individuals” (The World Guide Encyclopedia, vol.5, 1971, p.199). Though Napoleon ultimately acknowledged the Roman Catholic faith as the faith of the good majority of French residents, he didn’t make it the established faith. The clergy have been to be paid by the state however the property taken from the Roman Church in 1790 was to not be returned to it. Actually, Latourette (1953) noticed with brutal reality that Napoleon “regarded the church as an establishment which should be acknowledged and used for his functions” (p.1011).

The French Revolution and Napoleon introduced grave embarrassment to missions. The direct end result was a pointy decline of the religion in some geographic frontiers. Few missionaries have been despatched from Europe and it was tough to render assist to these already within the area. The Society of Overseas Missions of Paris was compelled to hunt headquarters exterior of France. The Congregation of the Propagation of the Religion, the bureau by means of which the Papacy supervised missions overseas, was pushed out of Rome. This led to a marked falling off in numbers and morale of the Roman Catholic neighborhood in India. Antagonistic home situations coupled with the handicaps in Europe threatened the extinction of the church in China. The occupation of Spain by Napoleonic armies and the assault on Portugal enormously affected missions in Latin America. Circumstances in Russia have been additionally adversarial. Parishes misplaced the proper of electing their clergy, a privilege loved because the period of Peter the Nice. In an excellent abstract, Noll (2000) commented that “turmoil from the French Revolution after which the wave of nationwide liberation actions fostered by Napoleon additional diminished European concern for cross-cultural Christian growth” (p.274). The revolution enormously affected Lutherans within the German states. Conflict and struggling revealed that skepticism and infidelity weren’t adequate to fulfill the wants of the human spirit and multitudes turned once more to spiritual religion. The previous Holy Roman Empire was dissolved in 1806, stimulating the strengthening of unbiased states like Austria and Prussia. Later within the century, this contributed to the unification of the German individuals below the management of Prussia. Calvinism in Europe additionally felt the shock of the French Revolution. Skepticism had already weakened this group in France, Switzerland, the German states and the Low International locations. In accordance with Baker (1959), the “political situations that continued by means of the Congress of Vienna in 1815 introduced disorganization and uncertainty to continental Calvinism” (p.321).

Past the darkish clouds have been shades of silver lining, which a number of students are likely to overlook. Maybe a constructive view was that “society was being directed towards the great of the entire neighborhood as an alternative of towards the good thing about a tiny elite of kings, nobles and bishops” (Noll, 2000, p.248). Grievous as have been the losses suffered by Christianity, “there was ample proof that the religion was on no account moribund” (Latourette, 1953, p.1012). Indications of vitality (previous and new) have been evident. These may very well be discovered among the many Roman Catholics of the japanese church buildings and in Protestantism. If something, “secularization of the west was not going to blot out the religion” (Noll, 2000, p.260). Liberal, sectarian and traditionalist responses to the marginalization of European Christendom all had notable vigor although at various levels. European thought was skillfully sifted in a brand new world to be able to protect an intellectually vigorous Christian religion. Teams just like the Oxford Motion utilized classes of the early church of the perils of the current. In his stimulating Church Historical past lectures at West Africa Theological Seminary, Lagos, Nigeria, Dr. William Faupel noticed that secularization will not be inherently evil and argued that there should be a constructive interplay, that’s, taking the gospel within the mindset of the individuals.


Many biblical students agreed that the punctuation of papal energy in France was a success of prophecies of Daniel 7 and Revelation 13, which they believed predicted the demise of Roman Catholicism. On this mild, Faupel (1996) noticed that “the French Revolution grew to become the Rosetta Stone by which all scriptural prophecy may very well be correlated with the occasions of human historical past” (p.92). The teachings for modern Christianity are vital.

Righteousness exalts a nation however sin is certainly a reproach to any individuals. Even immediately, the Wesleys are credited with saving England from a bloody, political revolution reminiscent of befell France. Whereas the frequent individuals have been as oppressed and disadvantaged because the French, the English individuals might deal with their oppression due to their religion in God and their adherence to Christian ideas. The English revival prompted the individuals to look to God for hope whereas the French had solely politicians and atheistic philosophers. The lesson is that God can avert destruction in a nation that acknowledges Him as Saviour. The state of affairs in Sierra Leone in Might 2000 is a living proof. God miraculously saved the nation at a time when destruction loomed massive. The nation responded to the decision to shout ‘Jesus’ at 5:00 p.m. on Monday Might 9 2000. God honoured this demonstration of religion and reliance on Him as the one hope. The peaceable elections in Might 2002 and August/September 2007 is also attributed to the redeeming work of God in a land the place He’s exalted. In like method, Horton (1993) firmly believed that “God led to a peaceable change within the protestant land of England, in distinction to the turmoil of the Roman Catholic France” (p.72).

Secondly, the church in any nation shouldn’t fraternize with the state to oppress plenty because the latter might insurgent with frenzied violence. In France, the revolutionists demonstrated that “they may break down limitations in the event that they have been pushed to desperation” (Rowe, 1931, p.420). Moreover, concepts that glorify man and sentence God to non permanent or everlasting exile may very well be harmful to any nation. The French Revolution shocked Europe and woke up individuals to the facility of concepts and forces that had change into a part of western tradition. For a lot of, “these concepts and forces connoted the disruptions and destruction that may very well be anticipated from unrestrained rationalism” (Manschreck, 1974, 298).

From the examine, the researcher realizes that pagan religions and concepts might penetrate areas as soon as dominated by Christianity on account of the state of the church. Throughout his lectures, Dr. Faupel lamented that an impending doom might await the church in North America due to inherent weak spot together with racist Christian insurance policies. As Rodney noticed (1972), “racism…[was] a set of generalizations and assumptions, which had no scientific bias, however…rationalized in each sphere from theology to biology” (p.99). Up to date Christianity ought to understand that it shouldn’t be the chilly impotent ash (just like the church in France earlier than the revolution) however a vibrant church fulfilling the Nice Fee. Sumrall (1980) caustically dismissed refusal to unfold the gospel as “reckless non secular murder” (p.8). The modern church should be keen to sacrifice like Christ and the saints of previous if the earth needs to be crammed with the glory of God because the waters cowl the ocean. Houghton (1980) hoped that the modern church could be aware of the truth that “when the church goes astray, denying Him who had purchased His individuals with His treasured blood, the Lord [sends] trials and afflictions to appropriate His untrue kids” (p.34).


The above however, the blood of a martyr is seed for the church. After the French Revolution, Christianity, most likely to the dismay of the revolutionaries, didn’t die. Fact (Jesus) was within the grave for 3 days however ultimately resurrected. Persecution, within the historical past of Christianity, may very well be considered a stepping stone reasonably than a stumbling block. Hearth didn’t beget chilly and impotent ash. After the French Revolution, the church grew to become far more concerned in talking on related problems with the day. Christianity was seen from a unique perspective. Evangelism was given a considerate consideration. Regardless of all of the unfavorable results of the French Revolution, the model of Christianity that emerged remodeled itself by positively interacting with the philosophical mindset of the day.


Baker, Robert A. 1959. A survey of Christian historical past. Nashville: Broadman Press.

Cairns, Earle E. 1981. Christianity by means of the centuries: a historical past of the Christian Church. 2nd ed.

Grand Rapids, Michigan: The Zondervan Company.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1989 ed., s.v. “French Revolution”.

Faupel, William. 1996. The eternal gospel: the importance of eschatology within the improvement of Pentecostal thought. Sheffield: Sheffield Educational Press.

Harman, A.M. and A.M. Renwick. 1999. The story of the church. third ed. Leicester: Varsity Press.

Horton, Beka. 1993. 1980. Sketches from church historical past. Pennsylvania: The Banner of Fact.

Kuiper, B.Ok. 1964. The church in historical past. Michigan: The Nationwide Union of Christian Colleges.

Latourette, Kenneth S. 1953. A historical past of Christianity. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.

Lefebvre, George. 1947. The approaching of the French Revolution. New Jersey: Princeton College Press.

Lewis, C.S. 1970. God within the dock: essays on theology and ethics. Michigan: William E. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Manschreck, Clyde L. 1974. A historical past of Christianity on the planet: from persecution to uncertainty.

New York: Prentice Corridor.

Martin, Henri. 1877. A preferred historical past of France from the primary revolution to the current time, Vol.1.

Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

Noll, Mark A. 2000. Turning factors: decisive moments within the historical past of Christianity. 2nd ed.

Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Educational.

Rodney, Walter. 1972. How Europe underdeveloped Africa. London: Bogle L’Ouverture Publications.

Rowe, Henri Ok. 1931. Historical past of the Christian individuals. New York: The Macmillan Firm.

Sumrall, Lester. 1980. The place was God when pagan religions started? Indiana: LeSEA Publishing Co.

Vos, Howard F. 1960. Highlights of church historical past. Nebraska: Again to the Bible Publishers.

The World Guide Encyclopaedia, 1971 ed., s.v. “Divine rights of kings”.

The World Financial institution Encyclopaedia, 1971 e.d., s.v. “French Revolution”.

Supply by Oliver Harding

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