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Political Revolutions

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
February 17, 2022 12:01 am

Political Revolutions

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 17, 2022 12:01 am

The American and French Revolutions left an enduring impact on Western history. Today, W. Robert Godfrey reflects on how the ideals behind these two movements took very different turns with significant effects.

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Today you are Renewing Your Mind. All these leaders of what would become the American Revolution were at least in formal terms, Christians, and it was a very serious question on what grounds can we take up arms against the king of the Protestant Reformation spread far beyond the boundaries of the church politics and religion said to mix. We will discover today run Renewing Your Mind of the theology of the Reformation had a profound and politics, government, and the course of nations teacher is noted church historian and Wigner teaching fellow, Dr. Robert Guthrie this lesson is from his series, a survey of church history. Dr. Guthrie begins with the apostolic era and ends with the present age encompassing 73 lessons obviously sure everyone is on the program but we are making them available in a six volume DVD set, what you know you can request a copy of the program today. For now, let's get started. Dr. Guthrie teaches his final lesson in volume 4. It's titled political revolution come now to the last lecture in this series on 17th and 18th century church history, I'm intensely aware of all things.

We didn't talk about any of the things we talked about. We went to great speed but nonetheless, we have focused in on a number of elements that will be crucial to the development of evangelical and American church history in the 19th and 20th centuries, and as we have been studying first Puritanism, and then the emergence of various kinds of revolutions in the modern world, we looked at some aspects of the intellectual revolution being caused by the Enlightenment. We looked at aspects of religious revolution that were going to come out of the great awakening and I thought we might close today, talking and reflecting just a little bit about political revolutions in the 18 century and their impact for the future for the church as well as for society more broadly. And of course at the end of the 18th century weren't thinking about two great revolutions.

First, the American Revolution that Took Pl. in America. That's a country giveaway point in the lecture and then the French revolution that Took Pl. in France so these two revolutions actually occurred rather close in time together but many historians have argued have quite a different character ultimately and so I want to talk just a little bit about the American Revolution and particularly its effects on the religious life in America and then contrasted little bit with some thoughts on the French Revolution now the United States was growing dramatically in the 18 century. It's estimated that the total European population in the American colonies. In 1713, was about 360,000 only 360,000 European people in all of the American colonies.

By 1760 that population had grown to 1.6 million.

So in less than 50 years of the population had grown dramatically and then from 1760 to 1776 and the Declaration of Independence, the population had grown from 1.6 million to 3 million. So there is a dramatic growth in population taking place in the American colonies and most of that growth is biological growth, not immigration growth. So Americans are having large families in part because there's large amounts of farmland available as people begin to push West and all of that means there is a larger and larger population to think about who they are, how they are to be treated by the government in England.

One of the effects of the great awakening as Americans began to think like American before the great awakening people in Boston were more interested in what was going on in London than they were and what was going on in Philadelphia. They looked back to the mother country as the real point of reference rather than to look south or north in the colonies to what other colonies were doing.

They thought of themselves. First of all his Englishmen, and only secondarily as residents of the Massachusetts Bay colony.

For example, and really not at all as particularly connected to the other colonies, but with the coming of the great awakening. There had been developing in America a great sense of what's happening in Philadelphia. What's the spirit doing in Philadelphia. What's the spirit doing in Savannah. What what's happening in the other colonies.

What evidence and an Americans began gradually to be trained to think north and south as well as just looking back to London and that gave the country very much a new sense of development and then there was another important religious matter that develops hard for us to imagine this in some ways, but in the 1760s rumors began to circulate that the king in England was thinking about sending a bishop to America this scandalized most of the columns. It wasn't just that the king was going to send a bishop but all that that implied because bishops in England were counted as part of the aristocracy. They were dressed as lords and there were many in America who feared that now. England might begin to export its whole aristocratic hierarchy to America and Americans didn't want that Americans were opposed to, and so the great fear of the episcopacy as it was known began to rally anti-Royal sentiment, particularly amongst Presbyterians and Congregationalists.

That means, particularly in the mid-Atlantic states and in New England and there was a rising tide of opposition then.

But not only there even in the areas of the colonies that were more Anglican and sentiment like Virginia, there still was this sense, we do not want aristocracy. Here we do not want that exported here and a rising sentiment was we want our rights as Englishmen, we don't want taxation without representation of the things all learn to grammar school about the American Revolution were true.

This was a big part of what motivated colonials in America who now found themselves growing to a significant size in terms of population by having opportunities.

Now they might not of thought possible before. And this would lead ultimately to the revolt against the king of England and that is why the Declaration of Independence is so important. All of these leaders of the what would become the American Revolution were at least in formal terms, Christians. They all knew about Romans 13. They all knew about the obligation of Christians to honor the rumor and obey those in authority over them, and for many of them then it was a very serious question on what grounds can we take up arms against the king on what grounds can we oppose the king there was a well-established Calvinist political theory that said, we can oppose the monarch. Only when he becomes a tyrant and the notion of tyranny was very clear.

It resided in the notion that not only do subjects have responsibilities to their rulers but rulers also have responsibilities to their subjects when the monarch was crowned. He took an oath to uphold the Constitution and rights of Englishmen, and the argument made in the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, is that the king has violated his responsibility to his subjects the king has become a tyrant and therefore we have the right to declare our independence and to take up arms to preserve our independence because our rights as Englishmen have been violated. What's important about that is, it means it's a very conservative approach to revolution, assuming you can never think of revolution is conservative. It's not a revolution to tear down all the old and build something new. It's a revolution to maintain traditional rights.

That was the ideal of the American Revolution the American revolutionaries didn't execute any members of the aristocracy part because there weren't any.

But there were gentry. There were rich people in America.

The point was not to tear down anyone who is here, but to establish political freedom and political rights, and that led to courses you know to revolution war led to the writing of the Constitution that led to the decision of the colonies to unite as one nation, and it led to a number of important religious outcomes for American. One of those embedded in the Constitution from the beginning was the right of religious freedom. The federal government would not take actions to impose any religion on the whole country and of the context in which that decision was made was a context in which most Americans were orthodox Protestants and they assumed that in general terms, the country would remain a rather Protestant country. But the point was that were not going to have federal legislation making us all be Anglicans or Presbyterians or Congregationalists or Baptists. Everyone rallied pretty much around that idea of religious freedom from the federal perspective, even though as I said earlier there were states that still had established church for decades after the ratification of the Constitution and of course were still saying how that works out our way.

Even today, there are cases brought in the name of religious freedom in San Diego.

We've had an example of that going on for over a decade now there is a large cross on the top of a prominent mountain out solo dad in a military cemetery and there are those saying having that cross on federal cemetery land in such a large and prominent place is an establishment of Christianity is religion that cross has come down, and the court after court has ordered that the cross come down and then the politicians run around trying to find a way to save the cross and were still wrestling with.

But it shows that this whole question of what is it mean, really, to have religious freedom is easy to talk about in very general terms, but sometimes difficult to figure out in every specific how it's going to work out, but in any case, America became a land of from the beginning committed to the notion there should be religious freedom, individual citizens ought to have the right to practice their own religion. It's also been intriguing to me to hear recent discussions of whether the Little sisters of the poor, a Roman Catholic order of nuns has to pay for certain kind of health insurance and art. I get really tired of hearing reporters talk about the rights of the church in this matter. The Constitution guarantees the rights of citizens, not the rights of churches, and any rights that any citizen has, whether a nun or not.

A nun is a right that every citizen's and that's my soapbox for today and but this is this is so difficult to figure out how it all works out and were still trying to figure out the implications of this.

Obviously, this kind of religious freedom meant the separation of church and state on the federal level. It also was a key contributing factor. Then to the notion of denominationalism and the heart of denominationalism. Is this that one denomination before the law and maybe even before God is just about as good as another denomination.

We talked about the soul before is a true church and Falls Church or is it purer church and less pure church. What Americans had come to.

By the time of the writing of the Constitution was a conviction, while the differences between Presbyterians and Congregationalists and Episcopalians and maybe even Baptists are little debate about that, but maybe even Baptists. While these differences were significant. We want to say we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and therefore our divisions as an old friend of mine once said the walls between us. Don't reach to heaven and that's the attitude of denominations we take some of our differences seriously, but we don't believe that those differences divide us from God.

And that's a whole new way of thinking.

The church Christian people had never thought that way down to the 17th or 18th century, but the separation of church and state in America reinforces denominationalism so that more more we cooperate with one another and appreciate one another. That's one of the effects of the separation of church and state in America. Another important part of what happens to the church in America is that the disestablishment of the church, meaning the church gets no tax money means that whatever the church does the lady have to pay for. And this contributes significantly to the triumph of the laity.

Whatever the church does has to be done with the support of the people of God and that led to the spirit in America of volunteerism and of generous giving unrivaled almost anywhere else in the world because Americans learned right from the beginning the church will exist only where it supported by the people he does not exist with the support of the government, and it also meant that many people thought. It's good to volunteer.

It's good to give my time as well as my money to help these institutions and so when we come to the 19th century.

We'll see how much was accomplished in America by volunteers joining together for a specific goal to accomplish great things in our own history, we can see that today, for example, in the antiabortion movement. How many Christians across denominational lines have cooperated together to give time and money in a variety of ways to try to reduce the number of abortions or to make abortion illegal in this country. That's the volunteer spirit that's the charitable spirit of America, that still is very much alive with us today, and in many ways it flows out of what happened to religion in America because of the American Revolution, so the American Revolution had many beneficial aspects to it coming out of the revolution for the vitality of religion in America, but the important thing. It seems to me is to keep in mind how fundamentally conservative. This movement was we are not about tearing down.

We are much more about preserving. That's what the leaders of the American Revolution wanted to say and that stands in very marked contrast with the French Revolution because the French Revolution was driven much more by a conviction that what was traditionally in France needed to be torn down, that there needed to be a new beginning that the old ways were bad and needed to be eliminated and that's why you see the progressive radicalization of the French Revolution, the beginnings of the French Revolution are really are. In 1789, just about the time things are settling down in America and the king. King Louis XVI calls the Estates Gen. somewhat equivalent to the English Parliament into session to try to get their support and help in certain reforms in the country but those who gather as the traditional estates. Gen. within about a month or so radicalized themselves and reconstitute themselves as a national assembly with real parliamentary powers limiting the power of the king and increasingly acting to change the life of France and one of the first things they did was to confiscate church property.

So where is in America.

A lot of church leaders were supporters of the revolution against the tyranny of George III in France.

The church is seen as an enemy of the revolution the church. The Roman Catholic Church in France owned about 20% of all the property in France and so it was a large and wealthy institution in France and it provokes than a lot of ire and anger on the part of the revolutionary by 1791, the national assembly had cleared freedom of religion for all, so it ended the privilege position of the Roman Catholic church in France and in 1792, a national convention, was elected to prepare a new constitution for France and declared a republic in France and that led them to the execution of the king and of the Queen. So here you see a much more radical approach to ways of changing the realm changing the realm into a republic and and then in 1793 and 1794. You have what's known to history as the reign of terror. And this is the period at which anyone sympathetic to the royalist cause many aristocrats are arrested and beheaded by the guillotine for being dangers to the Republic and of this reign of terror grows and grows in terms of the numbers of people who are educated and as one observer reported the revolution begins to devour itself. So even some of the leaders of the revolution are executed in the reign of terror like Robespierre because they are not seen as sufficiently revolutionary and all sorts of ways to express the radical nature of the revolution. Some the revolutionary leaders built great papier-mch statues of I assume Jesus and Virgin Mary in various saints paraded them through the streets of Paris and then set them on fire and underneath were then revealed reason and liberty, and fraternity. As the new gods of the French people. One wag observed that the new God seems slightly singed by the fire but but this was emblematic you see of the radical nature within the burn up the old and were going to have the new.

They even experimented for a time with a 10 day week. We do want a seven-day week. That's too Christian. That's to traditional we want a 10 day week. That's more rational, seven-day week.

That's not rational that you know decimal system that will work. It didn't really work. Have a 10 day we go by themselves either. But here you see something of the spirit of of radicalism and of course it couldn't go on forever. Revolutions can go on forever and as soon peace was established and out of the relative peace that established in 1799 emerged Napoleon Bonaparte to take control.

Too often this happened in modern history that efforts at a Republican freedom and equality ends up with the dictator and that's exactly what happened in France on Napoleon establishing himself as a dictator and then as an Emperor, and the culmination of the reign of terror and Edmund Burke, the great observer in England of these things said well this is the inevitable result of the kind of radical Enlightenment commitments that you had in France, not just revolution but terror and when Margaret Thatcher went for the celebration between the two anniversary of the French Revolution. She gave to the president of France a copy of Edmund Burke's treatise and the president of France was mightily annoyed anyway. She was annoyed because she'd been put in the second row, but that's beyond the 18th century but but we end then with these two revolutions, 1.8 to the radical nature of wanting to build a whole new future will dominate the thinking of many in the 19th and 20th century and the American Revolution having an impact that actually in some way stimulates and helps the church to develop and will see how those two revolutions in the sense work themselves out in a mixing bowl. We will not be presenting the full series here on redoing your mind, but we are making. Part four available to you today. A survey of church history was released in six volumes over the course of four years 73 lessons covering the history of the church from the apostolic era all the way to the present.

We need to know and understand history so that we don't repeat the mistakes of the past, but also so that we do model the faithfulness of those who stood firm on God's word part for the series covers the 1600s through the 1800s.

Certainly a tumultuous time in church history. Contact us today with a donation of any amount and we will send you 12 messages onto DVDs because the maker requested 800-435-4343 if you prefer you can go online to Renewing Your We are so thankful for your generosity. We would not be able to assemble great teaching series like this one without the faithful support of blisters like you. So again, contact us today with a donation of any amount and we will send you 12 messages onto DVDs. Our number is 800-435-4343 and her web address is Renewing Your branch or listening to us on our free link in your smart phone app today. This resources available to you as well, simply by clicking view today's resource offer tomorrow will return to another lesson from Dr. Godfrey series on church history when science began to heavily influence the church. The results of that are still visible today. I hope you make plans to join us tomorrow for Renewing Your Mind

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