Deism: The Driving Religion of the French Revolution
Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:21, KJV)
The prevailing worldview held by those involved in the French Revolution was that of deism. While deists acknowledge that a supreme being created the universe, they typically reject the existence of miracles and God’s governance in the affairs of men. A deist holds to man’s reason and observation as the highest authority, while failing to acknowledge that it is the God of the Bible who makes that reason and observation possible. This philosophy fits well with the French Revolution of glorifying man and his achievements.
The French people were highly influenced by the principles of deism and the Enlightenment, including the writings of American Thomas Paine. While not being well-liked within the American colonies, the works of Paine were widely accepted among the French. Paine became well known for his book The Age of Reason, which promoted gaining truth apart from God’s divine revelation. We know from Holy Scripture that God opposes the proud (James 4:6). In looking at the French Revolution, we see that man was placing his own ideas above those of the Lord. The result was that this war garnered the opposition of God Almighty. May we not fall into the trap of believing that man’s reason is the supreme court of appeal, but rather let us humbly admit our need for God’s grace to open our eyes to truth.