The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2


II. Reaction to French Revolution Violence Impels Fresh Bible Study

The French Revolution, covering the last decades of the eighteenth century, is everywhere recognized as one of the major turning points in history, releasing forces that are not yet spent and wrecking relationships that heretofore were regarded as sacrosanct. Furious clashes with the established order took place. Absolutism had so long reigned supreme in Catholic France, and the church had so long exercised such dominant sway over the populace as a whole, as to be able to crush all dissenting voices and quash all reform movements. But now, violence swept like a tidal wave over the land. The church was deprived of her vast properties and princely incomes. The priesthood was discredited and its teachings challenged. It was a tremendous upheaval. CFF2 249.1

The frenzy of terror reached almost unbelievable heights as men turned against the only religion they knew. Atheism reached its apex, and not only made a mockery of the rites of the dominant church but villified the Christian Church itself and repudiated its teachings. On November 10, 1793, the Convention dressed up an ass in sacerdotal habits, tied the Old and New Testaments to its tail, and led the mock procession through the street, two sans-culottes giving the animal sacramental wine to drink, while a dissolute “goddess of reason” received the adulation of the mobs. The worship of God was prohibited as a crime. CFF2 249.2

For the first time in the annals of Christendom all religious restraint was thrown off and the power of Heaven itself was openly defied. The Papal Church was impotent to stay the forces of violence. But the very sacrilege of the Revolution led to a re-examination not only of the church itself but of her doctrines, including her dogmas of Innate Immortality, purgatorial purification, and endless Hell for the damned, as subsequent decades attest. The nineteenth century that followed marked the beginning of a new and spreading interest in the Biblical evidence in this great area of study. CFF2 249.3

It was inevitable that a fresh scrutiny of Rome’s doctrinal structure, with its Purgatory, Eternal Torment, and universal Innate-Immortality pillars, should come. And this scrutiny would necessarily extend to those Protestant teachings that had been retained from Rome. Let us next turn to the historical setting, that we may better understand the emergence and development of this new impetus. CFF2 250.1