This spring Casie and I visited Paris, France. It was our first time visiting the famous City of Lights, but hopefully not the last. My wife loved the culture from which her hometown New Orleans derives its roots. We both loved the history. Paris is loaded with stories from various ages, tracking the rise of the West over the last millennium, usually with massive cathedrals, palaces, and monuments. For a history lover, the tales of the French Revolution easily stand out. It was interesting to see the sights of that famous event that is considered the beginning of modern history.
Although it followed the American Revolution, France’s prominence in the world meant its revolution carried greater significance at the end of the 18th century because the revolutionaries overturned the ways of the old world in favor of democracy and liberty. The French Revolution upended centuries of established order, institutions, and worldviews in a chaotic scene that included the execution of the king and queen, as well as a reign of terror that foreshadowed the activity of many leftist regimes into the 20th century.
Among the top institutions overturned during the French Revolution was the church. During the revolution, the revolutionaries, focused on reason and liberty, targeted their ire particularly toward the church, as much as they did toward the king and queen of France.
Cathedrals throughout France were taken over and converted to “temples of reason.” Notre Dame in Paris was the most famous of these. A “cult of reason” was even founded for a short while. Taking over many of the rituals and pageantry of the church, the followers of this new religion, instead of worshipping God, worshipped reason. One of the revolution’s leaders, who was most actively involved in the new state-sponsored atheistic religion, even had his wife dress in a costume and vulgarly parade as the “Goddess of Liberty.” The false religion didn’t last long. Soon the revolution’s excesses began feeding on its own, including the leaders of the Cult of Reason.
Whether it is known as the Cult of Reason, or something else, this template has existed throughout human history. The psalmist cries out in Psalm 2:
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
Psalms 2:1-3 (ESV)
These words were written centuries before the Cult of Reason, before humanism, and before countless ideologies and systems of belief erected by mankind across the span of time to counter God. They change in their details, but their motives and outcomes are all the same. They see the standards and values of God as bonds and cords which they must break free from. In the effort to throw off the constraints of God, these manufactured doctrines of the earth work to establish alternative lifestyles and principles for living.
In the cultural and social revolutions of the last half-century, we have seen the nature of man, woman, marriage, family, faith, truth, and so many more fundamental building blocks of society upended with new definitions and guidelines. Once again, the people of the earth, the nations, rage and plot in vain.
Their volume and influence often feel so overpowering in the moment and the times we live. They seek to intimidate the faithful as backward fools believing in a dead God and a dead faith. But it has all been done before. From the silly beliefs that consecrated brothels as temples in ancient Rome, to the cult of reason, to the halls of academia and galas of celebrity in our modern age, our God has seen it all before.
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
Psalms 2:4-6 (ESV)
In an age of growing darkness, we should resist deception. Our God is faithful and true. The volume and provocation of the lies within this present age of darkness should not intimidate us. They too will pass into the pages of silly histories of mankind seeking to exalt itself against God. They will fail.
I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Psalms 2:7-9 (ESV)
As deception spreads in the earth today, the people of God ought to lean in closer to the light and the truth. Know the decrees of God. Know that even as God judges the darkness, He seeks to preserve the children of light in His love and security. The ends of the darkness are already written – destruction, bitterness, and regret. Meanwhile, the design, purpose, and certainty of the faithful remains our inheritance.
Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Psalms 2:10-12 (ESV)