Liberty, Equality and Fraternity in the French Revolution

Because of my fascination with the true nature of Freedom (Liberty) I was drawn to the emphasis given to this topic in the French Revolution and the Enlightenment. What I find is that the secular notion of ‘liberty’ as found in the Enlightenment and the Revolution, and also celebrated in America’s Statue of Liberty (given them by the French) is at odds with the Christian notion of True Freedom. This is a topic I will rake over multiple times, so read the various posts on this and related topics and see if you agree with my take on the matter.

The Enlightenment and French Revolution

The Enlightenment gave a new set of principles from which the architects of the French Revolution could justify their course of action and motivate the masses. Much happened in that whole process and any history of the events ends up being a summary at best.

However there was a clear tone to it all. It was decidedly secular and anti-religious. The French reacted to the Roman Catholic faith which had dominated the nation. They also reacted to their monarchy and all expressions of privilege. They wished to cast off traditions. They expected that the rational mind was sufficient to craft a culture and social order suitable for all.

The whole process came to be identified under three banners, as it were. There was the ideal of Freedom – expressed in the French word Liberté. There was the related ideal of Equality – expressed in the French word Egalité. And there was the ideal of Brotherhood – expressed in the French word Fraternité.

Intention

The intention of the Enlightenment was to be free from impositions ascribed to traditional religion (the Catholic church) and inherited rights (the monarchy and positions of privilege). There was a reaction against the constraints being imposed on people by religious tradition. There was also reaction to the idea that some people had privilege over others.

It could be argued that the desire for freedom represented a resentment of two things: personal limitation under external powers; and personal limitation due to limited personal inheritance.

Thus the objective was to do away with personal accountability and the consequences of inheritance. It could thus be seen as an attempt to do away with personal accountability and the consequences of sin.

I suggest that the underlying motivation behind the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the broader applications of that mindset was and is to be free from God. God is the one who holds each person accountable and God is the one who visits the iniquities of the forefathers down the family line.

Application

The motivation to do away with personal accountability, inherited advantage and personal limitation led to the imposition of a tyranny. All those who were benefited by their own actions or who received inherited advantage due to God’s blessing or the outworking of circumstances in previous generations were subject to theft, victimisation and death.

By demanding and legislating equality for all, the citizens expected to be freed from the consequences of their own personal choices and personal limitations. This is a similar pursuit to the socialist and communist conceptions, where all citizens become equal comrades in the society.

Interpreting Liberty, Equality and Fraternity

In the light of my observations consider what the three catch-cry terms of the French Revolution mean.

Liberty represents the rejection of imposed constraints, including those from God.

Equality represents rejection of personal accountability and consequences from actions.

Fraternity (brotherhood) represents the basis on which happy social order is to be expected.

A New Tyranny

Those who subscribed to the ideals of the Enlightenment sought to throw off the constraints of religion, tradition and inherited advantage and disadvantage. They resented this tyranny. Yet in their own actions and dogma they have imposed a whole new tyranny of their own. Their world is not better than the one they overthrew. They have not freed people from anything, but simply changed the clothes of those who are in control.

Note that the new enlightened world, under the power of ‘reason’ and not the tyranny of religious dictates, is presently held to ransom by the ‘religious’ beliefs of the dogma of evolution, with no regard for the ‘reason’ which was appealed to in the establishing of the republic concept. Reason argues against evolution, but it is the imposed dogma and those who exalt reason tyrannise others by their demand that everyone subscribe to the evolutionary doctrinaire.

This is just one example of how Enlightened people have brought nothing that resembles true freedom to the world. They have simply demanded the right to be the tyrants in place of others they resented.

Murder Reveals the True Connection

The wholesale slaughter of people whose crime was their place in traditional institutions or to hold inherited advantage, implicates the Enlightenment’s devotees as servants of Satan. I don’t say that to be sensationalist, but to echo the observation of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ told the religious leaders of His day that they were under the leadership of Satan, and that they had the same murderous ambitions that Satan had. They protested at His claim, but in short time were crying out, “Crucify Him!”

“You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth….” John 8:44

People who are happy to murder others are not in Christ’s team. They are players for the devil. When the French pulled out their guillotine and dispatched thousands of people they set Satan’s royal seal on their endeavours. Tens of thousands (some argue 1 million) people died as a consequence of the French Revolution. Many were simply murdered because of their place of privilege.

This is how the Enlightenment gave us freedom, equality and brotherhood. Hmmmm.

Equality of Men and Women

A question I get asked around the world is how women can be expected to be under the authority of their husband when the Bible says that men and women are equal. This is an important question and one that I have an answer for.

The Problem

The Bible clearly teaches that women are made to take a different role on the earth than that of the man. Yet today’s egalitarian and feminist motivations resist that Biblical position. Then there is the Bible text which teaches that men and women are equal before God.

How do we reconcile those seemingly contradictory Biblical positions? How can a woman be expected to take a place different to the man while the Bible says there is no difference between the man and the woman?

The Woman in a Different Place to Man

The Bible repeatedly reveals that men and women are different, in both the Old and New Testaments. Men and Women are different in their creation – Adam from the dust of the earth and Eve from the side of the man. They are also different in their purpose – Adam to be in the image of God and Eve to be as a helper for her husband. When God cursed the man and woman after the fall He gave unique and distinct punishments to the woman to the man.

In the New Testament we find that wives are asked to behave toward their husbands differently to the way husbands are asked to behave toward their wives. Instructions are given to the men to pray with uplifted hands and the women are given instructions about their beauty. Men and women are treated differently in both the old and new testaments.

God’s Hierarchy

I often refer to the authority hierarchy which God gives us through the Apostle Paul, in 1Corinthians 11:3. There we see that the man and woman are put in a completely separate place under God’s authority.

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Apostle Paul, 1Corinthians 11:3

On the strength of this hierarchy and the other Bible texts about women a case has been made throughout church history for a different role for women in the church to that of men. That is still a hot issue today.

The Equality Issue

Apart from feminist notions and demands for equality the Bible gives a proof text to support the idea of equality between men and women.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Some people have been taught, on the strength of Galatians 3:28, that all distinctions between men and women have been done away with in Christ. A Christian woman should be allowed to do all that a Christian man would be allowed to do.

So how to do we reconcile the distinction between these two competing truths? Women have a different place to men, yet women are equal. How can that be?

The Setting

The simple answer to this dilemma is in the setting these two seemingly competitive truths refer to. In Paul’s statement about the equality of men and women he also mentions other things which are now equal in Christ. He mentions Jews and Greeks and slaves and freemen. Slaves and freemen are equal in Christ, yet when a slave becomes a Christian he or she is still a slave. When a Greek becomes a Christian he or she is still a Greek.

Before the throne of God Greeks and Jews are equal in Christ. Yet in the setting on earth the Greek is under Greek customs and government and the Jew is under Jewish customs and government.

Standing before the throne of God a slave and a freeman have the same rights to enter into relationship with God and to expect God’s grace and power on their behalf. But in the earthly setting the slave must get up each day and do the will of his master/employer.

So there are two settings in which our personal reality is worked out. Those settings are the setting of heaven and the setting of our earthly circumstances. We can be one thing in one of those settings and yet have a different set of constraints in the other

The Setting for Women

Women operate in two settings. On earth they are created to be a very effective part of their husband’s world. They are created as helpers and put in a place under the care and authority of the husband. That is their earthly setting.

In Christ, however, before the throne of God, a woman has the same rights to God’s forgiveness, grace and blessing as any man could hope to have. Before God’s throne there is no difference between a man and a woman. They are equal and indistinguishable. That is the great elevation of womanhood that comes through the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Equality is God’s Gift to Women

God gives women equality that they are often denied in homes and cultures. While women have responsibilities for which they are accountable before God, they also have full and undiluted personal status before God’s throne. The prayers of a woman are as valid in God’s ears as the prayers of any man.

Positionally, before God’s throne, women enjoy wonderful liberty and equality. Functionally, in the various roles they are given on earth, each woman has a place to take and a part to play that is under the authority of her husband.