The United States is gradually “switching” from a worldview influenced by a biblical American Revolution model to an anti-religious French Revolution model, according to author and social critic Os Guinness.
Last week, Guinness gave a speech titled “1776 vs. 1789: the Roots of the Present Crisis” that was part of a virtual event hosted by the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview.
Guinness said the American Revolution of 1776 and the English Revolution of 1642, the latter of which involved the rise of Oliver Cromwell and the overthrow of King Charles I, were “biblical” in nature.
“Through the invention of printing and the power of the Reformation, the 17th century was called the ‘biblical century’ and the great model was the Hebrew Republic from the book of Exodus,” Guinness said.
While describing the American Revolution as “largely but sadly not fully biblical,” Guinness said the French Revolution of 1789 was “expressly anti-biblical, anti-Christian, anti-religious, and anti-clerical.”
“That hostility to religion, and certainly to the Christian faith and the Church, has been a characteristic of the French and the Russian and the Chinese [Revolutions] ever since,” he added.
Guinness stressed that the current state of division in the U.S. ultimately stems from a difference between those who look at freedom from “the perspective of 1776” and those who define freedom by “the perspective of the French Revolution and its heirs.”
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“The French Revolution lasted 10 years only and then in came Napoleon,” he said. “But like a huge volcanic explosion … the lava, as it were, of the revolutionary faith has flowed out ever since then.”
Guinness briefly traced the ideological progression of the French Revolution, tying it to the rise of nationalism in the 19th century and revolutionary socialism in the 20th century.
In the 21st century, this developed into “cultural or Neo-Marxism” and “critical theory,” which involved a “long march through the institutions” to enact radical social change.
This “long march” involved 1960s radicals gradually taking over “the colleges and universities, the press and the media, and the world of entertainment and Hollywood,” and from there achieving “cultural dominance” as the “gatekeeper class.”
“And of course, a little over 50 years later now, we can see they won,” Guinness emphasized. “Ideas like political correctness, postmodernism, tribalism, Sexual Revolution, and things down currently to the rage for socialism.”
“All of those ideas go back to the heirs of the French Revolution (1789) and they have nothing to do with the American Revolution (1776) and its biblical roots.”
He quoted Galatians 3, where the Apostle Paul asks the early Christian believers, "who has bewitched you?" then paraphrased the broader point of Paul's charge that they "switched from a Gospel of grace to a gospel of works,” emphasizing his points about the two Revolutions.
“In many ways, what I’m saying today is: 'Who’s bewitched America?' It’s in the process of switching from the Gospel that came from the American Revolution to the gospel that came from the French Revolution, which is not good news but bad news,” he said.
Guinness’ remarks were part of a Colson Center online event called “Truth. Love. Together.” Originally scheduled to be in-person, the conference was moved online due to state lockdowns in response to COVID-19.
Other speakers included: Lee Strobel, bestselling author of The Case for Christ; Joni Eareckson Tada, speaker and advocate for people with disabilities; J. Warner Wallace, an apologist and former cold-case detective; Chris Brooks, a megachurch pastor and radio host; Bob Fu, member of the think tank Council on Foreign Relations; and Sean McDowell, associate professor of apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.
During his speech, titled “What Happened to Truth?” McDowell said “one of the biggest lies this generation is tempted to believe is a lie about freedom. That freedom is about doing whatever you want to do.”
“If God has created us, there’s a purpose for lives, how we’re supposed to live and we’re only truly free if we know that purpose and live accordingly,” McDowell said.
“There’s a purpose for language, there’s a purpose for nations, there’s a purpose for marriage, and there’s a purpose for sex. It’s when we know that truth and orient our lives to that truth that we’re set free.”