Post-Christian France

IMG_0728I’ve sometimes had people ask why we send missionaries to Europe. Shouldn’t missionaries go to uncivilized places like Africa, Cambodia, and the jungles of South America? Well, yes, they should go to those places. But you’re just as likely to find people who don’t know who Jesus is in France.

Consider: In the 18th century, 95% of French people would have declared themselves Catholic, most of the rest Protestant. But in 1789, the French launched a program of de-Christianization that resulted in church property being confiscated, destruction of crosses and other signs of worship, instituting cults, killing priests, and celebrating the goddess, “Reason”.

IMG_0681Today’s French gods are individualism, hedonism, consumerism and other similar -isms. They reject anything having to do with the church, Christianity, or religion — these things are viewed as obviously incompatible with values like justice.

The current generation of French are over 200 years removed from Christianity in their culture, and the last vestiges of religion in their history were full of corruption, not the hope that we know comes from true relationships with the Living God.

So how do you restore hope and truth to this pessimistic, lost generation of Europeans? Theological debate won’t give you the credibility to open the door, let alone win the argument.  As Lesslie Newbigin said, “the only hermeneutic of the gospel is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it.” And so we plant churches in Europe.

I’ve met some amazing people this week, Americans and Europeans, who have IMG_0715dedicated their lives to being that hermeneutic of the gospel to the people of Europe. I’m inspired by their courage, creativity, and steadfastness in the face of incredible obstacles. It’s clear that God has not turned His back on Europeans even though so many of them have turned their back on Him. Progress is slow, but there is progress.

Europe is considered the materially richest continent in the world. Join us in praying that God brings a fresh wind of revival to make it spiritually rich!

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2 thoughts on “Post-Christian France

  1. It’s also interesting to note that following the Protestant Reformation (1517) Biblical Christianity developed a strong presence in France but were a major concern to the Roman Catholic Church that dominated French politics. For the most part, these Christians were adherents to the teachings of John Calvin and called themselves simply, Reformed. Their Catholic opponents in France dubbed them Huguenots.

    Their numbers grew rapidly to as many as 2 million, by some estimates.

    Martyrdom began as early as 1545 with the massacre of Mérindol where as many as 2,000 Huguenots were slaughtered.

    In 1559, Mary Queen of Scots orchestrated the torture and slaughter of Christians bringing them before corrupt Catholic judges. By 1562, Christians were in full flight to other parts of Europe.

    In 1572 the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre slaughtered estimates ranging to 30,000 Christians all over France. 25,000 were killed in Paris alone.

    In 1865, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes and declared Protestantism illegal. In the bloody aftermath hundreds of thousands of Protestants fled to Britain, Holland, Prussia and South Africa. Four thousand emigrated to the North American colonies. A subsequent exodus of up to 1 million Huguenots fled to England, Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and again to Prussia.

    Ironically, the bloodlust of the Roman Church (and those under its thumb) caused the propagation of Biblical Christianity all over the western world.

    Though France has formally apologized for the genocidal atrocities of the past, and has urged Huguenots to return, the legacy for France, unfortunately, is spiritual destitution.

    Let’s do coffee again soon!

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