I don’t know this for certain but there seems to be a large section of my brain that is devoted to mostly useless knowledge, at least useless in terms of a practical sense. It is filled with bits of this and that which only seem to have meaning if I am playing Trivial Pursuit or watching Jeopardy. My wife can readily attest to this!
So today I was looking on the Wikipedia home page at the section devoted to this date in history, to see if anything happened on this date that I would be interested in learning more about. Everything seemed fairly mundane so I clicked on the link for June 8 to look at a more comprehensive listing and something virtually jumped out at me. It turns out that on June 8, 1794, the leaders of the French Revolution instituted their new religion, the Cult of the Supreme Being.
In a nutshell, one of the things the Revolution was against was the influence of the Catholic Church on government and culture. In the early years of the Revolution there was an active persecution of the church but the leaders of the Revolution, particularly Robespierre, believed that there was actually a place in society, perhaps not for Christianity, but certainly for Deism. He conceived of a form of Deism that believed in a supreme being and an immortal soul and held that mankind’s highest calling was to pursue virtue.
This religious expression was short-lived. Robespierre announced it on May 7th, and led its institution through a grand celebration on June 8th. 50 days later, on July 28th Robespierre fell victim to the Reign of Terror he himself had led, and for all practical purposes the Cult of the Supreme Being died with him.
Robespierre’s world fell apart in the final two days of his life. He rapidly moved from one having the power to order others executed to being executed himself. I wonder what thoughts he had regarding his “Supreme Being” and the state of his immortal soul as he saw his death appear so suddenly near on the horizon. I suspect that at the least he had been raised as a nominal Catholic and I wonder if there was any kind of awakening within him to the true nature of God.
And that brought to mind the victim of another “reign of terror,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, of whose last days I read in the closing section of Letters and Papers from Prison. Boenhoffer didn’t know a distant and impersonal “Supreme Being,” but he personally knew the real Supreme Being, his Lord and Savior, Jesus. He spent his last hours in prayer with the One he knew and loved, the One whom he would have eternal fellowship with.
Pursuing virtue is a fine thing but it is not as sweet or precious as pursuing the Author of virtue.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.