2009 Essay Contest - Highschool category - Tie

We had two essays awarded in this category for this year. Of course, the judging is all done blindly with the author's identity unknown to the judges, but the winners happened to be a brother and sister from Ohio.

Revolution or Reformation
by Nathan Detwiler, Ohio

The English colonies in America during the 1700’s were steeped in the Protestant understanding that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. We conclude from this that the American Revolution was largely based upon the presupposition that the Bible is the only sure foundation. The French Revolution, in comparison, was a product of the Renaissance elevation of man as the focal point of life, and a rejection of Protestant Christianity. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, France had been torn apart by various wars between the Protestant Huguenots and the Roman Catholics. In the end, the Huguenots fled France because of the severe persecution. No longer would Christianity have its preserving effect on France.

We see in history that one event leads to another; likewise the American and French Revolutions were products of a previous acceptance or rejection of Christianity. Considering the Protestant Reformation will help us understand what comprises a true reformation. The Reformation was a return to the Bible’s supremacy over all things. Luther would not recognize the authority of the Pope and Church tradition to be above or equal to Scripture. As a result the Pope excommunicated him. Despite this Luther continued to build up the Church on the Scriptures alone. Looking back through the window of time we see that this Reformation sparked two different fires. One, an orderly bonfire that we call the Reformation and the other a terrible forest fire: the Peasants’ War in Germany. We recognize from this, that reformation, if led improperly can fan a revolution into a blaze.

Let us evaluate America’s break from England. Was it a revolution or a reformation? In many aspects the American Revolution is a hybrid between a revolution and a reformation. When the colonies took up arms against their erring motherland, revolt took place. But in establishing a new government, they reformed. They borrowed what worked from other law systems. Because of this we see elements of the English common law, self-government under God, acknowledgement of the unalienable rights of man, and a strong reliance upon the Laws of Nature in the political articles of that period. And so, by these concepts a balanced government was formed. The French did not follow the course that the Americans had paved. They departed from the steady path and cantered into the realm of intellectual theories. They ascended the heavens in a cloud of fanciful hopes, only to find that when the storm struck, they fell with the rain. We must respect France because she had to defeat the still prevalent grasp of feudalism, while America’s heritage was one of comparative self-government. France’s cause was not bound to fail; rather, their presupposition (humanism) could not bear the strain of such a radical change, and thus the end result was chaos.

We see from both the Protestant Reformation and the American Revolution that reformation restores a good cause to a state of harmony by the abolishment of corruption. Reform uses peaceful and lawful means to bring about change. From the French Revolution we discover that a revolution is comprised of any type of radical change. In a political revolution, usually the people forcefully bring about the change. Not that the changes are not necessary, but the means by which the change is brought are violent, illegitimate, unlawful, and dishonest. America revolted, but they did so using the law of interposition.

We see in our present times the needs for reform, and we must as loyal citizens of the United States of America pursue all constitutional means to bring them about, for God’s glory alone!

French vs. American Revolutions
by Rachel Detwiler, Ohio

Fifteen year old, Rebecca sat in her sunny bedroom singing to herself as she sewed. Below her she could hear low murmurings. Rebecca’s father, along with many leading citizens, were discussing the need for a constitution to bring the new nation together. Rebecca’s hopes soared, “Soon there will be joy and peace at home.” Like Rebecca, many other American’s were seeing peace and prosperity close to their front door.

Ten years later, across the wide Atlantic Ocean in France another Revolutionary War was ended. Seventeen year old, Jeanne was crammed into a corner of a small, ugly room. All around her, terror was written on every face. Jeanne was in prison. But what had she done? She and her family had fallen into the hands of a Jacobin spy who accused them of being silent in the Republic of France. Like so many other French citizens Jeanne and her family lived in dread. Why were the end results so different in the American and French Revolutionary Wars?

The Colonists suffered under the abuses that were being inflicted on them by the English. Their leaders pleaded with King George III, but he refused to change his tyrannical policies. Seeing that their petitions were fruitless, they drew from their Puritan and Christian Heritages, breaking away from English tyranny. The American Revolution was a type of reformation; the reformers in the Protestant Reformation turned back to true worship of Christ; the Colonists also restored true government under God.

The French Revolutionary leaders on the other hand, were starting with themselves, thinking they could use human reasoning alone to set up a firm democratic government. Gouverneur Morris said of the French; “They have taken Genius instead of Reason for their Guide, adopted Experiment instead of Experience, and wander in the Dark because they prefer Lightning to Light.” The French Revolutionary leaders also thought that they could have complete unity, that all the people would be united as a whole. Rousseau, one of the French revolutionary leaders decreed, “whoever refuses to obey the general will, shall be constrained to do so by the whole body: which means nothing else than that he shall be forced to be ‘free’.” Forced to be free? Louis-Antoine de, another French leader said, “you must punish not only traitors, but even people who are indifferent; you must punish whoever remains passive in the Republic and does nothing for her… Between the people and their enemy there is nothing in common except the guillotine.” The French Revolution had stepped over the line.

Without Christ as France’s Savior, but instead ‘the will of the people’ as their savior, the French Revolution had boiled down to distrusting and having suspicion of everyone, which ended with terror and mass murders of all who fell under distrust. The French leaders did not have the backing that our American Fathers did; they did not have the blessing of God because they did not honor God. The end of the American Revolution was freedom and an orderly Constitutional Republic, unlike the French Revolution whose end was terror and chaos. The American leaders were following under God’s leadership, while the French leaders were following their humanistic beliefs, their foundation was on sand, and when the rain came their foundation was swept away.

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