Sometimes God uses people who are not believers, or who are even hostile to the faith, in order to protect his people. Old Testament examples might include Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, and others.
One of the most influential skeptics in the Enlightenment was the French pundit Voltaire (1694-1726 1778). His satire, Candide (1759), almost singlehandedly dismantled the current philosophy known as “Optimism,” heralded by Gottfried Leibniz and Alexander Pope. In the story every time a new catastrophe befalls the poor young Candide, his mentor, Master Pangloss, simply tells him, “it’s all part of the plan in the best of all possible worlds.”
Though skeptical about traditional religion, Voltaire also had a highly developed sense of justice. He mounted a thoughtful defense of Jean Calas, a Huguenot falsely accused of murdering his son for supposedly returning to the Catholic Church. Voltaire gathered evidence from all quarters and was able to have Calas exonerated posthumously. The case became famous throughout the country. Voltaire then wrote his Treatise on Tolerance (1763) which was a critical document leading to the acceptance of Protestants in France.
Who might be the Voltaires of today? We know of local French politicians who are avowed atheists, but who defend the right of Christians to celebrate their faith in public. Our Seminary in Aix has often benefitted from such “angels.” It is good to know who is really in charge of the world!
Special thanks to all of you who gave so generously before the new year. Our Boice Chair has now reached its first goal!
Very Truly Yours,
William Edgar, President