Four Things Protestants Should Consider Regarding the Burning of Notre Dame
“The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, or you will be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God.
– Deuteronomy 7:25
The world watched in horror last night as Notre Dame – the iconic Roman Catholic Cathedral in Paris – burned. Notre Dame de Paris, or Our Lady of Paris, is named after the idol that Papists fashioned after the mother of Jesus. When construction started in 1163, it was born out of the same heart of idolatry that caused the disciples to consider building temples to Elijah and Moses, only to hear God’s voice from Heaven and emphasized Jesus, saying “this is my son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 17:5). Only in 1163, no voice spoke from Heaven and the atrocious House of Idols was built.
The construction of the Museum of Idolatry took hundreds of years, primarily by money people gave to get their relatives out of the hock of purgatory or to atone for their own sins through indulgences. Brick upon brick, that monstrosity is built upon funds received in exchange for soul-damning simony.
After being installed as a ‘Temple of Reason’ during the Enlightenment, the building was handed back over to the Romanist church by the brutal conquerer, Napoleon Bonaparte. In exchange, the Pope of Rome – Pope Pius VII – decreed Napoleon emperor. It was a trade of wealth for power, one not altogether unlike the pact made between the Romanist Church and Satan himself.
People around the world lamented the torching of Notre Dame, including notable Protestants who were saddened by the loss of what they see as an ebenezer of Western Civilization. Whether the fire was set by Islamists, happenstance, or God Himself, Protestants should consider four things to help construct a thoughtful and Biblical response to the ash heap and its inevitable restoration.
First, Protestants should pray for those who were personally affected by the fire and physically confronted with the flames. These include anyone who might have been inside and suffered the threat of physical harm, passers-by, or anyone else who had to endure a real-life Dante’s Inferno up and until this morning when most of the flames were finally extinguished. We would hope and pray that no one comes to an untimely demise, least alone those who are misled by idolatrous and pagan superstitions.
Second, remember that we should not gloat in our enemies’ demise or misfortune, as Proverbs 24:17 reminds us, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” However, this does not mean that we cannot use this moment to preach the truth (whether it is in season or out of season – 2 Timothy 4:2). When Jesus’ teaching was interrupted in Luke 13 with the news that a tower had fallen in Siloam and that blood was shed in the temple, he used it an opportunity to preach, saying, “And unless ye repent, ye all shall likewise perish.”
Third, God hates idolatry and he despises Notre Dame. The religion of the papacy is the religion of the devil.
As our Confession of Faith (the 1689 London Baptist Confession) says:
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.
The Pope calls himself Holy Father, a term reserved for God alone (John 10:36-37, Matthew 23:9). The Pope calls himself the Head of the Church, term reserved for Christ alone (Ephesians 1:22). The Pope calls himself the Vicar of Christ, a term reserved for the Holy Spirit alone (John 14:7-16). Catholic cathedrals are medieval monuments to the spirit of Babel, creating spires by which to scale Heaven and cast God from his throne.
God hates idolatry. He despises it.
Although the Romanists have removed the Second Commandment from their numbering of the Decalogue, yet it remains in the Word of God:
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands[b of those who love me and keep my commandments.
God despises the use of relics, icons, and idols. And yet, Notre Dame is a monument to idolatry. In the midst of the flames, priests raced into the flames to rescue their idols from fire.
Our God is not one who needs to be rescued from the flames. He talks out of the burning flame and walks among the fire.
As Proclaiming the Gospel said earlier:
“While it was sad to see such a historic landmark on fire, I could not help but reflect on what the Notre Dame Cathedral actually represents. For over 800 years it has been a place where Roman Catholic priests have committed the most serious sin of idolatry by lifting up a wafer and worshipping it as the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ. Notre Dame also represents the center of Roman Catholicism in France, whose members slaughtered approximately 100,000 Bible-believing Christians on St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1572. The reason for the massacre of so many Protestant Huguenots was utterly appalling! It was because the Roman Catholic religion feared it was losing control over the souls of men who were being set free by the Word of God (John 8:31-32).
It was also at Notre Dame that Pope Pius X beatified Joan of Arc, France’s most famous Catholic martyr, after a previous “infallible” pope condemned her as a heretic. The Cathedral also hosted fake relics said to be the crown of thorns worn by Christ and a piece of wood that was part of His cross. How tragic it is to see Catholics venerate fake relics of Christ while paying little attention to His infallible, inspired, authoritative Word that brings forth life to those who believe it.”
Protestants have never esteemed this building, and the last people to do it great damage were French Calvinists who bravely overturned and removed their idols (more on that in a forthcoming article).
Fourth, we don’t know what caused the flames and we should be slow to attribute blame to either God or to Islamic extremists. The latest reports from Paris officials indicate there’s no proof yet that this blaze was voluntarily set. But then again, one should expect nothing less from Paris in their soft-handed treatment to Islamic extremism. Unless there was hard proof, you could not expect the Parisians to cast aspersions upon Islam.
Likewise, if we attribute the flames to God Almighty (something that would completely be within his nature to do to pagan temples), we might have a hard time explaining why he used Islamic extremists to do it if it turns out that’s how the fire started. Although God has repeatedly used the enemies of his people to destroy the enemies of his people, this is not a context easily explainable to a culture ignorant of Scriptural history.
Rather, it’s suffice to say that whatever the cause of the fire, we as Protestants shall not mourn the loss of idols, while we do not condone terrorism or acts of violence. And either way, the destruction of Notre Dame is fully within the bounds of God’s providence, for God asks Amos 3:6, “Does calamity come upon a city and it was not I who caused it?”
[Editor’s Note: Contributed by JD Hall]