I’ve been rereading a study of Cardinal Richelieu’s rise to political power and in doing so have found myself contrasting the Cardinal with another French Catholic leader, Archbishop Francois Fenelon.
Richelieu (1585 – 1642) is best known as the architect of the centralized French state; Fenelon (1651 – 1715) is not widely known, but his influence continues in the church to this day.
While there are many interesting contrasts between these two Frenchmen, two particularly strike me; character and priority.
With Richelieu, the end justifies the means and relationships are utilitarian; with Fenelon the end and the means are inseparable and relationships are sacred to the point of self-sacrifice.
Richelieu strives to establish a strong French state; Fenelon seeks first the Kingdom of God. Richelieu sacrifices others; Fenelon sacrifices himself. Fenelon desires to impart Christian character to the French Court; Richelieu instills the power of the sword. Fenelon suffers banishment; Richelieu comes to be considered the world’s first Prime Minister – though not a Prime Minister in the parliamentary sense, for he wields an autocratic government.
Richelieu gives his heart to the State of France; Fenelon gives his heart to Christ and His Church. If you read Oswald Chambers, A.W. Tozer, John Wesley, William Law, or Andrew Murray, to name just a few Protestant writers with longevity, you are reading men who have been touched by Fenelon.
Fenelon ministered to troops on both sides of the fighting between England and France as they marched through his diocese of Crambrai; Andrew Murray ministered to both English and Boer troops during their war. The difference was that the English and French respected Fenelon; while the English and Boers vilified Murray – they insisted he take sides. Perhaps in Fenelon’s time the church was seen as transcendent, while in Murray’s time it had degenerated into an arm of nationalism? (Much like our own time?)
I wonder which model the American Church follows today? Richelieu, or Fenelon and Murray?