Voltaire isn’t an evil robot from an 80’s cartoon, nor is he the bad guy from Harry Potter. Voltaire was an atheist that hated God and the Bible. Near the end of his life he claimed that within 100 hundred years Christianity would be stamped out and known only as a relic of history. Voltaire died in 1778. In God’s irony, within 25 years of Voltaire’s death his mansion housed the Geneva Bible Society. His former residence is now used to churn out Bibles.
Isn’t God amazing? Doesn’t this show us that God is sovereign and that His word will last for ever?
Yes to the first, no to the second. It doesn’t show us anything about God because the story isn’t true. First, Voltaire was a deist not an atheist. Second, there is no record of his having predicted that Christianity would be stamped out within 100 years. Now don’t misunderstand me—Voltaire was no follower of Jesus. Such a statement would not be surprising. But there is no record of his having said it.
Furthermore, it is not true that any of his houses were ever used for a Bible society. It’s a great sermon illustration. It leaves people in awe at the power of God. But it’s simply not historically accurate.
What is true is that the Hotel Gibbon which Voltaire often frequented became a depository of the Bible Society* in 1849. But that is it. Not quite as good of a sermon illustration. And so, like any good fishing story, the catch has gotten a little bigger over the years.
We ought to learn a couple lessons from this false story of Voltaire:
- Check your facts and stories. What is intended to be a “point for Jesus” ends up being a point for unbelievers. Christians look like blind people groping for anything to believe in. It’s okay that we look like idiots—after all the gospel is offensive and seen as foolish to an unbelieving mind. But we shouldn’t look like idiots because didn’t fact check.
- Let the Word of God be the anchor and the stories be the servants—not the other way around. The fact that this story is not true should not do anything to your faith other than to make you say, “ah man, that would have been a great sermon illustration”. The truth of God’s word is unchanging. If we find out these stories are untrue we have only lost a servant to our gospel proclamation—not it’s foundation.
- We will have an eternity filled with TRUE stories like this. God is in the process of rooting out of his kingdom all sin and unbelief and replacing it with passionate worshippers. Therefore, there will be in heaven a million true stories of light overcoming darkness. I can’t wait!
*Information take from here.