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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Christian Humanism of the Heretic Victor Hugo

I have blogged this morning at a different site about my love for Les Miserables the musical, and my growing appreciation for Les Miserables the novel as I read my way through it for the first time during Advent and in anticipation of the movie’s release on Christmas Day. I mentioned in that post that the musical is for me a powerful embodiment of Christian humanism, a theme recently explored by Roger Olson at his blog. As I was working on my post I came across a profound meditation on the novel and its author, Victor Hugo, at the website of Touchstone Magazine. The author of the lengthy article, Addison Hart, carefully analyzes the religious themes in Les Miserables and on the religious convictions of Hugo.  Hart shares details of Hugo’s long life that point to the conclusion that Hugo was “a man of blemished religious and moral character by basic Christian standards”, but he goes on to demonstrate how affected Hugo was by the Gospels and how Les Miserables's themes are rich reflections of Christian humanism.

Hugo, with all his Romanticism, panentheism, theosophical musings, spiritualism, and moral struggles, still managed to come closer to the practical heart of Christ’s gospel than many authors of a more orthodox faith. To step across the threshold into the world of this vast novel is immediately to encounter the three greatest themes in all literature: God, mankind, and the human soul…
The themes of Les Misérables…are Christian themes, themes that would be inconceivable without the unique revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Victor Hugo consciously drew on these “sentiments abstractly Christian,” even though he himself stood on the boundaries of the Christian faith. If nothing else, this very fact testifies to the inherent power of the themes themselves, no matter what the limitations of the writer might be. Hugo was a heretic, but his book is a path leading us back to the God who became man and redeemed us. It is a book that may even provoke us to pray and live as better Christians. And, finally, it is the vision of God’s love that Les Misérables conveys, so close to the heart of the gospel, to which people respond in their hearts for reasons they might not fully understand. Christians could do worse than recognize the nature of its inherent appeal and consider how we ourselves present to others the love we see in Christ.



    Heresy is an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and formation of sects. Christian heresy is opinion contrary to the Scriptures. Christian heresy is opinion in opposition to the doctrines of God.

    One mans heretic is another mans truth teller.

    There are men who believe there are many ways to heaven. Was Jesus being a heretic when He said (John 14:6 ..."I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.)

    There are believers in Christs as well as others who believe that that it took God millions or billions of years to create the heavens and the earth. Was Moses being a heretic when he wrote in Genesis of a six day, twenty four hour day creation? (Genesis 1:1-31......31 God saw all that He made, and behold, it was very good. And that was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.)

    Many believers in Christ believe and teach that water baptism is not essential to have sins forgiven. Was the apostle Peter being heretical when he said (Acts 2:38 ....and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..)

    Some believe that Jesus is God the Father. Was the apostle Paul guilty of heresy when he said (1 Corinthians 15:20-28.....24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He has abolished all rule authority and power......28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.)

    Some men believe that you do not have to believe in Jesus to be saved. Other men assert that water baptism is not a requirement for salvation. Was Jesus demonstrating an act of heresy when He said (Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved...)

    There are those who proclaim that Christians cannot fall from grace. Was the apostle Paul deemed a heretic when he said (Galatians 5:4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.)

    There are a few who believe that God only offers salvation, by His grace, to a select chosen few. Was the apostle Paul showing his heretical side when he said (Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared bring salvation to all men) Gods grace is available to all who accept His terms for pardon.

    Are Jesus, Moses, the apostles, and the writers of the Bible, all heretics?

    Is it heretical to be opposed to denominational doctrines that are contrary to the facts found in the Bible?

    Are Jesus and the apostles heretics because they disagree with denominational doctrines?


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    1. Ummm Well Heresy is a catholic term anywhere. But Paul and John and others in the NT confronted erroneous beliefs that came against the gospel. It is not opinion if it is based on God's, that makes it fact.

      It is hard to separate feelings,but if we encounter something that opposes the gospel, and if Hugo did, they by definition would be anti-christ, even if he had some Christian beliefs, and therefor in the loose definition a heretic, those statements are completely accurate.

      People like you are truly the problem. Getting angry when people point out serious doctrinal issues, only for you to turn around and condemn those people not on biblical, but personal grounds. Sorry, you are the one at fault, not Greg or the author of the article about Les Miserables.

  2. I read this quote from Hugo today:
    “When I go down to the grave I can say like many others ‘I have finished my day’s work.’ But I cannot say, “I have finished my life.’ My day’s work will begin again the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes on the twilight, it opens on the dawn.” We shall go on living and living.”

    It sounds like a Christian view of death.

    1. I have met non-Christians who have Christian views of death, and Christians who have non-Christian views of death. That means nothing, it only says he was influenced by the church most likely actually. Not that I know anything, but that quote proves nothing one way or the other. My father was a Christian, but now says himself he is not, and yet he remains profoundly influenced by God's word, even though he does not believe it anymore...

      Influence is not belief.

  3. The book was on the big screen years before the musical. Liam Nisan was in it and the performances were remarkably better then the musical. You should see it. Anyway the story is a remarkable word picture of the love of God in all situations. God is very good. I believe that Victor Hugo had to have experienced the love of God. The story is too personal.