Bergier, Nicolas Sylvestre
BERGIER, NICOLAS SYLVESTRE
Theologian, the best apologist the Church in France produced during the second half of the 18th century to oppose the rationalism of voltaire, J. J. rousseau,P. H. D. holbach, and their disciples; b. Darnay, Dec. 31, 1718; d. Versailles, April 9, 1790. From Besançon, he was called to Paris by Abp. Christophe de Beaumont as defender of the faith. His Le Déisme réfuté par luimême (1765) is a serious attempt to expose the errors of Rousseau, particularly in his Émile. Indefatigably, often intemperately, Bergier reduced Rousseau's theology to its main tenets and denounced the contradictions in the profession of faith of the celebrated vicar. A modern theologian might use more finesse but would reach identical conclusions. In 1782 a second edition of Diderot's Encyclopédie appeared, entitled Encyclopédie méthodique. Bergier had agreed to contribute some 700 articles on theology, provided he was allowed to revise the 1,800 appearing in the original edition. Although criticized for lending his name to this rationalistic enterprise, he was nonetheless supported by his superiors, who saw the apologetic value of his contribution. These articles were published separately in his Dictionnaire théologique (3 v., 1788). He also wrote Certitude des preuves du Christianisme (1767), Examen du matérialisme (2 v., 1771), and Traité de la vraie religion (2 v., 1780). The apologetic nature of his works led him to emphasize the polemic aspect of theology—hence a certain haziness in his treatment of grace, the supernatural, and revelation, where at times he himself betrays the influence of rationalism. Yet this same influence led him to abandon the contemporary exegesis of the compelle intrare in favor of one completely acceptable to modern theologians.
See Also: encyclopedists.
Bibliography: l. crocker, An Age of Crisis: Man and World in Eighteenth-Century French Thought (Baltimore 1959). e. dublanchy, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., (Paris 1903–50) 2.1:742–745. r. r. palmer, Catholics and Unbelievers in Eighteenth-Century France (Princeton 1939).
[a. r. desautels]