BookNotes: The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview
By Francis A. Schaeffer, Crossway Books, 1988
I only read the essay “A Christian Manifesto”, which was first published 1981.
Schaeffer’s call to action is a good one. I believe it applies equally well to non-Christians as well as Christians. He strongly believes in democracy.
[p450] The solution is to not the one Cronkite gives in his interview–perhaps changing to a political philosophy different from democracy. The solution is to limit somehow television’s power to use its bias in ``the editorial’’ reporting of events, and most specifically to keep it from shaping the political process.
In other words, he wants a democratic state where people’s values are derived from some other source than television. I could not agree more.
Judeo-Christian laws are certainly the basis for the U.S. and western society as a whole. It wasn’t clear to me how this was relevant to his discussion. He assumes that the society in 1776 (or whenever) was a good one. This is romantic. There were many bad things about the government. Women didn’t have the right to vote. This conflicts with a statement later in his book
[p455] It is because there is a personal-infinite God who has made men and women in His own image that they have a unique dignity of life as human beings.
NOTE: Black people weren’t considered human by all (but only by a select few). These were wrongs. He even says that slavery is wrong. Thus when he says,
[p431] The Founding Fathers of the United States (in varying degrees) understood very well the relationship between one’s world view and government. [and] [p432] [where he quotes William Penn,] “If we are not governed by God, then we will be ruled by tyrants.”,
NOTE: we were then ruled by tyrants as we are ruled now by tyrants. The only difference, to me, is that the tyrants wield tremendous power over our daily lives.
An aside. I have never understand why God can’t punish blasphemers. He goes into this at some length that the state used to punish blasphemers and no longer does. I understand that the bible says that governments are the ones who are allowed to punish, but blasphemy is a personal thing between God and his people. The definition of blasphemy is sect dependent which tells me that God is the judge.
[p436] What we find then as we look back is that the men who founded the United States of America really understood that upon which they were building their concepts of law and concepts of government. And until the takeover of our goverment and law by this other entity, the materialistic, humanistic, chance world view, these things remained the base of government and law.
[p438] [Quoting William Bentley Ball], “the unconstitutional delegation of legistlative power…is where the legislature hands over its powers to agents through the conferral of regulatory power unaccompanied by strict standards.”
NOTE: Exactly, this is what happened in the Savings and Loan fiasco. This is why the PTT in Switzerland can charge exhorbitant rates.
[U]ltra vivres is where the agents make up powers on their own. [The net result is] “The government of laws largely disappears and the government of men largely replaces it…[A]gents’ personal `homemade’ law replaces the law of elected reprentatives.”
NOTE: Great conclusion.
[p438] Naturally this shift from the Judeo-Christian basis for law and the shift away from the restraints of the Constititution automatically militates against religious liberty.
Unfortunately, this isn’t true. The failure of society is occuring everywhere, even in places with a strong bond between Judeo-Christian values. In the U.S., people have religious liberty. The problem Schaeffer confuses this with is that the laws are not always to the Church’s liking–a fundamental problem of “true” democracy which Schaeffer seems to advocate. Specifically, in the good ol’ days, we had a democracy of the property owners and the elite (as we do today). Jefferson and Washington were quite rich and their position of power is directly related to their richness. We can look at Switzerland as a similar example. The people in power are often rich (Frau Kopf, Villiger, etc.).
The point Schaeffer misses is that it isn’t the shift away from Judeo-Christian values, it’s the shift towards burocratic control– the government of men and not laws as Mr. Ball says. In the past few years, the U.S. society has been declining in wealth and knowledge, but the government has become increasingly pro-Christian, e.g. “The Just War” as Mr. Bush claimed.
[p439] Then there was a shift into materialistic science based on a philisophic change to the materialistic concept of final reality. […] No clearer expression of this could be given than Carl Sagan’s arrogant statement on public television–made without any scientific proof for the statement–to 140 million viewers: “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” I call this religious liberty. There is no difference between Sagan’s statements and the televangelists statements that God is the center. In fact, Sagan isn’t soliciting money, so I would argue that he is truer and less materialistic than the televangelists. Schaeffer doesn’t like televangelists (my guess by later statements), but he doesn’t quote from them or denounce them. The point being that Sagan is exercising religious liberty on a television. PBS isn’t run by the goverment, it’s a private organization, just like Oral Roberts’ TV, University, empire, etc. The difference is that PBS doesn’t waste its money on building shrines as does Roberts.
[p440] [A] sharp increase in the viewpoints not shaped by Reformation Christianity [means that] general religious freedom from the control of the state for all religion. […] It is then up to Christians to show that Christianity is the Truth of total reality in the open marketplace of freedom.
NOTE: Very noble point, but]
This greater mixture in the United States, however, is now used as an excuse for the new meaning and connotation of pluralism. […] There is no right or wrong; it is just a matter of your personal preference.
[p441] [S]ociety now functions with no fixed ethics. […] The abortion case in law is…situational law [no fixed ethics].
Agreed, just as the Mitzvot (623 laws of Jews) is situational law based upon a situation which is thousands of years old. There is no justification for not eating pork, not mixing milk and meat or not eating shellfish. Situational law has been around for a long time. It was just that the church used to condone it and now that we have “true” democracy, the Church has much less say in the business of government. As Schaeffer says,
[p441] Christians [must] show that Christianity is the Truth.
this isn’t the government’s job. If people don’t believe in Christ, they are perfectly correct under Schaeffer’s reasoning. I just don’t understand how he derives the concept that situational law is bad from this same reasoning.
[p441] That is, a small group of people decide arbitrarily what, from their viewpoint, is for the good of society at the precise moment and they make it law, binding the whole society by their personal arbitrary decisions.
This is clearly false. Christianity no longer dominates political thought nowadays. The majority of U.S. citizens favor abortion. There is some disagreement as to whether it should be publicly funded and, in fact, the funding has decreased dramatically over the Reagan years (as it should if public opinion changes). In many religions, there is no right or wrong. There is no judge. Buddhism is an example. People’s ethics are based upon their own value system. It the job of Christians to convince them otherwise. Schaeffer’s point is totally invalid.
Schaeffer thinks there is a single Truth. However, he argues that majority belief is important:
[p442] The Supreme Court abortion ruling invalidated abortion laws in all fifty states, even though it seems clear that in 1973 the majority of Americans were against abortion.
Now the majority belief has swayed the other way. By Schaeffer’s argumentation, the Supreme Court ruling is now proper. Situational law isn’t a sometime thing. Either he thinks it’s bad and we should be ruled by a single Truth and majority opinion is irrelevant or we are ruled by situational law and the majority opinion is relevant. In any event, tyranny of the majority is real and dangerous.
I’m not arguing that situational law is correct, just that Schaeffer’s line of reasoning does convince me either way–even if I were a Christian. He mentions the “marketplace of freedom” quite often. This is the problem. Hedonism and Nihilism are value systems which exist in this marketplace. The church can no longer force its opinion on the people. Christians can only set examples. Hedonistic examples appeal to the base instincts of man. This is the problem.
[p446] [The State] should not favor any particular religious bodies throught the use of public monies. […] Ironically, it is the humanist religion which the government and courts of the United States favor over all others!
This is a fundamental theme to which he supplies no evidence. The state doesn’t require abortion, it allows for it. If it were to ban abortion, it would be favoring Christianity. There is an overall pattern. The state used to support blue laws which favor Christianity. Moslems and Jews are ignored, because their days of rest fall on Thursday-Friday and Friday-Saturday. The state favors the Christian calendar, but the buddhists are ignored. I don’t see the general trend. The U.S. government, if anything, is fairer to religious freedom than in other countries, e.g. Switzerland, because they have eliminated blue laws, i.e. each proprietor is allowed to decided themselves when their day of rest should be. In Switzerland that day is decided for you–according to the greater Truth.
[p447] There was a poll done by a secular group a few years ago which looked across the world to determine where there were freedoms today out of the 150 or so nations.
Actually, there are over 200 nations now which tells you that freedom is increasing.
[p447] Less than twenty-five were rated as today having significant freedom. We still have it.
This is backwards reasoning. Very few states have ever had any kind of freedom. This situation is changing towards more freedom (on the whole). So-called democracies are springing up everywhere. Schaeffer implies that freedom is decreasing. I don’t understand why.
[p459] The majority of the Silent Majority were [during the Nixon years] those who had only two bankrupt values–personal peace and affluence.”
This is still the majority, unfortunately. Schaeffer derides personal peace, because it means “leave me alone.” I claim that it means, leave me alone until I can come to grips with my place in society. Many of the people are struggling to survive in an ever increasingly complex world. Only when people find a philosophy that brings personal peace will they involve themselves in the affairs of others. People who are not at peace with themselves affect the lives of others, e.g. child abuse and general violence. I believe that a major problem with the rapidly advancing technology is that more people have free time. Boredom breeds violence. (Violence breeds violence, but that’s not relevant here.) If Christians can show that the Truth is the way, people will become at peace with themselves and we will live in a happier world. Some of the happiest people I know are Christians.
[p465] Samuel Ericsson…wrote: “I believe that clergyman malpractice, or more accurately spiritual counseling malpractice, is going to present the secular courts with a head-on clash between the two competing world views, secularism and Christianity.”
I think this is quite proper. If the clergy isn’t held responsible for their actions, it isn’t responsible. In this case, the clergy counseled a youth who later committed suicide. The parents were suing. Schaeffer continually states that the govenment is not above the law. Well, it follows that the church isn’t above the law, either. It may disagree with the law, but it must suffer the consequences just like everyone else.
[p467] The Bible tells us that God has commanded us to obey the state.
[p468] God has ordained the state as a delegated authority; it is not autonomous. The state is to be an agent of justice, to restrain evil by punishing the wrongdoer, and to protect the good in society. When it does the reverse, it has no proper authority…it is then tyranny.
Actually, God hasn’t ordained democracy. He used to ordain the kings. The concept of the nation-state didn’t exist in the times when the bible was written. (Just like the concept of abortion didn’t exist.) This is a traditional problem: Who judges the judges? Literally, the bible states that we should always obey the state and God is the judge, that is, civil disobedience is not written into the bible. Schaeffer implies that it does by saying the original Christians were disobeying the state when they refused to revere the state as the supreme authority. This wasn’t civil disobedience in a state ordained by God, so the Christians felt they were right. The problem is, were they? They only had their own personal God for guidance. This is where the system breaks down in my opinion.
If my personal God says that I should allow the use of condoms but someone else’s personal God says I shouldn’t, who decides who is right? In the U.S., condoms are legal; In Ireland, they are not. Schaeffer never addresses this problem. He gives many example, but fails to establish a pattern. For example,
[p479] The ACLU is acting as the arm of the humanist consensus to force its view [that abortion is legal] on the majority of the Arkansas state officials.
I don’t approve of the careful use of state officials here. I would guess that the majority of the population favors that abortion should be legal, but this irrelevant for him here where it was relevant before. This statement says nothing. It is a particular legal problem. Many Christians believe that abortion should be legal, but Schaeffer doesn’t bring this up. Are they not “true” Christians?
[p480] In the United States the materialistic, humanistic world view is being taught exclusively in most state schools.
This comes under the concept of fair and equal. You have to pick one. To teach Judeo-Christian creationism would require that we teach every other religious viewpoint. There just isn’t enough time in the day. If we were to teach two (creationism and evolution), we would exclude other religions unfairly. Schaeffer says that Sagan’s statement was “made without any scientific proof for the statement.” If Schaeffer believes in “U.S. approved scientific proof”, he must support evolution as the only concept. If he doesn’t, then Sagan’s statement above is perfectly legitimate, i.e. people aren’t required to provide scientific proof to make sweeping generalizations. Schaeffer states “even though these [private] schools were set up at private cost by the parents in order to give their children an education based on the world view of a universe created by a God who objectively exists.” [The emphatic rhetoric “objectively exists” doesn’t work. If God objectively existed, there wouldn’t be this discussion. Objectively is used incorrectly here.] So if I create a school, it should automatically be approved by the state. No, Schaeffer doesn’t say this, because this would be anarchy and Schaeffer is vehemently opposed to anarchy (although he never defines it).
[p480] [I]ndeed in the public schools in the United States all religious influence is as forcibly forbidden as in the Soviet Union. Marxism usually is not taught here, but the total exclusive secularization is as complete. It should be noted that this is not only a problem for Christians but for other religious groups.
Many other things are excluded from the U.S. education system, e.g. anarchism, australian aborriginal culture, and so on. The other point is that this isn’t a religious problem; it is freedom problem. People can get religious instruction outside of the schools at a minimal cost; they can’t get instruction on anarchism or the like.
[p480] We must never forget that the humanistic position is an exclusivist, closed system which shuts out all contending viewpoints–especially if these views teach anything other than relative values and standards.
The Christian system is closed as well. Second, the humanistic position is absolute. Man is the center. It has a proper absolute value system which includes many of the Ten Commandments. Humanists believe that people should be allowed to choose their destiny and Christians believe that their destiny has already been chosen.
[p481] Eric von Kuehnelt-Leddihn writes “The state will not tolerate any gods besides itself.” The school is their special target.
Again, the concept of fair and equal comes into play. If there is one atheist in a class, it is unfair to make that student say `one nation under God.’ It is unfair to make the student sit there while the other students stand up and state it. It is only fair to have no one state it, but they are allowed to think it. No one is saying that there are no “gods,” just that one god isn’t prefered over another god.
[p496] The result would be freedom for all and especialy freedom for all religion. That was the original purpose of the First Ammendment.
[p482] One either confesses that God is the final authority, or one confesses that Caesar is Lord.
I don’t confess either. I don’t understand why it has to be black & white. My moral system is the final judge of my actions. I may be put in jail, but that doesn’t mean I have confessed anything. His statement is closed as he claims the humanist view is.
[p487] Three things must be stressed for those in all totalitarian countries:
- …True spirituality touches all life…
- We who are outside of such countries must allow those in these countries to know what ``the appropriate level’’ [of civil disobedience] is in their time and place. … We in our place…must not heap guilt on them.
- They should understand there is a bottomline*… They should recognize that this is biblical because any government that commands what contradicts God’s Law abrogates its authority.
Why does he contradict himself in 3 by “heaping guilt”. Either 2 is true and they understand 3 implicitly or 3 is true and 2 is not. Schaeffer’s rules are unfair to those in totalitarian countries, because he is setting a moral standard. He is saying that these people should only follow up to a point, but he fails to say what that point is. This naturally heaps guilt, because people can’t know what the point is. In absence of an absolute system, they will choose a relative system. However, Schaeffer implies that the absolute system exists. This is unfair.
[p487] [S]peaking of civil disobedience is frightening because of an opposite situation from the second [fighting oppression]. That is, with the prevalence of Marxist thinking–and especially with the attempted synthesis of Marxism and Christianity in certain forms of liberation theology in South America and other places–what we are saying could become a Marxist and terrorist tool to bring anarchy.
Archbishop Romero of El Salvador was assassinated by the government in 1980. Schaeffer surely knew of this. He was assassinated for his actions and words. I quote, “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why are the poor hungry, they call me a communist.” Schaeffer’s statements express angst for anarchism and Marxism–two terms he never defines. The danger he sees is real: governments may be shown to be evil unto themselves. I have real problems with Schaeffer’s position, because he doesn’t justify it. I think the work being done by some of the clergy in Latin America is wonderful. I think that the U.S. government in many cases has been evil.
[p488] Man is not basically good…Man is fallen.”
This is where I disagree most strongly with Christianity.
[p468] Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether the king, as the supreme authority,… […] For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid for he does not bear the sword for nothing.
And what are men? Are kings, presidents, and generals the only servants of God? If I elect someone and they turn around and punishes me for doing what I consider to be “good”, should I re-elect them? In a democracy (which Schaeffer continually supports like a good American) the people are the kings and presidents. They vest the authority in those who they elect. If God tells the people to elect someone, God is interfering in the free choice of man, i.e. we know this is not so. Therefore, Schaeffer contradicts himself by saying man as being not basically good and government as being good (servants of God). He never says what happens to servants who run astray. How are they punished? If they are punished by God, so be it. Then we should all be equal under the eyes of the Lord and elected officials (even kings) are specifically not God’s servants.
[p488] Every attempt to put this utopian concept into practice has failed because it is false to what Man as he now is, really is. Man is not intrinsically unselfish, corrupted only by outward circumstances. […] We can understand why some, reacting to the church’s lack of emphasis concerning the proper compassionate use of possessions, then make the mistake of equating the Kingdom of God with a state program. Nevertheless, we should clearly recognize that those who do confuse the Kingdom of God with a socialistic program misuse this book, and we must see that they do not do so.
First, every attempt has not failed. Sweden is a good example. Private communes are extremely good examples. The Kibbutzim in Israel. The farmers’ co-operatives in the U.S. Second, who are “we” in his above statement. Why does the Catholic Church make its clergy take a vow of poverty? Is this wrong in God’s eyes? Is the pope wrong for having denounced the Gulf War while Falwell praised it? Who is the judge? When the U.S. government overthrew Allende in Chile although he was a duly elected representative of his people, were they wrong? Allende was a Marxist, but was the U.S. government right in supporting Pinochet who killed many, many people? The churches in El Salvador are for the most part strongly against the government’s actions while the U.S. government supports them.
Finally, I would like to turn to Schaeffer’s difficulty with denouncing anarchism while supporting civil disobedience.
[p465] You must understand that those in our present material-energy, chance oriented generation have no reason to obey the state except that the state has the guns and has the patronage. […] The Christian, the God-fearing person is not like that. The Bible tells us that God has commanded us to obey the state.
It’s hard to argue with the Bible if you are a Christian, but he tries:
[p489] Simply put, the Declaration of Independence states that the people, if they find that their basic rights are being systematically attacked by the state, have a duty to try to change that government, and if they cannot do so, to abolish it.
[p491] If_there_is_no_final_place_for_civil disobedience,_then_the_goverment_has_been_made_autonomous,_and_as such,_it_has_been_put_in_the_place_of_the_Living_God.
[p493] It is time we consciously realize that when any office commands what is contrary to God’s Law it abrogates its authority. And our loyalty to the God who gave this law then requires that we make the appropriate response in that situation to such a tyrannical usurping of power.
I agree with all these statements. In fact, I would guess most anarchists would agree with these statements. It is merely a matter of “the bottom line” as he puts it. The anarchists in Russia under the Czar were right in their cause. The Czar was a nasty person, very nasty. At the same time, the anarchists under Stalin were also right.
[p488] Anarchy is never appropriate.
[p459] These anarchists are [in West Germany, Great Britain, etc., but not in the U.S.]. They have a cry, “No power to nobody!” They paint a large A on the walls of beautiful cathedrals and beautiful old churches and goverment buildings. Anarchists! They are nihilists. I saw a graffito on the wall of a government building in Lausanne a few nights ago which read: “The state is the enemy. The Church is the collaborator.”
But this is true. The church is the collaborator, because “the Bible has commanded us to obey the state.” This is the definition of a collaborator. Furthermore, he states that “it is time we consciously realize that when any office commands what is contrary to God’s Law it abrogates its authority.” Specifically, you become an enemy of the state by definition.
This is my most important point. The Bible teaches us to obey the state in no uncertain terms. Schaeffer uses Christian history to justify civil disobedience, but the Bible is the Truth. He never reconciles the two. If it is an absolute system, the Bible would state in case X you should not follow the state. However, it doesn’t cover this case, because God has ordained the kings. More specifically, we read the King James version of the bible and not the John Doe version. If there was any room for Schaeffer’s interpretation, it would have been removed by King James. Schaeffer doesn’t resolve this paradox, thus his claims against anarchism hold no weight. Anarchism is a viable and Christian alternative if you take Schaeffer’s view that civil disobedience is ok.