BookReview: 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.
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
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.
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.
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,
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.
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:
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.
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.
Actually, there are over 200 nations now which tells you that freedom is increasing.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is where I disagree most strongly with Christianity.
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.
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.
It's hard to argue with the Bible if you are a Christian, but he tries:
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.
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.
Via Rob 1990
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