Monday, May 27, 2019

A Christian Manifesto by Francis A. Schaeffer

A Christian Manifesto 
Francis A. Schaeffer
Published 1981

This book is a public declaration of Christianity meant to answer the question: "What is the Christian's relationship to government, law, and civil disobedience?" I could not decide how to review it, so I wrote a narrative of its contents. Remember, it was written in the 80s, but it is just as relevant today. 


Francis Schaeffer made the case that there has been a breakdown of society in bits and pieces, and that each is a symptom of a larger problem. There had been a shift away from the Christian worldview in areas of law, education, and government, and Schaeffer claimed that Christians were slow to understand this, partly because they had a defective view of Christianity. What they misunderstand is that Christianity is truth; not only that its doctrines are true, but that it is the standard of truth for everything.


The other side of the worldview argument, the one that was replacing Christianity, was humanism, which is the absolute opposite and has completely different results than Christianity. Humanism is the "placing of Man at the center of all things and making him the measure of all things." In my marginal notes I added: Humanism controls stuff and ruins everything. I think that sums it up well. 

Because Humanists misunderstand human nature, their ideas of society and law are mistaken. In the beginning, God's character of justice was above His power, which was a basis for man's law on earth; authority rested in God's written Law (the Bible or His Word). Humanists claim to support freedom, but under manmade authority (the state), they only create more chaos and control, the opposite of liberty.

Our rights come from God. Our Founders, and those who embraced Reformation Christianity, understood that law - not man - was king because our laws came from a Law Giver, " a Person" who gave us "the inalienable rights."

Schaeffer wrote that the First Amendment protected religious liberty and prevented government from interfering with the free practice of religion. But today, the First Amendment is used to "silence the church." The acceptance of this has led to the effacing of influence of the Christian religion in civil government; we have been moving away from "the Judeo-Christian basis for law and shifting away from the original restraints of the Constitution."


The Judeo-Christian worldview gave us modern science because it tells us there is "a reason for observation and experimentation to be optimistically pursued," whereas materialistic science, which comes out of humanism, is hopeless and tells us that everything is by chance. Instead, the new concept replacing Christianity, also called Pluralism, is based on personal preferences; "there is no right or wrong." 

Because of this shift away from Christianity, law has become situational, in which smaller groups determine randomly what, according to their personal opinion, is best for society at that fleeting moment, and therefore, becomes law.


Due to the "material-energy-chance humanistic worldview," the intrinsic value and compassion for the unique and individual dignity of each human life linked to the personal-infinite God, the Creator of human life in His own image, is sadly decreasing in America. Is it not ironic that the philosophy named for humanness would bring about the death of humanity?


The "open window" encouraged Schaeffer, in the 80s, with the election of Reagan. He thought there could be a swing in the direction toward conservative, Christian values; but he also wanted readers to be prepared if the window did not remain open to good changes. He warned readers to beware of the growing number of anarchists. Anarchists are nihilists who are hopeless and believe life is meaningless; they hate both the State and the Church. Whatever the case, "Christians must stand absolutely and totally opposed to the whole humanist system" whether they come from conservatives or liberals. Schaeffer also hoped that the window would not close because he warned that it would get worse for the church. (It has.) 


Ironically, a humanist understands that he must obey the state because the state has guns and power. A Christian or God-fearing person knows that the Bible tells him to submit to God-sanctioned civil government. Unfortunately, because the state is humanist, it does not trust its citizens, and it must use threats and force to assert its authority.
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 a usurped authority and as such it becomes lawless and is tyranny.
In other words, sometimes it is a right and duty to disobey the state. The author said that "tyranny is satanic" and Christians honor God when they reject what is satanic. They may respect the office, but they are not beholden to the man of that office.

Civil disobedience requires that the individual must defend himself by protest via legal action; flee, if possible; and use force to defend himself, if necessary. An example of using force is the American Revolution.


To answer the initial question...Christians must look at the whole picture, not bits and pieces, that today's government, education, and law are based in humanism, a worldview that is wrong and brings forth inhumane results, and is being forced upon citizens. Christians must admit that when any government office forces what is contrary to God's law, it loses its authority. Christians must take legal and political stands. If they do not, then they are not truly living under Scripture.


The Reformation of Northern Europe (Martin Luther) gave us a clear picture of the gospel and form-freedom balance in government with checks and balances.

In the middle of the 1800s, increasing numbers of immigrants not based in the Reformation came to the United States.

A rise of material-energy, chance worldview of reality (humanism), with its meaningless, purposeless, and valueless idea of life, became influential after the 1900s; and this worldview affected the areas of education and the media.

The original ideals of the founding, which gave us the possibility of "liberty and justice for all,"  are increasingly shunned in the areas of government and education and the public in general. 

We must stand against that other worldview because it is not truth and its results are in opposition to those of our Founding, which gave us freedom, liberty, and justice. We must do this to protect freedom for all religion, especially so that Reformation Christianity may compete in the free market of ideas instead of being censored. Christians who are under Scripture must do so for the sake of truth and to proclaim the gospel.
So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, and he was appalled that there was no one to intercede. ~ Isaiah 59:14-16

If you are a Christian, you should. It will make you think about civil disobedience, especially concerning blatantly wicked and legally protected practices like abortion, which the author discusses in great detail. Scripture commands that Christians submit to government; but what if our government protects and funds the murder of defenseless pre-born babies? What then? Is civil disobedience biblical? How so? Schaeffer is not lukewarm in his opinion.

P.S. Another great Christian-philosophical read by Schaeffer: How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. Ever wonder what has happened to art and music over time? And why? Schaeffer exposes the shift from biblical to humanism and demonstrates how the change is reflected in our culture, music, and art/architecture. Check it out:


Anonymous said...

Hi Ruth,
It's Dean, I hope you'll recall? Your review of Schaeffer is quite timely. He was definitely ahead of the times in his thinking. I've only read 'Genesis in space and time & How should we then live,' but both are still so very relevant even in the 21st century. The malignancy of idolatry and hypocrisy seem to permeate every segment of American life now. Abortion is the platform to display the nation's hatred for God. Many proponents of abortion claim to be Christians and think their privileged positions on the issue will ensure their immunity from God's wrath. America continues in a pattern of worthless worship. Because of our rebellion and indifference, our homeland and way of life will one day be reduced to a heap of ruins. I shall look for this particular title to add to my Schaeffer collection, thanks again for the review. I hope you and your family have a lovely summer with much reading planned. My best to you all.

Ruth said...

So true, and so far we have come from the truth. I see Satan behind it all...abortion especially. All the lies he tells to us...and if we are not grounded in truth, then we will believe anything. Even the church has fallen prey. I know Christians who are wishy washy about abortion and socialism. If the church cannot preserve the truth, our civilization is doomed.

Well, with that, I hope you have a good summer, too.

Marian H said...

This sounds very relevant... I'd really like to read this, especially having just read Peterson's book.

The subject of Christian civil disobedience has been on my mind for a while. I really struggle with concepts of self-defense, pacifism, and revolt alike, because each one poses moral problems. How and when is conflict justified? Can self-defense ever be preemptive? With the way things are going, I have to say I'm less certain than I've ever been, one way or the other.

I'll see if my library has this book. :)

Ruth said...

That's why I like how Schaeffer lists civil disobedience: first seek a legal avenue to address a grievance; if that doesn't work, move away from the situation, move to a better situation; and if that doesn't help, and you are cornered, left to go against better judgment....then you are able to defend your physical self. That may mean a physical self defense or protection.

He did not talk specifically talk about preemptive self-defense. That's a good question. I think every situation needs to be considered in its context, and Christians must be confident in their judgment. And pray for wisdom.

Marian H said...

That sounds like a good course of action. My concern, for the West, is we're getting to a point where there will be no better situation or place to move to. Hopefully that is still a long ways off.

Carol said...

Schaeffer was foundational to me getting on my feet as a new Christian in my early twenties. I haven't read A Christian Manifesto but have used HSWTL for my high schoolers. I've just started reading The God Who is There, & it too, is excellent.