You're here: oChristian.com » Articles Home » Francis Schaeffer » The Great Evangelical Disaster: What Really Matters?

The Great Evangelical Disaster: What Really Matters?

By Francis Schaeffer


      Time magazine recently, 1983, published a special sixtieth anniversary edition with the title "The Most Amazing 60 Years." In recalling the world into which Time was born, this special issue began with the words: "The atom was unsplit. So were most marriages." Here two things occurring in our era are properly brought together - one, the scientific technological explosion; and two, a moral breakdown. It is not just by accident that these two things have happened simultaneously. There is something which lies behind both phenomena, and in recognizing this Time really has shown amazing comprehension.

      The Quest for Autonomy

      Something happened during the last sixty years - something which cut the moral foundation out from under our culture. Devastating things have come in every area of culture, whether it be law or government, whether it is in the schools, our local communities or in the family. And these have happened within the lifetime of many who are reading this book. Our culture has been squandered and lost, and largely thrown away. Indeed, to call it a moral breakdown puts it mildly. Morality itself has been turned on its head with every form of moral perversion being praised and glorified in the media and the world of entertainment.

      How can we make sense of what has happened? In the main essay of this special edition Time offers an explanation. The essay, entitled "What really mattered?" suggests: "To determine what really mattered in this jumble [of events] seems to require a sense of something beyond the particulars." We will need, Time says, to discover the "idea characterizing [our] age."

      Time is quite right in this. In order to make sense of these last sixty years, and equally in order to understand the present and how we as Christians are to live today, we will need to understand the idea of our age - or what we might call the spirit of the times which has transformed our culture so radically since the 1920s. This idea, this spirit, Time says, has been the idea of "freedom" - not just freedom as an abstract ideal, or in the sense of being free from injustice, but freedom in an absolute sense:

      The fundamental idea that America represented corresponded to the values of the times. America was not merely free; it was freed, unshackled. The image was of something previously held in check, an explosive force of a country that moved about in random particles of energy yet at the same time gained power and prospered. To be free was to be modern; to be modern was to take chances. The American century was to be the century of unleashing, of breaking away, at first from the 19th century (as Freud, Proust, Einstein and others had done), and eventually from any constraints at all.

      Further along in the same essay Time comments: "Behind most of these events lay the assumption, almost a moral imperative, that what was not free ought to be free, that limits were intrinsically evil," and that science should go wherever it pleases in a spirit of "self-confident autonomy." But, as Time concludes, "when people or ideas are unfettered, they are freed but not yet free.

      Form and Freedom

      Here the problem of the 1920s to the 1980s is properly spelled out. It is the attempt to have absolute freedom - to be totally autonomous from any intrinsic limits. It is the attempt to throw off anything that would restrain one's own personal autonomy. But it is especially a direct and deliberate rebellion against God and his law.

      In this essay Time has given that which indeed is central, namely the problem of form and freedom. It is a problem which every culture from the beginning of history has had to confront. The problem is this: If there is not a proper balance between form and freedom, then the society will move into either of two extremes. Freedom, without a proper balance of form, will lead to chaos and to the total breakdown of society. Form, without a proper balance of freedom, will lead to authoritarianism, and to the destruction of individual and social freedom. But note further: no society can exist in a state of chaos. And whenever chaos has reigned for even a short time, it has given birth to the imposition of arbitrary control.

      In our own country we have enjoyed enormous human freedom. But at the same time this freedom has been founded upon forms of government, law, culture, and social morality which have given stability to individual and social life, and have kept our freedoms from leading to chaos. There is a balance here between form and freedom which we have come to take as natural in the world. But it is not natural. And we are utterly foolish if we do not recognize that this unique balance which we have inherited from the Reformation thought-forms is not automatic in a fallen world. This is clear when we look at the long span of history. But it is equally clear when we read the daily newspaper and see half the world locked in totalitarian oppression.

      The Reformation not only brought forth a clear preaching of the gospel, it also gave shape to society as a whole - including government, how people viewed the world, and the full spectrum of culture. In Northern Europe, and in the countries such as the United States that are extensions of Northern Europe, the Reformation brought with it an enormous increase in knowledge of the Bible which spread through every level of society. This is not to say that the Reformation was ever a "golden age" or that everyone in the Reformation countries were true Christians. But it is clear that through the Reformation many were brought to Christ and that the absolutes of the Bible became widely disseminated in the culture as a whole. The freedoms which grew out of this were tremendous; and yet, with the forms grounded in a biblical consensus or ethos, the freedoms did not lead to chaos.

      But something has happened in the last sixty years. The freedom that once was founded on a biblical consensus and a Christian ethos has now become autonomous freedom, cut loose from all constraints. Here we have the world spirit of our age - autonomous Man setting himself up as God, in defiance of the knowledge and the moral and spiritual truth which God has given.

      Here is the reason why we have a moral breakdown in every area of life. The titanic freedoms which we once enjoyed have been cut loose from their Christian restraints and are becoming a force of destruction leading to chaos. And when this happens, there really are very few alternatives. All morality becomes relative, law becomes arbitrary, and society moves toward disintegration. In personal and social life, compassion is swallowed up by self-interest.

      As I have pointed out in my earlier books, when the memory of the Christian consensus which gave us freedom within the biblical form is increasingly forgotten, a manipulating authoritarianism will tend to fill the vacuum. At this point the words "right" and "left" will make little difference. They are only two roads to the same end; the results are the same. An elite, an authoritarianism as such, will gradually force form on society so that it will not go into chaos - and most people would accept it.

      The Battle We Are In

      As evangelical, Bible-believing Christians we have not done well in understanding this. The world spirit of our age rolls on and on claiming to be autonomous and crushing all that we cherish in its path. Sixty years ago could we have imagined that unborn children would be killed by the millions here in our own country? Or that we would have no freedom of speech when it comes to speaking of God and biblical truth in our public schools? Or that every form of sexual perversion would be promoted by the entertainment media? Or that marriage, raising children, and family life would be objects of attack? Sadly we must say that very few Christians have understood the battle that we are in. Very few have taken a strong and courageous stand against the world spirit of this age as it destroys our culture and the Christian ethos that once shaped our country.

      But the Scriptures make clear that we as Bible-believing Christians are locked in a battle of cosmic proportions. It is a life and death struggle over the minds and souls of men for all eternity, but it is equally a life and death struggle over life on this earth. On one level this is a spiritual battle which is being fought in the heavenlies. Paul's letter to the Ephesians presents the classic expression:

      For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

      Do we really believe that we are engaged in this cosmic battle? Do we really believe that there are "powers of this dark world" which rule our age? Or as the Apostle John says, do we really believe that "the whole world is under the control of the evil one" (1 John 5:19)? If we do not believe these things (and we must say that much of the evangelical world acts as if it does not believe these things), we certainly cannot expect to have much success in fighting the battle. Why has the Christian ethos in our culture been squandered? Why do we have so little impact upon the world today? Is it not because we have failed to take the primary battle seriously?

      And if we have failed to take the battle seriously, we have certainly failed to use the weapons our Lord has provided. As the Apostle Paul writes:

      Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. . . Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:10,11, 13-18)

      Note that there is nothing in this list that the world accepts as a way of working, but there is no other way to fight the spiritual battle in the heavenlies. And if we do not use these weapons we have no hope of winning.

      The primary battle is a spiritual battle in the heavenlies. But this does not mean, therefore, that the battle we are in is otherworldly or outside of human history. It is a real spiritual battle, but it is equally a battle here on earth in our own country, our own communities, our places of work and our schools, and even our own homes. The spiritual battle has its counterpart in the visible world, in the minds of men and women, and in every area of human culture. In the realm of space and time the heavenly battle is fought on the stage of human history.

      But if we are to win the battle on the stage of human history, it will take a prior commitment to fighting the spiritual battle with the only weapons that will be effective. It will take a life committed to Christ, founded on truth, lived in righteousness and grounded in the gospel. It is interesting to note that all of the weapons which Paul lists up to this point are defensive. The only offensive weapon mentioned is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." While the others help to defend us against the attacks of Satan, the Bible is the weapon which enables us to join with our Lord on the offensive in defeating the spiritual hosts of wickedness. But it must be the Bible as the Word of God in everything it teaches-in matters of salvation, but just as much where it speaks of history and science and morality. If it is compromised in any of these areas, as is unhappily happening today among many who call themselves evangelicals, we destroy the power of the Word and put ourselves in the hands of the enemy. Finally, it will take a life of prayer: "pray in the spirit on all occasions.

      On the level of human history, however, the battle is equally important. Here too there is a fundamental conflict going on which is the earthly counterpart to the heavenly battle. This conflict takes two forms. The first of these has to do with the way we think - the ideas we have and the way we view the world. The second has to do with the way we live and act. Both of these conflicts- in the area of ideas and in the area of actions - are important; and in both areas Bible-believing Christians find themselves locked in battle with the surrounding culture of our day.

      The Wisdom of the World

      The battle in the area of ideas is pointed out most clearly in the letters of the Apostle Paul. Here we see that there is a fundamental conflict between "the wisdom of this world" and "the wisdom of God." Thus Paul writes:

      Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:20, 21)

      And again:

      Do not deceive yourselves. If anyone of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. (1 Corinthians 3:18, 19)

      Now we should say immediately that Paul is not saying that knowledge and education have no value. Paul himself was among the most highly educated of his time. Paul is speaking instead of a worldly wisdom which claims to be self-sufficient in itself, quite apart from God and his revelation. It is a kind of worldly wisdom which leaves God and his revelation out of the picture and thereby ends up with a completely distorted conception of reality. This can be seen most clearly in the first chapter of Romans where Paul writes:

      For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking be- came futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. . . . (Romans 1:21-25)

      What is involved here is the way men think, the process of reasoning, thought, and comprehension. Thus "their thinking be- came futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools." When the Scripture speaks of man being foolish in this way, it does not mean he is only foolish religiously. Rather, it means that he has accepted a position that is intellectually foolish not only with regard to what the Bible says, but also to what exists concerning the universe and its form and what it means to be human. In turning away from God and the truth which he has given, man has thus become foolishly foolish in regard to what man is and what the universe is. Man is left with a position with which he cannot live, and he is caught in a multitude of intellectual and personal tensions.

      The Scripture tells us how man came into this situation: Because "although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him"; therefore, they became foolish in their reasoning, in their comprehension, in their lives. This passage relates to the original fall, but it does not speak only about the original fall. It speaks of any period when men knew the truth and deliberately turned away from it.

      Many periods of history could be described in this way. From the biblical viewpoint there was a time when the ancestors of the people of India knew the truth and turned away, a time when the ancestors of the people of Africa knew the truth and turned away. This is true of people anywhere who now do not know the truth. But if we are looking across the history of the world to see those times when men knew the truth and turned away, let us say emphatically that there is not an exhibition of this anywhere in history so clearly - and in such a short time - as in our own generation. We who live in North America have seen this verse carried out in our generation with desperate force. Men of our time knew the truth and yet turned away - turned away not only from the biblical truth but also turned away from the many blessings this brought in every area of culture, including the balance of form and freedom we once had.

      A Post-Christian Culture

      Having turned away from the knowledge given by God, the Christian influence on the whole of culture has been lost. In Europe, including England, it took many years - in the United States only a few decades. In the United States, in the short span from the twenties to the sixties, we have seen a complete shift. Ours is a post-Christian world in which Christianity, not only in the number of Christians but in cultural emphasis and cultural result, is no longer the consensus or ethos of our society.

      Do not take this lightly! It is a horrible thing for a man like myself to look back and see my country and my culture go down the drain in my own lifetime. It is a horrible thing that sixty years ago you could move across this country and almost everyone, even non-Christians, would have known what the gospel was. A horrible thing that fifty to sixty years ago our culture was built on the Christian consensus, and now this is no longer the case. Once again I would refer to Romans 1:21, 22: "although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools."

      Verse 18 tells us of the result of turning away from and rebelling against the truth they know: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness." Man is justly under the wrath of the God who really exists and who deals with men on the basis of his character; and if the justice of that wrath is obvious concerning any generation it is our own. Wrath may come either in the cause and effect of the turning wheels of his- tory, or in the direct action of God.

      There is only one perspective we can have of the post-Christian world of our generation: an understanding that our culture and our country deserves to be under the wrath of God. It will not do to say the United States is God's country in some special way. It will not do to cover up the difference between the consensus today and the Christian consensus that prevailed sixty years ago. The last few generations have trampled upon the truth of the Bible and all that those truths have brought forth.

      Ideas and Actions

      We have seen then that as Bible-believing Christians we are locked in a battle in the area of ideas. But in the area of actions there is a direct parallel. Ideas are never neutral and abstract. Ideas have consequences in the way we live and act, both in our personal lives and in the culture as a whole. We can look again to the first chapter of Romans to see what the consequences of these ideas are in the form of actions:

      Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. . .

      Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:24, 28-32)

      There hardly could be a more fitting description of our own culture today. Bent on the pursuit of autonomous freedom-freedom from any restraint, and especially from God's truth and moral absolutes - our culture has set itself on the course of self-destruction. Autonomous freedom! How the voices of our day cry out! I must be free to kill the child in my womb. I must be free even to kill the newborn child if I don't think he or she measures up to my standards of "quality life." I must be free to desert my husband or wife, and abandon my children. I must be free to commit shameless acts with those of my own sex. The last verse really is frightening when we think of it in relationship to our culture today: "Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."

      And if this is not enough, I would urge you to read the second chapter of 2 Peter. The whole chapter is as accurate a picture of our culture as can be found anywhere - of the knowledge we once had, of the rejection of the truth, of the moral degeneration, and of the judgment that awaits those who have known the truth and turned from it. Thus Peter concludes the chapter:

      For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity - for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and over- come, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred commandment that was passed on to them. (2 Peter 2:18-21)

      Make no mistake. We as Bible-believing evangelical Christians are locked in a battle. This is not a friendly gentleman's discussion. It is a life and death conflict between the spiritual hosts of wickedness and those who claim the name of Christ. It is a conflict on the level of ideas between two fundamentally opposed views of truth and reality. It is a conflict on the level of actions between a complete moral perversion and chaos and God's absolutes. But do we really believe that we are in a life and death battle? Do we really believe that the part we play in the battle has consequences for whether or not men and women will spend eternity in hell? Or whether or not in this life people will live with meaning or meaninglessness? Or whether or not those who do live will live in a climate of moral perversion and degradation? Sadly, we must say that very few in the evangelical world have acted as if these things are true. Rather than trumpet our accomplishments and revel in our growing numbers, it would be closer to the truth to admit that our response has been a disaster.

      The Antithesis of Christian Truth

      In thinking back over what I have said to this point, we have seen that the spirit of the age is autonomous freedom - that is, freedom from all restraints and especially rebellion against God's truth and moral absolutes. And we have seen that over the last sixty years the pursuit of autonomous freedom has undercut the Christian ethos that once had a profound influence in shaping our culture. How did this come about? In one sense we may say that it is due to willful rebellion against God's truth and the revelation of his Word. And we would be right in this. But in another sense the changes which have come flow out of the intellectual and religious history of our culture and the Western world. In a number of my books I have dealt at length with the rise of humanism in the Western world and the devastating effect this has had, and I would encourage you to review this. Here, however, I would refer to just one aspect of this-that is, the influence of the Enlightenment, and how this relates specifically to the shift that has taken place in our country over the last sixty years.

      At the end of the nineteenth century the ideas of the Enlightenment began to have a significant influence upon Christianity in America. Now it is important to understand what the views of the Enlightenment were, for they have left a radical mark upon religion in America up to this day. The Enlightenment was a movement of thought which began to appear in the mid-seventeenth century and reached its most clear-cut form in eighteenth- century Germany. In general, it was an intellectual movement which emphasized the sufficiency of human reason and scepticism concerning the validity of the traditional authority of the past. It is instructive to note exactly how the Enlightenment is defined in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church:

      The Enlightenment combines opposition to all super- natural religion and belief in the all-sufficiency of human reason with an ardent desire to promote the happiness of men in this life. . . Most of its representatives. . . rejected the Christian dogma and were hostile to Catholicism as well as Protestant orthodoxy, which they regarded as powers of spiritual darkness depriving humanity of the use of its rational faculties.

      . . ."Their fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature, which blinded them to the fact of sin, produced an easy optimism and absolute faith of human society once the principles of enlightened reason had been recognized. The spirit of the Enlightenment penetrated deeply into German Protestantism [in the 19th century], where it disintegrated faith in the authority of the Bible and encouraged Biblical criticism on the one hand and an emotional "Pietism" on the other."

      This could be summarized in a few words: The central ideas of the Enlightenment stand in complete antithesis to Christian truth. More than this, they are an attack on God himself and his character.

      In the late nineteenth century it was these ideas which began to radically transform Christianity in America. This started especially with the acceptance of the "higher critical" methods that had been developed in Germany. Using these methods, the new liberal theologians completely undercut the authority of Scripture. We can be thankful for those who argued strenuously against the new methods and in defense of the full inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. One would remember especially the great Princeton theologians A. A. Hodge and B. B. Warfield, and later J. Gresham Machen. But in spite of the efforts of these men and scores of other Bible-believing Christian leaders, and in spite of the fact that the vast majority of lay Christians were truly Bible- believing, those holding the liberal ideas of the Enlightenment and the destructive methods of biblical criticism came into power and control in the denominations. By the 1930s liberalism had swept through most of the denominations and the battle was all but lost.

      The Turning-Point

      Then in the mid 1930s, there occurred an event which I would say marks the turning-point of the century concerning the break- down of our culture. By 1936 the liberals were so in control of the Northern Presbyterian Church that they were able to defrock Dr. J. Greshem Machen. Machen, as I mentioned, had been a brilliant defender of Bible-believing Christianity, as can be seen, for example, in his book entitled Christianity and Liberalism published in 1924. Machen's defrocking and the resulting division of the Northern Presbyterian Church was front-page news in the secular news media in much of the country. (I would just comment that this is something we know nothing about today. In the 1930s religious events were still considered important enough to be front-page news.)

      However much conscious forethought this showed on the editors' and broadcasters' part, this was rightfully page-one news, for it marked the culmination of the drift of the Protestant churches from 1900-1936. It was this drift which laid the base for the cultural, social, moral, legal, and governmental changes from that time to the present. Without this drift in the denominations, I am convinced that the changes in our society over the last fifty years would have produced very different results from what we have now. When the Reformation churches shifted, the Reformation consensus was under cut. A good case could be made that the news about Machen was the most significant U. S. news in the first half of the twentieth century. It was the culmination of a long trend toward liberalism within the Presbyterian Church and represented the same trend in most other denominations. Even if we were only interested in sociology, this change in the churches and the resulting shift of our culture to a post-Christian consensus is important to understand if we are to grasp what is happening in the United States today.

      It is interesting to note that there was a span of approximately eighty years from the time when the higher critical methods originated and became widely accepted in Germany to the disintegration of German culture and the rise of totalitarianism under Hitler.

      The New Consensus

      Do you understand now what the battle is about in the area of culture and ideas? In the last sixty years the consensus upon which our culture was built has shifted from one that was largely Christian (though we must say immediately it was far from perfect) to a consensus growing out of the Enlightenment: that is, to a consensus that stands in total antithesis to Christian truth at every point -including the denial of the supernatural; belief in the all-sufficiency of human reason; the rejection of the fall; denial of the Deity of Christ and his resurrection; belief in the perfectibility of Man; and the destruction of the Bible.

      And with this has come a lit j nearly total moral breakdown. There IS no way to make a synthesis of these ideas and Christian truth. They stand in total antithesis.

      In a number of my other books I have described this new consensus as secular humanism. The Enlightenment world view and the world view of secular humanism really are essentially the same, with the same intellectual heritage. What we have here is a total world view. As I said in A Christian Manifesto, the problems we face today have:

      come about due to a shift in world view - that is through a fundamental change in the overall way people think and view the world and life as a whole. This shift has been away from a world view that was at least vaguely Christian in people's memory (even if they were not individually Christian) toward something completely different - toward a world view based upon the idea that the final reality is impersonal matter or energy shaped into its present form by impersonal chance.

      And if we hold this world view we live in a universe that is ultimately silent, with no meaning and purpose, with no basis for law and morality, with no concept of what it means to be human ;( and of the value of human life. All is relative and arbitrary. And so modem man is left with nothing to fill the void but hedonism or materialism or whatever other "ism" may be blowing in the wind.

      Accommodation

      And now we must ask where we as evangelicals have been in the battle for truth and morality in our culture. Have we as evangelicals been on the front lines contending for the faith and con- fronting the moral breakdown over the last forty to sixty years? Have we even been aware that there is a battle going on-not just a heavenly battle, but a life-and-death struggle over what will happen to men and women and children in both this life and the next? If the truth of the Christian faith is in fact truth, then it stands in antithesis to the ideas and the immorality of our age, and it must be practiced both in teaching and practical action. Truth demands confrontation. It must be loving confrontation, but there must be confrontation nonetheless.

      Sadly we must say that this has seldom happened. Most of the evangelical world has not been active in the battle, or even been able to see that we are in a battle. And when it comes to the issues of the day the evangelical world most often has said nothing; or worse has said nothing different from what the world would say.

      Here is the great evangelical disaster - the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this - namely accommodation: the evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age. First, there has been accommodation on Scripture, so that many who call themselves evangelicals hold a weakened view of the Bible and no longer affirm the truth of all the Bible teaches - truth not only in religious matters but in the areas of science and history and morality. As part of this, many evangelicals are now accepting the higher critical methods in the study of the Bible. Remember, it was these same methods which destroyed the authority of the Bible for the Protestant church in Germany in the last century, and which have destroyed the Bible for the liberal in our own country from the beginning of this century. And second, there has been accommodation on the issues, with no clear stand being taken even on matters of life and death.

      This accommodation has been costly, first in destroying the power of the Scriptures to confront the spirit of our age; second, in allowing the further slide of our culture. Thus we must say with tears that it is the evangelical accommodation to the world spirit around us, to the wisdom of this age, which removes the evangelical church from standing against the further breakdown of our culture. It is my firm belief that when we stand before Jesus Christ, we will find that it has been the weakness and accommodation of the evangelical group on the issues of the day that has been largely responsible for the loss of the Christian ethos -which has taken place in the area of culture in our own country over the last forty to sixty years.

      And let us understand that to accommodate to the world spirit about us in our age is nothing less than the most gross form of worldliness in the proper definition of that word. And with this proper definition of worldliness, we must say with tears that, with exceptions, the evangelical church is worldly and not faithful to the living Christ.

      What Really Matters?

      In concluding this chapter I would ask one final question: What really matters? What is it that matters so much in my life and in your life that it sets the priorities for everything we do? Our Lord Jesus was asked essentially this same question and his reply was:

      "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40)

      Here is what really matters-to love the Lord our God, to love his Son, and to know him personally as our Savior. And if we love him, to do the things that please him; simultaneously to show forth his character of holiness and love in our lives; to be faithful to his truth; to walk day by day with the living Christ; to live a life of prayer.

      And the other half of what really matters is to love our neighbor as ourselves. The two go together; they cannot be separated. "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." Because we love the Lord Jesus Christ and know him personally as our Savior we must, through God's grace, love our neighbor as ourselves. And if we love our neighbor as Christ would have us love our neighbor, we will certainly want to share the gospel with our neighbor; and beyond this we will want to show forth the love of God in all our relationships with our neighbor.

      But it does not stop here. Evangelism is primary, but it is not the end of our work and indeed cannot be separated from the rest of the Christian life. We must acknowledge and then act upon the fact that if Christ is our Savior, he is also our Lord in all of life. He is our Lord not just in religious things and not just in cultural things such as the arts and music, but in our intellectual lives, and in business, and in our relation to society, and in our attitude toward the moral breakdown of our culture. Acknowledging Christ's Lordship and placing ourselves under what is taught in the whole Bible includes thinking and acting as citizens in relation to our government and its laws. Making Christ Lord in our lives means taking a stand in very direct and practical ways against the world spirit of our age as it rolls along claiming to be autonomous, crushing all that we cherish in its path.

      If we truly love our Lord and if we truly love our neighbor, we will ache with compassion for humanity today in our own country and across the world. We must do all we can to help people see the truth of Christianity and accept Christ as Savior. And we must not allow the Bible to be weakened by any compromise in its authority, no matter how subtle the means. This is especially so when those doing this call themselves "evangelical." But we must stand equally against the spirit of our age in the breakdown of morality and the terrible loss of humanness that it has brought. It will mean especially standing for human life and showing by our actions that every life is sacred and worth- while in itself - not only to us as human beings, but precious also to God. Every person is worth fighting for, regardless of whether he is young or old, sick or well, child or adult, born or unborn, or brown, red, yellow, black, or white.

      It is God's life-changing power that is able to touch every individual, who then has the responsibility to touch the world around him with the absolutes found in the Bible. In the end we must realize that the spirit of the age-with all the loss of truth and beauty, and the loss of compassion and humanness that it has brought - is not merely a cultural ill. It is a spiritual ill that the truth given us in the Bible and Christ alone can cure.

      Reference: Praying and Understanding the Times, Francis A. Schaeffer

Back to Francis Schaeffer index.

Loading

Like This Page?


© 1999-2016, oChristian.com. All rights reserved.