A Christian Manifesto (Book Review)

Book Review by Michael Dolim

A CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO
by Francis A. Schaeffer

The basic problem of the Christians in this country in the last eighty years or so, in regard to society and in regard to government, is that they have seen things in bits and pieces instead of totals.  They have very gradually become disturbed over permissiveness, pornography, the public schools, the breakdown of the family, and finally abortion. But they have not seen this as a totality – each thing being a part, a symptom,  of a much larger problem. They have failed to see that all of this has 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 beenAWAY 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. They have not seen that this world view has taken the place of the one that had previously dominated Northern European culture, including the United States, which was at least Christian in memory, even if the individuals were not individually Christian.

These two world views stand as totals in complete antithesis to each other in content and also in their natural results – including sociological and governmental results, and specifically including law. It is not that these two world views are different only in how they understand the nature of reality and existence. They also inevitably produce totally different results. The operative word here is INEVITABLY. It is not just that they happen to bring forth different results, but it is absolutely INEVITABLE that they will bring forth different results.

Why have the Christians been so slow to understand this? There are various reasons but the central one is a defective view of Christianity. This has its roots in the Pietist movement under the leadership of P.J. Spener in the 17th century. Pietism began as a healthy protest against formalism and a too abstract Christianity. But it had a deficient, “platonic” spirituality. It was platonic in the sense that Pietism made a sharp division between the “spiritual” and the “material” world – giving little, or no, importance to the
“material” world. The totality of human existence was not afforded a proper place. In particular it neglected the intellectual dimension of Christianity.

True spirituality covers all of reality. There are things the Bible tells us as absolutes which are sinful – which do not conform to the character of God. But aside from these the Lordship of Christ covers ALL of life and ALL of life equally. It is not only that true spirituality covers all of life, but it covers all parts of the
spectrum of life equally. In this sense there is nothing concerning reality that is not spiritual.

When I say Christianity is true I mean it is true to total reality – the total of what is, beginning with the central reality, the objective existence of the personal – infinite God. Christianity is not just a series of truths but Truth – Truth about all of reality.  And the holding to that Truth intellectually – and then in some poor way living upon that Truth, the Truth of what is – brings forth not only certain personal results, but also governmental and legal results.

Now let’s go over to the other side – to those who hold the materialistic final reality concept. They saw the complete and total difference between the two positions more quickly than Christians. There were the Huxleys, George Bernard Shaw, and many others who understood a long time ago that there are two total concepts of reality and that it was one total reality against the other and not just a set of isolated and separated differences. The Humanist Manifesto 1, published in 1933, showed with crystal clarity their
comprehension of the totality of what is involved. It was to our shame that Julian and Aldous Huxley, and the others like them, understood much earlier than Christians that these two world views are two total concepts of reality standing in antithesis to each other.  We should be utterly ashamed that this is the fact.

There is no way to mix these two total world views. They are separate entities that cannot be synthesized. Yet we must say that liberal theology, the very essence of it from its beginning, is an attempt to mix the two. Liberal theology tried to bring forth a mixture soon after the Enlightenment and has tried to synthesize these two views right up to our own day. But in each case when the chips are down these liberal theologians have always come down, as naturally as a ship coming into home port, on the side of the nonreligious humanist. They do this with certainty because what their liberal theology really is humanism expressed in theological terms instead of philosophic or other terms.

HUMANITARIANISM is being kind and helpful to people, treating people more humanly. The HUMANITIES are the studies of literature, art, music, etc. – those things which are the products of human
creativity. HUMANISM is the placing of Man at the center of all things. Thus, Christians should be the most humanitarian of all people. And Christians certainly should be interested in the humanities as the product of human creativity, made possible because people are uniquely made in the image of the great Creator.

Those who hold the material – energy, chance concept of reality, whether they are Marxist or non-Marxist, not only do not know the truth of the final reality, God, they do not know who Man is. Their concept of Man is what Man is not, just as their concept of the final reality is what the final reality is not. Since their concept of Man is mistaken, their concept of society and of law is mistaken, and they have no sufficient base for either society or law.

They have reduced Man to even less than his natural finiteness by seeing him only as a complex arrangement of molecules, made complex by blind chance. Instead of seeing him as something great who is
significant even in his sinning, they see Man in his essence only as an intrinsically competitive animal, that has no other basic operating principle than natural selection brought about by the strongest, the fittest, ending on top.

The problem always was, and is, What is an adequate base for law?  What is adequate so that the human aspiration for freedom can exist without anarchy, and yet provides a form that will not become arbitrary tyranny? The humanists push for “freedom,” but having no Christian consensus to contain it, that “freedom” leads to chaos or to slavery under the state (or under an elite). Humanism, with its lack of ANY final base for values or law, always leads to chaos. The men who wrote our constitution really knew what they were doing. We are not reading back into history what was not there. We cannot say too strongly they they really understood the basis of the government which they were founding.

Think of this great flaming phrase: “certain inalienable rights.” Who gives the rights? The state? Then they are not inalienable because the state can change them and take them away. Where do the rights come from? They understood that they were founding the country upon the concept that goes back into the Judeo-Christian thinking that there is Someone there who gave the inalienable rights. Another phrase stood there: “In God We Trust.” With this there is no confusion of what they were talking about. They publicly recognized that the law could be king because there was a Law Giver, a Person to give the inalienable rights.

When the First Amendment was passed it only had two purposes. The first purpose was that there would be no established, national church for the united thirteen states. To say it another way: There would be no Church of the United States. James Madison clearly articulated this concept of separation when explaining the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty. He said that the First Amendment to the Constitution was prompted because “the people feared one sect might obtain a preeminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform.  “Nevertheless, a number of the individual states had state churches, and even that was not considered in conflict with the First Amendment. In all but one of the thirteen states, the states taxed the people to support the preaching of the gospel and to build churches.

The second purpose of the First Amendment was the very opposite from what is being made of it today. It states expressly that government should not impede or interfere with the free practice of religion.

Today the separation of church and state in America is used to silence the church. The modern concept is an argument for a total separation of religion from the state. The consequence of the acceptance of this doctrine leads to the removal of religion as an influence in civil government. It is used today as a false political dictum in order to restrict the influence of Christian ideas. We live in a secularized society and in a secularized, sociological law. By sociological law we mean law that has no fixed base but law in which a
group of people decides what is sociologically good for society at the given moment; and what they arbitrarily decide becomes law.

As the new sociological law has moved away from the original base of the Creator giving the “inalienable rights” etc., it has been natural that this sociological law has then also moved away from the Constitution. At this moment we are in a humanistic culture, but we are happily not in a totally humanistic culture. But what we must realize is that the drift has been all in this direction. If it is not turned around we will move very rapidly into a TOTALLY humanistic culture.

If we are going to join the battle in a way that has any hope of effectiveness – with Christians truly being salt and the light in our culture and our society – then we must do battle on the entire front.  We must not finally even battle on the front for freedom, and specifically not only OUR freedom. It must be on the basis of Truth.  Not just religious truths, but the Truth of what the final reality is.  Finney in his book ‘Systematic Theology’ on page 158 has a heading: “I propose now to make several remarks respecting forms of government, the right and duty of revolution.” Do note his phrase “The right and duty of revolution.” On page 162 he says: “There can scarcely be conceived a more abominable and fiendish maxim than ‘our country right or wrong.'” He then goes on to stress that not everything the government does is to be supported, and he includes the Mexican War and slavery. On page 157 he says: “Arbitrary legislation can never be really obligatory.”

What is ahead of us? I would suggest that we must have Two Tracks in mind. The First Track is the fact of the conservative swing in the United States in the 1980 election. With this there is at this moment a unique window open in the United States. It is unique because it is a long, long time since that window has been open as it is now. And let us hope that the window stays open, and not just one issue, even one as important as human life – though certainly every Christian ought to be praying and working to nullify the abominable abortion law. But as we work and pray, we should have in mind not only this important issue as though it stood alone. Rather, we should be struggling and praying that this whole other total entity – the
material – energy, chance world view – can be rolled back with all its results across all of life. I work, I pray that indeed the window does stay open. I hope that will be the case.

The Second Track is, What happens in this country if the window does not stay open? What then? Thinking this way does not mean that we stop doing all we can to keep the window open. Nevertheless some people must be thinking about what to do if the window closes.

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