Francis Schaeffer's Shortsighted Bottom Line

“In A Christian Manifesto, one of the most influential books written in the twentieth century, theologian and philosopher Francis Schaeffer revived the traditional Christian view of civil disobedience that Christians must obey God rather than men when forced to choose between fundamental Christian principles and the dictates of the state (see Act 4:19) … .

“Writing at the height of the Cold War in 1981, Schaeffer drew from the persecution of Christians by communist atheists in the Soviet Union to argue that his ‘bottom line’ of Christian civil disobedience extended to America. Schaeffer perceived that the American government acted largely in support of the interests of an elite minority of secular humanists and atheists who were intent on imposing immoral values such as the practice of abortion, among others, on an acquiescent and predominantly Christian populace. Schaeffer was disturbed that Christians would stand by quietly without protesting or even resisting the imposition of secular humanism in all facets of society, and he sought to use the book to rally this reluctant ‘moral majority’ to action, and indirectly to applaud and buttress Jerry Falwell’s efforts.

“Where Schaeffer’s thesis became rather radical — and to him, admittedly ‘scary’ — was his suggestion that if painstaking, incremental attempts at political or legal change through civil-disobedient protests were unsuccessful, Christians were obligated to resist, even to death by revolting and abolishing the current government (pp. 127–28). This radical effort would bring about what Schaeffer believed was the ideal government supposedly envisioned by the nation’s founders.”

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Featured in: June 2014