I recently watched, once again, a video presentation of Dr. Francis Schaeffer‘s last public meeting before he died in 1984. I was stunned, again, by the precision of his insights into his era, and ours. Dr. Schaeffer’s last two books, The Great Evangelical Disaster and A Christian Manifesto, were nothing short of prophetic.
As he approached his death, after fifty years of his ministry, he observed that Evangelicalism over that time could be summarized primarily by one term: Accommodation. There is a syncretism, a relativism within the Western church that accepts and capitulates to the trends of the secular society around it. Dr. Schaeffer had pointed out in his previous book, The God Who Is There, that the true, confessing Church is the last holdout against despair in any given culture. The gospel has a restraining influence on a culture, like a dam holding back the flood of secularism.
When worldliness and accommodation have infiltrated the church, a culture has gone as low as it can go morally. Dr. Schaeffer summarized the evangelical situation in 1984 by saying, “The grossest form of worldliness is conforming to the form of worldliness that exists in it’s own generation. If that is true, then we must say that Evangelicalism is as worldly as it can possibly be!”
What Should We Then Do?
The solution given at that time was that young evangelicals (and old ones) should rise up and confront the worldly church with the truth of God’s Word. (John 17:3, 2 Thess. 3:14-15) More than trying to change the culture, Dr. Schaeffer said the more immediate task at hand was to seek reformation within the church.
After Schaeffer’s death, there was an increase in young Christian leaders who really understood the importance of, as Schaeffer would say, “The lordship of Jesus Christ over the totality of life.” Many, if not most, of the ministries that are really making an impact in our world today were inspired, to a great extent, by the message of Francis Schaeffer.
In our day, we see passing on of many of the older leaders in the Christian world. In recent memory we’ve seen the home-goings of leaders like Adrian Rogers, Charles Colson, Jerry Falwell, Elisabeth Elliot, D. James Kennedy, and others. Who will take the baton in the next generation and carry the truth of the gospel without compromise?
Truth is, by definition, exclusive. To claim that something is true, the antithesis of it must be, according to the Law of Non-Contradiction, false. When the church in our age is promoting ideas that are against the clear teaching of Scripture, we must have confrontation. To quote Dr. Schaeffer, we need confrontation, “Loving confrontation, but genuine confrontation, nonetheless.” To accommodate and capitulate to the winds of change around us is only to hasten our own cultural demise.
As Martin Luther once said, if we represent Christ at every area, except that area where the battle most fiercely rages, we have not truly represented Christ. In Luther’s day the battles were superstition, the belief in papal infallibility, the selling of indulgences and a refusal to allow the Word of God to be read by the common man (among other things). In J. Gresham Machen‘s day it was against Modernism and theological liberalism being smuggled into seminaries from Germany under the guise of “Higher Criticism.” In Schaeffer’s day it was radical feminism and a loss of a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture (among other things). In our day it is the acceptance of homosexuality, a refusal to preach against sin, Pragmatism through church growth efforts, and the loss of holy living, to name just a few problems.
So, let’s bring this down to “the brass tacks” as C.S. Lewis was fond of saying. What does this mean to you? Have you allowed ungodly worldviews to permeate your own thought processes? In what ways has your church accommodated to the thinking and methods of the world? In what ways has your denomination failed to uphold the truths of Scripture? In what ways are your Christian friends promoting ideas and living lifestyles that are contradictory to the directives of God’s word? What are you doing about it? You obviously can’t make other people do the right thing, but you can (and must) speak the truth…in love. (Eph. 4:15)