Oct 8, 2014

Seeing Francis Schaeffer from a historical distance: 3 quotes

Think for a moment about what the Christian movement, especially its Evangelical wing, was like before Schaeffer came upon the scene in the Sixties. Most believers were unaware that there was such a thing as a 'Biblical World View.' They figured that, aside from Christians being a bit more honest and less immoral than the world and (for fundamentalists) abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, and movies, there did not need to be that much difference between them and non-believers in their whole approach to life. They did not think the intellectual, social, and cultural issues of the day anything they needed to be concerned with. And so they watched the Christian consensus they had come to take for granted evaporate to the point that our Supreme Court was able to legalize the mass murder of unborn children and, until it was too late, they had no idea that it was even happening.

It is hard today to remember how radical Francis Schaeffer was in the Sixties when his call for speaking historic Christianity into the Post-Christian world with intellectual integrity, his call for holistic world-view thinking, and his call for living out 'the lordship of Christ over the total culture' were first sounded.
-- Donald Williams, "True Truth: Francis Schaeffer's Enduring Legacy"
Schaeffer wanted evangelical Americans to become soldiers of history rather than careful students. He was one of the wave of gurus who, like generals of prophets and big personalities before them, offered evangelicals an alternative authority, a rubric of certainty at a time when the consensus on the Bible's status in American culture was shakier than ever. While he inspired some young evangelicals to get to the bottom of the stories he told in pursuing graduate degrees in history and philosophy, on a larger scale Schaeffer's ministry was a grand and clever exercise in anti-intellectualism. 
-- Molly Worthen, Apostles of Reason
Many Christian scholars today criticize Schaeffer, not only because of his reliance on modern rationalism, but even more because his interpretation of the course of western history, what he called 'the flow,' was problematic in its details . . .  
That said, Schaeffer's primary significance is not in a lasting critique of western thought, not in a reasoned apologetic that would necessarily be persuasive today. His arguments have not stood the test of time in terms of their historical veracity or philosophical soundness. He was not the scholar, philosopher, or great theologian that his publishers liked to claim on his book jackets. Rather, Schaeffer is significant primarily because when he came back to the United States in the mid-1960s most American evangelicals were still in the throes of fundamentalist separatism, in which Christian public identity manifested itself primarily in an attempt to shun the secular world. Schaeffer was the most popular and influential American evangelical of his time in reshaping evangelical attitudes toward culture, helping to move evangelicals from separatism to engagement.
-- Barry Hankins, Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America