Are Christians Headed For Disaster?

An Interview by Melinda Delahoyde

From Moody Monthly, Vol. 84, July/August 1984, pp. 18-20


Editor's Lead: Francis Schaeffer spoke biblical truth to our secular world for almost three decades. Before his death May 15, he completed his book The Great Evangelical Disaster. At a recent seminar in Lynchburg, Va., Melinda Delahoyde spoke with Schaeffer about his message for the evangelical church.

Interviewer's questions are in bold print.

What is "the great evangelical disaster"?

A large section of evangelicalism has increasingly accommodated the present world spirit rather than using the Bible to judge it. The spirit of our age demands autonomy freedom from every law, every absolute, even autonomy against human nature. There are no moral absolutes in this kind of world; everyone does what he wants to do and says what he wants to say.

When evangelicals accommodate themselves to this kind of thinking, which began with the Enlightenment, they end up bending Scripture to meet the changing, flowing winds of our culture rather than judging culture by the absolutes of Scripture.

When Christians give in to the world spirit that demands autonomy by doing only what feels good and by personalizing all spirituality, then we must say to these people, "Wake up! You are infiltrated by the world spirit. You are worldly."

Such accommodation has been applied to the Bible itself. We find a large number of seminary and college teachers who accommodate their view of the Bible to the surrounding theological view, using an existential methodology of the Bible. This is just neo-orthodoxy presented under the name of evangelicalism.

Can you give other examples of how evangelicals compromise the faith?

Evangelicalism has accommodated at every crucial point in our culture. I mentioned the distortion of Scripture. We have also confused God's kingdom with socialistic programs. Unjust social structures or capitalism are not the cause of evil in our world. Changing economic structures setting up some kind of redistribution system will not stop evil. That kind of thinking is Marxist. For evangelicals to adopt such a line of thought is sheer accommodation to the world.

Another example is the extreme feminism shaping so many attitudes in our society. God created men and women to be equal, but it is equality with a difference. The two complement each other. Yet many in our culture, including evangelicals, are trying to erase that wonderful difference. In the spirit of accommodation, some are bending the Bible to accommodate easy divorce, homosexuality, and the absolute sameness of men and women.

Abortion is the most obvious example of compromise. Evangelicals have been slow to enter this battle because we do not want to legislate morality or we honestly think human life does not begin at conception. Any world view that does not allow us to promote biblical morality has accommodated the secularist myth of neutrality.

Nobody is neutral on abortion; everyone legislates morality on this issue. But for the Christian, there is only one biblical position: Human life begins at conception. Unless we uphold the sanctity of unborn human life, we are denying the truth of Scripture in practice.

You often use the phrase, "Truth brings confrontation." What does this mean for the Bible-believing Christian?

These things start with attitudes. John Wesley used a helpful phrase. When his people got excited about something, he spoke of an "ungodly excitement." That has been a great help in my life. When I get involved in issues I ask myself, "This feeling you have is it loyalty to God, Christ, and Scripture, or are you building an egotistical, ungodly excitement?" Do I make Christians on the other side my enemies, or am I out to help the situation? I must be as blunt as I need to be, but at the same time able to invite these people into my home for tea, to sit down and have a good talk.

But having said this, where there is truth, the opposite is non-truth. We can't just say, "I believe in the truth of God's Word," and sit back while others believe whatever they want. Our loyalty is more than saying we believe certain things. Our loyalty is to Christ and the living God who exists.

This means when an untruth is taught, we point it out as an untruth. Truth does bring confrontation. If we don't realize we should speak out lovingly and clearly against what the Bible condemns, either in doctrine or in morals, can we really believe we love God? We recite creeds and sing away in church services, but I sometimes get shivers down my spine wondering who in the evangelical structure believes what.

There are many things we can disagree about as evangelicals, but what are the essentials?

Although all truth is important, not all things are as high on the hierarchy of truth. Bible-believing Christians of every kind will fall at different places in the spectrum. Things we agree to be non-essential lie somewhere in between, and there will be gray areas where believers disagree.

Practically speaking, let's bring it down to denominational work. Do we go into a Bible-believing church and then make our denominational distinctives an issue?

We must draw clear lines between those churches that are Bible-believing and those that are not. Belief in the whole truth of God's Word is an essential issue. We need to draw the line at our belief in the Bible, not infant baptism versus believer baptism or communion every Sunday versus once a month. So many good churches make the mistake of limiting their usefulness by making denominational distinctives the issue.

What advice and encouragement do you have for believers who want to be radical for the truth, God's truth, in the church?

First, they must have deep spiritual relationships with Christ, not just by marching in the streets. This is what we have to build up in each other. A deep relationship isn't static. We can have it, and we can lose it.

Second, they must realize that the things we are teaching are true. They aren't just personal religious experiences. They are objective truths. What is happening in our nation with legalized abortion and so many abitrary court decisions is more than a little different from the biblical position; it is opposite.

We must understand the enemy and our calling. God has called us to exhibit His love and holiness. We must ask Christ to enable us daily, through the Holy Spirit, to exhibit the existence and character of this God in contrast to the world spirit about us. We are not faced with bits and pieces, but with a total monolithic world view contrary to what the Bible teaches. It has brought with it the destruction of our age.

We teach this God not only because He is truth, but because in Him we find fulfillment as human beings. If God exists and has made us in His image, then when we go against His Word, it is not only sin, but it is also against our highest good. We are not only fighting for an abstract theological truth; we are fighting for our humanity. Once you begin to get this into your bones, then you can really go. Then you can be radical.

Can believers really turn the tide in this battle?

Only God knows. Our job isn't to know if we are going to win; our job is to be faithful. The church has been through many periods when it seemed to be battered to its knees. Those who were faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Scriptures gradually worked for something to come forth. We must trust Christ and the Holy Spirit to bring forth results.

Did Paul lose the battle because he was beheaded? Did the early Christians lose because they died in the arena? Did the Reformers lose because they were killed? Not at all. Our job is to be consistent before the Lord and rest in His hands.

I don't know if this nation is doomed or not. I believe we are under God's judgment after ignoring the light He has given us. If enough Christians fight back and are faithful, who knows, maybe we can see not only the church turned around, but our culture as well. We must pay the price and be willing to be a minority.

I don't know where we are in history. On the other hand, it doesn't matter. Whether the church is going to be saved or if it is too far along the road of accommodation is not the issue. In either case, our job is exactly the sameto love the Lord Jesus, to love the Scriptures, to look to the Holy Spirit for His work in our lives, and then to move on. In faith and hope, I believe we have a chance for real success.

You have a deep love for God's truth and His Word. Would you share from your personal experience?

I don't love this book because it has a leather cover and golden edges. I don't love it as a "holy book." I love it because it is God's book. Through it, the Creator of the universe has told us who He is, how to come to Him through Christ, who we are, and what all reality is. Without the Bible we wouldn't have anything.

It may sound melodramatic, but sometimes in the morning I reach for my Bible and just pat it. I am so thankful for it. If the God who is there had created the earth and then remained silent, we wouldn't know who He is. But the Bible reveals the God who is there; that is why I love it. I don't love the Bible as a book. I love it because of its content and who gave the content. I feel this more strongly, emotionally as well as intellectually, every year that my life passes.

Looking back over 50 years of service to the church, what concluding words do you have for evangelicals?

I have watched the evangelical world grow and grow. Having become the establishment, evangelicals have accommodated the world at almost every turn rather than confront evil. If we do not lovingly draw lines now, it will never get done. I believe this with all my heart.

In its early years, Harvard College believed so seriously in infant baptism that one of the early presidents was put out of office because he did not accept this doctrine. We look back and ask, "Was that an issue over which to draw lines?" But Harvard was probably more intelligently committed to the gospel at its founding than most of our evangelical colleges. If we lost Harvard, we can lose all these colleges too.

What we need is a dividing of the ways. There will be those who won't come along, but we must have others who speak out clearly. This time of division is as important as anything in the past. I vividly remember when the Presbyterian Church split in the '30s. Defrocking Dr. Gresham Machen for his stand against theological liberalism was perhaps the most important sociological event in the first half of the century. It signaled that this church and others were taken over by liberalism. The barrier against sociological breakdown was gone.

Now the evangelical church stands on the bridge. If it can be removed by accommodationsaying the same thing the world says, confusing the kingdom of God with socialistic programs, downplaying human-life issues, or just being silentI think the last sociological barrier is gone.

For the cause of Christ, the church, and the battle in society, what we are talking about is crucial. If we do not courageously confront this spirit of accommodation, if we do not lovingly draw lines in our churches and schools, many evangelical organizations will be lost from Christ's cause forever.