There is currently (as of September 23, 2006) some questionable statements being written on Wikipedia about Francis Schaeffer. This essay is one response to those statements.

Francis Schaeffer A Dominionist – NOT!

By Allan L. Winger - 1978 Swiss L'Abri Alumni

The Awinger48 User Page gives the date of August 17, 2006 as the day that I first began to really get involved with Wikipedia. I had come upon this online free encyclopedia many times when searching for things through  Wikipedia is a good place to start when doing research on something. It usually has a fairly good summary of the subject. Then it most always provides a list of references to read and online links of websites on the subject to explore.  But just before August 17th, the question came up in my head, “I wonder if they wrote anything about Francis Schaeffer?”

While in the military, stationed in (then) West Germany, I had gone to Swiss L’Abri and stayed for almost a month. I was thirty years old and knew I needed to settle down. The workers at L’Abri, including Francis and Edith Schaeffer, had answered all the hard questions. Now I was living a new life through Jesus Christ mostly because of them.  I have been married for twenty-five years, as of September 26th, and I have two grown children. That would have never happened without L’Abri. I didn’t have the self-confidence to believe that my marriage would last.  I also finished twenty-one years in the military, retiring in 1991. I wouldn’t have stuck with it without L’Abri. And the parts of my life go on in an endless list, things that wouldn’t have been there without that new beginning at Swiss L’Abri in May of 1978. Therefore I consider Francis and Edith Schaeffer to be my “spiritual parents.”

So, when I finally found the Wikipedia article about Francis Schaeffer, frankly I was taken aback. The writers of the article, for one thing, had labeled him “the godfather of Dominionism.”  Then I saw that they were also linking him to R.J. Rushdoony and Christian Reconstructionism.  I had learned from Dr. Charles Ryrie in my classes at Philadelphia College of Bible (now Philadelphia Biblical University) that Rushdoony and his followers believed in theocracy, theonomy, Dominion Theology, and Postmillenialism.  These beliefs are the roots of what these Wikipedia writers call “Dominionism.” This is not Schaeffer.

Schaeffer does not have his roots, nor any of his “branches” for that matter, in what these writers call Dominionism. They may be correct in their writing about the Christian Reconstruction Movement (CRM), but they have misunderstood the teachings of Francis Schaeffer.

First, let’s take a look at where Francis Schaeffer got his Christian Worldview, and that phrase, Christian Worldview, is very important.  For a Christian Worldview encompasses all of your life, not just when you go to church on Sunday or attend a Bible study during the week.  It is what Schaeffer and those who taught him called “the Lordship of Christ over all of life.”  So, for instance, if you go to work each day, and before you get there you put your Christian beliefs “on a shelf” and use secular worldview values and ideas instead for the rest of the day, your Christian Worldview is incomplete. You actually have a secular worldview with some Christianity on the top like veneer.

My daughter will be graduating this December from Philadelphia Biblical University with a degree in Bible and a degree in Business Administration. I asked her last night, “Where in the Bible can you find an important example of being a Christian Business Woman?”  “Well,” she said, “most of what I’ve read in the Bible about women is how they are good wives and stay at home and take care of the kids.”  I opened the Bible and read to her the last major part of Proverbs 31. This tells of a woman who is not just a wife and mother. She also deals with people in the market place. She makes things to sell there, and in doing so her husband and children are very proud of her. “They rise up and call her blessed.”  The light began to come on in my daughter’s head.

So where did Schaeffer’s Christian Worldview come from?  Nancy Pearcey writes the following in her book, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Crossway, 2004):

“Schaeffeer studied at Westminster Theological Seminary under J. Gresham Machen, from whom he learned the Old Princeton tradition of Common Sense realism. He also studied under Cornelius Van Til, from whom he learned the Dutch neo-Calvinism of Kuyper and Dooyeweerd. In addition, after he moved to Europe , he was influenced by the Dutch art professor Hans Rookmaaker, who had come to faith in a Nazi prison camp, where he was tutored by a fellow prisoner, J. P. A. Mekkes, a student of Dooyeweerd. Schaeffer explains how he resolves these two approaches, not so much in theory as in practice, in “A Review of a Review,” The Bible Today,  May 1948, at See also Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, vol. 1 ( Wheaton , Ill. : Crossway, 1982), 137-138. Analyses of Schaeffer’s apologetic method can be found in Gordon Lewis, “Schaeffer’s Apologetic Method,” in Reflections on Francis Schaeffer, ed. Ronald Ruegsegger (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1986); and Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman, Faith Has Its Reasons: An Apologetics Handbook (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001).”

Now someone might say, “Well all you’ve explained so far are the roots of his apologetic method.”  Hello out there. Please read about Kuyper and Dooyeweerd (and hopefully not just in Wikipedia).  For if you do read real references about them and by them, you will run into terms like “Christian Worldview” (Kuyper uses “Christian Life-System”). You will also see terms like “Cultural Mandate” and “Sphere Sovereignty.”  You will see where they taught about the “antithesis” which is the conflict between Christianity and the “secular world,” what we now call “Secular Humanism.”

Others might bring up Schaeffer’s book, A Christian Manifesto (Crossway, 1981).  For the Dominionist watcher Sarah Diamond, this book, and this book alone, seems to be the reason she labels Schaeffer a Dominionist. But did she read the book with an open mind, or did she just read it as source material for a term that she invented (Dominionism). From reading her writings it seems as though she needed to divide all the people involved with the Christian Right, a political movement, into different categories.  I would probably have done the same thing if I had been in her shoes. We need to categorize different political groups so that we have an educated and well informed electorate. But with Schaeffer, it can be proven that she has put him in the wrong category.  There has been too much read into what people think Schaeffer was writing about in A Christian Manifesto. For what this book is mostly about is how to construct a Christian legal foundation for fighting abortion. If you want to call Schaeffer a “godfather,” don’t call him the “godfather of Dominionism.” Call him “the godfather of the anti-abortion movement/Pro Life Movement.”  If you read A Christian Manifesto from that point of view, things will start to fit together in your understanding of Schaeffer’s Christian Worldview.

Much credit needs to be given to these “watchers of Dominionism.”  They may have many things right when they speak of Christian Reconstructionism or Kingdom Now Theology. These are groups that we need to watch. But to throw Schaeffer in with these groups, even as a “soft Dominionist,” is at best misguided.  It is a misunderstanding of the Christian Worldview of Francis Schaeffer. When I went to Swiss L’Abri in 1978, Schaeffer did not teach me his Dominionist theology as Sarah Diamond has written that he taught to students there. He taught me how to see life and live life as my Saviour Jesus Christ did Himself and how Jesus Christ would want me to live.

Francis Schaeffer a Dominionist – NOT!

September 23, 2006
, Pennsylvania  

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