Schaeffer’s Warning

Christians love truth. We love truth because the God of the Bible is God is the God of truth. We are not post-modernists who claim there is no truth, or that one person can have one “truth” while another their own “truth.” Rather, the Christian worldview is a cohesive consistent truth abiding worldview.

Recently I was reading Francis Shaeffer’s book ‘A Christian Manifesto.’ A truly prophetic work by Schaeffer written as a sort of response to the early manifestations of The Humanist Manifesto. Schaeffer’s premise is perhaps best summarized in a short quote at the end of chapter 9 where he says:

It is not too strong to say that we are at war, and there are no neutral parties in the struggle. One either confesses that God is the final authority, or one confesses that Caesar is Lord.

Francis Shaeffer. A Christian Manifesto

Throughout the book he continues to challenge the Christian to recognize the Humanist Worldview & Agenda alla round them, and how that worldview is in direct odds with the Christian worldview. He challenges Christians to not sit idly by while their institutions are taken over by Humanistic irrational thinking, but rather to push back in love and truth. He challenges Christians everywhere to take their Christian worldview out of the pew and into the institutions of culture in order to reform culture.

This “war” as he refers to it has any number of battles that must be fought both prayerfully and courageously. I want to focus in one particular battle, and that is the battle over our media. At one point in his manifesto Schaeffer is describing the problem with the media of his day. He writes the following:

“We must realize that things can easily be presented on television so that the perception of a thing may be quite different from the fact itself. Television not only reports political happenings, it enters actively into the political process… We must realize that the communications media functions much like the unelected federal bureaucracy. They are so powerful that they act as if they were the fourth branch of government in the United States… In the midst of all this Christians must certainly not uncritically accept what they read, and especially what they see on television, as objective.”

Francis Schaeffer. A Christian Manifesto. Page 61

The reality is that the media landscape that we live in today is vastly more complicated than the media landscape of Schaeffer’s day. Yet his premise is not only still accurate, but is even more poignant today. In my work as a Pastor I increasingly find that I have to help faithful Christians deconstruct false worldviews that have slowly built up over time, in order to help lay a correct Biblical worldview. This is some of the harder work of work of discipleship, because it is very difficult to come to terms with the reality that we have believed inaccurate claims. It takes great humility to allow oneself to be reformed in their thinking. But this is the work Christians must get after.

Many Christians today truly believe that their Christian faith is simply a matter of private belief and is not intended to have impact on the world they live in meaningfully (i.e. changing institutions). As a result many Christians have adopted a very small vision of the Kingdom of God, a hyper-spiritualized theology of the Kingdom of God. We have forgotten Jesus words when he taught us how to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.” Our desire as Christians is not to see the world around us descend into secular godlessness, but our great desire is to see the world around us come to know Jesus, and honor Jesus and His word in all areas of society. Wouldn’t a world where all the institutions of culture honor Christ and implement his law be great? Yes — says the Christian.

I agree with Schaeffer that one of the greatest problems I see impacting how we think about issues like these is our unwillingness to think critically about the various voices we consume on any given day through our media. We must relearn to think critically. We must accept the fact that the media we consume is not unbiased. They too know they are at war. The weapons of their warfare are subtle and deceptive, like angels of darkness posing as angels of light. One must only watch the Social Dilemma to understand the war we are in.

This does not mean to abandon all media – though limiting some media will likely be necessary. Rather we must learn to evaluate the inputs we receive and then make personal decisions about the validity of someone else’s claim based on the standard of truth. Just because somebody wrote a book, does not mean the contents of that book are true. Just because somebody has a large following, does not mean their ideas are worth listening to. Just because someone claims to be a news reporter does not mean they are unbiased towards the story they are reporting. And just because a show or a network is popular does not mean they advocate a worldview built on truth.

Our Media is only one of the battlegrounds where the war is being fought. Jesus said, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” What is needed more than ever is right minded Christians who love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength who know how to be wise as serpents. Christians who are equipped to stand confidently on the word of God and actually fight back intellectually and lovingly. Warning — this will make you uncomfortable and unpopular in the short run. But if we continue steadfastly, and become known as people who drip with love and grace, and who’s lives are marked by consistency and humility, I believe the Spirit will work through your life to redeem culture around you.

I’m grateful for Schaeffer’s boldness and courage. We need some more of that today.

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