The church must declare, as Scripture does, the total lordship of Christ who is the King of kings (Rev. 1:5). To deny this is to neuter the person and work of Christ. It is to neuter the good news. We must read Schaeffer because he calls us back to biblical faithfulness and a cultural engagement rooted in worldview formation.
Editor’s Note: Crossway Publishers is graciously providing a free pdf copy of A Christian Manifesto to readers of Christ Over All for the month of October. Interested readers can access the link here.
Published in 1981, A Christian Manifesto reads like a forty-year-old prophecy come true. In it, Francis Schaeffer exposes the underlying issue of a society and a church that is adrift: “The basic problem of the Christians in this country . . . is that they have seen things in bits and pieces instead of totals” (17). To rephrase, Christians believe in bits and pieces of Christian truth, like the death and resurrection of Christ, but they fail to integrate that truth into a total view of life. With no worldview foundation, the church is left wandering and paralyzed in this chaotic age, unable to make sense of the larger picture.
The data on Christians and worldview thinking is striking. Recently, one study found only 37% of professing Christian pastors (!) have a biblical worldview. Such a finding is like learning only 37% percent of math teachers know the basics of multiplication. If you don’t know it, you’re not qualified for the job.
Such an alarming revelation should become a rallying cry to recapture a biblical worldview both in the pulpit and the pew. Sadly, the response is one of general apathy. For many Christian leaders, worldview training is optional because they misunderstand what it is.
Many Christians reduce worldview training to apologetics or dealing with various –isms. Such a task can seem overwhelming with endless arguments, facts, and thinkers to know. Such details are needful, but the discipline is much simpler. The biblical worldview simply integrates the doctrines of the faith to build a total view of reality. The biblical worldview is a synonym for the Christian faith.
Worldview thinking calls believers to live and think biblically throughout all of life. The framework of the Christian worldview is the storyline of Scripture—creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. The heart of the Christian worldview is the supremacy of Christ displayed in his universal Lordship (Col. 1:15–20). When rightly understood, worldview formation is vital and inescapable for Christian ministry.
How, then, did so many in the church lose the biblical worldview? Schaeffer demonstrates the problem by pointing to our inability to think in totals. Christians are concerned about isolated issues, but we fail to capture the heart of the problem. Schaeffer lists common concerns from the 1980s—pornography, abortion, the breakdown of the family (17). These are the bits and pieces that consumed his time and ours. Sadly, such issues remain critical today. Only we must add to his list—gender theory, LGBTQ issues, critical race theory, and a resurgent Marxism. These issues are merely symptoms of a deeper conflict between worldviews. But why are we stuck thinking in bits and pieces?
Two Culprits: Humanism and Pietism
A Christian Manifesto offers a Christian philosophy of government. Schaeffer uses the realm of government to make his point about how fragmented our thinking has become. Unlike any other part of life, to bring religion into the realms of government is off-limits. If someone dares to do so, let alone a pastor, they will be met with disgust from both inside and outside of the church. Today, such arguments will be written off as “Christian nationalism,” whatever that means. Yet, Scripture addresses all of life, including the political realm. Schaeffer identifies two culprits that direct us to think in bits and pieces—humanism and pietism.