Since Christians have the truth—the truth of salvation from the One who is the Truth of total reality—it is our duty to be heralding not merely the truth for individual salvation but also the truth for right living in society. Schaeffer is calling for believers to submit to the lordship of Christ over our own thinking (teaching), over our own individual lifestyles (life), and over our interactions with the world (actions). Believers must teach and live and act in such a way that we demonstrate for the world Christ’s lordship over all things.
Looking back at the forty plus years since I was first introduced to his publications, it turns out that Francis Schaeffer is someone whose thinking and writing (and perhaps even lifestyle) have had a formative impact on the scholarship, life, and ministry of so many, including myself. He was a person who thought clearly about the Christian faith, and he clearly thought that the individual Christian’s thinking, speaking, and behavior should be impacted at every level by the lordship of Jesus Christ. And if it is real, one’s faith cannot help but influence—even motivate—how one interacts with the surrounding world and culture.
The world and culture surrounding Schaeffer in the mid- to late-20th century unmistakably shaped the clarion call he issued in his 1981 A Christian Manifesto. In its pages are references to several social, cultural, and political circumstances swirling in the Western society of his day. Nevertheless, Schaeffer’s exhortation to Christians and Christian leaders remains applicable even four decades later. With some updated language and changes of illustrations in a few places, A Christian Manifesto would be a fine contemporary challenge to true Christian living even where we are today.
My intention here is to offer a few reflections on the final chapter of A Christian Manifesto: “By Teaching, By Life, By Action.” This chapter is the briefest segment of the book, and as one might expect, it pulls the strands of the book together into a snugly knotted plea. The chapter’s title comes from Schaeffer’s last line of the volume, just prior to his citations of Isaiah 59:12–16a and Revelation 3:2 and just after a summary of his manifesto regarding the Christian worldview: “It is the responsibility of those holding this view to show it to be unique (the truth of total reality) for individual salvation and for society—by teaching, by life, and by action” (137). This closing summary statement provides a natural outline for my few, intertwined reflections.
First, Schaeffer declares that those individuals holding to the Christian worldview have a responsibility to guard and demonstrate that worldview. Believers are to recover the universality of the Christian worldview over all of life and not merely bits and pieces of it. Unfortunately, by allowing in its teaching for an improper sacred/secular dichotomy, practical Christianity has unwittingly contributed to society’s shift away from the true, person-oriented worldview to the current, impersonal energy-material-chance worldview that is dominant in the public square. We have failed in our teaching about what is really true, and we must return to properly representing Christianity as a total life view—to ourselves and to the believers in our circles of influence. We never leave our Christianity at the door, whether in a boardroom, a classroom, or a bathroom.
This unfolds into my second point. As is the case for every worldview, the Christian worldview lays claim to be the truth about all of total reality. Religions are, by definition, worldviews about all of reality and not social clubs gathered around preferential views regarding cultural practices.