Posts Tagged ‘Francis Schaeffer’

Google Morals

Can you be good without God? There is a Humanist movement that claims you can. And as you can see from the comic above, some think that this is a contradiction of what Christianity teaches. But that’s only true in comics. I’m not aware of any part of Christianity that says that only believers are capable of good deeds. Even the Bible asserts that unbelievers can do good things:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts… – Romans 2:14-15

So, despite the cross in the comic, the Humanists aren’t fighting a Christian doctrine. The Calvinistic doctrine of “total depravity” does not mean that people are as rotten as they possibly can be at all times. It means that there is not one part of man that isn’t corrupted by the fall. Man’s emotions, desires, reason, etc. are all impacted by the fall. So from the Christian point of view, people can do good and can sin whether they believe or not. For the Christian, we don’t trust in those smatterings of good things we do, our evil far outweighs it. The Christian believer trusts that Jesus’ righteousness on his or her behalf is what makes them commendable to God.

I hope I’m clear on that. Now, the real point I wanted to raise is this, “You’re good without God? So what?” If you don’t believe in God and therefore dismiss the Bible and the Koran and any other religious document, how do you define “good”? If there is no external standard, ethics are nothing more than a matter of public opinion. Consider this:

[Marshall McLuhan] says there is coming a time in the global village (not far ahead, in the area of electronics) when we will be able to wire everyone up to a giant computer, and what the computer strikes as the average at that given moment will be what is right and wrong…We have come to this place in our Western culture because man sees himself as beginning from the impersonal, from the energy particle and nothing else. We are left with only statistical ethics, and in that setting, there is simply no such thing as morals. – Francis A. Schaffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent, 23

Schaffer wrote this in the ’70s when there was no concept of the networked computers we have today. But aside from the “giant computer”, he pretty much identified the internet right there. 1Schaffer was extremely insightful, to the point where he sometimes startled himself. In a lecture at Wheaton sometime in the late ’60s he said “I must say at times I frighten myself in my projections, because I’m no prophet, I just know something about our generation and I know these truths of the gospel. But I’ve been overwhelmed at times, scared myself to death at how many times I’ve made projections and they’ve turned out right about what will come next.” The audio is available here. We collectively decide what is right and wrong, good or bad and all we’re left with is popularity and opinion.

So the Humanist says he can be good with no concept of a transcendent God. So you can go along with the median of what is appropriate behavior as defined by the opinion of your peers? That’s almost impressive. Falling in the middle of bell curve ethics is no real achievement, it just means you’re normal. But perhaps they’re talking about people who do really good stuff. Okay, so you fall into a slightly higher percentile. Again, no huge achievement there.

The question is not whether Humanists can be good without God, for a Christian, that’s pretty much a given. The issue is, so what? What do you expect to gain by being “good”? At some point your heart will stop beating and the neurons in your brain will stop firing and you’ll disappear into the black. Your corpse may be celebrated by your friends and admirers but then it will be burned or buried and then… what? Within a few generations no one will remember the “good” you did or even who you were. Or possibly, they will have changed the definition of “good” and what you did will be thought of as evil. And even if they did remember you positively, what does that benefit you? The problem isn’t if you can be good without God. The problem is what is “good” and why be it?

Now, lest you think this is nothing more than Christian presuppositional apologetics 2 (and it is at least that), you need to read the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon asks all of these same questions as he observed life “under the sun” and wondered why bother.

I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. – Ecclesiastes 2:18-19

See? Same thing and this is the Bible speaking. Solomon works hard to build beautiful things and the person who comes after him is an idiot and squanders it. What did that benefit Solomon after his body temperature drops to room temperature? Nothing. His work was for nothing.

If there is no God, then “good” doesn’t exist. You can be nice. You can be approved. You can be liked. You can run with the crowd but you can’t be truly good. You can be normal.

1 Schaffer was extremely insightful, to the point where he sometimes startled himself. In a lecture at Wheaton sometime in the late ’60s he said “I must say at times I frighten myself in my projections, because I’m no prophet, I just know something about our generation and I know these truths of the gospel. But I’ve been overwhelmed at times, scared myself to death at how many times I’ve made projections and they’ve turned out right about what will come next.” The audio is available here.

That Cheap Carnival Ride

To be clear, I wouldn’t vote for Michelle Bachmann if she were the only candidate in the 2012 presidential race. I’m not pleased with the Tea Party. They have a single approach to economics that doesn’t take into consideration the environment it is to be applied in. There are other issues that I believe are important that the Tea Party leaves out so they can get consensus on their misguided economic policy. And, they misunderstand Ronald Reagan and his economic approach. I’m not sure I can forgive them for the last one. Are we clear? Good.

That said, I was kind of surprised when I read “Leap of Faith” by Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker the other day. It paints Bachmann and her beliefs in the worst possible way. But when Lizza got to Francis Schaeffer, I knew for sure that there was a six week dead chipmunk in the middle of the article. Don’t bother reading it, it is far too long at 8,300 words and if the length doesn’t get you, you’ll surely get motion sick from the heavy amount of spin and the out and out distortions are similar to those mirrors that make you look tall and skinny or short and round. Yes, it is that cheap of a carnival ride.

I was very happy to see someone take Lizza to task for his distortions of Schaeffer. Joe Carter at First Things points out the nature of the distortions without subjecting us to each and every one. Here’s a clever way Carter clues us in to the hatchet job:

Did you know that in a speech about her family moving to Iowa in 1857 she confused a plague of grasshoppers with a plague of locusts? Yes, you and I know that locusts are grasshoppers; Lizza and the New Yorker fact checkers probably do too. But if you put the words in scare quotes and imply that they are different you can give the impression that Bachmann somehow made a mistake.

From there Carter gets into the glaring errors Lizza and The New Yorker made when it comes to presenting what Schaeffer taught and believed. Carter finishes by schooling them with four lessons on journalism. I hope someone important at The New Yorker read them and took them to heart.

I’m not going to touch the Newsweek hatchet job so don’t ask. There was a time when Newsweek was a fairly reputable news outlet but in the past few years they’ve traded journalistic integrity for sensationalism. It is almost as if they’re adopting a National Inquirer approach in order to remain in print. It has gotten so bad that NOW defended Bachmann for the cover photo Newsweek chose of her.

Beware Modern Media

We should realize that if something untrue or immoral is stated in great art it can be far more destructive and devastating than if it is expressed in poor art or prosaic statement…But the greater the artistic expression, the more important it is to consciously bring it and its world view under the judgment of Christ and the Bible.

The common reaction among many, however, is just the opposite. Ordinarily, many seem to feel that the greater the art, the less we ought to be critical of its world view. This we must reverse. – Francis Schaeffer, Perspectives on Art

Schaeffer on Imago Dei

What differentiates Adam and Eve from the rest of creation? We find the answer in Genesis 1:26: “And God said, Let us make man in our image….” What differentiates Adam and Eve from the rest of creation is that they were created in the image of God. For twentieth-century man this phrase, the image of God, is as important as anything in Scripture, because men today can no longer answer that crucial question, “Who am I?” In his own naturalistic theories, with the uniformity of cause and effect in a closed system, with an evolutionary concept of a mechanical, chance parade from the atom to man, man has lost his unique identity. As he looks out upon the world, as he faces the machine, he cannot tell himself from what he faces. He cannot distinguish himself from other things…

It is on the basis of being made in the image of God that everything is open to man. Suddenly, personality does not slip through my fingers. I understand the possibility of fellowship and of personality. I understand that because I am made in the image of God and because God is personal, both a personal relationship with God and the concept of fellowship as fellowship has validity…

Furthermore, if we are made in the image of God, we are not confused as to the possibility of communication; and we are not confused concerning the possibility of revelation, for God can reveal propositional truth to me as I am made in his image. Finally (as theologians have long pointed out), if man is made in the image of God, the Incarnation, though it has mysteries, is not foolishness. The Incarnation is not irrational as it surely is if man sees himself as only the finite in face-to-face relationship with a philosophic other. – Francis A. Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, 46-48