These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe…so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands…(Deuteronomy 6:1,2)
He was one of his era’s most perceptive observers of cultural macro-trends. And what he witnessed caused him to thunder against societal drift with the ire of a biblical prophet.
When he died in 1984, Francis Schaeffer was identified as one of the most influential Christian thinkers and apologists of the 20th century.
In the 1950s, Schaeffer was among the first to recognize, “Our generation is overwhelmingly naturalistic” – something that was conceded by liberals and conservatives alike by the end of the century.
Schaeffer identified naturalism as a worldview that saw all actions and events within a closed system without any possibility of intervention from outside. The result left no room for an effect unexplained by a natural cause.
By definition, naturalism only recognized truth that was supported by empirical analysis and said to be in step with science. It excluded anything extra-natural – or supernatural.
Consequently, naturalism is on an obvious and unavoidable collision-course with a biblical worldview
And today, that explains why Christians increasingly see long-held moral positions progressively at odds with the changing social positions of western culture.
Schaeffer illustrated the 2 worldviews – naturalism only on one hand, contrasted with that recognizing the existence of the supernatural – by 2 chairs.
Worldviews are like bellybuttons: everybody has one, even if they can’t articulate it.
And in this broad categorization, every person sits in one chair or the other. The apprehension of truth and the perception of reality is filtered through one or the other worldview lens.
There is no middle ground. No third option.
Against that backdrop – a naturalism-only worldview, over against a worldview allowing for that which nature cannot explain – our default reaction to many societal and cultural issues of the day is determined.
There may never have been a time when moral issues have evolved with as much velocity as we are experiencing in the early decades of the 21st century.
As a result, a biblically-informed worldview is progressively more incongruent with the naturalism of the age.
For the naturalist, because the God of the Bible does not exist (or at least is uninvolved in the affairs of life), there is no such thing as authoritative, objective moral values. No authority exists (with the possible exception of government) which can impose a moral standard of behaviour.
The Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky (died 1881) observed, “If God does not exist, everything is permissible.” His point: without an ultimate Moral Authority everything becomes simply a matter of preference, or the will of the strongest, or the convenience of the majority. Nothing in the realm of ethical imperative is absolute.
That is obvious in our day.
Take for example contemporary views of sexuality.
Many object to concrete limitations on personal expression. There is therefore little dissent to breaches of long-held sexual mores.
Marriage is defined however the individual or couple choose to define it. And as western governments seek to follow where their citizens lead, marriage is recognized by the state – for the first time in human history – as heterosexual, homosexual, or involving the transgendered.
But wait – it gets more confusing.
Last year, the New York City Commission on Human Rights released a list of 31 genders approved by the city.
And sexual activity – not only condoned, but encouraged – occurs between persons of any gender, or transgender.
Like avante-gard fashion sense, any mixing and matching is permissible, even desirable.
But the Bible maintains in its first chapter “male and female created He them”. And the Scripture has the audacity to declare that not only is our gender determined by our Creator, but He is the One who designed and ordained marriage to be heterosexual.
Schaeffer warned that not only is a naturalist viewpoint ultimately fragmented and incoherent, but it produces a morally bankrupt worldview with horrifically damaging consequence – now and in eternity.
The Bible declares that whether people acknowledge Him or not, God is sovereign over the theist, the agnostic, and the atheist.
His law is universal, in every place and every era.
Ethics – the “oughtness” of right and wrong – are rooted and grounded in His character.
His sexual ethic is absolute: within monogamous heterosexual marriage. Only then can His blessing be expected.
Takeaway: For objective, universal ethics to exist, God must exist.
And despite the efforts of western government and the judiciary to prove to the contrary, objective universal ethics do exist because God is.
Schaeffer said that every prior generation understood the necessity of a symmetrical worldview: that which is natural, together with that which cannot be explained by nature – the supernatural.
His conclusion “From the Christian view-point, no man has ever been so naïve, nor so ignorant of the universe, as the 20th century man.”
If he were still living, what on earth would he conclude about the 21st century?