“A Christian Manifesto”: A Review Article -- By: W. Merwin Forbes

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 04:2 (Fall 1983)
Article: “A Christian Manifesto”: A Review Article
Author: W. Merwin Forbes

“A Christian Manifesto”:
A Review Article

W. Merwin Forbes

A Christian Manifesto, by Francis A. Schaeffer, Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1981. Pp. 157. $5.95. Paper.

There are few writers in recent evangelical Christian history and circles who have had a sustained and significant impact, as has Francis Schaeffer. It is difficult to imagine anyone in the Christian reading public who has not been affected in some way by one or more of the important works by this popular and leading voice of Christianity. This very fact causes this reviewer to be a bit disconcerted about the possible and probable impact of A Christian Manifesto. If the reader comes to this volume in an uncritical fashion, perhaps thinking that Schaeffer’s scholarship and conclusions concerning contemporary issues are always sound and above critique, then such a reader will run the risk of having been seduced by the mystique of the Schaefferian cult.

The first reading of this book left me very uneasy. Subsequent readings have added to the uneasiness, as the assumptions, dependence upon certain selected sources, and nearly total lack of dealing with the biblical data have been discerned. Before the disappointing portions are reviewed, it is important to survey Schaeffer’s burden and many valuable thoughts.

Schaeffer begins his treatise by lamenting that Christians have tunnel vision. They typically miss the forest for the trees. They have the capacity to become exercised over specific issues (e.g., abortion, pornography, homosexuality, prayer in public schools), but they have failed to see the whole fabric being woven, the total world view that is being developed. This shift in world views Schaeffer characterizes as “impersonal matter or energy shaped into its present form by impersonal chance” (p. 18). This world view is not only different from the Christian one, it is antithetical and antagonistic to it. Schaeffer correctly assesses that these two world views utterly oppose one another, both in content and results. This “us versus them” characterization is repeated throughout the book.

An attendant problem which Schaeffer addresses is that Christians must bear their share of the responsibility for the burgeoning development and current dominance of the material-energy chance view. Owing to its own excessive attachment to pietism and its persistent platonic dichotomizing between the material and spiritual worlds, Christians have systematically failed

to see the totality of human existence. Particularly, the intellectual dimension has been neglected (pp. 18-19). Schaeffer ably sounds an urgent plea for Christians to return to a thorough-going Chris...

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