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How Should We Then Live? Dr Schaeffer Revisited
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How Should We Then Live? Dr Schaeffer Revisited

Mar 15, 2011 No Comments by

Dr Francis A. Schaeffer

Recently I began rereading “How Should We Then Live” a classic, philosophical, even prophetic insight by Dr Francis Schaeffer, first published November, 1975. The book and associated DVD remains a classic. (You can actually watch it on Youtube). He subtitled his study ‘The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture” and reading it underlines the authenticity of his wisdom.

To describe the majestic Divine Person, Schaeffer coined the appropriate phrase ‘The God who is there.’ (The obvious inference being that the others are not!)

He pointed to the influence of art, music, literature and film. Forty plus years ago Schaeffer observed non-Christian influences were penetrating art, music, drama, theology and mass media. He concluded that the result was that ‘values died,’ meaning absolute, biblical values.

“People are left with no basis for meaning or truth, or hope in their life, and instead have adopted the two impoverished values of ‘personal peace and affluence….’ regardless of what the result will be in the lifetime of (our) children and grandchildren,” he wrote.

I for one remember being extremely grateful, Dr Schaeffer included theology in his list as we have seen many a distorted version of ‘biblical’ truth. His reference of ‘personal peace’ reminds me of those who discern the truth for them by adding the absurd statement, ‘I have a peace about it.’ That’s OK if they have surrendered to the Word of God and bowed to its authority but if it means by ‘peace’ there will be no suffering, testing or challenge, it’s delusional. They simply attach the Lord to their wishful thinking, something Peter, Paul and the other martyrs must find disappointing to say the least.

What examples did Schaeffer give of tests or trials for his ‘children and grandchildren?’

He mentioned two. ‘Abortion ‘rights’ would be supported by the legal and medical professions, he warned. Changes would come in sexual ethics, he wrote, underlining ‘gay marriage’ as a case in point. Consider the raving debate which continues on both these topics with little or no reference to the biblical truth about either one.


Proverbs 23: 7 “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”

“People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves realize,” Schaeffer wrote. “By ‘presuppositions’ we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic worldview, the grid through which he sees the world.’

We must be challenged to ask a very simple question. As Christian bible-believers are we expected to ‘defend the gospel’ and enjoy the power and blessing of the Holy Spirit or is it OK to just confess the name of Jesus and simply continue with our old presuppositions and pretend the Holy Spirit approves?

“Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” Paul wrote to the Romans. (Rom 12: 2).

Schaeffer asked a pertinent question. “Why were the Christians fed to the beasts at the height of the Roman Empire?” Now you may think you have the answer to that one. I thought I did too.

Here’s what Dr Schaeffer concluded.

1) They worshipped Jesus as ‘the one true God’ and refused to worship the emperor as divine.

2) They were ‘rebels’ because Christianity and the Bible judged the depravity of Roman society according to the standards proclaimed in the Bible.”

“Because the Christians had an absolute, universal standard by which to judge not only personal morals but the state, they were counted as enemies of totalitarian Rome and were thrown to the beasts,” he explained.

How openly and profoundly do our standards threaten the world around us today?

On the fall of the Roman Empire he said, “As the Empire ground down, the decadent Romans were given to a thirst for violence and gratification of the senses. This is especially evident in their rampant sexuality.”

“Rome did not fall because of external forces such as the invasion by the barbarians. Rome had no sufficient inward base; the barbarians only completed the breakdown – and Rome gradually became a ruin.”

I’ve just started into the early pages of ‘How Should We Then Live?” This thought-provoking treatise has caused me to think, ponder and pray.

So much of his discerning remarks from forty years ago seem to be appropriate for our consideration.

How is our ‘inward base’?

Samson had to have a haircut before he found his true inner strength. When muscle and might were of no real significance any more he cried out to God for inner strength and power.

It may be we are coming to that time. That moment in history when all the huff and puff of what I am going to do and how we’re going to drive out this enemy or the other, comes to the end of its proud, pomposity.

To rule and reign with Christ involves much more than a throne. It demands the cross.

Jesus explains His Kingdom qualification details clearly in Mark 10.

a) Leave your treasure, He said, and follow Me. (verse 21).
b) Leave the familiar, secure places of this world, embrace His. (Verse 29)
c) Follow Jesus. He was mocked, scourged, spit on, crucified. (verse 34)
d) Be prepared. It’s not about the throne, it is the cross (verse 40)
e) Seek unity within the brethren. It is not the way of the gentiles. (verse 43)
f) Bring the needy to Jesus. (verse 49)

“How Should We Then Live?” In all that we do, bring glory to the Lord.

Ron's Rave

About the author

Ron Ross worked as the first Sports Editor at WINTV. In Wollongong. He ran The Hamburger Hut an outreach and discipleship program for youth. He served with Youth With a Mission in Hawaii, Philippines and Australia. He was senior pastor of the Noosa Baptist Church, Queensland for 9 years. He reported news from Jerusalem for five years and is now the Middle East correspondent for United Christian Broadcasters and travels regularly preaching and teaching.

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