Joel Belz: High ceilings and God


MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Wednesday, August 1st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Christians have to learn how to apply our worldview to the everyday, secular culture. WORLD founder Joel Belz has given some thought to this.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: An atrium is one of my favorite architectural distinctives. There’s something about getting rid of the ceiling and lifting my eyes that prompts my heart to soar.

Some people like wide-open spaces; I like wide-open entryways and tall hotel lobbies.

To some people, of course, an atrium is a waste. Just think of all the square feet of space that could be used or rented out if it hadn’t been squandered on a high ceiling. But I hope you’ll take another look.

I am thankful, and I believe all Christians should be thankful, that the late Francis Schaeffer didn’t think that way. Dr. Schaeffer was a missionary in Switzerland for more than 30 years, but his thinking affected Christians and non-Christians around the world.

I talked to Dr. Schaeffer several times before his death in 1984. He had a keen interest in a Christian approach to journalism. That’s why, even though we never talked about atriums and architecture, I have a hunch Francis Schaeffer almost certainly liked the idea. Here’s why.

Francis Schaeffer, you see, spent a great deal of his life as a one man wrecking crew—tearing out the ceiling of the room where so many Christians had spent their lives. He stated his ideas with remarkable simplicity and clarity. He challenged us to hold on to the basic Biblical truths we’d learned up there at the top of the ladder. But he challenged us also to come down from the top of the ladder, where it was easy to concentrate on spiritual matters, and to get a grip in the room below on the other “secular” issues of life.

Schaeffer’s ideas were by no means brand new. But he stated them at a time when a student generation was ready to hear them. And especially when you consider how complex a man Schaeffer was, you have to appreciate his enormous following for 30 years and more.

Schaeffer explained, again and again, how for the Christian there is no “upstairs” and no “downstairs.” We don’t deal with God in a loft at the top of a ladder and then come down to deal with the real world. For Schaeffer, it was all one room. And the God Schaeffer knew and witnessed to filled that whole room.

The concept, of course, is central to the mission of us here at World News Group. Some folks are puzzled and ask: Are WORLD Magazine and WORLD Radio secular or spiritual? Can’t they decide which side they want to come down on? The best answer is that we’ve already decided. The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. We want to keep studying and reporting on that fullness.

So what is this awkwardness our listeners feel? Let us confess: We feel it too. It’s one thing to say it’s all one room. But when we’ve been taught otherwise by centuries of tradition, habit, and practice, we don’t immediately know how to treat world news as if it all belonged to the Lord.

Developing a Christian worldview is a challenging assignment. Sometimes I wish Francis Schaeffer were still around to help us in the task.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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