35th anniversary of Francis Schaeffer’s death


MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Tuesday, May 14th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Megan Basham.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. WORLD Magazine started in 1986. Maybe you know that. What you may not know is that WORLD was not the progenitor of the children’s news magazine, God’s World. It was the other way around.

In fact, it was the success of the children’s publication that led to WORLD. Back in 1983, Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer took note. After reading a few issues of God’s World, he wrote a letter to our founder Joel Belz.

I’ll just read a little excerpt—quoting now: “I think it is so important … to understand a Christian perspective in all that is around us … and … helping us not to be infiltrated without realizing it. This, too, is the only way to save the church 20 years from now, if Christ does not return, to be a living church as the salt and light in the whole of life. I am truly glad for what you have done with this.”

BASHAM: Schaeffer became well-known for promoting a Christian worldview in all areas of life. He challenged Christians to be active in modern social and political debates. To this day, WORLD continues to use a similar philosophy across all of our platforms.  

EICHER: This week marks the 35th anniversary of Francis Schaeffer’s death. So coming next, another in our occasional series Notable Speeches Past and Present.

Francis Schaeffer spoke at the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The year is 1982. The hour-long lecture comes from one of his last books, “A Christian Manifesto.” In it he describes how the social problems of the era stem from a fundamental change—the move away from a Judeo-Christian consensus to a humanistic one. After spending the first half of speech addressing abortion, secularism, evolution, pornography, and the breakdown of the family, we pick up here with a question Schaeffer poses.

SCHAEFFER: I have a question to ask you, and that is: “Where have the Bible-believing Christians been in the last 40 years?” All of this that I am talking about has only come in the last 80 years…We must recognize that this country is close to being lost. Not, first of all, because of a humanist conspiracy—I believe that there are those who conspire—but that is not the reason this country is almost lost.

This country is almost lost because the Bible-believing Christians, in the last 40 years, who have said that they know that the final reality is this infinite-personal God who is the Creator and all the rest, have done nothing about it as the consensus has changed. There has been a vast silence!

Christians of this country have simply been silent. Much of the evangelical leadership has not raised a voice. A vast, vast silence.

I wonder what God has to say to us? All these freedoms we have. All the secondary blessings we’ve had out of the preaching of the gospel and we have let it slip through our fingers in the lifetime of most of you here. Not a hundred years ago—it has been in our lifetime, in the last 40 years, that these things have happened.

Now, I come toward the close..when a government commands that which is contrary to the law of God, it abrogates its authority. At a certain point, it is not only the privilege but it is the duty of the Christian to disobey the government. Now that’s what the founding fathers did when they founded this country. That’s what the early church did. That’s what Peter said. You heard it from the Scripture: “Should we obey man… rather than God?” That’s what the early Christians did.

Occasionally—not, often—people say to me, “But the early church didn’t practice civil disobedience.” Didn’t they? When those Christians that we all talk about so much allowed themselves to be thrown into the arena, when they did that, from their view it was a religious thing. They would not worship anything except the living God.

But you must recognize from the side of the Roman state, there was nothing religious about it at all—it was purely civil…And when those Christians stood up there and refused to worship Caesar, from the side of the state, they were in civil disobedience and they were thrown to the beasts.

They were involved in civil disobedience, as much as your brothers and sisters in the Soviet Union are. When the Soviet Union says that, by law, they cannot tell their children, even in their home, about Jesus Christ, they must disobey, and they get sent off to the mental ward or to Siberia.Every appropriate legal and political governmental means must be used.

But the final bottom line, the early Christians, every one of the reformers, the people of the Reformation, the founding fathers of this country, faced and acted in the realization that if there is no place for disobeying the government, that government has been put in the place of the living God. In such a case, the government has been made a false god.  

Caesar, under some name, thinking of the early church, has been put upon the final throne.The Bible’s answer is ‘no’! Caesar is not to be put in the place of God and we as Christians, in the name of the Lordship of Christ, and all of life, must so think and act on the appropriate level. It should always be on the appropriate level. We have lots of room to move yet with our court cases, with the people we elect—all the things that we can do in this country. If, unhappily, we come to that place, the appropriate level must also include a disobedience to the state.

If you are not doing that, you haven’t thought it through. Jesus is not really on the throne. God is not central. You have made a false god central. Christ must be the final Lord and not society and not Caesar.

BASHAM: That’s 20th century author and Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer. He died 35 years ago this week.


(Photo/The Gospel Coalition)

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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