A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer (Part 8) (Schaeffer Sundays)

Part 1

Part 2

Below is a summary of “A Christian Manifesto” which is a very important book written by Francis Schaeffer just a couple of years before his death in 1984.

A Christian Manifesto
by Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer

This address was delivered by the late Dr. Schaeffer in 1982 at the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It is based on one of his books, which bears the same title.

We must absolutely set out to smash the lie of the new and novel concept of the separation of religion from the state which most people now hold and which Christians have just bought a bill of goods. This is new and this is novel. It has no relationship to the meaning of the First Amendment. The First Amendment was that the state would never interfere with religion. THAT’S ALL THE MEANING THERE WAS TO THE FIRST AMENDMENT. Just read Madison and the Spectator Papers if you don’t think so. That’s all it was!

Now we have turned it over and we have put it on its head and what we must do is absolutely insist that we return to what the First Amendment meant in the first place — not that religion can’t have an influence into society and into the state — not that. But we must insist that there’s a freedom that the First Amendment really gave. Now with this we must emphasize, and I said it, but let me say it again, we do not want a theocracy! I personally am opposed to a theocracy. On this side of the New Testament I do not believe there is a place for a theocracy ’till Jesus the King comes back. But that’s a very different thing while saying clearly we are not in favor of a theocracy in name or in fact, from where we are now, where all religious influence is shut out of the processes of the state and the public schools. We are only asking for one thing. We are asking for the freedom that the First Amendment guaranteed. That’s what we should be standing for.

Now, I come toward the close, and that is that we must recognize something from the Scriptures, and that’s why I had that Scripture read that I had read tonight. When the government negates the law of God, it abrogates its authority. God has given certain offices to restrain chaos in this fallen world, but it does not mean that these offices are autonomous, and when a government commands that which is contrary to the Law of God, it abrogates its authority.

Throughout the whole history of the Christian Church, (and again I wish people knew their history. In A Christian Manifesto I stress what happened in the Reformation in reference to all this) 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 — no, often, people say to me, “But the early Church didn’t practice civil disobedience.” Didn’t they? You don’t know your history again. 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. The Roman Empire had disintegrated until the only unity it had was its worship of Caesar. You could be an atheist; you could worship the Zoroastrian religion… You could do anything. They didn’t care. It was a civil matter, and when those Christians stood up there and refused to worship Caesar, from the side of the state, they were rebels. 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. It’s exactly the same kind of civil disobedience that’s represented in a very real way by the thing I am wearing on my lapel tonight.

Every appropriate legal and political governmental means must be used. “The final bottom line”– I have invented this term in A Christian ManifestoI hope the Christians across this country and across the world will really understand what the Bible truly teaches: The final bottom line! The early Christians, every one of the reformers (and again, I’ll say in A Christian Manifesto I go through country after country and show that there was not a single place with the possible exception of England, where the Reformation was successful, where there wasn’t civil disobedience and disobedience to the state), 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. If there is no place for disobeying a human government, what government has been made 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.

May I repeat the final sentence again? CHRIST MUST BE THE FINAL LORD AND NOT CAESAR AND NOT SOCIETY.

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Comments

  • dougindeap  On October 23, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Separation of church and state is a bedrock principle of our Constitution much like the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers and checks and balances; rather, they actually separated the powers of government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly, they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state; rather, they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of the people (not a deity), (2) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (3) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (4), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. They later buttressed this separation with the First Amendment, which constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The basic principle, thus, rests on much more than just the First Amendment.

    James Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”

    It is important to distinguish between the “public square” and “government” and between “individual” and “government” speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square–far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views–publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

    Nor does the constitutional separation of church and state prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions. Moreover, the religious beliefs of government officials naturally may inform their decisions on policies. The principle, in this context, merely constrains government officials not to make decisions with the predominant purpose or primary effect of advancing religion; in other words, the predominant purpose and primary effect must be nonreligious or secular in nature. A decision coinciding with religious views is not invalid for that reason as long as it has a secular purpose and effect.

    The Constitution, including particularly the First Amendment, embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others. By keeping government and religion separate, the establishment clause serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion. Reasonable people may differ, of course, on how these principles should be applied in particular situations, but the principles are hardly to be doubted. Moreover, they are good, sound principles that should be nurtured and defended, not attacked. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.

    Wake Forest University recently published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you. http://tiny.cc/6nnnx

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