“Schaeffer Sunday” Francis Schaeffer’s Philosophy of History by William H. Burnside

Francis Schaeffer Whatever Happened to the Human Race (Episode 1) ABORTION

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Francis Schaeffer “BASIS FOR HUMAN DIGNITY” Whatever…HTTHR

Dr. Francis schaeffer – The flow of Materialism(from Part 4 of Whatever happened to human race?)

Dr. Francis Schaeffer – The Biblical flow of Truth & History (intro)

Francis Schaeffer – The Biblical Flow of History & Truth (1)

Dr. Francis Schaeffer – The Biblical Flow of Truth & History (part 2)

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The 45 minute video above is from the film series created from Francis Schaeffer’s book “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” with Dr. C. Everett Koop. This book  really helped develop my political views concerning abortion, infanticide, and youth euthanasia, and it gave me a good understanding of those issues.

Francis Schaeffer’s Philosophy of History
By William H. Burnside
Contra Mundum, No. 2, 1992
Copyright 1991 William H. Burnside

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Death in the City, The God Who Is There, He Is There and He is Not Silent: many of us
remember the spiritual and intellectual excitement that came with reading those books
and seeing how clearly the Bible alone has a consistent world and life view. Truth,
absolute Truth, rooted in the person and character of God, was what we needed. We
discovered that God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for the life and
godliness” including intellectually-satisfying answers to basic questions of life.
Our starting point is the holy and righteous Creator of the Universe, the gracious God
who became Man in the Person of Jesus Christ and redeemed us from our sins, giving us
assurance of eternal life. With that came the promise of significance and meaning in life.
We are all significant, meaningful people because we were created in the very image of
God Himself. It was Francis and Edith Schaeffer who pointed these things out in such a
clear and intellectually honest fashion to my generation. It was he, too, who spoke
forcefully of the inadequacy of an orthodox, Biblical theology, without also a Biblical
life-style, one which exhibited the compassion and servant-hood of our Lord. Show us the
power of the Living God in our lives, he challenged a generation of young people, and
their teachers as well.
It is time for a reminder of those Biblical truths and it is time to introduce a new
generation to those great truths. We must echo Psalm 33:11: “The plans of the Lord stand
firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.”
A Flow to History
History is linear; it is not cyclical. There is a flow to history that shows a continuity from
before the beginning when God the Trinity communicated and planned the creation of
man in His image, giving man a true volition. God, in effect, told Adam and Eve:
“Believe Me and stand in your place as a creature, not as one who is autonomous. Believe
Me and love Me as a creature to his Creator, and all will be well. This is the place for
which I have made you.

Created in the Image of God, but Fallen
But Adam and Eve rebelled against their Creator, opening the door to the catastrophe of
human history: a broken relationship with God, with each other in human society, and
within themselves. The effects of the Fall on human history were enormous but they did
not change the continuity of history which is rooted in eternity past and continues through
both advents of Christ into eternity future when the original creation will be restored to
God’s original design. God created immortal human beings. “Watch a man as he dies.
Five minutes later he still exists. There is no such thing as stopping the existence of man.
He still goes on. By the Fall man has not lost his being as a human being. He has not lost
those things which he intrinsically is as a man. He has not become an animal or a
machine. I live in a personal world, and God is dealing with me not for a few short years
but forever. And I can make different value judgments as I look at the world because I
understand that reality does not exist only between birth and death. A personal God is
acting in a true history that goes on forever.” Man qua man in human history reflects the
image of God in the way he was made and in the way he acts. Inevitably human beings
fulfill the cultural mandate to subdue and have dominion over God’s creation even if all
the while professing themselves to be autonomous and independent of God. The human
predicament is a moral problem; it is not metaphysical.
Not everything that happens in the world is “natural”… Everything in history
is not equally “normal”. Because of the abnormality brought about by man,
not everything which occurs in history should be there. Thus, not all that
history brings forth is right just because it happens, and not all personal drives
and motives are equally good. It is possible for Christians to speak of things
as absolutely wrong, for they are not original in human society, but are
derived from the Fall. They are in that sense ‘abnormal’. We can stand against
what is wrong and cruel without standing against God, for He did not make
the world as it now is.
God is Sovereign
History is one. There has been but one history: that which has actually happened as
opposed to what might have happened or what could have happened. Contingency,
though, is no problem in the Biblical system of thought and historical explanation. The
modalities of life are in the hands of the sovereign God who does all things after the
counsel of His own will. The First Cause is always the Sovereign Creator God of the
Universe and no man can stay His hand or say, “What doest thou?” Nevertheless within
the limitations of God’s sovereign decrees, plans, and purposes, human beings have the
incredible ability “to affect the external form of the universe”. Whether we plant a flower,
write a book, build a city, or destroy a civilization, man in the image of God has created
and built, alleviated suffering or brutalized his contemporaries. But he is always limited
and controlled by the sovereign God who controls the fullness of time and the historical
context wherein man acts. “If”, Jesus said, “the mighty works” done in Capernaum had

been done in Sodom, the Sodomites would have repented and “it would have remained to
Jesus’ day.”
One Reality
In both history and life there is but “one reality”. The “supernatural” and the “natural” are
both part of what is. They are not separate realms. The unseen invisible spiritual world is
here in human time/space history. When Elisha was surrounded by Syrian troops, God
opened the eyes of his servant so that he could see what was already there: “the mountain
was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha”. That was why Elisha had told
his servant, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with
them.” (II Kings 6:15-17) The New Testament echoes that passage with almost identical
words: “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is
He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (I John 4:4)
When Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, they were not
in another realm but on the very same mountain that Jesus and the disciples climbed in
Palestine. Jesus was glorified in a shining light in this world. When they came down from
the mount, time has passed: it was “the next day” (Luke 9:37). There is no platonic view
of reality and time stopping in a different realm, but simply the sequence of events within
a single reality. Dividing “’realms” into spiritual and natural categories does not separate
them into two realities. There is but one reality, that which actually exists and exists
coterminously.
After Jesus was glorified and appeared on this earth for forty days, his disciples touched
him, saw him, ate with him. When Jesus ascended, “it was at an hour of the day, on a day
of the calendar. There was a moment when His feet left the Mount of Olives.” And there
will be a day in the history of the world when He returns to stand at the identical
geographical location.
The apostle Paul saw the risen Lord on the Damascus Road. It was at midday in the desert
and the light of Christ’s glory was so brilliant that Paul was physically blinded by it. Not
only so; he heard a voice speaking to him in the Hebrew tongue.
Jesus appeared…. speaking in a normal language, using normal words and
normal grammar, to a man named Saul. With this, there is a complete denial
of the twentieth-century projection of these things into a religiously ‘other’
world. Here we are in the realm of space, time, history, normal
communication, and normal language.
Open System
In a word, the Biblical philosophy of history is an “open system” in which the
supernatural is just as much a part of reality as the “natural phenomenon” of everyday

life. It is simply not a closed, naturalistic system. This was a point Schaeffer made again
and again.
Perspective Point of History
The perspective point of history is the incarnation and work of Christ in this world. Even
before the foundation of the world the direction of history was towards the coming of
Christ in His first advent. The victory Jesus brought over sin, death, and hell has given
meaning and purpose to life and history ever since. It is still our perspective point while
we await His second advent, when the original creation will be restored in a new creation
in eternity future.
History to modern man is absurd, Schaeffer concluded, because he has no perspective
point and no absolutes by which to judge history. His starting point is wrong and that has
thrown off all his calculations. He starts with puny, finite, flawed, limited man and every
extension from himself leads only down a blind alley. He looks at the form of the
universe: it is “obviously not just a handful of pebbles thrown out there”. Where did it
come from? Why does it have form – and such a beautiful, spectacularly complex form?
If one begins with an impersonal universe, there is no explanation of the existence of
personality and man himself gets lost in the assumption of the eternality of matter.
“Give up creation and space-time historic reality and all that is left is uncreatedness. It is
not that something does not exist, but that it just stands there, autonomous to itself,
without solutions and without answers… Modern man’s [despair] rests primarily upon his
losing the reality of the createdness of all things except the personal God who always has
been.” All of these things, of course, have enormous significance for the study of history:
how can we study “human” history without knowing who man is or where he came from
or what his essential nature is.
Schaeffer, of course, found in the Bible and in traditional Biblical theology the
explanation for the historical “problem of evil” in the world. In the Biblical system
Schaeffer found that man and woman were created flawless without moral impediment
but with genuine volition which could say “no” to God as well as “yes”. When they did
just that, sin entered the world and death by sin and so the evils of history passed upon
all.
Judgment of God
And with sin came the judgment of God. In his forceful exposition of Romans chapter
one Schaeffer commented that man became foolish in his reasonings. “He has accepted a
position that is intellectually foolish not only with regard to what the Bible says, but also
to what exits—the universe and its form and the nature of man. In turning away from God
and the truth which He has given, man has thus become foolish in regard to what man is
and what the universe is. He is left with a position with which he cannot live, and is

caught in a multitude of intellectual and personal tensions.”
In Death in the City Schaeffer described Romans one as referring not only to the original
fall, but also to a historical principle of the judgment of God against any nation or culture
that turns its back on God. And that judgment is not only in the eschatological future, but
is also here and now in the events of history. A nation which turns away from God has
forgotten that the chief end of man is to love God and to have fellowship with Him. And
in that forgetting the nation has forgotten the purpose of man made in the image of God—
to be in relationship to the God who is there. In whatever period of history the effect is
the same: man forgets his purpose and thus he forgets who he is and what life means.
The hand of God is down into our culture in judgment… Unlike Zeus, whom
men imagined hurling down great thunderbolts, God has turned away in
judgment as our generation turned away from Him, and He is allowing cause
and effect to take its course in history.
“God can bring His judgment in one of two ways: either by direct intervention in history
or by the turning of the wheels of history.”
The Reformation brought “the wonderful gift of freedom… a balance of form and
freedom in state and society. Yet once we turn away from the Christian base, it is this
very freedom, now as a freedom without form, that brings a judgment upon us in the
turning of the wheels of history… There is death in the polis, there is death in the city!”
History is not mechanical. God works into history on the basis of His
character. Israel was carried off into Babylonian captivity not just for military
or economic reasons, but because a holy God had judged them because they
had turned away from Him. He will do the same in our generation. That’s part
of the reality of history.
God, History, and Evangelism
Schaeffer saw God’s sovereign actions in evangelism as an example of how God acts in
history.
There is no chance back of God, but history has real meaning. In Christianity, cause and
effect in space-time history has real meaning. The rational moral creatures whom God
created (of whom we know two classes—angels and men) influence history by choice. In
twentieth century terms, man is not programmed… Even nonpersonal elements of God’s
creation have a significance in history on their own level. The wind is the cause that
blows down the tree. In other words, mechanical cause and effect is significant in history,
and on another level, moral and rational creatures are significant in history by choice…
The marvel is that God created a universe with significance, that the things He created
have significance.

God, having created history, acts into history. It is not that history has no
meaning to God; it is not as though He is suspended above it… God acts into
history at every given moment in such a way that He respects its being there;
that is, He acts into it truly.
Schaeffer saw those same historical principles involved in election, evangelism, and
eternal salvation.
There is no chance back of God… What this means since the Fall is that when man
accepts Christ as Savior, there is a work of the Holy Spirit, yet man is not simply a zero;
there is a conscious side to justification.
If we fail to see that there is a conscious side to justification, we soon come to
the place where we must say that either the gospel is not universally offered
or that man is a zero. But neither is the case. The Bible makes very plain that
the gospel is universally offered and that man is significant…
Magnificence of Man
One of Schaeffer’s most memorable characteristics was his emphasis on the glory and
creativity of men and women created in the very image of God Himself and made not
only for their creator but for each other. God gave them an inner drive to produce and
create and to seek beauty and truth. Art, music, and literature reflect not only the
fallenness of man, but also the image of God in man and woman. Throughout history
human beings have fulfilled the Cultural Mandate even when they were not consciously
obeying God.
Eternity Future
The culmination of history centers around the return of Christ to this earth. Francis
Schaeffer was pre-millennial in his eschatology.
True Christians, those who have put their faith in Christ as Savior, shall be caught up to
meet Christ in the air and then come with Him. It is at this time that the bodies of
Christians who have died will be raised from the dead and that living Christians will be
glorified in a twinkling of an eye.
Before Christ’s coming visibly and in glory with His saints, there will be a period of great
apostasy with a dictator, called the “Antichrist”, ruling the world… He will control
governmental and economic life and will be worshiped as god.”
Christ will return visibly and in glory. “He overthrows the assembled might of the world
organized against Him by the Antichrist and Satan. This is the battle of Armageddon on
the plain of Megiddo in Palestine. Christ rules the earth for a thousand years….”

“There will be a new Heaven, a new earth, and a heavenly city. It is definite so that
Revelation 21-22 states the size of the heavenly city, that from which it is constructed,
that from which its foundations, gates, and streets are made. It is an objective reality. It is
eternal – forever and ever, without end.” So human history has a continuity from eternity
past to eternity future, controlled sovereignly by God Himself.

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