Agape, Even If By Force

It was uncomfortable, but I read Francis Schaeffer’s A Christian Manifesto yesterday.

If you have not read this book, I strongly recommend that you get a copy and do so right away. We’re talking about a pillar of the Christian intellectual community, who wrote statements like this:

“…since tyranny is satanic, not to resist it is to resist God.”

And this:

“…at a certain point there is not only the right, but the duty, to disobey the state.”

These are startling words from a conservative evangelical, although as Schaeffer points out, we of all people have inherited a mantle of revolutionary responsibility directly from the founding fathers. And as one reads Schaeffer’s words, they take on more impact when it becomes apparent that here was a true prophet. He predicts the continued rise of courts that overstep from neutral judicial interpretation of existing law into the realm of making law, by actually commanding the legislative branch (!) to create new laws in conformance with court opinion, and in defiance of the will of the majority of the people. (Consider the recent Massachusetts court decision recasting the basic definition of “marriage,” and then demanding that the legislature create a law to support its ruling.) He predicts the rise of science as a form of religion, with its own dogma that brooks no contradiction. (Think of the plight of those who dare to question global warming science, and are publicly compared to Holocaust deniers.) He predicts a blurring of the lines between “conservative” and “liberal,” until there seems to be little difference and therefore little true democratic opportunity for change. (One thinks of “conservatives” who are supposed to be fiscally responsible, yet cannot be trusted to control government spending, and “liberals” who are supposed to advocate the rights of the weak and underprivileged, yet openly support the very same forms of American eugenics that led directly to the real Holocaust.)

Remarkably, Schaeffer predicted all of this over a quarter century ago.

Way back then he also warned that the Moral Majority movement would probably fail. He offered a scathing indictment of evangelical leadership’s inept responses to a rising tide of secular humanism in the century prior to the Moral Majority’s founding, and gives little hope of a change now without a change in tactics.

Fortunately, from beyond the grave Schaeffer offers clear guidance on what to do next. He calls for the Christian use of force to resist the evil consuming our freedoms. That’s right, he calls for force. But he draws a distinction between force and violence. In that regard (and in many others) he sounds very much like Rev. Martin Luther King, as quoted in the wonderful compilation of sermons, A Knock at Midnight:

“We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, and so throw us in jail. We will go into those jails and transform them from dungeons of shame to havens of freedom and human dignity.” (Martin Luther King, sermon, “The American Dream,” delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, July 4, 1965.)

One thing that struck me again and again in A Christian Manifesto, is the power that comes from Schaeffer’s calm voice in combination with his absolute refusal to compromise the truth. This is such a contrast with the strident tones and rampant non-constructive hyperbole so commonly adopted by some evangelical leaders, and the wishy-washy responses to humanism offered by others. Here was a man who knew how to project the love of Christ while simultaneously speaking the truth boldly, an ability I fear we Christians have nearly lost. Think about our many pitiful attempts to be “relevant” as you watch this excellent video, and if you’re wise, after you’re done laughing you might cry a little.

Dr. King was taken from us in 1968, and Dr. Schaeffer’s book was published in 1981. It’s long past midnight now, and they're done knocking. Is it too late?

I think brother Martin and brother Francis would say that depends on you and me.

Posted byAthol Dickson at 12:29 PM  

4 comments:

Nicole said... October 18, 2007 at 4:42 PM  

Is it not us who are to rail against the gates of hell? Is it not us who are His representatives of Truth? Is is not us who are His ambassadors to this sin-infested world? Is it not us who are called to confess and repent, to go and to witness? If not us, who?

We will never be "relevant", easy to swallow, comfy-cozy. Our doctrine won't permit it. We contest sin, we confront sin--first and most importantly in ourselves. Then we expose it with love, grace, and mercy because we were once there and could be again in a heartbeat decision to do the wrong thing. We are called to share our struggles but to light the way of hope in our Redeemer, the ONLY hope this world of sinful people has.

Whoa--got a little preachy there, huh? Sorry. Inspiring post.

Kay said... October 19, 2007 at 10:28 AM  

I will have to read that book, although it will strain my brain, I imagine. Brain strain now and then is crucial, though, I think.
Here is a quote inspired by the video you shared:
"In an age in which Christians should be called to know what and why we believe, and to say it with conviction, instead the very foundational truths on which Christian truth-claims rest are being held at arm's length. And this stance is held up as virtuous, rather than pilloried as cowardly and disastrous."
It comes from http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2007/10/like-could-you-just-say-it.html

I have been feeling that God is specifically calling me to step out on a limb or two; to boldly declare truth in spite of what others, (other Christians particularly) might think.
I appreciate you being out there on the limb already. It gives me courage.

gb said... October 20, 2007 at 1:55 PM  

"Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21

This is far more of a radical proposition than it sounds. Even to Christians, when thought out in the context of today's world, it is likely to be publicly agreed to and privately considered fairly preposterous and "undoable". It is a martry's death wish.

Rather than picking up our sword (even in a "just" defense) it requires us to pick up our cross... and be led to our demise while loving our enemies and desperately pleading, begging God to forgive them.

Having the full capability of using force, even violence, to "make right" and willingly refraining from it while making a perhaps futile stand, alone, against the machine, armed only with God's Truth requires far more courage and bravery than the equipped soldier marching into the battle.

Do good, not as a means for salvation but a product of it. The continuous, silent or vocal doing of the good as God has commanded is a noble cancer to evil.

Utlimately, it could well get you killed. So what. Isn't that God's business? What else are we here for?

Here is a personal "How To" guide as stated by Arthur Penrhyn Stanley:
"It we wish to overcome evil, we must overcome it with good. There are doubtless many ways of overcoming the evil in our own hearts, but the simplest, easiest, and most universal way is to overcome it by active occupation in some good word or work. The best antidote against evil of all kinds, against the evil thoughts that haunt the soul, against the needless perplexities that distract the conscience, is to keep hold of the good we have. Impure thoughts will not stand against pure words and prayers and deeds. Little doubts will not avail against great certainties. Fix your affections on things above, and then you will be less and less troubled by the cares, the temptations, and the troubles of things on earth."

Gary

Athol Dickson said... October 21, 2007 at 2:25 PM  

Gary,

I think you spoke to the heart of this when you wrote: "Do good, not as a means for salvation but a product of it."

Schaeffer's idea of "force," which was also MLK's, flows from a form of love that is as uncompromising as it is unconditional. It is not a violent concept, but it is forceful nonetheless, and dangerous as you rightly say, and can be authentically applied only by those who true understand the basis of their own salvation.

Thanks so much for your wise comment.

Athol

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