Francis Schaeffer on Christian Social Action

In addressing the problem of evil and the nature of man using the foil of Albert Camus’ The Plague, Francis Schaeffer closes with the following insights:

A Christian can fight what is wrong in the world with compassion and know that as he hates these things, God hates them too. God hates them on the high price of the death of Christ.

But if I live in a world of nonabsolutes and would fight social injustice on the mood of the moment, how can I establish what social justice is? What criterion do I have to distinguish between right and wrong so that I can know what I should be fighting? Is it not possible that I could in fact acquiesce in evil and stamp out good? The word “love” cannot tell me how to discern, for within the humanistic framework love can have no defined meaning. But once I comprehend that the Christ who came to die to end “the plague” both wept and was angry at the plague’s effects, I have a reason for fighting that does not rest merely on my momentary disposition, or the shifting consensus of men. (CWFS, The God Who Is There, 117–18)

Now comes the convicting part, where Schaeffer presses his Christian readers to do more than accept the moral high ground:

But the Christian also needs to be challenged at this point. The fact that he alone has a sufficient standard by which to fight evil does not mean that he will so fight. The Christian is the real radical of our generation, for he stands against the monolithic, modern concept of truth as relative. But too often, instead of being the radical, standing against the shifting sands of relativism, he subsides into merely maintaining the status quo. If it is true that evil is evil, that God hates it to the point of the cross, and that there is a moral law fixed in what God is in Himself, then Christians should be the first into the field against what is wrong––including man’s inhumanity to man. (CWFS, The God Who Is There, 118)

In this way, Schaeffer calls on believers to not just adopt a Christian worldview but to practice the Christian worldview––not just preach a gospel of justification but a gospel of sanctification too. In our day, as many attempt to create a dichotomy between Christianity and social actions and issues, Schaeffer’s call to reject the dichotomy rings true and insightfully prescient.

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