This is post number 3 in a series exploring Francis Schaeffer’s book, “The Great Evangelical Disaster.”

As we read last time, the article in Time magazine finished with an amazing statement:

The American Century was to be a century of unleashing, of breaking away, at first from the 19th century … and eventually from any constraints at all. Behind most of these events lay the assumption, almost a moral imperative, that what was not free ought to be free, that limits were intrinsically evil …but … when people or ideas are unfettered, they are freed but not yet free.

Schaeffer continues his analysis of those statements in this section.

Here the problem of the 1920’s to the 1980’s is properly spelled out. It is the attempt to have absolute freedom – to be totally autonomous from any intrinsic limits. It is the attempt to throw off anything that would restrain one’s own personal autonomy. But it is especially a direct and deliberate rebellion against God and His law.

Powerful stuff. When society, or even one person sets themselves up, saying they are intrinsically autonomous, what is that called? Pride.

When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. (1 John 2:16)

The problem is this: If there is not a proper balance between form and freedom, then the society will move into either of two extremes. Freedom, without a proper balance of form, will lead to chaos and to a total breakdown of society. Form, without a proper balance of freedom, will lead to authoritarianism, and to the destruction of individual and social freedom. But note further: no society can exist in a state of chaos. And whenever chaos has reigned for even a short time, it has given birth to the imposition of arbitrary control.

Let’s ruminate on this for a minute. Schaeffer is saying that the problem which exists in government, in society, and in every human endeavor is the requirement to balance form with freedom. Read the following and pause for a few minutes, before you go on.

Do a bit of thinking on what that means, and what implications that has on how we view life, and just about everything in it. What does “form” entail? What does “freedom” entail? We value freedom – but we also value structure – or form. Could it be, perhaps, that the balance between those two is really what makes societies what they are? Our lives what they are? Take a minute – stop here. Don’t read further yet. Do some thinking on that for a minute. Then, once you’ve mulled that over for a bit – click “more”.

Welcome back.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Mr. Schaeffer’s book is the answer to life, love, and happiness. There is only one answer – the Bible, which is centered around our Lord Jesus. However, the way he applies his concepts to what we often call a “Biblical worldview,” if you haven’t encountered it before, can be very illuminating. The insight he has into society, and the “culture war” – before it was a culture war – is very interesting. I consider him somewhat prophetic of the times we live in today. Not in the Biblical sense, of course – but in the sense that he has accurately predicted, and analyzed the very forces we are locked in a struggle with today – far, far before most of us were even aware they existed. Keep in mind that this was written in 1983, and published in 1984.

There is a balance here (he is speaking of America) between form and freedom which we have come to take as natural in the world. But it is not natural. And we are utterly foolish if we do not recognize that this unique balance which we have inherited from the Reformation thought-forms is not automatic in a fallen world…

The Reformation not only brought forth a clear preaching of the gospel, it also gave shape to society as a whole … the full spectrum of culture … the Reformation brought with it an enormous increase in knowledge of the Bible which spread to every level of society. This is not to say that the Reformation was ever a “golden age” or that everyone in the Reformation countries were true Christians. But it is clear that through the Reformation many were brought to Christ and that the absolutes of the Bible became widely disseminated in the culture as a whole. The freedoms which grew out of this were tremendous; and yet, with the forms grounded in a biblical consensus, or ethos, the freedoms did not lead to chaos.

Isn’t this an interesting point? He is saying, in effect, that Christian principles, as embodied in the Reformation movement, are the cause of what we consider to be axioms – freedom results when people are given control of their own lives. However, he says – the reason that freedom did not become license, at least prior to this point, was the consentual agreement on Biblical morality – which serves as the form to balance the freedoms we enjoy. If we remove that form… what are we left with to balance freedom? This is a question I have found humanists have a hard time answering. If you consider freedom to be the end-all of human activity – how then should we structure our lives? Upon what basis should structure be determined? Since they seem to be bound and determined to eradicate every vestige of that form-freedom balance, and replace it with a freedom-only version of morality, culture, and government – how do they expect to govern the chaos that will result? Do they even intend to have form? If so, upon what standard will they base their form? Societal consensus, which shifts like quicksand at the whim of pundits? Governmental mandate, which fares no better? We have a firm foundation!

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

~ Classic Hymn

What, then, is their foundation?

But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” – (Luke 6:49)

I’ll give one more excerpt – and finish up.

But something has happened in the last sixty years. The freedom that was once founded on a Biblical consensus and a Christian ethos has now become autonomous freedom, cut loose from all constraints. Here we have the world spirit of our age – autonomous man setting himself up as God, in defiance of the knowledge and the moral and spiritual truth which God has given. Here is the reason why we have moral breakdown in every area of life. The titanic freedoms which we once enjoyed have been cut loose from their Christian restraints and are becoming a force of destruction leading to chaos. and when this happens, there really are very few alternatives. All morality becomes relative, law becomes arbitrary, and society moves toward disintegration. Impersonal and social life, compassion is swallowed up by self-interest.

This is the world we live in today. This is the worldview which we, as apologists, and as Christians, stand in opposition to. As Schaffer says, over, and over – Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation, but confrontation nevertheless.

I’ll return to the original point – What Really Matters?