Marvin Olasky on Francis Schaeffer’s "Political Legacy"

Writing for Townhall.com, Marvin Olasky (author of Compassionate Conservatism) attributes the election of evangelical Christian George W. Bush not to strategists like Karl Rove but rather the political legacy of Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984), the Presbyterian theologian who founded the Christrian community of L’Abri in Switzerland.

According to Olasky, it was Francis Schaeffer’s warning to Christians in How Should We Then Live? that they should not remain aloof from political life, and his later urging that they should “bring Judeo-Christian principles into play in regard to government” (in A Christian Manifesto) which paved the way for subsequent political organization of evangelical Christians:

. . . It was largely the U. S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, which opened the door to legal abortions on demand, that drew Schaeffer’s interest back to America. In the book How Should We Then Live?, Schaeffer addressed the foundational problems which led to this devaluing of human life.

Such a breakdown of values can eventually lead to further violations of human life in the forms of euthanasia (the killing of the elderly) and infanticide. With former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and his son Franky, Schaeffer published Whatever Happened To The Human Race?, which tackled these social issues specifically. [Source]

When Francis Schaeffer died in 1984, President Reagan praised him: “It can rarely be said of an individual that his life touched many others and affected them for the better; it will be said of Dr. Francis Schaeffer that his life touched millions of souls and brought them to the truth of their Creator.”

As a student in college I recall reading Schaeffer’s Pollution and the Death of Man: A Christian View of Ecology, which situates the environmental movement in a Christian context. I appreciated the way Schaeffer criticized “the establishment” in a manner which could charm both the radical activist and the most jaded conservative:

. . .the hippies of the 1960s did understand something. They were right in fighting the plastic culture, and the church should have been fighting it too. . . More than this, they were right in the fact that the plastic culture – modern man, the mechanistic worldview in university textbooks and in practice, the total threat of the machine, the establishment technology, the bourgeois upper middle class – is poor in its sensitivity to nature. . . As a utopian group, the counterculture understands something very real, both as to the culture as a culture, but also as to the poverty of modern man’s concept of nature and the way the machine is eating up nature on every side.

Later on I read, and was rather less impressed by, Schaeffer’s criticism of Aquinas in Escape from Reason — by then I was well on my way to the Catholic Church.

I’m not educated enough in Schaeffer’s works to comment further, but my father spent some time at L’Abri during his hippie days. If you ask him politely, he may be persuaded to share a personal story or two of his experiences. =)

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