Responding to a materialist society

He Is There and He Is Not Silent - Francis August Schaeffer

This is the third book in the so called Francis Schaeffer trilogy and I must admit that it does not seem to go anywhere. I guess the thing that put me off this book is that in the introduction he tried to convince us that this book, and in fact the whole trilogy, is like scripture in that all three books go together. Seriously, anybody who tries to convince me that their books are like scripture is going to put me off because scripture is scripture and no writer can write a book like scripture because scripture is unique.

What Schaeffer is trying to do with this book is to bring what he has discussed in the first two books and outline how we, as Christians, can speak the gospel to a post modern world. His theory works on the idea that we have pretty much closed off our world to any outside forces and thus have created what he calls a 'closed system', that is, a system that works inside of itself and is unified inside of itself and no outside force has any influence in it.

Personally I do not think that this is the case forty years from when he wrote this book. This may have been the case back then, and okay, we here in Melbourne may be an rather atheistic lot, but much has changed since the world of the early seventies. Okay, the atheists are running around claiming that there is no god, but you wonder around other parts of the world and you will discover that a lot of people do not live in a closed system. For instance, Islam, back then, was not a major influence on the world as it is today. Back then you did not have the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, but today, if you wonder around Western Europe, or even Melbourne, you will see the spires of the mosques rising above the surrounding houses.

However, let us move away from Islam and also consider the rise of Paganism. Some may think that paganism (that is, in the modern sense of the word, the worship of nature as god) acts within a closed system, but it also can act in an open system. The world has changed a lot since Schaeffer's day, which does not necessarily mean that what Schaeffer wrote back then was wrong, just that in the world that we live in now it is not as effective as it was back then.

Basically the idea is that back then, and to some extent even now among certain elements of our society, we have pushed God so far back to the outer limits that he no longer has an effect within our world. It is the deist idea of the blind watchmaker. God created the world, wound it up, and then stepped back to let it work itself out. However, post-modern Christianity has been forced to come back to reality with the rise of Islam and the intrusion of Eastern mysticism. Take for instance yoga, which is really popular today. The spiritual world is not dead, but it has been reawakened, and Christians have been forced to reawaken with it.

It is interesting how he wrote about how the world would become interconnected with one central supercomputer. This has not happened either. There is no single super computer, but rather a network of computers. Morality is not decided by a central computer but rather what people see is right in their own eyes. Schaeffer wrote before the rise of homosexuality, but this has changed and has become accepted. Even now we are beginning to see paedophiles pushing for rights as well and one wonders whether society will begin to accept that (though I hope not because that has a lot to do with consent, and our society says that somebody under the age of 18, at least in Australia, cannot consent to sexual acts). We are also beginning to see the acceptance of drugs beyond alcohol, with the legalisation of marijuana in two American states, as well as in the Netherlands and in Spain. They attempted to clamp down on it in the Netherlands, but the law that would have prevented foreign nationals from buying weed met a rather horrific end.

In conclusion, while this book does offer some insights in how we as Christians should approach people who live within a closed world, the problem is that this book is written for people who lived forty years ago and things have changed a lot. It is difficult to try to apply Schaeffer's principles to the world of today because the world of today is simply not the world that Schaeffer lived in.