Posted by: chuckbumgardner | July 22, 2007

Francis Schaeffer and Objective Truth

In reading through Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway, 1984), I came across these two paragraphs in the second chapter, in which Schaeffer is drawing a line in the sand between those who hold to the full inerrancy and authority of Scripture and those who do not.

It is surprising to see how clearly the liberal, neo-orthodox way of thinking is reflected in the new weakened evangelical view. For example, some time ago I was on Milt Rosenberg’s radio show “Extension 720” in Chicago (WGN) along with a young liberal pastor who graduated from a very well-known liberal theological seminary. The program was set up as a three-way discussion between myself, the liberal pastor, and Rosenberg, who does not consider himself to be a religious person. Rosenberg is a clever master of discussion. And with A Christian Manifesto [a previous work of Schaeffer’s] and the question of abortion as the discussion points, he kept digging deeper and deeper into the difference between the young liberal pastor and myself.  The young liberal pastor brought up Karl Barth, Niebuhr, and Tillich, and we discussed them. But it became very clear in that three-way discussion that the young liberal pastor never could appeal to the Bible without qualifications. And then the young liberal pastor said, “But I appeal to Jesus.” My reply on the radio was that in view of his view of the Bible, he could not really be sure that Jesus lived. His answer was that he had an inner feeling, an inner response, that told him that Jesus had existed.

The intriguing thing to me was that one of the leading men of the weakened view of the Bible who is called an evangelical, and who certainly does love the Lord, in a long and strenuous but pleasant discussion in my home a few years ago, when pressed backwards as to how he was certain concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, used almost the same words. He said he was sure of the resurrection of Jesus Christ because of the inward witness. They both answered finally in the same way.

I may be drawing the wrong connection, but what involuntarily sprang to mind after reading the second paragraph quoted above were these words:

“He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!

He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.”

      (Text and music by Alfred H. Ackley, 1933)

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Responses

  1. Some time later now, I have stumbled across this by N. T. Wright, in “New Testament Scholarship and Christian Discipleship,” Moule Memorial Lecture, 5 June 2008; http://www.ridley.cam.ac.uk/documents/moulemem.pdf

    “It won’t do for a fundamentalist apologetic to collude with the new atheists by saying, simply, ‘You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart’. That is indeed a way of speaking about Christian experience and discipleship which the NT itself celebrates, but it will never be enough to persuade a sceptic to take the matter seriously; and persuasion of that sort is also something that the NT insists upon as
    part of Christian discipleship.”


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