The Bush Center and the Legacy of Francis Schaeffer
By Ken Keathley
For Christmas in 1980 my wife, Penny, gave me a copy of Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. That was my first encounter with the thinking of Schaeffer, and it would be difficult to exaggerate the formative influence his writings have had on my theological and academic development. Like many other Christians of that time, I responded to his challenge to become equipped so that I could present Christ in the marketplace of ideas. Decades later I have the privilege of directing the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture—a center dedicated to equipping others for the task of engaging the public square.
There are at least three ways the Bush Center continues Schaeffer’s legacy:
- Schaeffer understood the role that worldviews play in guiding culture and individuals. Most people give little or no thought to the underlying principles that direct their lives and that inform their values. Schaeffer argued that our worldviews operate much like the infrastructure of a building—unseen yet determinative. A primary goal of the Bush Center is promote the biblical worldview and demonstrate how Scripture speaks to every arena of life.
- Schaeffer realized the value of apologetics in evangelism. Schaeffer rejected the label of philosopher, even though he addressed many philosophical issues with clarity and insight. He also never presented himself as an academic apologist. But on more than one occasion Schaeffer declared himself to be an evangelist. The Bush Center strives to follow the model provided by the work Schaeffer (and his wife, Edith) did at L’Abri to have an evangelistic purpose to all apologetic endeavors.
- Schaeffer argued that Christians have the ability to impact culture. In the final chapter of How Should We Then Live? Schaeffer called on believers to influence the cultural consensus. Provocatively, he argued that Christians do not need to be a majority in order for this influence on society to occur (p. 252, emphasis original). Christians are called to engage culture and to shape it.
Schaffer taught that wisdom—true wisdom—begins with the proper knowledge of God. The Triune God is Sovereign, Creator, Redeemer, and Judge of the Cosmos. Proper acknowledgement of the Christian God properly orders all other endeavors, desires, ambitions and goals, and enables us to engage in and enjoy all arenas of life without committing idolatry. Wisdom is the proper ordering of our understanding of God, His Son, His Kingdom, and His plan and purpose for the world. We often call this wisdom “the Christian worldview.” The Bush Center endeavors to engage culture from biblical perspective, and to bring Christian wisdom to bear upon all areas of the human experience.
Ken Keathley is Professor of Theology and Director of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary