Christ Is Sovereign Over All

The title for this post is drawn from a famous statement by the Dutch statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). The full statement reads: “There is not a square inch in a whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” Where did Kuyper get this idea? I suspect, at least in part, from the Great Commission text of Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” What Jesus has authority over belongs to Him. What belongs to Him He rightly claims as “Mine!” All of creation is Christ’s. As we advance the gospel across North America and to the nations we reclaim souls and territory that belong to King Jesus. This world belongs to the Son of God, not Satan.

C.S. Lewis certainly understood this to be the nature of our assignment. He said, “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.” Lewis was right. We are indeed locked in a cosmic conflict for the souls of human persons. Eternal destinies hang in the balance. We are also locked in a cultural conflict that will determine in many ways how we think and work, how we live and die.

I am in complete agreement with Francis Schaeffer, whose letters and papers are archived in our library at SEBTS. This wonderful Christian thinker, whose writings have had a profound influence on my life, put it like this: “Christianity provides a unified answer for the whole of life.” Did you catch the key word? The “whole” of life. In other words, our Christian faith is to translate into a Christian life, a way of thinking, acting, playing and living. No area is off limits. No discipline is out of bounds. Our surrender to Christ’s Lordship will impact the totality of our lives. It will shape and determine what we call our “worldview.”

Southeastern Seminary houses “The Center for Faith and Culture.” It is named after my former teacher and colleague L. Rush Bush, who served as the Dean of SEBTS for right at 20 years. The Center reflects well the heart and perspective of its founding director who believed all of life should be permeated by a Christian worldview. Bush said, “A worldview is that basic set of assumptions that gives meaning to ones thoughts. A worldview is that set of assumptions that someone has about the way things are, about what things are, about why things are.” Complementing this excellent statement, I often say a worldview is a comprehensive and all-encompassing view of life by which we think, understand, judge and act. It guides and determines our approach to life and how we will live.

Because the seminary I serve is committed to cultivating a comprehensive Christian worldview, we allow these ideas– axioms if you like–to inform how we teach in the classroom. It is also why we hold conferences that address issues like creation, abortion, sexual identity, adoption, marriage and family, government, economics, politics, law, philosophy, ethics, the environment, poverty and more. Faith and culture meet at the intersection of real life, and SEBTS is committed to being in the center of all of it!

Schaeffer says, “Christianity is the greatest intellectual system the mind of man has ever touched.” I believe that. And Kuyper adds, “When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at any price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” We at Southeastern believe this too, and we indeed accept the call to battle, laying our convictions bare for friend and foe alike!

This post originally appeared on Sep. 22, 2014. 

The Bush Center and the Legacy of Francis Schaeffer

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

How Francis Schaeffer Influenced Me

How Francis Schaeffer Influenced Me

by Daniel R. Heimbach

I can honestly say that, besides my parents and Jesus Christ, no individual has influenced me more than Francis A. Schaeffer, a pastor-theologian most consider to have been among the greatest evangelical voices, and perhaps even the most influential, of the twentieth century. But Francis Schaeffer and his wife, Edith, were also close friends of my missionary grandparents. For me the Francis and Edith Schaeffer who inspired a generation of evangelicals, myself included, with the importance of engaging the culture for Christ, were also the family friends who nursed my grandparents to health after returning to the United States emaciated following release from a Japanese prison in a Prisoner of War exchange during World War II.

That is the reason my grandmother, Bertha Byram, was one of the earliest and most faithful prayer partners of the work called “L’Abri” founded in Europe by the Schaeffers after the war. That is why my grandmother is twice mentioned in The Tapestry. And that is why the communion table in the chapel the Schaeffer’s built in Huemoz, Switzerland, is dedicated to my grandmother. But I did not know this connection until after I was drawn to Schaeffer’s books for my own reasons.

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Francis & Edith Schaeffer with Mertie & Ernie Heimbach

I first became aware of Schaeffer while a student in high school struggling with matters of faith and culture, and on reading his first book, Escape from Reason, I found him so keenly in tune with my questions I devoured nearly all he wrote as it was published. That was in the late 1960s and early 1970s when Western culture, and especially American culture, was in turmoil from so many others of my age rebelling against all authority and tradition. Then, like many others on discovering Schaeffer, I also traveled to the mountains of Switzerland to meet him, and ended staying several months trying to understand what was taking place and what it meant to be authentically Christian in a world fast becoming radically post-Christian.

I learned much from Schaeffer that has affected me ever since, but as much from his life as from his thought, as much from his demonstrating Christian love as from his defending biblical truth, as much from how he respected the value and dignity of everyone he met however small or great as from what I learned from his writing. Schaeffer is the one who taught me that truth is a reality we must live and not just believe, and that if Christians do not live God’s truth the world has every right to reject what we claim is right and true. And Schaeffer is the one who taught me, more by example than words, how Christians can and must stand for purity and holiness without ugliness or harshness and should weep for those pursuing what we abhor.

Schaeffer’s many books, especially The Mark of the Christian, Pollution and the Death of Man, How Should We Then Live?, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, and A Christian Manifesto, were instrumental in forming what has become for me a strong sense of calling or mission in the world, which is to promote God’s truth in a culture that is rejecting it, and doing so especially as it concerns resisting moral anarchy and political tyranny.

Francis Schaeffer influenced my decision to become a culturally astute moral influence in Washington, D.C., an effort that resulted in affecting a wide range of issues in public policy. Schaeffer influenced my role in leading the fight against normalizing treatment of homosexual behavior in the military services. Schaeffer influenced my running for Congress in 2000. Schaeffer influenced my vision to develop what is now the strongest program in the world for training evangelicals in biblically uncompromising yet culturally engaged Christian ethics. And Schaeffer has influenced the sort of books I write, all of which have been written to resource evangelical witness on moral issues contested in the culture.

But while Schaeffer had a deep and lasting impact on evangelicals of my generation, shaping the those who led the Jesus Movement, the Moral Majority, the drafting of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, the first Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, the rediscovery of classical Christian education, the formation of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, the Southern Baptist conservative resurgence, and the movement of evangelicals into politics now labeled the Christian Right—and while Schaffer played the major role in launching evangelical efforts to engage the culture on issues ranging from legalized abortion, euthanasia, sexual immorality, environmental stewardship, denying gender roles, reclaiming the arts, and education reform—and while Schaeffer was a major influence on many who rose to positions of significant leadership including theologians Harold O. J. Brown, David Wells, Os Guinness, Timothy George, John Warwick Montgomery, John Piper, Norm Geisler, Wayne Grudem and L. Russ Bush, founders of ministries including James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, Jerry Falwell, R. C. Sproul, Chuck Colson and Tim and Beverley LaHaye, denomination leaders including Paige Patterson, Richard Land and James Montgomery Boice, publishers including Lane Dennis of Crossway Books and Terry Eastland of The Weekly Standard, writers including Cal Thomas and Frank Peretti, and political leaders including Ronald Reagan, James and Susan Baker, C. Everett Koop, Jack Kemp and Gary Bauer—the legacy of Francis A. Schaeffer is now in danger of being forgotten by a new generation that hardly knows his name much less understands how much they owe to the extraordinary influence of this passionate yet humble prophet used of God to transform and reenergize so much of what they inherit.

Of course, the ways in which any culture challenges authentically Christian witness change over time, but what Schaeffer taught evangelicals about the lordship of Christ over all areas of life, the timeless relevance of objectively reliable truth, the inerrancy of God’s Word, the marred nobility of human nature, the beauty of creation, and the meaninglessness of pretending to live in a self-centered mechanistic universe will never change and are as vitally important for evangelicals today as they were when Schaeffer held forth among us.

It is therefore strategic and absolutely critical that evangelicals revisit, reaffirm, and if necessary rediscover the legacy of Francis A. Schaeffer, lest we forget what we had and lose the art of engaging the culture without accommodating ourselves to the culture, of defending truth without being ugly, of loving those we engage without compromising purity, and of fitting our message to changing circumstances without compromising its content for fear of rejection or desire merely to be accepted by others.

The entrusting of the personal books, letters and papers of Frances A. Schaeffer, by the Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation, to the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary could not be more timely or important. I am most grateful to my colleague, Bruce Little, and to the Schaeffer family for their vision and generosity, and I am certain this one very significant action will play a key role in revitalizing evangelical witness in contemporary culture. I pray it will also serve to inspire, benefit and aid in equipping of a new generation eager to make a biblically grounded, authentically Christian difference in the world of today.

Daniel R. Heimbach is Senior Professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.