A Prophet Warned Us 50 Years Ago of the Issues Facing the Church Today

Dr. Francis Schaeffer delivering an address titled A Christian Manifesto at the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1982. - YouTube/Christian Praise and Worship in Songs, Sermons, and Audio Books

By Michael Brown Published on October 1, 2018

Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984) was a Christian theologian, philosopher and prophetic voice. While others were trying to decipher the handwriting on the wall, he was reading it clearly, often decades before his time.

Reading his words today is sobering, especially when many church leaders in the West continue to slumber on. Perhaps hearing him speak again will alarm us and awaken us?

Consider this insight from his book The God Who Is There, published in 1968.

He wrote, “But much modern homosexuality is an expression of the current denial of antithesis. It has led in this case to an obliteration of the distinction between man and woman. So the male and the female as complementary partners are finished.”

Yes, Schaeffer saw this 50 years ago, one year before the Stonewall Riots and the rise of the militant gay revolution, and long before the push for same-sex “marriage.”

He added, “It is imperative that Christians realize the conclusions which are being drawn as a result of the death of absolutes.”

How much more imperative is it that we realize this today, as society pushes hard to destroy the “gender binary” and as male-female distinctives are considered an enemy?

A Dangerous Liberalism

Already in Schaeffer’s day, there was a dangerous liberalism in some of the major denominations, including the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.

In his 1970 book The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century he noted that one of the problems “for those who did not leave the liberally controlled denominations is their natural tendency constantly to move back the line at which the final stand must be taken. … Can you imagine that these men [speaking of Presbyterian leaders like Donald G. Barnhouse and others] would have considered it a victory to have stalled the ordination of practicing homosexuals and lesbians?”

And note again the year of publication: 1970.

How much have conservative Christians within these denominations moved the line back since then? And how is it that these controversies are more than half a century old, and some of us are still not engaged in the battle? (Note also that you need to be fairly prophetic to write about “the end of the twentieth century” in the year 1970!)

In his book The Great Evangelical Disaster, published the last year of his life (1984), Schaeffer asked, “What does the future hold? What can we expect for ourselves, our congregations, our physical and spiritual children in the days ahead? America is moving at great speed toward a totally humanistic society and state. Do we suppose this trend will leave our own little projects, lives, and churches untouched?”

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Sadly, many did suppose that this trend towards humanism would not affect “our own little projects, lives, and churches.” Now that we are in a pitched battle with the secular gods of the age, we have realized that our complacency is not only threatening our generation but also the generations to come. Is it too late to effect a positive change?

Even in 1984, long before the vast majority of Christian leaders were considering gay and lesbian issues, he asked, “When a San Francisco Orthodox Presbyterian congregation can be dragged into court for breaking the law against discrimination because it dismissed an avowed, practicing homosexual as an organist, can we be so deaf as not to hear all the warning bells?”

Yet in all his writings, there was compassion, recognizing the universality of human brokenness. And there was self-abasement rather than self-righteousness.

What is God saying today?

Speaking of “the Feminist Subversion” (in the same book, in 1984), he wrote, “There is one final area that I would mention where evangelicals have, with tragic results, accommodated to the world spirit of this age. This has to do with the whole area of marriage, family, sexual morality, feminism, homosexuality, and divorce. I bring these together as one topic because they are all directly related and indeed all are part of one of the most significant aspects of human existence.”

Do his words hit a bullseye in your own heart? Do they evoke a deep, “Oh my!” from your spirit? They certainly hit home within me as I read them, as I ask myself again, “What were we thinking?” And, even more pointedly, “What are we thinking?”

Then, listen to these words, from almost 35 years ago: “And there are others who call themselves evangelical and then affirm the acceptability of homosexuality and even the idea of homosexual ‘marriage.’”

Yes, this too was written in 1984.

And then these words, even more biting: “It is hard to imagine how far these things have gone. Evangelicalism is deeply infiltrated with the world spirit of our age when it comes to marriage and sexual morality.”

Deeply infiltrated indeed.

Now, read those sentences again, then ask yourself what Schaeffer would say were he alive today.

Better still, take out your Bible, get alone with God, and ask Him what He is saying today. In the midst of words of love and affirmation, prepare to be alarmed to the core. And I mean to the core.

Whatever you do, do not hit the snooze button. The time for slumber passed us a long time ago.

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  • John A.

    Great column… love Schaeffer. Brilliant man. If you want to know what he’d say today, read the latest release of Schaeffer disciple Nancy Pearcey. She is equally brilliant and perhaps an even better communicator relating to these existential threats the church today faces. Her latest book is Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality.

  • “Evangelicalism is deeply infiltrated with the world spirit of our age when it comes to marriage and sexual morality.”

    It seems to me that’s why, on the one hand, evangelical oppose abortion; yet, on the other hand, they are terribly lenient with – and end up, even if in a round-about way, supporting – lying and adultery (perhaps because these two issues are the American church’s predominant failure in its own practice?).

    • Wikibear1923

      Evangelicalism greatest weakness is our own lust for power. We should question our church leaders and test what they say against what the scriptures say. Flee if they can’t stand being questioned.

      • Ken Abbott

        We bought into the lie that the best way to influence the culture was through political action. Of course Christian men and women should seek to be salt and light in their communities, and in a representative democracy that includes civic participation. But preaching the word of God and living in Christlikeness while fighting the world, the flesh, and the devil are far more effective ways to change hearts and minds.

  • nickstuart

    No worries.

    The Left will leave us alone as long as we hunker down in our church buildings and crank the sound board to 11 to drown out the sounds of what’s happening outside, until it suits their purposes to bring what goes on inside the church building into line with their agenda.

  • Blue J

    His son, on the other hand, has become a total disgrace.

  • TruthBeliever

    I read some of Francis Schaeffer’s writings (“How Then Should We Live” is my most memorable book) in the early 80’s and what he said shook me to the core. He truly was a prophetic vessel and his writings should still be greatly revered. If he was alive today and saw things like the recent senate inquisition of a good Christian man, judge Kavanaugh, he would still be writing about the increasing corruption of society such as we witnessed last week. His exposing compromise by members of the Body of Christ as a key component of the destruction of this nation was, and is, deeply disturbing.

    • Jim Walker

      I dare not think how the secular world would bash him with their rhetoric now. I see words in Bold : BIGOT, HOMOPHOBE, RACIST, TRANSPHOBIC, KKK…

  • Patmos

    “ask Him what He is saying today”

    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. What is he saying?

    The longsuffering of the Lord is salvation.

    He permits much only to afford people the opportunity to turn towards him and receive the wonderful gift of righteousness through repentance and grace.

    I also wonder, when has there ever really been a time of complete wholesomeness and right standing with God, either in this day and age or elsewhere? Sure it’s pretty clear the trend line is headed down, but such fluctuations aren’t exactly new. There’s nothing new under the sun.

  • Dave

    One thing that isn’t in this article is that Christians are more concerned about stopping gay people from being gay than preaching the gospel or caring for widows and orphans in their distress. That is not only sad, it’s disgusting.

    • tz1

      They also want to stop rapists from raping, violent people from doing violence, and theives from stealing.
      More specifically, one can have a disordered desire to shoplift, as long as they don’t act on it. All sex outside of marriage is considered a grave sin so any gay person who acts on their disordered desires will commit sin.
      Perhaps you don’t believe in sin and hell. Then it is no sin to be uncharitable toward widows and orphans.
      Worse, I will agree with you to this extent. Widows and orphans – those where the breadwinner dies – should be taken care of. That does not apply to single mothers who were evil or stupid in having a child out of wedlock, and children today can be adopted so there CANNOT be an orphan problem.

      But if you are a widow and go to any church, there is a good chance they won’t help but refer you to a dozen secular GOVERNMENT agencies that will without any real charity as the money is taken without consent from the taxpayer. And the Churches keep pushing that CEASAR should take care of widows and orphans, not the Churches, they are too busy asking for seed faith donations to buy new jet planes and hangars and airstrips for them.

    • Patmos

      “Dave” is a troll account. Everyone ignore.

      I’m not sure what troll factory it is that keeps putting forth this stuff, but they are pretty easily spotted at this point. It’s the same MO every time: Maybe post a few times to seem like a real Christian, then proceed with the LGBT advocacy.

      Sorry troll, you’re going to have to make another account… Again… You’ve been exposed… Again.

      • Bruce Patterson

        What do you expect, the point is that the LGBT is the Armageddon that is even now close to covering the entire earth.

      • Jim Walker

        Yes I read some of his “Christian” moments of which I even gave an upvote.

      • David N. Gray

        I don’t know “Dave”, but there is a valid point to be made here that it is tempting for us as Christians to focus too much on condemning other people’s sins instead of doing what we are supposed to be doing ourselves. (This is not “LGBT advocacy”, I’m just advocating for appropriate priorities.)

        It is a little disturbing that you assume that a person can’t be a “real Christian” unless they think the same way you do.

  • Lea Marian Laudenbach

    It is no longer of when are we going to wake up but why are we not awaken to the fact that the Enemy has systematically destroying the church for decades. And will keep coming until Christ comes again.

  • tz1

    Humanae Vitae was written in 1968.
    Arcanum a century earlier.
    Luther, Calvin, Zwingle, and Wesley interpreted Genesis 38 as totally banning contraception and called it a “Sodomic sin”.
    The Anglicans in the 1930 council of Lambeth said it was allowed in “extraordinary circumstances” for “serious reasons”
    By 1968, few Protestants – no synods, no scholarly articles explaining why EVERY protestant founder and pastor was completely wrong – accepted contraception.
    Shortly thereafter came No-Fault Divorce without any visible oppositon from the church, and Roe v. Wade as retroactive contraception (and still a disproprotionate number of Catholics praying at Clinics).

    So, Protestants switched from either no or very serious and extraordinary and rare circumstances for Contraception and Divorce to full acceptance.

    So the temporary, sterile (heterosexual but gay?) “Marriages” where Children were optional became the standard instead of the old Holy Sacrament of Marriage but then tried a futile attempt of denying sex and marriage to homosexuals, or whatever.

    I doubt there will be a single reversal either on “no-fault divorce” or contraception, the former to the point of advocating a voluntary federal “covenant” marriage that would be harder to get out of than student loan debt (Usury was allowed a long time ago but is another sin). Only divorce at-fault for abuse, abandonment or adultery. And return marriage to a fruitful union open to life instead of some kind of business merger where career comes first for many years and after the pharmikiea damage to fertility, going into expensive frankenstine IVF and stuff to try to reopen the door (womb) that was shut in God’s face.

    But you will continue to try to draw the line against “too” perverted sex, or “too” redefined marriage.

  • Bruce Patterson

    “Is it too late to effect a positive change?” Yes, it is too late. In fact, there may never have been any other outcome. What we are witnessing is the Book of Revelation from Genesis to Revelation.

    It is about man and woman, marriage and divorce, husband and wife, the tribulation of child birth and inheritance. Psalm 24 “who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?”

    The Book has an ending, does it not.

  • Vincent J.

    From the article: ” … much modern homosexuality is an expression of the current denial of antithesis.”

    I have no idea what that means. Clearly, I’m not smart enough for this forum. I think I’ll stick to the bible; it’s easier to understand with the exception of some passages.

    • G Hazel

      Antithesis is the idea that something cannot be true and false at the same time. It may seem obvious when put that way, but not all would agree. Look now how denial of that simple idea has led to the complete destruction of “the sexes” that has been universally acknowledged for thousands of years.

  • Up_Words

    Thank you Dr Brown, again, for challenging us within the Church (the real Church) to labor before the Lord for an awakening. Thank you as well, for daring to go so close
    to the edge on the question of feminism. For those questioning whether the gospel can truly effect change at this late date please allow a suggested reading of Dr. Rosaria Butterfield’s EXCELLENT autobiography, “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert”—the story of a woman who was an associate professor at Syracuse University and heavily engaged in diversity training, etc. –Also openly lesbian. With the skills of an able English Professor she engages the reader by escorting us into her lesbian thinking and then out, into truly conservative Covenant Christianity. It is an amazing trip, out of a moral “Hell” (if I may be so blunt) into a life that is portrayed as so peaceful and content that I myself would have considered myself privileged to be a part of the family she and her husband later formed.

    Can there be true revival?
    Yes, there can be. Yet, plastic Christianity and mere motivational preaching/teaching without digging into the heart and soul of the wickedness and depravity of humanity that drove our Savior to the Cross will not do it. It will have to be a total transformation, realizing that the roots of what we are seeing today are not simply a “new level” of sin on the block: it is an extension of the depravity and personal rebellion that has deep roots all through the church and its thinking. –And know this, for those who are counting on
    the “Jonah Option” that is manifest in the writings of Mark Taylor: Judgment begins in the house of the Lord (1 Peter 4:17). We may cheer and hold pep talks, of these as being the best and most challenging days of the Church, but the reality is that unless we truly repent, the judgment that many are seeking to avoid WILL become manifest—unless we
    judge ourselves (1 Cor. 11:30,31).

  • David N. Gray

    This article is projecting current fashion onto to Schaeffer’s writings by singling out issues related to homosexuality. I don’t recall that as being a major theme of his. He warned about many other things too. One Schaeffer quote which stuck in my mind is his warning about Christians becoming distracted by the pursuit of “personal peace and affluence”. At the end of his book “How Should We Then Live” (1976), his primary warning to Christians is about allowing the growth of authoritarian governments. That’s also quite relevant to today.

  • supernatural_witness

    God’s answer in the bible and on the ground is mass colonization and conquer. Open borders is a judgment of God whereby the West has been disarmed and handed over to aggressive patriarchal immigrants whom the govts pay to be conquerers with welfare and HVisas.

    “The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves. Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done. Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. O my people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path. The LORD takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people.”
    (Is. 3:9–13 NIV)

    ““‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.”
    (Lev. 18:24–28 NIV)

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