Conservative Theology

May 09, 2011

General / Francis Schaeffer on Academics

JB

Someone sent me this quote, and I thought it was worthwhile:

Sadly we must say that in the area of scholarship the evangelical world has not done well. In every academic discipline the temptation and pressure to accommodate is overwhelming. Evangelicals were right in their rejection of a poor pietism which shut Christianity up into a very narrow area of spiritual life. Evangelicals were right in emphasizing the Lordship of Christ over all areas of culture art, philosophy, society, government, academics, and so on. But then what happened? Many young evangelicals heard this message, went out into the academic world, and earned their undergraduate and graduate degrees from the finest secular schools. But something happened in the process. In the midst of totally humanistic colleges and universities, and a totally humanistic orientation in the academic disciplines, many of these young evangelicals began to be infiltrated by the anti-Christian world view which dominated the thinking of their colleges and professors. In the process, any distinctively evangelical Christian point of view was accommodated to the secularistic thinking in their discipline and to the surrounding world spirit of our age. To make the cycle complete, many of these have now returned to teach at evangelical colleges where what they present in their classes has very little that is distinctively Christian.

Note that this criticism is not a call for intellectual retreat and a new anti-intellectualism. Evangelical Christians should be better scholars than non-Christians because they know that there is truth in contrast to the relativism and narrow reductionism of every discipline. But too often Christians have naively entered the academic world with a glassy-eyed fascination and left their critical judgment and Christian truth behind.

The battle we are in rages most intensely in the academic world. Every academic discipline has dominated secularist thinking especially in the behavioral sciences, the humanities, and the arts. Part of our task as Christians is to carefully understand and study these areas—but then to respond critically from a distinctively Christian point of view. But note, as I pointed out in the preceding chapter, this involves two things: 1) being truly Bible-believing; and 2) facing the results of the surrounding wrong world view with loving, but definite confrontation. Please do not take this lightly. We cannot retreat and shut Christianity up to a narrow view of spirituality; but in the totally secularistic academic world the dangers and the temptations are profound. It is very difficult to live in this world as a college or university student for four years or longer and not become infiltrated by the surrounding world-view.

(in The Complete Works of Fr. Schaeffer,  vol. 4: 385-387)