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Wednesday, February 20, 2019


“The Times They Are A-changin’” sang a contemporary troubadour in the 1960s.

This issue of The Passing Scene is a bit out of the ordinary. I typically do not write in the first person. Here is the exception.

Forty years ago I made the virtual acquaintance of Francis A. Schaeffer through his 1977 film series “How Should We Then Live?” It was based on his book of the same title and the production was given at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. I was struck by how little I knew about the influence Christianity had on our culture -- education, science, economics, the arts, and our very form of government.

Schaeffer’s perspective may be summed up briefly. “I believe people are as they think. The choices we make…will mold irrevocably the direction of our culture…and the lives of our children.” He pursued the analysis of secular worldviews and how their secular presuppositions color the interpretation of the facts. Over an historical span of 200 years he illustrated how our supposedly neutral society ridicules, ignores, and rejects the Christian point of view about morality, truth, science, the arts, and most other areas of life. He effectively demonstrated the hollowness and modernism and postmodernism.

That was my introduction to the clash of worldviews. I became aware that this clash, over the past century, has had an exceedingly detrimental effect on Western Civilization, certainly in the short term.

What is a worldview? Ronald Nash of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary puts it this way. “A worldview is the total of answers people give to the most important questions in life. According to some, the five most important elements in any worldview are what people believe about God, ultimate reality, knowledge, ethics, and human nature….Instead of viewing Christianity as a collection of theological bits and pieces to be believed or debated, people should approach it as a conceptual system, as a total world-and-life view.” Well said.

Schaeffer himself struggled with the incursions made by liberal theology and secularism within his own Presbyterianism. He was influenced by, among others, J. Gresham Machen, a Presbyterian theologian at Princeton Theological Seminary. Machen broke from modernist theology to found Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929 in Pennsylvania and the Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing house. No major denomination has been immune from this schism created over the last century by liberal theology.

I was so taken by the drift away from America’s cultural heritage that in 1984 I reconfirmed my background knowledge by compiling a 26-page annotated bibliography. In it I detailed books, book publishers, newsletters, newspapers, and periodicals that were still available on the free market.

I have come to understand that multiple factors pressured American culture into what it is today. People read less. Witness the decline in newspaper readership and book publishing due to lack of demand. Young people are not taught with accuracy even a smidgen of our country’s history. A liberal distain for the very founding of our country by white, wealthy European males sets the scene for a complete overhaul of America as we know it. A growing segment of secularists have effectively removed knowledge of our Christian heritage from the public square in the same way they are removing any vestige of knowledge of the War Between the States.

A secular humanist parody on Scripture might go something like this: “I can do all things through science, technology, and my own effort which strengthens me.” As our culture transforms under the pressures of alternative worldviews, the understanding of our heritage morphs into something that never was – much like the experience of the protagonist Winston Smith in George Orwell’s book “1984.”

Why all of this gnashing of teeth? My ire was revived anew when Googling an item referencing the Christian heritage of America. There it was in all its glory: the disparaging and critical attacks in answer to my question by the likes of People for the American Way and Americans for Separation of Church and State. These Google “sources” were cited as if they were completely impartial and had no bias whatsoever. Give me a break! Far into the Google listing I found what I was looking for. Buried deep in the archive I eventually found a somewhat impartial reference. But then, I already knew the answer. I just wanted to crosscheck and corroborate.

A half-century ago Bob Dylan composed and sang a song portraying the tenor of the times down through today. “The line it is drawn; The curse it is cast; The slow one now; Will later be fast; As the present now; Will later be past; The order is; Rapidly fadin’; And the first one now; Will later be last; For the times they are a-changin’.”

He could not have known how right he was!


Dennis M. Patrick can be contacted at (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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