“It is my conviction that the crucial area of discussion for evangelicalism in the next years will be Scripture. At stake is whether evangelicalism will remain evangelical.” So stated Francis Schaeffer in his 1975 landmine, No Final Conflict. While this treasure was penned nearly thirty years ago, it remains relevant and applicable to 21st-century culture.
It was not unusual for Schaeffer to warn Christians. He did it often during the seventies and eighties. His chief warning in No Final Conflict is to cling to the propositional truth of the Scriptures: “We must say that if evangelicals are to be evangelicals, we must not compromise our view of Scripture … The issue is clear: Is the Bible truth without error wherever it speaks, including where it touches history and the cosmos, or is it only in some sense revelational where it touches religious subjects?” Schaeffer smelled a “rat” in 1975. He always had a good sense of smell! The pesky “rat” that Schaeffer detected continues to scurry about in postmodern culture; in fact that “rat” has produced offspring. The liberalism of the 70’s is flourishing in the 21st century. Schaffer’s antidote is simple – We must embrace the truth of Scripture: “In our day that point is the question of Scripture. Holding to a strong view of Scripture or not holding to it is the watershed of the evangelical world … We must say most lovingly but clearly: evangelicalism is not consistently evangelical unless there is a line drawn between those who take a full view of Scripture and those who do not.”
One of Schaeffer’s key points is to clear up the confusion between reason and faith. Indeed, this was one of the major notes of his writing. He saw a unity between faith and reason; a unity that is marginalized especially by the new atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Schaeffer posits, “There may be a difference between the methodology by which we gain knowledge from what God tells us in the Bible and the methodology by which we gain it from scientific study, but this does not lead to a dichotomy as to the facts … if both studies can be adequately pursued, there will be no final conflict.” Truth is unified as Nancy Pearcey has reminded us. There is no conflict between reason and faith.
Dr. Schaeffer went to be with his Lord in 1984. If he were still with us, I’m convinced that he would never have an “I told you so attitude.” Rather, he would continue to admonish believers to hold to a strong uncompromising view of Scripture. He would challenge Christ-followers to cling to the rock of propositional truth. And he would warn disciples of Christ to flee from anything that looks like a rat, smells, like a rat, or walks like a rat. His warnings mattered almost thirty years ago. They continue to be as relevant as ever!