God Who is There, The
by Francis A. Schaeffer
While Francis Schaeffer didn’t invent the term “worldview,” he did more to popularize it than anyone else. Some Christian theologians, including James Orr in his classic The Christian View of God and the World, were using the term in the nineteenth century, but most Christians only became aware of the importance of worldviews late in the twentieth century. For that, most of us can thank Schaeffer.
Schaeffer fully understood that Christianity could not be logically demonstrated in a way that inexorably caused all reasonable people to embrace the faith. He knew that evidence could be interpreted in different ways, according to our own preconceived notions, and so neither could you scientifically “prove” the existence of God. The best apologetic, as he understood, was a “presuppositional apologetic.”
This is the language of worldview. What Schaeffer meant was that one person’s faith assumptions about reality might be better than another person’s. For example, the man who thinks he is fireproof holds at least one bad presupposition, and if he attempts to live according to that assumption—say, by jumping into an active volcano—his faith will let him down. Likewise, says Schaeffer, every person’s worldview is based on certain presuppositions about reality, which either match reality and allow the individual to function well, or contradict reality and must be ignored when the individual attempts to live life.
In Schaeffer’s view—as with everyone who believes that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life—there is only one set of presuppositions that truly matches reality: the Christian worldview. All other worldviews ultimately break down. To take just one example: the atheist denies the existence of God, which also causes him to reject the possibility of absolutes—but you can’t function in the real world without respecting certain absolutes. Most atheists still say that murder is wrong—which is a fine thing to say, but adhering to this requires ignoring their worldview in practice.
Had Christians embraced worldview thinking earlier, Schaeffer says, we wouldn’t have lost so many Christians at the universities: “It was indeed unfortunate that our Christian ‘thinkers,’ in the time before the shift took place and the chasm was fixed, did not teach and preach with a clear grasp of presuppositions. Had they done this, they would not have been taken by surprise, and they could have helped young people to face their difficulties.”
I think Schaeffer would have been encouraged, had he lived till now, to see how much the Church has embraced worldview, and how much it has encouraged the younger generation. We’re starting to see, as Schaeffer saw, that when we challenge non-Christian worldviews at the presuppositional level, the truth of the gospel shines more and more brightly.
by Jeff Baldwin