Like Robert Schuller (as we pointed out last week in : Thu 13 May 2010
Age of Aquarius), Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer also had concerns about the church and culture but took a very different stance on how to address the problem. His solution was not to hide from culture in a sort of Christian Ghetto as had been the predominate practice since 1930, nor as Schuller was promoting to simply gather around hand in hand self-actualizing and singing Kum Ba Ya:
Some Christians have supposed that the choice is between a revolutionary stance and some kind of reconciliation. The Christian, it is assumed, is to choose reconciliation. But we cannot have reconciliation in a world like ours unless something happens first. We are headed for the disaster I have described above, and no nice soft talk of reconciliation and the contentless word “love” is going to have any meaning in such a setting. We must have something stronger.(1)
He was clear that there was a difference between being a cobelligerent and an ally. He was also very concerned about the churches abandonment of truth and the Scriptures:
Second, we and our churches must take truth seriously. The great tragedy is that in all our countries evangelicalism under the name of evangelicalism is destroying evangelicalism. Orthodoxy under the name of orthodoxy is destroying orthodoxy. Take the Free University of Amsterdam, that great school that under Abraham Kuyper really spoke for God, not only in theology but in its understanding of culture. Today the Theology Department in the Free University destroys the Scripture. In America it is the same. We have theological seminaries that call themselves evangelical and no longer hold to the Scriptures(2)
He was very unambiguous that truth and the Scriptures were of paramount importance. “We must practice truth even when it is costly. We must practice it when it involves evangelistic cooperation.”(3) Something with which we heartily agree and he went further:
Third, our churches must be real communities. With an orthodoxy of doctrine there must equally be an orthodoxy of community. Our Christian organizations must be communities in which others see what God has revealed in his Word. They should see that what has happened in Christ’s death and reconciliation on the cross back there in space and time and history is relevant, that it is possible to have something beautiful and unusual in our own generation.(4)
It is apparent that Schaeffer’s concerns and warnings went largely unheard and unheeded as truth and orthodox doctrine continued to give way to pragmatism, emotionalism, faddism, and figuring out ways to market the church. The result was a new sort of spirituality within culture in general and taking over church thinking:
Baby Boomers were “a generation of seekers.” Only 4 percent of them are atheists or agnostics. The rest follow some religion. Our declining moral standards are not because we are no longer religious but because we have changed religions. The noble search for expanded consciousness and alternative spiritualities in the ‘60s led East, where seekers discovered mysticism and returned to spawn a relativistic religious hybrid: Western spiritual monism.
This new pagan monism joins the Eastern religious idea that “all is one and one is all” to Western technology, democratic self-determinism and the ideal of autonomous egalitarianism. The whole clothed in “Christian” dress for general Western consumption.(5)
Against this backdrop, some were concerned about the viability of the church in an increasing anti-institutional and pagan culture. Professor Gene A. Getz of Dallas Theological Seminary, in response to challenges on this front by his students, spent time looking at the New Testament church which culminated with his book Sharpening the Focus of the Church. Through the prompting of a number of families Fellowship Church was founded in 1972 using the principles outlined in his book. The emphasis was on sound biblical teaching and fellowship with a view to training and preparing the believers to do outreach. In other words, against much of the common church practice of the day, Getz took the view that the ministry of the church is teaching, training, and equipping the saints during the corporate meetings and prepare them to perform the mission of the church (evangelism) outside the church. The result was that not only did his church grow spiritually and numerically but over the next four years they planted four other churches. Gene Getz went on to write other books which became very popular, The Measure of a Church and The Measure of a Man. Unfortunately, although these became popular study materials in churches across the country, many churches focused on the style and growth of Getz’s church rather than what he was teaching and the imitation of his style gave birth to yet another fad. Since Getz sat on a stool and used an overhead projector to teach, churches were abandoning the pulpits, getting overhead projectors and bar stools in order to attract people into their churches. Style rather than substance became the aspect to emulate.
Troubled Political Water…gate
In 1971 the Reverend Sun Myung Moon made his third visit to the United States. A few of his followers had been here for the previous decade but were ineffective at establishing his group and teachings. There had been a fair amount of infighting and little unity but this would change with the presence of Moon himself who began making common cause with conservative political figures.
In spite of the general mayhem college students had created in their protests over the Viet Nam war, President Richard M. Nixon was certain that most of the nation was behind his policies. He called this group the “Silent Majority” in a speech in 1969. He was apparently right and to the elation and seeming affirmation of the Conservative Intellectual movement and consternation of liberals was reelected by a landslide vote in 1972. Shortly after he was sworn in to office in 1973 the “Watergate” scandal started becoming the focus of public attention through the heavy influence of the media. Seemingly the distrust of conservatives by liberals and college students was vindicated by the 1972 break in of the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. On August 8, 1974 Nixon announced that he would resign from office and he delivered a farewell address to the nation on the morning of August 9, 1974 and Vice-President, Gerald Ford ascended to the office of President. Talk of prosecuting Nixon was mounting and on September 8, 1974, President Ford issued a pardon proclamation for Nixon and gave his reasons for this to the nation. It seemed all the gains by conservatives up to this point were lost in one fell swoop.
Rev. Moon and his followers, who had been supporting Nixon through the Watergate scandal were disappointed with Nixon’s resignation but it did give them public exposure and introduction to a number of other conservative political figures. With new found notoriety and seeming establishment acceptance his group went on the recruit and established communes for their members who spent most of their day on street corners “fund raising” through selling flowers and candy. Not knowing what to do to rescue their kids from the “Moonies” some parents hired “deprogrammers” to kid knap their offspring from what was viewed as a new and dangerous religious group. The term “cult” began taking on new meaning to many as this phenomena grew.
On the political and cultural scene discussion regarding abortion was going on both inside and outside the church. The general feeling among Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians seems to have been in favor of such legislation.
In 1971, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) had voted almost unanimously in support of a resolution affirming a woman’s right to have an abortion if giving birth would pose physical or emotional danger.(6)
With little resistance from the public or Fundamental and Evangelical churches at large the now infamous Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion was handed down by the Supreme Court on January 22, 1973. The engineering of social change advocated by Dewey and others in the 1930s which had gone on unchecked by Christians for nearly forty years was now working itself out in culture and law. New “rights” for one human being to choose to kill a human being of one particular class were “discovered” in the Constitution. The Social Darwinism of the 1930s was finally winning the day in court and indeed the culture. The lone dissenting voice seemed to come primarily from the Roman Catholic quarter.
In the midst of the chaos, crisis and change in culture, the church found itself seriously challenged and reacted to it in different ways. Through the 1970s at least four distinct movements with very different approaches emerged in response. We might call these, the Protecting, the Popular and the Political and the Prosperity Church Movements.
The Protecting Church Movement
One of the first groups to gain a large following was Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (now Institute in Basic Life Principles or IBLP). Bill Gothard graduated from Wheaton College with a B.A. in 1957 and received his M.A. in 1961. His Master’s thesis was titled, A Proposed Program for Hi-Crusaders Clubs. He was very interested and active in youth ministry. Sometime around 1964, Gothard was invited to teach a course on youth ministry at his alma mater, Wheaton College. Forty-five students attended, including pastors, youth workers, and educators. The materials he presented at the time were later fine tuned and became the foundation for his seminars promoting what he called the “Seven Non-Optional Principles of Life.” Being only very loosely based on the Bible these “principles” were essentially a humanistic cause and effect way of living and promoted as the way to please God rigid sets of steps and principles which, it was taught, if faithfully followed would result in protection from spiritual, physical, relational and financial loss. His views were more akin to the ideas of the Behavioral Psychologist B. F. Skinner:
Skinner received his PhD in 1931. In 1936 he took an academic position at the University of Minnesota where he wrote The Behavior of Organisms and began his novel Walden II, about a commune where behaviorist principles created a new kind of utopia. He also began development of his controversial “baby box,” a controlled-environment chamber for infants (his second daughter spent much of her babyhood in one). Pigeons roosted outside his office window at the University of Minnesota, which gave him the idea to use them as experimental subjects — they became his favorite.
With pigeons, he developed the ideas of “operant conditioning” and “shaping behavior.” Unlike Pavlov’s “classical conditioning,” where an existing behavior (salivating for food) is shaped by associating it with a new stimulus (ringing of a metronome), operant conditioning is the rewarding of a partial behavior or a random act that approaches the desired behavior. Operant conditioning can be used to shape behavior. If the goal is to have a pigeon turn in a circle to the left, a reward is given for any small movement to the left. When the pigeon catches on to that, the reward is given for larger movements to the left, and so on, until the pigeon has turned a complete circle before getting the reward. Skinner compared this learning with the way children learn to talk — they are rewarded for making a sound that is sort of like a word until in fact they can say the word. Skinner believed other complicated tasks could be broken down in this way and taught. He even developed teaching machines so students could learn bit by bit, uncovering answers for an immediate “reward.”(7)
In Skinner’s view by following a particular set of steps and principles humans could be programmed to live certain ways which would bring about rewards as a result of their behavior.
By following this sort of methodology and attaching Bible verses to the “non-optional principle” system, Gothard created, in effect, an Evangelical Talmud. Some may ask, “What is a Talmud?” The Talmud is the body of Jewish oral traditions extending back at least to the Babylonian Captivity which were written down and completed by the fifth century A.D.(8), and considered authoritative by the Jews. These were the same oral traditions that Jesus opposed in his rebuke of the Pharisees (e.g., Matt. 23).
Gothard’s first actual seminar took place in 1966 with 1,000 attending. There was some minor growth over the next several years (the combined total attendance for 1968 was about 2,000) but the early 1970s accelerated the growth of his ministry. According to Wilfred Bockelman in his book, Gothard – The Man And His Ministry: An Evaluation, the attendance in “1971, 12,000; 1972 over 128,000 including 13,000 in the Seattle Coliseum; in 1973 more than 200,000.”(9) Before you could say, “post-Watergate, social malaise,” Gothard’s public career ultimately outlasted that of most major rock-and-roll stars, including the Beatles (as a group at least), and his live audiences were at least as huge as those at rock concerts. Churches in every city, town, and hamlet in America were taking their young people to his seminars by the busload.
Gothard’s concepts were simple. Authority is like an umbrella and is a top down structure which must be listened to and unquestioningly obeyed. The stress was on external things, dress, appearance, and blind obedience which would bring about peace, harmony and protection. Association with anyone who didn’t not hold to and practice his “non-optional principles” and standards was to be avoided at all costs. To do otherwise might invite rebellion and the accompanying wrath of God for those who get outside of the “umbrella.” This reinforced in the hearts and minds of many very fine, very concerned Christians who were terrified for their children that they must hide and protect them from anyone outside their camp. Fear, concern and the consuming desire to protect our children may drive us to make particular decisions which in the end may have been the wrong decisions. Bill Gothard’s teachings were and continue to be an outworking of his humanistic external cause and effect answers to life. Keeping in the tradition of the previous generation of teaching, the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone was, on occasion, clearly stated. Sanctification on the other hand was essentially taught as something which happens from the outside in through a strict obedience to prescribed codes of behavior, dress, hair styles, and personal associations. Passages such as Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” while acknowledged were little taught. The idea that not only is salvation accomplished by God but sanctification is in His hands as well has been displaced by the idea that with God’s assistance we must make ourselves holy. Extreme legalism became the badge of spirituality. Anyone who would dare question were automatically labeled rebellious and therefore in opposition to “Holy Living.” This worked quite well in many Fundamentalist and some Evangelical churches. It also continued the nearly forty year tradition of attempting to hide from culture and Bill Gothard seemed to be able to provide additional tools to fortify the fence which would protect believers from coming into contact with unbelievers or less holy believers and thus become spiritually contaminated.
1 Francis A. Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the 20th Century, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL., Second printing 1971; 36.
2 ibid, 37
3 ibid, 38
4 ibid, 39
5 Peter Jones, Pagans in the Pews, Regal Books, A Division of Gospel Light, Ventura, CA, 2001, p. 30.
6 William Martin, With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America, Broadway Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., New York, NY, 1996; 156
7 A Science Odyssey: People and Discoveries, B.F., 1904-1990; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/bhskin.html
8 The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion, edited by Werblowsky and Wigoder, (Massada, Press LTD, 1965), pp. 373-374
9 Wilfred Bockelman, Gothard – The Man And His Ministry: An Evaluation, (Santa Barbara, CA: Quill Publications, 1976) 35