The Francis Schaeffer Collection - The L. Rush Bush Center for Faith & Culture The Schaeffer Legacy Project - An Interview With Dr. David Calhoun of Covenant Theological Seminary True Spirituality Class Francis Schaeffer at International Congress of World Evangelism, Lausanne, Switzerland, July 1974 Whatever Happened To The Human Race? - Playlist The Mark of A Christian Class - Playlist The Question of Apologetics A Christian Manifesto - Playlist

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


At this time of year my family and I spend a lot of time watching Christmas movies together, and one of our favorite Christmas themes is the story by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. After watching numerous adaptations in various levels of accuracy to the original story, one begins to be struck by the more specific intentions of the tale that still come through. At first blush, each year we get the drift that Scrooge just doesn't like Christmas, but the deeper elements of the story speak of greed, poverty, the roles of the church and state, godlessness, Godliness and statism. Dickens has crafted a profound Christmas story on social justice. For while we might disagree with some of the theological symbolism used in Dickens' story, we must realize that the portrayal of ghost was meant to cut through to matters of deep self reflection rather than form a systematic teaching on the paranormal. 

So after watching different versions several times over and reading from the story to refresh my memory, in my mind this prompted some correlation with Schaeffer's teachings in certain areas. Although, this might seem strange, I think it will be worthwhile for your consideration and very relevant for today.

Scrooge, as we may remember, is confronted near the beginning of the story with the request to give a donation for those in need by a Christian who is trying to raise funds to help the poor. 
'At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,' said the gentleman, taking up a pen, 'it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.' ~ Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Scrooge questions the very necessity, since in his thinking, there are programs to answer these needs. Yet, it is at this point we hear from the Christian that he feels the normal social programs are not only inadequate, but further that they do not furnish the Christian standard. History in fact suggest that the standards were horrific.
'Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,' returned the gentleman, 'a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?'  ~ Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Yet, we must not forget that from a certain paradigm, Scrooge's justification for not giving seems like a quite logical one, for he asserts that since he pays his taxes, he funds the prisons, Union Workhouses, and such, and he has paid enough.
'I wish to be left alone,' said Scrooge. 'Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned-they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.' ~ Dickens, A Christmas Carol
However, when told that "Many can't go there; and many would rather die." Scrooge makes the most memorable and appallingly cold statement which shows the darkness of his heart:
they had better do it [die], and decrease the surplus population ~ Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Scrooge later attempts to further excuse himself from not knowing of people's desire not to go into the state system by claiming such matters are not his business, after all, he has enough to attend to with his own business. This may be a truthful remark for the character, due to how we know he has shut himself off from society. Yet, ignorance of the matter only serves to highlight his neglect.

What Dickens so masterfully crafted in his time is a tale that both has an immediate relationship to the results of greed, but also the matters of social injustice and the Christian answer. While the injustice described of a growing state with often inhumane "solutions" and questionable ethics is a far cry from our circumstances, we should all nevertheless see some resemblance to practices that are alive and well today, as the tendency of the state to establish cold and impersonal solutions, which is still happening in our time.

Even with a Christian base, in a fallen world, the solutions, although intended for good, can always be abused. The Dickens story for example, has Scrooge mentioning prisons at first as one of the solutions he supports. This might seem out of place unless one understands that in that day and age a person would be more likely to be imprisoned for being a vagabond than they are now. As a society, it was unacceptable for one not to work, as there was a strong adherence to at least the concepts conveyed by 2 Thess 3:10 ( If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.), although over-zealously so. It was not until the Elizabethan Poor Law that England saw progress toward correcting poverty rather than mostly punishing it indiscriminately. In Dickens' time, idleness (laziness) was still very punishable. So it should be noted that we are very far from these sort of laws in our times, so much so, that Dickens would likely view our culture as greatly immoral in this area.

So if Christian solutions in a fallen world can be abused, or on converse even ignored, we easily can see how, in a fallen world with an improper base, the results will be exponentially worse and be more consistency inhuman. This is something Schaeffer understood well:
We must realize that this view will with inevitable certainty always bring forth results which are not only relativistic, and not only wrong, but which will be inhuman, not only for other people, but for our children and grandchildren, and our spiritual children. It will always bring forth what is inhuman, for with its false view of total reality it not only does not have a basis for the uniqueness and dignity of the individual person, but it is totally ignorant as to what, and who, Man is. ~ Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto
In fact, when Schaeffer was asked once by R.C. Sproul, what his most processing concern was for America, his answer was immediately: "Statism." While we may think to point fingers at our culture at this point, it is quite another to provide workable solutions, and the church has been inept to do so sufficiently.

Yet, in contrast, it often surprises me that Christians do not often stop and reflect on the substantial example the church has had and the answers we have over the two children under the Ghost of Christmas Present's robe, known as Ignorance and Want.

Ignorance: Schaeffer said that...
Christianity is the greatest intellectual system the mind of man has ever touched. ~ Francis Schaeffer
Want: Scrooge, in Dickens' story, was content with treating men in a mechanical way and would leave them to the care of some social program rather than taking the time for to give personally. In contrast, Schaeffer affirmed the Biblical dignity of man that requires us to address the needs of others as we treat them as they are, created in the image of God. Here again a relevant quote:
Every time we act in a machine-like way toward another man we deny the central teaching of the Word of God-that there is a personal God who has created man in His own image. ~ Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality

Christmas Hope
In the end, A Christmas Carol hopes to inspire a right devotion and celebration of Christmas. Thinking of Christmas, what other tradition in history has celebrated a global impacting celebration for over a thousand plus years? What other tradition throws the world into celebration of giving each year and promotes such goodwill? The legacy of Christmas as a holiday itself has promoted more goodwill in the world than any other tradition in history?

One scene that is often skipped in most of the versions of A Christmas Carol, is the one where Scrooge goes to church and the realization of his newfound "walk," which implies the right devotion and Christmas hope.
He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk -- that anything -- could give him so much happiness.  ~ Dickens, A Christmas Carol
 It is remarkable the joy that comes, and the delight Scrooge found:
 The Creator, as Abba, Father, will even now dry my tears and there will be joy. this is the meaning of true spirituality... ~ Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality
 And it was unmoved by ridicule:
Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; ~ Dickens, A Christmas Carol
My validity and my status are found in being before the God who is there. My basic validity and my basic status do not depend upon what men think of me. ~ Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality

So now finally, upon reflection of all of this, I will leave you with the significant closing remarks of Dickens, which are all the more significant when we consider the secondary themes.
it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One! ~ Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Merry Christmas!

Dan Guinn