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Analysis/Evaluation of "Foundations of Faith and Freedom"
from Francis A. Schaeffer's A Christian Manifesto


In Chapter Two: Foundations for Faith and Freedom of Francis A. Schaeffer’s A Christian Manifesto, Schaeffer uses the example of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America to back up and illustrate his claim that the overall worldview of America has changed drastically over the last two hundred years. His thesis statement for the chapter can be found both at the beginning and end of the chapter, on pages 31 and 39: “The Founding Fathers of the United States (in varying degrees) understood very well the relationship between one’s world view and government,” and “…the men who founded the United States of America really understood that upon which they were building their concepts of law and the concepts of government.” Schaeffer in this chapter is countering the modern liberal claim that the Founding Fathers did not have a Christian viewpoint, as well as making clear what the Founding Fathers, given that they did have a Christian worldview, really meant by the First Amendment. A secondary thesis can be found on page 34: “It is, therefore, totally foreign to the basic nature of America at the time of the writing of the Constitution to argue a separation doctrine that implies a secular state.”

Schaeffer backs up his major thesis, that the United States in general was built on a Christian background, with eleven references either to prominent Founding Fathers, signs of Christianity in early American government, or the British forerunners of the Founding Fathers. First, John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Second, Samuel Rutherford, a Scottish political thinker in the 17th century who wrote Lex Rex—Law is King, instead of the King being Law. The ideas in Lex Rex formed a foundation for the Constitution. Third, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Constitution, who followed in the footsteps of Fourth, John Locke. Locke was best known for his concept of natural law, a law that is intrinsically higher than any man. Lex Rex had said the same thing, but Locke secularized it. Fifth, the fact that there was a paid Congressional chaplin by the end of the Revolutionary War. Sixth, the establishment of a National Holiday for Thanksgiving at the end of the War. Seventh, William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. Eighth, the counter-example of the French Revolution, which seemed to be headed in the same direction as the American Revolution, but which did not have the same religious underpinnings, and thus failed. Ninth, William Blackstone, a key British lawyer who wrote Commentaries on the Law of England, long considered to be the foundation of Western law. Blackstone believed that there were two foundations for law, nature and revelation, by which he meant Holy Scripture. Tenth, lawyer Joseph Story, who stated in an address to Harvard University that Common Law has always recognized Christianity as its foundation. Eleventh, a quote from Terry Eastland concerning John Adams, that American law is rooted in moral and religious tradition.

Within the chapter, Schaeffer also deals with the issue of “separation of church and state,” which I put in quotes because the First Amendment does not say this, and Schaeffer will argue that this is a misinterpretation of what it means. His secondary thesis states this, and he backs it up with four points that show that the Founding Fathers had no intention of a completely separate church and state, but rather, merely that the federal government cannot set up a state church and cannot interfere with the free practice of religion. First, a quote from James Madison states the reason for the First Amendment was to keep one religious sect from gaining power in the government and thus forcing others to conform to it. Second, the fact that there many individual states did have state churches, and that churches were supported by taxes in some states up until at least 1853. Third, Supreme Court case United States v. Ballard in 1944, for which Justice Douglas wrote a majority opinion that emphasizes the two purposes of the First Amendment that Schaeffer has just outlined. Fourth, a listing of three laws or cases quoted from Terry Eastland that indicate governmental support of religion: The Northwest Ordinance, and two blasphemy cases from New York and Pennsylvania.

As can be seen by the prodigious amount of quotes and references to Founding Fathers, court cases, lawyers, and other writers, Schaeffer is relying heavily on logos in this chapter. He is using other sources, and largely original sources (that is, the Founding Fathers themselves), to support his claim that the Founding Fathers worked from a largely Christian worldview. However, he is also using a good bit of ethos, relying on his own thoughts. This book is fairly personal in tone, and it is clear that he himself has a lot invested in it. Even though he is quoting from others (logos), it almost sounds as though he wrote the passages first, and then went searching for quotes to back up his own (ethos) thoughts. And because the book is so personal for Schaeffer, and obviously on a subject about which he cared a great deal, pathos slips through as well, particularly when he makes statements like “Don’t you wish that everybody in America would recite [Witherspoon’s quote about preserving virtue or losing liberty] every morning?” He wants the reader to have the same kind of emotional reaction to the loss of America’s Christian worldview.

I firmly agree with Schaeffer’s assessment that we have lost something which the Founding Fathers, in general, had concerning the religious underpinnings of a successful nation. But I would like address a couple of things which might work against Schaeffer in the text. First, he makes a generalized statement that the Founding Fathers infused the Constitution and the country with a Christian worldview. And he quotes several of them, yes, but not a majority of them. Of some 150 Founders, he refers to five, only a small percentage. Yet I would argue that this does not lessen his argument as much as it might seem to. In his opening sentence, he does admit that not all the Founders were entirely gung-ho about Christianity (“in varying degrees”), and admits that Jefferson was a deist who built off of Locke, who secularized Lex Rex. But Schaeffer is not arguing that all of these men were Christians. In fact, in the book, he is not arguing that all Americans used to be Christians and aren’t now. He is arguing that the basic worldview held by the Founders, as well as Americans up to the last few decades, has been one based in Christianity. One doesn’t have to be a devout Christian to have a worldview that is essentially Christian in outlook. The United States Constitution is the work of many men that Schaeffer did not quote, as well as the ones he did, but the thing to note is that ALL of them approved it. All of them signed it. While these five men may not speak for the whole as far as personal faith goes, I don’t think it is illogical to say that they do speak for the whole as far as public policy goes. It is also worth noting that the five he does quote include Jefferson, Adams, and Madison, three of the most prominent writers of the founding documents of the country. Most of the words in the Declaration and Constitution were written by these men.

Schaeffer clearly has a Christian, absolutist worldview. It is hardly worthwhile to argue this point, since the very title of the book indicates this. Christian in the title is self-explanatory. Schaeffer is writing a book about what Christians believe, and what Christians must do, indicated by the word Manifesto—a statement of belief, and a call to act on that belief. Taking it a step further, if he is calling for a specific action that must be taken, then he must be working from an absolutist viewpoint, otherwise he would have no basis for which to tell others what to do. This is backed up in the pages, as well.

From reading this chapter, specifically, I was encouraged that the ideals our country was built upon are similar to the ones that I myself hold. And yet, discouraged because those ideals are no longer held to in our society. Schaeffer’s pathos has worked on me in this chapter, at least. I had already believed what he states in this chapter, but hearing it from someone I have great respect for, and seeing all the quotes he used gave me a firmer foundation in those beliefs. I think being a good World Citizen requires the knowledge of history, both events in history and ideas in history, that Schaeffer puts forth in this chapter. I have been inspired to find out more about these founding fathers, especially the ones like John Adams who I already consider to be exemplars of World Citizenry.



This paper originated as a term paper for World Citizen, Missouri Baptist University, Spring, 2003.

©2003 by Jandy Stone