OVER THE PAST DECADE WORLD WRITERS HAVE regularly and justifiably praised Francis Schaeffer, who died 20 years ago after decades of promoting Christian-worldview thinking. Schaeffer was particularly powerful in pointing out the hopelessness of non-Christian thinking, and showing logically why men and women should turn to Christ. What happens, though, when many people don't-and yet, we need to work alongside them to counteract the aggressiveness of secular liberal absolutism?
Schaeffer noted the importance of developing "co-belligerency" contacts in those situations-but didn't spell out how far to go. The problem is great, and not only because in a fallen world social entropy rules, with idealists becoming dictators and democracies turning into kleptocracies. A more basic problem is that what makes sense to those with faith in God will often seem like nonsense to others. When Paul in ancient Athens spoke of the resurrection, Areopagus auditors sneered-and it's often that way among today's academic elite.
We can learn a lot here from the biblical Daniel's ups and downs and ups. In chapter 5 of his book he predicts the dramatic demise of Belshazzar, and in the very next chapter he's thrown from power into the lion's den. He survives through God's grace and we learn at the end of the chapter that "Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian." But we're also told at the beginning of chapter 10 that in the third year of Cyrus's reign Daniel was mourning for three weeks, apparently in connection with a political development, until he had "a great vision" of war in the heavens.
Daniel remembered at this point that he was only a small hobbit in a great big universal conflict. We also have to think along those lines, standing for Christ but standing ready to work with others by learning the ABCs of co-belligerency in America:
A: ASSESS accurately both past and present. Western civilization is founded on both Jerusalem and Athens, biblical and classical knowledge, and just as it's not accurate for liberal professors to ignore the Bible, so it's not accurate for conservative Christians to say that nonbiblical strains were unimportant in the formation of Western civilization or America itself. Christianity was crucial in the founding of the United States, but some deists and skeptics also were part of the revolutionary coalition.
B: BUILD consensus in our own ranks. The Calvinist concept of "lesser magistrates"-in the American context, local and state officials standing up against federal over-reaching-is a mighty one, but "magistrates" is plural, not singular. Individual rebellion can be quirky, so the requirement that many magistrates hang together makes sure that the grievances are great. Our opponents are secular liberals, not other Christian conservatives, and rhetoric that divides us helps our adversaries to conquer.
C: CHOOSE battles and tactics carefully. Sometimes we have no choice of battleground; if we are ordered to stop praying to God or to bow to idols, we must stand firm wherever we are, as did Daniel and his friends in ancient Babylon. But when we do have a choice, we need to emphasize life-changing questions such as abortion and marriage. If we lose we lose, but we should try to win, not rush toward martyrdom when other God-honoring options exist; otherwise, it's not martyrdom, it's suicide.
If we follow those ABCs, we won't adopt the terrible tactic of spam recruitment: making statements that excite one listener but turn off a thousand. Those who with a defeatist mentality assume that minds cannot change, so the only goal is to propel into action those already in your camp, are like spam e-mailers: They don't care how many get irritated as long as a sale is made. That hurts not only Christian social and political activity but evangelism as well.
If we understand the need to assess, build, and choose, we also won't send eviction notices to those who do not agree with our particular set of tactics. God wanted Gideon's army to be small, but that was based on special revelation. Today, efforts designed to create a tiny hard core by attacking other Christian conservatives who disagree tactically owe more to Lenin than to the Bible. We mustn't forget that the difference between left and right is far greater than differences among Christian conservatives.
Remembering the ABCs gives us our best opportunity, within God's providence, of avoiding the big F of failure.