A Call to “Social Action”
I recognize Schaeffer’s call for “social action” will make some of you nervous. Perhaps you associate it with the modern phrase “social justice.” The term was alien to Schaeffer’s day, but the concept was not. The so-called “social justice warriors” we are seeing in our streets rioting, pillaging, and attacking America’s Judeo-Christian foundations are of the same ideological stripe as those he saw on American college campuses in the 1960s. Regardless, “social justice” as it is commonly understood today is not what Schaeffer had in mind when he spoke of social action. He simply meant that the Christian tree should bear fruit, and that fruit should have a demonstrable societal impact. It is what I have called “The Grace Effect.”
- Schaeffer notes that it was the preaching of John Wesley and George Whitefield that not only gave birth to the Great Awakening and a wave of English reforms but also spared that country from the bloody revolution and Reign of Terror that gripped France for the last quarter of the 18th century.
- It was the constant parliamentary harangues of abolitionists like William Wilberforce (who briefly considered a career as an Anglican priest) and the preaching of men like John Newton, a former slaver and co-author of the hymn Amazing Grace, that conquered the evil of slavery in Britain and throughout its empire.
- It was the preaching of ministers like Jonathan Mayhew, James Caldwell, and John Witherspoon that sparked the American Revolution and gave it ideological teeth. (Not only were they instrumental in the pulpit, but Caldwell served in the Continental Army while Witherspoon served in the Continental Congress and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.)
- It was the preaching of men like Charles Finney that gave rise to the Second Great Awakening and the early anti-slavery movements in America that resulted in the eventual demise of that institution in the United States.
- And it was the preaching of pastors like Martin Luther King, Jr. that would lead the reforms of the civil rights movement, extending equal rights to people of color.