Francis Schaeffer: A Theology of Silence and Solitude

” Some are saying that in the next generation, the government’s chief job will be to devise ways of keeping a growing mass of people entertained, because machines will have taken their jobs” No Little People, Schaeffer p. 85.

Schaeffer was quite prophetic as he wrote in the 1970’s, and even then he had some cautionary words about the Christian soul and entertainment/technologies effect on it.

“People today are afraid to be alone.  This fear is a dominant mark upon our society.  Many now ceaselesly sit in the cinema or read novels  about other people’s lives or watch dramas.  Why?  Simply to avoid facing their own existence.  Many of us can sit in front of the television and, except on rare occasions, not face our own private life.  Entertainment so fills every cranny of our culture we can easily escape thinking.”

Is this true?  I know it pricks my conscience as I think about my own propensity to “zone out” in front of the television rather than engage with life.  What does Schaeffer mean by saying “we are afraid to face our own existence?”

But wait he keeps going.

“So is the one who stands with the transistor radio plugged in his ear much of the day.  No one seems to want (and no one can find) a place for quiet–because when you are quiet, you have to face reality.  But many in the present generation dare not do this because on their own basis reality leads them to meaninglessness; so they fill their lives with entertainment, even if it is only noise.”

The last sentence hits hard.  Yet it might be why we live in a culture that never considers its own mortality or finitness.  Most of us go on living as if we have forever.  We forget to heed the words of James 4.

Schaeffer concludes with saying, “The Christian is supposed to be the very opposite.  There is a place for proper entertainment, but we are not to be caught up in ceaseless motion which prevents us from ever being quiet.  Rather we are to put everthing second so we can be alive to the voice of God and allow him to speak to us and confront us.”

Please read this twice and let it sink in.  It may sound obvious but it is hard to hear and commune with God when our lives are so filled with noise, like trying to have a conversation at a Las Vegas night club.  Schaeffer begs with us to make ourselves alive to silence.  To give way to quietness for the sake of our soul.  Wrestle with your existence and now that you are finite and your life is short.

When I was in college one of my favorite verses was Isaiah 30: 15.

This is what the LORD the Holy One of Israel, says:

In repentence and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.


3 Responses

  1. Hey Ryan,

    I’ve been massively impacted by schaeffer myself. I recently started listened to a series of university lectures about his life, you can download them all for free on itunes. They are done by a guy name jerram barrs, it’s been really interesting so far. Like the fact that Schaeffer became a christian basically by just reading the bible!

  2. Hey Tom,

    Really good to hear from you. Hope all is well in your life. I think your referencing the Covenant Seminary lectures by Dr. Barrs. he is a wonderful professor and I have read a few of his books such as “The Heart of Evangelism.” Maybe if Matt ends up attending there he will get to sit in one of Dr. Barrs classes.

  3. Francis Schaeffer certainly did have a knack for seeing things coming down the pipe…

    The crazy thing is, nowadays, there are so many different ways to fill our days with “noise”, that these prophetic words apply to pretty much all of us! I think of myself, as a stay-at-home dad, and how in the first couple of years I was at home, I guess I was trying to cope with being in the house most of the time. I listened to a lot of radio, cuz I could do that while I was doing other things. First, I was way into Christian talk radio, then I got sick of it, and then moved into NPR… It definitely got to the point where I couldn’t just be alone with my thoughts, alone, just me and God. But ironically, I thought of myself as pretty “unplugged”, because we didn’t have cable, didn’t really watch TV at all, we didn’t have a computer at the time, etc… I was living by comparison, thinking I was so different…

    Still trying to learn that balance, cuz there are so many ways to turn on “the noise”, rather than be still, and listen to God…

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