Francis Schaeffer and art historian Hans Rookmaaker set a lot of evangelicals to thinking about the arts and culture for the first time. Was their work an example of common-grace thinking?

There are two different strands to common-grace thinking. One is that God cares about the whole creation, including culture. And that was what Schaeffer and Rookmaaker emphasized. For many evangelicals that was a revolutionary thought: God doesn't just care about our individual lives, and we aren't here just to evangelize and hope that when the end of the world comes we'll be with the right group. God cares about the present patterns of human culture. That's basic.

But you can believe that and still believe that God hates everything an unbeliever does. Schaeffer tried to get us to see how bad non-Christian art and non-Christian philosophy were. He seldom had nice things to say about Sartre and Van Gogh and John Cage. But he showed that they were all addressing issues that Christians ought also to address.

The first thought is that God cares about culture. But the second thought is, How do we explain that there are some good things in non-Christian culture? Unfortunately, Schaeffer never gave us much help with that.

How does common-grace thinking consider the good things in other religions? Are they graces of God or are they mere counterfeits?

I think they're a grace of God. One of the problems we evangelicals have had in assessing the truth content of other religions is that we have been primarily focused on questions about salvation—that is, can a Muslim, as a Muslim, be saved? Given only those things that are available to a Muslim about religious matters, is there anything there that can get someone to heaven? Our answer is no. As ways of ...

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July 8, 2002

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