Published on December 29th, 2016 | by Josiah Batten


Living Below the Line of Despair

Francis Schaeffer was a profound Christian thinker and author, and one of the notable themes of his work was the idea of the line of despair. According to Schaeffer, the line of despair is the line that separates individuals and cultures who believe all of life has a coherent and universal answer to the most important questions of our existence from those who believe there is no such answer to the most important questions of our existence (questions like What is the meaning of life? What is truth? And how should we live?).

If my reading of Schaeffer is correct, there is one essential characteristic without which life above the line of despair is not possible, and that characteristic is belief in the basic laws of thought. Perhaps the most important law in this regard is the law of non-contradiction:  It cannot be the case that one proposition and its opposite are both true at the same time, in the same place, and in the same way. It may be the case that it is raining in New York, and not raining in New Jersey. But it cannot be the case that it is raining in New York and not raining in New York at the same time, in the same place, and in the same way (Note, if it is raining ANYWHERE at all in New York, the proposition “It is raining in New York” is true).

Such observations might seem trivial, but our culture is quickly devolving into lunacy. And the reason our culture is devolving into lunacy is we have been trying to live below the line of despair for decades at least. We have been inoculated against the very idea that there are contradictions and that the acceptance of them renders us idiotic. Sadly, American Christianity  has gone along with this idea. We tend to think that we share a worldview with our broader culture, and merely disagree on a few specific issues. This is false. Christianity is above the line of despair, and our culture is firmly below it. The reason biblical Christianity does not get along with the culture better is the culture is committed to intellectual suicide, and biblical Christianity cannot accept this. We cannot go below the line of despair as our culture does. Any attempt to do so is a compromise of genuine Christianity.

To illustrate this point, we need look no further than our current cultural insanity, which is built on one contradiction after another:

  • We are told that gender itself is a social construct, but being transgender is an inherent trait.
  • We are told that we cannot legislate morality, and then told the government should punish certain forms of discrimination. You know, on moral grounds.
  • We are told that all religions fundamentally teach the same thing, and then told religious people need to respect each other’s differences.
  • We are told that what a woman does with her own body is none of our business, and then told we have to pay for her birth control or abortion.
  • We are told to call a man who identifies as a woman a woman, and then told if that “woman” is attracted to men that [s?]he is gay.
  • We are told racism is systemic, and then told to ignore the fact that most abortion clinics target minority communities.
  • We are told beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and then told we must affirm the beauty in all people.
  • We are told not to judge anyone’s acceptance of nearly anything, and then called bigots for our rejection of something.

These are merely a few examples of many, glaring contractions that many people in our society unknowingly accept. We are well below the line of despair as a culture and society. So what can be done? We need to speak the truth. The tolerance gestapo use fear and intimidation to silence dissent. So long as we are not silenced, they cannot win. You might convince people the sky is green so long as you block out any accurate representation of the sky. But as long as reality seeps through from somewhere, the lie will be exposed.

To that end we also need to cultivate a comprehensive, cohesive, and compelling Christian worldview. Christianity is not simply a smorgasbord of different moral platitudes and disjointed doctrines. Christianity is a complete worldview, centered on the reality of who God is and what He has done in the world. Against the lies and contradictions that dominate our modern society stands the truth and coherent reality of the Christian worldview, a worldview that answers such questions as where we came from, what our purpose is, how we should live, and what our ultimate destiny is from a clear and consistent basis revealed in Scripture.

Our society is living below the line of despair, but we should not be.

Soli Deo Gloria,


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