The Page that Changed My Life: Joe Carter
The lawsuits and insurance claims were getting expensive, so the trucking company realized it would be cheaper to appoint a 15-year-old boy to fix the problem. I was hired to sit in a lawn chair on the side of the dirt road leading out of the quarry and wait for the trucks. The drivers were often too overweight, too out-of-shape, or just too lazy to climb in the back and pull the tarp over their load of gravel themselves, so it became my job to do it for them.
I'd pull the tarp on 30 trucks a day, less than 30 minutes of work during a 10-hour shift. Most of my time was spent baking in the Texas sun, fighting boredom, and wiping dust from my collection of library books.
New Boston, Texas, had no bookstores in 1985, and the library was composed of a single room in the corner of city hall. The selection consisted mostly of old paperbacks, romance and mystery novels, donated by local citizens. There were few books on my burgeoning new interests---art, culture, or religion---so I was intrigued to find one that covered all three, written by a Christian. Even though the author was a Presbyterian---and as a good Southern Baptist I was taught to be leery of such Calvinists---I decided to give it a chance.
From the very first page of How Should We Then Live? I was knocked out of my dogmatic slumbers. I had never heard anyone defend Scripture and critique culture in such a profoundly sophisticated manner. But it was on page 252 that Francis Schaeffer convinced me that even I---a young Christian living in a trailer park in East Texas---could, by proclaiming biblical truth, have a meaningful influence on the world:
Christian values . . . cannot be accepted as a superior utilitarianism, just as a means to an end. The biblical message is truth and it demands a commitment to truth. It means that everything is not the result of the impersonal plus time plus chance, but that there is an infinite-personal God who is the Creator of the universe, the space-time continuum. We should not forget that this was what the founders of modern science built upon. It means the acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord, and it means living under God's revelation. Here there are morals, values, and meaning, including meaning for people, which are not just a result of statistical averages. This is neither a utilitarianism, nor a leap away from reason; it is the truth that gives a unity to all of knowledge and all of life. This second alternative means that individuals come to the place where they have this base, and they influence the consensus. Such Christians do not need to be a majority in order for this influence on society to occur. [emphasis in original]
Twenty-seven summers have passed since I returned that book to the library. In the intervening years I've become more aware of the book's scholarly errors, the limits of "thinking worldviewishly," and the flawed humanity of my intellectual hero. Yet the effect that book had on my life and career has been immeasurable.
Many evangelicals had their life changed after meeting Francis Schaeffer in the shadows of the Swiss Alps; I am probably the only one who encountered the evangelist on the side of a quarry. But reading How Should We Then Live? affected me as profoundly as if I had met Dr. Schaeffer in person. His book helped me shake off the dust of apathy and helplessness and made me realize that a faithful evangelical could be intellectually and culturally engaged. Of all the lessons that I've picked up on the side of a road, it is that instruction for which I'm most grateful.