Like most of Francis Schaeffer's books, this one is about worldview and how our most fundamental assumptions about the world around us shape our attitudes and behaviour. Unlike many of his books, A Christian Manifesto is a direct call to action aimed at Christians who have lost sight of the cosmic nature of our struggle by focusing myopically on individual battles.
Rather than slowly becoming aware of and responding to the proliferation of pornography, the presence of anti-life movements in the form of legalized abortion and euthenasia, and the breakdown of sexual ethics, Christians are to bring freedom and dignity back to a world that has lost them, through law and government, through the humanities, but mostly through godliness.
For those familiar with Schaeffer's writings, a lot of the buzzwords show up right from the beginning: Truth with a capital T, world view, true spirituality. But here they simply provide context for an exhortation to wake up, understand why things are the way they are, and mobilize in the name of Christ to restore justice, morality, and (most importantly) Truth to our fallen world.
What he is not arguing for is the Christianization of all things. This isn't a political tract. If it's a tract at all, it's a religious tract designed for those who already believe, with the intent of equipping them to reform the Church and their own lives. Because societal change only comes when the Church is faithful, Schaeffer wanted to see more than anything that faithfulness restored.
A Christian Manifesto is probably the most accessible of all Schaeffer's books. While he does touch on philosophical concepts, they aren't the focus, and are clearly explained. By far the bulk of the book, however, is concerned with the complete moral breakdown of the West, its causes, and the appropriate Christian response.
More than almost any other Christian writer (especially of the 20th century), Schaeffer's works form a unity, so that reading them all is necessary for understanding the totality of his thought. An attempt to place A Christian Manifesto in this context would probably situate it just after Whatever Happened to the Human Race? and just before The Mark of the Christian.
Despite the fact that A Christian Manifesto is over thirty years old, it's just as fresh and potent as when it was first published, and perhaps more so. It's not only possible, but quite probable, that we've passed the point at which collective Christian unity can effect the change that Schaeffer foresaw, yet it is our duty as Christians to pursue that goal regardless.
A book like this can often be written off as alarmist by those who read it. Not this one—its warnings must be taken seriously since enough time has elapsed to prove they were real. If we want the Church to fulfill its God-given task of holistic reform in individual lives and in the broader culture, we'd do well to revisit this excellent and timely classic.