He is There and He is Not Silent- Francis Schaeffer (1972)

I first read He is There and He is Not Silent by Francis Schaeffer in 1992.  Multiple readings have ensued and I turn back to Schaeffer’s book again and again for help with apologetics.

Schaeffer argues for three basic areas of philosophical thought: metaphysics (being or existence), morals (the dilemma of man), and epistemology (the problem of knowing). Philosophy and religion are essentially devoted to the same questions, namely, metaphysics, morals, and epistemology.

Philosophy is concerned with either an academic subject or a person’s worldview.  It is the later, that Schaeffer is concerned with in this volume.  Schaeffer contends that every man is a philosopher of sorts because it is impossible for humans to live without a worldview.

Metaphysics

There are three basic answers to the question of metaphysics.  The first answer is that “everything that exists has come out of absolutely nothing.”  Naturalism’s answer suggests no energy, no mass, no motion, and no personality.  This answer is, as Schaeffer calls it, “nothing, nothing.”

The second answer is that everything had an impersonal beginning.  This answer leads automatically to reductionism.  “Beginning with the impersonal must be explained in terms of the impersonal plus time plus chance,” writes Schaeffer.  This answer poses many problems.  But the two primary problems fail to answer the major philosophical question: the need for unity and the need for diversity.

The third answer is the biblical answer.  The third answer is the only rational and satisfying answer.  This answer suggests that we must begin with a personal beginning.  And to have an adequate answer of a personal beginning, one must have a personal infinite God, and personal unity and diversity in God (found the holy Trinity).

Schaeffer concludes: “The reason we have the metaphysical answer is because the infinite-personal God, the full Trinitarian God is there and he is not silent.”

Morals

There are only two basic answers to the question of morals.  The first: Everything had an impersonal beginning.  The is the answer of atheism.  Schaeffer never minces words.  He writes, “Beginning with the impersonal, there is no explanation for the complexity of the universe or the personality of man.”  When one begins with the impersonal, one eliminates the possibility of morals or ethics.

The second answer is the biblical reality of a personal beginning.  Man was created by an infinite-personal God.  Man sinned or “made a decision to change himself” as Schaeffer notes.

“The starting point,” writes Schaeffer “to the answer (of the question of morals) as with metaphysics is the fact that God is there and he is not silent.”

Epistemology

Schaeffer concludes by setting forth the problem concerning epistemology and the epistemological answer.

The epistemological problem concerns the tension between nature (particulars) and grace (universals).  When nature becomes autonomous, the universal is lost with the hope of giving the particulars meaning.  The problem is that when nature becomes autonomous, nature “eats up” grace.  Schaeffer argues that when we are left with only particulars, we become lost in the areas of metaphysics, morality, and epistemology.

The epistemological answer was summarized by the Reformers.  The Reformers did not allow for a dichotomy between nature and grace.  The reason: they had verbal propositional revelation.  The Reformers were vocal about the reality of God’s existence and the reality of his revelation.  Schaeffer popularized this view in the title of his book, He is There and He is Not Silent.  God has spoken truly about himself.  However, he has not spoken exhaustively about himself.

Schaeffer urges readers to come face to face with two gigantic presuppositions – “the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system and the uniformity of natural causes in an open system and in a limited time span.”  Ultimately, readers must determine which worldview fits with the facts.

Schaeffer summarizes, then, the basic presuppositions in historic Christianity.

1. God is there.

2. God is the infinite-personal God who has made man in his image.

3. God made man a verbalizer in the area of propositions in his horizontal communications with other men.

4. God communicates to us on the basis of propositions, viz, he is there and his is not silent.

Schaeffer maintains, “Under the unity of the apex of the infinite-personal God, in all of these areas we can have meaning, we can have reality, and we can have beauty.”

He is There and He is Not Silent is an essential work of apologetics.  It should be required reading for every Bible College/Seminary student.  Schaeffer put his finger on the essential issues of the day – even in the early 70’s and especially in our day.

 

Why Francis Schaeffer Matters:The Role of the Church in Cultural Transformation – Part 9

Francis Schaeffer believes that the church has a heavy responsibility to promote community.  He holds that the first step in comprehending Christian community is understanding the individuals who make up the community.  The reason: The individual is important to God.  He adds, “I am convinced that in the twentieth century people all over the world will not listen if we have the right doctrine, the right polity, but are not exhibiting community” (The Church At The End Of The Twentieth Century, 64).

He stresses “existential living in the community.”  The horizontal relationships must all be rooted in the vertical, namely, a relationship with God.  He holds that the primary responsibility is developing community within the church.  He does not minimize the importance of reaching out to the lost but contends the community of the faithful must come first.

We Must Practice Purity

Schaeffer expresses his passion for maintaining purity in the church by appealing to the bride motif in Scripture.  “As the bride of Christ, the church is to keep itself pure and faithful which involve two principles that seem to work against each other” (The Church Before The Watching World, 115).  These principles include the practice of purity in regard to doctrine and life and the practice of an observable love and oneness among all true Christians regardless of who they happen to be.

Ultimately our task is to exhibit simultaneously the holiness and the love of God.  Schaeffer explains this complex responsibility.  “If we stress the love of God without the holiness of God, it turns out only to be compromise.  But if we stress the holiness of God without the love of God, we practice something that is hard and lacks beauty” (The Church Before The Watching World, 152).

The method for practicing purity within the church is the consistent practice of church discipline (noted above as one of the norms of the New Testament church).  Schaeffer unapologetically believes that anyone who rejects the teaching of Scripture in belief or practice should be placed under church discipline – the very purity of Christ’s church is at stake.

Drawing further on the bride motif, Schaeffer warns Christians from committing spiritual adultery:  “The bride of Christ can be led away and can become less than the bride should be.  As there can be physical adultery, so too there can be unfaithfulness to the divine Bridegroom – spiritual adultery” (The Church Before The Watching World, 139).  Further, “To turn away from the divine Bridegroom is to turn to unfufillment.  This is not only sin, it is destruction” (The Church Before The Watching World, 147).

The moment by moment experience with the Bridegroom is an extremely important issue in Schaeffer’s thinking.  He believes that evangelicals for the most part have banked on the doctrine of justification by faith alone but they have failed to live in the light of this teaching:  “As the bride puts herself in the bridegroom’s arms on the wedding day and then daily, and as therefore children are born, so the individual Christian is to put himself in the Bridegroom’s arms, not only once for all in justification, but existentially, moment by moment” (The Church Before The Watching World, 135).  Moreover, “We are to act as that we are.  We are not just going to heaven.  We are even now the wife of God.  We are at this moment the bride of Christ.  And what does our divine Bridegroom want from us?  He wants from us not only doctrinal faithfulness, but our love day by day” (The Church Before The Watching World, 148).

We Must Demonstrate the Reality of Christianity

Schaeffer does not stop with doctrinal and existential faithfulness to Christ.  He contends that we must also demonstrate the reality of the Christian faith in tangible ways to the watching world.  He holds that the essential quality of a believer is love for one another (John 13:35).

Despite Schaeffer’s vigorous attempts to provide a defense of the Christian faith, he contends that love for one another and a unified body provide the basis for the unbeliever to become interested in the Christian faith.  He calls this love and unity “the final apologetic.”  He offers this challenge to the evangelical church:  Our love will not be perfect, but it must be substantial enough for the world to be able to observe or it does not fit into the structure or the verses in John 13 and John 17.  And if the world does not observe this among true Christians, the world has a right to make two awful judgments which these verses indicate: that we are not Christians and that Christ was not sent by the Father (The Mark Of The Christian, 197).

We Must Engage in a Christian Revolution

Schaeffer contends that the evangelical church must return to the base of Scripture and embark on a Christian revolution.  He maintains the church must be pitted against everyone who has turned away from God and the revelation of the Word of God.  He believes the implications of revolution are threefold:  First, Christians must realize that there is a difference between being a cobelligerent and an ally.  Second, the church must take truth seriously (Here is the repeated emphasis on antithesis).  Third, the church must be a real place of community (as noted above).

He provides two basic principles for being a revolutionary Christian.  First, we need a Christianity that is strong, not a mere memory.  He simply calls this “hot Christianity.”  Second, our Christianity must become truly universal; relevant to all segments of society and all societies of the world.  He refers to this as “compassionate Christianity.”

Schaeffer does not believe, however, that mere revolution is enough.  He believes that the church in the modern generation also needs reformation and revival.  Reformation refers to a restoration to pure doctrine and a return to the teachings of Scripture.  Revival refers to a restoration in the Christian life and a proper relationship to the Holy Spirit.

Reformation and revival must occur simultaneously.  Or as Schaeffer puts it, “The great moments of church history have come when these two restorations have simultaneously come into action so that the church has returned to pure doctrine and the lives of the Christians in the church have known the power of the Holy Spirit.  There cannot be true revival unless there has been reformation; and reformation is not complete without revival” (Death In The City, 210).

We Must Reclaim the Culture for the Cause of Christ and His Kingdom

This final admonition for Dr. Schaeffer plays a central role in his thinking.  He sums up his view in his little book, Back To Freedom and Dignity.  “In short, Christians should prepare to take the lead in giving direction to cultural change.”

The primary issue at hand is a return to the Christian consensus; the Christian worldview.  “I tell you in the name of God He will judge our culture unless there is a return to a Christian base for the culture – and that begins with true repentance and renewal in the church” (The Church Before The Watching World, 147).

The most definitive look at Schaeffer’s view in this area is his popular work, A Christian Manifesto.  Inspired by Samuel Rutherford who wrote Lex Rex (law is king) in 1644, Schaeffer proceeds to describe the cultural responsibilities of the church.  He quotes John Witherspoon approvingly who writes, “A republic once easily poised must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty.”

He addresses the problem of pluralism and believes “it is up to Christians to show that Christianity is the Truth of total reality in the open marketplace of freedom” (A Christian Manifesto, 440).

He addresses the problem of humanism and writes, “If we are going to join the battle in a way that has any hope of effectiveness – with Christians truly being salt and the light in our culture and our society – then we must do battle on the entire front” (A Christian Manifesto, 445).  He continues:

Most fundamentally, our culture, society, government, and law are in the conditions they are in, not because of a conspiracy, but because the church has forsaken its duty to be the salt of the culture.  It is the church’s duty (as well as its privilege ) to do now what it should have been doing all the time – to use freedom we do have to be that salt of the culture (A Christian Manifesto, 447).

The answer Schaeffer gives for the enduring problems that America faces is most interesting.  He endorses civil disobedience and goes so far to say that a given Christian is disobedient if she does not engage in necessary civil disobedience.

The foundation for Schaeffer’s adherence to civil disobedience may be found in the book,  Lex Rex.  It essentially proclaims that the law is king, and if the king and the government disobey the law they are to be disobeyed.  The logic is defined as follows:  All power is from God (Rom. 13) and government is ordained and instituted by God.  However, the state is to be administered according to the principles of God’s Law.  Acts of the state which contradict God’s Law are illegitimate and are considered acts of tyranny (defined as ruling without the sanction of God).

Therefore, the following principles apply to the Christian church:  First, since tyranny is satanic, not to resist it is to resist God.  Conversely, to resist tyranny is to honor God.  Second, since the ruler is granted conditional power, it follows that the people have the power to withdraw their sanction if the proper conditions are not fulfilled.  Third, Christians have a moral obligation to resist unjust and tyrannical government.

Rutherford further explains the steps for a private person engaging in civil disobedience.  The first step is to defend oneself by protest (in our society this would most likely take place by exerting legal action).  Second, one must flee if at all possible.  Finally, one may use force if necessary to defend himself.  Dr. Schaeffer mentions that potential protest or withholding of taxes may be used to protest immoral activity such as euthanasia.

Building on the principles set forth in Lex Rex, Dr. Schaeffer suggests a strategy for Christian force in an injustice such as abortion.  First, one should aggressively support a human life bill or a constitutional amendment that protects the unborn.  Second, one must enter the courts seeking to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.  Third, legal and political action should be taken against hospitals and abortion clinics that perform abortions.  Fourth, the state must be made to feel the presence of the Christian community.

Schaeffer’s position is clear.  He maintains that the early church engaged in civil disobedience.  He uses Caesar as an example who commanded everyone to worship him.  The Christians in Rome willingly disobeyed and paid the ultimate price for their act of courage.

Schaeffer, then,  issues a challenge to the present day church.  “And we must demonstrate to people that there is indeed a bottom line.  To repeat: the bottom line is that at a certain point there is not only the right, but the duty to disobey the state (A Christian Manifesto, 485).

If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in the place of the Living God.  If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been put in the place of the Living God, because then you are to obey it even when it tells you in its own way at the time to worship Caesar (A Christian Manifesto, 491).

To sum up, Dr. Schaeffer challenges the church to stand up and act.  The Christian church must respond to the cultural decay or find itself wanting.  Schaeffer’s warning in the late 60’s and early 70’s is even more relevant today!

 

 

 

Why Francis Schaeffer Matters: The Responsibility of the Church in Post-Modern Culture – Part 8

Francis Schaeffer has an extremely high view of the church and great expectations as any Christian should.  He details some solemn responsibilities that the church of Jesus Christ must consider.

We Must Adhere to the New Testament Boundaries for the Local Church

Schaeffer’s primary assertion is that Scripture mandates eight specific norms for the New Testament church (The Church At The End Of The Twentieth Century, 51-60).  The first norm: Local congregations are to exist and should be made up of Christians.   Schaeffer would have clearly opposed the so-called seeker sensitive movement that is so prevalent in the church today.  While he believed that the church ought to evangelize the lost, he would have had real problems with the present day fascination of catering to the non-believer.

Second, Dr. Schaeffer believed these congregations ought to meet in a special way on the first day of the week.  He clearly has Sunday as the specific meeting day in mind, although I am inclined to think that Schaeffer would be comfortable with the new trend toward Saturday evening services and the like.  The critical issue for him was that the church met regularly each week.

Third, the church should have elders who have a responsibility to shepherd the flock of God.

Fourth, there should also be deacons responsible for the community of the church in the area of material things.

Fifth, Schaeffer strongly believed that these elders and deacons should be qualified in accordance with the Pauline standards set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.

The sixth norm is that the church must engage in church discipline.  Schaeffer goes to great lengths to show the necessity and benefits of church discipline in accordance with the principle set forth by Jesus in Mathew 18.  Schaeffer explains, “The New Testament stresses such purity, for the church is not to be like an ameba so that no one can tell the difference between the church and the world.  There is to be a sharp edge.  There is to be a distinction between one side and the other – between the world and the church, and between those who are in the church and those who are not” (The Church At The End Of The Twentieth Century, 57).  He writes in no uncertain terms: “For a church not to have discipline in life and doctrine means that it is not a New Testament church on the basis of the New Testament norms” (The Church At The End Of The Twentieth Century, 57).

Finally, Schaeffer declares that a vital mark of the church is the administration of two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

These seven norms are non-negotiable principles in the thinking and ecclesiology of Francis Schaeffer.  These norms are commanded by God.  Any church that fails to engage in even one of these crucial norms forfeits the right to be called a true church.  However, Dr. Schaeffer believes there are many areas in which the church is left free.  There is a form and there is also a freedom.  “It is my thesis that as we cannot bind men morally except where the Scripture clearly commands (beyond that we can only give advice), similarly anything the New Testament does not command concerning church form is a freedom to be exercised under the leadership of the Holy Spirit for that particular time and place” (The Church At The End of The Twentieth Century, 59-60).

In many ways, Francis Schaeffer may be considered very conservative in his approach to “doing church.”  But in other ways, he is a bit of a radical.  His views on form and freedom leave room for creativity, spontaneity and a wide variety of ministry options.

Why Francis Schaeffer Matters: The Church in Culture – Part 7

The Church in Modern Culture

Francis Schaeffer’s view of the church in modern culture is multifaceted yet cuts straight to the point.  He does not mince words or play clever evangelical games.  He believes one major problem with Christians is that they see things in bits and pieces.  They have failed to see that modern man’s despair has come to fruition because of a shift in worldview.  He contends that Christians should begin to think in terms of the big picture.  They should have a view of spiritual reality that is authentic and covers all areas of life.  Indeed, the Lordship of Christ covers all life and all life equally.

The Church in Postmodern Culture: Marks of Postmodernism

It is interesting to note that Dr. Schaeffer may have been the first to write in-depth about post-Christian culture.  It is important to understand Schaeffer’s view on culture in order to understand his position on the church in these perilous times.

Postmodernism essentially posits the view that there is nobody in the universe.  There is “nobody to love man, nobody to comfort him, even while he seeks desperately to find comfort in the limited, finite, horizontal relationships to life (Death In The City, 215).   The result is that “God has turned away in judgment as our generation turned away from Him, and He is allowing cause and effect to take its course in history” (Death In The City, 216).

The postmodern generation is inherently humanistic.  Schaeffer mentions six key planks of the humanistic worldview including:

  • A rejection of the doctrine of creation.
  • A rejection of total depravity.
  • Sees human nature as part of a long, unfolding process of development in which everything is changing.
  • Casts around for some solution to the problem of despair that this determinist-evolutionist vision induces.
  • Can only find a solution in the activity of the human will.
  • Therefore, encourages manipulation of nature and tinkering with people (Whatever Happened To The Human Race, 288).

Humanism in a nutshell.  This is what the church must contend with.  She cannot isolate herself or flee the surrounding culture.    Rather she must face it head on or lose any chance of influencing the culture for the sake of the kingdom.

Hope For a Post-Christian Culture

Despite the degradation of the culture, Schaeffer believes there is hope for the Christian church.  But if the church is to truly thrive, not merely survive, she must boldly proclaim and defend at least seven foundational truths including the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, the deity of Christ and His Virgin Birth, the substitutionary atonement of Christ’s death, the literal resurrection of Christ from the dead, and the literal return of Christ (The Great Evangelical Disaster, 350).

The Christian Perspective on Postmodernism

Schaeffer helps clarify the Christian perspective on postmodernism.  First, he notes that much to the chagrin of many evangelicals, our culture and country is under the wrath of God.  The net effect should not be alarming.  Man has forgotten his purpose and consequently forgets the meaning of life.

Second, Schaeffer helps Christians understand that turning away from the truth of God not only results in decay but ends ultimately in death.

There will be death in the city until people turn to the truth . . . This must be our perspective [emphasis added], for only as men turn back to the One who can really fulfill, return to His revelation, and reaffirm the possibility of having a relationship with Him as He has provided the way through Jesus Christ, can they have the sufficient comfort which every man longs for (Death In The City, 222, 224).

The Christian Response to Postmodernism

First, he warns the church to guard against using worldly methods.  If the church chooses to engage in “worldly” ministry the already cynical post-modern generation will surely reject the organized church.  Rather, the church must stand strong in this age and boldly proclaim the mysteries of God.  “Our generation needs to be told that man cannot disregard God, that a culture like ours has had such light and then has deliberately turned away stands under God’s judgment.  There’s only one kind of preaching that will do in a generation like ours – preaching which includes the preaching of the judgment of God” (Death In The City, 232-233).

Second, he alerts Christians to the danger of compromising the truth.  “Here is the great evangelical disaster – the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth.  There is only one word for this – namely accommodation; the evangelical church has accommodated to the spirit of the age” (The Great Evangelical Disaster, 320).

He notes two general areas of accommodation, namely, the accommodation of Scripture (which Schaeffer calls the watershed – the inspiration and authority of Scripture) and accommodation on the issues, with no clear stand being taken even on matters of life and death.  He points out that the results of this accommodation has been costly, first in destroying the power of God’s Word to confront the spirit of the age; and second, in allowing the further slide of our culture.  Dr. Schaeffer regularly takes the church to task for accommodation and makes it clear that the two sure ways to destroy the church are to compromise the truth and to engage in a “dead orthodoxy.”

Schaeffer’s Challenge to Christian’s Living in a Postmodern Generation

Given Dr. Schaeffer’s scathing indictment of the church, it should come as no surprise that his greatest challenge concerns not only believing the truth but standing for the truth.  He recognizes the potential risks involved in this endeavor.  He writes, “We must realize that to know the truth and to practice it will be costly . . . We must keep on speaking and acting even if the price is high” (Death In The City, 254).

Second, Schaeffer calls Christians to infiltrate the culture for God rather than being molded and corrupted by it.  “As evangelicals, we need to stand at the point of the call not to be infiltrated by this ever-shifting fallen culture which surrounds us, but rather judging that culture upon the basis of the Bible” (The Great Evangelical Disaster, 340).  Schaeffer holds that Christians should penetrate the culture and engage the political arena, the justice system, the media and the arts just to name a few.

Why Francis Schaeffer Matters: His Approach to Apologetics – Part 6

Christian Apologetics: Two Purposes

Francis Schaeffer’s holds a rather basic view concerning apologetics.  He explains there are two purposes of Christian apologetics.  “The first is defense.  The second is to communicate Christianity in a way that any given generation can understand” (The God Who Is There, 151).

Schaeffer begins his approach to apologetics by pointing out that every non-regenerate person enters the discussion with a set of presuppositions.  Some have taken the time to analyze their presuppositions.  Most have not.  But each non-regenerate person is caught in the horns of a dilemma because it is impossible to be consistent in logic or practice.  This holds true along the whole spectrum of people.  Every person whether a University student, housewife, businessman or disgruntled teenager is stuck and boxed in by the logic of his or her presuppositions.  Thus, Schaeffer writes, “You are facing a man in tension; and it is this tension which works on your behalf as you speak to him . . . A man may try to bury the tension and you may have to help him find it, but somewhere there is a point of inconsistency” (The God Who Is There, 133).  Schaeffer adds, “To have to choose between one consistency or the other is a real damnation for man.  The more logical a man who holds a non-Christian position is to his own presuppositions, the further he is from the real world; and the nearer he is to the real world, the more illogical he is to his presuppositions” (The God Who Is There, 133-134).

Therefore, the place to begin in the real world with real people is to find out where the tension exists.  Once the point of tension is uncovered the apologist must push the non-regenerate man toward the logical conclusion of his presuppositions.  Schaeffer warns, “Pushing him towards the logic of his presuppositions is going to cause him pain; therefore, I must not push any further than I need to” (The God Who Is There, 139).

Schaeffer calls this approach “taking the roof off” because every man has constructed a roof over his head to protect himself at the point of tension.  “At the point of tension the person is not in a place of consistency in his system, and the roof is built as a protection against the blows of the real world, both internal and external” (The God Who Is There, 140).

Taking the roof off involves showing man his need.  His need is addressed in the Scriptures which show his lostness and the answer found in the person of Jesus Christ.  Schaeffer admits that this process is extremely unpleasant “but we must allow the person to undergo this experience so that he may realize his system has no answer to the crucial questions of life.  He must come to know that his roof is a false protection from the storm of what is; and then we can talk to him about the storm of God’s judgment” (The God Who Is There, 141).

As soon as the person is ready to hear the gospel it is not necessary to push any further.  Schaeffer departs from the typical evangelistic approach at this point.  He writes, “We must never forget that the first part of the gospel is not ‘Accept Christ as Savior,’ but ‘God is there.’  Only then are we ready to hear God’s solution for man’s moral dilemma in the substitutionary work of Christ in history” (The God Who Is There, 144).

Christian Apologetics: Two Principles

Schaeffer believes that there are two vital principles in communicating the gospel (Escape From Reason, 269).  First, there are certain unchangeable facts which are true.  Here again, the idea of antithesis is prominent in Schaeffer’s thinking.  If a given proposition is true, it’s opposite is false.  Second, we need to know the thought patterns of the culture at large.  Unless we do this, the gospel will fall on deaf ears.

Schaeffer proceeds to discuss biblical faith which begins with the fact of God’s existence.  “True Christian faith rests on content . . . The true basis for faith is not the faith itself, but the work which Christ finished on the cross.  My believing is not the basis for being saved – the basis is the work of Christ . . . The call to Christian believing rests on God’s propositional promises” (The God Who Is There, 146).

Schaeffer militates against easy believism and goes to great lengths to promote a biblical paradigm for faith.  Here he stands in the historic tradition of the Reformers who taught that biblical faith is a combination of notitia (know the facts of the gospel), assensus (believing the facts of the gospel) and fiducia (trusting or banking one’s hope on Christ alone for salvation).  Schaeffer outlines his scheme for biblical faith and is worth quoting in its entirety to get the full flavor of his thinking.

1. Do you believe that God exists and that He is a personal God, and that Jesus Christ is God – remembering that we are not talking of the word or idea god, but of the infinite-personal God who is there?

2. Do you acknowledge that you are guilty in the presence of this God – remembering that we are not talking about guilt-feelings, but true moral guilt?

3. Do you believe that Jesus Christ died in space and time, in history, on the cross, and that when He died His substitutional work of bearing God’s punishment against sin was fully accomplished and complete?

4. On the basis of God’s promises in His written communication to us, the Bible, do you (or have you) cast yourself on this Christ as your personal Savior – not trusting in anything you yourself have ever done or ever will do? (The God Who Is There, 147).

To sum up Dr. Schaeffer’s approach to apologetics one must understand that he embraces Paul’s method of preaching to man without the Bible.  He suggests telling the sinner, “You’re under the wrath of God because you hold the truth in unrighteousness.”  (Death In The City, 266).  The reason:  Sinful man needs to come to grip with the fact that he is a law-breaker and will ultimately face the white-hot wrath of God apart from Christ.

The end result of man’s fascination with breaking God’s laws is a breakdown in morality which we shall examine in our next section on the church in the twentieth century.

Why Francis Schaeffer Matters: Epistemology – Part 5

Dr. Schaeffer’s epistemology is integral to his approach to apologetics and may be described simply as follows.  First, one must understand that pagan thought endorses a belief in the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system.  Propositional and verbal revelation is nonsense in this scheme.  Christian epistemology stands in stark contrast to the non-Christian worldview.  The presupposition of Christianity begins with the God who is there.  God is the infinite-personal Being who has made man in His image.  God made man a verbalizer in the area of propositions in his horizontal communications with other men.  Thus God communicates to us on the basis of verbalizations and propositions by means of the written Word of God (He Is There And He Is Not Silent, 326-327).

Thus the Christian epistemological system brings three things together in a unified whole; the unified field of knowledge that modern man has given up on.  “The infinite personal God who made the universe; and man, whom he made to live in that universe; and the Bible, which He has given us to tell us about that universe” (He Is There And He Is Not Silent, 329).

Schaeffer goes one step further by noting that the presuppositions of Christianity is in line with every man’s experience.  “The fact is that if we are going to live in this world at all, we must live in it acting on a correlation of ourselves and the thing that is there, even if we have a philosophy that says there is no correlation . . . In other words, all men constantly and consistently act as though Christianity is true” (He Is There And He Is Not Silent, 330).

The reason for the shift in society leading to despair comes as a result of buying the lie of the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system.  The result delivers a deathblow to any possibility of epistemology.   Schaeffer adds, “Man’s attempted autonomy has robbed him of reality.  He has nothing to be sure of when his imagination soars beyond the stars, if there is nothing to guarantee a distinction between reality and fantasy.  But on the basis of the Christian epistemology, this confusion is ended, the alienation is healed.  This is the heart of the problem of knowing, and it is not solved until our knowledge fits under the apex of the infinite-personal, Triune God who is there and who is not silent” (He Is There And He Is Not Silent, 343-344).

Therefore, there are only two alternatives in the search for the source of knowledge according to Dr. Schaeffer.  Either a person attempts to find the answers to all his questions alone (autonomously) or he seeks truths from God and His revealed Word (the biblical world-view).

The former view mandates that a person begins with himself.  However, as Schaeffer notes, “Starting with himself, a person cannot establish an adequate explanation for the amazing possibility that he can observe the world around him and be assured that his observations have a correspondence with reality” (Whatever Happened To The Human Race, 365).  Herein lies the problem: Sinful man is forced to provide the answers to the ultimate metaphysical questions, but because they have limited experience they can know nothing with a high degree of certainty.  The end result is a hellish tension which leads down the road of meaninglessness and the relativity of morals:  “The truth is that everyone who rejects the biblical world-view must live in a state of tension between ideas about reality and reality itself” (Whatever Happened To The Human Race, 369).

The later view that derives truth from God’s Word is the only sure way to engage in epistemology.  Dr. Schaeffer gives three testimonies found in the Scripture.  First, the Bible gives us the explanation for the universe.  Second, the Bible explains the mannishness of man (which is described below) and third, the Bible is open to verification by historical study.  “From the Bible’s viewpoint, all truth finally rests upon the fact that the infinite-personal God exists in contrast to His not existing” (Whatever Happened To The Human Race, 393).

Why Francis Schaeffer Matters: Consequences of Pitting Rationality Against Faith – Part 4

The decisive result of falling below the line of despair is a pitting of rationality against faith.  Schaeffer sees this as an enormous problem and details four consequences in his book, Escape From Reason.

Pitting Rationality Against Faith

First, when rationality contends against faith, one is not able to establish a system of morality.  It is simply impossible to have an “upstairs morality” that is unrelated to matters of everyday living.

Second, when rationality and faith are dichotomized, there is no adequate basis for law.  “The whole Reformation system of law was built on the fact that God had revealed something real down into the common things of life” (Escape From Reason, 261).  But when rationality and faith are pitted against one another, all hope of maintaining any semblance of law is obliterated.

The third consequence is that this scheme throws away the answer to the problem of evil.  Christianity’s answer rests in the historic, space-time, real and complete Fall of man who rebelled and made a choice against God.  “Once the historic Christian answer is put away, all we can do is to leap upstairs and say that against all reason God is good” (Escape From Reason, 262).

Finally, when one accepts this unbiblical dichotomy he loses the opportunity to evangelize people at their real point of despair.  Schaeffer makes it clear that modern man longs for answers.  “He did not accept the line of despair and the dichotomy because he wanted to.  He accepted it because, on the basis of the natural development of his rationalistic presuppositions, he had to.  He may talk bravely at times, but in the end it is despair” (Escape From Reason, 262).  It is at this point that Schaeffer believes the Christian apologist has a golden opportunity to make an impact.  “Christianity has the opportunity, therefore, to say clearly that its answer has the very thing modern man has despaired of – the unity of thought.  It provides a unified answer for the whole of life.  True, man has to renounce his rationalism; but then, on the basis of what can be discussed, he has the possibility of recovering his rationality” (Escape From Reason, 262).

Schaeffer challenges us, “Let us Christians remember, then, that if we fall into the trap  against which I have been warning, what we have done, among other things, is to put ourselves in the position where in reality we are only saying with evangelical words what the unbeliever is saying with his words.  In order to confront modern man effectively, we must not have this dichotomy.  You must have the Scriptures speaking truth both about God Himself and about the area where the Bible touches history and the cosmos” (Escape From Reason, 263).

The Tension of Being a Man

Before proceeding to Dr. Schaeffer’s basic approach to apologetics one must understand the concept he calls “mannishness” or the tension of being a man.  The idea is essentially that no man can live at ease in the area of despair.  His significance, ability to love and be loved, and his capacity for rationality distinguish him from machines and animals and give evidence to this fact: Man is made in the image of God.  Modern man has been forced to accept the false dichotomy between nature and grace and consequently, takes a leap of faith to the upper story and embraces some form of mysticism, which gives an illusion of unity to the whole.  But as Schaeffer points out, “The very ‘mannishness’ of man refuses to live in the logic of the position to which his humanism and rationalism have brought him.  To say that I am only a machine is one thing; to live consistently as if this were true is quite another” (The God Who Is There, 68).  Schaeffer continues, “Every truly modern man is forced to accept some sort of leap in theory or practice, because the pressure of his own humanity demands it.  He can say what he will concerning what he himself is; but no matter what he says he is, he is still a man” (The God Who Is There, 69).

Thus, the foundation for Francis Schaeffer’s basic approach to apologetics is simply to recognize that man is an image-bearer.  Man even in his sin has personality, significance, and worth.  Therefore, the apologist should approach him in those terms.  The apologist must not only recognize that man is made in the image of God;  he must also love him in word and deed.  Finally, the apologist must speak to the man as a unit; he must reach the whole man (for faith truly does involve the whole man) and refuse to buy into the popularized Platonic idea that man’s soul is more important than the body.