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.

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Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl

tilt

N.D. Wilson, Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009, 197 pp.  $7.13

Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl, by N.D. Wilson is a fascinating look at God’s creation from a creative perspective.

Several features are worth noting.  First, Wilson reminds readers of the importance of a personal Creator: “For those who believe in ex nihilo creation, the world is inevitably art, and it is inevitably art from top to bottom, in every time and in every place.  The world cannot exist apart from the voice of God.  It is the voicings of God.”  The author demonstrates the absurdity of a creation devoid of a personal Creator.

Second, Wilson demonstrates the utter foolishness of atheism, relativism, and Darwinian natural selection.  He chides the evolutionist and sets his eyes on God’s good creation.  He makes it clear (and rightly so) that he will enjoy God’s good creation.

Third, I appreciate Wilson’s interaction with philosophers like Hume and Kant.  But especially noteworthy is his interaction with the German philosopher, Nietzsche.  I sense he respects Nietzsche and would have savored the opportunity to sit and visit with him in a German tavern.  But Wilson admits a frustration with Nietzsche: “I want to ruffle his hair.  I want to take the poor Lutheran boy’s head in my hands and kiss his creased forehead.  It is all I can do.  I cannot set a bone, let alone a soul.”  Wilson continues with an unforgettable line: “He [Nietzsche] moves on, preaching unbelief to an empty street.”

Finally, the author effectively reminds readers of an eternal hell: “Heaven or Hell is about love and hate.  Do you love God or do you hate him?  Is He foul in your nostrils?  Do you see His art and wish your arm was long enough to reach His face?  Do you spit and curse like Nietzsche?  Would you trade places with the damned thief so that you might see Him die and know that God Himself heard your challenges?”  Wilson continues, “Then Hell is for you.  Hell is for you because God is kind and reserves a place for those who loathe Him to the end, an eternal exile, a joyless haven for those who would eternally add to their guilt, a place where blasphemy will be new every morning … If you displease Him, He will displease you.  He will put you away and remove the grace you have experienced in this world.  With the crutches of His goodness gone, He will leave people to themselves, leave them to their own corrupt desires and devices.”

Thankfully, the author does not leave the reader groveling in hopelessness at the prospect of an eternal hell: “If you want to love Him, then He has already begun giving you change.  He has already begun unclenching your fists, taking your filth to be laundered on the cross.”

Wilson demonstrates that he is well-read and tuned in theologically and philosophically.  For instance, one of my favorite lines in the book is directed Godward: “An infinite God is I AM, and all else must be measured in terms of His nature, His loves, and His loathings.”  This is heady, creative writing.  In fact, some of this stuff is pure genius!  The writing is a strange mixture of Don Miller, Dennis Miller, C.S. Lewis, and G.K Chesterton.

The goodness in Wilson’s work, however, is overshadowed at times by his insistence on using profanity.    For instance, the author skillfully demonstrates the foolishness of rejecting transcendent absolute standards and argues against a relativistic worldview:  “I look in the atheist’s mirror.  I look at his faith in the nonexistence of meaning.  I look at his preaching and painting.  I see nothing but a shi*-storm.”  This kind of banter is totally unnecessary and undercuts the weight of the otherwise legitimate argument.

This growing trend toward the glorification of the profane is an alarming trend in the church, one that needlessly offends and accomplishes absolutely nothing.  This kind of writing is clearly not consistent with the Scriptural mandate, especially Paul’s warning to the Ephesian church: “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking which are out-of-place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Eph. 5:4, ESV).  Colossians 3:8 makes it clear that Christ followers are to put away “obscene talk.”  For we have been “renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10, ESV).  I can already anticipate the quick response I will receive from postmodern pastors, emergent sympathizers, and enthusiastic bloggers.  But I stand with Scripture on my side.  For “my conscience is held captive by the Word of God.  To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.”  Indeed, it is ironic to lay claim to Luther’s words, given his propensity to use vulgarity.  However, I argue that Luther should have taken the scrub brush to his mouth as well.

I know some Christ-followers who would toss this book into the ash heap because of the vulgarity.  I am not prepared to go that far.  I am not ready toss the baby out with the bathwater.  There is too much good in Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl to justify such a knee-jerk reaction.

Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl made me dizzy.  But it also made me think.  Sometimes it angered me.  At the end of the day, I am glad I came to the “carnival.”  I am glad I decided to jump on the ride.  At times, I felt as if I’d eaten too much cotton candy.  But other times, I felt like buying another “ticket” and riding again – and again!

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.

THE FAITH OF JOSEPH: PITS AND PINNACLES – Part 2

In our last post, we looked at the drama that unfolded in Joseph’s life and how he responded to betrayal and false accusation.  This humble man of God responded with a God-centered faith.  How did he do it?  What enabled this man to respond to his betrayers in a way that honored the Lord?  The answer is critically important.  Joseph understood the divine perspective.  And he embraced a theological framework that informed his actions and attitudes.

In the biblical account, we find Joseph clinging to doctrine; in particular, the doctrine of Providence.  The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith summarizes this vital doctrine:

“God the good Creator of all things in his infinite power and wisdom doth uphold, direct, dispose and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, to the end for which they were created, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness and mercy.”

Several lessons flow from this critical statement.

First, God created all things and sustains all things (Gen. 1:1, 31; 2:18; Ps. 145:11; Prov. 3:19; Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:16-17).  Simply put, God sustains what he creates.  R.C. Sproul adds, “This refers to his absolute sovereignty, his eternal and inalienable right to govern and rule what he owns, and to dispose of those things according to the good pleasure of his will … We are under his authority and control.”  Our God is the great Sustainer of creation!   Sproul continues, “It is never arbitrary, frivolous, or capricious.  He governs not according to polls or political expediency, but by his most wise and holy counsel.”  God governs and sustains all things by his most wise and holy providence.

Second, God exercises absolute control over all things.  Isaiah 46:9-10 declares, “… Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'”  God’s control over all things results in peace and security in the lives of Christians.  So Joseph, even in the midst of turmoil could rest in God’s Providential control of all things.

Third, this control includes  all creatures and their actions as well as events in the natural world.  Scripture is clear:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” (Acts 17:24–28, ESV)

Absolutely nothing is outside the scope of God’s comprehensive providence.

Next, this absolute control mobilizes the plan of God.  Psalm 33:10-11 is instructive:  “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” (Psalm 33:10–11, ESV)

Finally, it is important to recognize that all these things manifest the glory of God.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” (Ephesians 1:11, ESV)

so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:10, ESV)

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”” (Romans 9:17, ESV)

The Baptist Confession of Faith continues to articulate a biblical view of providence:

“Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; so that there is not anything befalls any by chance, or without his providence; yet  by the same providence he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.”

Notice three important principles.

First, there is no chance in God’s economy.

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33, ESV).

Think about the implications of chance in God’s universe.  Such a notion would inevitably lead to randomness, chaos, and purposelessness.  “Mechanical fate is at the very heart meaningless, merciless, and hopeless.  But the certainty of divinely ordered providence is meaningful, merciful, and hopeful,” writes R.C. Sproul.  He continues, “Because God controls the universe, chance is ruled out, and because it is God who controls the universe, fate is ruled out also.”

Additionally, one must consider the doctrine of concurrence.  Wayne Grudem explains the doctrine in simple terms: “God cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do.”  Joseph is an example of concurrence – God directs Joseph and God directs his brothers to bring a purposeful conclusion.

God’s absolute sovereignty does not destroy the integrity of man’s liberty.  Sproul rightly says, “We are not puppets with no volition, freedom, or power, but we have no volition, freedom, or power beyond the power and freedom given to us by God.”  The doctrine of compatibalism teaches us that  God is sovereign and we are responsible.  So divine sovereignty is compatible with human freedom.

Finally, it is important to underscore this important reality, namely, the doctrine of providence does not deny the operation of secondary causes.  It is true that God ordains everything that comes to pass.  But God chooses to work, for the most part through means.  In other words, as Jonathan Edwards reminds us, “God ordains the ends and God ordains the means.”

Joseph’s God-centered faith was rooted in sound doctrine.  Is it any wonder that Christians who discard strong doctrinal moorings find themselves adrift and sail aimlessly to the distant shore of confusion?  Joseph reminds us about the importance of theology.  He reminds us that theology matters.  May the doctrine of God’s Providence strengthen and encourage us.  May our faith flourish as we stand on rock solid theological truths that will supply wind for our “sails” and lead us to the celestial shores – all to the glory of God!

WELCOME TO A REFORMED CHURCH – Daniel Hyde (2010)

Welcome to a Reformed Church is a superb introduction to ecclesiology and Reformed theology. Daniel Hyde clearly describes the history and tenets of a church that stands in the Reformation stream.

The author provides the context for the Reformation and walks readers through the confessional history of the Reformed church.  Hyde summarizes the sola’s of the Reformation (sola gratia, sola fide, sola Christus, Sola Scriptura, and Soli Deo gloria). Additionally, the author skillfully explains critical doctrines such as justification by faith and sanctification.

Hyde discusses the distinguishing marks of a reformed church, namely, faithful preaching, the administration of the two ordinances, and church discipline.

While the book proves valuable, I have personal qualms with a few of the positions that are typical proclaimed as Reformed.  First, infant baptism is promoted, a view that does not have biblical support.  Second, the author endorses the so-called Regulative Principle, the view that maintains Christians ought to worship God “in the manner he has commanded us in his Word.”  On face value, this view seems credible.  Who would promote a view that embraces anything other than what God has commanded?  The problem here appears to be a cultural issue. For example,  reformed thinkers would be mistaken to marginalize what Sovereign Grace ministries is accomplishing.  Reformed theology and contemporary God-centered worship is difficult to argue with!  Clearly, these are debatable matters that can be discussed in a thoughtful and civil way.

Overall, Welcome to a Reformed Church is a worthwhile read.

Semper Reformanda!

THE VERITAS CREDO

Cultivate the Christian mind and worldview (Matt. 22:37)

Understand a unified view of truth and a biblical epistemology (John 14:6)

Lead prisoners out of the darkness and into the light (John 8:34; Eph. 2:1-10)

Tell the truth by engaging people with love and boldness (Acts 17:30-31)

Undermine worldly ideologies (2 Cor. 10:5)

Recognize cultural trends and false worldviews (Col. 2:8)

Equip the Saints for the work of God’s kingdom (Eph. 4:11-16)