Forensic Faith

forHe is an experienced cold-case detective and he is a committed follower of Jesus Christ. J. Warner Wallace brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in his new book, Forensic Faith. The book is apologetic in nature but is laced with evangelistic fervor.

Several features mark Forensic Faith and make it a beneficial resource to beginning Christians and seasoned veterans. First, Wallace argues that Christians have a duty to be “Christian case makers.” That is, they must present a compelling case for the historicity and reliability of the Christian faith. Indeed, we must be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). The author adds, “It’s time for the distinctly evidential nature of Christianity to result in a distinctly intelligent, reasonable, and evidential family of believers. This Christian difference ought to form our Christian duty. We are called to embrace a forensic faith and to love God with our minds.” The duty to present this compelling case, therefore, forms an unbreakable foundation for the remainder of the book.

Second, apologetic training must be specifically targeted. This “training, writes Warner, “is more than mere instruction. Training involves putting instruction into practice.” There is a fine line between teaching which imparts knowledge and training which prepares learners for a unique challenge.

Third, intense investigation must undergird would-be apologists. Five practices are suggested: 1) Read the Bible completely. 2) Think about the evidence for God and the Bible broadly. 3) Takes notes and analyze the Bible thoroughly, 4) Summarize and organize the biblical evidence usefully, and 5) Add to the biblical case evidentially.

Fourth, readers are urged to utilize convincing communication skills which culminates with the much-needed skill of closing the argument with winsome persuasion.

The book includes a helpful section that describes brief answers to typical challenging questions that may be leveled on a university campus or other challenging arena.

Forensic Faith is a helpful tool that should be utilized by many as they seek to gain a better understanding of the Christian faith and making a positive case for its claims.

One weakness is that page numbers are not provided in the table of contents, an oversight that should be corrected in future editions. There is some redundancy in this work that may leave readers bogged down and frustrated. Apart from these minor critiques, I commend Forensic Faith and trust that the contents will be a deep encouragement to many.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

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: 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.

Truth Unhinged in Edinburgh Square

My wife and I recently spent five days in Edinburgh, Scotland. While there is much to commend in this very beautiful city, it did not take long to realize that God is no longer welcome for many of the inhabitants there.

On the last evening in Edinburgh, I watched a young street preacher proclaiming the gospel from a makeshift podium on Royal Mile Street, which stands in the shadow of St. Giles Cathedral. Here, the mighty John Knox wielded the mighty sword of God’s Word, which brought reformation to Scotland in the sixteenth century. Knox prayed, “Give me Scotland or I will die,” demonstrating his great love for God and his countrymen.

However, the days of the Reformation are long gone in Scotland. The scoffs of the crowd which were directed at the street preacher bore witness to that:

“Who created God?” one man shouted. “What about the holocaust?” another queried. “Who wrote the Bible?” questioned one of the street performers. “How could anyone believe in a talking serpent?” “Where did evil come from?” “What about the dinosaurs?” “What about the other religions?” And, “How could a loving God send anyone to hell?”

These emotionally charged questions were all hurled at the street preacher who merely sought to proclaim the simple message of the gospel.

I stood and prayed for the young man who heralded the truth. I asked God to soften the hearts of this angry mob. In the midst of my petition, the thought struck me, This is the same kind of crowd that Noah encountered. These are the same kinds of people who spewed their venom at Jeremiah and Jonah. And these are the kinds of people who hurled their hate against the New Testament apostles.

Nothing has changed. There is nothing new under the sun. The hearts of men are continuously evil (Gen. 6:5). “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). Ever since the fall of man, sinful people continually suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18).

Every person carries a bag full of presuppositions. Atheism, evolution, immorality, homosexuality, and relativism. These are only a few of the presuppositions that I saw in the Edinburgh square. The people who embrace these worldviews are unwitting worshippers. They worship the false god of success. They worship the false god of autonomy. Or they worship the false god of another religion.

The angry mob who squared off against the preacher in Edinburgh willingly exchanged the truth of God for a lie. The Bible says unregenerate people realize that God exists; yet they refuse to acknowledge him: “For although they knew God, they did not honor God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21).

And so I watched a tragic scene unfold on Royal Mile Street in Edinburgh. I watched a frenzied mob reject the truth from a “voice in the wilderness.” I gazed upon a group of worshippers who willingly turned from the God of the Bible to a god of their own making.

A few thoughts echoed in my mind and pressed against my heart as I stood on Royal Mile Street in the heart of Edinburgh:

First, the unbelieving world who preaches “tolerance” fails to be tolerant when the truth is proclaimed. Tolerance is only a virtue when it lines up with a worldview that rejects God, turns from his law, and marginalizes his Word. The “tolerance mantra” is a smokescreen, in the final analysis. Anyone who repudiates the truth claims of Scripture is tolerated. But anyone who embraces the propositional truth of God’s Word is cast aside and criticized.

Second, followers of Jesus Christ are called to faithfully proclaim the truth. Most will be unwilling to stand on a makeshift platform and herald the gospel to a hostile crowd. But how many of us could utter the claims of Christ over a cup of coffee? How many of us could share the love of Christ in the workplace? Who among us could challenge the pagan mind with the gospel truth in the marketplace of ideas? Paul understood this mandate to faithfully proclaim the truth: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'” (Rom. 10:14-15).

Third, when the truth is faithfully proclaimed, the unbelieving world will invariably become offended. The Edinburgh preacher recognized this reality when he stepped upon his makeshift platform. He realized that he would be opposed. He realized that he would be scoffed at. And he realized that the crowd would laugh. Scripture warns us that in the last days, people will not put up with sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3). The Bible says people will “accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Tragically, we will not only find these kinds of people in the public square; we will also find them in the church.

In his book, Get Real: Sharing Your Everyday Faith Every Day, John Leonard argues that people have stopped listening to the gospel “because we want to share it in the least inconvenient, least costly way. We want to save dirty people at a distance.” Leonard has touched upon an important truth. And we can certainly do a much better job of sharing the gospel up-close. But the real reason for their resistance to the truth is a rocky, stubborn, and unbelieving, sinful heart! Our task is to faithfully share the truth and trust the Holy Spirit to soften hearts and effectually draw sinners to the Savior (John 6:44).

Finally, bold proclamation invites persecution. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Yet Scripture reminds us, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10–11, ESV) The promise of persecution should not hinder our passion to proclaim the truth. Rather, this reality should embolden our efforts to wield the mighty sword of truth!

Was the angry mob who ridiculed the preacher a fair representation of the feelings of the Scottish people? Were their harsh words and cackling laughs an accurate portrait of the people living in Edinburgh? Since I only met a handful of people in our brief stay, I cannot answer this question with any clarity. However, the Word of God informs us that what I saw on that cold winter afternoon is representative of the unbelieving world.

When truth is unhinged, we will face an intolerant audience. When truth is unhinged, the unbelieving world will be offended which will prompt persecution. But when truth is unhinged, some will hear and respond. Some will be cut to the quick. Hearts will be softened. Minds will be sharpened. For the truth of God’s Word will unlock the most resistant and callous heart. Truth unhinged will transform lives as God’s Word is faithfully proclaimed.

Meet Generation Z (2017)

zJames Emery White, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017, 219 pp. $10.11

Most people are familiar with the respective generations which are generally designated as the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945), the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1980), Older Millennials (born 1981-1989), and the Younger Millennials (born 1990-1996). But a new group of people is emerging: Meet Generation Z. Born after 1996, this fascinating people group is the first truly post-Christian tribe. And as the author ofMeet Generation Z says, they “will be the most influential religious force int he West and the heart of the missional challenge facing the Christian church.”

James Emery White is the author of Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World. The author alerts readers to the growing secularization of culture. Built within this unique secular culture lies the “squishy center,” which includes people who are shapable but bear little in the area of convictions. These people have a propensity to move in the direction of the prevailing culture winds, which creates a special challenge to Christ-followers who long to make an impact on this generation.

James Emery White writes with urgency and passion. But he also writes with a sober-minded concern. His chief concern is that the church is missing an opportunity to reach Generation Z: ”But this is about more than losing an ideological bridge. We are also losing a relational bridge – one we can walk across to reach the largest generation in American history.”

The book is divided into two parts. Part One explores the New Realityand captures the pertinent demographic data that concerns Generation Z. The author introduces readers to the nones, that is, people are have little to no religious affiliation. This growing group represents one of of every five Americans. The nones are characterized by their commitment to secularism. They have been influenced by an age pummeled by economic recession. They are linked to computers and Wi-Fi. They tend to be multi-racial and sexually fluid. That is, they offer strong support to social causes such as transgender rights and “gay marriage.” They are, for the most part, biblically illiterate, that is, they fail to understand the redemptive themes in the Bible, let alone the basic stories in the Bible. And the nones, as described above, are radically post-Christian.

Part Two explores A New Approach. The author reexamines ways of reaching Generation Z and encourages pastors and Christian workers to think outside the box. He cites Ron Dreher approvingly: “Christians must pioneer new ways to bind ourselves to Scripture, to our traditions, and to each other – not for mere survival, but so that the church can be the authentic light of Christ to a world lost in darkness.” Our task, then is to be truly Christ-centered by modeling the gospel to a lost generation.

There is a plea here for “finding our voice,” something that appears to be increasingly difficult for many evangelicals: “There is a thin line between maintaining an earned voice through which to speak to culture and compromising the very message we long to share.” Ultimately, our task is to communicate the gospel in an uncompromising way to a generation that does not understand the Bible. The problem is that many people are compromising. The author notes, “If we harden ourselves against revelation’s voice, then again, like clay, we can only crumble in response to its touch.”

Finally, there is a challenge to rethink apologetics and evangelism directed to the Generation X generation. James Emery White offers these wise words: “At the most basic level, the goal is to hold both grace and truth together. Truth without grace is just judgment. Grace without truth is license. Only authentic Christianity brings together both truth and grace … The only kind of voice that will arrest the attention of the world will be convictional in nature, clear in its message, substantive in its content, and bold in its challenge.”

Meet Generation X is a much-needed book, especially in light of the challenges we face in the days ahead. For me personally, there are some things in the book that could be discarded. But to throw out the baby with the bathwater would be a huge overstep. Much of the wisdom here is sound and biblical. I commend this book to a new generation of pastors and Christian workers who have a heart for building a bridge to the next generation, namely, Generation X.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

The Story of Reality (2017)

a-reality

Gregory Koukl, The Story of Reality Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017, 198 pp. $9.31

Reality is a subject that every person should be interested in. Reality stares us in the face each day and reminds us of the bare facts. Perhaps the most important reality to come to grips with is the Christian worldview. Gregory Koukl presents the major components of the Christian worldview in his newest work, The Story of Reality.

Every worldview has four important ingredients: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Koukl adds, “Every worldview means to tell a story like this one, a story of reality. It means to make sense of the way the world actually is – the world as we find it – not simply the world as we wish it to be.”

After Koukl orients the mind readers to the importance of reality, he weaves five critical subjects into the fabric of the Christian worldview described above. These subjects include God, man, Jesus, cross, and resurrection. Each topic is explained in detailed and opposing worldviews are challenged along the way.

At the center of Koukl’s argument is the Story:

That is the Story about how the world began, how the world ends, and everything deeply important that happens in between: the beginning filled with goodness, the rebellion, the brokenness, the rescue, the trade, the mercy, the final justice, the end of evil, the ultimate restoration to perfect goodness, and – for those who trust the Rescuer – the unending friendship with a Father who, finally, satisfies the deepest longings of their hearts.

The author challenges readers to participate in this Story – for each person is an active participant whether they realize it or not. Each person will either find unending friendship with God through the completed work of his Son, Jesus Christ. Those who repudiate the offer of eternal salvation will bear the weight of their own sin – or as Koukl writes, “You can reject the gift, stand alone at the judgment, and pay for your own crimes against God, such as they are.”

The Story of Reality is a very important book. This book should be devoured again and again by Christian people. And this book should be gifted to people who have not yet embraced the Story. Koukl writes with an engaging style. He steers clear from philosophical buzzwords but never dumbs down the content. This is a Story that needed to be told. Readers who take the time to digest this excellent material will be blessed beyond measure.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

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!