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 amoeba 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: 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.

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 for 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.

WHY FRANCIS SHAEFFER MATTERS: The Turning Point in Truth – Part 2

The Truth Crisis

Francis Schaeffer sets the tone for his apologetical procedure by explaining the crisis of truth in America:  “We are fundamentally affected by a new way of looking at truth.  This change in the concept of the way we come to knowledge and truth is the most crucial problem facing America today” (The God Who Is There, 6).  He believes a paradigm shift occurred around 1935 when the American attitude toward truth changed.  Prior to this time, American’s were devoted to thinking about presuppositions, namely, the existence of absolutes, particularly in the areas of morals (ethics) and knowledge (epistemology).  But the average American took it for granted  that if a certain idea was true, it’s opposite was false.  In other words, “absolutes imply antithesis.”  The working antithesis is that God exists objectively (in antithesis) to his not existing.

Schaeffer believes that presuppositional apologetics would have stopped the decay.  Incidentally, he maintains that the use of classical apologetics was effective prior to the shift because non-Christians were functioning on the surface with the same presuppositions, even though they did not have an adequate base for them.

The Role of Thomas Aquinas

Dr. Schaeffer maintains that Aquinas opened the way for the discussion of what is usually called the “nature and grace” controversy (Escape From Reason, 209). He contends that Aquinas set up a dichotomy of grace versus nature.

Aquinas taught that the will of man was fallen, but the intellect was not.  The net result, according to Schaeffer, is that man’s intellect is seen as autonomous.  Schaeffer maintains that the teaching of Aquinas led to the development of the so-called Natural Theology where theology could be pursued independent of the Scriptures.  The vital principle to understand according to Schaeffer is that “as nature was made autonomous, nature began to ‘eat up’ grace” (Escape From Reason, 212).

Anthropology

Schaeffer militates against this so-called  “grace/nature” dichotomy and insists that Christ is equally Lord in both areas.  He suggests that God made the whole man and is consequently interested in the whole man.  When the historic space-time Fall took place, it affected the whole man, not merely the will as Aquinas taught.  Thus, Schaeffer taught that the whole man is saved and the whole man will eventually be glorified and perfectly redeemed.

Since God made man in His own image, man is not caught in the wheels of determinism:  “The Christian position is that since man is made in the image of God and even though he is a sinner, he can do those things that are tremendous – he can influence history for this life and the life to come, for himself and others” (Death In The City, 258).

Schaeffer argues that Evangelicals have such a strong tendency to combat humanism that they end up making man a “zero.”  He adds, “Man is indeed lost but that does not mean he is nothing . . . From the biblical viewpoint, man is lost, but great” (Death In The City, 258-259).  Therefore, Schaeffer’s anthropological position is that man is sinful, yet he is significant because he is made in the image of God.  And regenerate man is, as the Reformers emphasized, simul iustus et peccator – simultaneously righteous and sinful.

DISCIPLINES OF A GODLY MAN – Kent Hughes

Disciplines of a Godly Man is written with the expressed purpose of developing godliness in the life of men.  The book is based on Paul’s admonition to the young pastor Timothy: “Discipline yourselves for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7).  The book begins and ends with the subject of discipline.  Like bookends that encase divine truth and principles for grace filled living, Dr. Hughes makes it clear that without discipline, godliness is impossible.

The author discusses sixteen specific disciplines which are essential to living a godly life.  They include the disciplines of purity, marriage, fatherhood, friendship, mind, devotion, prayer, worship, integrity, tongue, work, church, leadership, giving, witness, and ministry.  The book is unique in that Dr. Hughes includes spiritual disciplines that are not normally discussed in books of this sort.

Many positives pervade this work.  First and most important, this book is grace filled.  There is not a hint of legalism. The author writes, “God save us from the reductionism of such legalism which enshrines spirituality as a series of wooden laws . . .”  The clear point is made that the spiritual disciplines do not merit favor with God.  Rather their very practice indicates a love, longing and a thirst for Him.  Second, the focus is on building an intimate relationship with Christ, one’s spouse, one’s family, and one’s friends.  There is no cold abstraction here.  This book aims directly at the heart.  Third, there is a bold affirmation of sanctification by faith alone.  Fourth, a helpful list a study questions is included at the end of each chapter.

Disciplines of a Godly Man should be required reading for every Christian man.  Read it, absorb it, and pass it along to another man.

CULTURE SHIFT: Engaging Current Issues With Timeless Truths – Al Mohler (2008)

“I am glad Al Mohler is on our team.”  I kept uttering these words to myself as read through Al Mohler’s book, Culture Shift.  Dr. Mohler consistently serves up an unrelenting diet of timeless truths that support the Christian faith in winsome and intellectually appealing ways.  Perhaps John Piper has said it best: “Albert Mohler is a steady guide, unrelentingly clear-headed.”  He has a way of sorting through the cultural muck; warning Christ-followers and admonishing them to serve as change agents in a disintegrating culture.

Culture Shift could be used as cliff notes for informing and educating Christians about the drift taking place in our society.  Mohler discusses a wide range of topics including politics, parenting, education, suffering, abortion, war, epistemology, law, and secularism.

Culture Shift is not intended to be the final answer on any of these subjects.  Rather, each topic is covered in a general way but includes riveting suggestions for penetrating post-modern culture in a caring and Christ-centered way.

4 stars

GUARDING THE DEPOSIT: A WORLDVIEW WARNING

Charles Hodge rightly said, “History in all its details, even the most minute, is but the evolution of the eternal purposes of God.”  Hodge understood the biblical reality that God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11).  Yet, we live in an eroding culture; one that is hostile to this fundamental truth.  We live in a culture where God is discounted, his truths are marginalized, and human autonomy appears to triumph.

One worldview that is diametrically opposed to the Christian worldview is deism.  This worldview held a dominant position in France and England from the late seventeenth century to the first half of the 18th century.  But make no mistake.  Deism is still alive.  It has yet to go the way of the dinosaur.

Noah Webster defines deism: “The belief that God exists and created the world but thereafter assume no control over it or the lives of people.”  The Enlightenment (1660-1798) provided the philosophical soil for deism to flourish.  Adherents of the Enlightenment rejected the belief that faith depends on received or religious doctrines.  They did not emphasize a personal relationship with God.  Rather they believed in an impersonal Creator and embraced the idea that nature tells us everything we need to know about him.

Notice a few components of deism.  First, the deist maintains that God is not involved with creation. The God of deism is seen as one who creates but is only  a “clockmaker” who steps aside after his creative work.  Walter Isaacson describes the modified deism of Benjamin Franklin: “He no longer believed in the received dogmas of his Puritan upbringing, which taught that man could achieve salvation only through God’s grace rather than through good works.”

Second, deism elevates the role of reason. Whenever reason is elevated, there is a danger of neglecting revelation, which is precisely what occurs in a deistic worldview.  A writer representing this view says, “In deism, there is no need for a preacher, priest, or rabbi.  All one needs in deism is their own common sense and the creation to contemplate.”  In this scheme, propositional truth is either downplayed or discarded because reason is seen as the superior way to know God; albeit a God who is not personal.  Consequently, “Nature is a closed system,” writes W. Andrew Hoffecker, “and humans cannot know anything beyond the natural realm.”

Third, it follows that deism rejects special revelation. Herein lies the reason for Thomas Jefferson’s irresponsible act of taking a razor blade to all the New Testament references to Jesus’ miracles, his Virgin birth, and any reference to deity.

But for now, ask yourself where deism emerges in our culture.   Ask if you have subtlety succumbed to this pernicious worldview.  For when we discount the miraculous, we become practical deists.  When reason replaces revelation, we become practical deists.  When general revelation replaces special revelation, we become practical deists.

Hodge was right on target.  “History in all its details, even the most minute, is but the evolution of the eternal purposes of God.”  May we pay careful attention to Paul’s admonition to Timothy: “… Guard the deposit entrusted to you.  Avoid irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have swerved from the faith” (1 Tim. 6:20-21).  May our thinking and affections be aligned to God’s Word and may we passionately plead with culture to turn their attention to the all-wise work of God!

A deistic worldview essentially presents a neutralized deity.  He is stripped bare of his attributes.  Jesus is rendered useless and powerless.  The cross becomes unnecessary.  Prayer becomes random and meaningless.  The net result of deism is a caricature of the Christian faith that fails to honor God and refuses to give him the glory he rightly deserves.  See if you can detect the deism that emerges in Albert Einstein’s worldview:

  • “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the   slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds.  That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”

Deism poses significant problems for people:

In a Deistic Worldview, People are Unable to Make Significant Decisions

James Sire writes, “Human beings are what they are; they have little hope of becoming anything different or anything more.”  Since deism maintains that God has not revealed himself, it follows that an ethical framework is untenable.  Meaningful decisions are rendered void.

In a Deistic Worldview, Humans are Merely a Part of Nature

W. Andrew Hoffecker adds, “Unlike Christian thought, which teaches that man is specially made in the image of his creator and is thereby capable of a unique, personal relationship with God, deists conclude that man is simply locked into the closed system of nature.  People cannot have a direct relationship with God … Man and God are thus essentially disengaged.”

In a Deistic Worldview, Humans Have No Hope, No Help, and No Purpose

Deism is, in the final analysis a hopeless worldview where salvation is not only impossible; it is entirely unnecessary.

The verdict concerning deism is in.  God is personal (Isa. 40:10-11; 41:8-10).  God is immanent (Isa. 57:15).  God has spoken (Heb. 1:1-2).  And God is intimately involved with the affairs of people and nations.  Spurgeon helps us understand God’s meticulous Providence:  “I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes – that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens – that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses.  The creeping of an aphid over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence – the fall of … leaves from a popular is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.”

May we constantly turn our affections to God who has revealed himself in nature (Ps. 19:1-6), in his Son (Heb.1:1-2), and in Scripture (Ps. 19:7-11; John 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16).  And let us remember the admonition that Paul gave Timothy as we contend for the truth in a culture that is hostile to the gospel: “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you.  Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have swerved from the faith” (2 Tim. 6:20-21).

Soli Deo Gloria!