Summary of “THE MARK OF THE CHRISTIAN” by Francis Schaeffer

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In his book The Mark of the Christian Schaeffer points out the great Commandment to love God and neighbor is at the core of our message and it must be lived out if two things are to occur.  First, if men are to know that we are Christ’s disciples, there must be the humble preference toward one another that Jesus demonstrated to the disciples when he washed their feet in (John 13).  Love among the brothers lets the watching world see if we actually belong to Jesus or not.

We may very well be his, but if our actions are contradictory then the unbeliever has the right given by God to judge us.  This kind of life is costly, painful and accompanied by great loss, but our love for the Savior and for the lost must be what motivates us.

Second, we must be unified with believers so that our evangelistic endeavors are not hindered and the world may know that the Father sent the Son (John 17).  This unity must be evident in word and in deed.  Even when there are differences among us, and there will be, it’s critical that forgiveness, repentance, humility and kindness be evident when we part ways with our brothers and sisters.

This unity, according to Schaeffer, is not organizational, nor our mystical union with Him, it’s not our positional unity in Christ, not even a legal unity before Him.  But it’s a real, observable, practical unity that practices both God’s holiness and love.  Schaeffer rightly accentuates that this unity is never to be separated from His propositional truth (scripture) for it is these propositions that believers are called to live out before the world.

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Summary of “The Church at the End of the 20th Century” by Francis Schaeffer

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In his book The Church at the End of the 20th Century, Schaeffer considers where in history we have come.  He considers how to understand the then current student revolt of the 60’s and how we as the church can make an impact.  As he argued in; The God Who is There, the results that accompany denying God’s existence in space time history are inescapable.  If there’s no ultimate reference point of God, we have no absolute truth, what then follows is man, not God becoming the measure of all things, and as such sends us down a slippery oblivion of utter despair.

The core of the book concerns the absolute need to make the essential things of the Christian faith essential, and those that are not, not essential while still being important.  It’s an issue of degreed importance.  Hence, orthodoxy is essential to have true Christianity for God has communicated to us in propositional form.  But that’s not everything.  We must have orthodoxy in community.  If it does not work itself out practically in our relationships through love, we will be seen as ugly.  As we should be!  Overcoming the hurdles required to walk in loving community can only be done through the Holy Spirit’s power poured in and through humble servants.

In other words, we need to teach the Christianity that has content and purity of doctrine.  And in our ecclesiastical affairs we must practice that truth in our religious cooperation if both young and old are going to be attracted to us.  Where changes need to be made (e.g., Korean church going underground or the times we meet for worship, or where we meet) must be considered graciously rather than given some “divine authority” which the Scriptures do not support.  Cultural relevance necessitates a “hot orthodoxy” that is savvy, not belligerent.

Summary of “Two Contents, Two Realities” by Francis Schaeffer

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In Schaeffer’s Two Contents, Two Realities he holds to the view that for the church to encounter the mounting challenges of the culture and increasing pressures upon her four things are essential to be in place.  Without these, he doesn’t see how we can be truly light and salt.

First, we must have the content of sound doctrine.  There can’t be any compromise here, for where essential Christian doctrines are denied, true Christianity disappears.  And clarity of content to those making a profession of faith is indispensable.  Otherwise, what will result are many false conversions.  Moreover, relativism must be smashed with true truth, the cost of discipleship must be real and love must ground all the above.

Second, we must with content give honest answers to honest questionsBecause Christianity is true truth from God, the Scriptures have an answer to our deepest fundamental questions as human beings.  For Christ is Lord over all creation, and as its master, He has the solutions for our deepest concerns.  This will mean that Christians like Paul must love the culture enough to understand its functional gods/idols and show their inadequacy when compared to the Gospel.  Whether rich or poor, educated or working class the same questions concern us all.

Third, the reality of true spirituality demonstrates what it means to love God and neighbor as ourselves, however imperfectly.  We may have orthodox doctrine and know how to provide the answers our generation is asking or not asking, but if among believers there’s no true (though imperfect) love, than we have utterly failed!  The way we treat others is a massive indication of our understanding of what it means for them to be image bearers.  Without minimizing the first and second contents, if this third reality is not in place, the gig is up.

Fourth, the beauty of human relationships in Christian community is costly and smashes every racial and class barrier.  The rich and poor, rulers and servants are to understand that they are brothers and sisters in Christ. The church cannot just be a place where preaching and activities occur, where no community is really being experienced.  In the church of Antioch, the race issue was not an issue for the early Christians and while they had their problems the Gospel was able to destroy these barriers in a way that in America it hasn’t been a reality in too many of our churches.  If we are going to touch our generation with the Gospel, this must be remedied by Christ’s power in our lives.

It is when we begin to see these two contents, and two realities that a profound impact will be experienced by our generation.

Summary of “THE NEW SPIRITUALITY” by Francis Schaeffer

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In Schaeffer’s The New Super Spirituality he considers how among non-Christians and in the church we came full circle as a culture in America with our problems without even realizing it.  A generation that found itself in a post Christian world became that which it despised, that which it rejected.  For example, in the sixties the youth rebelled against their parents’ love of affluence and peace and saw their “plastic reality” to provide no real answers to life’s difficult questions.

Instead of reasoning through hard issues, the youth were encouraged to just maintain the status quo.  This anti-intellectualism the youth ironically accepted through the transcendental mysticism of Eastern thought in the sixties which down-played reality as we know it—drug culture sprang up, and thus a denial of reason flourished.  The source of these ideas was a mixture of mysticism, the occult, and some demonic.  It’s easy to become that which you criticize if care is not taken.

In the Christian community, of the many problems that obtained were not understanding what it means for Christ to be Lord over all creation.  Instead of giving answers to tough questions, the youth were told to just believe…they turned away.  There was also no beauty in the community; divorce became rampant, families torn apart—in church—because of an anti-intellectual approach to their orthodoxy.  Moreover, strong legalism set in and many taboos were put in place of Scripture.  This lead to an unbiblical Platonic world-view that denied the importance of the physical world and only spiritual themes mattered.  And while in the new Pentecostalism that unlike their predecessors, experience trumped content, however important experience is.

There are certain marks in the new super spirituality; 1) an unbiblical exegesis of the use of reason and the intellect from 1 Corinthians 1, 2 as if God upheld stupidity as a virtue, 2) a disdain for apologetics thinking it to be “non-spiritual”, 3) the despising of the body and embracing asceticism for its own sake, 4) certain questions are altogether not being asked, thus showing where people’s interest consist, 5) a longing to experience the spectacular and the extraordinary, and 6) an eschatology-centered theology.  How are we to respond to these trends?

Schaeffer says, first it’s important to remember that these people are our Christian brothers and that how we deal with each other determines whether or not the world can know we belong to Christ (Jn.17).

Second, in light of the new Platonism, we must be saturated with the content based propositional revelation of truth in the Scriptures and we must place our freedoms under the lordship of the Holy Spirit.

Third, we must resist the new super-spirituality, and while difficult, steer aright new converts to worship in churches that are orthodox in both doctrine and in their community.

Fourth, we must not overreact when confronting these problems—this is so critical and difficult to do.  It’s truly difficult to strike a balance.  If we are to live in the reality that Christ is Lord over all creation, then as Christians it is incumbent on us to love God in word and deed, prayerfully study our Bible, love the Church and the Culture, care for both Body and Soul, and in all this avoiding extremes and making it our goal to live Scripturally saturated lives.

Summary of “TRUE SPIRITUALITY” by Francis Schaeffer

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In True Spirituality Schaeffer considers so many precious gems of wisdom that to do it justice I would have to do a report on the book, not give a summary.  To begin with, his understanding of the gospel and its application to life are liberating because he (rightly) does not have too much of a realized eschatology.  This prevents a triumphalism from creeping in that’s so pervasive in many Evangelical circles today.  This is especially true in the areas of justification, sanctification and final glorification.

Rightly understanding the biblical teaching of the above as we rest in the power of the Holy Spirit and look to the Trinity for direction, wisdom, and instruction, there’s the opportunity for our brokenness to be healed, substantially that is.

The chapter on Freedom in the Thought Life there’s a massive thought that, “true spirituality in the Christian life rests…in the realm of my thought life” (pg.310).  While I’m finite, my limitations don’t prevent me from creating something in the external world what my internal thoughts influence (e.g., a sculptor, painting, etc.). Yet, even though I’m a Christian, my thoughts can be a death producing machine if I yield myself to Satan instead of Christ.  Wow!

Made in the image of God, our choices determine whether or not life or death will overflow into the lives of other human beings.  Capable for committing acts of kindness or cruelty, able to create beauty or produce horror.  In this section Schaeffer concludes with three thoughts:

First, the reality of communion with God, and loving God, must take place in the inward self.  Our thought life is the proving ground.

Second, the real battle for men is in the world of ideas, rather than in that which is outward.  “Where a man will spend eternity depends on his reading or hearing the ideas, the propositional truth, the facts of the gospel in the external world, and these being carried through the medium of His body into the inner world of his thoughts…either his believing God on the basis of the content of the gospel or his calling God a liar” (pgs.312-313).

Third, the Christian life…always begins in our thought-world.  The spiritual battle, the loss or the victory, is always in the thought life.  When our thought life as believers is set Godward, substantial healing can be experienced in our psychological, personal problems, interpersonal relationships can be healed and even healing in the church can be a reality.

He concludes this book with an appendix The Dust of Life where at the end of the day we believers are called to live our lives in this present evil age in light of the future coming kingdom of God.  We are to model now what is still future.  We are to be a redemptive tool in God’s hands displaying His personal care for the souls of men and the earth in which they were designed to live.

This book is must reading for anyone in leadership or anyone desiring to go into leadership in the church.  In fact, this should be read by all who desire to glean from the godly wisdom this broken man offers.  We’ll be the better for it if we consider and act.

 

Summary of “NO LITTLE PEOPLE” by Francis Schaeffer

IMG_20170911_104919This is one of Schaeffers’ most powerful books.  In No Little People he focuses on the significance of the smallest details both in the life of God’s servants and the places in which they find themselves.  According to the Bible says Schaeffer, “With God there are no little people” (pg.5).  He then considers how significant a simple stick of wood was to become in Moses hands as a source of judgment—plagues, deliverance—Red Sea, and supply—water from the rock.   This stick, something “insignificant” became the rod of God.  As this rod became God’s, so to must the believer.  Essentially there are no little people, only those that are and are not consecrated to God.  That’s sobering!   At the end of the day we as believers must follow Christ’ humble approach of service, nothing else.  In fact, humility is not an option for honoring Jesus, but a requisite.

In the chapter The Weakness of God’s Servants, attention is given to just that—their weakness.  I found this sobering and encouraging.  It’s sobering because I can identify with my own struggles with sin.  It is among other things refreshing to know God reveals our heroes faults—to embarrassing heights often.  Why?  Because the Bible is a realistic book with flesh and blood, sweat and tears, highs and lows revealing the “mannishness” of man.  We even in the church are sometimes too blinded to this reality.  Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, Gideon, David, Solomon, Elijah, Peter, Paul represent different aspects of our common problem: sin before a holy God.  Honestly, I’m glad my name’s not in the bible and my deeds on display for all to see.  They may one day however, and that’s scary.

Lastly, not because there’s not much more to consider, but in the chapter David: Lawful and Unlawful Vindication the hard lesson is that personal sin can and too often does paralyze our duty to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before God.  Post Bathsheba and Uriah, David’s life was never the same.  Being in leadership is no small task however great or small the band may be.  Our actions have far reaching consequences the likes of which can be utterly daunting to consider.  Nonetheless, ponder I must for the sake of the Name of God.

This book is must reading for anyone in, aspiring to, or presently going into church leadership for it gives in my view a sober and realistic assessment of our human plight even though we are part of the covenant people.

Summary of “Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History” Francis Schaeffer

IMG_20170827_083008Many years ago in Bible College I took a class called Hebrew History and the book of Joshua was our starting point.   I don’t remember much of that class’s content, but I do recall the texture of wonder in my soul as musings of the text were considered, both in class and in my study.

According to Schaeffer, a major theme (and I agree) is the significance of our choices.  The book of Joshua centers on this reality of our “choices.”   Between the God Who is There or the idols that surround us, we are to choose whom we will serve.  God’s faithfulness to his promise to the fathers of Israel possessing the land was realized, but there was much to be gleaned by the “choices” God’s covenant people made—either negatively or positively.

Joshua before his death distributes the land to the different tribes of Israel and finally gives them his last “speech” (Joshua 24: 14-15):

14 “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

The focus is not on their “stuff” but on their “loyalties” whether it is Godward or Manward—their worship is the ultimate issue.   And their worship like ours is seen in the choices that they daily made.  In Chapter 2 Joshua chose to recognize that Israel’s true leader was the Captain of the host of the LORD who was before him.  Chapter three focused on the national portion of the Abrahamic covenant.  The Jews chose to cross the Jordan—from that time until now, their choices would either result in blessing or cursing (i.e., the conditional aspects of the covenant).  Chapter 4 and 8 show how Rahab and the Gibeonites chose to deceive in order to become part of the people of God—they knew and heard of the renown of God’s name.

In chapter 5 two memorials were erected: one of stones and another of circumcision, both of which were signs of remembering and obeying the God of the covenant however impractical it seemed to the eye.  Chapter 6 shows how Achan’s choice to disobey God’s command lead not only to the temporary defeat of Israel’s army but also brought death to him and his kin.  Moreover, in the chapter 7 at Mt. Gerizim and Ebal blessing and cursing was established within the covenant—choose life Israel.  Chapter 9 Caleb once again shows himself faithful to God while standing opposed to Israel’s disobedience of taking the rest of the land.  He chose God, as he had done 40 years prior.

Chapter 10 the two and a half tribes that returned east of Jordan chose to serve the living God and those west of the Jordan lovingly and passionately entreated them thinking that they had turned to serve the gods of the land.  In chapter 11 the cities of refuge are set up and the one who has accidently committed homicide has a choice to run and be safe from the avenger of blood in this place.

The whole book demonstrates how choice—our choices effect history in a deep way; our family, our affiliations, our nation.  We are not to “Forget who we are” as Scripture constantly reminds.   We are not machines, but created in God’s image and we must choose rightly, not like Adam, but like Abraham.

What struck me here is that we can’t make a choice in the present that we are not in the habit of making in the past.  The little choices are not little in the least bit, instead they are monumental and oh the blindness within that argues contrarily.  Joshua understood this so well that at the end of his life both his “life” and “words” matched his professed convictions.  Israel knew it.  What a man, what a Great God he served.  What will you choose with the little time left on earth believer? The God of creation or the idols that promise so much but can’t deliver?  Whose word will you ultimately bank your life on?  The Creators or the creatures?

Summary of  “Back to Freedom and Dignity” Francis Schaeffer

 

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Back to Freedom and Dignity is Francis Schaeffer’s fourth book in the first volume “A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture.”  In this book, Schaeffer considers the natural outcome of a culture run by a physicalist world-view (i.e., matter is all there is, immaterial realities do not exist).  The end result is that man is just a machine, without an enduring “I” at the mercy of the “mighty” “elite” “those in the know” (i.e., scientists).

The “freedom and dignity” afforded to man ends up being no less than a lab rat to discover what can be “improved upon.”  Skinner, Crick, and Company must be taken seriously, because their ideas are so lethal to man’s “mannish-ness” (i.e., the inescapable characteristics of humanity that evidence being created in God’s image rather than being a purposeless accident).

Summary of “He Is There and He is Not Silent” FRANCIS SCHAEFFER

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 “He Is There and He is Not Silent” is Francis Schaeffer’s third book of the first volume “A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture.”  In it, he considers the three main areas of philosophy: Metaphysics, Ethics, and Epistemology.  Schaeffer uses the pre-suppositional method as a means to consider how Being, Oughtness, and Knowing make the most sense from that which is Impersonal or from the Personal. 

He skillfully argues for the Personal over against the Impersonal as the most rational option.  This conclusion is based on what he terms as the “mannish-ness” of man (i.e., because human beings are created in God’s image, they always mirror this reality in the way they think and live).  The world is such that in these 3 categories (metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics), God is there and He is not silent.  God has spoken and as such He is the “Hub” of Being, of Ought-ness, and of Knowing, not the creature.

Hence, to deny God as the Absolute, Personal, Uncreated, Infinite Creator is to embrace madness.  This is seen in the philosophical systems that aren’t Judeo-Christian.  Man is an image bearer.  To look into the mirror and not know and live in that reality is tragic indeed!

Reflections From ECCLESIASTES 4: THE PREACHER’S DOWNWARD MUSINGS…Continued

The Preacher is quite pessimistic and the level of seeming despair is evident when he reasons after beholding the defenseless oppressed and those crushed by the strong and mighty:

“Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them. So I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun.(Vv.1-4)

The oppressed and their tears exacerbates the Preacher’s experience as he considers the lack of comfort the downtrodden receive, “…they had no one to comfort them…” and the power of those oppressing them.  The weak ruled by the mighty, the defenseless overcome by the strong, and bitterness is the soup of the needy.

The Preacher saw acts of oppression which caused him to conclude that the “dead” (v.2a) are better off than the living.  That’s pessimism on steroids, to congratulate the dead over against the oppressed, but the Preacher is not yet finished.  Not only are the dead praised for not being in the muck of life, but those who have never come into existence are better off than the dead.  How can one be better off than the oppressed and the dead if they aren’t or never have been?  In his view, to behold the evil his eyes have witnessed and the damage inflicted on the soul is so severe, that seemingly what can’t be—a knowing and non-existent knower—is better than the alternative of existing and thus suffering horrible ills.   

While there’s oppression and evil, there’s also liberty and goodness, but then again the gloom that looms over a life without God is acutely unbearable.  I have not experienced the evils many have through the annals of time, but I have experienced despair and wrestled with dark thoughts of suicide because of suffering.  For the follower of Jesus, under such circumstances, Paul reminds us that God is working on our behalf behind the scenes:

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”   (Romans 8:28-30)

So, when despair seems to be swallowing you up believer, know that it is momentary and that the heavenly Father, has not abandoned you, but is rather working through the pain to make you more like Jesus.

To the non-believer or skeptic, my suggestion is for you to investigate the claims of Christ to see whether or not they make sense to you.  For of all the authorities that command us how to live, only Christ Jesus claimed to be the uncreated creator who is self-existent and conquered the grave through the resurrection.  To dismiss his claims, which came through eyewitness accounts as mere fantasy, is not only pedestrian but a brazen refusal to behold the immense evidence to support his claims.

LORD, when darkness comes remind us that you truly are our light, that a life without you truly is meaningless, ugly, cold, and gray.  Teach us to look to you when suffering seems too unbearable and grant the grace required for us to finish the race set before us as we look to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.

(SDG)