Summaries Now Available! “Volume 1_A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture” by FRANCIS SCHAEFFER

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In this volume Schaeffer argues for absolute truth that’s based on the God Who is There.  When a culture denies this reality despair results because under opposing varied worldviews, (e.g., monism, pantheism, naturalism, etc.) man becomes the measure of all things.  The despair is a result of our “mannishness” (a Schaefferism) that reveals humans actually are created in God’s image and can’t escape that fact.

To suppress the aforementioned humanity ends up madness, escaping from reason and plunging into the hopelessness that naturalism in particular provides with no objective meaning in life.  He considers how worldviews truly play out in this enterprise called life.  It is Schaeffer’s first book in this volume that sets the stage for the rest of his writings.   So take up and read click here FRANCIS SCHAFFER Volume 1_A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture

 

 

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REFLECTIONS FROM 1st CORINTHIANS: CHAPTER 1: DO CALLED SAINTS EVER HAVE TO OVERCOME PRIDE?

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My goal in writing reflections from 1st Corinthians are the following: First, to encourage you the reader that if you will pay attention to the words on the page and listen carefully you will mine a lot of truth for life without the need of a commentary or any secondary source.  That is, “take up and read” to enrich your soul Christian.

Second, I write to give you a model of how observations can be done in scripture that do not read into the text something foreign to the author’s intent.  This will help you experience the joy of discovery and increase your confidence in your ability to comprehend God’s word.

Third, by doing the above my hope is that you will be able to hear God’s voice all the more clearly because it is the word of God that is forever settled in heaven, and not our subjective impressions however valid they may be.  That is, we have a more sure word of prophecy according to Peter—meaning the inscripturated word of God—then a glorious experience we may claim to have (2 Peter 1:16-21).  Too often we Christians have bizarre ideas of what “God” is supposedly speaking to us and when it contradicts the Bible, be assured we are not hearing his voice.

This first letter of Paul to the Corinthian church is one of his earliest writings, occasioned by internal strife among believers fueled by pride in the creature rather than the Creator:

Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Vvs.1-9) 

 

These verses let us peer into several facts about the letter, the audience and the key issue at hand.  First, as in all his letters, Paul establishes his credentials as sourced in God’s will (v.1), not mans’, so that his apostolic ministry is sanctioned by the Lord of the church not an earthly institution or movement.  Why is this significant?  Because unless one is sanctioned from above, they don’t have the authority to speak into how we come to understand God, love God, and walk humbly before God.  Paul is saying, what I’m about to deliver to you comes from the uncreated Creator through the created creature.

Second, the audience is the church of God in Corinth which means that as Christ’s prized possession, through his shed blood on Calvary have been purchased by God’s mercy and grace and as such have been sanctified in Him (v.2).  They are holy because Christ’s righteousness is theirs.  Moreover, they are saints—holy ones—by calling which means that its’ utterly God’s choosing not theirs (i.e., they brought nothing into the relationship to fulfill this state of affairs) concerning their rescue from wrath.

Again, those called, call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ which I take to mean that Jesus, because of his ontological status as Master, Shepherd, and God incarnate, is the source of all that is good.

Fourth, after describing who they are, Paul gives thanks for the grace the Corinthian church received evidenced in their speech, knowledge, and gifting (vvs.4-9) but something was amiss, there was internal strife.  Paul states:

10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.”   (Vvs.10-16)

Fifth, the apostle exhorts the believers not to divide among themselves over their favorite minister (e.g., Paul, Apollos, Cephas or Christ) as if they were anything special in one sense, (only Jesus Christ is redeemer and savior here, not his servants).  These divisions which must stop are evidenced in quarrels which are caused by their pride.  This problem is an overarching theme which influences what Paul says and how he says it throughout this letter.

Sixth, the contrast between the clever/foolish and between the wise/knowledgeable is also rife in the letter.  Consider how after Paul explains that his call was to preach the gospel rather than to baptize believers (vvs.14-16) and to do this in a specific way that hits a nerve with these prideful believers:

 

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.

It’s not as if Paul is denigrating the life of the mind, but for the apostle how Christ is preached, how the gospel is presented, is fundamental to what it accomplishes.  If it rests on the cleverness of speech, it certainly will make the cross of Christ void.  That is, for those who “come behind in no gift and are enriched in all speech and knowledge” (1:5), if they don’t plainly and clearly speak the truth of Christ’s cross, true conversions won’t occur.

Seventh, I don’t think Paul is calling for “dumbing down” the message so that its breadth, length, height and depth are stripped.  Instead, what he is exposing here is the motive of pride which is the cause of why people reject the Gospel message.  The preaching event involves the word of God, the preacher, the hearer and the response.  Paul notes:

18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

 Here the same word is either devalued or valued.  If devalued this word is unable to save from God’s wrath, that is those perishing can’t receive the message and thus be rescued.  If valued, then the message utterly rescues those who embrace it for in it God’s power resides.  The same word has two different effects; it has two different responses, but why?

I think the reason is found in the quote from Isaiah 29:14 which Paul cites (v.19).  Here, the prophet indicts a people who honor God with their lips but whose hearts are far from Him.  This refers to the Jews, the people of the book, who should have known better but did not.  The result was judgment and destruction.  The same end awaits Gentiles too.

Jesus applied this same text to the Pharisees when their hearts were hardened to his message and person.  The main problem here as always, is that the word of men (i.e., tradition of washing of hands) wants to take precedence over the word of God (Mt. 15:1-9).

Paul in Romans (1:18-23) explains why God’s wrath is justly revealed and why men became fools: “they suppressed the truth of God in unrighteousness and thus become darkened in their understanding.  They become fools.

James also addresses this issue in (4:1-7) where the people because they don’t love God but the world instead, live as fools because of the swelling of their own pride.

Paul’s point here is that human wisdom when compared to God’s is foolish and the reason for this is because the knowledge of the Creator is necessarily both ontologically and epistemically superior to all created things.  Ironically, the very foolishness of God in the preaching of the Cross of Christ is the remedy the Corinthian believers don’t see because of their blinding pride:

19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”  20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

Of course, the world sees the Cross either as a stumbling block (for the Jew) or foolishness (for the Gentiles “every non-Jew”).  The stumbling block is understood but not embraced, it is scandalous to Jews.  The foolishness is understood but not welcomed because it’s not sophisticated enough for the “wise”.

This demonstrates human ignorance concerning ultimate issues and also explains our need for God to move on the minds and hearts of blinded people which is what takes place for the “called”.  The “called” consist of both Jew and Gentile alike, who when hearing the message of the Cross love and embrace it, they see that it is—the wisdom and power of God:

22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 

Paul continues explaining how God’s infinite superior knowledge, His epistemological prowess, supersedes the creatures finite limited knowledge and how in the simplicities and complexities of the cross God accomplished His purpose of “choosing” the proud while simultaneously crushing their arrogance:

26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God.”   

And just in case there’s any misunderstanding of how the Corinthians got saved, Paul continues:

30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Human boasting is the highway to hell.  The knowledge of God revealed to us through Christ Jesus tells us minimally the following things.

First, the knowledge of God reveals that our religious tradition is an epistemological one where we can come to know the Creator God through His son.  Knowledge and specifically of God, is a necessary condition for salvation to obtain, though it is not sufficient.

Second, this knowledge is granted to us by God which means that it comes from outside of ourselves, it does not come from within the human being.  The reason here is so that there will be no boasting before God.  Moreover, this knowledge produces trust, or faith that results in rescue from God’s wrath.

Third, this understanding reveals the human malady of pride and the necessity of preaching the cross of Christ clearly and boldly so that many called may come into the kingdom.  Human pride caused the “Fall” in the Garden of Eden and Sovereign grace has come to rectify that malady.  May we not shy away from the foolishness or offense of the Cross due to our pride, instead may we along with Paul love it and cherish it as we endeavor to be salt and light in this dark world.  Lord have mercy on us.

(SDG)

Summary of “A CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO” by Francis Schaeffer

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In chapter one, The Abolition of Truth and Morality, Schaeffer accentuates the fact that the Biblical worldview and the Humanistic worldview can never produce the same results, but necessarily their opposite effects.  This is because the base from which each operates is antithetical to one another.  The former grounds all of reality on the infinite God of creation, who is absolute and from whom all things are measured, whereas the latter, bases reality on finite human beings, which are the measure of all things.  The result of God being passé is that humanity loses its humanness and society and the state become ultimate.  Here “Might Makes Right”.  The humanistic worldview tells me, “You’re no different than a bug.”  Hence, law (i.e., the state and society) arbitrarily become ultimate because their base is false.

In chapter two Foundations for Faith and Freedom, many key figures are presented as stalwarts in the founding of the USA.  John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister, president of what is now known as Princeton University and the only clergy to sign the Declaration of Independence.  Clearly the Judeo-Christian worldview based the signing and forming of this country understanding that there’s a law above the law, and that the lawgiver is God.  After the revolutionary war Witherspoon is quoted, “A republic once equally poised must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty.” This virtue was grounded on a Protestant Reformation view of reality.  Many others helped shape the founding of this country, but of interest to me is the First amendment and its dual purpose.

First, its purpose was to assure that there was no nationally established church (i.e., there’d be no Church of the United States).  Second, its purpose was also to assure that government should not impede or interfere with the free practice of religion, but its interpretation is reversed today.  Separation of Church and State today is used to silence the church.  The view is that religion is not to have a voice in influencing civil government in any way.  So much for original intent!

In chapter three The Destruction of Faith and Freedom, we see that when the majority rules, “Might Makes Right,” absolutes don’t exist, society’s fabric is coming undone, and now sociological law is king.  Now, the law and the courts are the vehicle for coercion which is based on a humanistic concept of reality.  This worldview inescapably necessarily produces a final picture of reality diametrically opposed to the Christian worldview.  We’re in tough times some thirty years later from this writing.

 In chapter four The Humanist Religion reveals that through the Media the humanistic worldview is propagated with its naturalistic base and the dissenting voices are shut up being labeled as “un-enlightened, unreasonable, or even unscientific.”  The Media not only distort reality but often make it up for a story.  They are the unelected federal bureaucracy.  Bias here blindly blinds.

In chapter five Revival, Revolution, and Reform affirms the gospel call’s impact in pre-revolutionary America to personal salvation and social action which its preachers thundered.  We will never know how deeply their message afforded the founding of said country and unfortunately their contributions are conveniently set-aside.  Sadly, our present day evangelical leadership doesn’t have the clarity and resultant back-bone in areas of social action that the preachers of the Great Awakening displayed.  To forget their example only aides our voice and lives from not being salt and light.

Chapter six An Open Window stresses that windows seemingly open are superfluous when the laws waiting to be enacted are so anti-Christian/Jewish.  Our passivity as seeing Christ as Lord over all creation has deeply hurt our voice in the public square of ideas which those in power will not without a vicious struggle go to all lengths to silence.  I’m increasingly perturbed and beside myself.

In chapter seven The Limits of Civil Obedience reminds us that if Lex Rex is under Gods Law which is ultimate, then not to resist tyranny is evil.  To not resist tyranny which is Satanic; is to oppose God who is holy.  Wow!  This is much to consider.  Moreover, when our restrictions on education are the same as Russia’s who do not allow any view contrary to that which the state deems worthy (this is humanism), how then are we any different than they?

In chapter nine The Use of Force many Christians will find difficult because of their lack of understanding of living in a fallen world, not a utopian one.  That is, civil disobedience has a place not only in the OT and NT but also in this country’s history.  Engaging said acts must be done thoughtfully, courageously, tactfully, and lovingly.  For it is one means in which the Gospel was ordained by God to flourish. At times it will be very costly—death to some, but then again for the Christian, our lives belong to God.

Summary of “WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE?” by Francis Schaeffer

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This book of Schaefer is very well done, difficult to consider in light of the subject matter, immensely applicable in our day, confronts our passivity as salt and light, and flat out well written.

The first chapter The Abortion of the Human Race” is a powerful expose of our dilemma as humans.  Every culture in history will be eventually judged by how it treated people.  Our choices do make us who we are, and who we are aids our choosing.  When we reject God as the ultimate (I Am), inevitably we bite and devour one another through incest, child abuse, de-humanizing the fetus, its procedures, its cruelty and its viciousness is absorbed by the child and mother.  This is a human issue, not a religious one.  How the “mighty humans” have fallen!

Chapter two The Slaughter of the Innocents continues considering the results of the aforesaid accentuating that the abandonment of the biblical world-view of human beings not only leads to abortion on demand, but naturally leads to infanticide and euthanasia.  The verdict is in: the unwanted fetus, the crippled and the old are absolutely dispensable according to the minority elite in (e.g., Law, Ethics, Biology, Medicine, and Philosophy).

These champion a relativistic view of man.  If we continue in this, and it’s only a matter of time the Nazi Third Reich will rule in the “Land of the free and the home of the brave”.  The absolute monstrosity of people toward the weak and helpless is none other than a return to the Abyss!

When we devalue our own flesh and our neighbor, we unwittingly kill ourselves.  For the constant slicing open of the soul with cruelty will eventually cause our own doom.  I’m exceedingly perturbed!

Chapter three Death by Someone’s Choice is a heinous reality check here!  If those set apart to protect and to heal the weak and the aged, become their killers, then what hope have we?  When language is euphemistically employed to destroy the helpless, then we’re no different than the Nazis.  We’re there! And we must not only point out the problems, but we must also become part of the solution!  Apathy is killing.  But through love, money, and our time, we can yet be hope for those utterly vulnerable.

Chapter four The Basis for Human Dignity argues that the book of Genesis grounds our dignity, for unlike every other worldview, Genesis unfolds the origins of everything, the source of all, and explains the reason for the abnormality that now obtains.  The basis for all knowledge moreover is grounded in Gods freely choosing to reveal the world to us in both special revelation and general revelation.

Chapter five Truth and History” deals with the interrelatedness between the aforesaid, and can’t be separated from the Biblical accounts.  If the narratives between Genesis and Revelation are false, the gig is up.  If especially the resurrection of Christ is false and did not occur in space-time-history, then there’s no Christianity!  There’s no veridical voice to heed.  End of the story!

The last chapter Our Personal Response and Social Action has two major issues:  First, there’s the need for us to be clear on the God who is there.  Which then means that there’s absolute truth, that we are all accountable to our Creator for how we live, that Christ alone is the remedy for the abnormality—sin—that plagues society.

Second, there’s the need to live in light of the above mentioned…really.  He encourages activism which among other things will dearly cost us, but the alternative apathy is not love.   The rewards are worth it—God being glorified by creatures recognizing Christ as Savior and the dignity and freedom of people simultaneously being maintained.

Where are we thirty years after Schaeffer’s writing?  It seems our culture is utterly lost.  Oh God!  May I and your church be what you’ve made us to be: salt and light!         

Summary of “HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE?” by Francis Schaeffer

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In his book How Shall We Then Live? Schaefer presents a history of western civilization that is very helpful.  The fact remains that ideas have consequences and Rome’s influence and example is insightful.

 The Roman Impact on Western Civilization

Our presuppositions (i.e., things we assume to be true without arguing for them) naturally work themselves out through our actions.  Roman culture has left its’ mark on Western culture with the good and the bad.  Once the gods and the polis could no longer sustain civilization, the people looked to an authoritarian Caesar.  This cruel task master eventually contributed to the inevitable destruction of Rome from within.  Why?  Because it’s ultimate ground or base was a finite manIt was under Rome’s ruthless persecution that Christianity actually flourished because their base is placed in a personal infinite benevolent God whose revelation was absolute and final.

Contrasting the Renaissance from the Reformation is instructive.  During the Renaissance period, man was understood to be the measure of all things.  As such, no ultimate reference point obtained (but the finite creature).  This resulted in the lack of meaning to particulars because no absolutes were present.  No answer could be given for both the greatness of man and his cruelty.

The Reformation contrarily emphasized the supremacy of God as revealed in the Bible in all of life.  As such, an ultimate reference point obtained (the infinite uncreated Creator) which gave meaning to particulars.  Thus, absolute truth obtained, the dilemma of man’s greatness and cruelty were explained and Christ’s work of redemption on our behalf was the solution offered.  Thus, while culture mattered, it was to come under the lordship of Christ.

The Enlightenment among other things ultimately jettisoned absolutes which resulted in the discarding of true freedom and civility.  It was in this setting where the maxim “Might Makes Right” would flourish.  Man-centeredness practically results in an ultimate blood bath—French Revolution.  Contrarily, God-centeredness is the base for true civility to obtain because it affords freedom with restraints.  That’s the essential difference between these two Worldviews as considered in the Enlightenment.  A “utopia” awaits…but only oppression results.

Modern Science owes flourishing not to a Darwinian naturalistic worldview, but to the Christian Worldview.  As creator God both made and sustains everything that exists and thus provides uniformity to natural causes in an open system.  This cause/effect reality spurred scientists to discover with confidence the world and its phenomenon (contra a Buddhist or Pantheistic worldview that denies the real world for illusion).

The disciplines of Science and Philosophy started rotting at the tap root when the God who is there was jettisoned.  A prevailing presupposition for example is that matter is eternal (i.e., the physical is the only reality) which if true means that there is no being with free will, man is only a machine.  When this is the case, the notion of “ought” is discarded because there’s no soul choosing, only a mechanism determined to act according to a “design”.

When man is the measure of all things, all we have are particulars, no universals and thus achieving a unifying hub evades us.  When this takes place, only despair awaits and that’s where modern man is today.

Ideas matter and eventually express themselves with vicious force.  A potent venue through which ideas are spread is the academy whose idea of reality overflows into the public sector…often poisoning the soul of men, dismembering the fabric of culture, and offering the carcasses of humanity to the elite and powerful to devour.         Personal peace and affluence is a case in point.

When peace and affluence are attained and remain the goal of life, people will at any cost fight to maintain that status quo.  But there’s a price to pay here,  for to live in this “peace” or “safety” requires an elite ruling class that offers protection from harm and insulation from “raiders“.  If those ruling operate under the worldview that man is the measure of all things, thus denying the God who is there, we end up with monstrous results (e.g., Nazism, Marxism, Communism, Fascism, etc.).  Inevitably, those who “save the day” become “tyrants”.  But why does this occur?

This tyrant arises because finite creatures don’t have the capacity of the Creator to be “ultimate”, “absolute”.  When this occurs; the weak and poor, the old and helpless will be in grave danger.  Schaeffer put it like this: “if there are no absolutes by which to judge a society, then society becomes absolute” [pg.224]. This state of affairs ultimately leads to chaos, stirs people to cry out for relief, gives way to the tyrant rescuer, which leads to injustice, and what the mighty elite say justice is…then it is.  Conclusion, we’re back at Rome.

When the Christian consensus no longer obtains which gave us freedom with restraints, because of its view of man and justice, what results is a manipulative elite that ariseSaid “rulers” through a naturalistic framework in science, sociology, and psychology will de-humanize people such that the weak will be discarded, exploited and brutally murdered.  Quote: “When freedom destroys order, the yearning for order will destroy freedom” [pg.244]. This is ominous and however we are manipulated be it through media, music, computers, etc., the end will be an authoritarian ruler.  Rome is a scary example.

What alternatives therefore remain?  The Achilles heel of the West is personal peace and affluence and when these idols are threatened a forced order will be summoned and the forfeiture of freedom will be simultaneously exacted.  But, the other alternative is the Christian worldview where the God who is there is the absolute reference point to which we anchor all of reality.  It is here where freedom with order can co-exist, rulers can be held in check, and justice for the voiceless marginalized can be exercised.  The fact is, according to Schaeffer, “To make no decision in regard to the growth of authoritarian government is already a decision for it.” [pg. 255]

Summary Of “POLLUTION AND THE DEATH OF MAN” by Francis Schaeffer

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In his book Pollution and the Death of Man, Schaeffer’s focus is so timely and insightful that even though this book was written over 30 years ago, the relevance is poignant in a time where “saving the earth” is so dear to so many.  The following are the insights captured.

First, the earth’s ecology is suffering because man, instead of being a good steward of the earth, is ravaging it.  According to American historian, Lynn White, the Christian worldview is responsible for said crisis.  With its theology of dominion and this mentality still reigning, a religious solution must be sought because the plight is grounded in a belief (i.e., a “religious belief”).  Thus a pantheistic solution is suggested by Richard Means.  This worldview holds that “We’re all one essence” and as such, could solve the problem.  But is it true?

First, Schaffer argues that rather than being a solution to the ecological problem we face, pantheism’s base has no categories for particulars.  This means that if all is one, then One is all.  This means that no distinctions can be made.   Thus to argue or berate the Christian worldview (which emphasizes distinctions and Means caricatures) is self-defeating.  One must not also forget that nature is not always “kind” but often ruthless.

Again this distinction only obtains in categories that pantheism does not permit, when the moral problem is only a pragmatic one, the baselessness of the assertion slips down a slippery slope.  Relativism here wins the day and an elite hierarchy is poised to dominate the masses through manipulation.  This ought not to be.

Second, while pantheism is not the answer to our ecological crisis, neither is a Christianity that is “so heavenly minded that it is no earthly good.”  A Christianity of this ilk will not value the creation as intrinsically valuable because God created it.  Instead it will unfortunately make the unbiblical Platonic bifurcation that only the spiritual is valuable, but the material of no eternal good.   Protestant Reformation Christianity however understood that God spoke in both Particular (i.e., Bible) and General (i.e., Nature) Revelation and as such gave unity to all of creation.

Third, the Christian answer is that the God who is there created all things.  While the order of each creature/creation is distinct, it is nevertheless interdependent for flourishing.  Now while the creation is good and reflects God it is not an extension of His essence (i.e., of “What” God is).  Nevertheless, because the creation comes from God the good creator, it has intrinsic value and as such must not be despised.  The Platonic view of matter (i.e., its evil) is antithetical to the Biblical view of creation, to God’s covenant with the creation, to our future resurrected bodies and to how God has ordered the good.  Believers must come under Gods view of creation and live in the balance of its non-autonomous dependence.  While there are distinctions, there’s also unity.  Remember this!

Fourth, a substantial healing is to guide the believers cause as Gods agent on the earth.  Christ’s work inaugurated the future kingdom in this present evil age.  After the fall of man, Christ would come to rectify our separation from the creation and the creator.  This would be accomplished through Him justifying the many, through sanctifying His own, and through the implications of those two realities as God’s people interact in this world in a truthful, humble, loving, and courageous way.

Schaeffer accentuated therefore that believers must see othemselves as stewards over all of God’s creation, live in its order (including marriage) and speak up when injustice occurs because the world will.  Doing this, will bring about a beauty for the world to savor and behold.

Lastly, the critiques of White and Means while they touch on some important issues regarding our religious views and how they practically impact the ecologic dance we’re in, it seems to me that they both missed the issues of: the Fall and our rebellion, God’s simultaneous transcendence and immanence, White’s lower story/upper story tension (i.e., “Fact of evolution –where’s the person?”), Means utilitarian bent though true in some respects ultimately removes distinctions between nature and humans, and clearly both caricature the Christian position “mastery” vs. “stewardship” of the earth.  This is huge.

Summary of “The Great Evangelical Disaster” by Francis Schaeffer

 

IMG_20170911_104955  In his book The Great Evangelical Disaster, Schaeffer considers what he pens to be the most important piece of writing among all his other books.   The following are what to me seemed he was emphasizing.

First, ideas have consequences and when culture reaps the benefits from a country whose roots are  largely from the Reformation, and later abandons these ideas based which are based on the God of Scripture (as so many of our churches have done), then what follows is the disintegration of the culture.  This is due to rationalism—the idea that man is the measure of all things.  And yet, while the culture seems hopelessly lost, believers must battle with the weapons God has given: all but one is defensive—the word of God (Eph.6)!  Battling must be done lovingly, courageously and persistently bathed in prayer.  The mark of the Christian must inform all we do; evangelism, discipling, and nurturing.  The absolute God and His Son are the only cure for the culture’s ills.  We must be healers and surgeons.

Second, the watershed in evangelicalism is Scriptural authority.  We must hold to the inerrant, infallibility of the Bible in all of its teaching.  This includes those things that pertain to historical and cosmological issues.  To falter here is to succumb to the rebellion and relativism of our day which is destroying our culture.  Moreover, to hold to this view of Scripture, means that we must live under the Bible’s authority and we must stand firm here, plain and simple.

Third, practicing the truth will be difficult, unpopular and misdiagnosed by many.  Biblical inerrancy must not only be professed, but it must be lived out.  Where disagreements over secondary doctrinal issues arise, we must lovingly interact.  But at the same time there must be church discipline for those who go past the boundaries of historic Christianity.  The church and the culture desperately need such a stand, for if there’ no such stand, all will be lost.

Fourth, both the “pietistic fundamentalists” and the “accommodating evangelicals” have committed the same error of compromising one of Christ’s commands in order to do the other.  The former don’t want to compromise holiness but they neglect their need to be salt and light.  The latter want to walk in love, but neglect to placard God’s absolutes.  Neither of these extremes will do at the end of the day.  Believers are called to be holy as the heavenly Father is holy while simultaneously being salt and light in a corrupt dark age.

Both holiness and love must be founded in the truth that Christ is the Lord over all creation and the affairs of man.  When absolute truth is not the lenses we see to understand reality, and when the Bible is discarded as God’s truth for all mankind, then man becomes the measure of all things.

The result is that image bearers are seen as a myth (i.e., the creation account of being created in God’s image as male and female is discarded for a naturalistic Darwinian account) and thus the weak and marginalized are at the mercy of the elite and powerful.  If we are not image bearers but chance matter, why should we treat our 80 year old mother any different than our 2 year old German shepherd?  Ultimately, there’s no difference between man and animal, people have no intrinsic value.  But is that objectively true?  I think not.

Fifth, the world-spirit confuses the kingdom of God with this world and its power structures.  It advances a utopian ideal (e.g., you can have your best life now, not the future promised by God in his word), it prevents Micah 6:8 from being done among believers, it devalues history by denying the past and reconstructing it to suit our present sensibilities, it suppresses the truth of God in unrighteousness in the academy, it confuses human sexuality and the consequences are destructive for the family, the home and the society.  In feminism the driving force is equality without distinctions.  When this wins the day confusion gets ever more dominant evidenced in Western civilization’s gender identity crisis.

Sixth, the stakes are massive and if we evangelicals continue to accommodate   the world-spirit we have nothing to say, we will be remembered as the generation that championed relativism at the expense of God’s absolute truth as revealed in the Bible.  This must be lovingly confronted and lamented at the same time.

Summary of “DEATH IN THE CITY” by Francis Schaeffer

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In his book Death in the City, Schaeffer accentuates six sobering observations.  First, the reason for why there’s death in the city is that we have turned away from our Reformation roots.  God has been discarded by not only our culture but also by many professed Christians. The propositional force and nature of the Scriptures is what has been abandoned and what we must return to in order for life to spring forth in said desolation.

Second, just as the God who is there exists, it follows biblically that He is both holy and gracious in revealing to us His propositional truth.  To neglect Him and thus His self-disclosure (which we have) is to fall into judgment.  Jeremiah  wept for the church and the culture.  We must also.  His message was one of truth and grace.  When said truth is trampled, judgment follows.  Nothing has changed.  To speak prophetically to our culture it will require us to preach the two sides of the same coin with humility and love.  That’s a tall task and one which God enables us to accomplish.

Hence, there must be a dual weeping, a knowing that preaching judgment is hard but indispensable.  For where false religion, adultery, extortion, lying, and the oppression of the poor by the powerful exist, there’s judgment.  We must call sin, sin; beware of our affluence and its trappings, and put our hope not in man’s power but God’s strength ultimately.  If we preach this way coupled with humility and love, then the world might start taking us seriously.  We’re truly in Jeremiah’s days.

Third, are we perturbed that the message of judgment is ever lingering before men but do we love God and people in such a way that we cry out with the truth compassionately?  Jeremiah did and his message of judgment on both great and small brought a price on his head.  The people wanted him dead.  Nothing’s changed, people want us dead as well.  Disdain for God’s word is ever real, nothing new and always our doom.  God help us in our weakness.

Fourth, in light of the aforesaid, persistent compassion is vital and yet costly.  Jeremiah illustrates the physical and psychological price that will be paid by those who follow in his footsteps.  Like Jeremiah we must:  a) preach the truth of judgment, b) recognize that our country is already under God’s judgment, c) practice the truth, d) know it will be costly, e) persevere doing the above regardless of the price.  When historically the church fails to do the above, defection is followed by destruction.

Fifth, the man without the Bible will be judged according to his own standards which he has broken.  The man with the Bible will be judged according to the light of Scripture which he has broken.  The fact is that all are under judgment.  But in Christ, God’s rescue is available and can be realized by the compassionate clear preaching of the Gospel.  We are debtors to the lost and often we don’t feel this.  God help us here.

Lastly, we must live as Christians before the lost.  This includes a life of dependent prayer to the God of Creation who is there.  He will hear the cry of our hearts and respond to believing supplication.  And when He is silent, we must continue to trust the Faithful One who is amazing.

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.

Reflections on ISAIAH 2: “GOD’S TERROR & GLORY IN THE LAST DAYS…”

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In light of the Vegas shootings this past week, and the seeming senseless killing of people by another human being, many are asking, ” What’s this world coming to?”  I can assure you friends it is both terrifying and glorious.  Not because of finite creatures, but because of the LORD God, the self-existent One who alone upholds all that exists by the word of His power and who will right all wrongs justly and mercifully.

I recall when I first heard of God’s end time coming when His saints would be taken up into glory and the wicked would endure God’s fury.  It jolted my soul.  Isaiah certainly proclaims the glory and horror of the “Last Days”.   

On the one hand, the last days are a time when the mountain of the LORD is filled with all the nations being taught of God through His law, Yahweh will be the Judge of the nations, and wars and conflicts will finally cease :

“Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the Lord Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it.
And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.” (Vvs.2-4)

But between the Last Days and now, Israel, the house of Jacob was not walking with the LORD.  They abandoned the Holy One of Israel and exchanged the worship of the invisible God with the idols of earthly wealth:

“Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.
For You have abandoned Your people, the house of Jacob, Because they are filled with influences from the east, And they are soothsayers like the Philistines, And they strike bargains with the children of foreigners. Their land has also been filled with silver and gold And there is no end to their treasures; Their land has also been filled with horses And there is no end to their chariots. Their land has also been filled with idols; They worship the work of their hands,
That which their fingers have made.
” (vv.5-8)

What’s frightening is that Jacob abandoned the LORD in chapter one and in this chapter God is the one who has abandoned wayward Israel because of their sin.  On the other hand, the day of reckoning approaches when:

 “The proud look of man will be abased And the loftiness of man will be humbled, And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.” (v.11)

 The pride of man’s heart will be crushed on the day of the LORD’s reckoning:

“For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning Against everyone who is proud and lofty And against everyone who is lifted up,
That he may be abased.
13 And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up, Against all the oaks of Bashan,
14 Against all the lofty mountains, Against all the hills that are lifted up, 15 Against every high tower, Against every fortified wall, 16 Against all the ships of Tarshish And against all the beautiful craft. 17 The pride of man will be humbled And the loftiness of men will be abased; And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (Vv.12-17)

Moreover, the terror of the LORD and the splendor of His majesty will arise as He makes the earth tremble:

“Men will go into caves of the rocks And into holes of the ground
Before the terror of the Lord And the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.
20 In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats Their idols of silver and their idols of gold, Which they made for themselves to worship, 21 In order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs Before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, When He arises to make the earth tremble.” (Vv.19-21)

This majestic splendor of power will cause God’s enemies to retreat into caves and mole holes, but such terror can’t be avoided and will be met out to rebellious humanity including people of the “Book”.  The prophet concludes with a command because of the Day of the LORD:

“Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils;
For why should he be esteemed?”   (V.22)

The influence of the nations with their “goodies” and temporal pleasures, their LORD-less worldview and commitments to finite treasures should not cause God’s people to spurn the Infinite One whose fury will decimate the ungodly on the appointed day, the Last Days!

LORD, in view of this text and your prophets’ warning, prepare us to meet You, embolden us to proclaim the coming terror of the majesty of Your splendor, for this fleeting life is about to come to an abrupt end to all the earths’ people.

LORD, teach us Your ways and embolden us to walk in Your truth, season our lips as it were with salt so that we may know how to speak to each individual as we ought.

SDG