Francis Shaeffer entered my world through the film series How Should We Then Live sometime during my late teen years, or possibly early twenties. Schaeffer (1912-1984) was a Presbyterian pastor, theologian, apologist, and co-founder of the renowned L’Abri community in Switzerland. This quote from The God Who Is There recently jumped out at me:
The Christian is to resist the spirit of the world. But when we say this, we must understand that the world-spirit does not always take the same form. So the Christian must resist the spirit of the world in the form it takes in his own generation. If he does not do this, he is not resisting the spirit of the world at all.The God Who Is There, Francis Schaeffer
He then goes on to quote the following,
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.Attributed to Martin Luther
Schaeffer had the acumen to discern the place of battle, the confidence that Christianity offers better answers than the reigning philosophy of man, and a sincere love of people which desired more than to “win” an argument.
The Place of the Battle
It isn’t hard to see where the battle is really being fought, and it isn’t hard to find an excuse to avoid it. Truth is no longer seen as something firm and fixed because society worships at the altar of evolution, where given enough time and chance, blind process will turn anything into anything. Now there is only narrative and progress. Now we just have to tell our story the right way and assure everyone that the ending will be stellar. A real Utopia. The summer of love in CHAZ. The ground has been shifting under our feet for decades and Schaeffer’s writings are prescient.
And it’s not like we can just chalk that up to the world being the world. After all, the Presbyterians are trying to figure out how to sneak some queer treasures into the New Jerusalem and the Southern Baptists are smuggling in Critical Race Theory disguised as a “diagnostic tool”. These are the places of battle and to fight in them will not win you a place with the cool kids. It is still a sin to covet another man’s possessions, even in the name of reparations. Envy is wicked, even when it is being practiced by a cultural Marxist. And it is still a sin to look on a woman to lust, no matter how ethically sourced the pornography.
Oh, and one more thing. If you think MacArthur is out of line, then you don’t know where the battle is being fought.
It’s not as though Christians are without resources when it comes to the dominant issues our society is facing. The first century of the early church swirled with ethnic tension and was rooted in a climate of sexual immorality. These themes run through the pages of the New Testament. Schaeffer would be mortified, along with the apostles and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we would abandon the Truth of Scripture for the philosophies of men. Christianity has not been tried and found to be a failure: Christianity has simply never been tried enough.
If the blood of the spotless Lamb of God is not enough to satisfy the debt of racial hatred, then it is certain that nothing in the world will. Because we no longer believe in a meaningful way that the blood of Jesus Christ can wash us from the filth of sexual perversions, we find a thousand nuanced ways to justify the hook ups, the porn, the adulteries, the fornications, and the wreckage of our marriages. Wreckage that is insured by the cries of six hundred thousand aborted babies in 2019. But there has never been anything more glorious than Christian marriage. Eternity will commence with a wedding and the marriage will last forever. We don’t have to stutter half-hearted defenses of what the Bible clearly teaches: a sword was not made for defense but for advance. So swing your sword with the fervor of a five year old boy with a stick.
By this point you may say that with incendiary language like this I can make no claim to love. But love risks all – including truth telling – for the sake of its object. Schaeffer really did love people; he loved them enough to tear down their carefully constructed philosophies so that they might be ready to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is true that Christians love too little. We love too little to risk awkward conversations. We love too little to confront. We love too little to speak the truth. Yes, there is a type of person who argues only to win, and this is also a sin. But would that more of us cared enough about people to truly engage with them as Schaeffer did. Remember that Jesus loved the rich young ruler enough to tell him to go and sell all that he had and give to the poor, then come follow Him, and this grieved the young fellow. We can’t shake our heads at the terrible things happening to the world while keeping to ourselves. We already know that we are going to outlast the world so there is no reason to hide from it.
Below are more quotable quotes from The God Who Is There:
In our modern forms of specialized education there is a tendency to lose the whole in the parts, and in this sense we can say that our generation produces few truly educated people. True education means thinking by associating across the various disciplines, and not just being highly qualified in one field, as a technician might be. I suppose no discipline has tended to think more in fragmented fashion than the orthodox or evangelical theology of today.
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.
Every man is in tension until he finds a satisfactory answer to the problem of who he himself is.
Of course it is possible to try not to get involved in man’s dilemma; but the only way not to get involved in the dilemma of man is by being young enough, well enough, having money enough and being egotistic enough to care nothing about other human beings.
There is no law behind God, because the furthest thing back is God.
A Christian can fight what is wrong in the world with compassion and know that as he hates these things, God hates them too. God hates them to the high price of the death of Christ.
If it is true that evil is evil, that God hates it to the point of the cross, and that there is a moral law fixed in what God is in himself, then Christians should be the first into the field against what is wrong—including man’s inhumanity to man.
When a man is lost, he is lost against all that there is, including what he is.
We have left the next generation naked in the face of the twentieth-century thought by which they are surrounded.
As far as the modern mentality is concerned, it is shattering to be told that there is nothing intrinsically nonsensical in calling upon me to love the God who is there, and that God is of such a nature and that I am of such a nature as to make this a valid proposition.
Having to act as a finite god is painful.
Far too often young people become Christians and then search among the church’s ranks for real people, and have a hard task finding them. All too often evangelicals are paper people.
The Christian system is consistent as no other system that has ever been. It is beautiful beyond words, because it has that quality that no other system completely has—you begin at the beginning, and you can go to the end.
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