Sunday, 29 January 2017

Francis Schaeffer - Volume 2: The Bible as Truth

Every Sunday night I try and read some Schaeffer, as I was given his complete works, and something like that should be read. In Volume 2 there are five books all around the Bible. Coming from Volume 1, I'm starting to think Schaeffer was last generations Tim Keller. Keller seems to write on engaging culture and for the skeptic and also on books of the Bible (and they are both Presbyterian). Schaeffer seems to have done the same.

Genesis in Space and Time covers the first 11 chapters of Genesis. He saw there was a cultural war going on about the origins and even the idea of man, and he thought Genesis 1-11 helped answer these questions for modem people (such as the problem of metaphysics, morals or epistemology (he already touched on this in He Is There and He Is Not Silent). There is much in this book, but one of his main goals was to emphasis the God given purpose to people. Today, looking at history, we only see the results of events, but not the understandings of the causes behind these events. We sense something is not right with the world and ourselves (or society), but if you can't point to the cause or the "why" you won't accurately diagnoses the right solution. "A mere physical solution is inadequate, because man's dilemma is not physical. Nor can it be metaphysical, because the problem of man, as we know it in Genesis 1-11, is not primarily metaphysical. The problem of man is moral, for by choice he stands in rebellion against God. And any appropriate solution must fill this moral need."

Genesis put people in their cosmic setting, showing his uniqueness and yet their flaws. Putting people in the flow of real space-time history helps people to know where they came from and where they are going. This helps us to gain meaning to our present circumstances, knowing that we didn't only come from someplace but we are also going somewhere as well.

There is some (minor) stuff in this book some Christians may not like. Schaeffer sees Adam and Eve as real historical people, Genesis 1 and 2 as complementary accounts and not necessarily chronological, is agnostic about the length of the "days" in creation, the genealogies are not complete chronologies, the flood was world wide and only beginning with Abraham can we start with what we know from secular history, starting from around 2,000 BC. I really don't have an issue with any of this. 

Schaeffer spends most of his time going through Genesis 1-3, using six chapters and then just two chapters moving from Noah to Abraham. While this seems a little "top heavy" he does cover the themes of Genesis 1-11 quite well. This would be worth a read if you are going to be looking at Genesis 1-11 in a Bible study.

No Final Conflict
This book contains five short chapters dealing with the supposedly conflict between science and the start of the Bible. Schaeffer sets out to defend the Bible pointing out that the Bible is not a scientific textbook, that is, it primarily is not about science and the natural word, however the Bible does say some things about it. He is pushing back against the neo-orthodox view which says in matter of faith and God the Bible is correct, but in the realms of history and science the Bible is just a little bit off.

He then looks at the freedoms and limitations of the creation account in the Bible. Schaeffer offers some possible options that any Bible believer could hold to. Some of these options involve how to take the word "day" and "kinds" and the death of animals before the fall. Interestingly he draws two limits on what the creation account does say with no room for any wiggle: that Adam was a historical figure and Adam was made before Eve. There are theological reasons for this throughout the rest of the Bible, but I was surprised that it was these two points that Schaeffer wanted to hold his ground on.

He does end with this call:
There is a danger of evangelicalism becoming less than evangelical, of its not really holding to the Bible as being without error in all that it affirms. The Bible does affirm certain things in regard to history and the cosmos, just as definitely as it affirms certain religious truths. When there is a separation made between these affirmations, we are then left with the victory of the existential methodology under the name of evangelicalism. Holding to a strong view of Scripture or not holding to it is the watershed of the evangelical world.

Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History
This was by far the biggest book in this volume. I must admit I got a bit stuck or unmotivated a bit into this. I'm not sure if these were first twelve talks on the book of Joshua or if Schaeffer for some reason thought a book on Joshua was what his generation was missing. There were many themes touched on in this, but the recurring point that Schaeffer was hammering was the idea that the Bible message is consistent. Again and again he points out the continuation of Joshua from the Pentateuch. I think scholarship at the time was going though some sort of mega redactional phase with arguments of multiple edits with different authors/editors possibly hundreds of years apart. Schaeffer pushes hard against this idea.

Joshua is about the conquest of the Promise Land, lead by Moses successor and how the motley crew of Israelites settled in the land. It has battles, faithful and unfaithful people and the hope that a trajectory from Moses to Joshua will continue on in the next generation (spoiler, it doesn't go so good in Judges). This wasn't a commentary as such, it doesn't quote the passage and then talk about it for a bit before moving on. Instead this was more of a chronological thematic look at Joshua, as well as a looking wider through the rest of the Bible.

Basic Bible Studies
This little book consisted of 25 one page studies to give an overview of the message of the Bible. Each study would list a stack of verses to look up and then next to each verse Schaeffer had maybe one line or sometimes four sentences on that one verse. To be honest I did kinda skimmed through these, not looking at each of the verses, just reading his comments. While Schaeffer does warn about proof texting, it did kinda feel a bit like it. This was mostly because the verse he wanted you to read may touch on an issue, but it may have also addresses others, so he is kinda force you to look at a text to see what he wanted you to see. I'd prefer it if you let the text speak for itself with as little hand holding as possible.

Art and the Bible
This book is really two essays on Art and the Bible. The first chapter looks at art in the Bible and then the next is on the Christian's approach to art today. What Scheaffer means by art, is not limited to pictures but also fashion, architecture, sculpture, music, poetry, drama and dance all of which are pleasing to God and our creativity reflects our own creator who is a creative God.


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