Sunday, 5 August 2018

Francis Schaeffer - Volume 4: The Church

I am slowly going through the works of Schaeffer as they were given to me for free a few years back, and who doesn't like free books? In this volume, there are five books on the church and its interaction with the world or western culture. The main theme that ran through these books is that the Chuch is to have love and truth. We are to show the love of God to the world, but we are also to hold to the words of God and confront, lovingly confront either within the Church or the world when things are said and done that are in disagreement with God.

The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century.
In this book, Schaeffer tries to trace a few ideas from culture and within the Church to explain where the Church is now (predominately from an American perspective). Particularly focusing on the International Student Revolution from Berkley 1964 because he saw those ideas pioneering the way for how we think today. These ideas involve free speech, autonomy, scientific thinking taking precedence over other methods etc... He looks at the hippies, the new left and other alternatives to Christianity and the Church's response to the world.

In this Post-Christian era, Schaeffer calls the Church to not be silent, but to speak the truth even if it appears judgemental. But also there is a strong call for the Church to be known for its love. Even though there is a strong emphasis on autonomy and individuality in this culture, people are still crying out for connectedness and community (as we are social beings), and the Church should be the main place where people experience a true community that is known for its love. There are two appendix, one on specifically how Schaeffer saw the break up of the Presbyterian Church in America and how different groups within could have shown love better and there was another appendix on the importance of inerrancy.

This book was first printed in 1970. I am not sure how many other voices back then were saying American was a Post-Christan nation. I think Schaeffer's assessment was spot on back then and even today the call for the Church to hold to the truths of scripture as well as being known as a loving community of people is still something we need to work at nearly 50 years later.

The Church before the Watching World.
The main push in this book is that the Chuch should be known for its purity and love. Purity in doctrine and in morality (based on the Bible). Sexual purity and adulty are touched on as a stepping stone to take about what Schaeffer saw as a bigger issue of spiritual adulty. Like the book above this traces the recent history of liberal thought and the Bible and talks about the split that happened in the Presbyterian Church in America. I think this split rather hurt Schaeffer and he regrets the way it happened.

The appendix for this book had some quite good advice in drawing lines or limits on what Christianity believed between two positions on issues such as God and freedom; unity and diversity; holiness and love; right and wrong etc...

The Mark of the Christian.
This book more of an essay taking up around 20 pages. It kinda covered the same things as the two books above without the survey of the history of thought behind the ideas. This was more trying to focus on the practical things we are to do. Schaeffer goes to John 13:33-35 and 1 John 3:11 and unpacks them and draws out implications for how the Church is to be known or to conduct themselves.

He also really stress is on the need for the Church to have unity (John 17:21). Christians lives are a "final apologetic" to the watching world. We need to be known for our unity, which we may think means accepting everything everyone believes for the sake of "unity" but Schaeffer also digs into this idea and what it means to be really united and what it means to have a false unity. Here he draws on the idea of the visible and invisible church and then ends with the push for use to show love and forgivness to each other.

If you are going to read just one of the above three books, this one is the shortest and yet still gives a good summary of the main ideas Schaeffer saw the modern Church should be working at.

Death in the City.
This was an interesting book. If you were to compare the modern Church with a church or setting in the Bible where would you go to? Maybe one of the ones Paul wrote to, or one of the sever church at the start or Revelations? Well, Schaeffer saw the modern Church in a situation similar to the time of Jeremiah (not really my goto book on Church). Schaeffer saw that the modern church is in need of a reformation and revival. He saw the Church as having turned it's back on God and so God in judgment has turned away for them. Jeremiah was the voice in his day calling out apostasy and judgment regardless of the cost to him. Jeremiah was also moved to tears about his cultural settings and their rebellion to God.

Today, is the Church like Jeremiah's voice to the world calling about repentance regardless of personal cost to us; and do we have tears for our culture like Jeremiah? Schaeffer reminded us that even if it seems like the Church has dwindled (maybe only in the West?) that there still is a remnant and God and His words still remains to be true. Today our world is under judgment for breaking of the moral laws (which Schaeffer stresses in this Post-modern word are still absolute) which means God has to deal justly to us. But going to Romains we see the good news that we can be saved from this. Today we are to live by faith (Rom 1:17) in that we know the One behind the world we live in. There was a strong push to not just hold to a set of Christian beliefs, but to actually live them out to the watching world that thinks we are crazy for holding to them. Schaeffer called not living out our belief "unfaith".

I think it was also in this book that Schaeffer said that if he had one hour to tell someone the Gospel, he would spend 50 minutes on explaining sin and the lostness of man because today we don't think sin is really a big deal or even a thing. Only then, once someone can see that they are lost would he tell them of the saving work of Jesus. I thought that is not really an approach we are told today, but I'm guessing even 50 years ago people would have thought the same thing.

The Great Evangelical Disaster.
From the title, you can assume Scheffer didn't think the Evangelical movement in America was all rainbows and unicorns. Using a watershed analogy, Schaeffer saw parts of the Church appearing close together but when pressed, or when you think through some of the repercussions of what they are saying they end up miles apart, like the snow melting on opposite sides of the same mountain may mean the water runs into different streams and may eventually run into completely different oceans. Fundamentally the problem comes from the Chruch's approach to the Bible. Looking at liberalism and neo-Orthodoxy Scheffer showed the nuances of how they tweaked their approaches to the Bible to make it less authoritative, or sufficient that what it really is. In practice, this resulted in accommodation. Accommodation to lax morals and acceptance of ideas that aren't Christien or silence on Christian issues in society in order not to rock the boat.

Scheffer looked at a few different movements and ideas in recent times such as the fundamentalist, "blue jeans" Christianity, and other political utopian ideas such as feminists or Marxist ideas that overemphasizes (or trusts) some sort of political system for salvation rather than Jesus for salvation. He also drew on articles from the Times, Christianity Today, Peter Singer and even quotes from people speaking against what he has said in previous books. Scheffer thought the Church should be confronting society on all sorts of issues, but that confrontation should be done lovingly - something which the church has failed to do, either by being silent or by only confronting and not being loving.

Like the other books in this Volume, even though some specifics are a little dated, the basic principles Scheffer was pushing against from the 60's to the 80's are still relevant today, for the culture still is not Christian, so it will always be out of step with the Church. The way we trust the Bible and engage with culture is very important. We should stand firm on God's word while also being loving to the watching world.


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