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Posts on the famed apologist Francis Schaeffer by Jonathan Sherwin.

“Schaeffer was the first Christian I met who was concerned to, and capable of connecting the dots and making sense of the extraordinary times that puzzled and dismayed most people.”

From An Interview with Os Guinness on the 25th Anniversary of Francis Schaeffer’s Death.

Some great thoughts and reflections from Dr. Os Guinness. We’ve just been looking at Apologetics and Worldviews in the Reformation Generation seminar.

Francis Schaeffer has been hugely influential in my understanding of how to “think Christianly” and how to engage in this world. I belive that Biblical faithfulness without cultural awareness is useless to those who are lost. I’m reminded of something Schaeffer says in The God Who Is There (US|UK):

“An orthodoxy without understanding or compassion is ugly.”

We are to feel the issues and reality of life and have good answers to speak to the problems we encounter. Answers alone are not enough.


May 5, 2009 — Leave a comment

I started taking quotes seriously around Christmas 2005. I was in Thailand on my own and apart from my new Thai friends my books were the only things to keep me company. I found that a few good quotes to ponder through the day would keep my mind focussed

Today, there are two quotes that are on the back of my bedroom door. Both came from the same book by Francis Schaeffer. One is his own, the other from Martin Luther. They serve to help remind me of some of my duties.

“There is nothing more ugly than an orthodoxy without understanding or compassion.” – F. Schaeffer

“Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved.” – M. Luther

In studying the Reformation recently I am amazed at the work of God who in His faithfulness kept the church – His bride – on track. Now, historically I became queasy when Christians started talking about brides and bridegrooms outside of weddings. I have pictures of women (and, sadly, men too) thinking that they’re the bride and Christ is the bridegroom, which is just weird. But recently I’ve began to appreciate the idea a little more.

Ephesians 5:25 shows a man how he should love his wife: the same way Christ loved the church (i.e. became man, lived a life of rejection, humiliation, stress, pain and ultimately death). In essence, to man-up is to become Christ-like. A husband is to give his life for his wife, which is what Jesus did for the church. Which, as a side note, is one very good reason for believing in the church and not saying nasty things against it. Because in the words of one my professors, “The one way to really get a guy angry is to start sounding off against his bride.”

And Jesus did give himself for the church. He is in relationship with us, and he cares. So it’s no wonder that we had a Reformation, when we look at it from Jesus’ perspective. From our perspective, it’s nothing short of a miracle that the church could get back on track after doing an excellent job of losing it. But Jesus takes the relationship quite seriously. In his sovereignty he steered us back in the right direction.

Now, the Reformation started almost 500 years ago. Where are we today? I think of England. A once mighty, holy, pious nation that sent out missionaries to the ends of the earth and stood strongly for Jesus. I think of Scotland, which – after the efforts of John Knox – became known as a bastion for Biblical Christianity, in to which men were born that later went on to help shape the theological foundations of the United States. We barely find a shadow of the past alive today. Why? What happened? What disaster took place? Francis Schaeffer says this about the evangelical church in general …

“Here is the great evangelical disaster – the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this – namely accomodation: the evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age.

And let us understand that to accommodate to the world spirit about us in our age is nothing less than the most gross from of worldliness in the proper definition of that word. And with this proper definition of worldliness, we must say with tears that, with exceptions, the evangelical church is worldly and not faithful to the living Christ.”

Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster

Francis Schaeffer wasn’t really accepted in England all that much, from what I can gather. By his time, perhaps, too many leading Christian intellectuals were of a liberal persuasion and had already devalued the word of God and rejected truth.

What we need today is men who aren’t going to cowardly succumb to the age of the day. We need guys to take a stand against all the ridiculous nonsense coming from inside the church and put God back on the throne. The Bible, once more, needs to be elevated to it’s proper authority. Jesus needs to be proclaimed unashamedly and boldly, as King of all – and Christians need to start living as if He really is King of their lives. John Calvin correctly understood that if Jesus really is Lord, then He’s Lord of all. We need to grasp this truth once more. We also need to pray, hard. We need to pray for our nation and for God to move. What we need, is another Reformation.

The last Reformation came at a cost. Many men lost their lives, their jobs and were kicked out of their countries. The cost again will be high. But is it worth it? I suppose the only questions really is: is God worth it? Will we man up and “get in the game” or will we melt into compromise and worldliness?

Sometimes I become depressed. What a job we have before us! But my God is an unchanging God. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. His promises never change and His word is true. When our courage fails, He is faithful. But now is not the time to melt to nothingness. Now is the time to stand up and boldly, loudly, unashamedly preach Jesus, Lord of all. There is hope for my nation. I am still proud to be British. Into this nation I was born, and for it I shall pray. Jesus, come for your bride. Bride, we need to awake and get to it.


February 10, 2009 — 2 Comments

For the past 5 years I have more or less been living in the United States (yes – Hawaii is in the US, and has been for over 50 years). My tastes and influences have inevitably been shaped by my location. Aside from wondering if I’ll actually survive in a part of the world that doesn’t understand the importance of fresh Ahi I also consider that many of my theological influences have been rooted in my choice of location.

By far and large the single greatest influence on my Christian faith has been YWAM Maui, and specifically the School of Biblical Foundations and Missions (SBFM). Through the sacrifice of many people who serve as missionaries to students coming through the base I have been discipled in the ways of my faith. The importance of truth, as revealed through Jesus and the Bible have been embedded in my life. The spiritual disciplines have been enforced. Critical thinking and reason are celebrated here. A rich faith that has space for questions and reasoned thinking (which is, in part, obedience to the Greatest Commandment) has been promoted.

In short, I am thankful to Jesus for leading me here and to the faithful leaders who are now good friends and colleagues, for taking the time to invest in me. The New Testament’s analogy of discipleship being like taking a new-born from milk to solid foods (see 1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:12, 1 Peter 2:2) makes so much more sense now that I’ve been around small children. The process is never clean, constantly frustrating and most of the time the kids don’t know what’s going on! But thanks to the patience of many I have progressed and several changes of attire later I can say that, yes, slowly, maturity has been gained.

As well as leaders here on the island I’ve been introduced to the teachings of, and in turn influenced by, great men and women of the faith such as: Francis Schaeffer, Ravi Zacharias, Norman Geisler, C.S Lewis, G.K Chesterton and more. I’ve stumbled upon people like Mark Driscoll, Timothy Keller, Dinsesh D’Souza and found there contemporary voices lighting up a dying world. Os Guiness and Nancy Pearcey, with people like Chuck Colson are continuing the message of the importance of truth. For these and so many more I am extremely grateful.

Over the next few weeks I will be examining some of these people – and others – in more detail, sharing some of what I have learned so far. I’m looking forward to it!

I walked into a well-known chain of Christian bookstores in Bristol, England to enquire about the new biography of Francis Schaeffer. I couldn’t find the book on the shelves so I asked the attendant at the desk. The attendant asked for the details of the book and at the time I had forgotten the title so I said that it was simply the new biography of Francis Schaeffer.

The attendant looked a little confused and asked for a spelling. Fair enough – it’s not a common name really. But then they asked what he had done. I found out that then that they had not heard of Francis Schaeffer.

Francis Schaeffer has written 22 books, some of which have been very influential in Christian (and some non-Christian) circles – yet this book store didn’t have any titles by him nor had heard of Colin Duriez’s new biography on him. I’m not concerned about people never having read Schaeffer – I hadn’t until 3 years ago. What is more concerning is that a leading Christian bookstore which in my opinion has a responsibility to it’s readers to provide them with quality material, could not reference one of Christianity’s greatest thinkers of the 20th Century!

Our bookstores these days are filled with popular, enjoyable, easy-to-read works. If you look, there are some great books to be found here with depth and wisdom, oh yes, but they are far outweighed by what many see as spiritually-weak pop-books. On the subject of our reading as believers, Ravi Zacharias says this,

Is your own reading shallow or deep? The wonder that you will find in the shallow end can only be for a child. Swimming in the deep end is for the mature. If a follower of Jesus does not mature in his or her reading, the church could end up running the biggest nursery in the world.

Ravi Zacharias, Recapture the Wonder

So what is the responsibility of our Christian bookstores? Do they exist merely for profit, to shift as many products as possible? Or do they exist as resource-centers for the church to use so that we might grow in faith and maturity in Christ? The church in my country in so many ways is a nursery already. My hope is that as a church we will glorify our God with our minds, seeking to learn more to the glory of God in a humble act of worship.

I am reading D.A. Carson’s ‘Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church’ at present. As I read it I’m drawn back into the present reality, which in all honesty, I’ve tried to block out. I don’t like the way that much of the western church is heading, I don’t like it at all but it feels to me as if this change is quite like an avalanche already under way and I’m just trying my best to get down the hill and out of the path as quickly as possible!

With that being said this comment is more of a pre-comment (I have yet to finish Carson). A reaction to what I already know. The last section of Francis Schaeffer’s ‘Escape from Reason’ keeps sticking with me. I should have posted about it when I was reading the book but it ties in well with my thoughts now. Schaeffer says this right at the end of the book:

“There are two things we need to grasp firmly as we seek to communicate the gospel today, whether we are speaking to ourselves, to other Christians or to those totally outside.

The first is that there are certain unchangeable facts which are true. These have no relationship to the shifting tides. They make the Christian system what is is, and if they are altered, Christianity becomes something else. This must be emphasised because there are evangelical Christians today who, in all sincerity, are concerned with their lack of communication, but in order to bridge the gap they are tending to change what must remain unchangeable. If we do this we are no longer communicating Christianity, and what we have left is no different from the surrounding consensus.”

Now as profound as this quote is, it is also upsetting. My book says ‘1968’ in the front flap. That’s 40 years ago. 40 years of warning. 40 years is surely plenty of time to block or re-route an avalanche, right? And so I feel a little discouraged. Dr. Schaeffer wrote plainly and simply and for what? I do not mean to be dour, although there is a certain amount of gloom about all of this.

Quite simply it seems to me as if Christianity has become “something else”; something indistinguishable from contemporary culture. I sometimes think that we might know too much of life, have too much knowledge. We should rethink our mission, which first and foremost should be centred on God and the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

Paul says in Galations 1:9,10, “As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favour of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (NASB)”

I really think that the root of so many false gospels is the misplacing of God. If God is not centre then we will not fear Him but rather man. So our stand should be that we will not fear being an outcast, not fear not ‘fitting in’. This isn’t a throwing off of all culture or withdrawal from those Spheres of Life that are so important, but a dogged resistance to submitting to man instead of God.

I think the church in the past has become confused over this and thrown the baby out with the bath-water, so to speak. Christ must be shown in all areas of life and we must not be afraid to show Him whatever that means.

And in my ears I hear one of my professors words ringing out, “If we don’t realise we’re in a war, we wont know what prayer is for.”

A Christian Manifesto
by Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer
This address was delivered by the late Dr. Schaeffer in 1982 at the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It is based on one of his books, which bears the same title.

“Christians, in the last 80 years or so, have only been seeing things as bits and pieces which have gradually begun to trouble them and others, instead of understanding that they are the natural outcome of a change from a Christian World View to a Humanistic one; things such as overpermissiveness, pornography, the problem of the public schools, the breakdown of the family, abortion, infanticide (the killing of newborn babies), increased emphasis upon the euthanasia of the old and many, many other things.”

Click here for the full transcript.

The above is the beginning on the transcript of the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer’s address to Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in 1982. The address was filmed and is now available on DVD, known as A Christian Manifesto.

For more on A Christian Manifesto see Doug Groothuis’ recent post, or see Schaeffer’s book by the same name.

This is taken from a Christianity Today article on Francis Schaeffer and L’Abri, by Molly Worthen:

The modernist philosophy that he targeted in most of his writings, the bogeyman of existentialism, is passé. “Now the question is, Is there truth at all?” said worker Thomas Rauchenstein, a soft-spoken Canadian with sandy brown hair and a close-cropped beard. “Postmodernism’s critique of truth is more of a factor in students’ thinking.”

This just shows the complete misunderstanding of Schaeffer’s teachings. He saw, felt and understood post-modernism which is the reason he pushed strongly presuppositional apologetics. Presuppositonal apologetics do not rest on modernism, but on truth – which does exist no matter what worldview you hold. Schaeffer, by pushing people to the Line of Despair, helped people realise that their presuppositions were faulty, incoherent and unliveable.

In an age of non-truth we do not play the field to the post-modern rule book. Jesus is the “way, the truth, and the life” – therefore if people do not understand truth our apologetic must first target truth, in turn to reveal Jesus.