Every now and then I go through my Christian books and get rid of some. I usually give away or sell the ones I read once and never really picked up again. After doing this a few times, I’ve noticed a pattern: I typically keep the older books and get rid of the newer popular ones. Without going into the reasons for this, I want to point out one of the books I’ve always kept: The God Who Is There by Francis Schaeffer (first published in 1968). I recently reread section 4 (part 3) of this book, the part where Schaeffer talks about “taking the roof off” of people’s lives. What he means by this is that when we talk to unbelievers about their belief system, we show them the inconsistencies, inadequacies, and weaknesses of it.
“The more comprehending we are as we take the roof off, the worse the man will feel if he rejects the Christian answer. In a fallen world we must be willing to face the fact that however lovingly we preach the gospel, if a man rejects it he will be miserable. It is dark out there….”
Schaeffer then tells a story about a postgraduate student talking to him and confessing, “Sir, I am in great darkness.” Schaeffer comments:
“There is no romanticism as one seeks to move a man in the direction of honesty. On the basis of his system you are pushing him further and further towards that which is not only totally against God, but also against himself. You are pushing him out of the real universe. Of course it hurts; of course it is dark in the place where a man, in order to be consistent in his non-Christian presuppositions, must deny what is there in this life and in the next.”
Often it takes much more time to press him towards the logical conclusion of his position than it does later to give him the answer. Luther spoke of the Law and the Gospel; and the Law, the need, must always be adequately clear first. Then one can give the Christian answer because he knows his need for something; and one can tell him what his deadness really is, and the solution in the total structure of truth.
But if we do not take sufficient time to take the roof off, the twentieth-century man will not comprehend what we are trying to communicate, either what his death is caused by, or the solution. We must never forget that the first part of the gospel is not ‘Accept Christ as Savior’ but ‘God is there.’ Only then are we ready to hear God’s solution for man’s moral dilemma in the substitutionary work of Christ.”
Sometimes when we talk to people who aren’t Christians they may already know they are in deep need of help and truth and light. We might use a different approach with them. But for those unbelievers who don’t know their need or recognize their dire situation, this approach is a good one: taking the roof off. It gives us a good opportunity to show the person the riches of the gospel and the hope, light, and life we have in Christ alone.
The above quotes were taken from The God Who Is There, p162-163.