Jesus: A Contentless Banner?? (Schaeffer)

 Many Christians have noted a dichotomy in modern thought.  On the upper level is value; on the bottom level is fact.  On the upper level is faith; on the bottom level is reason.  On the upper level is religion; on the bottom level is science.  On the upper level it is non-rational; on the bottom level is rational.  In other words, the upper level is about personal feelings and beliefs and the lower level is made up of more solid and real things like reason, science, and facts.  Francis Schaeffer discussed and critiqued this modern view in his excellent book, Escape from Reason.  In this book he gives a good Christian and biblical answer to modernity’s false dichotomy.

One area where this false dichotomy shows up is in how people today think of Jesus.  For most people, Jesus belongs to the upper level of religion and faith but he does not belong to the bottom level of fact and reason.  For many Westerners, Jesus can mean anything to anyone – what Francis Schaeffer called a “contentless banner.”  Here’s Schaeffer:

I have come to the point where, when I hear the word “Jesus”—which means so much to me because of the Person of the historic Jesus and his work—I listen carefully because I have with sorrow become more afraid of the word “Jesus” than almost any other word in the modern world. The word is used as a contentless banner, and our generation is invited to follow it. But there is no rational, scriptural content by which to test it, and thus the word is being used to teach the very opposite things from those which Jesus taught. …It is now Jesus-like to sleep with a girl or a man if she or he needs you. As long as you are trying to be human you are being Jesus-like to sleep with the other person, at the cost, be it noted, of breaking the specific morality which Jesus taught. But to these men this does not matter because that is downstairs in the area of rational scriptural content.

We have come then to this fearsome place where the word “Jesus” has become the enemy of the Person Jesus and the enemy of what Jesus taught. We must fear this contentless banner of the word “Jesus” not because we do not love Jesus but because we do love him. We must fight this contentless banner, with its deep motivations, rooted into the memories of the race, which is being used for the purpose of sociological form and control. We must teach our spiritual children to do the same.

This accelerating trend makes me wonder whether, when Jesus said that toward the end time there will be other Jesuses, he meant something like this. We must never forget that the great enemy who is coming is the anti-Christ. He is not anti-non-Christ. He is anti-Christ. Increasingly over the last few years the word “Jesus,” separated from the content of the Scriptures, has become the enemy of the Jesus of history, the Jesus who died and rose and who is coming again and who is the eternal Son of God. So let us take care. If evangelical Christians begin to slip into a dichotomy, to separate an encounter with Jesus from the content of the Scriptures (including the discussable and the verifiable), we shall, without intending to, be throwing ourselves and the next generation into the millstream of the modern system.

Francis A. Schaeffer, Escape from Reason (Westmont, IL: IVP Books, 2014).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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A Unified Answer to Life (Schaeffer)

 I haven’t read this whole book yet, but what I have read is quite good: Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer.  Here’s one helpful section I read this morning:

…Christianity has the opportunity, therefore, to speak clearly of the fact that its answer has the very thing that modern man has despaired of—the unity of thought. It provides a unified answer for the whole of life. It is true that man will have to renounce his rationalism, but then, on the basis of what can be discussed, he has the possibility of recovering his rationality. You may now see why I stressed so strongly, earlier, the difference between rationalism and rationality. Modern man has lost the latter. But he can have it again with a unified answer to life on the basis of what is open to verification and discussion.

Let Christians remember, then, that if we fall into the trap against which I have been warning [pitting faith against rationality], what we have done, amongst other things, is to put ourselves in the position where in reality we are only saying with evangelical words what the unbeliever is saying with his words. In order to confront modern man truly you must not have the dichotomy. You must have the Scriptures speaking true truth both about God himself and about the area where the Bible touches history and the cosmos. This is what our forefathers in the Reformation grasped so well.

 Schaeffer, F. A., & Moreland, J. P. (2014). Escape from reason. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54014

Christians: Rebels Deserving Death (Schaeffer)

 Although I have read several books by Francis Schaeffer, I haven’t read one of his more popular ones called How Should We Then Live?  I’m around the halfway point and so far I’m enjoying it.  Right near the beginning, Schaeffer talked about Roman persecution of Christians in the early centuries of the church.  I like how he explained it; there are lessons here for Christians today!

“Rome was cruel, and its cruelty can perhaps be best pictured by the events which took place in the arena in Rome itself.  People seated above the arena floor watched gladiator contests and Christians thrown to the beasts.  Let us not forget why the Christians were killed.  They were not killed because they worshiped Jesus.  Various religions covered the whole Roman world.  One such was the cult of Mithras, a popular Persian form of Zoroastrianism which had reached Rome by 67 B.C.  Nobody cared who worshiped whom so long as the worshiper did not disrupt the unity of the state, centered in the formal worship of Caesar.  The reason the Christians were killed was because they were rebels.  This was especially so after their growing rejection by the Jewish synagogues lost for them the immunity granted to the Jews since Julius Caesar’s time.”

“We may express the nature of their rebellion in two ways, both of which are true.  First, we can say they worshiped Jesus as God and they worshiped the infinite-personal God only.  The Caesars would not tolerate this worshiping of the one God only.  It was counted as treason.  Thus their worship became a special threat to the unity of the state during the third century and during the reign of Diocletian (284-305), when people of the higher classes began to become Christians in larger numbers.  If they had worshiped Jesus and Caesar, they would have gone unharmed, but they rejected all forms of syncretism.  They worshiped the God who had revealed himself in the Old Testament, through Christ, and in the New Testament which had gradually been written.  And they worshiped him as the only God.  They allowed no mixture: All other gods were seen as false gods.”

“We can also express in a second way why the Christians were killed: No totalitarian authority nor authoritarian state can tolerate those who have an absolute by which to judge that state and its actions.  The Christians had that absolute in God’s revelation.  Because the Christians had an absolute, universal standard by which to judge not only personal morals but the state, they were counted as enemies of totalitarian Rome and were thrown to beasts.”

Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? p.25-6.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

Genesis, History, and Morality (Schaeffer)

 If a person denies the factual historicity of Genesis 1-3 that person has cut himself or herself off from some of the major truths of biblical Christianity.  Others have explained this well: if you deny the fact that Adam was a historical human being, you are far out of step with Jesus’ teaching (Mt. 19:5) and the apostle Paul’s (Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22).  It is not a Christian position to believe that Adam was a mythical figure.  Denying the historicity of Adam and Eve opens the door to many theological problems.  Francis Schaeffer expanded on this and said denying Genesis 1-3 also leads to moral problems:

There was a time before the fall, and then man turned from his proper integration point by choice, and in so doing, there was a moral discontinuity; man became abnormal.  Remove that and the Christian answer in the area of morals is gone.  Often I find evangelicals playing games with the first half of Genesis.  But if you remove a true, historic, space-time fall, the answers are finished.  It is not only that historic, biblical Christianity as it stands in the stream of history is gone, but every answer we possess in the area of morals in the area of man and his dilemma, is gone.

Francis Schaeffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent, p. 35

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Faith in Faith? (Schaeffer)

The God Who is There Many people today talk about the need for faith.  “You just gotta have faith” is Hallmark card spirituality, as if faith is some kind of inner strength that will get you through hard times.  Diagnosed with a serious illness?  Just believe, and you’ll make it.  Have a mountain in life to climb?  Have faith – you’ll be able to climb it!   I like how Francis Schaeffer critiqued this unbiblical view of faith:

Probably the best way to describe this concept of modern theology is to say that it is faith in faith, rather than faith directed to an object which is actually there.  Some years ago at a number of universities I spoke on the topic ‘Faith v. Faith,’ speaking on the contrast between Christian faith and modern faith.  The same word, ‘faith,’ is used, but has an opposite meaning.  Modern man cannot talk about the object of his faith, only about the faith itself.  So he can discuss the existence of his faith and its ‘size’ as it exists against all reason, but that is all.  Modern man’s faith turns inward.

In Christianity the value of faith depends upon the object towards which the faith is directed.  So it looks outward to the God who is there, and to the Christ who in history died upon the cross once for all, finished the work of atonement, and on the third day rose again in space and in time.  This makes Christian faith open to discussion and verification.

On the other hand, the new theology is in a position where faith is introverted because it has no certain object, and where the preaching of the kerygma is infallible since it is not open to rational discussion. This position, I would suggest, is actually a greater despair and darkness than the position of those modern men who commit suicide.

Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There, p. 84-5.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI. 54015

Taking the Roof Off (Francis Schaeffer)

The God Who is There (This is a post from January, 2016.)

I was recently re-reading part of Francis Schaeffer’s book The God Who is There.  Specifically, I studied section 4 – 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 systems, 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, p.162-163.

Shane Lems
http://www.covenantopc.net

 

Christian Faith Means Bowing Twice (Schaeffer)

The God Who is There This is a good section of a good book:

“True Christian faith rests on content.  It is not a vague thing which takes the place of real understanding, nor is it the strength of belief which is of value.  The true basis for faith is not the faith itself but the work which Christ finished on the cross.  My believing is not the basis for being saved – the basis is the work of Christ.  Christian faith is turned outward to an objective person: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.'”

Schaeffer then mentions “propositional promises” of Scripture, like John 3:36: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them (NIV).

“There is a strong antithesis here.  The second part of the verse speaks of man’s present and future lostness, the first part of the verse gives God’s solution.  The call to Christian believing rests on God’s propositional promises.  We are to consider whether these things are true, but then we are faced with a choice – either we believe him, or we call God a liar and walk away, unwilling to bow to him.”

“A man is faced with God’s promises, Christian faith means bowing twice: First, he needs to bow in the realm of Being (metaphysically) – that is, to acknowledge that he is a creature before the infinite personal Creator who is there.  Second, he needs to bow in the realm of morals – that is, to acknowledge that he has sinned and therefore that he has true guilt before the God who is there.  If he has true moral guilt before an infinite God, he has the problem that he, as finite, has no way to remove such a guilt.  Thus what he needs is a nonhumanist solution.  Now he is faced with God’s propositional promise, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved….”

Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, 164-165.

Shane Lems