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


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

Point of Contact

He is There and He is Not Silent Here’s a note from Francis Schaeffer on the point of contact between Christians and non-Christians:

“As a Christian approaches the non-Christian, he still has a starting place from which to know the person in a way that the non-Christian does not have, because he knows who the person is.  One of the most brilliant men I have ever worked with sat in my room in Switzerland crying, simply because he had been a real humanist and existentialist.  He had gone from his home in a South American country to Paris, because this was the center of all this great humanistic thought.  But he found it was so ugly.  The professors cared nothing.  It was inhuman in its humanism.  He was ready to commit suicide when he came to us.  He said, ‘How do you love me, how do you start?’  I said I could start.  ‘I know who you are,’ I told him, ‘because you are made in the image of God.’  We went on from there.”

“Even with a non-Christian, the Christian has some way to begin: to go from the façade of the outward to the reality of the inward, because no matter what a man says he is, we know who he really is.  He is made in the image of God; that’s who he is.  And we know that down there somewhere – no matter how wooden he is on the outside, or how much he has died on the outside, no matter if he believes he is only a machine – we know that beyond that façade there is the person who is a verbalizer and who loves and wants to be loved.  And no matter how often he says he is amoral, in reality he has moral motions.  We know that because he has been made in the image of God.  Hence, even with a non-Christian, the Christian has a way to start, from the outside to the inside, in a way that non-Christians simply do not have” (p. 82-3).

Schaeffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent.

shane lems

We Need Propositional Facts

He is There and He is Not Silent Here’s some food for thought found in Francis Schaeffer’s book, He Is There and He Is Not Silent:

“Evangelicals often make a mistake today.  Without knowing it, they slip over into a weak position.  They often thank God in their prayers for the revelation we have of God in Christ.  This is good as far as it goes, and it is wonderful that we do have a factual revelation of God in Christ.  But I hear very little thanks from the lips of evangelicals today for the propositional revelation in verbalized form which we have in the Scriptures.  He must indeed not only be there, but he must have spoken.   And he must have spoken in a way which is more than simply a quarry for emotional, upper-story experiences.  We need propositional facts.  We need to know who he is, and what his character is, because his character is the law of the universe.  He has told us what his character is, and this becomes our moral law, our moral standard.  It is not arbitrary, for it is fixed in God himself, in what has always been.  It is the very opposite of what is relativistic.  It is either this or morals are not morals, but simply sociological averages or arbitrary standards imposed by society or by the state.  It is one or the other.

Schaeffer, p. 33-34.

shane lems