Archive for the ‘Francis Schaeffer’ Category

John’s point in 1 John 4, “God is love,” is that those who really do know God come to love that way too.  Doubtless we do not do it very well, but aren’t Christians supposed to love the unlovable-even our enemies?  Because the Gospel has transformed us, our love is to be self-originating, not elicited by the loveliness of the loved.  For that is the way it is with God.  He loves because love is one of His perfections, in perfect harmony with all His other perfections. ~ D.A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, p. 63.

In John 13 the point was that, if an individual Christian does not show love toward other true Christians, the world has a right to judge that he is not a Christian.  Here (in John 17:21) Jesus is stating something else which is much more cutting, much more profound:  We cannot expect the world to believe the Father sent the Son, that Jesus’ claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians.~ Francis Schaeffer, The Mark of the Christian


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Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) was, without a doubt, one of the leading Christian thinkers of the 20th century.  He wrote and lectured extensively on Christianity and culture, and modeled compassion even as he challenged a wide range of people to consider the reasonableness of the claims of Christ in every area of life.   

But early in his ministry, Schaeffer went through a time of profound doubt.  He was deeply disturbed by the conflict he saw in the church – the lack of love he saw manifested in the body of Christ. When Schaeffer realized the vastness of the contradiction  (what he called “the lack of reality, the lack of seeing the results the Bible talks about”) apparent in both others and himself, he grappled for a time with a spiritual crisis that sent him back to examine the very foundations of his belief.  He reread the bible and wrestled through the fundamentals of the Christian message for many months. 

What are we to make of such a spiritual crisis in such a great man of faith? 

I sometimes have to remind myself of the long list of faithful men and women who’ve gone through times of spiritual depression and crisis.  Schaeffer isn’t the only one who went through times of profound doubt.  Men like Horatius Bonar, John Newton, Charles Spurgeon, and Hudson Taylor (the list goes on and on!) also wrestled with darkness and despair at different times. 

And yet, ultimately we know these names because God used these people so significantly for his kingdom.  As I acknowledge my own times of doubt, I can’t simply be comforted by being in good company; I also must learn  what the darkness ultimately produced in the lives of these saints.   

Schaeffer reread his bible and found the answers there that moved him back to a place of trust and faith.  The lack of love he saw in the church both sent him into despair and sent him toward a solution.  After his time of wrestling, he and Edith went on to form L’Abri, where people were embraced with dignity and compassion because of their worthiness as God’s image bearers.  Does God allow darkness in our souls to clarify our path when we see it afresh in the light of his mercy?   

Schaeffer went digging in scripture for the truth, even as he encountered the deepest doubts. May God grant me the mercy to do the same: to be hungry for truth even when I’m struggling to trust.     

“Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD;
       may your love and your truth always protect me.”  Psalm 40:11

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I’m taking a class right now, through Covenant Theological Seminary, on the life of Francis Schaeffer.  Prayer characterized the life of the Schaeffers and their work at L’Abri, and I’ve been thinking about how their model of submitting everything to God in prayer can challenge us, both as individuals and corporately as the body of Christ.   

When I read of how Francis and Edith Schaeffer lived and carried out their work from a foundation of continual prayer, I have to admit that it’s tempting to be more discouraged than inspired.  The Schaeffers’ forthright dependence on God at every turn seems, at first, to simply emphasize to me the “spiritual super-hero” status that I envy from a distance.  My own infrequent petitions for aid and guidance seem to hardly register on the scale on which one might measure the Schaeffers’ prayers, both in terms of quantity and quality. But even as I begin to think this way, I’m struck by how very backward I’ve got it – if I study tFrancis Schaefferhe lives of the Schaeffers, or any other Christian, and come away with a measuring stick made of them, which I then use to find myself wanting, I’ve missed the point entirely.  If I compare my faith, or my repentance, or my prayers to anyone else, for the sake of  ranking “how I’m doing,” then I’ve missed the object of that faith, repentance, and prayer and inserted my own self-focus in the way of worship.   

There are, it seems, two types of challenges that can come from looking at great Christian models.  The first is this challenge I’m easily sucked into: the challenge to try to measure up for the sake of ranking myself.  But the other, more worthy challenge, is to learn what it is that the great men and women of the faith saw in God’s character that I need to dwell on more.  What is it that I don’t believe fully about God that keeps me from turning to Him more frequently in prayer?  Do I simply not believe He thinks enough of me to answer?  The Schaeffers’ model ultimately encourages me to believe.  As I read about how the Schaeffers prayed to God for every need, I’m challenged to believe better. 

I’m also challenged to consider how, both within the local and broader church, a commitment to pray for needs with faith might change and strengthen the body.  My prayers are so parsimonious: I ask for such small and such self-focused concerns.  When I hear of the Schaeffers praying for years and years for the individuals they met, I’m challenged to grow in my love for the broader body of Christ.   

God grant that as I continue to study about Francis and Edith’s life, I’ll be challenged to believe better, and to love more deeply.

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