Posted by: Billy Marsh | September 6, 2007

Reflections On True Spirituality: Session 2

Francis Schaeffer

In session two of The Francis Schaeffer Book Club, we discussed chapter two, “The Centrality of Death”, from Schaeffer’s book, True Spirituality. The purpose of these once-a-week reflections on the club’s discussion times is two-fold. First, my desire is to share some of the keen and unique insights from Schaeffer’s writings that perhaps you would not stumble upon in today’s typical “Christian Living” reading. Though I wouldn’t categorize Schaeffer’s work under that specific heading, his material is never delivered without massive applications for the Christian’s daily walk in the Lord. Second, I aim to show you all what you are missing by refusing to come and partake with us for 1 hour every Wednesday at lunch. The first two meetings have been so inspiring and have been incredible times of learning, sharpening, and fellowship. Our attendees range from several professors all the way down to high school students. So, like I said before, ALL ARE WELCOME! Dr. Bertch is a very loving and caring man, who longs to make solid, scholarly and pastoral disciples. For times and the place of meeting, feel free to email me. If you don’t have my contact information, just click on the tab “Contact Billy” and type a message, click submit, and it will send me an email to my personal account.

In order to draw up a quick contrast between chapter one, “The Law and the Law of Love“, and chapter two, I believe the best description can be put as follows: In chapter one, Schaeffer explained just excatly what Christ’s atonement purchased, and in chapter two, he emphasizes what the atonement accomplished. In light of both of these major theological conclusions, Schaeffer shows that “true spirituality” must be based off of a right understanding of the atonement and how it affects daily living. Therefore, the chapter’s title, “The Centrality of Death” comes to bear on the Christian’s life in terms of his own spiritual death, rebirth, and then daily dying living in Christ. This chapter is really a huge plea for the believer to hold the orthodox view of penal-substitutionary atonement as the crux of his theology and practice. Schaeffer says in this regard, “Let us notice that this is the very center of the Christian message. Its center is not Christ’s life, nor his miracles, but his death (20).” He even goes so far as to say:

If we forget the absolute uniqueness of Christ’s death, we are in heresy. As soon as we set aside or minimize, as soon as we cut down in any way . . . on the uniqueness and substitutionary character of Christ’s death, our teaching is no longer Christian (22).

Thus, Schaeffer carries the implications from the theological realm into the practical realm. This dynamic is an inseparable quality to the gospel. On this point Schaeffer submits that once one has forgotten and neglected the relationship of the atonement and Christ’s death on his or her personal spirituality, then in essence they have “. . . a sterile orthodoxy (22).” He says further that the, “Christian life will wither and die; spirituality in any real sense will come to an end (22).”

So, just how does Schaeffer view the natural affect of the atonement on the believer’s life? Well, in a very negative way. Negative in the sense of how, from a Kingdom perspective, Christians must learn to say “NO” to self and to the world. We must in essence, take up our crosses and die daily. Thus, the centrality of death as part of the Christian’s “true spirituality” consists of his or her crucifixion with Christ and subsequently his or her crucifixion for Christ, namely regeneration and then daily discipleship or sanctification, which perhaps may even lead to physical suffering and martyrdom (Gal 2:20; Mk 8:34; 2 Cor 4:11-12). Schaeffer, as usual, makes a relevant and prophetic insight when he writes:

We are surrounded by a world that says no to nothing. . . . then suddenly to be told that in the Christian life there is to be this strong negative aspect of saying no to things and no to self, it must seem hard. And if it does not feel hard to us, we are not really letting it speak to us (17).

However, Schaeffer sets this teaching in its proper setting insofar as he shows that saying “No” isn’t really negative at all beyond its grammatical function. In fact, viewed with what he calls, “the perspective of the kingdom”, dying to self and saying no to the world is peformed with the type of what I like to call, Christian transvision, that takes into account the coming Kingdom of God, the Resurrection of Christ, our future Resurrection, reiging with Christ, and our eternal home which causes these negative aspects of spirituality “. . . that are laid upon us [to] take on an entirely different aspect (18).”

Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes with this statement:

The cross of Christ is to be a reality to me not only once for all at my conversion, but all through my life as a Christian. True spirituality does not stop at the negative, but without the negative-in comprehension and practice-we are not ready to go on (26).

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is before us,

~ Hebrews 12:1 ~


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