Posted by: Billy Marsh | September 22, 2007

Reflections On True Spirituality: Session 4 (Part II)

Francis Schaeffer in his room at L’Abri

So, just how does the risen and exalted Savior both sit at the right hand of God and simultaneously live in each believer? How can both of these concepts funtion in the way that Schaeffer has described them, namely as an “equal reality” (49)? Well, this is where the title of chapter 4, “In the Spirit’s Power”, comes into play. Schaeffer answers these questions with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Not only does the Holy Spirit enable the Christian to live in the power of the resurrected Christ and in the reality of his own death, burial, and resurrection in Christ (Gal 2:20; 2 Cor 5:4-5), but also Schaeffer constitutes that the Holy Spirit’s presence in the believer is equivalent to Christ living in that person. At this moment his Trinitarian theology comes out.

And now, Schaeffer delivers a truly profound paragraph explaining this truth which clinched in my heart the importance of True Spirituality for responding to the currents of mysticism in today’s church culture posing as “Christian”. Schaeffer brings this chapter to a climax when he writes:

Here is true Christian mysticism. Christian mysticism is not the same as non-Christian mysticism. . . . Indeed it is a deeper mysticism, for it is not based merely on contentless experience, but on historic, space-time reality-on propositional truth. One is not asked to deny the reason, the intellect, in true Christian mysticism. And there is no loss of personality, no loss of the individual man. In Eastern mysticism-for which the West is searching so madly now that it has lost sense of history, of content, and the truth of biblical facts-there is always finally a loss of personality. . . . It is grounded in the loss of personality of the individual. Not so in Christian mysticism. Christian mysticism is communion with Christ. It is Christ bringing forth fruit through me, the Christian, with no loss of personality and without my being used as a stick or stone, either (49).

Don’t misread Schaeffer, he isn’t arguing for “mysticism” so to speak. This why he includes the example of “Eastern mysticism” in which he goes into more detail in the book. Instead, the only mystical thing that he is even contending for is that we do not have an exhaustive knowledge concerning the Trinity and how the Holy Spirit indwells the believer bringing forth distinctively Christian fruit from his or her life as well as how he creates communion between the Christian and Christ. However, the most striking statement in that paragraph to me is when Schaeffer rebukes false Christian spirituality by stating, “. . . for it is not based merely on contentless experience, but on historic, space-time reality-on propositional truth. One is not asked to deny the reason, the intellect, in true Christian mysticism (49).”

Ultimately, what I take away from Schaeffer’s statements concerning the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is that “We may not exhaustively know how it works, but we do know that it does work.” The Scriptures have given us plenty of information and knowledge with reference to the fact that this ministry of the Spirit does occur. This is why he calls it “true Christian mysticism”. True Christian spirituality does not consist of  existential wanderings and relative experiences, but instead it is rooted in the objectivity of the unchanging truth of God’s revelation in Scripture and the fact that what God has spoken to his people in his Word is reality.

So, what is Schaeffer’s practical advice for living in the Spirit’s power? Active passivity. What a wonderful term! He calls it “active passivity” which resonates with the Apostle Paul’s teaching in Phil 2:12-13. Schaeffer explains:

There is an active passivity here. . . . If we are to bring forth fruit in the Christian life, or rather, if Christ is to bring forth this fruit through us by the agency of the Holy Spirit, there must be a constant act of faith, of thinking, Upon the basis of your promises I am looking for you to fulfill them, O my Jesus Christ; bring forth your fruit through me into this poor world (53).

Once again, I cannot paraphrase Schaeffer’s thoughts any better than simply giving you his own words. I will close this post with one of the final sentences of this chapter where he ties together his discussion of the resurrection, spirituality, and the Holy Spirit:

So now we stand before two streams of reality: those who have died and are with Christ now; and we, who have the “earnest” of the Holy Spirit now and so, upon the reality of the finished work of Christ, have access-not in theory, but in reality-to the power of the crucified, risen, and glorified Christ, by the agency of the Holy Spirit (53).

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

~ Philippians 2:12-13 ~

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