Posted by: Billy Marsh | October 6, 2007

Reflections On True Spirituality: Session 6 (Part I)

Francis Schaeffer

In this week’s gathering for The Francis Schaeffer Book Club, I led our discussion on chapter 6, which was curiously titled, “Salvation: Past-Future-Present”. In this reflection, I want to focus on 2 or 3 main points from what stood out the most to me.

In retrospect, after reading this chapter, I recalled all that I soaked in from Mark Driscoll’s lecture on the Emergent Village at SEBTS “Convergent Conference“, and am convinced now more than ever that Schaeffer’s writings, espcecially True Spirituality, have the capability of rescuing many people from what is perhaps “a different gospel (Gal 1:6)”. What seems to be at the heart of today’s church movements that chaff against traditionalism and conservatism is a desire for a sense of freedom in one’s personal spirituality. With the eclipse of objective truth in the contemporary culture, those who affirm the existence of God and even the truthfulness of the Word still are reaching for a more “everything goes” personal walk with God. Moreover, they crave a spirituality that is defined by impacting the present world rather than creating a counter-culture. Hence, fundamentalists have been accused of resembling a neo-monasticism (hiding away) who have an escapist worldview which is more akin to Gnosticism than Christianity.

Therefore, I will begin exactly where Schaeffer always seems to start: history. Christ came, died, rose, and ascended in history. However, in the year 2007, there is “no universal peace for the individual nor for mankind (63).” We know that Christ was victorious on the cross in the past, and we know that at his Second Coming will be the consummation of this age, but what about the present? Are Christians only supposed to lurk in the shadows, preaching the good news and then returning back to our hidden lairs? Absolutely not. Schaeffer cites 1 Peter 2:9-10 in order to show that this was exactly not what God intended. Of this text Schaeffer says:

This passage says that in this present life, Christians are called for a purpose, called to show forth the praises of God. In other words, God did not mean that there should be no evidence of the reality of the victory of the cross between Jesus’ ascension and his second coming. God has always intended that Christians should be the evidence, the demonstration of Christ’s victory on the cross (63).

In addition, Schaeffer proposes that believers are to be demonstrations of God himself in two main ways: his character and his existence. For example, people should be able to look at you and say, “I know from your life that God is loving and compassionate.” This is demonstrating his character. But, Schaeffer says that people should also reply, “I know from your life that God exists.” How does this happen? Once again, Schaeffer takes us right back to the basics: Christ brings forth his fruit through us “in the power of the crucified and risen Christ and and the agency of the Holy Spirit by faith . . . (64).” This is part of the “Present” in his chapter title. He urges that “every Christian is to be a demonstration at his own point of history and to his own generation (64).”

Stay tuned for “Part II” where I will complete Schaeffer’s teaching on the Past-Future-Present of salvation in Christ.


  1. Hey Billy,

    I’m a fan of Francis Schaeffer. His writings have been very influential on me and I’m sure many others who identify themselves with the emerging church conversation and/or Emergent Village specifically. I think you’re misunderstanding the emerging church and neo-monasticism, though, because in my estimation there is actually a strong reaction against the radical individualism that exists in the evangelical church and push toward a more communal experience of faith — sharing and learning about Scripture in community, developing one’s theology in relationship with other followers of Jesus who are seeking to live faithfully to Jesus’ words and follow his example.

    Neo-monasticism is hardly “escapist” because it is implicitly engaged with culture — part of what makes it unique from “traditional” (historical) monastic traditions. Does individual exist in the emerging church? Of course. We’re all human. And (in this context) American — so it’s our “God-given right,” aye? ;-) Are so neo-monastics “escapist”? I’m sure some are. But I just wanted to push back a little on these easy characterizations (and misrepresentations) which gloss over and ignore a lot of the good that the emerging church movement offers to the Church.

    Most of the people I know who are “emerging” are seeking to do just as Schaeffer is advocating — live in such a way that people say “I know from your life that God exists — and he is loving and compassionate.” And that they would turn and follow Jesus. That’s what it’s all about.

    Grace and peace,
    Steve K.

  2. Steve,
    Thanks for commenting. I’m glad that you did because after re-reading my introduction to this post, I realized that I wasn’t very clear. I think you misread what I was saying about “traditionalism” and “neo-monasticism”. I was attributing those characteristics to the tendencies of the fundamentalist Christians which in the past tried to create a counter- or subculture in society. I’m advocating, just as Schaeffer, and I’m sure that you are, that this is not the proper response. My metaphorical accusation wrapped-up in “monasticism” had to do with hiding away of the traditional church than a throwing a jab at the communal efforts of the emerging churches. I applaud their efforts in creating community. The “escapist” thought was also attributed to the more traditional church goers who cut themselves off from the world instead of engaging culture and all that they long for is the sweet by and by.
    From your comments, it sounds like we are more like-minded than you think. Once again, I apologize for being confusing, but most of what you tried to push back against as “easy characterizations” were not aimed at the emerging church at all; they modified the traditional, fundamentalist church background that I come from and served as a warning sign to those who are wrongly reacting against the shift in church movements to engage the culture.
    Thanks for your honesty and time, feel free to send me an email. Just go to “Contact Billy” if you want to dialogue more or post another comment. I would like to ask you some more questions.
    In Christ, Billy

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