Posted by: Billy Marsh | November 8, 2007

Reflections On True Spirituality: Session 9

Edith and Francis Schaeffer

I know it’s been a while since my last post on Schaeffer. Things have been a little hectic around the Marsh household, but thanks to all of you that have been keeping up with these brief sketches of the chapters from True Spirituality. The Francis Schaeffer Book Club has been going great, and Dr. Bertch has been letting different ones in our group lead each week. This has been a very encouraging and growing time insofar as each person brings a different approach to Schaeffer’s writings and draws out unique and insightful applications. Chapter 9, “Freedom in the Thought-Life” is the second chapter in the second half of True Spirituality which covers the various ways that we have freedom from the results of sin.

The basic premise of this chapter has to do with the idea that our actions are the results of pre-existent thought-forms in the inner man. Schaeffer begins by addressing Romans 1:22-29 as scriptural backing for his argument. What Schaeffer chooses to emphasize from this text is that the people “exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” Thus, their debased minds were caused by a previous incorrect and sinful thought-life. For Schaeffer, “thoughts are first, and they produce the external (95).”

However, as usual, Schaeffer does not leave us without hope. Immediately, he takes the reader to Rom 12:1-2, where v 2 plays a major role in understanding “freedom in the thought-life.” In Rom 12:2, Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Schaeffer responds to this verse stating:

There is indeed to be a presenting of our bodies (12:1), but this has meaning only on the basis of the understanding of the internal. Paul speaks here of not being conformed to this world. But that is not simply externally. In contrast to this, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, and that is internal (96).

Since spiritual transformation occurs by the renewing of your mind, then it follows that part of the sanctifying process involves setting free our intellects and reasoning from the bondage of sin so that we may understand the truth of the scriptures in order that we may be obedient, inwardly and outwardly, to the Lord’s commandments. This is especally true for holiness. Schaeffer writes,

This is not just an emotional holiness but holiness in relationship to content, holiness in relationship to thought and a set of things that can be stated as true, in contrast to that which is false (97).

According to Schaeffer, true spirituality boils down to the world of our thoughts. The external is decided by the internal. So, how do we have freedom to take captive every thought to obey Christ (2 Cor 10:5)? Once again, Schaeffer is eager to place the spotlight on the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. This is an empahsis in Schaeffer’s teaching that is very uncommon today. However, Schaeffer did not shrink back from highlighting the third person of the Trinity’s role in salvation, which most obviously involves much more than spiritual gifts. Schaeffer teaches:

The work of the Holy Spirit, as the agent of the Trinity, is not a coat we put on. It is not an external thing at all, but internal, bringing, in turn, something external (98).

There is much to cover in this chapter, but I should leave some material for you to discover and read on your own. What I will do though, is summarize the three final conclusions that Schaeffer gives at the end.

  1. “We must understand that the reality of communion with God, and loving God, must take place in the inward self (107).”
  2. “The real battle for men is in the world of ideas, rather than in that which is outward (107).”
  3. “The Christian life, true spirituality, always begins inside, in our thought-world (108).”

True Spirituality - Francis Schaeffer

So, what we see from Schaeffer’s enlightening words in this chapter is that the mind, or at least the inner man, is the main battlefield in this life in terms of spirituality. I agree with this wholeheartedly. I believe the scriptures teach this clearly; for example in Lk 6:45 Jesus says, “. . . for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Other support for Schaeffer’s argument, I believe can be deduced from Jesus’ statements regarding the nature of satan in John 8. Jesus speaks of the devil in this way:

He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (Jn 8:44).

If the nature of satan is defined by lying, then it follows that he primary work of evil on this earth has to do with deception, distorition, and falsehood. These are all combatants and attacks against the world of thoughts. But, “by the mercies of God,” we are able not to be conformed to the world, and in Christ, we can be transformed from out of our old self where we exchanged the truth of God for a life, making ourselves the center of creation. With our spiritually renewed minds, under the power and agency of the Holy Spirt and because of the finished redemptive work of the risen, Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we hold God as the center of the universe and allow his truth to sanctify us from the inside out (Jn 17:17).

(What do you think about Schaeffer’s second conclusion, “The real battle for men is in the world of ideas . . .“? Do you agree? Why or why not? I think this is an interesting statement and would make for some good discussion.)


  1. I agree wholeheartedly with the comment ; I believe the battle is all in the mind, What we think is what we will in time be or do. Our ideas shape who we are and what we become.

  2. I would love to be a part of these discussions

  3. […] […]

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