Posted by: Billy Marsh | February 24, 2008

Reflections On True Spirituality: Session 13 (Part II)

Francis Schaeffer

In Part I of my reflections on chapter 13 of True Spirituality, “Substantial Healing in the Church,” I submitted my idea for giving this chapter an alternate title,”Church: Communion and Communication“. I showed how “communion and communication” are the two words that best summarize the main aspects in which Schaeffer longs to see the church live out true Christian spirituality. Following that theme, Schaeffer builds upon the love and community that Christian brothers and sisters are to share together in this world, and thus, comes to the conclusion that this lifestyle should produce a mature attitude of loyalty in four main ways. They are numbered in terms of level of importance:

  1. Christians must first strive to be loyal to “God as God, on a personal level.”
  2. Christians must be loyal “to the principles of revealed Christianity“. I would interpret this particular “loyalty” as Christian loyalty to the historic Christian faith, namely, orthodoxy that is based upon the revelation of God in the Scriptures.
  3. Christians must display loyalty to the organized, local church.
  4. Christians must seek to remain loyal to human leadership (this principle is a reflection of the intent of Hebrews 13:17; *all of these principles are found on pp 153-54).

Ultimately, these four can be summarized up into two points: The pursuit of aspiring to maintain a healthy, loyal, and loving relationship, “first to God, and then to our brothers (154).” Schaeffer comments, “We must not forget that the final end is not what we are against, but what we are for (154).” Though I see the necessity for placing an emphasis on either side of this spectrum, I still believe that, with Schaeffer, theological precision ought to be stated primarily in positive terms rather than in the negative.

Loyalty in the church towards God and among fellow believers is a whole ‘nother topic worth pursuing, but I will resist the tendency to do so in this post. However, I will say that the failure to grasp this logical procession of thought when one really takes into account that all believers are part of the family of God, has injured the body of Christ in more ways than one. People often critique the American church as if its western culture is the only thing to blame for the American church’s individualistic tendencies. But, this evaluation fails to take into account that man, in general, is naturally inclined to be concerned about himself above all else no matter his cultural background. This seems fairly obvious since both the first and second greatest commandments direct the Christian to focus all of his being on someone other than himself.

If you’re going to be a true believer, according to Schaeffer, you will be incapable of loving God and your neighbor if you do not have personal relationships. This, of course, is clear with respect to how we relate to God. But, as mentioned in Parts I & II of my posts on chapter 12, we are inclined to love our fellow man, even the church, in abstraction. Schaeffer responds to this dangerous practice by stating,

Loving the whole church is not just loving the whole church facelessly, like the humanist man loving Man but caring little about the individual. As finite we cannot know the whole church that is on the earth now, let alone the whole church across all space and time. So what does it mean to “love the church of Jesus Christ” in practice? It is very clearly laid out in the New Testament that the Christians should meet in local congregations and groups. In these churches and groups the universal church is cut down, as it were, to our own size. We can know each other on a person-to-person level and have person-to-person love and communication (154).

Moreover, when Christians only succeed in loving “facelessly” their own brothers and sisters in Christ, how can we possibly expect those outside of “the household of faith” to trust us when we say that we love them, or even more so, that the God we are ambassadors for loves them? We must acknowledge that the local church is not replaceable by any other type of Christian community, though there are other forms. A local body of organized believers are absolutely essential for teaching the Scriptures, demonstrating how to put the Word of truth into action, and ministering outside its walls in fulfilling the Great Commission. If a local church is incapable of living in this way, Schaeffer replies by intimating,

If there is no reality on the local level, we deny what we say we believe, right up to the apex, because what we really deny is that God is a personal God. There must be the mentality, in the local situation, of an interest in people as people, and not just as church members, attenders, or givers (156).

True Spirituality - Francis Schaeffer“True Spirituality,” that desires to be distinictively Christian, must reach out into all areas of life whether it is marriages or friendships. But, most of all, true spirituality is to be “fleshed out” in the context of the local church. And, in continuing the theme of this chapter, it is in the local body of Christ that the existence of a personal God, who is there and is not silent, is real and has given us his special revelation in the Bible as to how to live in holiness and for his glory in conformity to the Son of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is in the church that true communion amongst Christians ought to shine the brightest, and thus, clearly and loudly communicate the message of the gospel and the love of God in Christ.

In ending my series of reflections on True Spirituality and what has become for me a life-changing work, I will leave you with these final words, which serve also as Schaeffer’s final words of his book. They do well to succinctly summarize and bring closure to this immensely important subject:

This is our calling. This is part of our richness in Christ. the reality of true spirituality, the Christian life, in relation to my separation from my fellowmen–including those fellow men who are my brothers and sisters in Christ–in the church as a whole and in the local congregation or other Christian group. It is not to be practiced in a dull, ugly way; there is to be a thing of beauty, observed by those within, and those outside. This is an important part in preaching the gospel to the humanity still in revolution against God; but more than this, it is the only thing that is right on the basis of the existence of the personal God and on the basis of what Christ did for us in history, on the cross.

And having come this far, true spirituality–the Christian life–flows on into the total culture (158).

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Responses

  1. Billy, Thanks for this series! I have never read this book by Schaeffer but now know I must get it and read it. Yeah, to love the Church really means loving those irascible members at BHBC doesn’t it. Voof! Life can be tough.

    Bryan

  2. Looking at what Schaffer is talking about, in the last quote, it is really easier to bring the cross to a dying world then a place that has mainly inoculated church members. It still scares me to realize how people can only care about what the outer appearance looks like and care not at all what God sees on the inside. I am not sure about Schaffer’s church life was like, but it would be interested to know that part of his background.


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