Though I haven’t been posting weekly reflections on Francis Schaeffer this semester like I did last year for True Spirituality, our book(s) for this spring, The Church at the End of the 20th Century and The Church Before the Watching World (both of these are usually lumped together into one book), have been extremely challenging and sobering. They are of a little different tone than True Spirituality, but have brought up some very relevant cultural and ecclesiological issues.
So far, in The Francis Schaeffer Book Club @ SWBTS we’ve finished The Church at the End of the 20th Century, and are now almost through with The Church Before the Watching World. The second chapter in the latter work is called, “Adultery and Apostasy“. In it, Schaeffer gives a broad biblical theology from both the OT and the NT on the marriage between God’s people and himself. This chapter, I think, is one of the most Bible-saturated chapters that I’ve seen in Schaeffer’s books. After looking at how, ultimately, spiritual adultery is equivalent to apostasy, Schaeffer nails down some specific applications in the chapter’s final pages which really hit home for me.
The block quote below is a passage from this chapter that greatly resonated with me because it succinctly defines the pursuit that I’ve been on the past few years in trying to challenge myself as a seminary student and also to sharpen others to recover the truth that God must be real in our lives. We must have a true, living, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Schaeffer describes it well in this selection: God is not just a theological term; he is not a “philosophical other.” He is a personal God, and we should glory in the fact that He is a personal God (134).
It’s easy to get lost in all of the many classes, hot topics, controversies, and books. Suddenly, you find that your personal relationship with Christ is flat, no matter how blown up your theological head may be. There are some students that I’ve run across who seem more determined to fight off heresy than their own sin. I know that I constantly have to guard myself from falling into this snare. Seminary student or not, we all ought to pursue the purity of doctrine and sound theology. The Bible is clear on this matter. Moreover, we are expected to give an answer for the hope within us and to contend for the faith (1 Pet 3:15; Jude 3). However, above all, if we truly desire to fulfill God’s whole law, we must love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 22:37-39). This is why I love reading Schaeffer so much. He is a wonderful example of someone who had a deep love for theology and apologetics, but an even deeper love for his neighbor, and most of all, God. I hope Schaeffer’s message spurs all of you on, student or not, to love God with your whole being.
We must ask, “Do I fight merely for doctrinal faithfulness?” This is like the wife who never sleeps with anybody else, but never shows love to her own husband. Is that a sufficient relationship in marriage? No, 10,000 times no. Yet if I am a Christian who speaks and acts for doctrinal faithfulness but do not show love to my divine Bridegroom, I am in the same place as such a wife. What God wants from us is not only doctrinal faithfulness, but our love day by day. Not in theory, mind you, but in practice (140-41; emphasis mine).