The Francis Schaeffer Collection - The L. Rush Bush Center for Faith & Culture The Schaeffer Legacy Project - An Interview With Dr. David Calhoun of Covenant Theological Seminary True Spirituality Class Francis Schaeffer at International Congress of World Evangelism, Lausanne, Switzerland, July 1974 Whatever Happened To The Human Race? - Playlist The Mark of A Christian Class - Playlist The Question of Apologetics A Christian Manifesto - Playlist

Saturday, February 16, 2013

SCHAEFFER 101 - #1 True Spirituality

Perhaps the most significant contribution of Francis Schaeffer is his teachings on spirituality. While one might say that his teachings in these areas are not new in the scope of the history of the Christian faith, his emphasis and way of saying things are revolutionary.

His work entitled "True Spirituality" explores the very basics of Christian spirituality to more significant aspects of Christian living and practice. Yet what is most significant is that when we read the singular work in the context of his collective works we begin to understand how far reaching the concept is. It is not that Schaeffer is just laying out an isolated concept of spiritual practice but a basis for a living a personal, relational and cultural organic apologetic. In simple words, he is applying the historic Christian position on spirituality against the prevailing  secular worldview. 

Born Out of Crisis

In the forward, Schaeffer mentions that if it were not for the findings of True Spirituality, there would not have been a L’Abri. Although Dr. Schaeffer writes in True Spirituality that the crisis was in 1951 and 52, his wife, Edith, wrote that Schaeffer was actually referring to 1948 - 1950 in The Tapestry. Colin Duriez, author of Francis Schaeffer an Authentic Life, makes the following observation: "Both sets of dates, the original and Edith's amendment, point to the period of crisis being extensive, It strongly seems that the onset of their exposure to the life in Europe, leaving behind the “parochialism” (Edith's words) of their prior American experience, is a major context of the crisis."  (footer pg. 89)

 The best dating perhaps in light of Schaeffer's articles and history is perhaps 1948 to early 1951. One thing seems to be clear and that is that during the early winter months of 1951, Schaeffer would begin to go through the pinnacle of his spiritual crisis. As a result of this crisis, Schaeffer recognized that something was deeply wrong and he carefully reconsidered his Christian commitment and the priorities of life. By June of that year in an issue of The Sunday School Times carried Schaeffer’s article entitled, “The Secret of Power and the Enjoyment of the Lord” which would begin to indicate the spirituality born out of Schaeffer’s spiritual struggles. When reading this work one can see elements of both The Mark Of A Christian as well as various thoughts that are now found in True Spirituality. It is important to note the connection between these two works. Schaeffer often described his works as a wheel with True Spirituality at the center. However, it is quite conceivable that the concepts conveyed so strongly in The Mark of a Christian and the earlier The Secret of Power and the Enjoyment of the Lord which focus so heavily on the proper balance of truth and love indicate to us that the concept itself is perhaps the axle on which that wheel rest.

Origins of Writings

Schaeffer emerged from this experience with a new certainty about his faith, a new emphasis on sanctification and the work of the Holy Spirit, and a new direction in his life which would unfold over the next four years and beyond. This crisis would be the catalyst for the studies he writes for various lectures in 1953-54. In 1954 the Schaeffers returned to the US with the family on furlough, and Fran began an extensive speaking and traveling schedule. Schaeffer traveled across the country speaking 346 times during 515 days, sometimes three times a day, about the deeper spiritual life. Several of the sermons that he developed during this time are now found in the book No Little People. These titles include, “The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way,” “It is Difficult to walk in Mud and Not Get Dirty” (we believe this is probably the source for his lecture called “Walking Through The Mud”), and his classic, “Ash Heap Lives,” which was the title of the prior-published British version of  No Little People. Yet of the sermons specifically relating to True Spirituality, there was his illustration of “The Two Chairs,” which was an illustration Schaeffer used quite often, and shows up in different forms in his work Death in the City, as well as True Spirituality. Another message, closely related was “Living in the Supernatural Now,” which is the subject of chapter 5 of True Spirituality. Yet perhaps the most significant of the talks during this period was the development of a series of talks for a summer Bible camp in Dakota. Schaeffer seemed to have had a brainstorm of thought on spirituality and stayed up for many hours, night after night, preparing a series of talks which he called “Sanctification I, II, III, IV, V,” which he delivered from July 5th through the 12th. These it seemed would finally form the full corpus of True Spirituality, the study that for him would change everything (See The Tapestry, pg. 387).

Substantial Results

Much of Schaeffer’s personal tension in spirituality was over the matter of what he calls “reality.” He had seen so much ugliness, both in life, the struggle against Liberalism, and the separatist movement, which had left him cold. He was not seeing the “reality” of the Christian life or it’s practical application for everyday life.

Out of Schaeffer's findings came his general realization focused on the nature of the teachings of scripture as “True-Truth,” touching every aspect of life, and loving God enough not to covet against Him and one’s neighbor. His prescription for spirituality is realized in the concept of a real “moment-by-moment” relationship with God that produces substantial healing in relationships and champions the life of prayer. Note that his "moment-by-moment" spirituality is in direct contrast to Existentialism's emphasis on living in the moment to define one's own existence. Rather, Schaeffer is taking the truth of the notion of living in the moment but correcting it to it's earlier Biblical understanding of living before the God who is there, before a watching world, praying without ceasing and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ in the ongoing relational aspect of sanctification. He champions the idea of substantial victory in this life, not exhaustive, but substantial victory in relationships, our church, our government and total culture. The Lordship of Christ in the whole of life.

This is why I often say that Schaeffer has constantly and consistently led me in his writings to be bowed before the feet of Christ. Very few writers have inspired as much devotion in the whole of my person and as many areas of life to Christ Lordship as Schaeffer. This very fact alone is the most significant reason why we do this. We are exceedingly thankful.