Monday, December 28, 2009

True Spirituality - In the Spirit's Power

True Spirituality - In the Spirit's Power

Comments on Francis Schaeffer's Book True Spirituality
A Book Study By Dan Guinn

Chapter 4 - In Chapter 4 Dr. Schaeffer picks up again on with the concept of the transfiguration and hopes for us to further comprehend our resurrection with Christ in time and space. Schaeffer is intent on establishing that the keys to understanding reality rest in comprehending Biblical truths in this manner. The understanding of these truths eventually point us to the the need for a helper who is with us in time and space.

It is because the death of Christ is real, that we understand our need for a savior who would suffer. The resurrection and the concept of resurrection is real. Schaeffer sites that the idea is very old and that it was understood somewhere around 2000 BC or earlier by Job (Job 14:12-14) and later by Abraham according to Heb 11:17-19 and Daniel in Daniel 12:2. So finally Schaeffer points out that Paul "hangs everything" on the resurrection principal.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Cor 15:12-19

"The argument is very simple. If the Christian dead are not raised up; and if Christ is not raised up, everything falls to the ground." Schaeffer, pg. 46, True Spirituality

Schaeffer points out that in interpreting Biblical truths in time and space that there are "two strands" to time and space they are both parallel in the concepts of truth.

"This is the Biblical view of truth: there are two streams, two strands, a space-time reality—one in the seen, and one in the unseen." Schaeffer, pg. 52, True Spirituality

It's important to note the Schaeffer is not suggesting a completely unified view of human temporality and the spiritual realm when he calls then "two equal lines of reality" (Schaeffer, pg. 52, True Spirituality). He realizes there is some discontinuity between the two realms. Rather, he is pointing out the continuity of them as they relate to time and space. He is hoping to point out that God has purposed a connection between them. Other theories abound about time and the spiritual realm in Christian history. Aquinas for one, suggested that angelic beings might live in a quasi-temporal existence. Augustine conceived that God, at least, experienced time as an "ever present now". It is significant to realize that Schaeffer is not debating either of these points. Schaeffer is purely concerned with time and space as it relates to the spiritual facts of our redemption which scripture reveals quite plainly without conjecture.

It is more important to realize that Schaeffer is addressing the "mystical union of the church" as and evidential truth, which is a very brilliant observation. For earlier he had said the following:

"The new liberal theology would take the after-life and either deny it, or make it such an uncertain quality that it has no meaning to us. But this is not true of the Bible. Standing on the Mount of Transfiguration, we see Elijah, who was translated, yet has a body. There is no reason to think it is otherwise. He is holding a conversation with Moses and Christ. But here is Moses as well-Moses who died and was buried. And yet he can share in the conversation and he can be seen. He can be recognized and there can be communication." Schaeffer, pg. 52, True Spirituality

By stating this, in this manner he establishes that the transfiguration is a foundational event displaying the mystical church union. Here what he says on this point.

"I am not here thinking of it [mystical union of the church] as a 'doctrine.' I am thinking of the reality: that God ties us in at the present time to the reality of those who are already in this other situation. They are there, they see Christ face to face, they are dead, and we have the earnest of the Holy Spirit." Schaeffer, pg. 54, True Spirituality

Schaeffer here identifies this as "Christian Mysticism." The result of this line of thinking. Don't be frightened by the term. He intends to contrast this view against secular forms of mysticism. Here he gives us an understanding of the apologetic value of understanding this concept.

"Here is true Christian mysticism. Christian mysticism is not the same as non-Christian mysticism, but I would insist that it is not a lesser mysticism. Indeed, eventually it is a deeper mysticism, for it is not based merely on contentless experience, but historic space-time reality - on propositional truth. One is not asked to deny reason, the intellect, in true Christian mysticism. And there is to be no loss of personality, no loss of individual man. In Eastern mysticism - for which the West is searching so madly now, that it has lost the sense of history, of content, and the truth of Biblical facts- there is always finally a loss of personality" Schaeffer, pg. 54, True Spirituality

If you did not catch it, Schaeffer has just given us the formulation of the apologetic against mysticism by way of explaining the unification of the church through the Holy Spirit. It is so foundational that we probably might have missed it. True Spirituality does not come by the pure denial of self through countless rituals as this leaves one empty and hopeless when it evolves to it's natural end. True Spirituality comes by the denial of self and the acceptance of a reasonable faith in time and space, connected and supported by the Holy Spirit unifying us with the kingdom church through the work of Christ. This is the communion of the Holy Spirit (John 14:18, 2 Cor 13:14).

Schaeffer gives us three points to help us make sense of the practical way that we are connected on page 56.

  1. Judicially we are already dead and raised (Romans 6:11, Romans 5:1, Romans 7:24,25).

  2. We rely on the agency of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).

  3. This is not to be merely passive on our part (Luke 1:38).

So as we focus on the life in the spirit, we are to be motivated to action on our part, but not on our own action alone but what Schaeffer calls, "active passivity." Dr. Schaeffer found the words of Marry quite beautiful when she said, "Be it unto me according to thy will." She was active in her confession and actions in response to the angel that spoke to her but passive in submitting to the will of God for her life.

"True Spirituality is not achieved in our own energy. The 'how' of the kind of life we have spoken of, the true Christian life, true spirituality, is Romans 6:11: 'Reckon ye also yourselves' (there is faith) then the negative aspect: 'but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.' This is the 'how,' and there is no other. It is the power of the crucified, risen, and glorified Christ, through the agancy of the Holy Spirit, by faith."

True Spirituality - Through Death to Resurrection

True Spirituality - Through Death to Resurrection

Comments on Francis Schaeffer's Book True Spirituality
A Book Study By Dan Guinn

Chapter 3 - In Chapter 3 Dr. Schaeffer speaks to the reality of Christ resurrection in relation to our own spirituality. We have already explored what Schaeffer calls the "Law of Love" and the "Centrality of Death". We have learned thus far that true spirituality starts with Christ plus nothing and moves toward actions motivated out of love for God and others (not coveting but giving). The love of God in the life of a believer involves an inward change, not merely an outward one, producing contentment, thankfulness and longing. Yet all of these actions are motivated out of a transformation rooted in the centrality of the death of Christ. Our own personal death to self is connected in the sacrifice of Christ. So in this chapter we move forward to an understanding that our victory does not end in Christ sacrifice, but in His resurrection and the glorification.

Schaeffer ends the last chapter dealing with the circumstances surrounding the Transfiguration. He picks this topic up again here.

"Now let me emphasize that these things happened in history. This is important, especially today, when religious things are constantly being pushed away into a non-historic realm of 'other.' But here in the account of the transfiguration, we have an emphasis on time and space. Luke, for example, records that 'on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met them" (Luke 9:37). Christ and the disciples at a certain point in time went up the mountain, and at another point came down. As they went up the hillside, they did not move into a non-spatial philosophical or religious 'other.' They were still connected in space with the foot of the mountain, and down there in the plain the normal activities of life were going on." Schaeffer, pg. 30 (1971), pg 27, 28 (2001), True Spirituality

Schaeffer also emphasized that Jesus' words following the event, "The Son of man must suffer" (Luke 9:34), which speak of the hardships of real life that Christ must endure further emphatically clarifies that these are events happened in time and space. The son of man would be rejected, slain and raised in history.

Historical Fulfillment of the Prophets
25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27

Actual Hands and Feet ("In the Flesh")

39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Luke 24:39

Appearance to Disciples in Time and Space

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

The Physical Ascension in Time and Space

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Likewise, the gospel is revealed in time and space as well. There are multiple instances of special acts of revelation "intruding" upon or speaking into time and space. For example the point of Paul's conversion and the giving of the Revelation of John.


Speaking in time and space in an earthly language.

13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language,‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Acts 26:13-15

        In the Spirit on the Lord's day... write what you see in a (physical) book.

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Rev 1:10-11

Moreover, scripture indicates clearly that the second advent will be a literal event in time and space highlighting our final glorification and unification with the real physical-spiritual kingdom of Christ.

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
Rev. 1:7

"... the day will come when both saved and unsaved will look upon the glorified Christ. They will see him. Every man will see him, not as a religious idea, but glorified, in a real space-time situation" Schaeffer, pg. 37 (1971), pg. 33 (2001), True Spirituality

Finally our resurrection and glorification likewise transpire in time and space.

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

A resurrection and glorification that is linked with Christ.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:5

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 

Romans 6:8

Schaeffer clarifies that we are called to be glorified. This calling brings meaning to man's existence much higher than being a mere animal as science teaches us. It is much more than merely making a mental assent to a religious maxim.

"I am a creature, it is true, but I have a calling to be the creature glorified. I must be the creature...I am called to be a creature by choice, on the basis of Christ's finished work, by faith: The creature glorified.
    Now I am ready for war, now there can be spirituality of a Biblical sort: Now there can be a Christian life. Rejected, slain, raised: now we are ready to be used. But not only ready to be used in this present space-time world, but ready to enjoy it" Schaeffer, pg. 45, True Spirituality

"...this is not once for all. This is a moment-by-moment thing a moment-by-moment being dead to all else and alive to God." Schaeffer, pg. 45 (1971), pg. 40 (2001) True Spirituality

This is what it means to live the victorious Christian life.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

True Spirituality - The Centrality of Death

Note: This differs from my previous article "The Centrality of Death, Death & Redemption in the Heart of God" which was inspired by this chapter in Schaeffer's book and some other studies I was doing at the time.
Read Here

True Spirituality - The Centrality of Death

Comments Francis Schaeffer's Book True Spirituality
A Book Study By Dan Guinn

Chapter 2 - Chapter 2 moves from learning the Law of Love to explaining the central means by which we begin to live it out. It is not possible to live in love, not coveting against God and our neighbor, without sacrifice on our part. Moreover, he begins to explain the connection between our own personal sacrifice and that of our savior from which we receive our strength.

While for the purposes of our study we must take each section by itself, it is important to realize that each chapter is connected and is building upon the previous concepts established. It would not be beneficial or honest for example to take chapter 1 as the lone precept for spirituality, as chapter 2-4 describe by what power the Christian may live out these concepts. A quote from Calvin that Schaeffer quoted at different times was that, "Man's heart is a idol making factory". Therefore we must be constantly mindful and diligent not to elevate any system, by any man above Christ.

  1. Negative & Positive Aspects
    • Dead to Ourselves / Made Alive in Christ
  2. Negative: Saying "No!"
    • To the dominance of things / To self
  3. Obstacles To Self Sacrifice
    • Success Mentality
    • "Mentality of Abundance"
  4. Death to Self And The Death of Christ
    • The Profession of Faith Required His Sacrifice and Our Own
    • Changing Perspective: The Transfiguration
    • The Prophesy of Our Redemption

Negative & Positive Aspects

Dead to Ourselves / Made Alive in Christ
- It is always important to note the negative and positive aspects of the truths of Christianity. The events of our spirituality are connected in "time and space" with the physical aspects of our lives. There are actions and reactions. In order to live in the positive aspects and benefits of love we must die to self. Yet when we live in Christ we find that the negative 'death' we experience makes us alive in Christ and brings joy and contentment and moreover, a longing for God and His will being done in our lives.

"4 We were buried
therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ
was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk
in newness of life." Romans 6:4

Negative: Saying "No!"

To the dominance of things/To self - "We are to be willing to say "no" to ourselves, we are to be willing to say "no" to things, in order that the command to love God and men may have real meaning. Even in things which are lawful to me, things which do not break the Ten Commandments, I am not to seek my own. but I am to seek another man's good." pg. 19 True Spirituality

Dr. Schaeffer, here teaches us that the principle of saying "no" ought to be observed in such a way that it transcends the law. It is a higher moral principal that does good not for the sake of obedience alone but for the sake of love. This is the example given by Jesus in his sacrifice for us. An example of obedience unto death, Love beyond personal interest and self preservation.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42

"2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:2

Obstacles To Self Sacrifice

Success Mentality- "We are surrounded by a world that says "no" to nothing. When we are surrounded with this sort of mentality, in which every thing is judged by bigness and by success, then suddenly to be told that in the Christian life there is to be this strong negative aspect of saying "no" to self, it must seem hard. And if it does not feel hard to us, we are not really letting it speak to us." pg. 19 True Spirituality

For Dr. Schaeffer, this self sacrifice was not to be taken lightly. It is real sacrifice, it is painful. At times everything that is in us will speak against this and against this change. Our world often teaches us that the only way to be fulfilled is to satisfy your personal longings. Yet, Dr. Schaeffer reminds us that scripture teaches that the satisfying of these longings only gratify the sinful nature ("the flesh") and that we have a higher calling to satisfy a new nature in Christ that brings true fulfillment. This is truly the basis for nearly all of Francis Schaeffer's cultural criticism.

"Mentality of Abundance - "We have produced a mentality of abundance, wherein everything is to be judged on the basis of whether it leads to abundance. Everything else must give in to this. Absolutes of any kind, ethical principles, everything must give in to affluence and selfish personal peace." pg. 20 True Spirituality

This concept in Dr. Schaeffer's other work was sometimes expressed as "the idol of personal peace and affluence". Here he is directly addressing the concept of hedonism ("whatever feels good is good"), in our society. It is important to note that Schaeffer believed that when abundance is made the rule for judging what is "good" thought and ethics begin to break down. So we can see that this not only affects doctrines of philosophy and theology but the practical way that we live out these philosophies and theologies.

Death to Self And The Death of Christ

The Profession of Faith Required His Sacrifice and Our Own
- Schaeffer spends a good deal of time exploring the way that Christ communicates the connection between the profession of who He was, in Peter's words, "The Christ of God", and the sacrifice He would make. In the mind of Jesus, the profession (v.20) that He is the Christ implies He must die (v.22). Yet it also implies something more. It implies that we must die also (v.23, 24). Jesus knows without a doubt what His death would represent both for himself and for us.

18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God. 21 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The
Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and
chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be

23 And he said to all, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For
whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be
ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of
the holy angels.

Luke 9:18-26

Changing Perspective: The Transfiguration - Dr. Schaeffer pinpoints the Transfiguration (the events that followed after the verses above) as a critical point in scripture pre-figuring the resurrection of Christ. The topic surrounding the event speaks directly of Jesus death. Yet, Dr. Schaeffer is also careful to point out that it was in fact an historical event. Not believing in the transfiguration is to call the apostles liars, yet believing in this event demands that we place it in time and history. This was significant as it replies to post-modern thought and Dr. Schaeffer knew it.

As it applies to us as believers, the Transfiguration speaks not only to our absolute death in Christ but also our glorification in resurrection with Him.

The Prophesy of Our Redemption - Schaeffer also wished for us to realize the that not only was the event in time and space but also that ourselves and the world are witnesses to the event. The prophets prior to the event foretold it from the beginning. The apostles directly witnessed it in time and space. We behold the steadfast preservation of the Word of God and His church in time.

We will talk about some of these prophetic verses (Gen. 3:15; Gen. 15, Isaiah 53) in class and I will provide several papers on areas that can be studied for greater depth in the near future.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

True Spirituality - The Law of Love

True Spirituality - The Law
and The Law of Love
Lecture Notes On Francis Schaeffer's Book True Spirituality
A Book Study By Dan Guinn

Chapter 1 - As we begin, we need to mention that Dr. Schaeffer starts the chapter with two important questions for us. Firstly, "What is True Spirituality?" , and secondly, "How can it be lived out in a twentieth-century setting?" To clarify, the "twentieth century setting" that Schaeffer is referring to is the time in which we live, yet also the culture in which we live. Our challenge in living out true spirituality today is that our culture has been changed over time from a culture that once largely esteemed the Christian message to one that has mistakenly rejected it in many respects and is now far less accommodating. These changes have been brought about by many forces in concert, yet primarily by the influence of religious and philosophical Liberalism. It is important to note that much of Schaeffer's aim throughout the book is to speak to, and give answers to the problems the Christian faces in living in that particular setting. Thus, I think you will find out as we study through the book that the answers both instruct us, as well as equip us with answers for the watching world. 

Now, in chapter 1, The Law and The Law of Love, we are given a framework for learning the nature of true spirituality. It is helpful to analyze the system presented to understand it's value. However, we should understand that while it is systematic, it is not a mechanism. Schaeffer explains in a later chapter that, "It is not possible to say, read so many chapters of the Bible every day, and you will get this much sanctification." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 87 (1971), pg 78 (2001) Just as in our earthly relationships we can follow guidelines but there are always other factors involved. If we are just going through the motions alone or proceeding with the wrong motives we will soon be off the course and not achieve the desired end.

You Must Be A Christian
While it might seem like "a given" to many of the people listening to this lecture that you must be a Christian in order to practice true spirituality, there are many in our culture that think otherwise. Likewise, some may even think that it is arrogant for the Christian to claim such a thing. However, our basis for teaching this is what Christianity and the Bible teaches. 

Scripture is clear that there is an obstacle for the non-Christian in understanding. Unless his eyes are opened then he cannot see God.

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21

In our day the exclusivity of Christianity is often mistakenly categorized as "hate". This unfair evaluation is the natural result of religious pluralism and liberalism in our culture. It believes that all religious ideas are equal and should be tolerated as equal opinion. This is a naive treatment of religion which naturally breaks down religion and logic itself. If we believe that "all religious ideas are equally true" then there really is no basis for determining if any religions are true. Moreover, we are at this point not far removed from the opinion of some who teach that all religions teach basically the same thing.

While non-Christians may exhibit spiritual behavior it is only that. Behavior without the heart change only brings a simple surface level fix alone.

Christ Plus Nothing
If we assume we can add anything to the work of Christ for our redemption we are in fact saying that Christ work was insufficient. We must believe that Christ's death accomplished our redemption entirely. The gift of faith and a changed heart produce the outward action rooted in Christ's love. If we strive to do good works outwardly without the inward change we are only honoring ourselves.

Having said this, there are times in our Christian life when we must "do" out of obedience to Christ alone without inward confirmation. This is because the inward spirituality is not based upon inward feeling but an inward transformation.

The Law of Love
As Dr. Schaeffer explains, the Law of Love is not outward but inward. It begins with learning not to covet. Now Schaeffer wishes us to understand that coveting as a command is deeper than the "thou shalt not" aspect. Rather, we should not only not envy, but we should also give. We should seek the good of God and man, which is really the basis of the entire law. 

Positive and Negative Aspects

To understand how Schaeffer arrives at this we need to understand that in the ten commandments each command also implies and opposite. "Thou Shalt Not Murder" also implies "Thou Shalt Preserve Life." Therefore in that same way, "Thou Shalt Not Covet" also implies, "Thou Shalt Seek the Good of God and Others." Let's read the commandment with this in mind.

You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.” Exod 20:17

In referring to Christ words on the greatest commandment, Schaeffer says, "Coveting is the negative side of the positive commands" - Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 8 (1971), pg 78 (2001) 

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matt 22:37-29

It is easy to see Christ position here. He gives us the positive side of the commandment. The negative is by default implied.

Not Outward But Inward
Living in the Law of Love through grace and through Christ, brings about a "heart change" that changes us from the inside out. Sin falls away because the changed heart begins to desire God.  

1 John 3:9 "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God."

Rom 6:1-2 "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?"

Even though we are free from the curse of the Mosaic Law we are not lawless. Since we are under a new covenant, we are under the law of it's priesthood. Christ law is a law of faith and love full of grace written on our hearts. It is a law within us. I have added a few verses here not mentioned by Schaeffer to assist us in this.

 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people." Jeremiah 31:33

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 

1 John 5:1-3

So now we desire to follow our new covenant priest, Jesus, who desires us to keep His commandments.

John 14:15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."

John 14:21 "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."

Contentment & Thankfulness
In practice, the life of love without coveting produces contentment and thankfulness. For Schaeffer this is "reality."

"do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Phil 4:6

"20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" Eph 5:20

"28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Rom 8:28

So those who do not live in thankfulness corrupt their own heart.

"21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened." Rom 1:21

Longing in Love
This further produces "Longing in Love" for the good of God and others in the Christian life.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Transformation - Death/Life
Finally, this process is what it means to die to oneself (negative aspect) and live in Christ (positive aspect).

"We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." Rom 6:4

"20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Gal 2:20

Dr. Schaeffer notes that "crucified with Christ" is a negative,  but it rolls over to a positive.

"So although there is a negative, it sweeps over to a positive, and to stop at the negative is to miss the whole point. The true Christian life is not hating life, in the way that we are apt to do when we get into despondency or other psychological problems. The Christian negative is not a nihilist negative; there is a true Biblical negative; but the Christian life does not stop with a negative There is a true life in the present as well as the future." Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 15 (1971), pg 13 (2001).

Book Study "True Spirituality" Dr. Fr...

True Spirituality
Dr. Francis Schaeffer

A Book Study by Dan Guinn
Edited by Laura Muckerman

Author: Dr. Francis Schaeffer
It is possible that most people taking this class have a general familiarity with Francis Schaeffer and his work. If, however, you have not yet been introduced to Francis Schaeffer, perhaps the best place to begin is with a brief survey of his life struggles just prior writing True Spirituality. Out of these struggles would come one of his most important works. This is not just my opinion, but the opinion of Francis Schaeffer himself.

While most who are familiar with Francis Schaeffer are acquainted with his powerful social apologetic work in the How Shall We Then Live video series and book, some might have missed True Spirituality. Perhaps you have already read one of Schaeffer's earlier hallmark books, such as The God Who Is There, Escape from Reason, or He Is There and He Is Not Silent, which now form his famous Trilogy. Yet it might surprise you to know that Dr. Schaeffer viewed True Spirituality to be his most important and foundational work. It can be argued that if you don't know True Spirituality, you really might not know Schaeffer. I have to admit that I have read and utilized many of Schaeffer's books as a springboard for my studies in philosophy and theology but have only recently read True Spirituality. I believe the spirituality Francis Schaeffer suggests in True Spirituality may have more weight than all of these books. For True Spirituality is the intersection of Dr. Schaeffer's belief system and the true heart of Christian apologetics, the result of which is a changed human heart immersed with the heart of God. In True Spirituality Schaeffer walks us through the concept of redemption in such a way that, if we are honest, will move us to take a valid inventory of our relationship with the sovereign God who is there--who has spoken into our lives from all eternity.

The Crisis

The catalyst for this book was a crisis of epic proportions in Schaeffer's life, a crisis encountered after he had already served for over ten years in the ministry, and served with some distinction. He had pastored. He and his wife, Edith, had founded "Children for Christ." He had previously been appointed American Secretary, Foreign Relations Department of the American Council of Christian Churches, and he had toured Europe after WW II, later speaking throughout America on the state of the church in Europe and the dangers of liberalism and modernism. So Schaeffer was neither untried in his faith, nor lacking in his understanding of his faith: but He needed something more.

Many notable experiences factored into Francis Schaeffer's crisis, all of which happened in the context of the highs and lows and strains of his life prior to the time. He had toured Europe relentlessly in the summer of 1948, a time which he recounted as "the great spiritual experience of my life."1 At the end of the three-month tour, Schaeffer experienced a life-threatening crisis when the aircraft on which he was traveling nearly plummeted into the sea. He was spared by the grace of God, but the demands of the tour and the strain of his brush with death were extensive. Upon his return home, he suffered a physical collapse; he was "mentally and bodily exhausted."2 At times thereafter he struggled with depression. When he recovered, his position as moderator of the Bible Presbyterian Church placed extensive demands on his time. He was also still serving as a pastor and board member, the latter a position from which he would soon resign. He then continued an aggressive six-month speaking schedule that took him away from his family. Finally, he moved his family abroad as missionaries during that same year. They would live temporarily in Holland before finally settling in Switzerland. However, the family moved yet again during their time in Switzerland.

All of these event--combined with the new intense formulation of ideas about life, art and culture spawned during this time in Schaeffer's life--created an overwhelming need in his spirit and intellect.

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 - 1950.3 According to Colin Duriez, author of Francis Schaeffer an Authentic Life, "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."

This onslaught of change in Schaeffer's life was increased by his involvement in the very core of discussion on Karl Barth's New Modernism (Neo-Orthodoxy) and in August of 1950 Schaeffer and four others would meet with Barth personally. Although the meeting was cordial, Schaeffer's resulting address to the Second Plenary Congress of the International Council of Christian Churches was met with a negative letter from Barth. [Interestingly enough, in this letter Barth accused Schaeffer of responding to Barth's views with the "same kind" of critical response as that of Cornelius VanTil (Schaeffer's former professor at Westminster Theological Seminary.)]4

As the final trigger of the deeper crisis, Edith came to believe that a significant article Dr. Schaeffer wrote marked a point of "radical self-questioning."5 While she sites a specific article at the beginning of this period, there were likely other influencing non-public writings he also produced at this time. In my personal correspondence with Francis Schaeffer's nephew Dr. Richard Krejcir, Krejcir recalled that Dr. Schaeffer mentioned he had written numerous letters to an agnostic doctor in Switzerland. In an effort to evangelize this man, Schaeffer found himself challenged again as a former agnostic. The notes generated from these discussions apparently later became the source of the Bible studies given in a Bible Camp Barn in 1952 (mentioned in the preface). These of course became True Spirituality 15 years later.

Dr. Schaeffer begins the book's preface with these words:

"This book is being published after a number of others, but in a certain sense it should have been my first. Without the material in this book there would be no L'Abri."

Considering that L'Abri is the spiritual community for thought and study in which much of Schaeffer's work grew and flourished, this statement is rather fantastic. Yet this viewpoint is echoed in other accounts as well.

"Schaeffer always believed that without this deep struggle to find reality in the Christian and thus human life, the work of L'Abri would have never started."6

In the preface of True Spirituality, Schaeffer goes on to recount how his spiritual crisis stemmed from the problem of "reality." For Schaeffer the struggle with "reality" embodied a disconnect between his personal life and the truth:  It was not enough simply to believe in the truth, Schaeffer desired to have the truth permeate the whole of his life. His autobiographer Duriez comments on Schaeffer's "Unshakable Realism."

Defining True Spirituality

"He is concerned" wrote Duriez, "with living authentically as the key to effective Christian apologetics, which meets people both in their need and at the point of the inconsistency--whether this involves their large scale 'cheating,' as he bluntly calls it, or being willing to be consistent enough to contemplate suicide as a consequence of their non-Christian worldview. Placing this authenticity at the center of apologetics soon led Schaeffer into his own crisis period, when he felt forced to lay his own faith on the table in a necessarily reckless realism. Unknown to him, he was halfway through his life--it seems now, as we look at the whole of his life, that this was a very appropriate moment for him to reflect upon his faith in this radical way. He was familiar with Plato's dictum, 'Know thyself, ' and the opening of the Shorter Westminster Confession, 'The chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.' He was following Calvin's footsteps in associating the knowledge of oneself with knowing God."7
In an interview with Colin Duriez, Schaeffer said that there are many misconceptions about true spirituality. In the same interview he commented, "I would say if Christianity is truth, it ought to touch on the whole of life. The modern drift in some evangelical circles toward being emotionally and experientially based is really very, very weak. The other side of the coin, though, is that Christianity must never be reduced to an intellectual system."8

Lastly, this introduction would not be complete without Dr. Schaeffer's own definition of this concept.

"To believe Him not just when I accept Christ as savior, but every moment, one moment at a time: this is the Christian life, and this is True Spirituality" --Schaeffer, True Spirituality, pg 98

This summary statement might seem like a spoiler to the book, but it is not. Rather, it is but a wonderful signpost. For as you read and understand how Schaeffer describes this concept, and discover the path to your own true spirituality, you will see that "moment-by-moment" is a journey on a road of consistency and faith. The way is fraught with hardship, and few travel there, but our reward is all-sufficient and glorious.

Dan Guinn
Footnotes from Francis Schaeffer an Authentic Life by Colin Duriez, pages 70 (1), 71 (2), 89 (3), 99 (4), 90 (5), 105 (6), 89 (7), and 106 (8).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Centrality of Death
Death & Redemption in the Heart of God


Each fall amidst the beauty and wonder of the changing season; as parts of nature fade and change, I find that I occasionally contemplate the brevity of life and even the nature of death itself. As the sun sets earlier and the wind catches a chill, the world around also takes on a tone of darkness as the earth is purged of its flourishing overgrowth. Thankfully, this is not the end for nature, this purging although a form of death, is also a process whereby the world is prepared and changed for winter preservation. We know, because we have seen this over and over. We know that nature will once again be renewed.

However death as a subject, when thought of more vividly is not at all pleasant or inviting, for it embodies the ultimate end of all human fears. If you have ever lost a loved one or had a near death experience, you might have tasted this fear yourself. It is truly devastating and from the human eye, seemingly uncaring, absolutely and ultimate. Without God speaking His Truth into these situations, the change can be overwhelming and entirely devoid of meaning.

However scripture also speaks of an extremely vivid death, one that has ultimate meaning beyond all others, one that transcends all tragedy. However, more than this, it is a death central to the heart of God. Of course I am speaking of the death of Jesus, God the Father's only son.

You see, every day we might see daily symbols that remind us of death, we might feel pains in our own bodies that might remind us yet again how brief life is. Yet we must ponder whether this is to our detriment or meant to bring us to the feet of our Lord moment by moment. Thus moreover, we must further evaluate whether we ought not to view these as our friend and rejoice in them!

YHWY - A Name of Sacred Death

What is so moving to me is the fact the very nature of our life sustenance is rooted in this central message. You see God has put at the very heart of His message to mankind the "centrality of death". It is so intimate to Him, that you might be surprised how close it really is!

Take for example the name that God gives for himself in the Old Testament, YHWY. It was so sacred that it was rarely written and in a lot of text it was replaced with other word Adonai. What some people don't know is that each of these letters have a meaning.

The name YHWY is in fact made up of four letters from left to right:
"Yod Hey Vav Hey" or Yahweh.

- Hey - Vav -Hey - Yod
- Behold - Nail -Behold - Hand

When read in English from left to right, it says:

"BEHOLD THE NAIL, BEHOLD THE HAND!" Or, "Behold the nailed hand."

All of Redemptive History starts with His name, "In the Beginning God..." it is a name of sacred death, the death of His Son. Moreover, there is no more clear statement of God's Sovereignty than His very name!

Just as was spoken by the prophetic voices! Messiah!

"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." (Zechariah 12:10)

"Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet." (Psalm 22:16)

Jesus - The Son of Death

The Hebrew name for Jesus, "Yeshua" means "YHWH is salvation." Thus his name would literally mean "BEHOLD THE NAIL, BEHOLD THE HAND IS SALVATION".

See Also:

Scriptures - The Word of Death

One might say that the letter Vav used in the name of God above is just a clever coincidence however consider how that the Biblical scholars utilized the letter Vav.

"The word Vav is used in Exodus 27:9-10 to refer to the hooks of silver fastened to posts (called amudim) that were used to hold the curtain (yeriah) that encloses the tabernacle:

Just as the tabernacle was the habitation of God while the Israelites traveled in the wilderness, so the Torah is the habitation of His word today. Therefore, the scribes developed the idea that the Torah Scroll was to be constructed in the manner of the tabernacle. They called each parchment sheet of a scroll a yeriah, named for the curtain of the tabernacle (there are roughly 50 yeriot per scroll) and each column of text an amud, named for the post of the tabernacle’s court.

Now since each curtain of the tabernacle was fastened to its post by means of a silver hook (vav), the scribes made each column of text to begin with a letter Vav, thereby “hooking” the text to the parchment:"

"An oversized Vav marks the “center” of the entire Torah (Leviticus 11:42): Appropriately enough, the word in which this Vav occurs is gachon, meaning 'belly.'"

Now, just as the scriptural "word" was fashioned after the tabernacle. When Jesus, "The Word", came into the world He in turn desired to "tabernacle with us". Scholars point out that the words "dwelt amoung us" in John 1:14 actually means "to tabernacle".

John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Parts of this portion were taken from:

The Biblical Covenant Valley Of The Shadow of Death

One illustration of death that has comforted many Christian throughout the years is the 23rd Psalm. Yet, there is more to it than we have soften been taught.

Psalm 23:
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Yet it has long been held by some scholars that this passage is using an idiomatic phrase. The words "Valley Of The Shadow of Death" are in fact symbolic language utilized in ancient covenant treaty. In such treaties a greater king ("suzeran king") would make a unilateral covenant treaty with a lesser king ("vassal king"), which in many cases had been conquered by the suzeran king. The two kings would participate in a vivid ritual whereby animals would be sacrificed and layed open in such a way as to form a valley. In fact the very Hebrew word for covenant is "berith" which means "to cut". Hereby they would "cut" a covenant. The suzeran king would then declare the stipulations of His covenant(the terms or "Words"). These would embody both blessing and curse. Blessings to the lesser king if he obeyed and curse if he did not, which was often a depiction of very elaborate penalty. Such a covenant breaker who received the penalty of the covenant would be termed as having been "cut off" from the covenant. One notable violation of covenant recounted by Herodotus' in his History of the Greek and Persian Wars documents Darius marching his entire army amidst the separated body of a captain who broke covenant with him. Herein we can see that the symbol was not only real and vivid but it could be exacted in judgment at the suzeran king's discretion.

One such illustration of this type of treaty in scripture is the depiction in Gen 15 where Abram is told of God to prepare the sacrifice. Yet upon doing so God instead puts Abram to sleep. He then brings down a smoking furnace and burning flame which cooks the sacrifice in Abrams presence, signifying that he alone would bare the full weight of the covenant. So then it is no mistake that Dan 9:26 declares that the "anointed one will be cut off". He will be "cut off" on our behalf.

You see even the stipulations or "Words of the Covenant" are symbolic. The Ten Commandments are in fact the "Ten Words" (Decalogue) of the Mosaic Covenant. So it is no mistake when John refers to Christ as THE WORD.

John 1:1

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

He is the ultimate fulfillment of all Covenants and the granter of a better covenant (New Covenant/Covenant of Christ/Christolic Covenant).

Exod 34:27-28

27 And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments (literally "ten words").

We Know that the Victor has Overcome Death.

Ps. 16:9-10
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

1 Corinthians 15:55
55 "O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"

Romans 5:10
"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life."

Our Response to Death

The title of this article is the title "The Centrality of Death" of a chapter in Francis Schaeffer's "True Spirituality". In this chapter he identifies what the Death of Christ means to the Christian. We do not merely believe that Christ died for us but that the result of His death affects is our own mortification. We die to self in response to all that God has done for us in His wonderful and exhaustive plan of redemption.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Halloween & Christian Superstition

Every year I am faced with some concern over the issue of explaining my observance of Halloween. You see I personally participate in Halloween, while many Christians abstain. This might seem like a blatant contradiction since Halloween is often portrayed as a "night of Satan" or as glorifying evil. Each year my concern is over my desire that my Christian friends understand my views on Halloween while my non-Christian friends understand my limitations with it. So here is an paper I wrote several years ago, revised for this blog, my take on Halloween observance.

Halloween Observance

Halloween, is a day that truly lives in infamy yet so many people have a fascination with the night and it's dark reputation. However, despite what some Christians think in practice it is usually a night of fun, excitement, good will toward children and kindness. Yet the context that Halloween is often portrayed in, with the back drop of paganism and the occult often proves too much for some Christians.

While I would never criticize anyone for abstaining from the holiday, I am always shamed as a Christian over the attacks on Halloween by other Christian believers. Especially those who claim it glorifies the devil and is purely a night belonging to the occult. I believe that it is in response to Christian objections that many actual pagans such as the modern Wiccans claim the day for their own, citing Celtic origins and such. To me it's all a little absurd when you go back and look at the actual history of Halloween. Neither side of this argument are really correct.

You see, my core objections to Anti-Halloween Groups is that they often do nothing but further propagate more and more superstition. Some have gone so far as to produce books and even an anti-Halloween video series or two. Many of these are pure conjecture associating the evil deeds of small counter cultural groups with the night itself. These are largely unfounded as these are merely isolated groups and not the whole of Halloween observance or our culture. Logically, it does not necessitate that Halloween is evil if a bunch of goofy or warped people decide they want to burn candles and do weird rituals. We must ask ourselves what actually does. So Christians, let's shed some the superstition shall we?

Halloween History Revisions

In reality harvest festivals have gone on all the way back to the beginning of agrarian societies, each lending their own credence and interpretation to the time of the year. Depictions of times of plenty and the stories of death and mystery that seems somewhat natural in the shortened days of fall. Further some have celebrated even dawning mask and such symbolizing various things both fun and sinister, an act that we see in multiple holidays in ancient culture and not just Halloween.

Halloween has only in recent times been doctrinalized by some occult groups and made to symbolize more than it really has ever been. This has been more a move on their part to run counter-culture to Christianity than based on any real validity. Therefore as well, Christians have further dramatized and gladly endorsed these claims. Moreover in some cases even exaggerating the verbiage of these groups to make the day more emphatically evil in the American culture than even earlier has been held. I mean lets face it, if the early English settlements truly thought the night was more evil, there would have been far more than a few witch trials folks. Although it seems to be the historic record that the New England Puritans rejected celebrations such as Halloween, there is ample evidence to conclude that other Protestant groups migrating to the colonies did not. When we look back to the colonial period we find both Christian and non-Christian alike practicing Halloween in fun, and enjoying myth and story which was no more evil than a mere campfire ghost story. Simple parties and simple games, that is all.

Considering the Macabre As Holy

Now, consider the season. The sky darkens earlier and the wind catches a chill, the world around takes on a tone of darkness as the earth is purged of its flourishing overgrowth. It seems that God has designed the world to display a tone of death each year. Imagine that? Why do you suppose?

Well it might surprise you that God himself seems to have a flare for the macabre.

"Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;

righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne." Psalm 97:2

Is it not that the fall season itself is designed by our creator to remind us of our mortality and the brevity of life?

"24 for "All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever."
And this word is the good news that was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:24

Would you hang this Christian art in your home?

Why is it that the macabre that is such a part of life ordained by our creator is often withheld from the Christian experience in our day. No symbols of death adorn our home (unlike the dark pictures of Reformation artist like Durer. See Picture.), no reminders of our mortality, and moreover no humor or making lite of death, because of the victory that God has accomplished for us. No, we cherish rosy things without a hint of black. So then we leave the witches and such to conjure all sorts of imaginations, their cause merely endorsed by Christian superstitions.

We must ask ourselves, are we guilty of cowering in fear? Could it be that we ourselves have given the devil too much imagined power over this holiday? Could it be that we have glorified the devil more than those who are walking their children around to collect candy? Finally, could it be that we hold more superstitions about the holiday than the people who are actually observing it do?

Halloween Rant: Well, let me rant for just one second!

It is always so troublesome to me to see Christians handing out tracts at haunted houses when there are so many other houses of ill repute. Why do they not stop by the strip club and hand out tracts about respecting women and the dangers of lust? Why not more tracts and production videos against the abuse of drunkenness and womanizing at bars? Why not tracts against liberalist churches who preach a warped view of the Bible and don't believe it? Better yet, why don't we drop the tracts and just talk to people and show them something real!

It's humorous to me that the more obvious culprits are ever before our eyes throughout the year while we like to attack Halloween because it's supposedly "blatantly evil". How shallow we are.

So What of Evil?

Right away some will so readily voice that I am ignoring evil and spiritual forces. For them let me give a brief reply. Personally I feel that Christian's have given too much credence to the power of the devil and that this is in fact MORE glorifying of evil than participating in Halloween. One of the reasons I do not fear such things real or imagined is that I believe Christ life and death mattered. It mattered so much that it bound (limited) Satan and his works in the world for the purpose of the spreading of the kingdom message. Some Christian's forget this. Christ coming and sacrifice removed the level of deception that Satan was capable of in the world before Christ. Here is what scripture says.

"Or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house." Matt. 12:29

You see Jesus bound the strongman. The fallen angels knew of their punishment:

"And behold, they cried out, 'What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?'" (Matthew 8: 29)

Moreover, they know that hell awaits them, a place "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25: 41).

However finally, they are unable to stop the work of his true church.

"...I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matt 16:8b

Death has no power.

"O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" 1 Cor. 15:5


So now let us think clearly. What is really being celebrated? Candy? Dressing up in costumes? Scaring each other? Making lighthearted fun of scary things? In fact there is nothing here that is sinful. But in fact some of it might be good for us so that we are less superstitious and more mindful of the real evil that lurks within ourselves without the work of Christ in our lives.

This is merely my opinion. I invite your comments.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Zealous Sovereign Lord God Who Loves Us

In the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) the first commandment exhibits a definitive monotheistic pronouncement implying, "I am... your God" and you will have no other. It is hard to believe that some do not take this passage at it's word. Please read below the passage, noting the italic words with this in mind.

From Exodus 20

1 And God spoke all these words, saying,

2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 You shall have no other gods before [1] me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands [2] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Covenant Stipulation

Firstly we should note before anything else that the commandment is a covenant stipulation spelling out the obligations of treaty between God and man. He is the Sovereign Suzeran (the greater king) and we are the lesser obligator (historically the vassal/servant king) who must embrace His law. Yet He doesn't just give merely commands for observance and duty but commands for our ultimate care.

Verse 2 explains this well. "I am the Lord your God" is spoken in the same breath with the greatest work of God, our deliverance. The illustration of Him, "who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery" is the both immediate and local to the hearers of the passage (the Hebrew people) as well as symbolic throughout scripture. It stands as a depiction throughout redemptive history carrying over from the Mosaic/Davidic Covenants to the Christolic.

The Prophesy:
Hosea 11.1
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.

The Fulfillment in Christ (add to this His death for sins):
Mt 2:14-15
14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

A Jealous God

It is perhaps foreign to some that the word jealous is used in verse 5 as usually jealously is often robed in so many non-sacred scenarios in our day. Yet when we begin to dig through the Old English and Latin versions of the word we finally come to the Latin word "zelus" which is the origin of the word "zeal". So in reality jealous is very close to the word "zealous" here. Therefore in context, God is both zealous of His Lordship (v.1) as well as His name (v. 7 , the second commandment), but He defines His worthiness of both of these by the sacrifice for the deliverance He has provided for us.

It is not that God waits like a discontented lover weeping in the dark and begging for the assurance of our service and love. This is truly a contemptuous depiction of God, for herein He is reduced to a covetous, tormented soul not worthy of praise but pity. No, rather God sits as sovereign lord and creator, steadfast and immovable. He is demanding our exclusive affection and loyalty with a steadfast love willing to sacrifice of Himself on our behalf to bring us into His holy court. He is thus more than worthy of our love and worship in return.

So now finally, "You shall have no other gods before me" (v3) does not mean that we can have many gods as long as we place Him in front, but rather this is a further statement of this grand kingly court. It is a statement that the Reformers knew well. "Coram Deo: Before the face of God."

The Zealous Sovereign Lord God Who Loves Us will have no other gods in His presence and He desires us before Him.

Is the Cross Offensive? What if I said yes?

For Christian the cross represents something beautiful; God's ultimate sacrifice for the sins of humanity. Yet to others the concept is truly offensive. You might site that so many people wear crosses as jewelry around their necks and say... "who's offended?" However, I would clarify that they often have no real connection with the cross that Jesus bore. Think for a moment of what it might mean if people took the symbol of the cross seriously. Imagine people wearing an electric chair (a devise of arguable torture and capitol punishment) around their necks, what might that be like? Imagine people wearing a slaughtered bloody animal sacrifice on a pendant. Ponder just for a moment wearing the most grotesque symbol of death and maybe you might get close to what the cross actually means. Although many so-called "enlightened" people are offended by the concept of the barbarism of the cross, many on the other hand simply choose to ignore it or never go deep enough to discover what it truly means. Nevertheless, if they actually considered the full weight of the Cross of Christ I guarantee you that many would rip the symbol from their neck in hatred.

So why would I say such a thing? Well, it is because in truth the Cross stands in contrast to every fiber of the human being. Many do not admit that they have committed any fault in life, and even less believe that they need any forgiveness of sin. Yet these are at the very heart of the need of the Cross of Christ. However, perhaps the most emphatic teaching of the Cross of Christ is the most offensive yet. You will be hard pressed to deny you are not offended.

You see, just this past Sunday my pastor spoke on this very same matter. As I listened my mind wandered a moment to one of the most moving paintings I have ever seen. It was a painting by Rembrandt. In this painting the famous artist with all his skill did something so surprising and humiliating that any modern person would have to gasp. I personally recall my first emotions upon seeing the painting. It was a startling mix of surprise, anger and then finally an overwhelming astonishment at the wisdom in what he did.

So just what did he do? Rembrandt painted a dark scene of pain and anguish depicting the savior Jesus Christ being crucified with tones and colors so realistic for the time that anyone would be overwhelmed by the humanity of the act being portrayed. Yet more than this he did something else... he painted himself into the picture participating in the act of crucifying Christ. He literally depicts himself assisting in raising the Cross of Christ high toward heaven to where it will slide down with a muscle tearing thud into it's stone rock pedestal. Rembrandt was very vividly saying in his painting, "I killed him! I killed him! It was my sin, I killed him! Yet, he willingly died for me."

So now with this we move to the most offensive claims of the Cross of Christ. You see if God sent His Only Son into the world to die for mankind then it should not be surprising that He would be the only way to cleanse the sins of mankind. What other option would God give if He gave the most precious thing that He had?

You see Christianity is an absolute belief system. It teaches One God, One Faith, One Savior and Him Alone. Jesus as the founder of our faith exclusively proclaimed, ...“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6 There are many who seek to revise this idea, dismissing the exclusive claims of Jesus, yet this is not the Jesus of the Bible.

While many of these people try to depict this sort of religious belief as "hate", the ironic thing is that Jesus "first loved us" and we first hated him (verse 30 "haters of God").

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

So now finally is the Cross of Christ truly offensive? Scripture states this quite clearly as well. While we desire that people will see the beauty of the Cross of Christ and the love of God for them, unfortunately many will not understand and will perceive it as foolish. Thankfully, it is God alone who is Lord over the harvest of souls.

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

For more on this read my pastor's blog here

The Law of Love & Coveting

Recently I am sort of going through a Francis Schaeffer reading spell. In his book entitled True Spirituality he paints some wonderful insights on the first elements of the Christian walk. One that struck me in the first chapters was talk about the inward struggle with the elements of following and loving God. He says,

"When we talk of the Christian life, or true spirituality, when we talk about freedoms from the bonds of sin, we must wrestle with the inward problems of not coveting against God and men, of loving God and men, and not merely some set of externals [rules]."

He establishes that the command "Thou Shalt Not Covet" also implies thou shalt share, give, and seek the good of others (see 1 Cor. 10:13, 14). This is because each commandment taken in it's fullest sense also enjoins it's opposite. For instance "Thou Shalt Not Kill" also implies "Thou Shalt Preserve Life".

Now consider this in context of the famous love chapter (1 Cor. 13).

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, [1] but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; [2] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends.

In essence, when we see that coveting is intrinsically tied to our confession of love for God and how we live it we find that the love chapter, which is often viewed as a flowery passage, becomes perhaps the most convicting passage in all of scripture.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Asecularist

The word "secular" means "this worldly" or "temporal." So when we speak of "asecular" we mean "not of this world."

This blog will attempt to deal with the subject of Truth based in an "aworldly" (not worldly) and "atemporal" (non-time or above time) mindset. This requires some explanation, so bare with me.

For some the thought of speaking of things outside this world and outside this time might sound too mystical, and some on the other hand, might find this inviting. Yet in reality the Asecularist must learn both to explain one's natural world as well as the hidden meta-seculum (other world that is over our own) of existence which we call the "spiritual world." While I am speaking of spiritual things, I am not speaking of some paranormal world that is completely separate from our own, a teaching that is popular in many cultures and belief systems, but rather the spiritual world that actually touches the here and now. While it is distinctly different, it is not far removed from our own. It is a spirituality that still holds relevant the concept of verifiable Truth.

When I speak of an "atemporal perspective," I mean to imply that we begin to see things in the "upper story," to begin to make sense of how God sees things. This is intended to be in direct contrast to naturalism, which seeks to close the door on rationality when it involves anything in the upper story of spiritualism. The perspective becomes atemporal as it is based on the belief that God is not subject to time. Yet it does not divorce God from time, as the belief maintains that God created all of time for His purposes. Furthermore, He cares very much for it and is actively involved in what He has made.

Unlike the mystic, the Asecularist seeks not to utterly abandon this world, although he/she must be content not to harmonize with it, as it is broken. Moreover, an Asecularist can never embrace this world but must be able to live in contradiction to it in relative peace though it may harm him. Unlike the paranomalist, who deals with the perception of phenomena of this world that are often considered to be contrary to known science. The Asecularist deals with the validity of spiritual truths in the whole of existence. While the Asecularist believes that truth can be perceived from many sources and that even otherwise counter-intellectual voices can convey limited and partial truths, the Asecularist ultimately believes in Absolute Truth.

So finally, if you have not figured it out already an Asecularist is a Christian. Not just any "christian" as the word is thrown around today, but a Christian... a follower of Christ with a capitol "C" that believes in the words of the founder of the faith, namely Jesus. The Asecularist sees the natural world as Jesus sees it. Read His words below on this:

From John 17:13-16

"But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. [1] 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

Yet He does not just leave us in the world aimless as some suppose, He leaves us with His Word (the Bible) which is truth, to be sanctified (set apart in holiness) in truth.

John 17:17-19

17 Sanctify them [2] in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, [3] that they also may be sanctified [4] in truth."

Jesus further teaches elsewhere that He is this truth and it is absolute, there is no other. Jesus Christ, Absolute Truth:

John 14:6 - Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus said these things in time and space and they transpired at a particular point in time. They were not mystical observations disconnected from reality. They are real truth, for life right now.

So to further clarify, the Asecularist is a Christian who believes that there are real and valid answers for the world today, and that spiritual realities have earthly implications. They are not separate in some fashion of spiritual dualism. In fact, the Asecularist believes that God has not divorced spirituality from reason. Rather, that reason and intellect are very much engaged in spirituality.

So now ask yourself, are you a Asecularist?

Read more about how this concept takes shape in my blog post here:
Spirituality Engaging The Heart & Mind