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.
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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.

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