Saturday, January 2, 2010

True Spirituality - The Supernatural ...

True Spirituality - The Supernatural Universe

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

Chapter 5 -  Chapter 5 begins a subsection which Dr. Schaeffer calls Biblical Unity and True Spirituality. Here he wishes to further clarify the unity of the Bible and it's practical connection with the spirituality of the Christian in time and space. He begins by further elaborating on the "reality" of the spiritual universe and challenges the notions of Naturalism.

Against Naturalism
His first words are, "Our Generation is overwhelmingly naturalistic". It is important to realize what Dr. Schaeffer means to teach us in this chapter that is different from the previous chapters. It is simply this... if the spiritual world and the natural world are linked as he has already established, then when one removes the spiritual perspective, spiritual words no longer have meaning. Logic as a whole breaks down and this has happened on a global scale. Yet there is truth found through living by the agency of the Holy Spirit.

"For example, we have said that we are to love God enough to say, 'Thank You' even for the difficult things. We must immediately understand, as we say this, that this has no meaning whatsoever unless we live in a personal universe in which there is a personal God who objectively exist." Francis Schaeffer, pg. 60 (1971), pg. 54 (2001) True Spirituality

We also have considered Christ's redemptive death, which has no meaning whatsoever outside the relationship of a supernatural world. The only reason the words 'redemptive death' have any meaning is that there is a personal God who exist and, more than that has a character. He is not morally neutral. When man sins against that character, which is the law of the universe, he is guilty, and God will judge that man on the basis of true moral guilt. In such a setting the words 'redemptive death of Christ' have meaning, otherwise they cannot." Francis Schaeffer, pg. 61 (1971), pg. 55 (2001) True Spirituality

Face to Face Relationship
Likewise, Dr. Schaeffer wishes the reader to grasp a "face to face" relationship with the supernatural world. This is not unlike the view of the Reformers, "Coram Deo : Before the face of God". Schaeffer elaborates that this prescription requires a complete view of the supernatural  concept. He puts special emphasis on our role as the bride of Christ .

"The Bible insist that we live in reality in a supernatural universe.  But if we remove the objective reality of the supernatural universe in any area, this great reality of Christ the bridegroom bringing forth fruit through us immediately falls to the floor, and all that Christianity is at such a point is a psychological and sociological aid, a mere tool." Francis Schaeffer, pg. 62 (1971), pg. 56 (2001) True Spirituality

Dr. Schaeffer here takes a moment to contrast this view with that of Aldrous Huxley. For the uninitiated, Aldrous Huxley was a writer that heavily influences the 60s drug culture and advocated the use of  LSD and other drugs to aid in spiritual experience. Huxley viewed religion as a mere psychological mechanism. Schaeffer makes a rather significant reply at the end of this chapter addressing this Huxleyian notion.

The Supernatural is Not Remote
It also need to be clarified that scripture affirms that the spiritual world is not remote or abstract  as some like Huxley have proposed, but rather very close.

"And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight." Luke 24:31

 "Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God's camp!” So he called the name of that place Mahanaim [meaning "two camps]. Genesis 32:1

"15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. "
2 Kings 15-17

The Two Chairs
Dr. Schaeffer here uses an illustration called "the chair" ( Schaeffer also further elaborated on this concept in his book "Death in the City"). The imagery of the chair was common in the philosophy of Plato, where he contemplates ultimate ideals and realities. In a different sense, Schaeffer here in a rather poetic manner uses the imagery of "the chair" to ask us to examine what ultimate reality we embrace by sitting in one of two chairs of thought. Like the Socrates quote, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” we not only need to examine our life but our perceptions of ultimate realities as foundational truth for life in time and space.

"I suggest that this may be illustrated by two chairs. The men who sit in these chairs look at the universe in two different ways. We are all sitting in one or other of these chairs at every single moment of our loves. The first man sits in his chair and faces this total reality of the univers, the seen part and the normally unseen part, and consistently sees truth against this background [the Christian] ."..."The unbeliever however, is the man who sits in the other chair, intellectually. He sees only the natural part of the universe, and interprets truth against that background. Let us see that these two positions cannot both be true. One is true: one is false." Francis Schaeffer, pg. 63 (1971), pg. 57 (2001) True Spirituality

Furthermore, the question is made even more personal.

"If a man sits in one chair, and denies the existence of the supernatural portion of the world, we say he is an unbeliever. What shall we call ourselves when we sit in the other chair but live as though the supernatural is not there? Should not an attitude be given the name 'unfaith?'" Francis Schaeffer, pg. 63 (1971), pg. 57 (2001) True Spirituality

Schaeffer goes on to say that those who are living in this way are only 'playing at it'. It's really that simple isn't it? It's not real, it's unfaith!

Not A Mere Dialectic Or Good Philosopy
There have been so many who have wished to borrow from the Christian faith with kind words and yet not give it full credence.  These are those who set in the second chair of unfaith.

"Christianity is a good philisophy. I think it is the best philosophy that ever has existed. More than this, it is the only philosophy that is consistent with itself and answers the questions. It is a good philosophy precisely because it deals with problems and gives us answers to them. Nevertheless, it is not only a good philosophy. The Bible does not speak in abstractions; it does not tell about a religious idea far away. It tells about man as man. It tells about each individual, as each man is an individual. And it tells us how to live in the real universe as it is now. Remove this factor, and it becomes only a dialectic."  Francis Schaeffer, pg. 64 (1971), pg. 58 (2001), True Spirituality

Our Experience Is Not A Bare Supernaturalism

While our faith is not merely intellectual, it is also not merely experiential.

"We do not need a dark room; we do not need to be under the influence of a hallucinatory drug; we do not need to be listening to a certain kind of music; we can know the reality of the supernatural here and now.
    The experiential result, however is not just an experience of 'bare' supernaturalism, without content, without our being able to describe or communicate with it. It is much more. It is a momemnt-by-moment, increasing, experiential relationship with the whole Trinity. The doors are open now: the intellectual doors, and also the doors to reality."
 Francis Schaeffer, pg 70 (1970), pg. 62 (2001) True Spirituality

Dr. Schaeffer's mention of the concept of the "intellectual doors" is by no mistake here. It is a vivid reply to the ideas of secular mysticism and Aldrous Huxley. One of  Huxley's books in fact was entitled "The Doors of Perception & Heaven and Hell" based off of a quote from William Blake.
"If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern." William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Interestingly enough this concept would later be the influence of the naming of the psychedelic rock band, The Doors. Schaeffer was mindful of these sort of connections and the perils of the 60s drug culture. He even visited Berkeley during this time and not only observed but was well versed in much of the music of the day. Biographer Colin Duriez documents that he even went to a Jefferson Airplane concert. Here are Edith's remarks.

"In Berkeley... we not only sat and talked about the problems of the '60s, but after the discussion one night, went to Fillmore West. There we mulled around with the hippies and druggies... We watched the light show, breathed the heavy air, and sorrowed over... the glassy-eyed young people... Our brains whirled not only with the music, which threatened in volume to break the ear drums, and the dizzying effect of the light show, but with the lostness of humanity in search of 'peace' where there is no peace.... A time of listening is needed--listening to what the next generation is saying, listening to the words of the music they are listening to, listening to the meaning behind the words. If true communication is to continue, there is a language to be learned" Edith Schaeffer, Duriez, Francis Schaeffer An Authentic Life, pg 99 - Original Quote from Edith Schaeffer, The Tapestry, 527-528

Dr. Schaeffer closes the chapter with the statement that this is the "how" to live and exhibit true reality and true spirituality. The "how" is being consistent with our faith in the crucified and risen Christ, living by the aid if the holy spirit by faith.

A few interesting historical notes in regard to Huxley:

It is rumored that Aldrous Huxley was introduced to peyote by occultist Aleister Crowly in October of 1930.  Aleister Crowly also influenced such occultist as Anton Lavey, the founder of the so-called "Church of Satan" and author of the satanic bible.

Apparently Aldrous Huxley and C.S. Lewis both passed away on the same day that J. F. Kennedy was shot and died.

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