Monday, July 5, 2010

True Spirituality - Substantial Healing In Personal Relationships

True Spirituality - Substantial Healing In Personal Relationships

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

Note: This particular chapter was very important to Schaeffer and the foundations of L'Abri and although it is full of many wonderful insights, it is also quite lengthy. Due to the length of this chapter this study will generally need to be broken into segments. The study has been divided into suggested segments of part 1 and 2. Please use your discretion on how best to divide this section for your group.

- Part 1

Chapter 12
- At the center of the discussion on healing of personal relationships is what Dr. Schaeffer calls "the problem of personality." What Dr. Schaeffer means by this phrase is wrapped up in the dehumanizing effects of living below our circle of existence. At every level when living this way there is a loss of personality.

Let's review for a moment what we have learned. When mankind tries to act as God and fails, he is left in a state of despair and often hopelessness, whether it is obvious to him or not.

Review - Two Forms of Dehumanization

Man as the Animal/Machine (A lower story response.)
From the state of hopelessness man often responds by dehumanizing himself to avoid further hurt and pain. The result is a person who lives in contradiction to how he was made. A person without heart, impersonal, in many ways mechanical and machine-like. By missing the spiritual dynamic, the consequence becomes cyclical and the person is eventually given over to hidden or overt passions bring self destruction.

Man the Mystic (An Upper Story Response)
Of course a second option is possible in which the person responds by rejecting his despair and taking a "leap of faith" into some form of mysticism. So rather than wallow in the failures of the idol of self, the person replaces himself as god with something else. The idol of self is still here, as the person chooses the replacement. However ultimately the belief in some other form of deity is an abstraction. For those who delight in this new-found "synthetic faith", have usually minimalized it to various mere bare principals without depth. So we will often see that these people are optimistic without any real content to what they believe. Some, such as those involved in nature religions for example, may have a somewhat systematized belief system but it is still shallow and does not provide the "upper story" relationship that is needed for fulfillment. Ultimately they are living in contradiction, as God made us to be containers of a truth with real and practical Truth content. 

The Problem of Personality

Communication With the Animal Machine
So with these problems a loss of personality occurs and this touches communication. When man communicates as a machine he is often cold and uncaring, impersonal. When he communicates as an animal he in an area of nature alone. Nature is both cruel and non-cruel, it does not care for you. Furthermore, if man communicates out of some form of leap of faith he speaks in an area of non-reason.

A friend of mine recently changed positions from a ministry setting to a secular work environment. She was overwhelmed by the change of communication in the workplace. Having worked with Christians for sometime she was used to greeting people with friendly smiles and experiencing genuine concern from others. However, she repeatedly found that people were surprised by her smile or responded to it with coldness in her new environment. She shared this moving story with me.

"It’s been a while since I’ve spent much time in a secular workplace. I’m amazed at the impact a simple smile or saying hello has on some people. Some have smiled back; several have thanked me; still others have ignored me completely.

One day, I smiled and said hello as three women (who were talking with each other) got on the elevator with me. They acted as though I wasn’t there at all, didn’t even look at me. (That was surreal, but I kept on smiling.) An hour later…and I’m sure it was the Lord who timed it this way…I got back just in time to hold the door as they returned from lunch. I smiled again and said something like we couldn’t have timed this more perfectly if we’d tried…and they completely ignored me again! The four of us were by ourselves in the elevator, and again it was as though I didn’t exist. The doors opened, they marched out, and I was alone.

You might think I was angry. Not at all; I was more fascinated than anything. It was like being in high school again, where the popular girls ignore the untouchables. When I was young, I would have been devastated by this treatment. Now I think…wow, those women are broken inside.

I can tell I’ve been out of the world too long. My simple smile is needed out here!"

As we think about this story we should consider the dehumanization that occurred. It was blatant and cold. Mankind living in this way continues to do harm and violence to one another.

The Problem of Love

This becomes more complex when we consider the problem of love. Man, from this perspective, does not understand how to communicate love. Since the concept of love itself is skewed when viewed from a mere mechanical or animal perspective, man cannot even hope to communicate it rightly. A machine does not seek love but pursues task for pragmatic reasons. It is not real love, but it sees love as a concept only for what benefit it can bring to itself. Likewise the animal seeks love for the fulfillment of passions, it desires and lust. It too is only concerned with what personal satisfaction can be achieved for itself. Neither of these solutions are ultimately fulfilling. Whether loving out of a pragmatic or lustful mindset, man is left desiring more. When people do not fulfill their concept of love because they are seeking their own interest, mankind is left hurt and further broken. This cycle continues to heap more and more damage on the human heart.

We should be mindful that we are not immune to this. It is us, but for the grace of God that would be living this way. We ourselves often lapse into these mindsets of the carnal nature. If my friend had not been previously inoculated, she also would have been left hurt and unfulfilled by the events she experienced.

This is the background the current chapter speaks to, now we can move on to the subject of healing this starts by learning from God himself.

God's Dealing with Man

Think about how God communicates with us in His Word.

On the Basis Of Existence
"Throughout the Word of God it is made very plain that God deals with us first of all on the basis of what He himself is; and secondly on the basis of what He has made us. He will not violate that which he himself is, nor will he violate that which He has made us to be." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 148

This is important, since so many false religions get this wrong. God deals with us as God, not as an arbitrary force. He remains God in heaven authoritatively at all times, yet He communicates with man distinctly in a way that is mindful of man's perspective.

In a Personal Manner
God is personal and we have been made as personal creatures. He deals with us in a personal manner.

"It is always a person-to-person relationship. More than this, because God is infinite He can deal with each one of us personally as though each one was the only man who existed." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 148

Not Mechanical Or Primarily Legal
"We also find that God's dealings with men is never mechanical. There are no mechanical elements to it it. His dealing with man is also not primarily legal, though there are proper legal aspects to it which are founded and rooted in God's character. The God of the Bible differs from the gods that man makes. He is  a God who has a character, and that character is the law of the universe, total and complete." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 148

It is important to understand what Schaeffer is saying in that last portion quoted. God, while unchangeable deals with mankind creatively and in so many ways. His dealings with mankind are not done blindly in some sort of blind justice, but in real tangible, caring, intelligent and truthful ways. God shows patience, and love, He is long-suffering. Yet at times He displays justified righteous anger. Finally, most of all we should never forget; He shows grace! While His righteous Law condemns us all, thankfully He has shown the greatest sign of mercy in history, in that He gave His Son rather than destroy humanity for their sins. Legally, He has the right and authority to exercise judgment on mankind, nevertheless He he did not, but rather placed the judgment sentence upon His Son.

It must be further clarified that God is legal first only by the nature of His divine character, yet His love and compassion for us superseded that enough to motivate a sacrifice on the part of the Divine Trinity. As I say quite often, "God cared for us enough to inflict himself from all eternity on our behalf." By doing so He both satisfied His Law and stayed true to His heart which was full of steadfast love for us.

Following His Example
Knowing what we have just discussed insist that we ought to deal with God in kind. It is a creature-to-Creator relationship, however, we ought not to be impersonal with God, nor mechanical, or think of Him in terms of just our legal status with Him, but we ought to worship and adore Him personally as He is a personal God. We ought to desire to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul.

Separation From Our Fellowman

By all accounts Francis Schaeffer truly had a deep compassion for people. There seemed to be no one he would not talk to. As we may remember from previous chapters the story of Schaeffer even attending a rock concert in the 60s at Berkley to talk with young people. Udo Middelmann, comments in the forward of No Little People, on Schaeffer's character.

"It was not a gimmick, a model, or a method but a deep conviction. He was not slick, he revolted against false appearances of leadership, growth statistics, and any show, in which he saw dangers pretense, performance and praise of men. "

I believe that much of Schaeffer's motivation for his type of open interaction with people was wrapped up in what we have just covered. Understanding the dilemma of man, and the proper relationship that man should have with God drew him into deep compassion for the Christian as well as broken and hurting people.

When we analyze Schaeffer's view of our separation from our fellowman, it is essentially  two-fold. On one level there is a separation in that they are separated from God, both legally and personally, and secondly on the basis that they are broken as we have already described. They are broken by the results of the bonds of sin. Now, granted some are broken worse than others but the simple brokenness of their personal disconnect from their creator is enough. Nevertheless, we should be guarded not to assume ourselves greater. But for the Grace of God we also would be in various states of brokenness. Furthermore, we all deal with resolving brokenness on some level in the process of sanctification, we just have the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

        Love Thy Neighbor
"And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth." Acts 17:26a

"You shall love your neighbor as yourself" Matt 19:19b

Schaeffer further elaborates that there is no distinction in the word "neighbor" between Christian and non-Christian.

  • Mankind-to-mankind or equal-to-equal - We should deal with man as one of man and not as something lower. Even if man behaves as an animal or machine at times we ought not treat him without dignity. It is by showing dignity to man that he may see the worth and value that he truly is.
  • Mankind-to-Creator-to-Mankind - We must recognize that the connection between ourselves and our fellow man goes through God. When we address on our fellow man we address God's creation.
"Every time we act in a machine-like way toward another man we deny the central teaching of the Word of God-that there is a personal God who has created man in His own image." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 150
Obviously, these precepts carry over to our interaction with man in evangelism.
While there is a legal relationship that must be communicated to mankind;

"The church has always recognized "..."This is an ordinance to to all men" Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 151 (In context Schaeffer is commenting on the legal aspect of marriage and an ordinance to all men.)

We ought not to be cold salesmen, but show empathy, concern and compassion toward men.

"We are not to stop with a proper legal relationship for example, to think of a man as legally lost, which he is, in the sight of a holy God - without thinking of him as a person. Saying this, we can suddenly see that much evangelism is not only sub-Christian, but subhuman-legalistic and impersonal" Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 151

        A Right Demonstration of The Truth Within Us
The demonstration of truth in the life of the believer is an apologetic to the non-believer.

"The Christian is to be a demonstration of the existence of God. But if we as individual Christians, and as the Church, act on less than a personal relationship to other men, where is the demonstration that God the Creator is personal? If there is no demonstration in our attitude toward other men that we really take seriously the person-to-person relationship, we might as well keep quiet. There must be a demonstration; that is our calling: to show that there is a reality in personal relationship, and not just words about it." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 153

Living out lovelessness on the other hand is not only un-godly it obscures the truth about out existence.

"Lovelessness is a sea which knows no shore, for it is what God is not." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 153

In demonstrating the truth we must also not forsake doctrine, otherwise we are not in the truth at all.

"As Christians, we are not to be in fellowship with false doctrine. But in the very midst of the battle against false teaching, we must not forget the proper personal relationships." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 153

L'Abri, The Shelter
It is the opinion of the writer that one cannot fully experience the scope of what this section implies without visiting L'Abri. There are many locations around the world. As Dr. Schaeffer says at the beginning of this book, "Without the material in this book, there would be no L'Abri. Much of what has been described in this section spells out the concepts lived out at L'Abri on a daily basis. For more on L'Abri visit

Part 2

Dethroning Self In the Midst of Truth
"Every time I see something right in another man, it tends to minimize me, and it makes it easier for me to have a proper creature-creature relationship. But each time I see something wrong in others, it is dangerous, for it can exalt self, and when this happens. my open fellowship with God falls to the ground. So when I am right, I can be wrong. In the midst of being right, if self is exalted, my fellowship with God can be destroyed. It is not wrong to be right, but it is wrong to have the wrong attitude in being right."  Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 153

The Use of Knowledge
Schaeffer brings out something here that is so very important, both in our daily lives and especially in our study of Schaeffer. It is so easy, once one builds a body of knowledge of how things should be, to then turn and use that knowledge on others. If this knowledge is not filtered through the grace of God we can take on a self-righteous attitude that is abusive to others. We can be completely right, and yet completely evil in how we wield that knowledge. It is not wrong to judge, if by judge we mean to judge rightly (John 7:24). However, when we judge and then degrade others and elevate ourselves we have judged in error.

The Example of the Family

"The next practical question must be, If I am to see myself as equal to all other men, and I live in a fallen world in which there has to be order imposed, where is this order to come from?" Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 154

Parent-to-Child & Child-to-Parent
Schaeffer of course answers this, clarifying that order comes from the Bible. Yet he places an important emphasis on the fifth commandment, "Honor Thy Father and     Mother." He hopes to point out that the family is the model. For while there is a legal relationship between the parent and child, there is also a personal aspect. In order for there to be harmony these must be balanced.

"The children are to love the parents, and the parents are to love the children on a personal level, within the legal framework." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 154

Thus likewise, as has been stated in the earlier parts of this chapter our relationships must be balanced. We do not deal with others legally and constantly calling them on their sinfulness, but with personal compassion in a balance of truth and love.

Husband & Wife
Dr. Schaeffer spends a good deal of time in Ephesian 5. Which largely deals with the divine roles of marriage in the ladder section. I would suggest that for summary purposes we concentrate on the verses that deal so effectively with this point.

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Here again Schaeffer's analysis holds true. While there are Biblical offices in the situation of marriage (a legal framework), there are also personal compassion and the honor of submitting to each other (v.21) in love in the marital relationship. There must be both or abuse will transpire in one form or another.

In The Church
Likewise, Dr. Schaeffer points us to passages of scripture that shows this same perscription for the church.

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:1-5

Note the usage of both a legal command to "exercise oversight" and the compassionate aspect warning not to "domineer over those in their charge." Yet further this is a command to all where the apostle says, "all of you, " but this is no arbitrary command. He commands them to "clothe themselves" in humility. Literally, he means, "Wear it!" It one thing to tell you to be humble in certain occasions but he specifically means all the time.

In Our Office (Our Station In Life)

"... when I use whatever office God gives me, whether it is in the State, the Church, or the home, or as an employer, it is to be for God's glory and for the other person's good." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 156

When we must make judgments, especially those of right and wrong, we must:

"...consciously show that all I can do is let the Bible speak. I have no intrinsic authority in myself. I am an equal creature with the other person, and I too am a sinner" Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 156-157

Dr. Schaeffer reminds us how we must be different that the humanist.

"One of the problems with humanist is that they tend to "love" humanity as a whole —Man with a capital M, Man as an idea—but forget about man as an individual, as a person. Christianity is to be exactly the opposite. Christianity is not to be love in abstraction, but to love the individual who stands before me in a person-to-person relationship."  Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 157

In true personal relationship there must be reconciliation. It is impossible to be personal without addressing the hurts of others, especially when we ourselves are responsible.

"When I hurt the man, I sin against God. But let us never forget that this does not change the fact that because man has been made in the image of God, the man I have hurt has real value. And this must be important to me, not only as a concept but in my practice and demonstation. My fellowman is not unimportant: he is God's image-bearer. That is true of the non-Christian man as well as of the Christian. " Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 157

We must be, "...willing to admit our equality with the one we have hurt. Being his equal it is perfectly right that I should want to say, "I am sorry." Only a desire to be superior makes me afraid to confess and apologize." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 158

"Of course, confession to God must always come first. It is confession to God and bringing sin under the shed blood of Christ that cleanses us—not confession to man. We must always stress that, over and over again, because men get confused. But this does not change the fact that after there has been confession to God, then there must be real communication in a man-to-man, personal relationship with the person I have hurt." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 158

  1. Not to do it to merely be seen by men.
  2. It may mean going back many years.
  3. Just as Christ crucifixion was real and public, so must our confession of sin to others (used with patient discretion in the situation).

The Bridge
In the closing parts of the chapter Dr. Schaeffer uses the topic of marriage and relationships to clarify the false integration in relationships and the Biblical answer.

"Modern multiple divorce is rooted in the fact that many are seeking in human relationships what human relationships can never give. Why do they have multiple divorce, instead of merely promiscuous affairs? Because they are seeking more than merely the sexual relationship. But they can never find it, because what they are seeking does not exist in a purely finite relationship. It is like trying to quench thirst by swallowing sand.
    If man tries to find everything in a man-woman or a friend-to-friend relationship, he destroys the very thing he wants and destroys the ones he loves. He sucks them dry, he eats them up... " Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 161

By doing this we have overloaded the bridge. Schaeffer uses the illustration of "The Bridge" elsewhere, such as in How Shall We Then Live. The concept is that when a meaningful pathway is forced to carrying a weight it was not intended to bare it will collapse. In relationships when we put unrealistic expectations on another we will find them wanting and destroy "the bridge" of personal communication, and thus the relationship. Being personal requires that we are understanding of the imperfections of ourselves and others and respond with grace and patience through our relationship with God. The body is an instrument, but it was never intended to be fulfill a demand for perfection, which only God can fulfill.

I have strung together several of the passages where Schaeffer clarifies relationship using the intimate marriage analogy.

"Love is the interplay of the whole personality. The relationship of the personal, and the whole personality of man is the unit of the soul and the body... The emphasis in Scripture is upon the unity of the man, the unity of the soul and the body. And with communication—substantial, though not perfect—the body is the instrument. Actually there is no other way to have communication, except through the body. But in marriage this becomes a very special thing to understand. Sexual love and romantic love are both equally out of place if they are extramarital and therefore outside the proper legal circle... but if the couple stand as personalities— personality facing personality—within that which is the proper legal circle, then both the romantic and the sexual has its fulfillment in the full circle fo what we are, in thinking, acting, and feeling... There is to be joy and beuty in the interplay of the total personalities." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 162

Dr. Schaeffer is bringing us now to the understanding of living out both the legal aspect of our relationships (truth) and fulfilling the personal aspects of our relationships (love). This sort of love is the love that is spoken of in 1 Cor. 13.

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.

Love never ends. 1 Cor 13:4-8a

I have personally come to see these passages as the most convicting passages in scripture and I believe they are exactly what Schaeffer is talking about. How often to we try to live out love imperfectly? We love but we are envious. We love and yet we boast in ourselves. We love but we are arrogant and rude to those we love. We love but we insist on our own way. We love but we are irritable or resentful. We love but we ignore wrongdoing and do not stand for the truth. We love but we do not bear all things or endure all things. We love but we do not hope all things, we do not love enough to not covet against God and man. We come full circle now back to the law of love in chapter 1. True love, which is steadfast and immovable is beautiful and fulfilling. 

"How beautiful Christianity is! First because of the sparkling quality of its intellectual answers, but secondly because of the beautiful quality of its human personal answers. And these are to be rich and beautiful." Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 164

Dr. Schaeffer summarizes and concludes the chapter by stating this is fun. There is a joy to be had in the Christian life as we experience beauty of Christ centered personal relationships.

"They [the answers] come only on the level of what God made us to be in the first place, and that is personal. There is no other way to have these beautiful answers. They cannot be achieved mechanically, or by only standing in the proper legal circle, as important as that is. They grow in the light of what wesay we believe as orthodoc Christians: that we are creatures, and that while we are not perfect in this life, even after becoming Christians, yet moment-by-moment faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, beautiful human relationships can and do come forth. There must be orthodox doctrine, true. But there must also be orthodox practice of those doctrines, including orthodocy in the human relationships.
    I hesitate to add, but I will, that this is fun. God means Christianity to be fun. There is to be a reality of love and communication in the Christian-to-Christian relationship, individually and corporately, which is completely and truly personal."



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