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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Rick Pearcey on Francis Schaeffer featured a tribute to Francis Schaeffer earlier this month in honor of the 50th anniversary of the founding of L’Abri Fellowship. Schaeffer’s writings were highly influential in my own “coming to Christ,” so to speak, as were C. S. Lewis’ and Thomas Merton’s. I appreciated Pearcey’s article very much, as it brought back from distant memory several values of the Schaeffers’ that made a deep impression on me at the time and remain important to me to this day.

A few excerpts from the article:

For Schaeffer, "belief" that such a God exists was not a matter of subjective "faith," but rather a reasoned conclusion based on evidence. As a teenager, and then again later as an adult, Schaeffer had worked through agnosticism and concluded that the Judeo-Christian worldview is objectively true -- that is, that the system of thought and life set forth in the Old and New Testaments answers the basic philosophic questions of life in a way that is rationally consistent, historically verifiable, and existentially livable. (emphasis added)

In addition to taking God seriously, Schaeffer also took students and other searching people seriously as individuals whose questions should not be relegated to "smokescreen" status -- as a front for spiritual rebellion, for example -- but rather respected as the searchings of people who need answers to basic questions.

This is where I can find myself slipping...for shame. I remember how I hated not being taken seriously (and still do!), yet I guess I’ve learned too much about the disingenuousness of people to “believe all things” as I should. Lord, help me.

But, however important, and Biblical, is this emphasis on having solid intellectual grounds for affirming the existence of God, Schaeffer felt something else was needed -- namely, "the demonstration [italics added] that the Personal-Infinite God is really there in our generation"...He realized that people need to see an exhibition that God actually exists.

In the real world of some big-time Christian ministries, fundraising too often makes the world go round, and a financial shortfall might well result not in an honest reexamination of one's methods and a renewed questioning regarding where God may be leading, but rather in firing staff and re-oiling the money machine. Schaeffer regarded such an approach not just as un-Biblical, but also as profoundly ugly and destructive, regardless of how much outward "success" or "influence for Christ" an organization or person might appear to achieve in this life in supposed centers of power.

[The Schaeffers] weren't focused on trying to build a powerbase, create a constituency, lead a huge organization, rehabilitate a reputation, craft an image, recover past glory, carefully manufacture celebrity, or impose a legacy. Rather, they simply made themselves available to God to be helpful to people and decided to let the results take care of themselves. (emphasis added)

Schaeffer did not reject planning per se, but he did specifically reject the practice of allowing human planning to replace the possibility of moment-by-moment leadership from the Lord. For this reason, the third founding principle of L'Abri was that "we pray that God will plan the work, and unfold His plan to us (guide us, lead us) day by day, rather than planning the future in some clever or efficient way in committee meetings."

I find this instructive even as a mom who has a household to manage, children to raise and educate, and a million other things to do. I have tried in the past to be a “scheduler” but always ended up feeling shackled, trapped, confused when things got in the way of the schedule or got “off” (as they invariably did), and frustrated. For awhile I figured I just didn’t have the right mental outlook, or the proper discipline, or something. Then I decided to schedule much more loosely and flexibly, and wow! suddenly I felt able to be truer to what I should be doing at any particular time (or at least to know what that should be, even if I, ahem, chose not to do it...)

I also find this principle applicable to worship service planning. I believe that God can and does work through plans, but sometimes (often?) plans do not take into account the exact circumstances of the time for which the plans were intended, the time in which the Holy Spirit meets us: moment by moment. I think of it as analogous to preparation of a piece of music for performance: one must do one’s homework; i.e., maintain the basics of performance on one’s instrument necessary for execution of the piece, as well as gain proper familiarity with the music. Yet, when the moment for performance comes, there are usually variables that can be known only as they happen. At that point, one must be open to these things and able to adapt on the spot via reliance upon one’s musical gifting (and experience).
But [Shaeffer’s] own life struggles had brought him to a place of understanding that the practice of being alive to God moment by moment is far more crucial to authentic living as a person, to genuine success in ministry, to real victory in the seen and unseen world, than any plan or program devised by the well-heeled, the well-known, and powerful ever could be.

This authenticity regarding people really set Schaeffer apart. Again, not as a perfect person by any means, but as real. (emphasis added)


Thanks to Rick Pearcey himself for tipping me off to this article.


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