Article of the Month
by Francis Schaeffer
Second, we and our churches must take truth seriously. The great tragedy is that in all our countries, evangelicalism under the name of evangelicalism is destroying evangelicalism. Orthodoxy under the name of orthodoxy is destroying orthodoxy. Take the Free University of Amsterdam, that great school which under Abraham Kuyper really spoke for God, not only in theology but in its understanding of culture. Today the Theology Department in the Free University discredits the Scripture. In America it is the same. We have theological seminaries that call themselves evangelical and no longer hold to the Scriptures, especially the first half of Genesis, as fully inspired in their historic content. In England it is the same. T. H. Huxley spoke as a prophet in 1890 when he said that there would come a day when faith would be separated from all fact (especially all pre-Abrahamic history), and faith would go on triumphant forever. That is where not only the liberal theologians are, but also the evangelical, orthodox theologians who begin to tone down on the truth, the propositional truth of Scripture which God has given us.
The key here is antithesis. If a statement is true, its opposite is not true. We must take this very seriously. Many of us in the name of evangelicalism are letting it slip through our fingers. Unless we accept the modern twentieth-century concept that religious truth is only psychological truth, then if there is that which is true, the opposite is not true. Two religions that teach exactly opposite things may both be wrong, but they cannot both be right. We must act upon, witness, and preach this fact: what is contrary to God’s revealed propositional truth is not true, whether it is couched in Hindu terms or traditional Christian terms with new meanings.
All the areas of our personal and corporate life, especially our corporate religious life, must be affected. The early church allowed itself to be condemned, both by the secular and religious authorities. They said, “We must preach, we must witness publicly; we must obey God rather than man.” In Acts 4:19, 20 they said: In obedience to God, we must say what we have seen, and we must say what we have heard regardless of any authority that would tell us to be quiet. They practiced antithesis.
Students from London School of Economics, Harvard, the Sorbonne, from Africa and Asia and from the ends of the earth, have come to L’Abri with their packs on their backs. But if you think they would listen to us if we were not willing to say that what Christianity teaches (what God has spoken) stands as an antithesis to its opposite, you do not understand your own children or your own age. Our credibility is already minus 5 if we do not say what is false and wrong in contrast to what is true and right. It is minus 405 if we are not willing to stand practically in the arena of antithesis. Some Christians think they will be listened to more if they give in a bit at some points concerning the Scripture, but they are mistaken—they have given away the answers which are needed.
But if first we must speak Christianity with a clear content and an emphasis on truth as over against what is not true, equally we must practice truth. This was the stress in my speech to the Berlin Congress on Evangelism, “The Practice of Truth,” and it has been what I have stressed at many places, and at many times, since.
We must practice the truth even when it is costly. We must practice it when it involves church affiliation or evangelistic cooperation. There is a difference between having a public discussion with a liberal theologian and inviting him to pray in our program. There is a difference between personal fellowship with a Christian and publicly acting in such a way that others would conclude it makes no difference when central points have been compromised.
This is a time to show to a generation which thinks that the concept of truth is unthinkable that we do take truth seriously. This means we must carefully consider the principle of the purity of the visible church and what discipline in regard to both life and doctrine means. We may differ at certain points in application, but the concepts must be discussed and put into practice under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Two biblical principles have to be considered in their interrelationship: (1) the principle of the purity of the visible church; and (2) the principle that the world has a right to judge whether we are Christians and whether the Father sent the Son, on the basis of observable love shown among all true Christians.
If we practice latitudinarianism either individually or corporately in an age like our own, we have removed our credibility before the non-Christian, post-Christian, relativistic, skeptical, lost world.
If you think that those who have rejected the plastic culture and are sick of hypocrisy are going to be impressed when you talk about truth and at the same time practice untruth, you are wrong. They will never listen. You have cut the ground from under yourself. We live in a generation that does not believe that such a thing as truth is possible, and if you practice untruth while talking about truth, the real thinkers will just say, “Garbage!”
Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer is widely recognized as one of the most influential Christian thinkers of the day. He is the author of twenty-two books which have been translated into twenty-five foreign languages, with more than three million copies in print.
Dr. Schaeffer has lectured frequently at leading universities in the U.S. and abroad. With his wife, Edith, the Schaeffers founded L’Abri Fellowship, an international study center and community in Switzerland with branches in England, The Netherlands, Sweden, and the U.S.
Among Dr. Schaeffer’s most influential books are The God Who Is There, Escape From Reason, He Is There and He Is Not Silent, and The Mark of the Christian. His two most recent books — How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? (written with Dr. C. Everett Koop) — have also been produced as major film series. Whether in books, films or the work of L’Abri, Dr. Schaeffer has proclaimed a common theme — the uncompromising Truth of historic, biblical Christianity and its relevance for all of life.
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