In the course of this book
we have focused attention on the way God looks at the culture of our
day, and at both the men with the Bible and the men without the Bible
who have turned away. In this final chapter we will examine the way
God looks at those who have the Bible and have responded by believing
in the God who is there and are relying on the finished work of Christ
in space-time history for the removal of their guilt before a holy God.
As we have seen, Paul says
in Romans 1:17 that the just shall live by faith. That is, they shall
not only be initially justified by faith, but they shall live existentially
by reliance on God and faith in Him. We turn now to see what living
by faith means in our twentieth-century world.
First let us note that
we who live in the second half of the twentieth century live in an increasingly
complicated universe Ė much more complicated for us than for men just
a few years ago. Our telescopes see further and we speak of light years
running up into great numbers; the very magnitude of these numbers confuses
us. On the other hand, our physicists deal with smaller and smaller
particles, and as mass retreats into energy and energy into formulae,
reality seems to slip through our fingers. As we look at those light
years, we shrink away. And as we look at the tiny particles, we grow
like Alice in Wonderland. But our size here does not really help us
because we tend to become uncomfortable as we see material reality reduced
to sets of mathematical formulae and energy particles dashing about
at furious speed. Yet we must understand, if we are going to live as
Christians, that while these things indeed are complicated and confusing,
nevertheless from the biblical viewpoint the universe is simple.
Let me illustrate this.
Imagine a room, the curtains pulled and the doors locked. Let us suppose
that this room is the only universe that God has made. Now that would
be possible. God could have made such a universe. So let us say that
the only universe that exists is this room with the doors locked and
the curtains pulled. There is nothing outside at all, absolutely nothing.
We are in a universe that can be seen with one look around the room.
Now let us go further.
Suppose we have two chairs in this room and that sitting on these two
chairs are two men, the only two men in the universe. As we consider
them, we find that they differ. One is a totally consistent materialist.
As far as he is concerned, the universe is made up of nothing but mass,
energy and motion; that is all there is to it. On the other chair sits
a Christian who lives in the light of the teaching of the Bible as the
propositional revelation of God. And these two sit facing each other
in a universe in which they sit alone. After they have looked at each
other for a while, the materialist says, "Now, Iím going to
explore our universe." And the Christian replies, "Thatís
fine." So the materialist begins to analyse the universe, and
it takes him a long time. He goes through all the scientific processes
that we now use to examine our own universe. He uses the sciences of
chemistry, biology, physics, etc.. He goes back to the periodic table,
and behind the periodic table into the atom and examines it. He examines
everything from the paint on the wall to the more basic particles. All
this takes him a long time.
Finally as an older man,
he comes to the Bible-believing Christian and brings him a big set of
books, and he says, "Now hereís a set of books, theyíre nicely
bound, and they give in great detail a description of our universe."
So the Christian takes a number of months, even years, to study these
books with care. Finally the Christian turns to the materialist and
says, "Well, this is a tremendous work. You have really told
me a great deal about my universe that I wouldnít otherwise have known.
However, my friend, this is all very fine, but itís drastically incomplete."
And you can imagine this
man, who has spent his lifetime pouring out his heart to do his measuring
and his weighing, suddenly taken aback. He turns and says to the Christian,
"Well, now, Iím shocked that you tell me itís not all here.
What have I missed?" And then the Christian responds something
like this: "I have a book here, the Bible, and it tells me things
that you do not know. It tells me the origin of the universe. Your scientific
investigation by its very nature cannot do that. And it also says nothing
about where you and I as men came from. You have examined us because
we, like the paint on the wall, are phenomena in the universe. Youíve
studied something of our psychology and even given me several volumes
on it, but you have not told me how we came to be here. In short, you
donít know the origin of either the universe or us."
the Christian continues, "I know from this book that there is
more to the universe than you have described. There is an unseen portion
as well as a seen portion. And there is a cause-and-effect relationship
between them. They are not mutually exclusive, but are parts of one
reality. Itís as if you had taken an orange, sliced it in half, and
only concerned yourself with one of the halves. To understand reality
in our universe properly, you have to consider both halves Ė both the
seen and the unseen."
In this sense "supernatural"
is not a good word to describe the unseen portion. We must understand
that the unseen portion of the universe is just as natural and as real
as is the seen portion. Furthermore, the seen and the unseen are not
totally separated. When we do certain things, it makes a difference
in the unseen world and things in the unseen world make a difference
in the seen world. The Christian would say to the materialist, "Your
volume on the philosophy of history just does not hang together. The
reason is that you are only looking at half of whatís there: you are
only looking at half of history; you do not take into account the unseen
portion. Consequently, your philosophy of history will never be sound."
He is right: nobody has ever produced a satisfactory philosophy of history
beginning with the materialistic viewpoint. There is too much in the
seen world that does not make sense when taken as if it were all there
is. One cannot produce a philosophy of history based on only half of
Now what happens next?
These two men look at each other rather askance because their two primary
views of the universe are set one against the other. The materialist
replies: "Youíre crazy. Youíre talking about things you canít
see." And the consistent Christian responds, "Well,
you may say I am crazy because Iím talking about things I cannot see,
but you are completely unbalanced. You only know half of your own universe."
Let us notice something
extremely important: these two views can never be brought into synthesis.
One man is not a little right and the other a little right and a synthesis
better than both. These are two mutually exclusive views Ė one is right
and one is wrong. If you say less than this, then you reduce Christianity
to a psychological crutch, a glorified aspirin. That does not mean that
the Christian cannot glean much detail from the materialistís observation.
But as far as the comprehensive view of the universe is concerned, there
can be no synthesis. Either this man is right and that man is wrong,
or that man is right and this man is wrong. It is a total antithesis.
Pursue their situation
further. Suppose that on the wall of their room there is a large clock.
All of a sudden it stops. And these two men turn around and say, "What
a pity! The clock has stopped." The materialist says, "That
will never do, and because there are only you and I in this universe,
one of us must clamber up the wall and start the clock. Thereís nobody
else to do it." The Christian replies, "Now wait a
moment. Yes, itís possible for one of us to climb up and start the clock,
but there is another possibility. I may talk to the one who made this
universe (one who is not in the universe in the sense of it merely being
an extension of his essence) and he can start the clock."
Here is a tremendous difference
in attitude. You can imagine the materialistís reaction. "Now
I know youíre crazy. Youíre talking about someone we canít see starting
a material clock." Anyone who has been doing modern twentieth-century
thinking will realize the relevance of this. And I also think we may
here see why so many Christians have no reality. They are not certain
that it is possible for the God who made the universe to start the clock
when a Christian talks to Him.
Let me give you an illustration
from experience. Once I was flying at night over the North Atlantic.
It was in 1947, and I was coming back from my first visit to Europe.
Our plane, one of those old DC4ís with two engines on each wing, was
within two or three minutes of the middle of the Atlantic. Suddenly
two engines on one wing stopped. I had already flown a lot, and so I
could feel the engines going wrong. I remember thinking, if Iím going
to go down into the ocean, Iíd better get my coat. When I did, I said
to the hostess, "Thereís something wrong with the engines."
She was a bit snappy and said, "You people always think thereís
something wrong with the engines." So I shrugged my shoulders,
but I took my coat. I had no sooner sat down, than the lights came on
and a very agitated co-pilot came out. "Weíre in trouble,"
he said. "Hurry and put on your life jackets."
So down we went, and we
fell and fell, until in the middle of the night with no moon we could
actually see the water breaking under us in the darkness. And as we
were coming down, I prayed. Interestingly enough, a radio message had
gone out, an SOS that was picked up and broadcast immediately all over
the United States in a flash news announcement: "There is a
plane falling in the middle of the Atlantic." My wife heard
about this and at once she gathered our three little girls together
and they knelt down and began to pray. They were praying in St Louis,
Missouri, and I was praying on the plane. And we were going down and
Then, while we could see
the waves breaking beneath us and everybody was ready for the crash,
suddenly the two motors started, and we went on into Gander. When we
got down I found the pilot and asked what happened. "Well,"
he said, "itís a strange thing, something we canít explain.
Only rarely do two motors stop on one wing, but you can make an absolute
rule that when they do, they donít start again. We donít understand
it." So I turned to him and I said, "I can explain
it." He looked at me: "How?" And I said, "My
Father in heaven started it because I was praying." That man
had the strangest look on his face and he turned away. Iím sure he was
the man sitting in the materialistís chair.
But here is the point:
there is no distinction between the clock starting and those motors
starting. Is it or is it not possible for the God who made the mechanistic
portion of the universe to start the clock or start the motors? Is it
or isnít it? The materialist must say no; the Bible-believing Christian,
at least in theory, says yes.
We are not dealing with
God as though He were a machine. He is personal, and as we pray He does
not respond mechanically, but as the Personal-Infinite God. The point
is that He is there and He can, and does, act into the universe He has
Now then, let us get away
from our small universe and suddenly throw wide the curtains, open the
doors, push out the walls, the ceiling, and the floor, and have the
universe as it is in its full size, as it has been created by God. Instead
of two men, there are many men in the universe, but still represented
by these two. What we must see is that no matter how deeply we get into
the particles of matter or how much we learn by our telescopes and radio
telescopes about the vastness of the created universe, in reality the
universe is no more complicated than the room we have been talking about.
It is only larger. Looking at the bigger universe, we either see it
as the materialist sees it or as the Christian sees it: We see it with
the one set of presuppositions or the other.
However, what one must
realize is that seeing the world as a Christian does not mean just saying,
"I am a Christian. I believe in the supernatural world,"
and then stopping. It is possible to be saved through faith in Christ
and then spend much of our lives in the materialistís chair. We can
say we believe in a supernatural world, and yet live as though there
were no supernatural in the universe at all. It is not enough merely
to say, "I believe in a supernatural world." We must
ask, "Which chair am I sitting in at this given existential
moment?" We must live in the present: "Sufficient unto
the day is the evil thereof " Ė "Give us this
day our daily bread." What counts is the chair I am sitting
in at any one existential moment.
Christianity is not just
a mental assent that certain doctrines are true. This is only the beginning.
This would be rather like a starving man sitting in front of great heaps
of food and saying, "I believe the food exists; I believe it
is real," and yet never eating it. It is not enough merely
to say, "I am a Christian", and then in practice
to live as if present contact with the supernatural were something far
off and strange. Many Christians I know seem to act as though they come
in contact with the supernatural just twice Ė once when they are justified
and become a Christian and once when they die. The rest of the time
they act as though they were sitting in the materialistís chair.
The difference between
a Christian who is being supernatural in practice and one who says he
is a Christian but lives like a materialist can be illustrated by the
difference between a storage battery and a light plug. Some Christians
seem to think that when they are born again, they become a self-contained
unit like a storage battery. From that time on they have to go on their
own pep and their own power until they die. But this is wrong. After
we are justified, once for all through faith in Christ, we are to live
in supernatural communion with the Lord every moment; we are to be like
lights plugged into an electric socket.
The Bible makes it plain
that our joy and spiritual power depend on a continuing relation to
God. If we do not love the Lord as we should, the plug gets pulled out
and the spiritual power and the spiritual joy stop. Recall Paulís statement
in the benediction, ĎThe communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.í
In French the word is Ďcommunicationí. The reality of the communication
of the Holy Spirit who lives within us and who is the agent of the whole
Trinity is to be a continuing reality in the Christianís life.
Let us be more specific.
The Bible says that Christ rose physically from the dead, that if you
had been there that day you would have seen Christ stand up and walk
away in a space-time, observable situation of true history. The materialist
says, "No, I donít believe it. Christ is not raised from the
dead." That is unbelief. The new theology is also unbelief
because it says either that Jesus was not raised from the dead in history
or that maybe He was and maybe He wasnít because who knows whatís going
to happen in this world in which you canít be sure of anything. The
historic resurrection of Christ doesnít really matter, says the new
theology; what matters is that the church got a big push from thinking
He was raised in history. They see the importance of the resurrection
as psychological, even though they say they leave open the door to actual
resurrection since we live in a universe that we cannot be very sure
of. The old liberalism, the new liberalism and materialism are basically
the same. To all of them finally the same word applies: unbelief.
But now, here we are Bible-believing
Christians. We stand and say, "No, Iím not going to accept that.
Iím going to speak out against the materialist, and Iím going to speak
out against the old and the new liberalism. Christ was raised from the
dead, and He did ascend with the same body the disciples saw and touched.
Between His resurrection and His ascension He appeared and disappeared
many times. He went back and forth between the seen and the unseen world
often in those forty days. And then, finally, He took an official departure
at the Mount of Olives." But the Bible says that if Christ
is raised from the dead we are supposed to act upon it in our moment-by-moment
lives. Its importance is not just in past history.
So the Bible-believing
Christian says, "Well, I believe it!" The materialist
says, "I donít believe it!" and he sits in unbelief.
But what shall we say about the man who says, "I believe it.
I believe it", but then does not act upon this in faith in
his daily life? I have made up a word for it. I call it unfaith.
The Bible tells us plainly
that Christ promises to bear His fruit through us. In Romans 7:4 Paul
says a very striking thing: "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also
are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; in order that ye should
be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, in order
that we should bring forth fruit unto God." This verse speaks
of each Christian as feminine. At conversion we are married to Christ,
who is the bridegroom, and as we put ourselves in His arms, moment by
moment, He will produce His fruit through us into the external world.
That is beautiful and overwhelming. The bride cannot just stand with
the bridegroom at the wedding ceremony. She must give herself to him
existentially, regularly, for children to be born to him, through her
body, into the external world.
As an example think of
Mary and Christís birth. When Mary heard the annunciation, she did not
say to the angel, "I wonít give myself to God in order that
the Messiah may be born. What would Joseph think?" It would
have been reasonable to say that because we know Joseph was indeed later
disturbed. On the other hand, she did not say, "Now youíve told
me what is to happen, I can do it on my own." Mary herself
could no more bring forth that baby than any other girl can will a virgin
birth. She said the one thing she could say that could be right: "I
am your servant. I give my body into your hands. Do with it as you will."
This was an active passivity. She was passive in that God brought
forth the baby. But she was not passive in her will. One can say it
this way (and I say it with great care): God would not have raped Mary.
She put herself into His hands, and He was the One who produced this
marvel of the virgin birth. Of course the virgin birth of Christ to
Mary is totally unique, but it can be a profound example to us.
In a very different way
the same situation holds with each of us as Christians. Christ wants
to bring forth His fruit through me into this poor external world. And
if I am not acting upon that, I am sitting in the chair of unfaith.
You will notice in Romans
6 (a very sober chapter to the Christian if he reads it with any delicacy
of comprehension and feeling) in verses 13, 16 and 19, these words in
the present tense: "Neither yield ye your members as instruments
(weapons or tools) of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves
unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as
instruments (weapons or tools) of righteousness unto God." You
continue to be significant after you become a Christian; and either
you can yield yourself at any one moment into the hands of Christ for
Him to use you as a tool or weapon in this world, or you can yield yourself
in that moment as an instrument of unrighteousness even though you are
Verse 16 says it again:
"Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey,
his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of
obedience unto righteousness?" Sitting in the believerís chair,
am I yielding myself to Christ for Him to bear fruit through me, or
am I yielding myself to be the servant of my old ruler Satan, in which
case I am bringing forth death into the external world? The sober thing
is that something great is at stake: the whole question of bearing the
fruit of the Spirit into the external world, of being an exhibition
of the existence of God and His character. The significance of man continues.
You are not a programmed computer. Are you going to yield yourself to
your bridegroom or are you not? The 19th verse repeats the
point: ĎI speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of
your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members as servants to uncleanness
and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members as servants
to righteousness unto holiness.í
The unbelieving man says,
"Well, the resurrection Ė I really donít believe it."
The Christian says, "I do believe it." But surely shouldnít
we call it unfaith if I am not acting upon it and letting Christ, whom
I say is raised from the dead, bring forth His fruit through me?
With this in mind, look
at prayer. I feel that the determinism of our own generation has infiltrated
us as evangelical Christians so that we do not tend to be praying people.
We must understand what prayer is. Prayer, according to the Bible, is
speaking to God. The reason why we can speak to God is that He exists,
He is personal, and we are made in His image. Since we are made in His
image, it should not be surprising that we can be in communication with
Him, even though He is infinite and we are finite.
When our guilt is removed
through the finished work of Christ, communication with God is to be
expected. We communicate in a horizontal direction with each other through
verbalization. In fact, modern anthropologists say that verbalization
more than anything else distinguishes man from non-man. God too communicates
to us in verbalization in Scripture, and we communicate to God in verbalization
by prayer. It is as simple and as profound as that.
How then does prayer fit
into the biblical view of the universe? God made the universe. It is
external to Himself, not spatially, but in the sense that it is not
an extension of His essence. There is, of course, a machine portion
of the universe, but neither God nor man is caught in the machine.
There is a uniformity of
natural causes, but not in a closed system. The course of nature can
be changed Ė can be reordered Ė just as when I through a choice of the
will interrupt something, for example by reaching over and turning off
a light. This act of my will reorders the natural flow of cause and
effect. It is in this setting that the Bible sets forth its teaching
To return, therefore, to
the aircraft: I prayed and God started the aircraftís engines. This
is prayer, this is what it is supposed to be. God as well as man can
start the motors in the space-time world. Without the true orthodox
doctrine of God and man, prayer is just nonsense. You have to understand
that there is a personal God and that He has created the universe, which
is then not an extension of His essence. If it were, we would have a
pantheistic system in which prayer is finally meaningless. At this point
there is little difference between the pantheism of the East and many
of the New Theologians of the West.
But let us notice that
this emphasis must not be just a matter of doctrine. We must really
sit in the supernaturalistís chair and pray. If a Christian does not
pray, if he does not live in an attitude of prayer, then no matter what
he says about his doctrine, no matter how many naughty names he calls
the unbelieving materialist, the Christian has moved over and is sitting
in the materialistís chair. He is living in unfaith if he is afraid
to act upon the supernatural in the present life.
Unfaith turns Christianity
into no more than a philosophy. Of course, Christianity is a philosophy
Ė though not a rationalistic one because we have not worked it out beginning
from ourselves. Rather, God has told us the answers. In this sense it
is the true philosophy, for it gives the right answers to manís philosophic
and intellectual questions. However, while it is the true philosophy,
our Father in heaven did not mean it to be only theoretical or abstract.
He meant it to tell us about Himself Ė how we can get to heaven, but,
equally, how we can live right now in the universe as it is with both
the seen and the unseen standing in equal reality.
If Christians just use
Christianity as a matter of mental assent between conversion and death,
if they use it only to answer intellectual questions, it is like using
a silver spoon for a screw-driver. I can believe that a silver spoon
makes a good screw-driver at certain times. But it is made for something
else. It is silly to take the silver spoon that is meant to feed you,
moment by moment, and keep it in your tool box to use only as a screw-driver.
But let us look further
at the Christian living in unfaith. If the Bible-believing Christian
has moved over and is in practice sitting in the materialistís chair,
he is living as though the universe were something different from what
it is. He is out of step with the universe and is in practice living
as though he is more ignorant than a pagan in a jungle.
Suppose three men were
sitting together in a jet airliner, one against the window, one against
the aisle, and one in the middle. The one at the window is a pagan who
hasnít a clue how the airplane flies; heís terrified as the airplane
goes up. The man on the aisle knows every nut and bolt in this airplane;
he designed it. But he doesnít believe in any supernatural at all. Imagine
that you as a Christian are sitting in the middle. Which of these two
men on either side of you would best understand the universe? The pagan
doesnít have a clue about the airplane, but he knows that there is a
seen and an unseen in the universe because he worships demons. The other
man knows all about the airplane and he doesnít worship demons, but
he also doesnít know that there is an unseen at all. The pagan is less
ignorant of reality than the engineer, for the latter is living in only
half of the universe. But what about you as the Christian? If you say
that the universe has a spiritual dimension and yet do not live like
it, you are acting as though you know less than the pagan.
Maybe now we will begin
to see why in the evangelical church we often have a feeling of dustiness,
unreality and abstraction. I think the reason is that many are functioning
as though they knew less about the universe than the pagan knows. They
have moved over in unfaith and are living as though the universe is
naturalistic. No wonder there is a dustiness! In such a case the evangelical
church is a museum of dead artefacts representing what once was a living
practice of the doctrine we still say we believe.
If the courses we are giving
as teachers are given as though we are sitting in the materialistís
chair, is it any wonder that there is unreality? It is possible to teach
our subjects that way. We can carry on our church life that way. We
can carry on our evangelism that way. And our children then look at
us and shake their heads: ĎWell, certainly thereís something very unreal
in what I see in my teacherís, my pastorís and my parentsí Christian
lives.í If we sit in the chair of unfaith, that is the result we should
But let us take note: there
are only two chairs, not three. And at this present moment we are either
sitting in one or the other. Unfaith is just the Christian sitting in
the materialistís chair. At every moment, existentially, there are before
us as Christians the two chairs. After I am a Christian, I do not lose
my significance. I am either yielding my life to the living Christ at
a given moment or I am not. I am either in one chair or the other.
Which chair are we in?
How do we live our lives? What is the set of the way we live? None of
us is perfect, this is true. All of us sometimes find ourselves in the
materialistís chair. But is this where we habitually sit? Is this how
we usually teach our subjects? Is this the way we usually study? Is
it even the way we do what we call Ďthe Lordís workí? Are we sitting
in the chair of unfaith while we are trying to present the doctrines
Being a Bible-believing
Christian, then, not only means believing with our heads, but in this
present moment acting through faith on that belief: True spirituality
is acting at the given moment upon the doctrines which one as a Christian
says he believes.
We must fight the Lordís
battles with the Lordís weapons in faith Ė sitting in the chair of belief:
Only then can we have any part in the real battle. If we fight the Lordís
battles merely by duplicating the way the world does its work, we are
like little boys playing with wooden swords pretending they are in the
battle while their big brothers are away at war in some distant and
bloody land. The Lord will never honour with power the way of unfaith
in His children because it does not give Him the honour. That is true
in Christian activities, in missionary work, in evangelism, in anything
you name. Living supernaturally does not mean doing less work; nor does
it mean less work getting done, but more.
Who can do more? We with
our own energy and wisdom, or the God who created heaven and earth and
who can work in space-time history with a power which none of us has?
God exists. And if we through faith stay in the Bible-believing chair
moment by moment in practice, and do not move into the chair of unfaith,
we and the world will see God act. Christ will bring forth His fruit
through us. As I began this book I brought together the concepts of
reformation and revival Ė the return to pure doctrine and the return
of individuals and groups to a proper relationship to the Holy Spirit.
At the conclusion of our
study of Jeremiah and his message we said that if there is to be a constructive
revolution in the orthodox, evangelical church, then like Jeremiah we
must speak of Godís judgment of individual men, great and small, and
His judgment of the church, the state and the culture, all of which
have known the truth of God and have turned away from Him and His propositional
revelation. God exists, He is a holy God, and we must know that there
will be judgment. Like Jeremiah we must keep on so speaking regardless
of the cost to ourselves.
At the conclusion of our
study of Romans we added this: if there is to be a constructive revolution
in the orthodox, evangelical church, we must comprehend and speak of
the lostness of the lost, including the man without the Bible. As with
Paul this must not be done with a cold orthodoxy but with deep compassion
for our own kind. Finally we must add that these things cannot be done
once for all, nor in our own humanistic effort; we must be in the believerís
chair moment by moment.
Reformation and revival
are related to Godís people sitting moment by moment in the believerís
chair. And with such reformation-revival will come constructive revolution
in the evangelical, orthodox church. Even in the midst of death in the
city, the evangelical church can have a really constructive revolution,
a revolution that will shake it in all its parts and make it live before
God, before the unseen world, and before the observing eyes of our post-Christian
Death In The City, Francis A. Schaeffer - chapter 9.
| Authors | Biographies
| Topics | Revivals
| Books/audio/CD |
Links | Translation |
Prayer watch |
Vision & History
| Revial Seminars | Contacting
Copyright © 2003. Ensemble
Rebâtissons la Maison.