Dr. Schaeffer in Atlanta (2)

This is the second and concluding installment of the report on Dr. Francis Schaeffer’s lectures delivered at a two-day conference (Feb. 15, 16, ’73) of the National Presbyterian Reformed Fellowship in Atlanta, Georgia. Rev. Thomas Vanden Heuvel serves on the board of the NPRF and is pastor of the Central Avenue Christian Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan. Mrs. Laurie Vanden Heuvel is a graduate of Calvin College.

LECTURE II – WHAT IS NEEDED – Having thoroughly and dramatically sketched “Where We Are” in today’s world, Dr. Schaeffer, in his second lecture of the trilogy, immediately set about to prescribe for us “What Is Needed” to preach the gospel today to this generation.

He developed this theme under four headings. Essential to the preaching of the gospel today are two principles relating to CONTENT, and two principles relating to REALITY:


a. There must be strong and sufficient doctrinal content.

b. There must be a practicing orthodoxy.


a. There must be the reality of substantial spiritual reality.

b. There must be the reality of the beauty of human relationships.

Regarding content, there is a way in which we evangelicals can fall into an evangelical Kierkegaardianism. This can fall into certain categories:

1. We can say by our actions or by our words, “Don’t ask any questions. Just believe.” Paul and Christ did not operate that way.

2. We can “tone down” the message, and this we should never do.

3. We can fall into a trap by praising Karl Barth. We should never praise Karl Barth, who opened the way for all of existential theology.

4. We must fight, and fight with all our might, for the historic, space-time character of the early chapters of Genesis. We must insist on it as “propositional truth!”

5. We fall into the danger of doing the exact opposite of what the liberals are doing. The liberal says “there are no absolutes.” But some evangelicals fall into the trap of taking certain middle-class norms and making them absolutes, equating them with Biblical norms.

6. We must not only teach truth, but we must practice truth. We must show that we take truth seriously even when it is costly to us. Otherwise we will have no credibility before the watching world. As it regards truth, we must maintain;

a. That we have the truth in verbalized, propositional form. Dr. Schaeffer could not stress this enough he said.

b. That this truth touches on subjects in which the world is interested, not just heavenly subjects. This means that we as the church must do 1wrd work to learn to apply the Biblical teaching to the hard questions of our own generation. Paul operated this way in the marketplace and on Mars hill. He never said, “Stop asking questions.” Jesus Christ answered questions all the time. The issue in all of this is that Christ is Lord in all of life. and we must do the hard work involved in bringing this message to the world.

c. That we must “test the spirits” on the basis of verbalized, propositional truth or content—not on the strength of emotional experience.

Regarding the two principles of REALITY:

1. There must be the reality of a substantial spiritual reality. We can have the purest doctrine in the world, but if there is no reality of it in our own lives, people will not listen to us.

2. There must be the spiritual reality of the beauty of human relationships.

a. We must see man for what he is—an image-bearer of God. One of the things that impresses young people coming to L’Abri is that they are treated as human beings. Modern man thinks of man as an animal, a machine. But we as Christians know who man really is, the image-bearer of God. And we must love our neighbor as ourselves, not just our Christian neighbors.

b. We must show observable love to all true Christians. We must remember that the real chasm today is between Christians and non-Christians, not between Reformed people and Arminian people. And also, even though we may take a strong stand against liberalism, we must show observable love to the liberals. As an example of this, Dr. Schaeffer described his own debate with Bishop Pike in Chicago. Dr. Schaeffer was reluctant to accept the invitation to debate the Bishop, hut under pressure, he acceded to the request. Before he left Switzerland for Chicago, he asked the community at L’Abri to pray during the hours of the debate. The time for the debate arrived, and Dr. Schaeffer prayed that he might take a strong stand against liberalism and yet show love for Bishop Pike. Dr. Schaeffer also prayed that an opportunity might be given to enjoy a contact with Pike as human beings together. The Lord heard that prayer, and at the end of the debate, Bishop Pike said to the audience, “I am not known for being kind to my adversaries, but this is the best public discussion I have ever had.” And afterwards Pike invited Dr. Schaeffer to come and sec him in California. Dr. Schaeffer went and was able to preach the gospel to him. The world should be able to look at Christians and see a beauty of human relationship that will cause them to listen to the gospel.

c. As a church we must have two orthodoxies:

1. An orthodoxy of doctrine.

2. An orthodoxy of community. The only way we can account for the spread of the early church was because they possessed both orthodoxies. In the Antioch, or Syria church, there was constant preaching of the gospel. Furthermore, there were slaves in the church as well as Herod’s foster brother—no class distinction. This church was a great and thriving church and demonstrated for all to see that the blood of Christ heals divisions among men. There must be this beauty of human relationship among Christians that the world can find nowhere else, or the world will NOT LISTEN TO US.

LECTURE III – THE NECESSARY POWER – If we arc to make an impact for the Lord in today’s world, we must have spiritual reality in our personal and corporate life. The Lord’s work must be done in the Lord’s way. The problems facing the Christian church today tax the best that the church has. Permissiveness is at the warp and woof of our culture. We are fighting a life and death battle, a battle described by Paul in Ephesians 6:10: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers of the air . . . .”

What do we need?

1. Pure doctrine and practice.

2. Honest answers to honest questions.

3. Beauty in human relationships.

In order to have these, there must be spiritual reality. This spiritual reality will give us tongues of fire. And with these tongues of fire, we can do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way.

The spiritual power which we nced can be drawn only from Christ Himself. Acts 1:8 says: “Ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you .” In the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16–20, the source of Power is the same: “All authority is given unto ME, Go ye therefore . . .” Christ is the source of the Power! Clever programs can never be the substitute for tongues of fire.

Spiritual power, however, is not to be identified with regeneration. It is possible to be indwelt by the Spirit in regeneration and yet not have the power of the Spirit. How can the power be received? By waiting upon the Lord and praying moment by moment. This is not what is commonly called the second blessing. The idea of a second blessing is rejected. The apostles in Acts 2 and Acts 4 were filled with the Spirit for a specific task; that task was to speak boldly in the name of the Lord. This is the kind of spiritual power needed today!

In order to have this, there must be substantial reality in our relationship to the living Christ. Just knowing the answers is not enough; there must be substantial spiritual reality. The Pharisee thought he had all the answers, and in truth he had no substantial spiritual reality in his relationship to God. The publican, on the other hand, had the one thing needful. His relationship to the Lord was one of substantial reality. He humbled himself, cried unto the Lord for mercy and received it!

It is the same regarding the power of the Spirit. We must, as the publican, be open to it. We must feel the need of it. We must humble ourselves before the face of God and cry for His power, and we will receive it! If we simply depend on our own clever methods and programs for doing the work of the Lord, we will become humanists who depend on these things and not on the Holy Spirit. We must know the reality of the Holy Spirit.

This points up the real problem of our age, which is not Communism or rationalism; but it is that the Lord’s people have known so little of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The issue is “self vs. the will of God.” This issue is dramatically seen as we compare Napoleon with Jesus Christ. A statue of Napoleon has the proud Frenchman standing, hands on his chest, his head back in pride, saying: “I’ve done this and that.” This is humanism personified. In contrast see Jesus Christ wrestling with His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will but Thine be done.” This is the issue – “I . . . I . . . I . . . vs. Thy will be done!” “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus” says Paul.

The pride of humanism stands in the way of tongues of fire. It stands in the way of doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way. We must follow Jesus’ example, humbling ourselves in the actual external world. The word “pastor” means shepherd; the word “minister” means servant, Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of God? “The greatest,” said Jesus, “is the one who serves.” Jesus set forth a whole view of life here. This serving must be a reality in our lives. We are servants, but, alas, instead we want the highest seats.

Jesus taught the disciples by means of foot-washing what it means to be great. “Ye call me master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, Verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If you know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:13–17). But if our aim is to receive the praise of men and we receive it, that is our reward.

Often we fall into the temptation of copying the world. We trust in the flesh. But God is there and we must live like He is there! The story of Martha and Mary presents the contrast: Activism vs. fellowship. Activism is a mistake. There must be the place of quiet fellowship and action flows from this.

SUMMARY – The only way to fight the Lord’s battle is in the Lord’s way, never with merely human programs. Our human programs do not give Christ the glory. He will not honor them and they will fail. The only way to win the battle and the war, the only way to work for the Lord, is to stand in the place of the promises and the commands of God. This alone will bring fulfillment. Paul places the issue in clearest terms in Galatians 5:25, 26: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another.” Walking in the Spirit vs. vainglory is the issue.

The church needs reformation and revival. Both of these words are related to the word “restore.” Reformation is the restoration of pure doctrine and teaching. Revival is the restoration of Christian living. We have two creeds, what we believe and how we live. Both must agree!

The necessary power is the power of Jesus Christ in His Spirit operating through the promises and commands in Scripture. This necessary power enables the Christian to do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way.

APPENDIX – It has been pointed out that Dr. Schaeffer has written many books. There arc three books in particular which form a unified base of which all his other books are applications. These three works are:

The God Who Is There
Escape From Reason
He Is There and He Is Not Silent
The applicatory works are:
The Church at the End of the 20th Century
The Church Before the Watching World
The Mark of the Christian
Death in the City
Genesis in Space and Time
The New Superspirituality
Back to Freedom and Dignity
True Spirituality
Pollution and the Death of Man
Basic Bible Studies
Mrs. Edith Schaeffer’s works are:
Hidden Art

For a real understanding of the world in which we now live and Biblical direction in coping with it, we urge you to read these books to which this article has been but a slight introduction.