Monday, January 31, 2011

The God Who Is There

I finally finished The God Who Is There by Schaeffer. His 99th birthday, btw is today. You can read about it at George Grant's blog here.   This book has provided a lot of food for thought and taken me a couple of weeks to get through.  Schaeffer is called "the Great Prophet of our age" (Colson) and has clearly distinguished himself as one of the great 20th century Christian apologists. Reading his book there is little wonder why. Not only does he have a firm grasp on his own doctrine, theology and belief system, but he has a brilliant ability to understand other's, a sociologists understanding of culture and an uncanny ability to weave it all together.
Schaeffer asserts that  Christians must resist the spirit of the world "in the form it takes in his own generation." Otherwise he becomes a useless museum piece and not a living warrior for Jesus Christ." Young people are being brought up in Christian homes within an old framework, but they are being confronted and subjected to a modern framework. Perhaps this explains the youth of the church fleeing from it's shelter.

The book is divided in to 6 very powerful and packed sections:
1: The Intellectual & Culture Climate of the 2nd half of the 20th Century
2:The Relationship of the New Theology to the Intellectual Climate
3: How Historic Christianity Differs from the New Theology
4: Speaking Historic Christianity into the 20th Century Climate
5: Pre-evangelism is No Soft Option
6: Personal & Corporate Living into the 20th Century Climate

Schaeffer bases his apologetics on the following presupposition: that there really are such things as absolutes. "Because they accepted the possibility of absolutes, though people might have disagreed as to what these were, nevertheless they could reason together on the classical basis of antithesis. They took it for granted that if anything was true, the opposite was false. In morality, if one thing was right, its opposite was wrong. The little formula, "A is A" and "If you have A, it is not non-A" is the first move in classical logic. Absolutes imply antithesis."

All of that being said, Schaeffer covers a lot of territory in this not so huge volume and it's worth a read for anyone concerned with the propagation of the Christian faith, apologetics, culture or sociology.

My main critique of it is that I find it a bit outdated already. As we delve deeper and deeper into post-modernism and the deconstruction of meaning logic doesn't demand attention or a solution. When pushed to logic conclusions, discussion break down into name calling or simply the antagonist disappearing rather than holding themselves accountable to logic. And I wonder, are people really asking questions of faith as they were 40 years ago? It seems that overall there is a "deplorable lack of curiosity" about matters of faith and salvation. Perhaps this is because, as Schaeffer states, all too often, "evangelicals are paper people." The witness of the church is not winning souls to the Kingdom.

Schaeffer's solution is to become human people in our culture. The Christian is called to "true humanity" Human because we are different from plants, animals and machines, and personality is native to what has always been. "This has always been important, but it is especially so today because we are surrounded by a world in which personality is increasingly eroding...People should see a beauty among Christians in their practice of the centrality of personal relationships- in the whole spectrum of life and in the culture." Sounds simple enough but it's the rare person who is fully engaged, truly humble, myself included. Nevertheless, it's something I'm constantly aware of, frequently pondering and prayerfully considering.

A beautiful, challenging book and one I'll be mulling over for a long time to come.

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