Sunday, July 31, 2011

Book Review: The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century by Francis Schaeffer

     "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, whether in heaven or on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, rulers or authorities-all things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.  And He is the head of the body, the church.  He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent," Col. 1:15-18.
     You will probably notice fairly quickly that I give positive reviews to almost all the books I read.  The reason for that is simple: I don't have time for nonsense.  As a husband and father with a job that takes a lot of time to do to provide for my family, I simply see no reason to read something that will not, from all indications, be edifying.  I tend to read blogs and articles in which I'm often in disagreement but those are not terribly time consuming.  Now that I've made this point I'm certain that I will probably come across a book that will inspire a negative review and, in fact, I think I may be reading a commentary that fits that bill!
     Anyway, this is not that negative review and I cannot recommend "The Church at the End of the 20th Century" enough.  While you may be wondering, "Why should I read a book about the church at the end of the twentieth century", I assure you that this book was prophetic almost 40 years ago and it is no less important today.  You see, Schaeffer was a Presbyterian pastor in the U.S. who decided to pack up and go to Switzerland and start a ministry to wayward folks struggling with life.  He founded L'Abri Fellowship in the Alps and he wrote many prophetic and influential books dealing with the church, the dying western world and our relationship and ministry to it.  He was an orthodox C.S. Lewis who did not insult our biblical intelligence(like Lewis and many of his acolytes today) by denying the early chapters of Genesis or foregoing difficult doctrines in a politically correct world.  Schaefer took all of the Bible seriously and did not forfeit any of it to the pc gods of our secular age.
     There are at least four things that commend this book to the serious(is there any other) Christian: 1) Schaeffer emphasized a holistic approach to truth that is believed and preached and lived.  2)  He understood how important marriage was.  Not just the institution, which is foundational, but the picture it gives us of God's relationship to His people, both in the OT and the NT.  3)  He emphasized the idea of the church having "form and freedom".  "...there is a place for the institutional church and that it should maintain the form commanded by God, but on the other hand, that this also leaves vast areas of freedom for change," he goes on, "In other words, the New Testament sets boundary conditions, but within those boundary conditions there is much freedom to meet the changes that arise in different places and different times," pg. 67.  Finally, and most importantly, as I previously mentioned, Schaeffer takes the whole Bible as intended and especially the first half of Genesis.  He mentions several times how important Genesis is to our approach to the Bible.
     Finally, I have a pastor who recommended highly Schaeffer to me and I searched the library for his books and this was the only one not checked out.  It was a quick read, though deep and challenging.  It is only 153 pages and I was able to read it all on Saturday.  Yet now I must read the rest of Schaeffer's library and I'm not sure how appreciative I should be to my pastor who has inflicted upon me this appetite for Schaeffer's books!  Seriously though, this book got my synapses firing on several cylinders and prodded me to dig deep not just into a Christian philosophers bulging library but into the Bible itself.  I'll leave with my favorite quote from the book, "People(unbelievers) are looking at us to see if, when we say we have truth, it is then possible for this truth not only to take men's souls to heaven, but to give all of life meaning in the present time, moment by moment," pg. 72.
     God Bless you and learn, live and love the Gospel.

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