Archive for the ‘The God Who Is There’ Tag

The God Who is There (Introduction)   Leave a comment

My hope is not built on Francis Schaeffer’s writings, but The God Who Is There was my signpost to God. So I thought I’d take a bit looking at what this book means.

Schaeffer was all about the presuppositions, which is probably why he appealed to me in the first place. Growing up in an issues-oriented state, raised by parents who were political opposites, I had been trained early to question my political presuppositions. That I hadn’t questioned my spiritual presuppositions was probably because my parents largely agreed with the Alaskan culture that spiritual things weren’t all that important.

Schaeffer primarily wrote in the period of upheaval during the 1960s and 70s when Christians were coming to L’Abri in Switzerland to sort out their confusion. He was not writing in a vacuum. He was dealing every day with the confusion Christians were experiencing as we entered the post-modern age.

“The present chasm between the generations has been brought about almost entirely by a change in the concept of truth. … The consensus about us is almost monolithic, whether you review the arts, literature or simply read the newspapers and magazines…. On every side you can feel the stranglehold of this new methodology … the way we approach truth and knowing. … And just as fog cannot be kept out by walls or doors, so this consensus comes in around us, til the room we live in is no longer distinct, and yet we hardly realize what has happened ….

Schaeffer recognized way back in the 1950s that modernism was taking a dark turn. He never used the term “post-modernism” but he understood that modernism was headed that way. To him what we term “post-modernism” was really just the logical continuation of modernism’s failure to fulfill its promises.

“If you lived in … the United States before about 1935, you would not have had to spend much time, in practice, in thinking about your presuppositions. … What were these presuppositions? The basic one was that there really are such things as absolutes. They accepted the possibility of an absolute in the area of Being (or knowledge), and in the area of morals. Therefore, because they accepted the possibility of absolutes, though men might disagree as to what these were, nevertheless they could reason together…. “

That was lost and Schaeffer recognized that. Modernism had promised to answer all the questions of man through the sciences and to find agreement in all spheres. It had failed in doing that because science is the study of the material world and there is more to the human experience than the material world. When modernism failed to deliver on that promise, philosophers (who tend to speak for society) despaired and began to find other ways to answer those great questions.

Human societies have a tendency to seek a uniform culture where people can agree on the major issues, but Christians must always stand for God because God is truth. Martin Luther wrote”

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefields besides, is mere fight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

Schaeffer did not flinch from the battlefield and he sought to explain to 20th century Christians how their culture had drifted so far from Christianity, but also why their children were and remain at risk of being sucked down with it.

Although I grew up in a non-believing home, I was one of those youth that Schaeffer hoped to wake up to the reality around them, so that they would be free to follow God with their eyes wide open.

That Schaeffer’s The God Who Is There would be in an Alaskan cabin in the middle of nowhere so that I would have reading materials when I (a non-Christian) was bored enough to read a book on Christian apologetics could be deemed a statistical improbability, but I choose to see it as a miracle. God wanted me to read the book. He made sure we were both in the right place at the right time under the right conditions.

Coincidence?

A Message to Non-Believers   1 comment

Before you get into a lather about how I “don’t understand” you, let me explain something.

I used to be you! I was raised in a non-Christian household in the very secular state of Alaska. I think my family went to church three times while I was growing up — once for a funeral, once for a wedding, and once because Easter fell on my dad’s mom’s birthday and he wanted to honor her memory … or something like that. My parents were not atheists. More like agnostic-edging-toward-deist-not-interested-in-god-ruining-their-fun American “Christians”. They didn’t give God much thought and neither did I until fog grounded a bush plane in the Alaska wilderness and the only choices for reading materials were the Bible (in German), Zane Grey novels and Francis Schaeffer’s The God Who Is ThereI really hated westerns and I can’t read German, so ….

I read the book in two days and I was challenged to question the presuppositions I’d been raised with. I wasn’t hostile toward God; I just never really thought much about metaphysics. I was a cultural “christian” in that I (sort of) knew the Christmas and Easter stories, but I largely accepted without examination that Jesus was at best a great man who lived a long time ago and at worst was a myth. Because I lived in a very secular state, I didn’t know any faithful Christians personally and the few that I had met turned me off because they seemed really fake to me. I grew up with an old joke about Christians as my basic impression:

“I’m perfect. I don’t drink, smoke or swear. God loves me! Dammit, I left my cigarettes on the bar next to my empty beer.”

Funny, but it turned out not to be true!

Francis Schaeffer’s book gave me pause because he explained why belief is a more reasonable response to the world than nonbelief. But it only gave me pause. I was still skeptical and for the next 16 months, I investigated the evidence for Christianity’s claims. By maintaining an open mind and by treating those faithful Christians who came into my life with respect rather than derision, I eventually came to a place where enough of my objections were answered satisfactorily to where I had to admit that the only thing standing between me and knowing if Christianity’s claims were true was my own unbelief.

I could choose to go on not believing or I could lay aside my objections for a moment and let God show me why belief was the most reasonable response to the world. It took 16 months to get to that point, so it was not a “leap of faith”. I had thoroughly investigated the subject before I accepted salvation.

During those 16 months I learned some things.

  • Christians are human beings who are not perfect. And most of them don’t claim to be.
  • Faithful Christians are generally consistent in what they believe from the Bible, but they struggle to reconcile their faith with their culture, which sometimes leads to perceived inconsistencies.
  • The Bible is surprisingly consistent with itself, but misconceptions abound among both believers and nonbelievers, with the nonbelievers holding the greater share of them.
  • American “cultural christianity” is mostly unfamiliar with the actual teachings of the Bible.
  • The Bible and science do not (contrary to popular belief) disagree about the world. Science properly cannot make any claims to understanding the metaphysical claims of the Bible and the Bible is a book of faith and history, not science. Those claiming that science has proven there is no God (or gods) are mistaken in their claims because they try to make science authoritative outside of the observation of the physical universe, which is its proper field of research.
  • Archaeology has so far been supportive of the Bible’s claims

Because I am not a true believer in science — and never was — I can see theories for what they are — someone’s opinion about the collected evidence. Materialistic scientism arrives at one theory about the origins of the universe and life on the planet by viewing the evidence through the lens of certain presuppositions. Intelligent design (it wasn’t called that in the 1970s, but it was around) has another theory also based on their examination of the evidence colored by their own presuppositions. There are extremes of both groups of theorists who try to take the evidence where it cannot go. Not being a true believer in materialism, I could have faith in God and still respect science for what it does well – collect evidence.

Archaeology hasn’t proven the Bible, but it has not found substantial evidence against the Biblical claims. The same summer I read Schaeffer’s book, I read an article in a magazine about how the Bible was crap because, among other things, Nineveh had never existed. Archaeologists had been looking for it for a century without success, so the writer insisted the Bible was lying about Jonah and, therefore the whole Bible was in question. I believed that claim without examination all during my investigative period. Within days of deciding to let God show me that my objections were misapplied, archaeologists announced that Nineveh had been found.  They’d been looking in the wrong places for a really long time and someone more or less stumbled upon it where they weren’t actually looking. Coincidence? Maybe, but it added evidence to the mountain that I was now scaling. Contrary to popular belief at the time, archaeology was actually confirming many of the claims of the Bible.

I came to the Bible and the claims of Christianity as a skeptic, but I had been challenged to approach the subject with an open mind. An open mind demands proof, but not absolute proof. Absolute proof is the province of a closed mind, a mind that is made up and will not be changed even by overwhelming evidence. I did not require overwhelming evidence. I only needed my reasonable questions answered. Essentially, when my collected evidence spoke more for God’s existence and, particularly for the claims of Jesus Christ, than it did against, I set aside my skepticism and let God answer the rest of my objections.

And, He did!

So, yes, I do understand skepticism, but no, I don’t think skeptics are right.

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