The God Who Is There

"For over thirty years The God Who Is There has been the landmark book that changed the way the church sees the world. Here we learn where the clashing ideas about God, science, history and art come from and where they are going...

The God Who Is There demonstrates how historic Christianity can fearlessly confront the competing philosophies of the world. The God who has always been there continues to provide the anchor of truth and the power of love to meet the world's deepest problems."

-- from the back cover

Francis Schaeffer, during the course of his lifetime, made numerous and valuable contributions to evangelical Christian thought. And perhaps his most important gift was helping Christians to think clearly about the forms of thought and speech that sin has taken in our post-modern world. He writes:

-- from the back cover

"Absolutes imply antithesis... Thirty or more years ago you could have said such things as 'This is true' or 'This is right' and you would have been on everybody's wavelength. People may or may not have though out their beliefs consistently, but everyone would have been talking to each other as though the idea of antithesis [truth and falsehood] was correct."

Schaeffer goes on to point out that our post-modern world has embraced a more experience-based, truth-rejecting approach to life, which assumes that there is no real "truth" or "error", no "right" or "wrong" but only what each person experiences.

Thus, humanity becomes our own starting and ending point for discovering and understanding the world around us.

While to Christians who are steeped in the truth claims and absolutes of the Bible, this kind of thinking may seem ridiculous (or may not, because Christians have accepted so much of it ourselves), we must be careful not to simply scorn the folly of the world rather than seeking to reach it and teach it with God's revelation. Schaeffer powerfully asserts:

Thus, humanity becomes our own starting and ending point for discovering and understanding the world around us.

"Dare we laugh at such things? Dare we feel superior when we view their tortured expressions in their art? Christians should stop laughing and take such men seriously. Then we shal have the right to speak again to our generation. These men are dying while they live; yet where is our compassion for them? There is nothing more ugly than a Christian orthodoxy without understanding or without compassion [emphasis mine]."

We must not hold to, or practice, an ugly Christian orthodoxy.

On the other hand, however, Schaeffer warns against Christians being influenced by the world and its ever-changing values and philosophies. We are to be in the world, interacting with the world, affecting the world -- but we are never to think or act or speak like the world.

We must not hold to, or practice, an ugly Christian orthodoxy.

"Not only should we have compassion for the lost among whom we live, but also concern for our God. We are his people, and if we get caught up in the other methodology, we have really blasphemed, discredited and dishonored him -- for the greatest antithesis of all is that God exists as opposed to his not existing; he is the God who is there."

Perhaps the most crucial and insightful point in the whole book is Schaeffer's famous review of how language has been purposefully changed, not only by the world but by liberal Christians who seek to use words with which evangelicals and even Americans are familiar and comfortable, but then fill them with new meaning.

You see this dangerously deceptive practice by even a brief purusal of the "religious" section of any bookstore today. Books from and about Wicca use comforting and familiar language about "God," "angels," "peace," and "prayer." Books that pretend to be Christian even frequently speak of "Jesus," "the cross," and "the gospel."

Yet these familiar words are used in a way entirely different than they are defined by and used in the Bible.

Schaeffer speaks, for instance, of the new use of "faith":

Yet these familiar words are used in a way entirely different than they are defined by and used in the Bible.

"The same word faith is used, but has an opposite meaning. Modern man cannot talk about the object of his faith, only about the faith itself. So he can discuss the existence of his faith and its "size" as it exists against all reason, but that is all. Modern man's faith turns inward.

In Christianity the value of faith depends upon the object toward which the faith is directed. So it looks outward to the God who is there, and to the Christ who in history died upon the cross once for all, finished the work of atonement, and on the third day rose again in space and in time."

Although Schaeffer is rightly called a philosopher by many, it is perhaps more true, as Charles Colsen says of him, that he was a "great prophet [truth-proclaimer] of our age." As such, it is not only philosophical or intellectual Christians who do well to heed his warnings -- there is not one of us who does not need to consider, and reconsider, 1) what we believe and teach, 2) what the world believes and teaches, and 3) who Christ is and what he says about himself in his Word.

1 and 3 should always be in harmony, and 2 and 3 will never be.