True Spirituality

by Francis Schaeffer

This is the third of four posts in a series titled Two Contents, Two Realities.  These posts are slightly edited excerpts of a paper delivered by Dr. Francis Schaeffer  as part of the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland.


The first reality is spiritual reality.

Let us emphasize again as we have before: we believe with all our hearts that Christian truth can be presented in propositions, and that anybody who diminishes the concept of the propositionalness of the Word of God is playing into twentieth-century, non-Christian hands. But, and it is a great and strong but, the end of Christianity is not the repetition of mere propositions.

Without the proper propositions you cannot have that which should follow. But after having the correct propositions, the end of the matter is to love God with all our hearts and souls and minds. The end of the matter, after we know about God in the revelation He has given in verbalized, propositional terms in the Scripture, is to be in relationship to Him. A dead, ugly orthodoxy with no real spiritual reality must be rejected as sub-Christian.

Back in 1951 and 1952, I went through a very deep time in my own life. I had been a pastor for ten years and a missionary for another five, and I was connected with a group who stood very strongly for the truth of the Scriptures. But as I watched, it became clear to me that I saw very little spiritual reality. I had to ask why. I looked at myself as well and realized that my own spiritual reality was not as great as it had been immediately after my conversion. We were in Switzerland at that time, and I said to my wife, “I must really think this through.”

I took about two months, and I walked in the mountains whenever it was clear. And when it was rainy, I walked back and forth in the hayloft over our chalet. I thought and wrestled and prayed, and I went all the way back to my agnosticism. I asked myself whether I had been right to stop being an agnostic and to become a Christian. I told my wife, if it didn’t turn out right I was going to be honest and go back to America and put it all aside and do some other work.

I came to realize that indeed I had been right in becoming a Christian. But then I went on further and wrestled deeper and asked, “But then where is the spiritual reality, Lord, among most of that which calls itself orthodoxy?” And gradually I found something. I found something that I had not been taught, a simple thing but profound. I discovered the meaning of the work of Christ, the meaning of the blood of Christ, moment by moment in our lives after we are Christians–the moment-by-moment work of the whole Trinity in our lives because as Christians we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. That is true spirituality.

I went out to Dakota, and I spoke at a Bible conference. The Lord used it, and there was a real moving of God in that place. I preached it back in Switzerland. And gradually it became the book True Spirituality. And I want to tell you with all my heart that I think we could have had all the intellectual answers in the world at L’Abri, but if it had not been for those battles in which God gave me some knowledge of some spiritual reality in those days, not just theoretically but, poor as it was, knowledge of a relationship with God moment by moment on the basis of the blood of Jesus Christ, I don’t believe there ever would have been a L’Abri.

Do we minimize the intellectual? I have just pled for the intellectual. I have pled for the propositional. I have pled against doctrinal compromises, specifically at the point of the Word of God being less than propositional truth all the way back to the first verse of Genesis. But at the same time there must be spiritual reality.

Will it be perfect? No, I do not believe the Bible ever holds out to us that anybody is perfect in this life. But it can be real, and it must be shown in some poor way. I say poor because I am sure when we get to Heaven and look back, we will all see how poor it has been. And yet there must be some reality. There must be something real of the work of Christ in the moment-by-moment life, something real of the forgiveness of specific sin brought under the blood of Christ, something real in Christ’s bearing His fruit through me through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. These things must be there. There is nothing more ugly in all the world, nothing which more turns people aside, than a dead orthodoxy.

This, then, is the first reality, real spiritual reality.

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