Francis Schaeffer: Nature Theologian by Dean Ohlman

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Francis Schaeffer: Nature Theologian by Dean Ohlman

The Scientific Age

Uploaded by  on Oct 3, 2011

Episode 8: The Age Of Fragmentation

Published on Jul 24, 2012

Dr. Schaeffer’s sweeping epic on the rise and decline of Western thought and Culture

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I love the works of Francis Schaeffer and I have been on the internet reading several blogs that talk about Schaeffer’s work and the work below by Dean Ohlman was really helpful. Schaeffer’s film series “How should we then live?  Wikipedia notes, “According to Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live traces Western history from Ancient Rome until the time of writing (1976) along three lines: the philosophic, scientific, and religious.[3] He also makes extensive references to art and architecture as a means of showing how these movements reflected changing patterns of thought through time. Schaeffer’s central premise is: when we base society on the Bible, on the infinite-personal God who is there and has spoken,[4] this provides an absolute by which we can conduct our lives and by which we can judge society.  Here are some posts I have done on this series: Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 10 “Final Choices” episode 9 “The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence”episode 8 “The Age of Fragmentation”episode 7 “The Age of Non-Reason” episode 6 “The Scientific Age”  episode 5 “The Revolutionary Age” episode 4 “The Reformation” episode 3 “The Renaissance”episode 2 “The Middle Ages,”, and  episode 1 “The Roman Age,” .

In the film series “WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE?” the arguments are presented  against abortion (Episode 1),  infanticide (Episode 2),   euthanasia (Episode 3), and then there is a discussion of the Christian versus Humanist worldview concerning the issue of “the basis for human dignity” in Episode 4 and then in the last episode a close look at the truth claims of the Bible.

Francis Schaeffer

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Francis Schaeffer: Nature Theologian

From Dean Ohlman on November 22, 2010

In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited – yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God! (Romans 8:18-21 J. B. Phillips paraphrase)

I remember keenly the era that gave birth to the modern environmental movement. Those memories are often poignant and painful—memories of protest songs and protest marches; of “liberation” from the establishment and its values; of a bloody, frustrating, no-win war; of naked Woodstock revelers; of unkempt, barefoot hippies storming the fences of nuclear power plants, and of radical college professors excoriating Christianity for bringing civilization to the eve of doomsday.

It was an agonizing time of soul-searching for the church, and one of the important commentators of the time was Francis Schaeffer. Thousands of Christians pored over his books to discover the reason for unreason and to understand why Western civilization had come to such a state. At the end of the process, we all asked with Schaeffer, “How should we then live?” Much of what this philosopher/theologian said about the demise of Christianity in the West was quickly understood and accepted as the basis upon which a revitalized Church could once again make its message heard in a “post-Christian” world.

Curiously, however, one of Schaeffer’s books was overlooked or, perhaps more correctly, ignored as an aberration of an otherwise astute thinker: it was titled Pollution and the Death of Man: A Christian View of Ecology. The book title and the cover itself—a photograph of a skull on a pile of dirt— likely added to its lack of popularity: Were not the rants of  “Hanoi” Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden enough? Did we really need another negative message to add to our burden of bad news? We had ministries to run and families to raise; how could we be expected to be enthusiastic about another message of impending disaster?

Those who took the time to read Pollution and the Death of Man (published in 1970) discovered, however, that its message was not just another commentary on the decline of Christianity, but it was a challenge to the church to apply biblical principles to the world’s environmental crises.

What follows is the core of Schaeffer’s theological argument:

What Paul says [in today’s passage from Romans] is that when our bodies—bodies of men—are raised from the dead, at that time nature, too, will be redeemed. The blood of the Lamb will redeem man and nature together, as it did in Egypt at the time of the Passover, when the blood applied to the doorposts saved not only the sons of the Hebrews, but also their animals. . . . As Christ’s death redeems men, including their bodies, from the consequences of the Fall, so His death will redeem all nature from its evil consequences at the time when we are raised from the dead.

Now in Romans 6 Paul applies this future principle to our present situation. It is the great principle of Christian spirituality. Christ died, Christ is your Savior, Christ is coming back again to raise you from the dead. So by faith—because this is true to what has been in Christ’s death and to what will be when He comes again, by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit—you are to live this way substantially now. “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him . . . . Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:9,11). So we look forward to this, and one day it will be perfect. But we should be looking now, on the basis of the work of Christ, for substantial healing in every place affected by the Fall.

Now we must understand that even in our relationship with God a distinction has to be made here. By justification our guilt was completely removed, in a forensic way, as God declared our guilt gone when we accepted Christ as our Savior. But in practice, in our lives between becoming a Christian and the Second Coming of Christ or our death, we are not in a perfect relationship to God. Therefore real spirituality lies in the . . . moment-by-moment looking to the blood of Christ, and upon the basis of the work of Christ seeking and asking God in faith for a substantial reality in our relationship with Him at the existential moment. I must be doing this so that substantially, in practice, at this moment, there will be a reality in my relationship with the personal God who is there. . . .

What we should have, individually and corporately, is a situation where, on the basis of the work of Christ, Christianity is seen to be not just “pie in the sky,” but something that has in it the possibility of substantial healing now in every area where there are divisions because of the Fall. First of all, my division from God is healed by justification, but then there must be the “existential reality” of this, moment by moment; second, there is the psychological division of man from himself; third, there are the sociological divisions of man from other men; and last, there is the division of man from nature, and nature from nature. In all of these areas we should expect to see substantial healing.

I took a long while to settle on that word “substantial,” but it is, I think, the right word. It conveys the idea of a healing that is not perfect, but that is real, evident, and substantial. Because of past history and future history, we are called upon to live this way now by faith.

When we carry these ideas over into the area of our relationship to nature, there is an exact parallel. On the basis of the fact that there is going to be total redemption in the future, not only of man but of all creation, the Christian who believes the Bible should be the man who—with God’s help and in the power of the Holy Spirit—is treating nature now in the direction of the way nature will be then. It will not now be perfect, but it must be substantial, or we have missed our calling. God’s calling to the Christian now, and to the Christian community, in the area of nature— just as it is in the area of personal Christian living in true spirituality—is that we should exhibit a substantial healing here and now, between man and nature and nature and itself, as far as Christians can bring it to pass.

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