Friday, August 17, 2007

True Spirituality

I read a good book last week called True Spirituality by Francis A. Schaeffer. He is a pastor and also founded L'Abri Fellowship, a spiritual retreat center in the Swiss Alps. This book was written thirty years ago, during a time when he was struggling with his faith. He reexamined his entire belief system and began a very detailed examination of spirituality.

Schaeffer studies and searches for what true spirituality is and how it can be lived. Right from the beginning he establishes that he believes true spirituality is freedom from the bonds of sin. I love the main point of his first chapter that states this process begins on the inside and begins with the foundation to love God and others.

He describes this in a fresh way; "First, to love God enough to be contented; second to love men enough not to envy."

I have always felt that the law of love supersedes all other laws in the Scriptures and is a foundation to my faith. However, I have not heard it stated in this way before and it is a new lense for me to examine my own spiritualiy against. It is a very personal, inward question to ask oneself and is a convicting one for me. I have been thinking about this for days now. Do I love God enough to be contented with what he has given me in this life? Can I love others enough not to covet or envy whatever has been given to someone else? In chapter two he states that "if this does not feel hard to us, we are not really letting it speak to us."

There are rich points throughout the book and my copy is extremely marked up with underlining! He quotes a lot of scripture in the book and I can see how he comes to his conclusions as he goes through the Bible examining how his faith can be lived in the modern day world. It appears to me that he tries to present things in a clear and concise way. He comes across as very logical and matter of fact as he works his way through this map of the spiritual life he presents.

One section deals with Christianity in relation to psychological problems. He describes psychology as "man's relationship to himself in the world of thought." The problem is man's separation from himself and one's attempt to integrate the personality of how one thinks, feels and acts. He examines man's separation from himself in the area of rationality, morality and emotions, but I particularly like how he described man's separation from himself in his morality and will.

"Man cannot escape the fact of the motions of a true right and wrong in himself...and yet, beginning with himself, he cannot bring forth absolute standards and cannot even keep the poor relative ones he has set up. Thus...trying to be what he is not, as he was made to be in relationship to God, he is crushed and damned by what he is will and action- but everything cuts across my will. I would do a certain thing, but I cannot put my will into infinite action, unlimited action. Even in the small area of a painter's canvas, I cannot do it. I cannot have an unlimited action in the smallest things in life, let alone the largest. And so if I am demanding infiinite freedom, whether it is in the whole of life, or in a small area in life, I cannot have it; I cannot be God in action and practice. So again I fall to the earth, crushed with natural tensions in myself, and I lie there like a butterfly that someone has touched, with all the lovely things gone from the wings."

I can really relate to this section. I want to make wise decisions, eat healthy, exercise, practice my music, write, stay organized, be kind, help the poor, be a good steward with my money, be ethical, do my jobs in life well, pray regularly...but so often I find myself doing the very things I do not want to do. I find myself neglecting the important things and lacking zeal. This can be very discouraging and disheartening.

Later he states that "the basic psychological problem is trying to be what we are not, and trying to carry what we cannot carry."

We walk around with the desire to be perfect. We walk around with the fear of the impersonal, the fear of non-being and the fear of death. We also struggle with feelings of superiority and inferiority in relationships with other people. He addresses each of these areas and how he believes basic Christianity can solve these issues within man. He even mentions that Carl Jung will tell patients to meet some of these fears by "acting as if God were there." He argues that Christian psychology can actually solve these issues within man more than secular psychology.

He argues the point that he believes in a very personal God. He illustrates us to be like icebergs where we will never know everything underneath our surface, but with faith in God we can believe that he is taking care of that which is hidden below. As we confess the failures we know of, we can be assured and trust that God is taking care of the rest.

Frances A. Schaeffer tries in this book to accomplish a very huge task. He tries to bring a unified Christian teaching to the table and he works to help solve many of the dilemmas he sees people struggle with in life. He offers Christianity as an answer to help a person deal with these life issues. I truly appreciate his efforts. He gives me a lot to examine and think about in regards to my own Christian faith.


Andrew said...

"I have always felt that the law of love supersedes all other laws in the Scriptures and is a foundation to my faith."

I agree. Walter B. talks about "better texts". Since we all select the texts we like as we read, it is important to select the best texts.

Kimberly said...

I've always admired Schaeffer's faith in practice, but I've yet to take the time to read any of his work. I'll add this book to my queue.

Paul (probably - maybe Liz) said...

Leigh Nash, Francis Schaeffer, Harry Potter. I think I must like you.