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Imperfection and the Continuing Work of Christ - from The Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer
The Letters of Francis Schaeffer (Crossways Books, 1986) as reprinted at ^ | December 26, 1970 | Francis A. Schaeffer

Posted on 04/14/2005 5:07:58 AM PDT by Alex Murphy

Words Written to Friends
selections from the letters of Francis Schaeffer

Letter Eleven
Imperfection and the Continuing Work of Christ

It would seem to me that your central problem, as you have expressed it in your letter, is that you forget the Bible makes clear that none of us will be perfect until Christ comes back again. The Bible states clearly that our standard is perfection: "Be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect." But on the other hand, the Bible makes equally plain that while this is our standard, yet every Christian has places for further sanctification and growth. The 7th chapter of Romans speaks of Paul's experience after he was a Christian. His great cry at the end of that chapter is very similar to your own cry. The difference is that he clearly goes on and claims the work of Christ in ... forgiveness for his present sin, and thus ends the 8th chapter of Romans with the absolute certainty that nothing can separate us from the work of Christ.

This is where our peace rests - not that we do not sin, but that we can have continuing forgiveness on the basis of Christ's work. This is not to be confused with becoming a Christian (justification). Justification is a once-for-all thing, and we cannot be lost again. The Bible is quite clear at this point.

Sanctification, however, is a continuous thing. [In sanctification, based upon] the finished work of Christ upon the cross, we may have a continuing forgiveness. And gradually, as we allow Christ to do so, He brings forth fruit through us into the poor, external world.

Your psychologist is wrong in telling you to let down your high standards, but he is right that these can become an obsession. As a Christian I would say that this may be carried further, for Satan can win a victory in making you feel overwhelmed if you do not see the distinction between the perfect standard of God and the equal emphasis in Scripture that none of us will be perfect until Jesus comes back again.

Christianity is not only a religion for the mentally healthy. Rather, ever since the Fall, none of us are totally mentally healthy, any more than any of us are totally physically well, or totally morally good. Christianity is for weak people just as we are, but we must honor Christ and His finished work by bringing our failures under the work of Christ and leaving them there. When we do less than this, we are dishonoring Christ and His finished work - as though His finished work is enough for some things but not enough for my weaknesses and sin.

We can fail after we are truly Christians because becoming a Christian does not rob us of our true humanity. God does not turn us into puppets which He totally controls just because we are Christians.

December 26, 1970
1861 Huemoz sur Ollon,, Switzerland

TOPICS: Activism; Apologetics; Ecumenism; Evangelical Christian; General Discusssion; History; Mainline Protestant; Ministry/Outreach; Religion & Culture; Skeptics/Seekers; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: calvinist; evangelicalism; letters; presbyterian; reformed; schaeffer


Widely recognized as one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer was the founder of the L'Abri Fellowship, an international study center and Christian community with branches in Switzerland, England, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States. Through his work at L'Abri, Dr. Schaeffer came into personal contact with thousands of people searching for truth and reality in their lives. Before his death in 1984 he lectured frequently in the leading universities in the United States and abroad on the relevance of Christian thought. Author of twenty-three books, Dr. Schaeffer was a dedicated writer of letters, corresponding with many of the thousands of individuals his life and teaching had impacted. This brief compilation gathers excerpts from a few of these letters, offering an intimate view of a passionate Christian communicator and mind.

The unique contribution of Dr. Francis Schaeffer on a whole generation was the ability to communicate the truth of historic Biblical Christianity in a way that combined intellectual integrity with practical, loving care. This grew out of his extensive understanding of the Bible from a deep commitment to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and a critical study of the world of man. These two pillars supported his inquisitive and analytical mind on the solid reality of the truth of God's creation and of his revelation. He understood the roots of modern thinking in its rejection of reality and rationality and pointed out the logical conclusions in a wide range of disciplines and in society.

Dr. Schaeffer understood that what a person believes will influence the way he acts in history and individual situations. There is a relationship between a person's view of truth and life, between philosophy and practice, between faulty ideas and foolish choices. Dr. Schaeffer discussed the truth of reality with anyone in many settings. This in turn brought students, professionals, scholars and others from around the world to his home to learn from his insights. They returned with them to their own world and applied them to their circle of life amd work. The ideas continue to bear fruit and to stimulate discussions and discoveries through more than 25 books, several films, taped seminars and lectures at leading universities in Europe, the US and abroard. The result has been a profound and enduring impact upon many thousands, who have themselves gone to make their own mark in history.

The central thrust of Dr. Schaeffer's teaching is that Biblical Christianity is the truth about the real world. The only reason to be a Christian is an acknowledgement of what is objectively true about human beings, the real world and the basic human predicaments. The Bible is true in all that it affirms. This emphasis is not so much the summary of academic instructions or doctrinal positions. It is the result of a searching mind, of being exposed to human history, the European culture and art, and of in-depth discussions with knowledgeable people for a life time of study, observation and work.

With the Bible as his base and a profound interest in human beings, Dr. Schaeffer's insights were developed through the experience of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the study of Florentine society and art, in lectures followed by tough discussions at modern Cambridge, in rude exposure to the slums of Bombaay and in probing questions of people from a great variety of backgrounds, in abortion protests, in response to life in the wider arena of human need and pervasive intellectual confusion in our world.

- Udo W. Middelmann
President - The Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation

1 posted on 04/14/2005 5:07:59 AM PDT by Alex Murphy
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To: All
This letter is taken from a collection of Francis Schaeffer's letters, published by Crossways Books shortly after his death. In my "formative" years as a new Christian, this book was a profound influence on my thinking, and my working through what it meant to be a Christian living in a fallen world. Schaeffer's words, more than once, proved an immense comfort when I was deep in despair. I thought these letters would make good devotional-style material for the Religion Forum.

Fortunately, instead of having to type book excerpts by hand, I discovered a website that has reprinted seventeen of the letters from his book. Earthly duties permitting, I plan to post one each day and hope that each of you will benefit from a brief glimpse into the mind and heart of Francis A. Schaeffer.

Please let me know if you would like to be included on a ping list to these threads.

2 posted on 04/14/2005 5:08:27 AM PDT by Alex Murphy (Psalm 73)
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To: Gamecock; ksen; HarleyD; suzyq5558; Frumanchu; Dr. Eckleburg; keeper53; bygrace85; hope; ...

Francis A. Schaeffer ping

3 posted on 04/14/2005 5:09:01 AM PDT by Alex Murphy (Psalm 73)
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To: Alex Murphy
Excellent letter, Alex. How many times have I cried out as Paul "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" But at the same time I rejoice that I am under such conviction and have not the forehead of the harlot.

Sola Gratia!

4 posted on 04/14/2005 6:31:15 AM PDT by Frumanchu (I fear the sanctions of the Mediator far above the sanctions of the moderator...)
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To: Alex Murphy
Thanks Alex.

[In sanctification, based upon] the finished work of Christ upon the cross, we may have a continuing forgiveness.

I would disagree here a bit with Schaeffer because I believe that ALL of our sins were forgiven at the Cross, not just the ones up to the point of conversion. Christ paid it all and that includes the sins that I will commit in the future.

5 posted on 04/14/2005 6:59:32 AM PDT by ksen ("He that knows nothing will believe anything." - Thomas Fuller)
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To: ksen
Actually, I don't think Schaeffer is disagreeing with that. I think the point he was making is in line with the rest of the letter...that while we are continually under conviction for the sins we continue to commit, the fact that we are being progressively sanctified does not mean we are still exposed to the eternal consequences of our sins. We were saved at the point of faith. We are continuing to be saved as we are refined like silver through fire, continually and increasingly purified. We will be saved when our purification is completed in our glorification.

The point is that the conviction we come under during the process of our sanctification ought be in the right context...that of showing forth where we fall short of the righteous standard we are being drawn toward, not that of fear of eternal separation from God.

6 posted on 04/14/2005 7:16:51 AM PDT by Frumanchu (I fear the sanctions of the Mediator far above the sanctions of the moderator...)
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