True Spirituality

Posted: February 11, 2007 in Theo/Philo


One of the most challenging books I have read is Francis Schaeffer’s ‘True Spirituality’, undeservedly a book not found on many peoples list of favourites.

Schaeffer has a knack of getting to the point in a way that for me at least illuminates the whole sorry,sordid condition of man and then points to the ‘way out ‘ sign.

The majority of my life as a Christian has been lived within a charismatic context,that is within a church characterised by an informal worship style and an emphasis on experience. Conventional shorthand for this type of church is ‘Happy clappy’ as opposed to ‘smells and bells’ worship style.

As with all churches,as with all organisations, there are unspoken rules,rules of behaviour and of thought forms. When to raise your hands in worship,when to speak in tongues, when to be quiet etc, In this way even the most apparently informal worship style has structure.

Schaeffer’s book ‘True Spirituality’ allowed me understand the context I was living my corporate Christian life in.

Schaeffer begins his book with this simple to the point quote:

‘The question before us is what the Christian life, true spirituality, really is, and how it may be lived in a twentieth century setting….And the only way to become a Christian is neither by trying to live some sort of religious experience, but rather by accepting Christ as Saviour….Jesus said a totally exclusive word: “No man comes to the Father but by me.”

Schaeffer rightly points away from the outward signs to the inward life. Whatever style of church a Christian attends, it is not the outward but the inner life that the Bible points to.’

Schaeffer again :

However, eventually the Christian life and true spirituality are not to be seen as outward at all , but inward. The climax of the ten commandments is the tenth commandment in Exodus 20:17 : “ Thou shall not covet thy neighbours house, thou shall not covet thy neighbours wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant ,nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbours.” The commandment not to covet is an entirely inward thing…’

When we disobey one of the ten commandments we not only break the particular commandment such as stealing ,killing,committing adultery etc but we also break what Schaeffer calls ‘the hub of the wheel’, the central inner commandment not to covet.

As stealing or killing are an outward act of an inner desire for something or someone to whom we have no rights,So we always break two commandments.

True religion as someone once said, is what we do in the privacy of our own homes.

It is not an outward thing,it comes from the thought life ,the battle ground is within.

Which is partly why I find this book so challenging.

There is a tension sometimes between our inner and outer life, that leads to the painful prospect of the spiritual splits -not recommended!

C.S.Lewis writes about this in his book ‘The Screwtape Letters’, the senior devil Screwtape is writing to his junior minion Wormwood regarding methods of keeping people away from Christianity in the book he says:

‘He can be made to take positive pleasure in the perception that two sides of his life are inconsistent. This is done by exploiting his vanity. He can be taught to enjoy kneeling beside the grocer on Sunday just because he remembers that the grocer could not possibly understand the urbane and mocking world which he inhabited on Saturday evening and contrawise, to enjoy the bawdy and blasphemy over the coffee with these admirable friends all the more because he is aware of a ‘deeper’, ‘spiritual’ world within him which they cannot understand. You see the idea – the worldly friends touch him on side and the grocer on the other side, and he is the complete balanced, complex man who see round them all.’

Returning to the ten commandments, one reason for God to institute these laws was to show that although we can keep an outward appearance of right living -something which invites comparison with the person next to us -”I’m doing OK after all look at these other people”.The ten commandments were instituted to show that inwardly we are all doing the spiritual splits and need Gods provision of grace through the sacrifice of Christ in order to approach God.

Schaeffer says :’ We must see that to love God with all the heart, mind, and soul is not to covet against God; and to love man, to love our neighbour as ourselves is not to covet against man.’





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