“The old liberal theologians in Germany began by accepting the presupposition of the uniformity of natural causes as a closed system. Thus they rejected everything miraculous and supernatural, including the supernatural in the life of Jesus Christ. Having done that, they still hoped to find a historical Jesus in a rational, objective, scholarly way by separating the supernatural aspect of Jesus’ life from the ‘true history’. Their search for the historical Jesus was doomed to failure. The supernatural was so intertwined with the rest that if they ripped out all the supernatural, there was no Jesus left! If they removed all the supernatural, no historical Jesus remained; if they kept the historical Jesus, the supernatural remained as well.”
“[P]eople in our culture in general are already in the process of being accustomed to accept nondefined, contentless religious words and symbols, without any rational or historical control. Such words and symbols can be filled with the content of the moment. The words Jesus and Christ are the most ready for the manipulator. The phrase Jesus Christ has become a contentless banner which can be carried in any direction for sociological purposes. In other words, because the phrase Jesus Christ has been separated from true history and the content of Scripture, it can be used to trigger religiously motivated sociological actions directly contrary to the teaching of Christ.”
– Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984), The God Who is There, pp. 72, 110
“Yet, without true Christians loving one another, Christ says the world cannot be expected to listen, even when we give proper answers. Let us be careful, indeed, to spend a lifetime studying to give honest answers. For years the orthodox,evangelical church has done this very poorly. So it is well to spend time learning to answer the questions of men who are about us. But after we have done our best to communicate to a lost world, still we must never forget that the final apologetic which Jesus gives is the observable love of true Christians for true Christians.”
– Francis Schaeffer (1912–1984), The Great Evangelical Disaster, p. 164-165
Schaeffer was careful to acknowledge in the pages before this quote the necessity of examining the profession people make for Christ which is why he added the adjective “true” in front of the noun “Christian”. And he was just as careful to guard against the tendency to encourage a non-thinking form of apologetic in the church, the sort that would only support a naive form of observable love as the final apologetic.
What he is making much of here is the type of observable love that can only be done in the presence of true Christians who know their differences but are able because of Christ’ own pattern to consider others better than themselves and to serve them and sacrifice for them out of love.
I believe that this final apologetic is often an absent apologetic. People typically describe apologetics as something the church does outwardly for the sake of truth and polemics as something the church does inwardly for the sake of truth, but I think Schaeffer ingeniously explores their overlap here. Our defense before the world is dependent of how we function on a communal level inwardly.
“I am only interested in an apologetic that leads in two directions, and the one is to lead people to Christ, as Saviour, and the other is that after they are Christians, for them to realize the lordship of Christ in the whole of life… if Christianity is truth, it ought to touch on the whole of life… Christianity must never be reduced merely to an intellectual system… After all, if God is there, it isn’t just an answer to an intellectual question… we’re called upon to adore him, to be in relationship to him, and, incidentally, to obey him.”
– Francis Schaeffer (1912–1984), Interview, September 30, 1980
“Evangelicals often make a mistake today. Without knowing it, they slip over into a weak position. They often thank God in their prayers for the revelation we have of God in Christ. This is good as far as it goes, and it is wonderful that we do have a factual revelation of God in Christ. But I hear very little thanks from the lips of evangelicals today for the propositional revelation in verbalized form which we have in the Scriptures. He must indeed not only be there, but he must have spoken. And he must have spoken in a way which is more than simply a quarry for emotional, upper-story experiences.”
“We need propositional facts. We need to know who he is, and what his character is, because his character is the law of the universe. He has told us what his character is, and this becomes our moral law, our moral standard. It is not arbitrary, for it is fixed in God himself, in what has always been. It is the very opposite of what is relativistic. It is either this or morals are not morals, but simply sociological averages or arbitrary standards imposed by society or the state. It is one or the other.”
“It is important to remember that it is not improper for men to ask these questions concerning metaphysics and morals, and Christians should point out that there is no answer to these questions except that God is there and he is not silent. Students and other young people should not be told to keep quiet when they ask these questions. They are right to ask them, but we should make it plain to them that these are the only answers. It is this or nothing.”
– Francis Schaeffer (1912–1984), He is There and He is not Silent, p. 33-34