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July/August 2006 Issue

THE GATHERING PLACE:
An Integrated Faith
By Bruce J. Clemenger

Remembering the influence of Francis Schaeffer and how he encouraged integral thinking.

Recently the CBC ran a story on charitable giving titled “Canadians Are Generous, But a Few Do the Most.” According to Statistics Canada, the top 25 percent of donors contribute 82 percent of money donated and the top 11 percent of volunteers contribute 77 percent of hours donated. And the chief characteristics of these donors? They attend religious services weekly and have a university degree. Religion does matter and has consequences.

In particular, the decline of Christian influence in western culture has consequences for our society’s compassion for others, as Francis A. Schaeffer used to say. He predicted compassion would be increasingly replaced by utilitarianism. Caring for others because they are created in God’s image and objects of His love would be replaced by caring for others to assuage our own discomfort or to appease our consciences so that our own personal peace is not disturbed. Worldviews matter; and thoughts and ideas do influence action.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Francis Schaeffer’s book and film series How Should We Then Live? I recall being in The People’s Church in Toronto for the first screening of the films and to hear Schaeffer. He was dressed in his trademark lederhosen and sitting on the edge of the table, calmly providing answers to complex questions about religion, philosophy and culture. Since then I have been struck by how many Christian leaders testify to the impact of this book and the writings of Francis Schaeffer on their lives.

His writings had a profound influence in my life as well. As a university student I found myself asking basic questions about my faith. Believing that a personal Creator God does exist and having accepted His son Jesus as my Saviour and Lord, I was grappling with what it meant to work out my salvation with “fear and trembling.” What are the implications of the gospel for all of life, or paraphrasing Ezekiel, “How then shall I live?”

My guides in those years were A.W. Tozer and Francis Schaeffer. They confirmed that my questions need not be feared or avoided. Rather, I experience joy embracing my questions and being on a journey of exploration and discovery.

Schaeffer helped me to understand that life need not be bifurcated and that faith should not be compartmentalized. Indeed, quite the opposite. Faith should be integrated in all we do and in all we think. We fail ourselves, our neighbours and ultimately God if we slip into this “existential” separation, as Schaeffer called it, of an “upper storey” of faith and values and a “lower storey” of reason and facts.

Instead we are to live integrated lives and pursue a Christian perspective of life rather than living parts of our lives in conformity to another worldview. Our faith has implications for all areas of life – the alternative is idolatry and living a life unexamined habits.

Back then I realized that Christianity meant more than being an ethical student. It had implications for how I understood and approached my fields of inquiry. Romans 12:2 (“Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”) and 2 Corinthians 10:5 (“take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”) took new meaning and offered me the freedom in Christ to pursue my studies to seek a more integrated understanding of life and service.

Indeed, faith and religion do matter and have consequences. They will affect character, conduct and priorities. They will affect how we understand the world around us and how we live our lives.

Bruce J. Clemenger is the president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

Other Articles
July/Aug 2006 Issue

Cover Story
Stand Up for Jesus: Canadian Christians Get Serious About Being Funny

Feature Article
Woman Offers Inspired Leadership in Two Armies

From the Editor
A Time to Laugh

The Gathering Place
An Integrated Faith

Ask a Theologian
Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

   
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