Just as our physical lives begin at birth, the Christian life begins with our spiritual birth. There was a day—a moment—in which God “made us alive” (Eph 2:5) spiritually. Physical birth and spiritual birth are the two most important events of our lives. If not for the one, we wouldn’t be alive; and if not for the other, we wouldn’t have become Christians. Spiritual birth marks a new way of life for the believer. Having been made new, we are not just called to live but called to live as a Christian.
The Call to Die
Schaeffer first shows us how spiritual birth unites us to Christ’s death and resurrection. Following our new birth, a wonderful paradox arises. Jesus commands us to die.
As He challenged the disciples in Luke 9:23-24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Schaeffer points out how this command runs parallel to the life of Jesus: “Here Jesus takes the order that was so necessary for our redemption in the unique substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and applies it to the Christian’s life. The order—rejected, slain, raised—is also the order of the Christian life of true spirituality: there is no other.”1
Thus, Schaeffer demonstrates the centrality of death in living the Christian life. Schaeffer is helpful here because he doesn’t overlook the difficult aspects of the Christian faith in favor of the easier ones. Instead, he reminds us that “…if we want to know anything of reality in the Christian life, anything of true spirituality, we must ‘take up our cross daily.’”2
The Call to Live
In the same way that Christ’s death gave way to His resurrection, our spiritual death gives way to our spiritual resurrection. Resurrection makes true spirituality possible. This is the Christian life. Moment-by-moment, we’ve been “raised up with Christ” (Eph 2:6).
What does this mean for the Christian practically? According to Schaeffer, “It certainly means this: that in our thoughts and lives now we are to live as though we had already died, been to Heaven, and come back again as risen.”3 Schaeffer gives us a powerful and thoroughly biblical picture of true spirituality. He summarizes our connection to Christ’s rejection, death, and resurrection this way:
Now I am ready for the war. Now there can be spirituality of a biblical sort. Now there can be a Christian life. Rejected, slain, raised: now we are ready to be used. But not only ready to be used in this present space-time world, but ready to enjoy it, as the creature: ready to enjoy it in the light of its createdness by God; ready to enjoy it, yet seeing it as it is since the Fall.4
The Call to Worship
In the second half of the book, Schaeffer shows how true spirituality involves freedom in this life from the results of the bonds of sin. He focuses on matters of conscience: our thought-life, psychological problems, what he calls the “total person,” our relationships, and the church.
As expected from a Christian philosopher, much of this section centers on the connections between our thinking and true spirituality. True spirituality “…is a matter of our thoughts…Moral battles are not won in the external world first. They are always a result flowing naturally from a cause, and the cause is in the internal world of one’s thoughts.”5 Even so, Schaeffer argues that the freedom to think rightly doesn’t find its end in the acknowledgment of bare facts:
[Our thoughts] end in communion with the infinite-personal reference point who is there, God Himself. And that is tremendous. Then you can worship. This is where true worship is found: not in stained-glass windows, candles, or altarpieces, not in contentless experiences, but in communion with the God who is there—communion for eternity, and communion now, with the infinite-personal God as Abba, Father.6
Thus, Schaeffer demonstrates how the transformation of our mind culminates in the ultimate priority—worship.
The Call to Spiritual Unity
Finally, Schaeffer proves himself a churchman by teaching us what the church means to true spirituality. The church demonstrates how Christ has supernaturally restored us. Schaeffer believes “Every single generation should be able to look to the church of that generation and see an exhibition of a supernaturally restored relationship, not just between the individual and God, though that is first; not just between the individual and himself, though that is crucial; but between person and person in the church.”7
Schaeffer reminds us that “Christianity is an individual thing, but it isn’t only an individual thing.”8 Christian spirituality cannot be “true” without the assembly of God’s people. Therefore, it’s through the local church that we demonstrate our true spirituality both to one another and to the watching world.
If you’re looking to learn what it means to “live” the new birth event, I commend Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality. For those who desire deep biblical answers, Schaeffer has delivered a profoundly complex yet beautiful explanation of the Christian life.
1 Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality (Illinois: Crossway, 2020), 50.
2 Schaeffer, True Spirituality, 55.
3 Schaeffer, 71.
4 Schaeffer, 75-76.
5 Schaeffer, 165.
6 Schaeffer, 184.
7 Schaeffer, 238.
8 Schaeffer, 251.