by Francis A. Schaeffer


I’ve heard dozens of people that I respect talk about Francis Schaeffer over the years. I had never read anything by him other than some thought-provoking quotes in other’s works.

Now I know what all the fuss is about.

Born in 1912, he left a lasting legacy through his ministry, writings and the L’Abri community when he passed in 1984. I can guarantee you that I’ll be reading more of his works.

I wrote a while back about the possibility of global warming not being the sole result of man’s influence. Rather, I noted, it may be linked uncomfortably to God’s judgement and wrath on a people that have turned from Him.

That’s the heavy question that Death in the City investigates. Schaeffeer states that there is the “dust of death” covering us all and that there is within all men “an unsatisfied longing for a sufficient comforter.” That longing too often propels into the arms of lesser lovers.

As Schaeffer examines the ministry and power of the prophet Jeremiah, he points out that the God of Scripture is a jealous God who will not only woo his people, but He will discipline them.

Jeremiah’s message agrees with the assertion of Hebrews 12.8-11:

If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 

“Death in the city” is a progressive devolving of societies and cultures that turn away from the Creator. As in Romans 1, God essentially allows them to experience all that “life” has to offer them apart from Himself – which is no life at all. It is the beginnings of death.

I was continually grateful at Schaeffer’s skill in expressing deep anthopological and theological content in ways that were “chewable.”

At one point, he says, “Jean Paul-Sartre has said that the basic philosophic question of all questions is this: Why is it that something is there rather than nothing? He is correct. The great mystery to the materialist is that there is anything there at all. However, it is not only that something chaotic is there but that something orderly, is there.”

As Schaeffer belabors the point of an involved God in a world of men who have rejected (and are rejecting) Him, He speaks to those who would seek to please or follow God:

It’s perfectly true that God in His mercy often brings men into contact with the Gospel in very unexpected ways… But we are not to wait like a piece of stone for God to bring men to us… The Christian is called to be a carrier of the content of the Good News. 

Any author that can assert with conviction and certainty the truth of God’s wrath while simultaneously upholding and offering God’s mercy is well worth digesting. Death in the City is just such a work.

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