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A nice church filled with nice people doing nice things will make no impact in the intensity of our times. Every hybrid form of “Christianity” deserves to die, and will die. But here is a pathway back into the prophetic power of apostolic Christianity.

Francis Schaeffer asked the question, What is the Christian’s task in the world today? That is a clearly focusing question. And Schaeffer’s answer was not evangelism. Evangelism too often seems canned and mechanical, Schaeffer said, like a sales pitch. But when evangelism is pursued as part of a larger whole, as a part of something unmistakably beautiful, it will be convincing, even captivating. What is that larger whole, embodied in a beautiful church? Two contents and two realities, Schaeffer proposed.

Two contents

1.  Sound doctrine

“The first content is clear doctrinal content concerning the central elements of Christianity.” This strong biblical message stands in contrast to the content-weak philosophical and pragmatic rolls-of-the-dice people are settling for all around us.

2.  Honest answers to honest questions

“The second content is . . . honest answers to honest questions. . . . Christianity demands that we have enough compassion to learn the questions of our generation.” We must listen respectfully to all around us and try to satisfy their questions by reasoning thoughtfully from the full biblical gospel.

Two realities

1.  True spirituality

“There must be something real of the work of Christ, something real in Christ’s bearing his fruit through me through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. . . . There is nothing more ugly in all the world, nothing which more turns people aside, than a dead orthodoxy.” Moment-by-moment reality with the living Christ—apart from him, we can do nothing.

2.  The beauty of human relationships

“True Christianity produces beauty as well as truth. . . . If we do not show beauty in the way we treat each other, then in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of our own children, we are destroying the truth we proclaim.” This is a common blind spot among Bible-believing people. An orthodox doctrinal statement on paper might make us proud, but it alone will not make us convincing. Gospel doctrine must create gospel culture. Without that, we are trifling with the truth.

“When there are the two contents and the two realities, we will begin to see something profound happen in our generation.”

Francis A. Schaeffer, 2 Contents, 2 Realities (Downers Grove, 1975), pages 1-32.


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3 thoughts on “Something profound in our generation”

  1. AMEN! Knowing Francis Schaeffer was one of the biggest privileges of my life and I am so grateful to him for enabling my generation of university students to be thinking Christians – this is the mid-1970s…. And he is as right in 2017 as when he uttered all this back in his lifetime, now decades ago.

    1. Nathan Copeland says:

      Praise God for Francis Schaeffer’s vision of Truth with Love! (‘Truth with Love’ is also the title of a wonderful book on Schaeffer’s thought.) Every time I turn to his writings I am humbled, convicted, inspired, and comforted. Thanks for this reminder, Dr. Ortlund.

  2. Martin says:

    There is a famine of the Word of God today. Sound doctrine and true spirituality is needed.

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Ray Ortlund


Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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