Book Review: The Mark of the Christian – By Francis Schaeffer

Schaeffer The Mark of the ChristianLetter TThe question is sometimes raised, “How is one to identify a Christian; what is it that marks them as a Christian?”

In his text The Mark of the Christian, Francis Schaeffer works to answer that question. The mark that Schaeffer lands on is the mark of the Christian’s love for all men, and especially for his fellow Christian brothers, a love which is worked out primarily through the ways in which we express our differences and work for unity. This point is perhaps made most succinctly by Schaeffer when he remarks that “Love – and the unity it attests to – is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.”(p.35)

This unity works itself out in a variety of ways; there are some things that it is, and there are some things that it is not. For instance, it is not refusing to point out errors of doctrine, or to judge those who teach something opposed to Christianity while still trying to keep the name, thus Schaeffer notes “The church has a right to judge, in fact it is commanded to judge, a man on the content of what he believes and teaches.”(p.16) or as it’s stated elsewhere “The church is not to let pass what is wrong; but the Christian should suffer practical, monetary loss to show the oneness true Christians should have rather than to go to court against other true Christians.”(p.29)

Yet, while working for this purity in the church, the Christian must also work for unity and love. They must exhibit both the holiness and the love of God, thus “The Christian is to exhibit that God exists as the infinite-personal God; and then he is to exhibit simultaneously God’s character of holiness and love. Not his holiness without his love: that is only harshness. Not his love without his holiness: that is only compromise.”(p.21)

The church is to strive for unity, but not just any unity. It is not merely an organizational unity (which, amongst other things, is impossible on a global level for merely practical reasons), nor is it merely the unity of the invisible church (which, indeed, needs no more unification). Rather, this unity is a simple concept of visible love. A few key ways that this can be accomplished include things that are quite simple, yet often neglected. Thus, the keys are such things as asking forgiveness and offering forgiveness; other keys include suffering practical loss for the sake of unity and approaching a given problem “with a desire to solve it, rather than with a desire to win” as “the history of theology is all too often a long exhibition of a desire to win.”(p.29)

If this is done correctly, the result will be that “Before a watching world an observable love in the midst of difference will show a difference between Christians’ differences and other men’s differences. The world may not understand what the Christian’s are disagreeing about, but they will very quickly understand the difference of our differences from the world’s differences if they see us having our differences in an open and observable love on a practical level”(p.31)

Towards the end of his text, Schaeffer asks “Whoever heard of sermons or writings which carefully present the practice of two principles which at first seem to work against each other: (1) the principle of the practice of the purity of the visible church in regard to doctrine and life and (2) the principle of the practice of an observable love and oneness among all true Christians. If there is no careful preaching and writing about these things, are we so foolish as to think that there will be anything beautiful in practice when differences between true Christians must be honestly faced?”(p.30)

This little booklet is what one might call a first step in the direction of producing writings on the topic, and it is well worth the short amount of time that it takes to read it.

Memorable Quotes:

“The Bible is a strong and down-to-earth book”-29

“The church is to be a loving church in a dying culture.”-12

“[I]t is not possible to be a Christian without showing the mark, but if we expect non-Christians to know that we are Christians, we must show the mark.”-8

“There is only one kind of man who can fight the Lord’s battles in anywhere near a proper way, and that is the man who is by nature unbelligerent.”-26

“In other words, if people come up to us and cast in our teeth the judgement that we are not Christians because we have not shown love toward other Christians, we must understand that they are only exercising a prerogative which Jesus gave them.”-13

“All men bear the image of God. They have value, not because they are redeemed, but because they are God’s creation in God’s image. Modern man, who has rejected this, has no clue as to who he is, and because of this he can find no real value for himself or for other men. Hence, he downgrades the value of other men and produces the horrible thing we face today – a sick culture in which men treat men as inhuman, as machines. As Christians, however, we know the value of men.”-9



Ordained PCA | MDiv

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