Francis Schaeffer Quote

18 12 2007

francisschaeffer.gifI am convinced that many men who preach the gospel and love the Lord are really misunderstood. People make a “profession,” but because they haven’t understood the message, they are not really saved. They feel a psychological need and they want psychological relief, but they don’t understand that the Christian message is not talking only about psychological relief (though it includes that) but is talking about true moral guilt in the presence of a holy God who exists. The real need is salvation from true moral guilt, not just relief from guilt feelings. And I am certain many men who make a profession go away still unsaved, having not heard one word of the real gospel because they have filtered the message through their own thought forms and their own intellectual framework in which the word “guilt” equals “guilt feelings.”

Francis Schaeffer

Death in the City (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press: 1969) 93




8 responses

19 12 2007
jonathon smith

I understand the bottom line of what Schaeffer is saying here is that people make false professions….However I have always been taught that good actions lead to good feelings and bad actions lead to bad feelings…..If a person has guilty feelings its because they are actually guilty on a moral level. So my question is, is Schaeffer saying that people are just sorry for how they feel and not for what they do and are asking God to save them from their feelings? Or is he saying that people feel guilty when they really haven’t done anything and therefore have a false guilt that leads them to asking God to forgive them when they don’t really need forgiveness?(I don’t think that is what he is saying) Or is he saying they believe that they have done wrong but when asking God to save them don’t really believe that they have done God wrong? Or is he saying they ask Jesus to forgive their sins but they don’t really mean it and are playing some kind of mental game where going through the prayer just makes them feel better?

I guess I’m having a hard time distinguishing between “feeling guilty” and being “guilty”. Why would someone feel guilty if they weren’t?

20 12 2007

Schaeffer stressed the distinction between the mere “feelings” of guilt that may be experienced because of some arbitrary standard, internal insecurity, or personal sense of failure.

True moral guilt requires the violation of an absolute moral standard. That standard is found in the character of God. God’s character is the absolute standard of the universe.

Moreover, God has revealed His standard in a verbalized and propositional form (the Bible).

When individuals break these revealed absolutes they become actually guilty, morally guilty, before the God who is there.

This is real moral guilt, not just a feeling, before the real, absolute moral Judge of the Universe, God.

Thus Schaeffer insisted that belief in absolutes was necessary to receive forgiveness of true moral guilt.

20 12 2007
jonathon smith

I understand….but why would a person submit to asking God (the author of said absolute moral standard) for forgiveness for just feeling guilty? If you ask God for forgiveness because you feel guilty aren’t you in fact submitting to and acknowledging that those feelings are caused by a violation against the one who created that absolute moral standard? Therefore if guilty feelings bring you to submission to God and acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice for your sins how is that a false profession?

This devotion is very ambiguous! He is talking about False Professions. He is talking about men misunderstanding the gospel. He says that they mistake it for psychological relief rather than true forgiveness of sin, but he says that true salvation “includes that”. The problem is that he is very ambiguous with what he means by psychological relief. He explains it by using the term “guilty feelings” however all who are saved have guilty feelings that are part and parcell with true moral guilt also. So we know that “guilty feelings” and “psychological relief” are both part of a true profession but not the whole of it. He doesn’t actually explain how “guilty feelings” are tied with attaining this “psychological relief” this false profession. Which makes this really an exercise in rhetoric. Typical for Philosophers 🙂

There’s no real meat here!

Can you think of a scenario where a person has “guilt feelings”, –asks Jesus to forgive them of their sins and thanks him for dying on the cross for them and believes that he has been forgiven–, experiences “psychological relief” and yet has made a false profession?

I know that in Schaeffers writing he probably doesn’t think that the person actually did what is between the dashes of my last paragraph…..the problem is he doesn’t fill in the paragraph at all! Schaeffers scenario looks like this

Can you think of a scenario where a person has “guilt feelings”, experiences “psychological relief” and yet has made a false profession?

Doesn’t actually make sense. The question is a false profession in what?

20 12 2007
jonathon smith

One could have guilt feeling, take anti-depressants, experience psychological relief but that isn’t a false profession thats psychiatry.

One could have guilt feelings, beat their kids, experience psychological relief but that isn’t a false profession that’s venting.

One could have guilt feelings, do tons of good and sacrificial works for humanity, experience psychological relief but that isn’t a false profession that’s human effort.

One could have guilt feelings, ask God for forgiveness, experience psychological relief but that isn’t a false profession that’s leaving Jesus out of the equation because they aren’t professing Christ. (this scenario is probably what Schaeffer in envisioning in this writing)

One could have guilt feelings, accept what Jesus Christ did for them on the cross for the payment of their sin, experience psychological relief and that’s a “false profession”……..I don’t think so!

20 12 2007

Bro. Jonathon,

I appreciate your thoughts on this subject. Schaeffer also recognized the odd overlap created by trying to express the phenomenon he had in mind.

You asked for examples … well, the outward process would read the same as for someone who was truly born again. The difference would be that the individual speaking the words would not truly believe that an actual, living, personal God was involved.

Some people think of God as a type of impersonal force that exists and must be accommodated, sort of like the force of gravity or karma. New Age spiritualists appeal to this sort of force. Spells and incantations are cast. Ceremonies are conducted. Formulas are followed, specific words and/or actions are employed and in the process some sort of psychological satisfaction or relief is experienced.

In this sense, saying the right words of the Christian formula for salvation may be employed without real salvation being accomplished.

I have known many people through the years that have made professions of faith that turned out (apparently) to be false. They experienced some type of relief or satisfaction in the moment but from all available evidence (only God can judge with certainty), they did not actually receive forgiveness of sins and regeneration by grace through faith.

The only example I can give with certainty is my own. At twelve I walked an isle, bowed my head, said the right words, was told my sins were forgiven and that I was going to heaven. I experienced a real psychological sense of relief and went on the following week to be baptized. The only problem was that I was not actually saved.

I’ve corrected that since then.

Have you not known individuals like this? How would you describe the internal process of those who make false professions of faith?

9 01 2008
jonathon smith

I haven’t checked back with this thread in a while. Yes I have known literally hundreds that have made false professions but they weren’t false because they had feelings of guilt and psychological relief…..they are always false for one of these two reasons

1. There was no repentance of sin
2. There was no trust in Christ

Usually one of those two if not both are left out. I have never seen a false profession that was false because a person had guilt feelings or psychological relief. These are reasons why people may use to hold on to false professions but they are not the reason they are false.

good thread!

21 03 2008
Maynard S. Clark

Is the Bible REALLY “propositional” (in the sense of being “propositional truth”)? Seems to me that what we call the Bible is a collection of many kinds of literature: narrative, history, poetry and song/psalms, correspondence (“the letters”), regulations, dreams and ‘prophecy’, etc.

Seems to me, also, that “propositional” assertions comes along with doctrinal formulation, only some of which is included in what we today call the Bible.

22 03 2008

Well, no, the entire Bible is not a catalogue of propositions, but a good part of it is. The rest consistently illustrates and/or affirms the various propositions made. Of course the main proposition affirmed throughout the Bible is that a personal yet transcendent God exists.

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