The next section we come to in Francis Schaeffer’s book, The Mark of the Christian, brings us to the heart of his thesis. I have a hunch that this section, called “The Final Apologetic,” is the core message that Schaeffer wanted to communicate to his reader. I suggest you read it slowly and carefully, we must not miss the powerful and profound—and convicting—point, in this section.
THE FINAL APOLOGETIC
Schaeffer begins by building on the first truth of Jesus’ message in John 13:35 where the emphasis is that the world has the divine permission to judge the authenticity of one’s faith by how well we love their fellow believer. Now, he moves with Jesus to His prayer in the upper room (John 17) to take the issue of “love for fellow believers” to a more sobering, yet urgent, level of seriousness. Now, the outsider is not only given permission to judge the authenticity of our faith, but they are permitted to judge of the veracity of our message; as in, the gospel message to the lost and unbelieving.
His point of reference is John 17:21. Here Jesus prays for the oneness of the church, and for what Schaeffer will label, “the final apologetic” (p. 15). Concerning this, he writes:
In John 13 the point was that, if an individual Christian does not show love toward other true Christians, the world has a right to judge that he is not a Christian. Here [John 17:21] Jesus is stating something else which is much more cutting, much more profound: We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus' claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians. (p. 15)
Schaeffer goes on to point out, the world cannot judge us by our doctrine, it has not the resources of the Word or the indwelling Spirit—the resources the church must use to judge the authenticity of one’s faith; rather, it has only the witness of the church, of the individual believer to the outside world (p. 17). And the point is, that witness must be one characterized by genuine and sincere love, demonstrated in every wise and appropriate means available.
Key statements from this section (pp. 15-17):
Now comes the sobering part. Jesus goes on in this 21st verse to say something that always causes me to cringe. If as Christians we do not cringe, it seems to me we are not very sensitive or very honest, because Jesus here gives us the final apologetic.
What is the final apologetic? "That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." This is the final apologetic.
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. ... But we cannot expect the world to judge that way, because the world cares nothing about doctrine.
Because every man is made in the image of God and has, therefore, aspirations for love, there is something that can be in every geographical climate — in every point of time — which cannot fail to arrest his attention. What is it? The love that true Christians show for each other …
You can read the online edition of the entire book here >>
3 John 8