“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
In 1971, Francis Schaeffer wrote a book entitled “The Church Before the Watching World.” The theme of the book, reflected in the title, is the importance of how the Christian community displays the character of Christ before a watching world. Like the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31, the Church is called to “let her works praise her in the gates.”
Early in the book, Schaeffer establishes the foundation of theological truth on which the Church is built. First, there is an infinite-personal God who exists and who has created the external universe, not as an extension of his own essence, but out of nothing. This is what theologians call creation “Ex Nihilo” … out of nothing.
Much of the nature of the created universe can be discovered by reason because that is the way the infinite-personal God has created it. The universe orderly; it is neither chaotic nor random. Cause and effect is real. However—and this is key—the cause and effect is not in a closed system, but rather in an open system. Though the universe has an objective existence apart from God, it does not operate solely on its own; it is not autonomous.
God is not subordinate to the cause-and-effect world he has created; rather, he is able to act in the world and intervene in the flow of history. This is what is meant by “cause-and-effect in an open system.”
Second, God has made man in his own image, and this means, among other things, that man too can act into the cause-and-effect flow of history. That is, man has free will. He has choices, and his choices have consequences. Man cannot be reduced to only a part of the machine; he is not an automaton.
Third, not only can God act into the world, but he is not silent. The Lord has spoken to men through inspired scripture. The bible gives us propositional, verbalized truth about God, mankind, history, and the cosmos. This should not be a surprise, for if God has made man in his own image and has made us so that we can verbalize facts propositionally to each other, then it is natural that the infinite God who is personal would also communicate to man in the same way.
Of course, we must be careful to make a distinction here. Although God has not given us exhaustive knowledge (only God is infinite), he has given us true knowledge (what Schaeffer often called “true truth”) about himself, mankind, history, and the cosmos.
Fourth, because of the Fall (recorded in Genesis 3), the creation as it is now is not normal; that is, it is not now as it was when it was first created. Likewise, man is no longer as he was when first created. The creation, affected by the negative impact of the Fall, is subjected to decay. In physics this decay is known as “entropy.”
Fifth, the good news is that in Christ the Lord has provided for the redemption of mankind and creation. Those who trust in Jesus are redeemed from the penalty of sin, and are made part of the supernatural fellowship of the Christian community, which is the body of Christ on earth. The Lord works in and through the Christian community to accomplish his purposes on earth.
“We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5.20)
It is imperative, then, that the Church live and work in a way that displays the character of Christ. The world is watching.