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Pilgrim’s Process By Peter Sanlon

We don’t make our pilgrimage through life alone. Companions include books that have proven their value to other pilgrims.

One which I read annually, is ‘True Spirituality’ (TS) by Francis Schaeffer.
Schaeffer was an evangelist, pastor and apologist – pioneering ways of explaining Christianity to secular people in the 70s. We can all still benefit from his books.
Though best known for his books that engage with culture, he said that ‘TS should have been the first’ he wrote. The book arose out of a spiritual crisis. In 1951 and 1952 Schaeffer felt he could not be sure God was real. He doubted the basis for his faith. This was after a decade of pastoring and teaching. TS began life as a series of talks given after God led Schaeffer out of his period of doubt. They were given in 1953 and eventually became a book.

What a comfort to pilgrims who doubt or struggle – even a giant of the Faith can have a season of deep doubt and despair. Schaeffer spent time walking and pondering the teachings he had been given about God and living the Christian life. He realised there are compelling reasons to believe in God. 

He had struggled to keep believing because he had not been given adequate teaching about the finished work of Christ on the cross, and how it applied to the Christian life. TS is about the inner reality of spiritual life. Relationship with God is primary; Ministry secondary. ‘TS is not achieved by our own energy.’ There is an ‘active passivity’ in living as a pilgrim.
Secular people think the world is a ‘closed system’ but in reality God by his Spirit does work in his people. Schaeffer knew that his own crisis of faith spoke into many others’ experiences. ‘As I travel about and speak in many countries, I am impressed with the number of times I am asked by Christians about the loss of reality in their Christian lives.’
Schaeffer wrote compellingly of how reality can be restored to our attitude to sin, our conscience, thoughts, relationships and the Church. In all areas of life, Schaeffer found that a deeper appreciation of the Spirit empowering us to believe Jesus has completed his main work for us, on the cross, was the key.

‘The Holy Spirit enables one to see deeper into himself’ so that more parts of our lives may rest not on us, but upon ‘the finished work of Christ.’
If you are a pilgrim longing for more spiritual reality – ask Schaeffer to share how God led him out of his crisis of faith.

Rev. Dr. Peter Sanlon is rector of Emmanuel Anglican Church, Tunbridge Wells: