Letters From the Edge June Are You Bona Fide
Shared by: lauraarden
Letters From the Edge— June 25, 2008 Are You Bona Fide? I was reading a review of a new book called “Francis Schaffer: An Authentic Life”. The word “authentic” caught my interest. The dictionary says that authentic means: 1) something that can be believed or accepted, trustworthy, reliable 2) something is in fact as represented, genuine. We say things like “This is the genuine article”. We mean that what we are putting forward is in fact what it is represented to be. One synonym of authentic is “bona fide”, which means without fraud or deceit, real. A synonym for bona fide is authentic. Now if you are a fan of the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” this word bona fide should ring a bell. Smooth talking con man and escaped prisoner Ulysses Everett McGill is trying to get back home to stop his ex-wife from getting remarried. Everett sees his daughters and one of them says, “Momma said you got hit by a train”. Everett replies, “I was not hit by a train. I am the only Daddy you got! I’m the damn paterfamilias! The daughter replies, “But Momma says you ain’t bona fide.” This brings me back to my question, are you bona fide? Are you without fraud or deceit? Are you real? My reason for asking this was prompted by the review I read about Francis Schaffer. One reviewer said, “Francis Schaffer was an amazing man— intellectually brilliant and set on truth, emotionally intense, devoted to God and compassionate like Jeremiah perplexed by the world. Not because he didn’t understand it but because he did.” This review was written by one of Schaffer’s editors who knew him very well. In the March 2008 edition of Christianity Today there was an article called “Not Your Father’s L’Abri”. Schaffer established L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland, in 1955. He and his wife Edith came to Switzerland as Presbyterian missionaries. The article talks about the development of the fellowship and the changes that took place in Schaffer’s ministry over the years. Today the people who run the ministry in Switzerland don’t agree with Schaffer’s approach and many young people who go there haven’t ever read his works. I have read other articles that are critical of the Schaffers as parents and with how they ran the ministry. I have never met Francis Schaffer, he died in 1984, so I can only relate the impact his books like “The God Who Is There”, “Escape From Reason”, “He Is There And He Is Not Silent” and “True Spirituality”, had on my own spiritual development and faith. I don’t think there is any doubt that Schaffer was bona fide. I was reading another review of a new biography about the life of A. W. Tozer called “A Passion For God”. The book contains a statement Tozer’s wife made after his death and her remarriage to Leonard Odam. “I have never been happier in my life, Adin (Tozer) loved Jesus Christ, but Leonard Odam loves me”. This statement has started a dialogue about Tozer’s life and how on one hand he had developed a magnificent obsession to be in Christ’s presence— just to worship and be with Him and yet he was emotionally distant from his own wife. John Piper wrote a caution about people jumping to conclusions on whether or not Tozer loved his wife poorly. He said you would have to be as penetrating in your analysis of her spiritual condition as you were being of A. W. Tozers’. “Not feeling loved and not being loved are not the same. Jesus loved all people well and many of them did not like the way He loved them. . . maybe Tozer loved his wife poorly. But his wife’s superior happiness with another man does not show it”. I have never met A. W. Tozer so I can only relate the impact his books like, “The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst For The Divine”, “The Knowledge Of The Holy: The Attributes Of God: Their Meaning In The Christian Life”, “Keys To The Deeper Life” and “The Radical Cross: Living The Passion Of Christ”, had on my own spiritual development and faith. I don’t think there is any doubt that Tozer was bona fide. I have also been reading “A God Entranced Vision Of All Things: The Legacy Of Jonathan Edwards”, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor. Edwards is considered by many to be “the greatest philosopher-theologian yet to grace the American scene”. Chapter three, written by Noel Piper, is about Sarah Edwards and gives great insight into the life of Edwards. He was “introverted, shy and uneasy with small talk. . . he was tall and gangly and awkwardly different. He was not full of social graces.” (Pg.57) “Edwards was a man to whom people retreated. He was different, he was intense. His moral form was a threat to people who settled for routine”. (pg. 60) When Edwards was caught up in a thought he didn’t want to be interrupted for dinner, often he was in his study for thirteen hours a day. Edwards was a man of intense moods, he wrote in his journal: “I have had very affecting views of my own sinfulness and vileness, very frequently to such a degree as to hold me in a kind of loud weeping. . . so that I have often been forced to shut myself up”. (pg. 61) Chapter six, written by Mark Dever, “How Jonathan Edwards Got Fired and Why It’s Important For Us Today” also got my attention. Edwards had pastored for over 22 years, he had taken over the church that had been pastored by his maternal grandfather Solomon Stoddard. “The situations that led to his dismissal are a long story that has to do with everything from botched pastoral moves to disputes over salary, envy in the town, a perceived coolness and aloofness on the part of Mr. Edwards and even long-standing tensions in his own extended family”. (Pg. 131) the basic reason for Edwards being fired was church discipline and who was to be admitted to the Lord’s Table. Edwards took a position that differed with his grandfather and even after 23 years of faithful and fruitful ministry the congregation voted him out. Once again I did not know Jonathan Edwards, except through his writings, I have a two volume set on “The Works of Jonathan Edwards”. I am also indebted to John Piper and Sam Storms for their writing and research on Edward’s teaching. I can say without a doubt Jonathan Edwards was bona fide. This is easy for us to look back and see the authentic, real Christian life and teaching of Edwards. But it wasn’t easy for many people who lived in his day. My point in this is that I know these men Schaffer, Tozer and Edwards were bona fide because they could not have written what they did without a relationship with God and a thorough knowledge of the Bible. They were not perfect men, perfect husbands or fathers nor were they perfect pastors, teachers and theologians. There aren’t any! But they were the real deal, the genuine article. What is sad today is that so many Christians can’t distinguish the genuine from the fake. People often say to me how can you be sure this minister is not genuine? I respond because I have heard their preaching and read their books and writings. How they look and the appearance of success are not the key to something being authentic. People preaching heresy and who are in ministry for personal gain are not the real deal. In my own experience I have received both praise and condemnation, love and hatred. I think that most people that know me think that I’m authentic but there are those who probably think I’m a phony. I know I’m bona fide when it comes to my relationship with God. One day I will stand before God the only true judge and my works will be judged. I’ve always taken comfort in the words of the apostle Paul “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or any human court. In fact I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me” (1Cor.4:3-4). The apostle Paul also said, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2Cor.13:5). I also know that “God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal”, ‘The Lord knows those who are His”, and “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity” (2Tim.2:19). The Lord knows who is bona fide, and who is not. To all the bona fide saints in Christ, Pastor Mark P.S. If this letter has touched, annoyed, offended, or blessed you, let me know. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to respond or to sign-up if someone forwarded this to you.