When I was 20 years-old and just beginning to read Christian books, someone urged upon me Francis Schaeffer's, He Is There and He Is Not Silent (available in the church library). At the time this was just the second non-fiction Christian book I had read, second to R.C. Sproul's,Chosen By God (also in the library).

I read Schaeffer with delight. In this very fine book he demonstrated that not only could I be a Christian and still be free to think about every imaginable issue in the world, but that thinking rightly about everything in the world is indeed the freedom and duty of the Christian. I went on to read the other two books in his trilogy, The God Who is There and Escape from Reason. The whole set can be summarized as a deep and tender exploration of what happens to a culture when truth is slowly leaked out of its art, music, literature, philosophy and, of course, theology.

There are a few things worth quibbling about with Schaeffer - namely, points of his cultural analysis not his doctrine - but overall and overwhelmingly he is a help to those who read him.

To give a taste of how helpful he is, let me recount an illustration he uses to explain true faith. It was so steadying for me some 26 years ago, it just may be something to use in your own ministry among younger believers.

In his discussion on faith, Schaeffer writes to chase us away from a false but far too common understanding of faith. To do so he takes us to the Swiss Alps where he lived for many years with Edith, his wife:

"Suppose we are climbing in the Alps and are very high on the bare rock and suddenly the fog shuts down. The guide turns to us and says that the ice is forming and that there is no hope; before morning we will all freeze to death here on the shoulder of the mountain. Simply to keep warm, the guide keeps us moving in the dense fog further out on the shoulder until none of us have any idea where we are. After an hour or so, someone says to the guide: Suppose I dropped and hit a ledge ten feet down in the fog. What would happen then? The guide would say that you might make it till the morning and thus live. So, with absolutely no knowledge or any reason to support his action, one of the group hangs and drops into the fog. This would be one kind of faith, a leap of faith.


This "leap of faith" is false faith and not fit to be called faith, Schaeffer goes on to argue. Why? Because it is conjured up from within. The man who steps off the shoulder into the unknown is resolving his very real and dangerous situation by chasing a hope he has only imagined. This is the not similar in any way to Christian faith, the faith that saves. 

Schaeffer explains:

"Suppose, however, after we have worked out on the shoulder in the midst of the fog and the growing ice on the rock, we had stopped and we heard a voice which said: 'You cannot see me, but I know exactly where you are from your voices. I am on another ridge. I have lived in these mountains, man and boy, for over sixty years and I know every foot of them. I assure you that ten feet below you there is a ledge. If you hang and drop, you can make it through the night and I will get you in the morning.' I would not hang and drop at once, but would ask questions to try to ascertain if the man knew what he was talking about and if he was not my enemy. In the Alps, for example, I would ask his name. If the name he gave me was the name of a family from that part of the mountains, it would count a great deal to me. In the Swiss Alps there are certain family names that indicate mountain families of that area. For example, in the area of the Alps where I live, Avanthey would be such a name. In my desperate situation, even though time would be running out, I would ask what to me would be the sufficient questions, and when I became convinced by his answers, then I would hang and drop."

 
Herein is both Christian and saving faith - hearing from the God who is not silent, knowing that He who speaks is of a trustworthy name, assenting to His mastery over the whole territory of salvation, and trusting your very life to His word by stepping away from the world. This is how a soul once bound for hell (a danger greater than the precipice!) becomes a soul bound for heaven. They drop into the safety of Christ and his gospel.
But this is not only an illustration of conversion unto eternal life. This same illustration is useful for the whole pilgrim life of the Christian. The whole life of the Christian is a life of such faith where we trust the voice of He who is not silent when He tells of dangers we scarcely see and calls us to safety through obedient steps. The "obedience of faith" is what the apostle Paul called it and it is the only way home through treacherous mountains.