A Sheep Dog Worldview By A Sheepdog Wanna–Be
By Jane Tawel
October 4, 2017
There have often been days when one singular phrase seems to reverberate through my mind in the small byways I travel. It is a phrase I heard in long gone days that is the title of a book by Francis Schaeffer. This phrase more than so many others, seems to encapsulate for me what my worldview should daily center around. This phrase which is really a question, seems to circle round, like a shepherd dog does a flock of unruly sheep. It encapsulates the guiding force that should shepherd the many unruly questions I am asking moment by moment in work, family, play, the world’s intersections, and even in solitude in relationship to God and in relationship to what I read in God’s Holy Word. I have been a bit stunned to learn from college colleagues, that one of the phrases that has been thrown out and therefore not taught to students (perhaps in favor of “common core” –ironic pause here), is the phrase “worldview”. I have been told by youth pastors that this phrase does not “resonate” with today’s generation. I am sorry but the Midwestern in me, cries out, “Hogwash! You must be kidding!”. If there has ever been a generation of people who need to understand that every one has a worldview whether they know it or not and live by it whether they know it or not, it just might be this “worldview on twitter -steroids” generation. There is actually a neato little questionnaire they can fill out (although not on twitter). The idea is very old and there are a standard and historically and culturally applicable, 7 (or 8 depending on your source) worldview questions. Here is a link – one of many you can find. This one is from a well -known source from James Sire. I use it as often as possible in my classes.
So what is my sheepdog? What is the question that has been imprinted by Francis Schaeffer on my feeble worldview search? The phrase is:
“How should we then live?”
There is a parallelism to the implied answer to that question that adds balance to one’s life. It is the “If –Then” equation. IF I believe such and such, THEN I should be reflecting that such and such in my actions and my choices; in my words and my deeds; in my relationships and my viewing material; and in my “heart, soul, mind, and strength”– as The Christ says in Matthew 22:37.
So I recently began rereading and newly reading some Schaeffer. And lo and behold, there in the preface were the words of another favorite theologian of mine, J.I. Packer. People like Packer and Schaeffer, Willard and Lewis, L’Engle and Sayers, Manning and Johnson, Tozer, and Tolkien, and Terese, — these people have become my sheepdogs along with too many others to name. These writers are the THEN answers to my own IF worldview questions. They become the sheepdogs who run the other side of my flock of a life—a silly sheep-like flock of thoughts and actions which has a hard time not ambling out of God’s provided pasture. My little sheep-like mind has a hard time understanding that ignorance is not an excuse for hypocrisy. And I often ignore the sheepdogs that God provides as they try to keep safe the foolish sheep of my mind, heart and soul and to prevent me from metaphorically running off a pride-invented cliff.
My sheepdog saints, both living and passed, are there to help my sheepdog questions and try to keep my unruly sheep-thoughts and sheep-actions in line with the worldview I claim to hold – The Christ in the Center Worldview – Christ in the center of everything, from history to the future of humankind, from the Epistles to the Torah, from society to politics, from laws to mercy and justice, and from Christ in others to Christ in me. Christ the Great Shepherd has provided us with sheepdogs throughout our history. But we must allow them into our foolish flocks. And there these mighty, brave, wondrously intelligent, loving and caring sheepdog saints work with the Great Shepherd, The Messiah, to guide my little silly sheep-life. Great saints and prophets do this not out of love of blessing or manna, but out of their great love for the sheep and their even greater love for The Shepherd.
I write because it is how I think and learn best, but here by someone so much more of everything than I, are words from one of the great theological sheepdogs, J.I. Packer about one of the other great theological sheepdogs, Francis Schaeffer. I hope after reading them, you might want to pick up some of my own sheepdog saints’ writings. At least pause just a moment and ask yourself as I am today:
How Shall We Then Live?
From J.I. Packer in the Preface to Francis Schaeffer’s Trilogy:
“Francis Schaeffer was a reading listening, thinking man who lived in the present, learned from the past, and looked to the future… He was an impassioned thinker who paints his vision of eternal truth in bold strokes and stark contrasts… Schaeffer saw himself as an evangelist, called to speak the truth with an uncompromising urgency to real people in real trouble, whose lives have been broken by the relativism, irrationalism, fragmentation and nihilism of our culture today. And thus I think it truest to call him a prophet-pastor, a Bible-based visionary who by the light of his vision sought out a world in need and shepherded the Lord’s sheep… The essential perceptions which shaped his vision and work:
First Schaeffer vividly perceived the wholeness of created reality, of human life, of each person’s thinking, and of God’s revealed truth. He had a mind for first principles, for systems, and for totalities, and he would never discuss issues in isolation or let a viewpoint go till he had explored and tested its implications as a total account of reality and life. He saw fundamental analysis of this kind a s clarifying, for as he often pointed out, there are not many basic worldviews, and we all need to realize how much or haphazard, surface-level thoughts are actually taking for granted… Christianity must be presented in terms of its own presuppositions and in theologically styematic form, as the revealed good news of our rational and holy Creator who became our gracious and merciful Redeemer in space and time.
Second, Schaeffer perceived the primacy of reason in each individual’s makeup and the potency of ideas in the human mind. He saw that “ideas have legs”, so that how we think determines what we are. So the first task in evangelism, in the modern West or anywhere else, is to persuade the other person that he ought to embrace the Christian view of reality…. This is to treat a human, not as an “intellectual”, but as the human being that he undoubtedly is. To address his mind in this way is to show respect for him as a human being, made for truth because he is made in God’s image.
Third, Schaeffer perceived the Western mind as adrift on a trackless sea of relativism and irrationalism. He saw that the notion of truth as involving exclusion of untruth, and of value as involving exclusion of dysvalue, had perished in both sophisticated and popular thinking. Into its place had crept the idea of ongoing synthesis—the idea that eventually there is not real distinction between right and wrong or truth and untruth, and that antithesis will eventually be swallowed up in a category-less “pan-everythingism.” To make people realize how this viewpoint has victimized them across the board, Schaeffer regularly introduced his topics with an historical analysis showing how Western thought about them had reached its current state of delirium. The aim of these analyses was to reestablish the notion that there is an absolute antithesis between truth and error, good and evil, beauty and the obscenely ugly, and so to refurnish our ravaged and pillaged minds in a way that makes significant thinking about life, death, personhood, and God possible for us once more.
Fourth, Schaeffer perceived the importance of identifying—in all discussion on what being a Christian involves – that which he called the antithesis and the point of tension. The antithesis is between truth and untruth, right and wrong, good and evil, the meaningful and the meaningless, Christian and not-Christian value systems, secular relativism and Christian absolutism. He made it his business on every topic he handled to cover the “either-or” choices that have to be made at the level of first principles and to show that the biblical-Christian options for personal and community life are the only ones that are consistently rational and satisfyingly human.
Fifth, Schaeffer perceived the need to live truth as well as think it—to demonstrate to the world through the transformed lifestyle of believing groups that the “the Personal-Infinite God is really there in our generation.”
Christian credibility, Schaeffer saw, requires that truth be not merely defended, but practiced; not just debated, but done….
What long-term significance has Schaeffer for the Christian cause? We wait to see. The law of human fame will no doubt treat Schaeffer as it has treated others, eclipsing him temporarily now that he is dead and only allowing us to see his real stature ten or twenty years down the road. My guess is that his verbal and visual sketches, simple but brilliant as they appear to me to be, will outlive everything else, but I may be wrong. I am sure however, that I shall not be at all wrong when I hail Francis Schaeffer, the little Presbyterian pastor who saw so much more of what he was looking at and agonized over it so much more tenderly than the rest of us do, as one of the truly great Christians of my time.”
— J.I. Packer, February 1990
From The Preface to The Three Essential Books in One Volume: Frances Schaeffer Trilogy
So how shall I then live, if I want to put away my sheep-ishness and take on the hard work of being The Great Shepherd’s Sheepdog? I start by keeping my ears turned to the voice of the Good Shepherd and my heart turned to the needs of the lost sheep, even when the lost one is me, but especially when it is another who is lost.
Jesus gave some pretty strong indications about His own worldview. He completely believed that He was The Center of The Eternal Worldview. He believed His Worldview of Him as Son and The Father were the only gate by which we sheep could enter into God’s worldview. Here are the words of The Son of God who lived as I did in this world but came to show Himself as Creator-Savior in a Kingdom whose worldview has no end. I plan on meditating on these words of Jesus while grazing in my own little worldview pasture today.
From John’s record of The Good Shepherd’s Words to us on Worldview:
Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.
14-18 “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”
19-21 This kind of talk caused another split in the Jewish ranks. A lot of them were saying, “He’s crazy, a maniac—out of his head completely. Why bother listening to him?” But others weren’t so sure: “These aren’t the words of a crazy man. Can a ‘maniac’ open blind eyes?”
22-24 They were celebrating Hanukkah just then in Jerusalem. It was winter. Jesus was strolling in the Temple across Solomon’s Porch. The Jews, circling him, said, “How long are you going to keep us guessing? If you’re the Messiah, tell us straight out.”
25-30 Jesus answered, “I told you, but you don’t believe. Everything I have done has been authorized by my Father, actions that speak louder than words. You don’t believe because you’re not my sheep. My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him. I and the Father are one heart and mind.”
31-32 Again the Jews picked up rocks to throw at him. Jesus said, “I have made a present to you from the Father of a great many good actions. For which of these acts do you stone me?”
33 The Jews said, “We’re not stoning you for anything good you did, but for what you said—this blasphemy of calling yourself God.”
34-38 Jesus said, “I’m only quoting your inspired Scriptures, where God said, ‘I tell you—you are gods.’ If God called your ancestors ‘gods’—and Scripture doesn’t lie—why do you yell, ‘Blasphemer! Blasphemer!’ at the unique One the Father consecrated and sent into the world, just because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I don’t do the things my Father does, well and good; don’t believe me. But if I am doing them, put aside for a moment what you hear me say about myself and just take the evidence of the actions that are right before your eyes. Then perhaps things will come together for you, and you’ll see that not only are we doing the same thing, we are the same—Father and Son. He is in me; I am in him.”
39-42 They tried yet again to arrest him, but he slipped through their fingers.
From: The Gospel of Sheepdog John in Chapter 10
Let my bark belong to you. Let my ears prick up at the sound of Your Voice. Let me joyfully work like a dog in Your Kingdom Pasture. Let me know that You have provided for my future when my legs can’t run any more and that you daily provide all that I need for my tasks. Let me keep my eyes trained on my flock which so easily goes astray and let me always be willing to go in search of the one lost sheep, just as You do. I am a foolish old hound dog but You have called me to Your side as a co-worker. You are so much greater than I and yet You allow me to sit at the foot of Your table and eat Your scraps. And somehow, You Oh, Shepherd, call me not Your pet, but Your child. I praise you with meager “woofs woofs” that in Your loving heart You choose to interpret as my earnest and loving praise.
Help me today, to herd ’em up and move ’em on, further up and further in,
Your Ole’ Dog, Jane