Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2010 3:36 pm
The Messenger, August 26, 2010
The Life and thought
of Francis A. Schaeffer
By ARTHUR W. HUNT
Special to The Messenger
The first time I saw Francis A. Schaeffer was in a film titled “What Ever Happened to the Human Race?”
He was standing in a desolate area, dressed in knickers and knee socks and sporting long hair and a goat-like beard. Thousands of baby dolls were strewn behind him, representing the millions of babies aborted since the Roe vs. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision. Needless to say, he got my attention.
Schaeffer escapes being classified in a particular category: he was a theologian, philosopher, apologist, author and filmmaker, all wrapped in one. Time magazine called him “a missionary to the intellectuals.”
As a young man, Schaeffer was dissatisfied with the liberalism in his Presbyterian church. In an effort to answer the aching questions of his soul, he read philosophy. After six months of reading the Bible, he became a convinced Christian.
Schaeffer began seminary in the 1930s, at a time when prominent Presbyterians like J. Gresham Machen were leading a conservative counter-movement against theological liberalism. For 10 years Schaeffer pastored Presbyterian churches in Pennsylvania and Missouri. During this time, he married Edith and together they began a ministry called “Children for Christ.” Soon after the Second World War, he and his family moved to Lausanne, Switzerland, to be missionaries to Europe.
In 1951 Schaeffer experienced a crisis of faith in which he re-thought everything about his faith. He came out of this period more convinced than ever that God existed, the Bible was true and the claims of historic Christianity were valid.
While in Switzerland the Schaeffers opened their home to students who attended the nearby University of Lausanne. During dinner conversations, long walks and lectures, Schaeffer attempted to give honest answers to difficult questions regarding Christianity. Students came from all around to talk with the man who had read the leading philosophers, but who could also defend the Christian faith. From these talks and lectures came most of Scaheffer’s books. The L’Abri Fellowship, as it came to be known, survives today in countries all around the world.
During the 1970s, Schaeffer’s ministry broadened due to the popularity of his books. He began to speak out against the 1972 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, which made abortion legal on demand. In his books, films and lecture tours, he argued that if the Christian ethos were lost, the consequence would be the dehumanizing of man. Many point to Schaeffer as being instrumental to such movements as the Moral Majority, which helped to get Ronald Reagan elected president.
During the 1980s, Schaeffer became increasingly concerned over the state of modern evangelicalism. He saw within it trends which had led to the liberalism of his own denomination 50 years earlier. Specifically, he was concerned about the newly-placed emphasis on personal experience in validating truth claims. Schaeffer insisted that “all truth is God’s truth.”
Reformed in his faith, Schaeffer held to a high view of Scripture and championed inerrancy, biblical authority and the doctrine of inspiration.
Editor’s note: Arthur W. Hunt is associate professor of communications at the University of Tennessee at Martin and a member of Grace Community Church (www.graceunioncity.com).