Francis Schaeffer

Written by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

Francis Schaeffer has been known throughout the end of his life and afterwards as an apologist who stood out from the more academic defenders of the faith, such as Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, and others. His trilogy of books (The God Who Is There, Escape from Reason, and He Is There and He Is Not Silent) catapulted him to fame within the evangelical world as one who was able to explain Christianity in terms that were understandable to the lay Christian. His home in Switzerland was opened to many who were in the drug culture in the late 1950s and early 1960s, in the hopes that their questions about the meaning of life could truly be answered by what the Scriptures taught.

Schaeffer, however, considered himself first an evangelist who was saved by grace from the God who was truly there and who expresses True Truth in the Word of God written. Born in 1912, Schaeffer grew up in Pennsylvania, where at the age of 18, he was awakened to see that the Bible, and not philosophy, had the real answers to life’s ultimate questions, confessing faith in Christ and offering up the “empty hands of faith” as he would often say, trusting solely in Him.

Within five years, he met Edith Seville, his future wife, literally in the frontlines of battle for the truth at a church event that had a Unification pastor give his reasoning for why he didn’t believe in the deity of Christ and the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. At different times, Francis and Edith spoke in defense of Christ and the true Gospel, thus bringing together a new friendship that eventually led to a nearly 50 year marriage.

He went to Westminster Theological Seminary and had pastored three different churches before moving to Switzerland to do international missions, starting a children’s ministry, which required both him and Edith to write the material themselves. Ministry seemed to be going well, until three or four years into his new life there that Francis Schaeffer began to have grave spiritual doubts about whether he was a Christian, since many around him were also in the fight for doctrinal purity, but not for a pure life. Zeal for what many of his co-laborers were not had distressed Schaeffer very much, wondering what any of them were actually for. Yet, through his study of the Scriptures, he had a renewed trust in God’s Word to answer the most important questions of life that would lead to his future ministry at L’Abri (French for “shelter”).

The opening of L’Abri brought many young men and women to the home of two evangelists on fire for the God of Scripture, who have been in awe and transformed by this sovereign God who has opened their lives to be a blessing to so many people who have come and gone through this special work (including Jerram Barrs, Os Guiness, Nancy Pearcey and Douglas Groothuis). Many of his talks led to the formation of his infamous trilogy (mentioned above), and also True Spirituality, which is concerned with the Lordship of Christ in all areas of life to be both true and spiritual.

His love for others was both driven by a kindled desire to see God’s Word vindicated in actual daily life and also for a heart warmth to those made in the image of God who must be given the Gospel that they may believe. He had a continual passion for people, in how he would engage with non-believers by being very fervent to listen to their concerns and then lovingly show them the folly of their choices, that Christ would be displayed as beautiful and glorious not just in his patience for them, but also for his love for other believers as well. He was engaged with cultural ideas not to be cultured, but to show he desired to understand where many were coming from that he would, through his own life as a redeemed sinner, as one who hopes to be more like Christ in sacrificially loving others who he might not see as important to him. Francis Schaeffer gave us an example to follow, that love was to be seen as the final apologetic in the life of the Christian, and that in our day of rejection of biblical truth, lives changed and flourishing Spirit-filled people would extend an act of love that would put all other forms of “love” to shame, and that Christ would be made great among those around us, wherever we’re at. Is that our desire today?

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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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