Francis Schaeffer [1912-1984]

We cannot deal with people like human beings, we cannot deal with them on the high level of true humanity, unless we really know their origin—who they are. God tells man who he is. God tells us that He created man in His image. So man is some- thing wonderful.

FFrancis Schaeffer is one of the most influential Christians to have lived in the twentieth century. His life closely paralleled the rise and fall of godless communism in Europe. Schaeffer spent many of those years fighting to instill a depleted western Protestantism and an increasingly materialistic America with a sense of God’s presence and His voice in human affairs.

Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer

Schaeffer began his career as a simple minister of the gospel, a shepherd of a flock. From the beginning, he had a special affinity for young people. Programs he and his wife Edith put together for children proved to be strikingly successful. After pastoring in America for a few years, he and Edith went to Europe as missionaries. They would find their destiny at a Swiss chalet they called L’Abri (the shelter). There, they entertained college students tramping about Europe. Schaeffer relished engaging them in debate about the things they were learning in universities. From this small beginning emerged taped lectures, books (Escape from Reason, The God Who Is There, and many others), and then films (Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, How Should We Then Live?) that would shape the minds of evangelical Christians for decades.

Three key themes dominated Schaeffer’s relentless assault upon social decline and spiritual impoverishment. First, he insisted that Biblical occurrences, like the resurrection of Christ, were real events in space and time. In this sense, he was an apologist for the Christian faith and saw these Biblical truths as the only legitimate foundation for our ethics. Second, he pulled Christian pietists out of a purely devotional faith by demonstrating the massive impact the faith has had on the development of civilization. For Schaeffer, the Christian faith was not some exercise in supernatural therapy for people bewildered by the adversities of life. Instead, he drew out the connections between Christianity, social events, art, history, music, government, and the many other endeavors of human beings in the world. His faith led Christians out of their tiny reading room and into an enormous library of human experience and learning. Third, and finally, Schaeffer made a powerful stand against the shallow materialism increasingly manifest in western society. He criticized the addiction of many Americans to their own “personal peace and affluence” while being insulated against the travails of the poor. And he crusaded fiercely against the devaluation of human life, particularly in the realm of bioethics. In this regard, he helped forge a bond between Catholics and Protestants as he urged them to engage in co-belligerency against a culture in love with death.

Though it is sometimes fashionable to criticize Schaeffer for a misreading of one thinker or the other in his voluminous work, the simple fact is that this minister of the gospel sallied forth into battle during a time when the world sorely needed men like him. And it still does. Thank God for sending them.

Read the entire article on the Acton Institute website (new window will open). Reprinted with permission.

Date posted: June 10, 2010