answers. I read Josh McDowell’s More than a Carpenter and C.S.
Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Both of these inspirational works
satisfied my craving for common sense soundness… until I became a
student of philosophy. Anyone who has studied philosophy knows that
"common sense soundness" does not go very far. I needed more.
I needed philosophical answers. Sorry, but Lewis and McDowell just do
not cut it against thinkers like Nietzsche, Sartre, Schopenhauer,
Russell, Husserl, and Heidegger. These philosophic heavy weights are
playing different games and speaking a different language. Francis
Schaeffer, however, knew the language; and I am convinced he could stand
toe to toe with any of them.
My campus minister Keith Boone introduced me to the work of Francis
Schaeffer. He encouraged me to read the trilogy: The God Who Is There,
Escape From Reason, and He Is There And He Is Not Silent.
These three books outline the basic premise of any arguments he would
develop in later books. Schaeffer was culturally, philosophically, and
scripturally informed. He wrote with compassion and fire. I often stayed
up late in the night reading and pondering his ideas. Each sentence
blowing my mind and causing me to re-evaluate my own hidden agendas for
Christianity. He moved me to understand a deeper and truer Gospel than
what I had known before.
And in my own postmodern superficiality, I will admit, I also liked
him because he just looked cool. Francis Schaeffer has the image
of an eccentric academic freak. I really resonated with that-- call it
my personal image goal. Yes, he is the reason why I grew a goatee. (I
can hear my friends, who know me too well, laughing out loud.)
All of his writings exist to prove a basic, and yet radical point,
God is really there. He’s not just a concept or an idea. He really
exists. But not only that, God is speaking to us. Schaeffer believed
humankind was created with dignity and is still formed in the
"image of God." We all have worth and value which is innate
with our standing in the universe. We are not just specks of dust on a
larger speck of dust circling the sun. From this point, true restoration
can take place in the souls of men and women.
Francis Schaeffer wrote to provide intellectual healing to a world in
transition. He realized the old models were fading. There are some
points we should observe in communicating Schaeffer’s timeless message
1. Francis Schaeffer was concerned
with being relevant to his time
Francis Schaeffer wrote because he saw the ideas of logical
positivism and existentialism being introduced into popular culture in
dangerous ways, displacing God from our understanding. Schaeffer noted
in his article "How I Have Come to Write My Books"
(Inter-Varsity Press 1974): "In my reading of philosophy, I saw
that there were innumerable problems that nobody was giving answers for…
the Bible, it struck me, dealt with man’s problems in a sweeping,
all-encompassing thrust." Schaeffer knew these philosophic problems
affect the everyday life of believers. These ideas have a flow of
influence from philosophy to art to music to general culture. Schaeffer
wrote to get ahead of the ideas to positively affect general culture,
replacing deceptive philosophy with the answers of scripture.
Schaeffer’s goal was not to become "modern," but to
minister to the modern person. Likewise, in an ever-changing society, we
should be careful not to adopt postmodernism, but instead, give eternal
hope to those people lost in the disparity of postmodernism.
"Relevancy" has become a popular sell-word for churches
nowadays. But this word has to imply more than just using movie clips in
a sermon. Relevancy strikes to the heart of how we think and live.
Francis Schaeffer addresses the issue of a shift in epistemology
Epistemology may not be everyone’s favorite topic of discussion,
but for Schaeffer this issue was of utmost importance. He recognized if
our thinking is off, everything else will surely to follow. Schaeffer
observed a shift in epistemology which involved a false belief that God
is simply a concept or theory. We take an unfortunate existential
"leap of faith" which is not rooted in the direct experience
of God. We do not see God working in daily life. Schaeffer cited Thomas
Aquinas (1225-1274) as the initial cause of this trend. According to
Schaeffer, Aquinas separated nature from grace in theology. The
spiritual world and the earthly world became separated. The earthly
world became what was "real" and the spiritual world was the
Today we still encounter in the consequences of this shift,
especially when referring to a secular versus spiritual society. We
create a Christian sub-world that was never meant to exist. Instead of
being in the world, we live the hypothetical faith world. We fail to
realize that everything is spiritual. Everything is bathed in God’s
touch and presence. "For you created all things, and by your will
they were created and have their being." (Revelation 4:11, quoted
at the beginning of Schaeffer’s The God Who Is There.)
Schaeffer hoped to give his readers understanding of a world in direct
connection with a God who is really present.
Art and culture mattered to Francis Schaeffer
Francis Schaeffer was deeply concerned with how art impacted our
thoughts and actions. In the trilogy, Schaeffer displays a thorough
knowledge of art history. He shows how art has developed along a theme
of separation between nature and grace. Schaeffer also is well versed on
the contemporary arts, musicians, and filmmakers. He carefully analyzes
these influences. Interesting footnote: He was quite possibly the first
theologian to intelligently evaluate the punk revolution in Europe.
Schaeffer wrote passionately about the Christian’s ability to
worship God through art. In the day of the great evangelical preachers,
when such a strong emphasis was placed on teaching, Schaeffer ideas of
art as worship reflected the wisdom of the ancients and were
simultaneously revolutionary. Schaeffer’s book How Should We Then
Live gives a good overview on his ideas about art.
Among postmodern pilgrims everywhere, the subject of art and worship
is a very popular topic of conversation. Francis Schaeffer introduces
this idea to a new generation of disciples, an invaluable resource to
any community interested in created art with meaning and transcendence.
L’Abri: An example of the "community apologetic"
When Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith moved to Switzerland, they
decided to open their house to any believers traveling through. These
travelers could come for healing, conversation, instruction, and
service. They re-named their home L’Abri, French for "the
Shelter." People from all over came to be part of this transit
community. Remember my campus minister Keith Boone?
L’Abri expanded to a number of branches throughout the world. Even
today, L’Abri receives people. His wife Edith wrote the book L’Abri
telling of this community’s development.
Francis Schaeffer did not just live as a hermit scholar. He worked
daily with people, and frequently strangers, sharing with them God’s
message of peace at L’Abri. He believed strongly that community is the
place where God speaks. Not only that, but community is its own
apologetic for the Gospel. People can live together in meaningful
relationships, sharing, working together with the Spirit’s power.
What is community? How do we "get" it? Schaeffer’s L’Abri
was a Christian response to the hippy communes that sought desperately
to have community and meaning. L’Abri can also illustrate our own need
to re-define church and the gathering of the saints. L’Abri was not
just a Sunday morning institution. We need to carefully evaluate the
condition of our own local churches from a programmatic institution to a
community of believers.