Francis Schaeffer was born in 1912 and died in 1984. He was an American Christian philosopher, church leader, author, apologist, and theologian. To many he is best known for founding L’Abri (French for “The Shelter”) Fellowship on June 5, 1955 in Huemoz-sur-Ollon, Switzerland. Francis and his wife Edith opened their mountain chalet to the spiritually curious and searching and L’Abri’s academic/philosophical ministry remains operational to this day.
However, in my opinion, it is Schaffer’s writing that is the most captivating and enduring. Schaeffer wrote 25 books, and produced two film series encompassing a diverse range of spiritual issues. I have read all of them, many of them twice and some of them several times. If I had to select one author as my favourite it would be Francis Schaeffer.
It is not just what Schaeffer wrote, but why he wrote, that is notable. He had been enmeshed in controversy within his denomination for several years. The central dispute had to do with the inspiration and reliability of the Bible. He took the position that the Bible is inspired by God and based upon this he believed it to be entirely and totally reliable. I hold this position as well. His opponents, those of the liberal persuasion, vehemently disagreed with him.
It did not bother Schaeffer to take his stand. What troubled him was the attitudes of the opposing positions toward one another, himself included. He did not find them congruent with Christianity in general, nor with Jesus’ teaching in particular.
During the winter of 1951, Schaeffer agonized with how he might practically and biblically deal with this tension point. His solution was to yield fully to God while continuing to take a strong stand and position on the authenticity and integrity of the Scriptures and the person of Christ. He concurrently determined that all other finer points of doctrine, though being very important, did not have to create controversy, conflict or separation.
At the close of the agonizing winter of 1951 Schaeffer stated, “I really feel lighter than I have for years.” It was after this winter season that Schaeffer began to write … and the love of God, commensurate with his concern for others, even to those he disagreed with, permeated the pages he wrote. Apparently, to become a giant for God, one must first become small before Him!
Schaeffer believed and exhibited that true Christians need to forbear in patience, forgive with grace, forget with God’s help, follow God’s leading and simultaneously fight for truth … and it can all be done with God’s love and within the parameters of His will.
“By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.” – John 13:35