Truth Tuesday: Why Schaeffer? by J.E. Schaitel

How Should We Then Live? Episode 5: The Revolutionary Age

I love the works of Francis Schaeffer and I have been on the internet reading several blogs that talk about Schaeffer’s work and the work below was really helpful. Schaeffer’s film series “How should we then live?  Wikipedia notes, “According to Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live traces Western history from Ancient Rome until the time of writing (1976) along three lines: the philosophic, scientific, and religious.[3] He also makes extensive references to art and architecture as a means of showing how these movements reflected changing patterns of thought through time. Schaeffer’s central premise is: when we base society on the Bible, on the infinite-personal God who is there and has spoken,[4] this provides an absolute by which we can conduct our lives and by which we can judge society.  Here are some posts I have done on this series: Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 10 “Final Choices” , episode 9 “The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence”, episode 8 “The Age of Fragmentation”, episode 7 “The Age of Non-Reason” , episode 6 “The Scientific Age”  episode 5 “The Revolutionary Age” , episode 4 “The Reformation” episode 3 “The Renaissance”, episode 2 “The Middle Ages,”, and  episode 1 “The Roman Age,” .

In the film series “WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE?” the arguments are presented  against abortion (Episode 1),  infanticide (Episode 2),   euthanasia (Episode 3), and then there is a discussion of the Christian versus Humanist worldview concerning the issue of “the basis for human dignity” in Episode 4 and then in the last episode a close look at the truth claims of the Bible.

Francis Schaeffer

01/27/2011

Why Schaeffer?

image from francis-schaeffer.ns01.us

Why study the works of Francis Schaeffer?

That is a question Dan Guinn (founder of FSS) and I have discussed alot over the last year or so. I think it is definitely a fair question. With great contemporary teachers like R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur; and former teachers like C. H. Spurgeon, James Montgomery Boice, and Martin Lloyd-Jones, why Francis Schaeffer?

Each member of our team at www.francisschaefferstudies.org will have a different answer to that question. I can only speak for myself here when I answer that key question “why Schaeffer?”.

I am drawn to Schaeffer because he is unapologetically orthodox, comprehensive, caring and transparent. Sure, there are more reasons I could come up with other than these four, but these are what I guess you would call my top four. I believe Schaeffer had a unique combination of these qualities.

A Little Background

Before I elaborate on those four points I should first recount how I ever became aware of Francis Schaeffer. I was raised in the Evangelical Free denomination and since 19 years old have been a Baptist. Francis Schaeffer was a Presbyterian, and people like him were so far off my radar that they never even registered, until recently of course.

I became aware of Francis Schaeffer around the middle of 2008. At the time, I was reading widely, trying to sort out alot of questions I had about life and Christianity. I kept noticing time and again the name of Francis Schaeffer pop-up. I would see quotes by him or references to him (or L’Abri) in various magazine articles, internet blogs and books I was reading. No matter where I turned, whether fundamentalist or evangelical, whether Reformed or non-Reformed, whether contemporary or decades old material, all these sources I valued and trusted were using the ideas and example of Schaeffer. Eventually I became aware of the DVD How Should We Then Live and I purchased it and watched it with my wife Karey.  The rest is history, as they say.

Unapologetically Orthodox

I was raised in a sound evangelical church from birth through high-school, but for whatever reason, I came out of 18 years as a Christian knowing alot of Bible stories and biblical morality, but little doctrine. I knew the basics of the gospel, that we are sinners without hope of saving ourselves and Christ’s death on the cross was a sacrifice that would cover my sins and restore me to God so that I could be with God in heaven if I trusted Christ’s work and accepted his gracious gift by faith. Beyond that I was clueless. I had heard the word “Trinity” and knew that is what our church believed and was important, but never heard about Modalism. I had no idea about Christ’s nature, the hypostatic union or any of the heresies concerning the nature of Christ. I did accept the virgin birth, even though I was sketchy on why that was necessary. Mostly I believed orthodox Nicene Christianity because that is what everyone at our church believed. I couldn’t necessarily explain why I believed everything I believed.

To make a long story short I soon became wrapped up in a cult. I knew I was biblically illiterate and was trying to study the Bible and found this late night TV preacher and got sucked in. This isn’t the place to go into all the details, but needless to say, once I got out of that I was terribly embarrassed, totally confused and knew then that I was not only biblically illiterate but extremely gullible. On top of all that, several years later I found out my friend and pastor was a total fraud. He was having an affair and left Christianity to become a Wiccan Priest. This was a good friend who introduced us to Doug Wilson books, did our marriage counselling when Karey and I were engaged, officiated our wedding, signed our marriage certificate and baptized my daughter. I could not believe the rumors about his affair and defended him thinking everyone was being ridiculous. Once again I had been duped.

I am extremely sensitive about orthodox Christian doctrine to this day. I have wasted too many years believing things that turned out to be false. I have spent alot of time wondering “what is true?”, “what is real and what is a sham?”. Life is short, I don’t have time to believe fairy tales. Francis Schaeffer knew alot of young people like me and he wrote alot about Truth, Reality and how all those philosophical questions apply to day to day living. Schaeffer said “There is only one good reason to be a Christian. Because it is true.”I get that. If Christianity is not true then forget it, it is a waste of time! Schaeffer also would talk about “True Truth”. In our Post-Modern culture where people talk about personal truth, it is refreshing to hear someone else talk about True Truth, that Truth that is universal for all time and for all people, a truth that describes reality. My generation plays too many games, especially when it comes to authority, morality and truth.

Schaeffer took people like me seriously, he took questions like mine seriously. He wrote many of his books for people just like me. He went through alot of the same struggles I have gone through.

Schaeffer knew what it was to mark out, stand up for, and defend orthodox historic Christianity. He lived through the famous Modernist-Fundamentalist Controversy of the first half of the twentieth century. Schaeffer expended much ink in writing against theological liberalism, Neo-Orthodoxy and Existentialism. He was courteous with his opponents but he would not compromise truth. Francis Schaeffer unapologetically held to the doctrine of the Protestant Reformers, the Westminster Confession of Faith and the historic creeds such as the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed. While at Westminster Theological Seminary he studied under great men such as J. Gresham Machen and Cornelius Van Til.

Comprehensive

When I went to college I arrived with a love of history. I wanted to be a history professor. I took a year of World History, a year of History of Western Music, a course on the history of languages and linguistics, a year of Church History, a semester of History of Western Art, and a semester of Constitutional Law (which was alot of US History). I loved these classes, even 17 years later I still have my text books and class notes. Back then I wanted to understand how history fit together.

If you have every seen or read Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Liveyou will understand how much of a treat it was for me to encounter an unapologetically orthodox Christian who valued all aspects of life and culture. He not only talks about the Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment and Modern periods, and the literature, music, art and architecture of these periods, but also what the philosophical and theological developments of these periods have to do with us here and now in our post-modern society. He engages these topics as well as environmentalism, law, ethics, government, technology, and commerce.

Schaeffer was the first person I had ever encountered who demonstrated that Christianity was not just a religion that dealt with the afterlife (and morality), but that Christianity also had the answers for every aspect of life on earth here and now. Up until this time I had seen Christianity as a religion that dealt in the realm of relationships, morality, sin and redemption. Never before had I seen that Christianity not only had something to contribute in the area of science, art, law, commerce, government and philosophy, but that it was the only worldview or religious or philosophical system that had answers in every area of human existence. Only Christianity has a coherent, comprehensive and consistent worldview that answers all of the big questions mankind asks. Only Christianity can account for personality, purpose, beauty, sin, evil, charity, laws of logic, laws of nature, science and language.

Other authors, philosophers and historians can certainly go deeper than Schaeffer in their respective field, but no one I know of has the breadth and command of all these subjects or has written over thirty books covering these varied topics.

Caring

I found Jerram Barrs  iTunes University classes on Francis and Edith Schaeffer back in 2009. Karey and I both listened to the MP3 lectures and we were struck by how caring these two people were. Both Francis and Edith opened their home for over 30 years to anyone who wanted to come live with them. This was not a conference center with an apartment attached or a dorm with a dorm master apartment. This was their home. Strangers from all over the world slept in their living-room, their hallway, used their bathroom, ate at their table. They raised their kids around all this. Example after example demonstrates that the Schaeffers were normal people like me and cared about people like me. Sure Schaeffer had been to seminary and been a pastor, but he didn’t think of himself as above anyone. He was the one who preached the sermons and later wrote the book No Little People. Schaeffer believed that all men and women were made in the image of God, deserved respect and would give attention to them whether they were the cleaning staff at a hotel, a university student, or a drugged out hippie. Schaeffer genuinely, actually, consistently cared about people.He didn’t pay attention to people as a tactic for growing a ministry or as an evangelistic technique. No, he actually cared about people.

All truly great Christians have a gentleness and tenderness about them, a gentleness and tenderness that is manifest in the delight they take in spending time with little children and the energy they gladly expend on “little people”… The Lord has time for every one of his people – no matter how insignificant they may seem to the Christian leader who has his own big agenda in mind.

Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg xxi

I never met Schaeffer, he died when I was 11 years old, but I honestly believe had I met him he would have treated me just how Larry Snyder treats me when I visit Rochester – genuinely interested in me and how I am doing. In our day and in our culture we know that we are very disconnected. Social media sites like Facebook would be nothing if we all felt satisfied with our relationships and if our local communities were satisfying our longing for sincere relationships. Our families are many times spread out across states or across the country. Everyone is busy and our typical communication is truncated, superficial and at times trite. We aren’t dummies, we know that most people don’t really care about us. When we do find a few people who genuinely care about us we feel like we have discovered buried treasure.

We are naturally cynical because our pop-culture is all about selling us stuff. Advertising is everywhere. We have to constantly be on guard for people who are trying to sneak around the back door to our wallets through seeming friendly and seeming to care. Multi-level marketing is notorious for this. Need I even mention televangelists?

In an age of bait and switch, slick talking hustlers it is rare to find people who actually care about a stranger simply because they are fellow humans who God cares about. I have been inspired by both Edith and Francis Schaeffer in how they demonstrated compassion and love for ordinary people. Karey and I have become foster parents as means of trying to follow the example of the Schaeffers.

Transparent

As a person who has gone through a few times where I have had periods of crisis, I appreciate Schaeffer for sharing his struggles and doubts. He was very real, very authentic in his life. He didn’t try to put himself off as having it all together, he knew he had faults. He was very candid about his crisis of faith in 1951 and I believe because he had been through that experience he was able to empathize with those who came to L’Abri with the same struggles and the same questions. Like I was saying above, we live in a culture fully of phony people who tailor their image to what they want to project, regardless of whether that image reflects reality. We are hungry for authentic people, especially in our teachers and leaders.

Conclusion

Francis Schaeffer wasn’t a great larger than life Christian celebrity. He was an ordinary person who simply dedicated his life to the service of his Lord and his fellow man. He wasn’t a guru, he wasn’t a prophet, he wasn’t some sort of upper-tier Christian; he was simply a man that God in His providence chose to use.

I believe my generation can benefit and learn from both Francis and Edith Schaeffer. We can learn not only from their numerous books, but also from their lives and their work in L’Abri.  Schaeffer put decades of time and effort into talking to people, listening, debating, reading, and writing. The fruits of his labor are readily available to us. There is no sense in recreating the wheel.

These are some of the reasons why I believe we should study Schaeffer.

Posted at 02:27 AM in Francis Schaeffer | Permalink

Related posts:

Francis Schaeffer’s wife Edith passes away on Easter weekend 2013 Part 7 (includes pro-life editorial cartoon)

The Francis and Edith Schaeffer Story Pt.1 – Today’s Christian Videos The Francis and Edith Schaeffer Story – Part 3 of 3 Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” (Episode 1) ABORTION OF THE HUMAN RACE Published on Oct 6, 2012 by AdamMetropolis ________________ Picture of Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith from the […]

The Mark of the Christian by Francis Schaeffer Part 1

  THE MARK OF A CHRISTIAN – CLASS 1 – Introduction Published on Mar 7, 2012 This is the introductory class on “The Mark Of A Christian” by Francis Schaeffer. The class was originally taught at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Overland Park, KS by Dan Guinn from FrancisSchaefferStudies.org as part of the adult Sunday School hour […]

Francis Schaeffer’s wife Edith passes away on Easter weekend 2013 Part 6 (includes pro-life editorial cartoon and tribute from son-in-law Ranald Macaulay)

The Francis and Edith Schaeffer Story Pt.1 – Today’s Christian Videos The Francis and Edith Schaeffer Story – Part 3 of 3 Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” (Episode 1) ABORTION OF THE HUMAN RACE Published on Oct 6, 2012 by AdamMetropolis ________________ Picture of Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith from the […]

Francis Schaeffer’s wife Edith passes away on Easter weekend 2013 Part 5 (includes pro-life editorial cartoon)

The Francis and Edith Schaeffer Story Pt.1 – Today’s Christian Videos The Francis and Edith Schaeffer Story – Part 3 of 3 Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” (Episode 1) ABORTION OF THE HUMAN RACE Published on Oct 6, 2012 by AdamMetropolis ________________ Picture of Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith from the […]

Francis Schaeffer’s wife Edith passes away on Easter weekend 2013 Part 4 (includes pro-life editorial cartoon)

The Francis and Edith Schaeffer Story Pt.1 – Today’s Christian Videos The Francis and Edith Schaeffer Story – Part 3 of 3 Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” (Episode 1) ABORTION OF THE HUMAN RACE Published on Oct 6, 2012 by AdamMetropolis ________________ Picture of Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith from the […]

Francis Schaeffer’s wife Edith passes away on Easter weekend 2013 Part 3 (includes pro-life editorial cartoon)

The Francis and Edith Schaeffer Story Pt.1 – Today’s Christian Videos The Francis and Edith Schaeffer Story – Part 3 of 3 Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” (Episode 1) ABORTION OF THE HUMAN RACE Published on Oct 6, 2012 by AdamMetropolis ________________ Picture of Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith from the […]

“Schaeffer Sundays” Francis Schaeffer’s own words concerning humanist dominated public schools in USA even though country was founded on a Christian base

Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” (Episode 2) SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS Published on Oct 6, 2012 by AdamMetropolis The 45 minute video above is from the film series created from Francis Schaeffer’s book “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” with Dr. C. Everett Koop. This book  really helped develop my political views concerning […]

“Schaeffer Sundays” Francis Schaeffer’s own words concerning where the Bible-believing Christians been the last few decades

Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” (Episode 1) ABORTION OF THE HUMAN RACE Published on Oct 6, 2012 by AdamMetropolis The 45 minute video above is from the film series created from Francis Schaeffer’s book “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” with Dr. C. Everett Koop. This book  really helped develop my political views […]

Taking on Ark Times Bloggers on various issues Part E “Moral absolutes and abortion” Francis Schaeffer Quotes part 5(includes the film SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS) (editorial cartoon)

I have gone back and forth and back and forth with many liberals on the Arkansas Times Blog on many issues such as abortion, human rights, welfare, poverty, gun control  and issues dealing with popular culture. Here is another exchange I had with them a while back. My username at the Ark Times Blog is Saline […]

“Schaeffer Sundays” Francis Schaeffer’s own words concerning religious liberals and humanists

Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” (Episode 5) TRUTH AND HISTORY Published on Oct 7, 2012 by AdamMetropolis The 45 minute video above is from the film series created from Francis Schaeffer’s book “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” with Dr. C. Everett Koop. This book  really helped develop my political views concerning abortion, […]

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: