Francis Schaeffer is one of the great evangelical theologians of our modern day. I was already familiar with some of his books and his published video series: How Should We Then Live? Having just read this biography of this great man of faith, authored by Colin Duriez, I now have even greater respect for Francis Schaeffer than before. This book takes the reader chronologically through his Schaeffer’s early beginnings from a bright young student at Westminster Theological Seminary (Presbyterian) into his last days in this world as an established and reknown theologian who was hugely influential within evangelical circles.
The author dived into some interesting details of Schaeffer’s early life during the days of the separatist movement away from Princeton Theological Seminary and the Presbyterian Church, USA. He makes mention of the theological disruption at Princeton Seminary, and the defrocking of J. Gresham Machen and the story of the founding of a new denomination, the Presbyterian Church of America.
Schaeffer’s early days of ministry as a separatist and the founding of the Presbyterian Church in America reminds me about the similar situation that is happening in many of our other mainline churches today that are currently undergoing theological disruption and separation, e.g., Episcopalian, Anglican, Methodist and Lutheran. The past of work of Francis Schaeffer has set the tone and ethos for the future of evangelical Reformed churches in the United States. His ministry to young people, and in particular, to children was a phenomenal success. Many of our churches would benefit from learning how this was done through his evangelistic and faith-building ministry called Children for Christ.
Schaeffer’s ministry in Champery, Switzerland was certainly very impressive. His example of hard work, dedication and calling is what is required today in most fledgling ministries. His work in establishing L’Abri, a ground-breaking ministry beginning in Switzerland, was foundational to his written works that were published later. Schaeffer’s personal life and his family’s involvement in this ministry was eye-opening for me. I deeply value learning about the wonderful family support that Schaeffer received during his entire ministry. It makes me yearn for the same type of family support that he had because I know that without it, effective ministry would be impossible. His ministry is an example of what is required of our modern day missionaries and pioneers of new ministries. If I was a missionary, I do not think I could do even half of what the Schaeffers have done without the empowering of God’s Holy Spirit.
Finally, what also impressed me was the sharp mind of Francis Schaeffer. His apologetic defence of the reality of God and the gospel of Christ has stirred within me a renewed passion to continue to pursue the training of the intellect. Who says the evangelical faith and the intellect were not compatible?! Christians with a pious evangelical faith will be deeply encouraged by Schaeffer’s deep intellectual discussion of the faith. His work in bringing many to faith through intellectual discussion was what attracted so many young intellectual people to his work of L’Abri. His work in Europe was what made Francis Schaeffer so well known in America later in his life. This biography of Francis Schaeffer, theologian and pastor, has sparked an interest in me to re-read some of his early works: Escape from Reason (1968), The God Who is There (1968), and He Is There and He Is Not Silent (1972). If you are an apologist, a Christian who is concerned the direction our society is moving toward, Francis Schaeffer is a man you ought to get to know better. Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life, is a fabulous biography on one of the greatest theologians of the late 20th century.