Francis Schaeffer and L'Abri


Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984) was "among the most influential conservative evangelical leaders in recent decades." His 23 books were translated into more than 25 languages. He lectured throughout Europe and the U.S. at major secular and Christian universities.

His "unique gift was his ability to proclaim biblical truth and the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that combined spiritual and intellectual integrity with practical loving care."

Born in Philadelphia, he grew up attending a liberal Presbyterian church, but actually became an agnostic during high school. After reading widely in philosophy he turned to the Bible and discovered that it is truth "and the only adequate source for answers to life's basic questions."

In 1930 he came to know the Lord and the direction of his life changed decisively. He began attending Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, graduating magna cum laude in 1935. He was named the "outstanding Christian" in his class.

During his college and seminary years the modernist-fundamentalist controversy raged. His own denomination, the Northern Presbyterian Church, was torn by bitter conflict when theological liberals took control. In one meeting a youth speaker "preached on why the Bible is not God's Word and why Jesus is not the Son of God." Francis, still a young Christian, rose to defend orthodox Christianity.

Then another student, Edith Seville, "gave an articulate defense based upon the Scriptures and the view of renowned scholar and apologist J. Gresham Machen." Three years later they were married; their life over the next 49 years was characterized "by the common defense of the faith."

Next Schaeffer entered Westminster Theological Seminary, the conservative alternative to his denominations liberal Princeton Theological Seminary. He studied under Machen, Cornelius Van Til, and others. He later transferred to Faith Theological Seminary (Wilmington, Del.), and after graduation, he began a series of pastorates in Pennsylvania, then was called to the Bible Presbyterian Church, St. Louis, Missouri.

In 1947 Schaeffer was granted leave to tour Europe, still recovering from World War II. There he observed the spiritual needs of the Church. Next the Schaeffers moved to Lausanne, Switzerland, where they established Children for Christ, a missionary work for boys and girls. Schaeffer also ministered throughout Europe, warning against the dangers of liberalism.

In 1955 he founded L'Abri (French for "the shelter") Fellowship to aid men and women who were searching for help. This faith venture operated on these principles: 1) They would not ask for money, making their needs known only to God. 2) They would not recruit staff, depending on God to send them the right people. 3) They would plan only short-range to allow for God's sovereign guidance. 4) They would not publicize themselves but trust that God would send them those in need.

"People from all walks of life would travel to Chalet les Melezes to hear the message of Christ and receive direction for their lives." Schaeffer "argued the necessity of biblical Christianity as the one adequate answer to the problems raised by the fact of human personality and the nature of the external world."

Some of his influential books include Escape from Reason and The God Who Is There. He developed his theme further in a 10-part film series, How Should We Then Live? (1977), and an accompanying book of the same title.

In the 1970's Schaeffer's teaching "became much more sociological and political with subjects including ecology, church and doctrinal purity, abortion, euthanasia, war and peace, and civil rights.

"Perhaps the most prominent theme in Francis Schaeffer's life and work was his emphasis on the Lordship of Christ in the totality of life'.If Jesus Christ is indeed Lord, He must be Lord of all, in every area.

"Schaeffer helped untold thousands find Jesus Christ as Savior and as the Lord of all life. Many have gone on to become intellectual leaders and accomplished artists. But in additionthe lives of countless unborn children have been saved in response to his militant pro-life activism."

Bernard R. DeRemer chronicled the lives of dozens of heroes of the faith in more than a decade of writing for Pulpit Helps Magazine. He continues to serve in this capacity as a volunteer contributor to Disciple. He lives in West Liberty, Ohio.

Reference: "Francis Schaeffer and L'Abri", by David Porter, in Great Leaders of the Christian Church; excerpts used by permission of Moody Publishers. 

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