Dr. Francis Schaeffer died on May 15 at his home in Rochester, Minnesota. He had been fighting caner for several years.
Through decades of achievement in two major areas, Dr. Schaeffer had become recognized internationally as a leading Evangelical thinker.
Francis Schaeffer was the author of twenty-three books and – with his son Frank – produced several film series in which he presented his Christian perspective systematically and lucidly. His constant concern was to present his readers with a critique of western society and then to challenge them to ‘Christianize’ their thinking in order to combat thought-forms, and trends, seen as subversive to our Judeo-Christian heritage.
He began his twenty-second book, A Christian Manifesto, with the words:
The basic problem of the Christians in this country in the last eighty years, or so, in regard to society and in regard to government, is that they have seen things in bits and pieces instead of totals.
They have very gradually become disturbed over permissiveness, pornography, the public schools, the breakdown of the family, and finally abortion. But they have not seen this as a totality – each thing being a part, a symptom of a much larger problem. They have failed to see that all of this has come about due to a shift in a world view, that is, through a fundamental change in the overall way people think and view the world and life as a whole. This shift has been from a world view that was at least vaguely Christian in people’s memory (even if they were not individually Christian) toward a world view based upon the idea that the final reality is impersonal matter or energy shaped into its present form by impersonal chance. They have not seen that this world view has taken the place of the one that had previously including the United States, which was at least Christian in memory, even if they individuals were not individually Christian.
The two world views stand as totals in complete antithesis to each other in content and also in their natural results – including sociological and governmental results, and specifically including law.
It is not that these two world views are different only in how they understand the nature of reality and existence. They also inevitably produce different results. They operative word here is inevitably. It is not just that they happen to bring forth different results, but it is absolutely inevitable that they will bring forth results.
Why have the Christians been so slow to understand this? …
Burden and battle
His own major burden and battle, though, in the last years of his life, was in the area of human worth. He maintained vigorously the value of each human life as being ‘Sacred and worthwhile in itself – not only to human beings, but precious also to God.’ In his Biblically-based argumentation against abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia, plus his call to action as they only possible response to these on the part of the Christian, Dr. Schaeffer brought countless evangelicals into the pro-life movement.
The second, and equally important area of influence for Dr. Schaeffer was in ‘L’Abri’ – the community and study centre which he established with his family in Switzerland in the 1950’s. There are now branches in France, England, Holland, the U.S., Sweden, and Italy.
The Schaefferes, and their community workers at the various ‘L’Abri’s, have hosted people from virtually very country in the world – people knowledgeable about ‘L’Abri’ who have planned to stop there as part of their travel agenda, and countless otheres – mostly young – who, while on the road have heard of a ‘place where they answer your questions’ and have decided to investigate.
Through the years Dr. Schaeffer, his family, and staff have made every effort to give full meaningful answers – always deeply Biblically rooted – to their areas of need, whether intellectual emotional, or spiritual. Their impact in thus having saved hundreds of people each year, over thirty years, can’t be measured.
Dr. Schaeffer was a man of unique balance in both his personal and public life. He stressed the necessity of the Christian’s participation in all of life, not just those areas deemed ‘spiritual’, in a way which was particularly meaningful to many people. At the same time, spheres of specific spirituality – prayer, clear and systematic appreciation of Biblical truths, fellowship – were of utmost importance.
This deep comprehensive spirituality, combined with his very active and sincere compassion for people – as exemplified in L’Abri – have made Dr. Schaeffer a man much admired in Evangelical circles, and one who will be sorely missed.
Barbara Challies is a member of the Christian Action Council.