December 15, 2009
Francis Schaeffer and the Struggle for Spiritual Reality
"...be filled with the Spirit... singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always
and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Among the unread good books I've had sitting on my bookshelves for years there is one five-volume set that recently seems to be calling out: "When are you finally going to make time to really read me?" Yes, I partially read The God Who Is There some ten years ago. And I've dipped into True Spirituality here and there as well as The Mark of the Christian, Art and the Bible, and How Shall We Then Live? But I've never actually sat down and given the five-volume set: The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer the comprehensive reading it deserves.
I don't like to be rude to anyone, and particularly not to people offering good things. But I feel that I've been rather rude to Dr. Schaeffer since buying his complete works some years ago. It's as if I've been keeping this prominent thinker standing at my doorstep, patiently waiting for me to journey with him closer to the heart of God while I run off to another urgent meeting.
For those not familiar with this man, a helpful overview can be found here. A recent, very interesting biography can be found here. In short, roughly fifty-five years ago, Francis and Edith Schaeffer began a ministry in the Swiss Alps called L'abri (French for "the shelter"), which was and still is greatly used to bring many to God. The ripple effects from their life and ministry will certainly be felt throughout the world for generations to come, especially in light of the rich contributions to Christian thought and life being produced by the alumni of L'abri (case in point, nancy pearcey's total truth: liberating christianity from its cultural captivity).
What was attractive about the Schaeffers?
Part of what attracted people to the Schaeffers and what attracts me as well is the authenticity with which they were reputed to have lived. A deep and abiding spiritual reality was apparently present in their everyday lives that others attested to again and again.
One who spent extensive time with the Schaeffers is Professor Jerram Barrs who served for 16 years as director of the L'Abri Fellowship in England. Barrs' long and close association with Dr. Francis Schaeffer gives him a unique perspective as director of Covenant Seminary's Francis A. Schaeffer Institute. According to jerram barrs' free online lectures about the schaeffers, which I've been listening to over the past several months,