Spiritual Reality: Francis Schaeffer on the Christian Life

November 05, 2012

by William Edgar

Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) is most often remembered for his apologetics. He had a unique way of persuading all comers that the Christian Faith is true and ought to be embraced. He could expose the inner contradictions of the most rationalistic materialist or the most irrational mystic. Fewer people remember him for his teaching on sanctification, or the Christian life. Regrettably so, because according to Schaeffer himself it was his convictions and practice about spirituality that were at the heart of the work of l’Abri, where so many lives, including my own, were turned around.

The Crisis

The Schaeffers moved to Europe in 1948, believing that the crucial battle lines were there. While teaching churches at home and abroad about the dangers of the surrounding culture, its parallels in modern theology, and the urgent need to stand clearly for the gospel, Schaeffer came to discover that something was missing in his life. The way he often put it, he found himself severely deficient in reality. He was a believer, but the present work of the Lord in his life was not being felt. As he describes the problem, which he does throughout his writings, his letters and his speeches, the fervor and warmth he had known as a new Christian were on the wane. He entered a serious crisis. In the Introduction to True Spirituality he says it this way:

Gradually, however, a problem came to me – the problem of reality. This had two parts: first, it seemed to me that among many of those who held the orthodox position, one saw little reality in the things that the Bible so clearly says should be the result of Christianity. Second, it gradually grew on me that my own reality was less than it had been in the early days after I had become a Christian. I realized that in honesty I had to go back and rethink my whole position.

We do not know all the causes that brought him to such a point of crisis. No doubt, there was a cumulative effect. Schaeffer was unsettled by the criticism launched at him for moving to Europe by his mentor Allan MacRae. Professor MacRae had wished for him not to move to Europe, and had also begun to differ with Schaeffer’s hard-line. But Schaeffer was increasingly drawn to the European theater for a number of reasons, including his sense that the historic…

continue reading on Credo Magazine.

William Edgar

Dr. Edgar (DThéol, Université de Genève) is professor of apologetics at WTS.

Next Post...

Inerrancy Part 3: Why is Inerrancy So Often Under Attack?

October 24, 2012

by Vern Poythress