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MARGIN NOTES
FRANCIS SCHAEFFER
Widely recognized as one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer was the founder of the L'Abri Fellowship, an international study center and Christian community with branches in Switzerland, England, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States. Through his work at L'Abri, Dr. Schaeffer came into personal contact with thousands of people searching for truth and reality in their lives. Before his death in 1984 he lectured frequently in the leading universities in the United States and abroad on the relevance of Christian thought. Author of twenty-three books, Dr. Schaeffer was a dedicated writer of letters, corresponding with many of the thousands of individuals his life and teaching had impacted. This brief compilation gathers excerpts from a few of these letters, offering an intimate view of a passionate Christian communicator and mind.





The unique contribution of Dr. Francis Schaeffer on a whole generation was the ability to communicate the truth of historic Biblical Christianity in a way that combined intellectual integrity with practical, loving care. This grew out of his extensive understanding of the Bible from a deep commitment to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and a critical study of the world of man. These two pillars supported his inquisitive and analytical mind on the solid reality of the truth of God's creation and of his revelation. He understood the roots of modern thinking in its rejection of reality and rationality and pointed out the logical conclusions in a wide range of disciplines and in society.

Dr. Schaeffer understood that what a person believes will influence the way he acts in history and individual situations. There is a relationship between a person's view of truth and life, between philosophy and practice, between faulty ideas and foolish choices. Dr. Schaeffer discussed the truth of reality with anyone in many settings. This in turn brought students, professionals, scholars and others from around the world to his home to learn from his insights. They returned with them to their own world and applied them to their circle of life amd work. The ideas continue to bear fruit and to stimulate discussions and discoveries through more than 25 books, several films, taped seminars and lectures at leading universities in Europe, the US and abroard. The result has been a profound and enduring impact upon many thousands, who have themselves gone to make their own mark in history.

The central thrust of Dr. Schaeffer's teaching is that Biblical Christianity is the truth about the real world. The only reason to be a Christian is an acknowledgement of what is objectively true about human beings, the real world and the basic human predicaments. The Bible is true in all that it affirms. This emphasis is not so much the summary of academic instructions or doctrinal positions. It is the result of a searching mind, of being exposed to human history, the European culture and art, and of in-depth discussions with knowledgeable people for a life time of study, observation and work.

With the Bible as his base and a profound interest in human beings, Dr. Schaeffer's insights were developed through the experience of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the study of Florentine society and art, in lectures followed by tough discussions at modern Cambridge, in rude exposure to the slums of Bombaay and in probing questions of people from a great variety of backgrounds, in abortion protests, in response to life in the wider arena of human need and pervasive intellectual confusion in our world.

- Udo W. Middelmann
President - The Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation

 



 

 


"As I was walking home from the post office today, where I had gone to send off a great pile of letters and some packages, I was thinking of my answer to you.  And as I walked I looked up at the Dents with their swirling mists so high above me.  I thought how our dear Lord comes into more proper perspective in our thinking in such a place as this..."

November 8th, 1951
Champery, Switzerland


Francis Schaeffer writing in his bedroom at L'abri

Words Written to Friends
selections from the letters of Francis Schaeffer

Letter One
The Reawakening of Spiritual Reality

As I have thought perhaps more quietly than in previous days, it has seemed to me that in the past there has been a fallacy in my thinking.  That fallacy is simply this: that insofar as we are so abundantly right (as we are concerning the Biblical position), therefore it would certainly follow of a necessity that God's rich blessing would rest upon us as individuals and as a movement.  I no longer believe this is so.  For increasingly the realization has welled up in my own soul that although this principle of separation is of tremendous importance, nevertheless there are other principles in the Word of God which must be kept with equal fidelity if God's full blessing is to be upon us...

What does all this mean to me?  I am not sure, except that it brings me increasingly to my knees - to ask that the Holy spirit may have His way in my life; that I may not think just of justification and then the glories of Heaven (with merely a battle for separation between). {But that I may also think of} all the wonders of the present aspect of my salvation, and that they may be real to me in my life and ministry.  What a wonderful Lord we have, and how glorious it is to indeed have God as our Father, and to be united with Christ, and to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Oh, would to God that our ministry could be under His full direction, and in His power without reservation.


October 26, 1951
Champery, Switzerland


Letter Two
Gradually My Thinking Has Changed

Tonight it is rainy outside, but a little higher in the mountains the snow is falling again.  The wood fire is crackling with a rich personality.  The children are sleeping, and Edith is typing some things which she feels she must do.  In short, it is quiet here - the quiet that only the mountains can give.

As I was walking home from the post office today, where I had gone to send off a great pile of letters and some packages, I was thinking of my answer to you.  And as I walked I looked up at the Dents with their swirling mists so high above me.  I thought how our dear Lord comes into more proper perspective in our thinking in such a place as this - for the higher the mountains, the more understandable is the glory of Him who made them and who holds them in His hand.  But the other side is also true: man also comes into his proper place.  As the Lord gains in greatness, in comparison to the mountains, so man diminishes.

As it is with space, it is also true of time.  My letters from here go to so many countries, and in these last few years I have found friends in many of them.  As I have learned the history of these lands, from those who tell the history from their hearts, time has come to mean something different to me than it ever did before, when time was measured only by the short scope of the hurrying clock or cold dates on a page of the history book.  But as time falls into its proper place, again God seems to grow greater by comparison, and again it has the opposite effect on man.  As the mountains shrink him down to size, so also does time.

Then too, time is getting clearer to me because more of it has passed me by.  In a couple of months I'll be forty now, and as I look at Priscilla I realize indeed that time has been passing.  If God will spare me, I will have more time yet ahead than has already passed me since I came to mature thinking.  But it does not seem to stretch forever as it did even when I first came to Europe four years ago.

The three and a half years since I came to Europe have been the most profitable in my life, with only one possible competitor, my three years in seminary. But certainly (with that one possible exception) no period even three times as long has marked me so.

First, the things of which I spoke above - the rectifying process of space and time - have caused my view of the Lord to grow greater, and my view of man and his works and judgments to grow proportionately smaller.

When I first found Christ through my Bible reading he was very real to me, and I yet remember the loving wonder of His closeness.  And then came the struggle against the Old {Presbyterian} Church machine, and then against Westminster, and then against the N.A.E. {National Association of Evangelicals}, and gradually "the {separatist} movement" loomed larger and larger.  Do not misunderstand me: my experiences here have convinced me more than ever that each of these struggles was needed and right; but the correct perspective got mislaid in the process.  And I tell you frankly, that though I realize I may be wrong, it seems to me that I was not alone in my mistake - that many are as deeply involved, or even more, than I have been.  The "movement" grew in our thinking  like the great bay tree until for me that wonderful closeness which I have felt to Him in previous days was lost.  I wonder if that is not what happened to the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2?

God willing, I will push and politick no more.The mountains are too high, history is too long, and eternity is longer.  God is too great, man is too small, there are many of God's dear children, and all around there are men going to Hell.  And if one man and a small group of men do not approve of where I am and what I do, does it prove I've missed success?  No; only one thing will determine that - whether this day I'm where the Lord of lords and King of kings wants me to be. To win as many as I can, to help strengthen the hands of those who fight unbelief in the historical setting in which they are placed, to know the reality of "the Lord is my song," and to be committed to the Holy Spirit - that is what I wish I could know to be the reality of each day as it closes.

Have I learned all this? No, but I would not exchange that portion of it which I have, by God's grace, for all the hand-clapping I have had when I have been on the top of the pile. I have been a poor learner, but I'm further on than I was three years ago and I like it.

I know I've made mistakes and I know I've sinned.  And where I know it, I have tried to make it right with those I have hurt, to confess it to the Lord and try to follow His way ... My inclination is to think that Christ meant it in a very literal way when He said to seek the lower seats. That does not mean, as I see it, that we should refuse the higher if the Lord takes us there, but He should do the taking.  I regret the times in my life when this has not been the case ...

Through the recent difficulties I have faced, the Lord taught me more than I ever knew of the greatness of the Lord and the smallness of any man - and the corresponding importance of pleasing the Lord, and the lack of importance of pleasing any particular man ... {In spite of all that has happened there is no question of} personal discouragement, for I am probably less discouraged than I have ever been since those bright days when I first saw the face of the Lord, and before my feet got stuck in the problems of the prestige of man...


November 8, 1951
Champery, Switzerland

postscript:
"Oh, this self-love, this self-will! It is the Devil of Devils! Lord Jesus, may Thy blessed Spirit purge it out of all our hearts!"  - quotation from Whitefield

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