CONTEMPORARY READING
TABLE OF CONTENTS




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

 



 

 


"It is a natural thing in our human weakness that the things of the Lord will retreat until they seem far-off and strange. However, again as we grow in the Lord and stay close to Him, the opposite thing takes place - the things of the Lord become more and more real, and, in the words of the hymn, "the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."

January 26th, 1953
Huemoz sur Ollon


Francis Schaeffer in his bedroom at L'abri

Words Written to Friends
selections from the letters of Francis Schaeffer

Letter Three
On Resting

When problems arise, our natural tendency indeed is to become discouraged ,,,that is, to neglect all the things of the Lord.  This is our natural reaction, and it is only as we grow in spiritual things and rest upon the Lord day by day that we gradually come to that opposite reaction, which should be the Christian's - namely, that as the difficulties arise, we would place these more and more in the Lord's hands and really stay closer to him because of the difficulties.

It is not surprising either that the things of the Lord seemed far away; this is quite a common experience. When we come to the Lord as our Savior and have close fellowship with other Christians - as we all had together in our Bible study classes here and in Nyon - and then we leave such an environment to be plunged into a circle of friends and work where the Lord is never thought of and honored, it is a natural thing in our human weakness that the things of the Lord will retreat until they seem far-off and strange. However, again as we grow in the Lord and stay close to Him, the opposite thing takes place - the things of the Lord become more and more real, and, in the words of the hymn, "the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."


January 26, 1953
Huemoz sur Ollon,, Switzerland



Letter Four
A Root Planted in a Garden

What I am saying is that since the Fall, all nature is abnormal, but God still works in his common grace to give sunshine and rain to the lost, but still unjudged, world of men.  In this natural work of God, when a thing is dead, it is dead, and there is no hope. But it is not so in the spiritual work of God.  In this, the love of God transcends all natural expectancies.  And you, in your present spiritual life, are a result of that endless and boundless love of God to us - as that which was dead, but which in Christ is now alive.


May 24, 1961
Huemoz sur Ollon,, Switzerland


Letter Five
On Sickness
Our trusting the Lord does not mean that there are not times of tears, and I think it is a mistake as Christians to act as though trusting the Lord and tears are not compatible.  As a matter of fact, it is my opinion that the greatest trust in the Lord comes when we trust Him in the midst of tears.

Now it is our prayer, however, that the time of tears might be past and that new doors may open before you, as you have walked through this difficult time.  On the other hand, we never get to the end of the battle in this life, and it is only as we look forward to Heaven or the coming of the Lord that we can look forward to a time of being absent from battle for any long amount of time.  This is the experience we have had in our lives; constantly we are confronted with the wonder of what the Lord does with the poor human resources we place into His hands for His use. And yet with the wonder comes the clash of armor in the constant ebb and flow of the battle....


December 11, 1962
Huemoz sur Ollon,, Switzerland



Letter Six
The Art of Spiritual Growth

Well, I think it is something like this in our spiritual life.  Because it is the "spiritual area," so many people seem to think it should grow in quite a different way from the normal procedures of life.  But this is not true at all, because it is the same God who made the growing of the trees and the growth of our spiritual life.  It is intriguing how often Jesus used words from the natural world to speak of spiritual things.  And as the plant grows, so our spiritual life must grow.  The storms may bend the branches; at times parts are even torn off with the beating of the winds, the snow, and the hail. But growth, as the stem of the plant pushes upward, does follow an orderly procedure.

So it is with our Christian life. It we need to eat regularly, we need to read the Bible regularly.  [This is the first element.]  It should not become mechnanical, but there is no reason why it cannot be done so much every day.  It does not have to become sheer "law," but nevertheless there is [a proper balance between] something being just a blind duty and something being done in a totally haphazard manner.

The second element is prayer - learning to have communication with our Father in Heaven. He speaks to us through the Bible most of all; but also, and surely, in other ways. But there must be the communication from our side or the [relationship] is no longer what it was created to be; that is [in terms of our being] moral, rational beings.  So regular prayer is very important and would fall into two areas: prayer as I am walking in the street and working with the materials that I work with; and then longer periods of prayer talking to our Father in Heaven.

The third thing is finding a Bible-believing church or Bible-believing group of people and having fellowship with them. This is important too. However, it is better to have fellowship with no one than with someone that calls himself a Christian but in reality pulls us in the other direction.

Then  the final thing is speaking to others about the Lord. This is important if others are to know of Christ's saving work; but it is also important for us in our own spiritual life to be willing to commit ourselves anew by speaking to those who do not know about the Lord and all He is, to those who do not know Him. Thus, of course, we are most interested that your spiritual life does go on.


March 9, 1963
Huemoz sur Ollon,, Switzerland



Letter Seven
No Perfect People, Physically or Psychologically
Increasingly I am so aware that just as there are no perfect people physically, so there are no perfect people psychologically.  There are differences in intensity of physical problems and differences of intensity in psychological problems.  But there is no such thing since man has revolted against God as people who are completely well, either physically or psychologically.  Thus, as I have people come here who have problems, my own contact with them always involves a very deep realization that there may be differences of degree and kind of problem, but it is not that they are sick and I am well.  I think  this makes for a depth of human contact that is so lacking in much medical and psychiatric treatment. So often the doctor stands without a human contact with those who are before him.  But when we come to one another on a really Christian basis, it seems to me this need not be the case; rather, we can stand together as poor people who are marked with the sorrow of a mankind who has revolted against God.

At the same time, as Christians we do not have to allow the pendulum to swing between [the extreme of] a false idealism and romantic hope, or the opposite [extreme] of despair.  The infinite finished work of Christ upon Calvary's cross not only opens up the gates of Heaven to us when we accept Him as Savior; but it also provides, in the present life, for a substantial advance in the areas of psychological need.

The same thing is true in the areas of sociological need - the communication of man to man on a truly human level.  There are no such things as perfect bodies, perfect psychological balance, or perfect communication between men in this world. This must wait until that glad day when Jesus comes back again and our bodies are raised from the dead.  But yet, just because there is no perfect balance in the present life, this does not mean that there cannot be substantial advance.  What this means will be different in different individual cases.  But how thankful I am, in my own problems and in dealing with the problems of so many others, that it is possible, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, not to either have to say foolishly and falsely that all is well (when all is anything but well), or else to simply plunge into the abyss of despair.


July 19, 1963
Huemoz sur Ollon,, Switzerland


Letter Eight
Being Angry at God
In the midst of a fallen world things are abnormal; they have been changed from that which God made them originally.  Christ could be angry at the tomb of Lazarus as He faced the abnormality of death; and we have a right to be angry too.  But to be angry at God is both silly and blasphemous.  One cannot have the Christian answer that men are really significant in history and then expect God to eradicate every wrong result from that significance while allowing the good aspects of that significance to still operate.  If man can influence history, he can influence it for evil and cruelty, as well as for good and noncruelty...



August 28, 1969
1861 Huemoz sur Ollon, Switzerland


Letter Nine
Something with Both Usefulness and Beauty

Edith has an illustration that I like very much.  There was a girl who was supposed to make cakes in the Les Melezes kitchen, and she got all messed up until she had nothing but a mess of goo.  It would have seemed as though there was nothing to do but throw the whole mess out. But as you know, we don't have a great deal of money, and so Edith has learned to be very economical in the kitchen. Thus she sat down and figured out what was in the gooey mess, and by adding an extra ingredient was able to make it into the most marvelous noodles you have tasted in your life.

Jackie, we often do this with our lives, and then (following the illustration above) perhaps we can't be the cakes we could have been.  But if we give ourselves into the hands of the Lord, He can very much reshape us to be something other than we would have been, but something with both usefulness and beauty

You speak of feeling at times that the only way to end the mess for Sarah and yourself is to end your life and her life.  Don't be too surprised that you feel this way sometimes, for all of us at times feel as though we would like to stop the world and get off, or return to our mother's womb so we would not have to be.  I would point out to you that even some of the Bible characters felt this way, such as Job or Elijah.  [Indeed it would be wrong if we did] not feel this way at some times in the midst of our own weaknesses and the snares of Satan. But even making the first motion toward putting this into practice [would be completely wrong].

The Lord understands our discouragements, just as He understands Job's and Elijah's discouragements, or Moses' getting mad.  What is wrong is: one, to blame God and curse Him; or two, to take any steps toward taking ourselves out of this life. So I was not surprised to read of your feeling overwhelmed with all that has happened to you and all that did happen to you just before you wrote Ruth her letter.  But you must not do either of these two things I have numbered above.

Kiss Julie for me, and then kiss her again for Mrs. Schaeffer, and then kiss her for Ruth. And then look in the mirror and know that the Lord loves you just as you are, for you must remember the Good Shepherd knows the sheep by name, including Jackie.  And He loved you (and loves you) and He loves me, not on the basis of some romantic projection that we might make of our selves and which we are not, but just as we are.  And as we put our lives in His hands, He is all ready to make those good noodles out of us.


Novermber 16, 1969
1861 Huemoz sur Ollon,, Switzerland

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