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




"The Lord really is so gentle to us.  He certainly makes His promise more than true - that when we ask Him, He is gracious in putting His hand upon us. You are totally right that the greatest test of faith is not the acceptance of Christ for justification, but living like this moment by moment throughout lives."

January 1975
Huemoz sur Ollon

Edith and Francis Schaeffer at L'abri

Words Written to Friends
selections from the letters of Francis Schaeffer

Letter Ten
On Knowing the Presence of God
I am so glad that during your hard time you did not come to a place of feeling the overwhelming desire to take an overdose of something.  I beg of you to sit down and write to me instead, or even phone if that would be a help, if you do feel that way again.  There are indeed many reasons why we should go on living, and the largest one is that God really is there, He really does exist, and He made us for Himself.  Knowing that He is there, and therefore that we do not live in a silent universe, changes everything. To know that we can speak and that there is Someone who will answer fills the vacuum of life that would otherwise be present. And then, when we realize His love for us as individuals - that Christ really did die for us as individuals, for us personally - life is entirely different.

It is wonderful to know that because He is infinite, He can care for us as though no one else was present in the universe.  Because He is infinite, He never gets confused.  And as Jesus so beautifully put it, the Good Shepherd knows His sheep by name.  We are the very opposite of merely an IBM card to Him.

July 6, 1970
1861 Huemoz sur Ollon,, Switzerland

Letter Eleven
Imperfection and the Continuing Work of Christ

It would seem to me that your central problem, as you have expressed it in your letter, is that you forget the Bible makes clear that none of us will be perfect until Christ comes back again. The Bible states clearly that our standard is perfection: "Be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect."  But on the other hand, the Bible makes equally plain that while this is our standard, yet every Christian has places for further sanctification and growth.  The 7th chapter of Romans speaks of Paul's experience after he was a Christian. His great cry at the end of that chapter is very similar to your own cry. The difference is that he clearly goes on and claims the work of Christ in ... forgiveness for his present sin, and thus ends the 8th chapter of Romans with the absolute certainty that nothing can separate us from the work of Christ.

This is where our peace rests - not that we do not sin, but that we can have continuing forgiveness on the basis of Christ's work. This is not to be confused with becoming a Christian (justification).  Justification is a once-for-all thing, and we cannot be lost again. The Bible is quite clear at this point.

Sanctification, however, is a continuous thing.  [In sanctification, based upon] the finished work of Christ upon the cross, we may have a continuing forgiveness.  And gradually, as we allow Christ to do so, He brings forth fruit through us into the poor, external world.

Your psychologist is wrong in telling you to let down your high standards, but he is right that these can become an obsession.  As a Christian I would say that this may be carried further, for Satan can win a victory in making you feel overwhelmed if you do not see the distinction between the perfect standard of God and the equal emphasis in Scripture that none of us will be perfect until Jesus comes back again.

Christianity is not only a religion for the mentally healthy.  Rather, ever since the Fall, none of us are totally mentally healthy, any more than any of us are totally physically well, or totally morally good. Christianity is for weak people just as we are, but we must honor Christ and His finished work by bringing our failures under the work of Christ and leaving them there. When we do less than this, we are dishonoring Christ and His finished work - as though His finished work is enough for some things but not enough for my weaknesses and sin.

We can fail after we are truly Christians because becoming a Christian does not rob us of our true humanity. God does not turn us into puppets which He totally controls just because we are Christians.

December 26, 1970
1861 Huemoz sur Ollon,, Switzerland

Letter Twelve
Spiritual Battles Draw Real Blood
We must never forget too that the Bible tells us our actions in the seen world have a cause and effect relationship in the "battle in the heavenlies," in the unseen world.

But spiritual battles must be understood to be real battles which draw real blood.  While the real battle is in the heavenlies, yet it is never abstracted from life.  Satan will always carry the battle into the place of our own problems - whether it is the lack of sufficient money when one is working for a Christian organization, or whether it is the natural longing for ... personal and sexual fulfillment. These battles do draw real blood. But we should not be surprised by this, and what matters is, by the grace of God, letting Christ produce His fruit through us - so that in some poor way, and with some incomplete victory, we can find [spiritual] reality in these battles.

It is wonderful, is it not, that what we do does make a difference in the unseen world as well as in the seen world.  Yet though it is wonderful, it is also sobering to know that our failures can also make a [destructive] difference in the spiritual battles - {a difference in what happens] between the unseen hosts which have revolted against God their Creator, [as they wage their battle against] the angelic hosts who have remained faithful to God as their Creator and Lord.

Before we're Christians, we are on the wrong "side"; and now, after we're Christians, it is very important that we do not try to serve God in our own strength, but look to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the value of His finished work as He died on the cross for us in space-time history. We look to Him for forgiveness when we've been less than we should be toward our Father, and we look to Him for strength day by day to live a life which praises Him.

Each of us is, in this sense, feminine as a bride, and the Lord Jesus Christ is our Bridegroom. When we take Him as our Savior and then moment by moment put ourselves in His arms, He can and will bring forth His fruit through us into this poor world.  You were quite right in your letter that is  so very important to ask forgiveness for our individual sins and not just a sort of blanket forgiveness as we tumble into bed at night....

December 26, 1970
1861 Huemoz sur Ollon,, Switzerland

Times of Strength and Times of Weakness
We all have our times of being strong and our times of being weak.  The swings of the pendulum cover different ground for different ones of us, and the swings of the pendulum are of greater intensity for one of God's children than another. But the swings are there for all of us - for weakness and unhappiness and also for sin.  It is for this reason that any honest person must be totally in despair unless they understand the reality of the finished work of Christ upon the cross for us.  If it was not for this, none of us could have any peace of mind either for this world or from the world to come.

The wonder is that when we know God's forgiveness is based upon the infinite value of Christ's finished work, we can then have peace of mind and knowledge of His love, even in the midst of our weakness and depression. And again, we all have depressions too; since the Fall, none of us are psychologically healthy or perfect morally. And I must say that depressions are very hard.  This is not unknown to me; though most people do not know it, I have my own periods of depression which are very difficult.  I realize that they are not as deep or as often as some people's....  But I do understand the depth of feeling that can be involved.  But again - and I speak here not from theory but from experience - in the midst of our down times we can know that His arms are about us, and that He does not let us go when our hands are as weak as water.

January 4, 1971
1861 Huemoz sur Ollon,, Switzerland


Salvation, Works and Grace, Eternal Security, and the Sacraments
Each one of us must say that we are guilty because it was for our sin that Jesus was willing to die on the cross.  In a very real way each one of us must say, "I am the one who crucified Christ."

The Bible makes plain that there was no other way that even God could provide a way of salvation except by Jesus paying the price for the guilt of our sin.  It is not that He chose this way arbitrarily, but it was the only way which fulfilled the holiness of God and at the same time the love of God. If God had said, "Your sin does not matter, I will accept you anyway," then His holiness would have been destroyed. On the other hand, if He had not provided this way of salvation, His love would have been denied.  Thus there was no other way.  This was made plain by the fact that just before His crucifixion, when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked the Father whether there was not another way, and it is indicated that there was not.

As I see it, what the Bible teaches [concerning works and grace] is that we are saved when, by God's grace, we accept the finished work of Christ "plus nothing."  This "plus nothing" would include all religious and moral good works. The Bible says, "He that believeth on the Son has everlasting life," and adds no other condition. However, the Bible also makes plain that once we have accepted Christ as our Savior, then, because of our love for Him, we should live in a way that is to His praise. Yet I think the Bible also clearly indicates that none of us are perfect, and thus there will be failures.  Therefore, on one hand there should be fruit; yet on the other hand the Bible warns us that it will not be perfect.  When we then fail, we are called upon to bring our specific sins under the blood of Christ. And since Christ's death has infinite value because He is God, we may then have a quiet heart that our sins are indeed forgiven.

So on one side the Bible says there should be fruit, and there will be fruit.  But on the other hand it says there will be  failures which we will need to bring under the blood of Christ.  It seems to me this is what the Bible teaches - and there should be no tension between becoming a Christian through faith in Christ the Lamb, and yet being called to a subsequent Christian life. 

We must remember that we are new creatures in Christ Jesus, indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  And as we are told in Hebrews, the Lord will deal with us in order to bring forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness in our lives.  After we are saved, it is not unimportant whether or not we sin.  Sin destroys our closeness to the Lord in our lives now; and the Bible does say that Christ will speak to us about our life when we see Him face to face in eternity. The wonderful thing is that because Christ is God, His death has infinite value.  And so when we do less than we should (after we are Christians), we can bring each specific sin under the blood of Christ, and it can be forgiven - and our fellowship with him is then totally restored.

December 1972 through December 1982
1861 Huemoz sur Ollon,, Switzerland

Letter Fifteen
Do Not Be Afraid of the Past
The sixties was a hard time, and of course we here at L'Abri have seen so many who have been wiped out through drugs, through Eastern religious thought forms, and through the promiscuous sex life.  Yet we have seen many here whom the Lord has touched and healed, and we can only be thankful.

On the other hand, it seems to me that with many young people it is even worse now, with apathy ruling everywhere and then not even having the hope of answers.

Coming back to your letter, I do want to say again that it deeply touched me, and I am glad that you felt like writing your history to me. The Lord really is so gentle to us.  He certainly makes His promise more than true - that when we ask Him, He is gracious in putting His hand upon us.

You are totally right that the greatest test of faith is not the acceptance of Christ for justification, but living like this moment by moment throughout lives.  (As I say, if you have not read True Spirituality, please get hold of a copy and read it).

January 1975
1861 Huemoz sur Ollon,, Switzerland


Everything Is Spiritual Because God Made Everything
The painting of a picture, the work of a good shoemaker, the doctor, the lawyer - all these things are spiritual if they are done within the circle of what is taught in Scripture, looking to the Lord day by day for His help.

Thus everything is spiritual because the Lord made everything, and Christ died to redeem everything.  And though full restoration will not come until Christ returns, it is our calling, looking to Christ for help, to try to bring substantial restoration in every area of life.

Of course, we all have fears; but we must learn to really trust the Lord, knowing that He loves us, on the basis of the work of Christ.  We are all imperfect intellectually, psychologically, and morally.  Yet the Lord does love us, and we do not need to be constantly overcome by fear.  That is not to say that we all do not have fear at times. But that is different from constantly living under fear when we have all the promises of the Scripture, not just for the future but for our present day-by-day life. Christianity should give us freedom and not be a straitjacket.  Rather than everything being prohibited, everything - except the specifically sinful things which the Scripture names - is in the area of our freedom.

I will try to answer your [list of] questions, though it is not easy within the limits of a letter:

--To be spiritually minded is to realize that we must have the wisdom God gives in the Scriptures, and not think as modern man thinks, that his own finite knowledge is a sufficient starting-place.

--You can think about anything [i.e., about every area of life rather than only about a limited "spiritual" area] - as long as you live within the circle of Scripture; that is, by recognizing God's existence and, as God gives you the strength, rejecting what the Bible says is specifically sinful.

--[When the Bible speaks of seeking the things which are above, it is simply saying that we should see] everything from the perspective of God's existence and what is taught in Scripture, rather than seeing things as though man were autonomous; or seeing things as though life consisted only of physical life and death...[without taking into account] the totality of reality, which of course includes above all the existence of God.

--In light of this it is perfectly acceptable to study secular subjects, provided they are seen in the proper perspective as I mentioned above.  Any secular books may be read, and so on, as long as the individual remains sensitive as to how much he or she can stand.  We do not all have the same strengths intellectually or psychologically, and we should not read or see what we really know is too much for us....

--Worldliness is seeing anything in life from a materialistic perspective - that is, from a perspective which makes the material world the final reality, and in which man's finite wisdom (rather than Scripture) is everything.  In other words, worldliness is removing any area of life or culture from under the judgment of Scripture.

June 25, 1971
1861 Huemoz sur Ollon,, Switzerland

Letter Seventeen
Quiet In the Presence of God
My mind is not at rest.I do think that we will never be what we could be unless we learn to be quiet in the presence of God. It does seem to me that there is a constant tendency to smooth over problems to the loss, not of the weak men, but the stronger ones -- perhaps not the loss physically, but a loss as far as spiritual leadership is concerned.

I am more and more realizing that Scripturally none of us are ready to be leaders until we come to the place before the Lord where we are really ready for his will - regardless of what it is - and therefore, of ourselves, we would prefer not to have this leadership, or at least be neutral concerning it. It is out of such stuff that true Christian leadership can come.

I have been thinking and thinking: can you think of any American who has written really deep devotional literature, deep in the contact with the heart? When you read Bonar, Murray, and so on, there is an impact that one never forgets. I wonder who among our men has written anything even looking in this direction.

May 26, 1951
Champery, Switzerland

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