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A Rational Defense Of The Gospel

By ITW Staff
A brief biography of Francis Schaeffer

After a time of living as a self-proclaimed agnostic, he decided to read the Bible, beginning with Genesis, and see for himself if God exists.
In Philadelphia in the late 1920's, a young teenage boy decided that he didn't need God. He had tried church, and it didn't give him the answers he was looking for. After a time of living as a self-proclaimed agnostic, he decided to read the Bible, beginning with Genesis, and see for himself if God exists. Within six months, he was convinced that God is real and that the Bible is His revealed Word to mankind. In 1930, eighteen-year-old Francis August Schaeffer prayed to receive Christ as his Savior.

From that day, for more than fifty years, Schaeffer was passionately committed to the proclamation and rational defense of the Gospel. One of the foremost Christian thinkers and apologists of this century, he wrote twenty-four books, which have been translated into more than twenty languages. Schaeffer's basic message is the same - God's Word is the only guide man needs to interpret his past and solve contemporary problems.

When Schaeffer graduated from Faith Theological Seminary in 1938, the United States faced many perplexing new social and religious problems. The evangelical movement was threatened by encroaching liberal ideologies, which argued that the Bible is not a reliable source of truth. He and his wife Edith, whom he had met at a church theology debate, were both eager for opportunities to speak out in defense of conservative doctrine.

As a pastor of several churches throughout Pennsylvania and Missouri, Schaeffer was grieved at the compromise he saw in many mainline Protestant denominations. Then, in the late 1940's, he toured Europe on behalf of the American Council of Christian Churches. To his astonishment, he saw even greater needs there and moved to Switzerland to work with youth.

The Schaeffers founded the Children for Christ ministry in 1948 in Lausanne. With three daughters himself already, Schaeffer was familiar with the challenges of teaching young people. In the meantime, he continued touring, lecturing, and studying history and philosophy.

In 1951, Schaeffer's heart became troubled. He wasn't sure where God was leading him, and he questioned his convictions. He remembers, "I felt a strong burden to stand for the historical Christian position, and for the purity of the visible church. As I rethought my reasons for being a Christian, I saw again that there were totally sufficient reasons to know that the infinite-personal God does exist and Christianity is true."

But what was the best way to reach cultures so closed to God's Word? Schaeffer was convicted to start right where he lived in Switzerland. In 1955, he formally opened his chalet in Huemoz as a "home" for solid Bible teaching, where anyone could come and listen to thought-provoking analysis of Scripture. This haven of spiritual rest and discovery was named L'Abri.

Throughout the remainder of the 1950's, but especially in the 1960's when authority and "the establishment" were most severely questioned, L'Abri drew thousands of visitors. How did it keep going? Edith Schaeffer explains: "We prayed that God would bring the people of His choice...send in the needed financial means to care for us all, and open His plan to us."

Pastor and author Dr. Harold Brown says, "L'Abri's initial theological impact was not made institutionally...but indirectly, through individuals whom the Schaeffers came to know and whose lives they changed."

The Lord continued to unfold His purposes. In 1968, Schaeffer published his first two books - Escape From Reason and The God Who Is There. In these landmark works he explored ways in which other philosophies have failed to adequately come to terms with real-world problems. Gradually, the work that Schaeffer had been developing for years gained recognition, especially in the United States.

It was largely the U. S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, which opened the door to legal abortions on demand, that drew Schaeffer's interest back to America. In the book How Should We Then Live?, Schaeffer addressed the foundational problems which led to this devaluing of human life.

Such a breakdown of values can eventually lead to further violations of human life in the forms of euthanasia (the killing of the elderly) and infanticide. With former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and his son Franky, Schaeffer published Whatever Happened To The Human Race?, which tackled these social issues specifically.

Schaeffer was frequently criticized by non-believers, but more surprisingly by many believers who were worried by the explicit stand he took for the bold and consistent application of the Bible.

However, Schaeffer continued to proclaim the message of the inerrant Word. Professor Dr. Gene Veith, Jr. says: "Schaeffer showed that orthodox Christianity, uncompromised and undiluted, is strong enough to challenge secularist thought in its own territory."

When Schaeffer was diagnosed with cancer in 1981 and given only six months to live, he did not cease his labor. The Lord gave him three more years of active teaching and exhorting. His illness, with its long and sometimes debilitating treatments, gave him fresh opportunities to address nationwide medical concerns.

Schaeffer died in his home on May 15, 1984. As President Ronald Reagan said: "It can rarely be said of an individual that his life touched many others and affected them for the better; it will be said of Dr. Francis Schaeffer that his life touched millions of souls and brought them to the truth of their Creator."

Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development

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