Francis Schaeffer's Apologetics

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Robin, Jan 15, 2007.

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  1. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior

    We began a class on Francis Schaeffer this last Friday which will go for 6 weeks.

    Fascinating...Schaeffer was more into "practice" rather than "method" at which he had differences with Van Til.

    Free MP3 here:

    http://christreformedinfo.squarespace.com/mp3s-and-real-audio-of-academy/

    What a thrill to learn from a great teacher (Kim Riddlebarger) about this extraordinary defender of The Faith!

    Enjoy.

    Robin :cheers:
     
  2. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Most van tillians don't have anything against Schaeffer. That's how I was introduced to Van Til (and ultimately Bahnsen) was by Schaeffer. He had a few problems, though:

    1. Seemed to sell the store to rationalism (diluted the antithesis).
    2. Didn't really understand Hegel.
    3. Didn't quote his sources (he had been reading Rushdoony appreciatively for 20 years and never quoted him, although the influence is obvious in Christian Manifesto).
    4. Inconsistent on the law of God. He approved of case laws being applied in the civil sphere, but didn't follow those premises to the conclusion (I got the quotes available).

    I like the guy. I don't think I would use him in debate, though. If you are going to argue with hippies, go for it. Probably will work. But if you are going against seasoned atheists, probably won't harder-hitting ammo.
     
  3. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    This will be fun. Francis Schaeffer on the Law of God:

    When he speaks like this, he is called insightful. When others, starting with teh dreaded "t" word, say this, they are dismissed as pharasaical. Wisdom is justified (oops, wrong word) by her children.
     
  4. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    In the early 1970s John H. Gerstner tried to demonstrate that Schaeffer was inconsistant, but that a great chasm existed between the approach of Francis Schaeffer and Cornelius VanTil. Gerstner thought that Schaeffer was ultimately doing traditional apologetics.

    Since then I have read enough Schaeffer and VanTil to believe with Draught Horse that Schaeffer was in the tradition of VanTil, Rushdooeney and Dooyweerd
     
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Its tricky. I think Schaeffer was a combination of many approaches (including weaknesses). If you look at John Whitehead's book *The Second American Revolution* Schaeffer heartily endorses. Whitehead, in that book, however, uses Rushdoony for many of his arguments.
     
  6. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I think the two main acknowledged influences on Schaeffer were Rookmaker and Dooyweerd. John Whitehead in his autobiography claims he was responsible for much of A Christian Manifesto, which quotes his Second American Revolution at length, although the latter book ultimately was published after Schaeffer's. Whitehead had earlier been befriended by Rushdoony and used his library for some of his early books. Whitehead said the Schaeffers were uncomfortable with Rushdoony being on the board of the Rutherford Institute.

    I think it's correct that Schaeffer was a combination of many influences and saw himself primarily as an evangelist, thus the earlier comment about him being more into practice than method or theory.
     
  7. Brian Bosse

    Brian Bosse "The Brain"

    Hello Draught Horse,

    You say this as if it is problematic. I find it a sign of rationality when one doesn't understand Hegel. :rofl: Does anyone understand Hegel? :doh:

    Brian
     
  8. WrittenFromUtopia

    WrittenFromUtopia Puritan Board Graduate

    Yes, I do.
     
  9. ReadBavinck

    ReadBavinck Puritan Board Freshman

    Even though Van Til thought evidences were an important part of apologetics he didn't spend much time on them, he thought that giving evidence for the resurrection etc. was better left to the NT department. So even according to Van Til the presuppositional part of apologetics is only a part.

    Schaeffer would sometimes focus on presuppositions, at other times he would give evidences. I think what is important about Francis Schaeffer is that he did what most of us don't do. . .apologetics. He didn't just label himself with the best apologetic method but actually did apologetics. In doing so he probably made people in the different camps mad at him for not being a true this or that, but his eclectic apologetics effected more people than probably anyone else last century (and maybe this century too so far), and there are thousands who would thank him for it. Including me.
     
  10. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    To read Schaeffer as pointing to some methodology or system that would work would be to misread him. If you asked him about methodology he would respond by asking about the person to whom he should make an answer. Also, to think that one must read some other author in order to understand Schaeffer would be to misunderstand him. One could even say that to try to understand his methodology would be to misunderstand him.

    His intent seemed to be to point to the Bible alone as giving true answers to the hard and perplexing questions of life. He was not pointing to himself or any one system that he or another were introducing or propounding. These were merely tools, if anything, to help along the way.

    If you follow the work that he did at the L'Abri centres then it soon impresses you that he did not think of himself as the answer provider for the questions. He often recommended others to help find answers, because he saw the value in the gifts given to others. Those who were thelogically trained could help to find and teach on Bible texts, but the answers were found together. L'Abri wasn't advertizing that they had all the answers, but that answers could be found in the Bible; L'Abri was a support and help to that end.

    I never met him, for I was too late in appreciating his books. He died a short while after I began reading his books. I had to go to L'Abri to see for myself. Just walking up to the front door was enough. L'Abri itself didn't matter anymore. I knew then that the ministry had a real house, and so also had a reality upon which it stood. Knocking on the front door did as much for me as all those tapes I listened to, the talks with Dick and the other guests, the work on the mansion, etc. It didn't underline Schaeffer or the Keyes or any one else; it underlined the book that I had when I was a young boy: the Bible. That was Schaeffer's message, and it came to me like a gigantic ship out of the fog when I walked up to the front door in Southboro.
     
  11. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Schaeffer had a very definite method and although it's been quite a few years since I've read him (I devoured every thing the man wrote at the time), he was very concerned with "blowing the roof off" nonbelievers. I recall that part of his method was premised on the assumption that you could not start from the Bible, but rather would have to first establish God's existence and to do that required showing the absurdity and meaninglessness of life without God. I guess you could call this the Ecclesiastes approach to apologetics.

    While I don't recall him ever arguing in a manner intended to prove God's existence, but rather arguing from the absurdity of trying to arrive at the personal from a supposedly impersonal universe (time+chance+impersonal). The positive side of that argument is the idea of the existence of a personal God which becomes all the more compelling by contrast. It's at that point the Bible provides an answer.

    I think one of the weaknesses in Schaeffer is his idea of "true truth" which extended not only to the propositions of Scripture, but also to the findings of science.

    For what it's worth I do recall his mentioning Rushdoony around the time of the publication of "Manifesto," but that might have been in a lecture I used to have on tape (and since gave away) or perhaps in a televised interview (For what it's worth, my first contact with Schaeffer was from an appearance on the Phil Donahue Show).

    I also think a major weakness is his broad based "Evangelicalism." I will say that in all the years spent wandering around the ersatz-Evangelical and Arminian wasteland, Schaeffer did provide the one oasis. However, he provided no way out of the emptiness that theology entails. Of course, I knew he was a Presbyterian, but that didn't seem to really influence or inform either his theology or apologetic. OTOH when I discovered Gordon Clark some years later, it was simply impossible to read Clark without being forcefully confronted with the WCF and Reformed doctrines in arguably one of their most consistent expressions.

    Interesting to me was that going from Schaeffer to Gordon Clark (even though in my case there were quite a few years in between) seemed to be a very organic progression (methodologically speaking), but I don't know if Schaeffer was even familiar with Clark? Anyone?
     
  12. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Interesting, after finishing the above reply, I was googling and came across this: http://www.pcahistory.org/documents/schaefferreview.html

     
  13. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I'm thinking Schaeffer had to have known of Gordon Clark. They were both in the RPCES. As to whether there was any influence or whether he read Clark's books, I can't say. If I'm not mistaken, Schaeffer was a student of CVT's for a time at WTS. There is certainly some influence there, but it's obviously inaccurate to say FAS was a Vantillian.

    Schaeffer was in the OPC early on as a seminary student and may have come across Clark at that time as well. Schaeffer followed Carl McIntyre and others into the Bible Presbyterian Church, eventually splitting with McIntyre a decade or so later.

    (BTW, what did Clark have against the "joining and receiving" of the RPCES and PCA in the early 80's)?
     
  14. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I don't know how I could have written what I did above and not mention the most important ingredient to Schaeffer's work. When Sean mentioned "true truth" above it reminded me of it, and glared me in the face, so to speak.

    Schaeffer regarded every person as a person, and respected that sincerely. Thus the main ingredient to every contact was always love. But it was not merely that he loved the person who came to L'Abri, or who asked him a question. It was evident in his writings (because that is how many of us know him) that is was the love of Christ for him and for others that drove his love for others. It was all a unit, the answers of the Bible and love: you could not have one without the other. They were not Schaeffer's answers, and so it was also not Schaeffer's love. But in obedience to the love that Christ showed him he also showed love to others. If he didn't do that, then the solutions or answers to hard perplexing questions and problems were shallow. You ended up not going to L'Abri for answers, but to Christ and His Word for answers; and you couldn't go there outside the love of Christ. For Dr. Schaeffer that was most important.

    Just as his own method was merely a tool (which if it worked then it worked and if it didn't then he would change it) but it was quite unimportant in comparison to the character with which one approached the answers. Dr. Schaeffer is not known for any one kind of approach or theory of approach, nor any one kind of cultural philosophy. Nor did he even leave L'Abri as in any way dependent upon him or his theories. But for him the mark of the Christian was the love he had for Christ and for others.

    As I said, I don't know how I could have missed including this in my post above. If we are to be reconnected to the Word, then it is most important that we be connected to Christ. Love is the most important ingredient of that connection. Without that the answers also fall flat.
     
  15. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Chris:

    You are correct, Schaeffer was a student under Van Till. They were in correspondence with each other. As such, it would follow that Schaeffer was well aware of Clark too.
     
  16. tewilder

    tewilder Puritan Board Freshman

    What Schaeffer was trying to do was to point out the need to underline the meta-narrative in a post-modern era. If the other guy thinks you are just giving another perspective, another way to interpret common experience, then you aren't challenging his false faith and are not evangelizing.

    I remember one seminary professor who used to ridicule Schaeffer for such expressions as "true truth", and who is not reportedly bewailing the capture of his institution by the post-modernists.

    But Schaeffer said you had to constantly do what in today's terms is emphasizing the meta-narrative. "There is an infinite-personal God who is there, before whom we have real moral guilt..." and so on. Otherwise you will be taking to be talking about your trip with your inner god.

    Gordon Clark seems to have lost touch with contemporary thought about the same time that Schaeffer started to wrestle with it, and could not have been of much help to Schaeffer.
     
  17. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I had no background in the modern apologetic methodologies when I read Schaeffer more carefully back in the 80's. I did have a background in apologetics, but not in the modern controversies on method. It did not occur to me at the time, nor did it after some time of study in his works, nor after going to L'Abri, that there was a middle ground between presuppositions and evidences. I still can't see it, and I can't see Schaeffer agreeing with this assessment either.

    If Schaeffer thought of his approach as a middle ground, then I must commend him that he never steered me in that direction in his books. He was an important link for me at a crucial time in my own spiritual growth, and as if he were a former teacher I go back to his writings often. It would be more accurate to say that through Schaeffer I have been inured to the idea of a middle ground between presuppositions and evidences, as if they were mutually exclusive approaches or methodologies. I see them as different parts of the same thing, but necessarily related. One does not understand the evidences unless one understands the framework within which to think on them. But neither does one understand the framework if one depreciates the evidences themselves, for evidences are evidences whether one thinks on them or not. A fingerprint is a fingerprint, even if it appeared a century before the science of fingerprints was known to investigators, and a smoking gun is a smoking gun, even if it was found at the time that a Connecticut Yankee visited King Arthur's court.
     
  18. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior

    "Schaeffer regarded every person as a person, and respected that sincerely. Thus the main ingredient to every contact was always love. But it was not merely that he loved the person who came to L'Abri, or who asked him a question. It was evident in his writings (because that is how many of us know him) that is was the love of Christ for him and for others that drove his love for others. It was all a unit, the answers of the Bible and love: you could not have one without the other. They were not Schaeffer's answers, and so it was also not Schaeffer's love. But in obedience to the love that Christ showed him he also showed love to others. If he didn't do that, then the solutions or answers to hard perplexing questions and problems were shallow. You ended up not going to L'Abri for answers, but to Christ and His Word for answers; and you couldn't go there outside the love of Christ. For Dr. Schaeffer that was most important." JohnV

    :amen: This is IT, John!

    This is precisely why Schaeffer's "method" cound NOT be a method. People are variables. Unique, bearing the Imago Dei.

    Many superficial readings/studies of Schaeffer make the mistake of arguing methods. At least, this is what I'm learning in the class, so far.

    It's profound.

    r.
     
  19. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    That being around the mid 1950's?
     
  20. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Robin:

    I agree. Arguments over methodologies have too often defeated the apologetic mandate, and trying to tie Schaeffer to the polarized discussion does the opposite of what he was trying to accomplish in his work.

    You are going to get as many different reactions to Schaeffer as there are readers, I suppose. His own work, if there was anything weak about it, was in reference to his time, to the people he met and talked to, to his culture and climate. He left it to others to carry on to the next generation, to the next culture and the next climate, to carry the same message that the Bible is unbound by cultural givens, that its truth stands by itself on the solid ground of God's revelation of Himself. We are reading the same Bible as all the Church has read up until now, although in different languages; and the Church will continue to read the very same Bible until Christ returns.

    I think that this was his intent in coining the term "true truth", to differentiate the Bible's truth from the modern mindset of personal or changeable or temporal truth. It was big back then to talk about a personal God, that God was different to each individual, and that therefore the Word of God could and would result in even opposites things being true to different believers. He countered that by referring to the Bible's truth as true truth. And it was for his time and place that he did so. He would not have thought of "true truth" as a compromise indicating that there was "truth", and then there was "true truth". It was a language concession in order to connect with that generation and its language, not a concession on truth itself. It was important to his thinking that truth is one.

    But love was also one with truth. They could not be at odds. And this was important to his approach to others. Love was the connection from his thoughts to others' thinking. Therefore his focus was on the person he was talking to, and what was needed to love that person for who he was. Therefore his own love had to be a reflection of Christ's love for that same person. I think that if that were not front and centre then he would have thought of himself as having failed. Methodology depended upon the person and his needs. His own theories were not the solid grounding upon which others stood. He referred them to Christ through His Word, so that they could then stand on the same solid ground that he stood on by that same gracious gift.

    So if we are going to credit Schaeffer with anyone's method, I would think that he made a singular and bold attempt to show us Christ's methodology, one which he hoped we who came after would build upon and refine, each generation more and more.
     
  21. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I would quibble with this a bit. Schaeffer is usually lumped in with "dominionists" and is regarded by secularists as little better than Rushdoony et.al. He is seen as the intellectual father of the Religious Right who encouraged the move of Jerry Falwell and others into political activism.

    Those who hold to the Spirituality of the Church will certainly have disagreements with Schaeffer, especially with A Christian Manifesto.
     
  22. tewilder

    tewilder Puritan Board Freshman

    That is when I would place it.
     
  23. tewilder

    tewilder Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes, but there is also a theoretical reason for this.

    Over against Schaeffer, the people who insist that all must be antithesis, end up, ironically, turning antithesis into autonomy, because it leaves sinful man in a place where he he can live and be unreachable on his own terms. Whereas for Schaeffer, man is always God's creature in God's world and cannot escape either fact. So there is always a point of contact right where he is. This point of contact always results in an inconsistency on the part of the sinner because God's creature cannot maintain an antithesis over against God.
     
  24. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior

    Well, yes, Chris...but this doesn't mean that he really DID.

    The point of the class is to actually learn from the man and the wisdom he employed in "practice." I appreciate his honesty and frank admissions of his own faith crisis - which came years after he was ordained (even studying under Machen!) His own grief over witnessing hypocrisy in the church brought him too it. I think we do well to learn from him -- in an organic sense and not seeking to "learn techniques."

    At least, this is what I get from the class, so far.

    I look forward to gaining more insight....
     
  25. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior

    "So if we are going to credit Schaeffer with anyone's method, I would think that he made a singular and bold attempt to show us Christ's methodology, one which he hoped we who came after would build upon and refine, each generation more and more." JohnV


    :amen: Indeed, this seems to be what Schaeffer did and was devoted to establishing...no matter what others interpreted him to be doing.

    Very interesting - and a surprise to learn, after all I'd heard about him for years.

    :um:
     
  26. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Given your previous posts on the board, and your attempted criticisms of theonomy, there is very little reason why you should like Schaeffer. Schaeffer argued for the reclaiming of culture (wait, Christ didn't command us to reclaim culture, yada yada yada), Christian America (see his debates with Mark Noll), and the political involvement of Christians based on their explicitly Christian presuppositions (some of which, horror, come from the Old Testament).

    It could be that I am a stupid theonomist and am reading that back into Schaeffer. Fair enough. I turn to non-theonomist John Whitehead. Oops, he said the same thing in *The Second American Revolution.* (in fact, much of the book, almost to the paragraphs, seem lifted from Rushdoony).

    Your Klineanism is at odds with Schaeffer.

    Schaeffer's socio-political worldview is actually one of his stronger elements.
     
  27. rmwilliamsjr

    rmwilliamsjr Puritan Board Freshman

    as a life group we watched Schaeffer's "How Shall We Live" series,
    last year.
    so he comes up in the discussions often.
    a book recommendation popped up this week:
    Truth with Love: The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer
    by Bryan A. Follis
    I kind-of read the first chapter as everyone was discussing, it looks really good, my copy is on the way now.
    does anyone have a good reading list on Schaeffer posted somewhere or blogged?
     
  28. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Doesn't mean he really did what?

    I would agree with those who say Schaeffer's views were not the same as Rush's and that he was closer to Dutch Neo-Calvinism.

    But for better or worse his direct personal influence on Falwell and the rest of the evangelical pro-life movement is indisputable. Schaeffer was probably the main figure that awakened evangelicals to a pro-life stance. Prior to that it was considered a Catholic issue. I remember seeing Falwell quoted as recalling Schaeffer telling him something like "Jerry, you're doing a good job preaching the gospel, [referring to Falwell's "Old Time Gospel Hour"] but you are not saying anything about abortion." Without Schaeffer's influence there would have been no Moral Majority or Operation Rescue.
     
  29. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior

    Not to get off topic...but something to think about. :detective:

    The class I'm in is filled with Reformed, amillenarians - and we are enjoying Schaeffer a lot! (It could be said there's a fairly firm Klinean sympathy there also.)

    How's this possible?

    There might be more to Schaeffer or to amillennialism than meets the eye.

    If you want to know more, why not check-in via the free MP3's as they are published?

    http://christreformedinfo.squarespace.com/mp3s-and-real-audio-of-academy/
     
  30. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior

    "Doesn't mean he really did what?" Chris

    That Schaeffer did deliberately promote the moral majority and/or would approve of Christian activism as we see it today. There's more to learn about this, I think.

    The goal of the class, though, is to understand why Shaeffer's apologetic was so popular. It's been said Schaeffer and Lewis are the most popular apologists of the 20th century. Everyone else pales in comparison. It is also curious that these men were not formally trained apologists.

    Sidebar...I'm not going to debate these points. I'm simply explaining what I'm learning in the class.

    :cheers:

    r.
     
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