If we were to identify someone who has had great impact, if not the most, on our Reformed and Evangelical world, and particularly our PCA denomination, two names immediately rise to the top of the list, J. Gresham Machen and Francis Schaeffer. God called and equipped both these men to lead the charge in making Reformed and Evangelical theology known not only in North America but the world.
This book is about Francis Schaeffer. It is probably the best book I have read and could recommend to anyone wanting to know more about Schaeffer. It is concise and to the point. It is written by Schaeffer’s sons-in-law, along with Jerram Barrs and Dick Keyes. We have said from time to time in our writing, reviews, and teaching that Schaeffer is one of those men that you do not want to neglect. His life is a testimony to God’s grace and gifts to a man who was God’s man for the 20th century but is continually to be one of God’s men for the 21st century.
In contrast to a review in the last issue of Equip to Disciple of a book dedicated to J. I Packer which Packer said he was a teacher of adults and certainly more effective than with children, Schaeffer’s life reflects the unique ability to communicate with all ages. From the “children’s evangelism” ministry started by him and his wife Edith, to the lecture halls at Cambridge, to the fireside teaching at L’Abri, to talking one on one, Schaeffer was able to connect with that cross section. Another outstanding characteristic of Schaeffer was his love for people, humanity.
The book tells of times when Schaeffer would be late for a university lecture, because he was sharing the Gospel with a hotel clerk. It tells of his unique relationship with Bishop Pike with whom he had dialogue. Schaeffer had strong disagreement with Pike’s liberal theology; however, they developed a friendship that modeled Schaeffer’s caring and compassionate spirit.
Though Schaeffer is known as one of the outstanding apologetics of modern times, Jerram Barrs writes that Schaeffer always maintained he was an evangelist. Barrs says quoting Schaffer, “If I have one hour to spend would someone, I would spend 55 minutes asking questions finding out what was troubling the individual and then the last five minutes answering those questions.”
Those who knew him best and were the closet agree that his compassion and caring more than anything else marked him for the great man that he was. One paragraph penned by his son-in-law Udo Middleman best describes him as we knew him. “He had no master plan for ministry, no curriculum for teaching. He talked with people, preached, and lectured about things that interested him or that arose from the discussions. He also did not mentor disciples. He resisted the pressure for growth, fame, and multiplication. He prepared his material for studies, lectures, and discussion around spontaneous questions.”
I have always been impressed with Schaeffer’s ability to listen in order to better enable him to respond to whatever legitimate questions were asked and from time to time even his ability to help someone ask the right questions.
This is a delightful little book that I would encourage you read. Even if you already know Schaeffer, it will refresh and remind you of someone that we could say without hesitation, imitate him and he imitated Christ.