Truth With Love: The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer

What an appropriate title for a book dealing with the life of the late Francis Schaeffer. One of the things that has always impressed me about this man of God was the manner in which he embraced, understood, and communicated the Christian faith. He modeled something that most of us have to struggle to emulate – speaking, preaching, and teaching the truth in love. Bryan Follis does an excellent job of casting Schaeffer in this light.

As I read this book, I thought of the way Schaeffer has impacted my life. I recalled our brief conversations, remembered his role in the life and formation of the Presbyterian Church in America, and thought of his later influencing his own denomination, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, to join the PCA in order to set forth the truth before the watching world more effectively.

Unequivocally, this book is a must read for every pastor, student, and church leader. It can also appeal to the person in the pew as well.

In this multifaceted 200 page book, Follis does a magnificent job of capturing Francis Schaeffer. While it focuses on the apologetics of Schaeffer, it is also a biography. Obviously, because it is about Schaeffer and his apologetics, it is also about his biblically Reformed theology and how he applied it to one of the most unique ministries of the twentieth century.

In reading this book, I further remembered how Schaeffer impacted my life in a significant way as I have focused on presenting God’s truth in a culturally relevant and sensitive manner. In so many ways, he knew how to follow the example of the apostle Paul in being all things to all men for the sake of winning some to Christ, without compromising the message in the process. He knew how to converse with a rationalist, and he knew how to deal with skeptics. He knew how to care for those in the throes of struggling with truth or attempting to deny the existence of absolute truth.

I have stated many times prior to reading this book that Schaeffer demonstrated not only a love for God and His truth but also the ability to communicate that truth in a culturally time sensitive manner. Follis says in response to statements such as “apologetics has no meaningful role in today’s world,” that our quick response is “yes, it does.” If you study Schaeffer’s ministry and methodology in context, you will realize that though we have moved to a postmodern world and Schaeffer conversed with those steeped in the Enlightenment rationalistic model, the manner in which he did so effectively formed a bridge for us in the postmodern era where logic and the rational are not part of that paradigm. With Follis I say yes, Schaeffer’s apologetic methods still have much relevance today. Among Schaeffer’s many gifts was the ability to help someone think through the implications of their beliefs or disbeliefs.

Schaeffer was unapologetically committed to the inerrancy of Scripture and to the existence of truth, but not truth in some postmodern pluralistic form. He was famous for talking about “true truth” in reference to propositional biblical truth. Follis also points out that Schaeffer was focusing more on dealing with existentialism than postmodernism. However, he was a bridge person whose method of ministry can be of great value to those who are ministering today to postmoderns and who are carefully listening and responding in a timely manner to their concerns without embracing “the emerging church” paradigm.

In describing Schaeffer’s apologetic method of setting forth the truth in love and taking a strong blend of rational and relational emphasis, Follis clearly shows how Schaeffer’s example of building relationships and listening carefully to his audience in order to channel into their lives the truth of the Gospel will continue to serve us well in ministry today. As he dealt with unchurched, disillusioned young people and those seeking answers, he was willing to listen but was always looking for an appropriate moment to demonstrate the truth of the Gospel in a way the listener could understand. In that connection, one characteristic of Schaeffer’s ministry is the reminder that we must present the truth clearly, in an understandable manner but with the awareness that it could be extremely painful for a person who is being challenged and called to faith and repentance. That’s where the truth in love comes to the surface. As Follis stated, “His kind of love and compassion spoke volumes to people.”

On several occasions, I have used with seminary students Schaeffer’s life and ministry as a model for us to consider for ourselves because it was so similar to the apostle Paul’s approach in places like Athens in Acts 17.

I am indebted to Bryan Follis for this clear, challenging, and honest approach to Francis Schaeffer and trust you will be as well. I am so glad God allowed him to be a part of the Presbyterian Church in America, even as he served the universal church in marvelous ways. In reading Truth with Love, I hope you will be encouraged to read and reread Schaeffer’s writings. They are rich, thought provoking, and valuable in helping us to become more able to give a reason for our hope in Christ.

Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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