This Day in Presbyterian History:
A Christian Apologist of the Twentieth Century
What more can be written about Francis Schaeffer that has not already been said? Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1912 . . . Born again in 1930 . . . College graduate from Hampton – Sydney, Virginia . . . Seminary student in two historic seminaries, Westminster and Faith Seminary . . . Pastor to three conservative Presbyterian churches for ten years before he went to Europe to begin L’Abri Fellowship, reaching intellectuals for Christ . . . An advocate of both the gospel and cultural mandate to the masses. In short, Francis Schaeffer had an effective ministry in the seventy-two years in which he lived in the twentieth century.
On a personal note, this contributor was barely an adolescent when he came to my chaplain father’s Army installation in Dachau, Germany for a series of evangelistic meeting in the late forties. Night after night, the gospel was presented to lonely American soldiers in post-war Germany. And the meetings were held right down the road from the infamous concentration camp building of Dachau where sinful depravity was the order of the day barely five years previous to these meetings. They were present in all their stark reality in that this was before the whole site had been memorialized by the West German government. But beyond the meetings to the adults, day by day, this youngster, and a whole host of others, learned Psalm 19 by Edith Schaeffer, which I remember today! (Edith Schaeffer writes about all this visit in her book, The Tapestry.) In short, the Schaeffer’s were hungry for the power of the gospel unto salvation to be demonstrated for all who believe.
It was in 1978 that cancer was discovered in Francis Schaeffer’s body. Despite this disease, even by his own admission, more was done in his ministry in the last five years of his life than before. He rewrote his book legacy and ministered to large crowds everywhere. He spoke to the combined General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in America and Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod in 1982, which had just merged together into one church. [click here to read “A Day of Sober Rejoicing”]
As the days grew difficult, Edith Schaeffer tells how ten days before he died, she brought him home from Mayo Clinic. She spoke about her conviction that he would want to go to the house he had asked her to buy in Rochester, Minnesota to pass from his body and be with the Lord. The medical staff agreed with that decision. Edith Schaeffer surrounded his bed with the things he loved, including music played into his room. All the favorites from Beethoven, Bach, and Shubert were played. On the morning of May 15, 1984, he was taken home to glory with Handel’s Messiah in the background.
Words to Live By: Francis Schaeffer was a sinner saved by grace, as all believers are. We by no means believe that he was without difficulties in his life towards those nearest and dearest to him, as well as the Christian family as a whole. But despite these foibles, he will be remembered as the spiritual father of many a Christian today, while his work continues on in many lands today to reach the intellectuals of the twenty-first century with the same precious gospel. As God enables us, let us each be faithful, in word and in deed, in proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.
Through the Scriptures: Psalms 103 – 105
Through the Standards: The Nature of repentance
“Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minster of the Gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.”