Two years ago I set off one Sunday from my new home in York, England. I remember it well as I was being slashed furiously by wind and rain as it cut at my ineptitude to buy a new umbrella. Rain-soaked and dripping like a drowned rat, I walked in through the door of Trinity Church York.
It was whilst attending Trinity Church York that I first became aware of a small man (5’ 8’’ or 1.72m) who had a massive and long-lasting influence on post-war evangelicalism. He is none other than theologian and missionary, Francis Schaeffer.
I was in York to study for a Master’s degree in Modern & Contemporary Literature. I’ve always enjoyed reading modernist literature such as the intriguing stream-of-consciousness style of Virginia Woolf and the mad patchwork quilt of literary allusions in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. The minister at Trinity (Matthew Roberts) is a sound preacher of the Word and a great friend. He challenged me to think biblically as I studied modernist and postmodernist thought.
This was where Francis Schaeffer had such an influence on me, as I sought to study for God’s glory. Schaeffer actively encouraged Christians to engage in a dialogue with the secular world with how it was expressed in art and literature. He encouraged me as I studied my Master’s to infiltrate a web of humanist thinking with the truth of the gospel rather than to be moulded and corrupted by it.
There have been many others that have greatly benefitted me in my faith and I praise God for all of them. But allow me to mention eight things about this influential man Francis Schaeffer here:
- Schaeffer was one of the most influential theologians in post-war American evangelicalism.
- In the late 1940s, along with his wife Edith, he moved to Switzerland as a long- term missionary. Whilst there, they founded a programme called Children for Christ.
- In 1955 both he and his wife established L’Abri (The Shelter), an independent ministry organisation that was based in the mountain village of Huemoz. L’Abri became popular with students who the Schaeffers hosted on weekends, discussing religion, philosophy, art, and culture.
- In 1960, Time magazine featured an article on Francis Schaeffer and his ministry at L’Abri.
- In the late 1970s he sparked a return to political activism among protestant evangelicals.
- In 1981 he published A Christian Manifesto, a Christian answer to The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Humanist Manifesto (1933;1973).
- Schaeffer wrote a total of 22 books covering a range of topics to do with the faith.
- Schaeffer formed the International Presbyterian Church as a missionary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States. The first congregation started in Ealing, London in 1969.
Written By Sean Tong for YMI