One of the truly astonishing things about the ministry of Francis and Edith Schaeffer is that it touched so many lives, so many disciplines, and so many subjects. While this is definitely a good thing, it can also be problematic when reintroducing people to Schaeffer’s work. Some may know Schaeffer from his view of culture, some from his take on philosophy, still others the matters of faith and spirituality he taught, the list goes on... art, music, psychology, sociology, politics, and who can forget the specific political issues like abortion? It seems there are many entry points to Schaeffer. Yet depending on your entry point and what works you have read, you may be missing the complete perspective. This happens especially with people who dismiss him. They often have consumed a limited slice of the big pie that is Schaeffer’s thought and judged him on that one perspective and moved on.
Thus I find that there are also a lot of red herrings swimming around about Schaeffer as well. Some think he was only about the abortion debate and say that he became too politically consumed. Some think he was too harsh on Aquinas or Kierkegaard in his perspectives on philosophy (I could say much on both of these issues, but I will leave that to another article). Others judge him because he was Presbyterian and Reformed. We could go on here as well. Yet the funny thing is, while these are good matters for debate, when you start to actually read Schaeffer you see that there was something much deeper at work. He was consistently gracious, even to those whose viewpoints he opposed. He lamented over the errors in thought, and hurt even more for the people. He was insistent on being both firm on truth, and yet enduring on love. His letters confirm this over and over. He was not a proud man, by all accounts, and abhorred putting on a show. He was mindful that he had a voice and he was careful in how he used it.
Yet the biggest misconceptions I believe from the findings of my studies on his works is that Schaeffer was ever focused entirely on just one issue. Schaeffer was never just about one piece of the pie. He was about following God wherever He led, and sometimes the logical train of thought would naturally lead him to different areas in his ministry and his work. Sometimes he was directly addressing the issues of his moment, and he felt deeply convicted to do so. Yet his writings were always timely and I believe providential.
While I say he never focused on just one issue, he did have one consistent theme that ruled over all and this is important. His theme was the Lordship of Christ over all things. Every piece of the pie of Schaeffer’s thought was always consumed with applying this principle. Whether it was on one end of the thought spectrum or not, it simply did not matter. If you have read all of his works you know this. You hear it from True Spirituality, the basis of all of his works (although published later) to The Mark of a Christian which champions his powerful concept of the balance of True Truth and the proper demonstration of Christian love, all the way to The Great Evangelical Disaster his final work. Despite his consistency, and all of his attempts, he still seems to get pigeon holed into the issues. It was never what he intended. Even in his later work, where he steps out and does the truly unthinkable... meshing religion with politics, it was never about just some issue. It was always about one single solitary thing. Is Jesus Lord here or not? So I ask you, How do you know Schaeffer? Maybe it's time to take another look.