People sometimes ask me why I am so into Dr. Schaeffer. There are many reasons which I outline in a previous post called Why Schaeffer?. However the story of Francis Schaeffer's struggle, seeking for reality and the formation of L'Abri is a story that moves me to contemplate my own spirituality. It shows that Schaeffer was not flawless, he was human like the rest of us. It shows reality.
In the years after World War II, Francis Schaeffer, toured war torn Europe personally and witnessed the devastation on churches, society, and particularly children, all of which were the products of the Atheistic worldview. After over ten years of ministry in the states as a pastor of three churches, he and his wife Edith felt led to uproot from their pastorate in St. Louis, Missouri to take on a new role as missionaries. They would settle in Switzerland, and begin further establishing the children’s ministry in Europe they had started in the states. The ministry was called Children for Christ and was already an international ministry. Likewise, Schaeffer would further continue his lectures on the devastating affects of Modernism (now known as Religious Liberalism). Yet something was wrong. After all this time of service, Schaeffer said he was beginning to lose “reality.” There had been schisms and denominational conflicts related to both strict and moderate objections to Liberalism. These battles had taken their toll on Francis in addition to all of the pressures of life he was feeling during this time. He began to ask himself, “Where is the reality?” What he meant by this, was where is the truth of the gospel? How does it apply to everyday life? Where is the love of Christ? This story is recounted over and over by those who teach about Schaeffer, as it was a turning point for him. He stripped his viewpoint down to bare Agnosticism (“The view that we do not know if there is a God.”), and began to search for the basic answers to the questions of life. In a Swiss Chalet, he paced for many weeks. His final result was, “It’s true Edith! It’s all true!” Schaeffer realized that it was not only true, it brought meaning, it brought reality. He discovered that scripture gave sufficient answers for the questions of life. It answers where mankind came from. It answers mankind’s dilemma, and it answers where mankind is going, and if further brings transforming truth. Out of this experience, Schaeffer began to call the Christian system of belief by the couplet, “True-Truth.”
Now Schaeffer also realized the need for some changes. He realized that in many ways he had been living in contradiction to his own faith. He did not always live as if what he believed was absolutely true and really reality. He was comfortable, and did not always trust God. He realized that often he defended the purity of the Church in doctrine without showing the love of Christ. He realized that he had hurt people at times, and that the things he learned in feuds made a very harsh and rigid belief system with no compassion for people. He remembered that God was a personal God and had made us also personal in His image, and thus deserving of respect. In his fervor, Schaeffer had lost the reality of his faith, and the reality of a personal God. Yet he had also seen others cave in for the sake of institutional unity, and forsake Biblical teachings. He had seen others forsake truth for mere togetherness, and realized that this was no unity at all. He realized that this was equally wrong. Thus, Schaeffer sought to do something that was not being taught. He sought to balance truth and love.
Next there was one more thing. Schaeffer realized that the harsh divide between people of differing views needed a forum for discovery. A place where people could be personal and receive honest answers to honest questions. He called this place “L’Abri,” which is French for “The Shelter.” Fran, as he was called by his friends, along with his wife Edith and family would form a new establishment in their own home, where people could come to get answers. This methodology, would mold into a concept that is now sort of a buzz word at L’Abri. It was the word, “organic.” The term organic really just means "natural," but it carries a lot of significance. It means unforced, unoffending, gracious, compassionate, and welcoming. Yet it also means those things that are natural in creation. That the world was created and there is a supernatural reality. It means that people are created in the image of God and have meaning, value and purpose. It also means that the human nature and the world has been corrupted by the fall and that sin exist. Yet it means that all people need rescue, restoration and hope. It means that all people need the real Christ.
So I hope as you read this you are asking yourself what I do each time I think of the story.
How are you Living With Reality?