On the same day we received the video masters of the Schaeffer videos from 1983 & 1984 from Sound Word that we will soon begin to release for public viewing in digital form, we also received a book in the mail from Italy which my partner Jason Schaitel was able to track down. This is not just any book mind you, but a book in French dated back to 1951 and perhaps is Schaeffer's oldest book.
The name, Neo_Modernisme-Ou-Christianisme, translated is New Modernism or Christianity: Barthianism in the Light of the Word of God. In order to get a scope on the significance of the booklet, consider that this book is privately published 14 years before Schaeffer's 1965 Wheaton Lectures which was privately printed for Wheaton and Westmont called Speaking the Historic Christian Position Into the 20th Century and is the basis for The God Who Is There. In fact, this bookled was published 17 years before Schaeffer's first officially printed work and predates the foundation of L'Abri by four years.
To be clear, this is actually a small booklet and the contents is perhaps about the length of The Mark of a Christian, but it is six chapters long and gives a rebuttal of the teachings of Karl Barth. Yet to our knowledge, outside of printed pamphlets and articles, this seems to have been the first of any material by Schaeffer ever put into a book-like form.
Some readers may recall from Schaeffer's history that in 1950 he gave a lecture at the Second Plenary Congress of the International Council of Christian Churches on Barth and the new modernism entitled, The New Modernism (Neo-Orthodoxy) and the Bible. The following year it was published in the Baptist Bulletin as An Examination of the New Modernism (which you can read on line here). Yet, apparently the work on the subject did not stop there. It was further developed into the content of a booklet, and here it is!
Although the work itself has been somewhat forgotten, with a little digging we can see that Mrs. Schaeffer once again comes to our aid. Edith, ever the documenter, although not mentioning the book by name explicitly anywhere (that we know of), did in fact tell us about it in The Tapestry. Here is what she said:
In August of 1950 Fran gave a talk at the Second Plenary Congress of the International Council of Christian Churches in Geneva, Switzerland. The title was "The New Modernisn (Neo-Orthodoxy) and the Bible." This talk contained material which really has been the basis of all he has said since on the "existential methodology" showing the destructiveness of Karl Barth's teaching. (This was translated into French and Portuguese at the time.)Note the last line. It is not specific, but tells us that the aforementioned lecture was translated into French and Portuguese. We'll continue with this in a moment.
In The Tapestry (page 314), Edith goes on to tell about the exchange between Schaeffer and Barth that is worth retelling to clarify why Schaeffer was writing this paper. Just prior to the presentation to the I.C.C.C. in Geneva, Schaeffer and four other scholars visited with Karl Barth face to face to discuss many of the related issues. The meeting attendees included Schaeffer and the four other theologians (G. Douglas Young, J. Oliver Buswell, James E. Bennet, and Peter Stam). During this meeting Schaeffer asked Barth a simple question, “Did God create the world?” Barth answered, “God created the world in the first century A.D.” As Edith recalls the dialogue, she describes how Fran then “waved his arms out over the beauty in front of them, pointing to the tree-covered hills sweeping down to the lake” and asked, “This world?” Barth answered, “This world doesn’t matter.” These responses served to underscore what Schaeffer had already concluded and was preparing to present. Barth’s concept of “religious truth” systematically analyzed, stripped Christianity of it's historicity and put religious concepts in the "upper story." Schaeffer admits at the end of his presentation, “In the short time we were with Barth it was not possible to explore all the facets contained in this paper, but it’s basic approach and conclusions were shown to be sound.” Schaeffer sent the paper to Barth and had hoped that Barth would pursue further dialogue, but Barth’s response was one of dissatisfaction.
So now, picking up where we left off, upon finding an actual copy of the book on this topic by Schaeffer in French, we were able to find out that the organization that published the material is called "Action Biblique," an evangelical organization that does ministry to French and Portuguese speaking countries. Edith notes in her letters that after the Congress, Schaeffer went with Dr. MacRae to Morges to speak with the leaders of a French Christian organization gathered there (pg 177 With Love, Edith), while we cannot be sure that this is the same organization it is at least plausible. Likewise, she later recalls in passing, a humorous story of her and Fran running late, rushing through the market section of Geneva to meet with "Action Biblique," all along trying to get Francis to stop for deals on oranges and dates. Yet we are never given the specifics of the arrangement of the printing or if it was established at this time. However, what we can conclude is how the booklets were used based of how Edith explained the ministry. The ministry of "Action Biblique" was such that they trained persons for ministry and in a trade for a year and then sent them out to minister. They would then return for another year of training and so on. Their trade would allow them to specify on their passports a worker designation and would allow them more access. They, in turn, would often distribute various forms of literature. Since the dimensions on this little booklet are only 12cm x 18cm (Approx 4 3/4" X 7"), we can conclude that they were designed to be used in this fashion and were a means to reach out to people in these countries.
After we confirmed the booklet, we were in contact with Dr. Little the custodian of the Francis Schaeffer Collection at SEBTS and he was able to confirm that they have several of them. We were extremely excited to make this discovery and to own a copy to further research.
Our plan for the booklet is already underway. We have completed a digital graphic scan of the booklet and will be performing an OCR scan next. Thereafter, we will run the copy through a digital translator and then we will begin working with one or more French speaking persons to help us confirm the translation. Finally, when we are done, we will explore copyright restrictions and what rights we might be able to procure to release the the information publicly or not.