Prepared by Allan L. Winger, 1996
The Written Framework of LíAbri
The purpose of this chapter is to consider the written framework of LíAbri Fellowship. For this consideration a selection of books and articles by Francis and Edith Schaeffer have been chosen. They were chosen because like all of the writings of LíAbri Fellowship (1) they are biblically based, (2) they address one or more of the four areas of Christian growth, and (3) they are relatively easy to understand and therefore make good basic references for the Christian life.
Dr. Schaeffer, in the March, 1973 issue of Eternity, wrote the following:
The overall purpose of the writings of Francis and Edith Schaeffer is to show that the lordship of Christ extends to every area of life. This is point three above. The other four points listed are the core subpoints of that main message. These four subpoints were later presented in more detail as a formal address by Dr. Schaeffer at the International Congress on World Evangelism, Lausanne, Switzerland, in July 1974. The text of this address later became a pamphlet entitled Two Contents, Two Realities (InterVarsity, 1974).
Grammatical Diagram of the Purpose
In keeping with the structure presented in chapter two, the grammatical diagram above is a construction of the four subpoints previously mentioned. This diagram will be used in upcoming sections to identify the specific area of Christian growth that is being covered by the written works being surveyed.
In addition to the use of the diagram, each written work surveyed will be addressed in three ways. First, the main thrust of each section will be presented by summarizing the corresponding portion of Two Contents, Two Realities. Second, the main points of one or more of the written works of the Schaeffers will be summarized. Third, the comments of other writers about what has been written will be given.
Dr. Schaeffer (1974, pp. 7-14) writes that the first content is a clear doctrinal content concerning the central elements of Christianity. Christianity is a specific body of truth. The Christian must never say, "Donít ask questions, just believe." The content that is taught will always be more than that, and how it is presented will depend upon the people with whom we are working (e.g. dock worker vs. college student). Christians should never try to teach Christianity apart from the intellect and academic study. There is a system to Christianity but it is about a God who was there before creation. God existed before the Fall of man and He continues to exist today. The first half of Genesis should always be treated as real space-time history. Therefore the system that God has created should not be twisted around by man.
Dr. Schaeffer (1974, p.11) goes on to explain this by saying that the secular worldís middle-class standards should never be considered to be equal to the absolutes in the Bible. Christians that have a different lifestyle (dress, etc.) should be treated as Christians and not rejected because they are different. Racial prejudice has been a good example of this. Therefore, once the strong content is developed in words, it must also be exercised in practice. A body of truth is worthless without the feet to make it move forward. Dr. Schaeffer (1974, p. 13) applies this principle by saying that if the practice of that truth costs the Christian a job for instance, then that is a price that the Christian must be willing to pay.
Part of that cost, on the other hand, should never be to compromise biblical truth in the name of religious cooperation. This will lead to a weakening of sound doctrine, especially as it concerns the inerrancy of Scripture. In like manner Christians should not allow denominational differences to pull us apart as the body of Christ. Loyalty to God should prevent Christians from falling into this trap.
In summary then there must be first a strong emphasis on content. Second, there must be a strong emphasis on the Bible as truth, especially in the first half of Genesis. Third, there must be a strong emphasis upon the practice of that truth. Fourth, the stand for the inerrancy of Scripture should not be compromised for the sake of religious cooperation.
In this work by Dr. Schaeffer (1982, The Complete Works..., Vol. 2, pp. 3-114), greater detail is given to his argument that the first half of Genesis is real space-time history. If it is not real space-time history then Christians have no knowledge of what Jesus came to die for. Christians will also have no way to understand that God is really a good God.
Some of the subjects discussed in support of this belief include whether Adam and Eve were real people, when man was created, the use of genealogies as chronologies, why God commands capital punishment, and in fact, whether Genesis is myth or history (of course it was history). And this is only a very few of the important issues that Schaeffer writes about.
Mixter (May-June, 1973, p. 27) writes that, "You will find carefully reasoned conclusions without dogmatism on these and several other topics that have divided evangelicals, needlessly, over the years." He also states that "When you read this book you will have a strong impression that you know why Genesis was written..."
Klug (March, 1973, p. 314) writes that "Schaeffer tells the story of these first eleven chapters of Genesis so completely, yet so ingenuously, that every reader, friend or foe of Scriptural authority and inerrancy, pastor or layman, is carried along absorbed and immersed, not in lengthy argument, but in Scriptural testimony." Rybolt (April, 1973, p. 274) remarks that Schaeffer "makes many valid points on the nature of sin, the work of Christ and salvation. These might be useful for Bible discussions or might offer points for preachers."
In this work by Dr. Schaeffer (1982, The Complete Works..., Vol. 2, pp. 153-316), another thesis about the structure of the Bible is amplified. Joshua is "a bridge, a link between the Pentateuch (the writings of Moses) and the rest of Scripture. It is crucial for understanding the unity the Pentateuch has with all that follows it, including the New Testament" (p. 153).
As Schaeffer develops this argument there are two subpoints that always seem to surface. One is the significance of the book of Joshua in understanding how the canon of Scripture grew and was accepted. This further develops what was written in the previously discussed work about Genesis. That is that there is a continuity in the history of redemption.
The second point is also a continuation of what was written in the book about Genesis. That idea is that all the events of the book of Joshua happened in real space-time history. The events have redemptive significance because they actually occurred.
Goddard (March 1976, p. 73) also writes that "Dr. Schaeffer builds his foundation on the history and geography of the book of Joshua. The superstructure of doctrine is accomplished by recognizing typology and by drawing spiritual lessons from the historical events." Vannoy (Spring 1976, p. 425) compliments the book by saying that "Here is a good study guide for the minister, theological student, or layman to the continuing significance of the narratives of Joshua."
Dr. Schaeffer wrote in the Summer, 1976 issue of United Evangelical Action that there are two reasons for holding to the inerrancy of Scripture:
Schaeffer then goes on to develop this argument by saying that Christianity is no longer the base for our society. An existential methodology, which is humanism with relative values, has taken over. It has taken over in the form of two values that have come even more to the forefront as the norm-personal peace and affluence. By this is meant that everyone wants to be left alone in their own lifestyle and to have as many material things as they want. This has led to a form of Christianity that dominates liberal theology. From that has come a low view of Scripture as truth.
Francis Schaeffer believed that soft days for evangelical Christians were in the past and that it was time to make a stand. One of the ways that Schaeffer made a stand was to be part of the group that authored the Lausanne Covenant. This is something else that came out of the International Congress on World Evangelism previously mentioned. In that covenant (Stott, 1975) it states the following about Scripture:
If this view is not held, argued Schaeffer, then many issues that plague evangelicals will continue to get worse. One will be easy divorce and remarriage. Another will be the discarding of biblical teaching regarding order in the home and the church. The inerrancy of Scripture should be the issue when evangelicals say they are evangelical. It should be the sine qua non of Evangelicalism. Schaeffer also made this subject the main thrust of No Final Conflict (1982, The Complete Works..., Vol. 2, pp. 119-148).
In addition, Dr. Schaeffer was one of the founders of The International Council On Biblical Inerrancy in 1977. The stated purpose of that organization is:
Board (June 15 1984, p. 61) writes that "he (Schaeffer) enjoyed unusual credibility among most American evangelicals and many fundamentalists. This is partly traced to his strong stand for biblical inerrancy and against accommodation to the world spirit on the part of the church." Thomas (July/August 1984, p. 48) eulogizes Schaeffer by writing, "What more could be said of a life than this: that he glorified and magnified God, won men and women to Christ, and was faithful to the truth, the inerrancy, the infallibility of the Word of God to the end?"
In this work (1982) Edith Schaeffer answers two basic questions of life - Who am I? What will fulfill me? She does this by explaining each of the Ten Commandments using modern-day illustrations and plenty of Scripture.
Dr. Schaeffer has stated in the previously cited works that certain events really happened in space-time history. Mrs. Schaeffer writes (p. 9) that "History is our history, at least the period we have been born and live in, as well as the period that affects us before our birth, and the period we are affecting after our death." In a way similar to those who changed the course of history in the first part of Genesis, man now affects history in everything that he does. Therefore every man, woman, and child needs a framework for living. A good place to start, according to Mrs. Schaeffer, is in following the Ten Commandments.
Wray (1982, p. 45) writes that "Lifelines would make an excellent guide for any Bible study - individual, church, or home group. Its practical applications and current topics are relevant for todayís individual seeking the key to a fulfilling life."
Therefore, as Dr. Schaeffer would put it, without the Scriptures as the foundation of all of life, there is no real life. And, as Edith Schaeffer would put it, without the Scriptures, there is no framework for purposeful living. Also, if there is not a high view of Scripture, then Genesis and the Old Testament cannot be trusted as true. Therefore there is no reason to even look at the Ten Commandments. If that is so, then there is no reason for the New Testament and the coming of Christ. Without Christ, who followed the Ten Commandments perfectly, there is nothing to live for and it is therefore impossible to teach others how to live. It is impossible to give honest answers to honest questions.
Dr. Schaeffer (1974, pp. 15-20) writes that the second content is that Christianity is truth, and that Christians must give honest answers to honest questions. Christians must avoid the strong platonic emphasis on the idea that man is divided into two parts-his spiritual nature and everything else. The Bible does not say that the truth contained therein is only for a spiritual part of man. The Lordship of Christ is to cover every aspect of life.
The ministry of Paul was about answering questions. The questions came from Jew and Gentile. They were not always "spiritual" questions, and Paul answered them all. The message of First Corinthians is not against the intellectual side of life. It only warns of using our own reason by itself. The ministry of Jesus was also about answering questions. He likened being saved to being like a little child. However, what little child does not ask questions?
The compassion that Christianity teaches demands that Christians learn and answer the questions of our generation. Not all the questions come from intellectual types. The man who works on the docks for instance must also be answered and in his language.
Giving answers does not constitute giving salvation. All must still accept God as creator and Christ as Savior. Answering intellectual questions is not a moral dodge. The Bible in 1 John 4:1-2 teaches that Christians are to question the spirits or the prophets who come into their life. They are of the Spirit of God only if they confess that Jesus Christ who came in the flesh is God. This means that Jesus had an eternal pre-existence as God and that He also came in the flesh. This rule of testing the spirits not only applies to those who teach us. It also applies to those Christians fellowship with on a regular basis.
All this about the intellectual does not mean that emotion is wrong. It is only wrong by itself. The spirits or the friendships Christians cultivate that stir the emotion must be questioned. They must be identified. In this way earthly appetites are controlled by heavenly wisdom. Then maturity comes.
If earthly appetites are to be controlled by heavenly wisdom, that wisdom will begin with the most basic questions of life. Dr. Schaeffer (1982, The Complete Works..., Vol. 1, p. x) writes that the basic trilogy has been The God Who Is There, Escape From Reason, and He Is There And He Is Not Silent (1982, The Complete Works..., Vol. 1, pp. 1-202, pp. 205-270, pp. 273-352). All the other books that he and Mrs. Schaeffer have written fit into these three books as spokes of a wheel fit into the hub.
In these works Schaeffer develops the argument that the Bible is absolute truth. Absolutes imply antithesis. Antithesis means that if there is something that is true, there is also something that is the opposite (anti). There has to be something that is false. What has happened however is the development of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. There has developed something called truth which is not truth at all. It is a melting together of truth and untruth (synthesis). This is what has been previously discussed as existential methodology.
Schaeffer traces the development of this methodology through science, philosophy, art, music, general culture, and finally theology. The relationship between rationality and faith are discussed. The New Theology that has come out of this methodology is explained. Then Schaeffer goes into the need to return to historic Christianity, in communication and in practice. He concludes by first giving the metaphysical necessity (the answer to our physical existence). Second he gives the moral necessity (the answer to why man has a personal existence rather than an impersonal one). Third he explains the epistemological necessity (the answer to how man knows that he exists).
Bube (June 1969, p. 55) writes that "This is all pretty powerful stuff, and well worth integrating into oneís overall perspective on the interaction of Christian faith with life." Johnson (June 1969, p. 98) states that "Books such as Schaefferís are neglected by Christians to their own impoverishment of effective witness to our generation." Pinnock (Jan 3 1969, p.24) says that "At last an evangelical scholar has dared to rethink the historic faith, to present it in a fresh, new mode, and to propose a vigorous and exciting apologetic program fitted to our situation.
In this book (1971) Edith Schaeffer supports the basic premise of Dr. Schaeffer that the Lordship of Christ covers every aspect of life. This not only includes music, painting, sketching, and sculpturing. It also includes the way you arrange a dinner table or raising silk worms to make a dress with. In this work honest answers to honest questions also includes, What can I make from an old nail keg? (a chair). How can I make breakfast more enjoyable for my spouse? (Make it breakfast in bed and add a real flower to the tray.)
Demaray (July 1973, p. 41) writes that "Pastors counseling with problem families, or just plain "dull" families, would do well to place this volume in the hands of mothers." Shaw (May 1972, p. 19) comments that "Her (Mrs. Schaefferís) enthusiasm, her eagerness to share and the broad spectrum of her own creative activities as she has experienced and expressed them lend each chapter a sort of breathless authenticity."
For every question that man may have about any area of life, there is a starting point, a root from whence came that question. Each question has its roots in the answer of another question preceding it. The three basic questions discussed by Dr. Schaeffer are the three roots from whence comes everything else. Dr. Schaeffer has shown that the Bible has the answers to those questions. Therefore the Bible has the answers to any other questions that will ever be asked. The Bible is the only foundation for truly honest answers to truly honest questions. Then Edith Schaeffer adds a flower to this whole table of deep philosophical food and very creatively writes that the Bible teaches principles about the simple parts of life as well.
Dr. Schaeffer (1974, pp. 20-22) writes that the first reality in the Christianís life is spiritual reality. The purpose of Christianity is not just the repetition of mere ideas. It is to actively love God with all our hearts and souls and minds.
Dr. Schaeffer then goes on to tell how he himself doubted the spiritual reality of Christianity itself. He told his wife that if he found that Christianity was not what it said it was that he would quit the ministry and do something else. After two months of hard personal study and evaluation he finally came to a conclusion. He had been right in becoming a Christian. What he had not done personally was to recognize the importance of the whole sanctification process. There must be a moment by moment walk with God in the light of the shed blood of Jesus Christ for our sin.
This does not minimize the need for the intellectual, or the need to stand up against compromise, or to uphold the first part of Genesis as space-time history. If Christians teach the truth, they must live the truth in an active, personal relationship with God. Without this they teach a dead orthodoxy.
This work (1982, The Complete Works..., Vol. 3, pp. 193-378) was written by Dr. Schaeffer to more fully understand and teach what the Christian life (true spirituality) is, and how it may be lived in a twentieth-century setting. Schaeffer does that by using the three word concept of Rejected-Slain-Raised. The argument is presented that this is the basic model of what Christís life was and is and that the Christian should live the same life. This model is then carefully developed into what Theology has defined as the doctrines of justification, sanctification, and glorification. Once the Christian understands this model, then the Christian understands in reality that it is the gospel of Christ. If they are living this gospel, then they are living a Christ-like life. Their perspective then begins to entail three relational concepts.
First, Christians will have a realistic view of life and death, of beauty and ugliness, and of the true nature of people. Second, Christians will have a comprehension of how to live with our eyes fixed on the coming salvation and how to stand up against the fallen nature of this world. Third, Christians can live a real space-time existence that affirms life instead of negating it. "Thus," Schaeffer writes, "the dust of life is on all things now, and we can intellectually and in practice affirm life now in the midst of this death that exists" (p. 377). He further states that "To that wide understanding of salvation, future and present, and the practice of it, we should dedicate our teaching and our lives" (p. 378).
In reviewing this work, Buehler (Spring 1973, p. 91) writes that "The book is no rehash of pietistic exhortations and explanations and should prove especially helpful to many in conservative evangelical circles where some of the truths brought out by Dr. Schaeffer have been neglected." It has also been written (True Spirituality, March 31 1972) that "He (Dr. Schaeffer) speaks to the intellectual climate confronting college students and graduates today..."
This work (1982, The Complete Works..., Vol. 4, pp. 207-299) was written by Dr. Schaeffer as an answer to the question, "In what has been called a post-Christian world, what should be our perspective and how should we function as individuals, as institutions, as orthodox Christians, and as those who claim to be Bible-believing" (p.209)? His basic answer in chapter one is that "the church in our generation needs reformation, revival, and constructive revolution" (p. 209). However, in chapter six, that premise is boiled down to the even more basic level of the individual and not just the church as a whole. The chapter is entitled "The Universe and Two Chairs." The chapter is based on Romans 1:17, that the just shall live by faith. Schaeffer uses an illustration about how God could have made the universe to be one small room, with two men in it, one a Christian and the other a materialist. They are sitting on two chairs and there is a clock on the wall.
The materialist, who only believes in the seen world, spends a lifetime studying the universe. He then presents his findings, in a voluminous set of books, to the Christian. The Christian reads the books and then makes the statement that the materialist has left out the unseen world, which the Christianís Bible explains. That Bible also explains the origin of man and the origin of the universe, two questions that the materialist can not explain from only the seen world.
Dr. Schaeffer then places these materialist-type people in a group that also includes liberal theology. He then states that they can be summed up by one word: unbelief. Schaeffer also charges that Christians who believe in the gospel but that do not live like it, should be grouped under yet another word: unfaith. The people who fall in the latter group, Schaeffer says, are basically not living the teaching of Romans 6, specifically verses 13, 16 and 19. Here it is written that Christians are to yield themselves as instruments of righteousness unto God.
One of the main reasons why and also one of the most common methods how, Schaeffer says, that Christians do not yield themselves to God is that they "tend not to be a praying people" (p. 295). Without this horizontal as well as vertical relationship with God, the Christian is not only worse than the materialist who does not believe in the unseen world. The Christian is also worse than the pagan who believes in both worlds but worships demons. Schaeffer concludes by saying that there are only two chairs in the universe, the chair of unbelief and the chair of belief. There is no room for a chair called unfaith, because in the final analysis it too is really unbelief. In the last paragraph (p. 299) Schaeffer writes:
Bube (June 1970, p. 72) writes that "He (Dr. Schaeffer) calls upon us to realize that Christians are now and in the future a minority in a post-Christian world living in a culture and country under the wrath of God." In reviewing this work, Johnson (October 1969, p. 60) writes that "Fresh, inspirational and intellectual are words which describe the book. It is highly commended to all Christians desiring to strengthen their witness in our day."
In this work (1978) Edith Schaeffer attempts to look at the meaning of suffering. She does this by writing about her own personal experiences and those of friends down through the years. Mrs. Schaeffer also adds stories from the Bible to make everything scripturally relevant. All through the book what is taught is the concept that Christians are going through a refining process. God is teaching us, that His purpose for Christians is greater than their afflictions.
Hammack (November 10 1993, p. 23) writes that "She (Mrs. Schaeffer) speaks from experience and helps a reader realize how Godís Word can help and comfort in difficult situations sometimes too personal to share, even as prayer requests." Yancey (January 1979, p. 81) says that "She writes to those who are confused by the dissonance of Christian responses to suffering and who sincerely want to explore biblical answers. Edith Schaeffer offers some surprisingly fresh insights."
Now, more than ever before, Christians should recognize that they live in a post-Christian world. It is not going to get easier to live the Christian life. It is going to get harder. If our Christian life is going to remain strong, it must begin and end with a right relationship with our God. That relationship must be moment-by-moment, bowing before the Lordship of Christ in all that the Christian does. That, says Dr. Schaeffer, is true spirituality. That, says Edith Schaeffer, is how Christians are to face hardship and affliction. That is the only real life in a world that is covered with the dust of death, that is still filled with pain and suffering, and still remains a world that insists on going its own way.
Dr. Schaeffer (1974, pp. 23-29) writes that the second reality is the beauty of human relationships. True Christianity produces beauty as well as truth. Christians understand who man is. He is a creature created in the image of God who must first love his God. After that however, he must love his neighbor as himself. This neighbor is all of mankind because he is created in the image of God.
Christians are to treat all men well if it is only for a moment or if it is a long-term relationship. Everyone is to be treated with dignity, even including those that Christians may disagree with. If we do not show beauty in the way they treat each other, then in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of our own children, they are destroying the truth they proclaim. Men should see in the church a bold alternative to the way modern men treat people as animals and machines.
Evangelicals have been weak in this area. They need to ask God for forgiveness. The Christian church of the first century practiced this beauty. The church at Antioch had the right relationship between Christian Jew and Christian Gentile. There was no problem of race. All were equally loved even across social and economic lines. They would not tolerate one man being hungry and another being rich. There was no distinction between giving to missions and giving to those who were in need. One church from one area helped another church from another area. There must not only be an orthodoxy of doctrine. There must also be an orthodoxy of community.
This short work by Dr. Schaeffer (1982, The Complete Works..., Vol. 4, pp. 181-205) is probably one of his best from the standpoint of a reader who is not deep into theology or philosophy. It is simple and to the point. There are two passages of Scripture that are primarily utilized as the context for this work. One is John 13:34, 35 where Jesus says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (NASB). The other is John 17:21 where Jesus is praying to the Father "that they all may be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me" (NASB).
The Mark of the Christian, then as Schaeffer says the Bible defines it, is Christian Love. It is not a mushy, gooey, romantic love, but one that is practical and that a watching (sinful) world can see. This love is a love that knows how to say, "Iím sorry." This love is a love that knows how to openly forgive. This love is not a love that means organizational unity. In contrast to that it means unity stemming from the common bond of caring for each other. Schaeffer sites the Catholic Church as one that has organizational unity. Yet it is cutting itself to ribbons from within. Many Protestant denominations could fall into this same type of unity.
The most important thing, however, that Schaeffer says in this work is what he calls The Final Apologetic. If we as Christians do not love each other, than the world will say that God did not send Christ as the gospel proclaims. Within the framework of the Final Apologetic, we as Christians have a responsibility to live the gospel and in such a way that the dying and hurting world may see it and seek after it. Schaeffer then concludes this short book (p. 204) by saying:
Dr. Schaeffer considered this booklet to be one of his most important works. This is shown by the fact that in his lifetime it was published in five different forms. First it was published by itself (InterVarsity, 1970). Then an essay from it was written for Christianity Today (September 11, 1970). It was published as an appendix to The Church At The End of the Twentieth Century (InterVarsity, 1970). It was included in The Complete Works... as cited on page 36. Then it was included as an appendix to The Great Evangelical Disaster (Crossway, 1984) which was the last book Dr. Schaeffer wrote before his death in May of 1984.
One reviewer (Robinson, 1971) wrote that "Excellent reading is offered Christians who want to practice and exhibit both the holiness of God and the love of God." Yet maybe the greatest tribute to its importance to evangelicals was when Christianity Today published it yet another time in the March 6, 1995 issue (pp. 27-33), eleven years after his death. In the preface to that reprint (p. 27) the editor writes of how Dr. Schaeffer was not a stranger to controversy and to schisms in Protestant denominations. "He did, however," writes the editor, "articulate a theology of disagreement...His pointed challenges remind us that we must not only choose the right battles, but also choose the right way to fight" (italics mine).
Summary of Two Articles
This work (1969) was the first book written by Edith Schaeffer. It is the story of the ministry that she, Dr. Schaeffer, and their children began in April of 1955. Simply stated, it takes the content and the principles taught in The Mark of the Christian and gives them actual faces, places, and events ó real space-time history. The stated purpose of LíAbri, writes Mrs. Schaeffer, is "To show forth by demonstration, in our life and work, the existence of God." The passing of time and the witness of many have proven this to be very true.
Breisch (October 1969, p. 50) writes that "Alongside the demonstrations of Godís personal actions in the life of LíAbri stand many evidences of Christian love for people. This love is not expressed merely in words, but in the willingness of the staff to give freely of themselves to house, feed and evangelize the swelling tide of people who have made their way to LíAbri."
The beauty of human relationships according to Edith and Francis Schaeffer is the practice of Christian love. This love should be for all mankind because man is created in the image of God. This love should be especially shown in our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Without this love, a sinful world has every right to doubt whether Christ ever came or not. And for those who have witnessed the LíAbri ministry, all doubt has been cast aside.
This chapter has presented a sampling of the written framework of the LíAbri ministry. That presentation was given using only the works of Francis and Edith Schaeffer. The framework is much larger than that and is still being written by those who have carried on in the footsteps of the Schaeffers. This then was only the barest of foundations and further reading should be done by utilizing the larger bibliography provided.