Francis Schaeffer the Evangelist -- By: David W. Jones

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 21:1 (Fall 2003)
Article: Francis Schaeffer the Evangelist
Author: David W. Jones


Francis Schaeffer the Evangelist

David W. Jones

Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587

In his journal, First Things, Richard John Neuhaus claimed that “in the evangelical community, [Francis Schaeffer’s] influence was possibly only second ... to that of C. S. Lewis.”1 Similarly, other scholars have noted that Francis Schaeffer “has been the single most challenging and visionary theological voice of evangelical Christianity in the latter half of the twentieth century,”2 and that “no intellectual, save C. S. Lewis, affected the thinking of evangelicals more profoundly. .. [or] left a deeper stamp on the movement as a whole [than Francis Schaeffer].”3 Furthermore, Schaeffer’s impact on Christian scholarship is apparent as he has been compared by various writers to Cornelius Van Til for his philosophy and apologetics,4 to Helmut Thielicke and Jacques Ellul for his ethics and views on culture,5 and to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and even Athanasius for his theological influence.6 While it is evident, then, that Francis Schaeffer is considered by many to be an important and influential thinker, as the above comparisons illustrate, there is no unanimity of thought as to how to classify Francis Schaeffer and his writings. To elaborate, while some writers have characterized Schaeffer as a theologian,7 others have labeled him a philosopher,8 an apologist,9 or even a prophet.10 With this confusion over Schaeffer’s disciplinary identity in view, it is the contention of this paper that Francis Schaeffer was primarily an evangelist and that his purpose in writing was, therefore, chiefly evangelistic. In this work, this thesis will be defended by: (1) examining several aspects of Schaeffer’s methodology-for which he was oftentimes sorely criticized-in an attempt to suggest that it betrays an evangelistic intent; and (2) by surveying various pieces of empirical evidence from Schaeffer’s works and ministry that likewise point to an evangelistic end.

An Overview of Francis Schaeffer’s Thought

Before marshaling evidence in support of the aforementioned thesis, one should first survey Francis Schaeffer’s general thought. While thi...

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