Francis A. Schaeffer (1912–1984): Lessons from His Thought and Life -- By: Stephen J. Wellum
SBJT 6:2 (Summer 2002) p. 4
Francis A. Schaeffer (1912–1984):
Lessons from His Thought and Life
Stephen J. Wellum is an associate professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Wellum received his Ph.D. degree in theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and has also taught theology at the Associated Canadian Theological Schools and Northwest Baptist Theological College and Seminary in Canada. He has contributed to several publications and a collection of essays on theology and worldview issues.
Why Study the Life and Thought of Francis Schaeffer?1
There are two ways that this question could be asked. First, why study any historical figure? And second, why specifically reflect on the life and thought of Francis Schaeffer? After all, what makes him so important to reflect on in contrast to other people?
The simple answer to the first question is that we want to learn and be challenged by Christian men and women who have gone before us. In Scripture the theme of people serving as role models for us, both positively and even negatively, is abundantly clear. Paul encourages Timothy to follow his example, as he follows Christ (see 2 Tim 3:10–13). Hebrews 11 records for us the “Hall of Fame” of faith in order to challenge us to press on in our devotion and service to the Lord. As we examine the lives of godly men and women, both their strengths and weaknesses, we learn how better to serve our Lord today. And often as we do so, we are awakened from our spiritual lethargy by unique servants of the Lord who sought, in their lives, to serve the Lord with their whole heart.
Furthermore, it is important to study contemporary historic figures as well as those of the more distant past. Why? For the simple reason that contemporary people help us better to respond to the specific issues and challenges of our own day, not just the issues of a previous era. In this sense there is a parallel with the doing of theology. For just as theology must be constantly written to apply the unchanging Word to a changing world, so we need to study contemporary individuals who can better help us to respond faithfully, without compromise, to present-day challenges that confront the church.
But why study Francis Schaeffer? The answer to this second question is that there is probably no single figure that has affected and impacted evangelicalism in the latter half of the twentieth century more than Francis Schaeffer. For this reason alone, we need to take him seriously. Michael Hamilton, in commenting on the impact of Franci...
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