The SBJT Forum: Dimensions of Schaeffer’s Life and Thought -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 06:2 (Summer 2002)
Article: The SBJT Forum: Dimensions of Schaeffer’s Life and Thought
Author: Anonymous

The SBJT Forum:
Dimensions of Schaeffer’s Life and Thought

Editor’s note: Readers should be aware of the forum’s format. D. A. Carson, Chad Owen Brand, C. Ben Mitchell, Russell D. Moore, and Gregory A. Thornbury have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. The journal’s goal for the Forum is to provide significant thinkers’ views on topics of interest without requiring lengthy articles from these heavily-committed individuals. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.

SBJT: Will the legacy of Francis Schaeffer endure? Should it?

D. A. Carson: These are surprisingly difficult questions. Before offering even a feeble attempt at an answer, I should make three qualifying remarks.

First, it will be easier to answer the question about whether or not this legacy will endure if we stipulate how long. Some people read Augustine, more than a millennium and a half after he wrote, and Calvin, almost five centuries after he wrote. I doubt that the kind of contribution made by Francis Schaeffer has that sort of staying power. So let us limit our horizons to a century or two. On the assumption that Jesus does not come back before then, will Schaeffer’s legacy last that long?

Second, because there are different estimations of what a legacy is, I must specify my “take” on that matter, or the reasons for my judgment will be obscured. Schaeffer’s legacy lies primarily in the field of apologetics. While retaining a robust orthodoxy, he sought to understand and address Western culture, especially the more intellectual and “front edge” elements of that culture.

Third, most prognostications about the future are nothing more than extrapolations of present trends. But trends can change rapidly, provoke reactions, and veer off in new directions. It is not impossible that much of Western evangelicalism, snookered by the most subjective features of postmodern epistemology, will veer off into communal and subjective notions of truth, and dismiss Schaeffer as at best quaint and old fashioned. Alternatively, in his mercy God may raise up a robust reaction to such trends, and in that case Schaeffer will come back into his own.

That brings us to the answers to the pair of questions.

(1) As much as I admire Schaeffer’s work, its focus means that it is unlikely to be read as long as some read, for instance, the best commentaries, or the best theologies, or the most pivotal books on Christian theology, or the finest devotional works. This is not in any sense to disparage Schaeffer. Rather, it is to recognize...

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