Cover Story

Taking the roof off

"Taking the roof off" Continued...

Issue: "Francis Schaeffer's legacy," March 26, 2005

Such an extended ministry was a partnership with Schaeffer's wife. "If time allowed, a whole seminar could be devoted to the work of Edith Schaeffer," author and L'Abri alum Os Guinness told the jubilee crowd. Health problems, including a deteriorating esophagus, prevented Schaeffer's wife Edith, 92, from attending the St. Louis jubilee. Always an active part of L'Abri and an author herself, she is currently in a Swiss hospital. There, according to Udo Middleman, husband to Schaeffer daughter Debbie, the family is battling the very dangers Schaeffer described as family members insist on active treatment and care for Mrs. Schaeffer against a European medical establishment that is content to withhold treatment and to allow her simply to die.

Those struggles only emphasize that, in many ways, the culture of relativism, irrationalism, and self-centeredness that Schaeffer anticipated is here. "Postmodernists are so focused on I, me, myself that they have trouble focusing on any thing beyond themselves," said L'Abri Australia leader Frank Stootman. And yet, he said, the Schaeffer method of taking people with their presuppositions to their logical conclusions and showing the superiority of a biblical worldview is still effective.

Per Staffan Johansson, of L'Abri in Sweden, told WORLD that seekers today are less philosophical than they were in the 1960s. Instead of wrestling with questions about the meaning of life and other objective truth, they are more preoccupied with problems of relationships and the meaning of their jobs and professions. "We do more in Sweden with vocation," he said. "And yet, this is what L'Abri has always done," relating faith to all of life.

Mr. Guinness said that "the genius of Schaeffer's apologetics has yet to be fully unwrapped." When asked about reaching the culture, Mr. Guinness said that one of Schaeffer's great insights is that we have to reach not cultures but individuals. Each individual has his or her own questions, personal struggles, and moral brokenness. Schaeffer took them all seriously, addressing people one by one, while giving them-sometimes for the first time-a sense of belonging to a community.

Many approaches to evangelism and church growth today are impersonal, relying on manipulative formulas and the techniques of mass marketing and consumerism. L'Abri honors the dignity and the distinct spiritual needs of each individual. Many evangelicals think Christianity needs to be dumbed down and made easier to make it attractive to people today. L'Abri teaches that Christianity has substance and depth, that it has something to offer to thoughtful, educated people, and that-undiluted-biblical Christianity can change their lives.

Fifty years later, evangelicalism once again faces the problem of being negative or ineffectual, worldly, or out of touch. L'Abri remains.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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