Monday, January 21, 2013

Truth with Love: The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer


The following is part of a summary/review that I did recently for a Philosophy course.

In Truth with Love: The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer, Bryan A. Follis does a thorough job of giving a historical understanding to the life and work of Francis Schaeffer. He does so by introducing Schaeffer in context and then giving a historical overview of Church History, which sets up Schaeffer. Follis specifically focuses his attention on Calvin and the Reformed tradition because Schaeffer was a man greatly influenced by the Reformed tradition.

Although recognized as an apologist, Follis points to Schaeffer’s own life in showing that he considered himself more of an evangelist. In fact he directly linked apologetics with evangelism. For Schaeffer the purpose and reason behind apologetics was to see people embrace Jesus as Lord.

Follis took the core of Schaeffer’s life and put it on display in a way that he would have wanted. For instance showing that Schaeffer firmly believed that one must meet people in terms of where they are spiritually. Once meeting them he held that knowledge of understanding was needed prior to salvation. Follis’ view of Schaeffer is of an apologists who truly cared for the individual and seeing them follow Jesus through love, not based on some argument in a system of logic. It cannot be said enough and Follis continued to return to the point that Schaeffer operated on a principle of love, which made his apologetics successful because of his focus on the individual.

In order to give a full view of the life and ministry of Schaeffer, Follis also directly deals with those critical of him. Many mistakenly refer to Schaeffer as pre-suppositional apologists, which Follis argues is not the case, but also points out that at times he would borrow from different types of apologist if it would speak to the individual or audience that he was engaging in dialogue. Often times Schaeffer was also accused of being a rationalist. The author gives good reason that in one thinking this of Schaeffer is simply an inadequate read of him.

It is clear in the end that Follis is a fan of Schaeffer as there are many instances in his analysis of him where it comes across as he is giving a complete defense for Schaeffer. Many times he easily writes off those that are critical of Schaeffer, without giving them much of a hearing. Follis takes time to mention the son of Schaeffer and shift much of the blame to him for those critical of his father, but does not present substantial evidence for this.

In spite of this, Follis accomplishes his goal of presenting Francis Schaeffer as an evangelist who merely uses apologetics in order to reach his audience with a message of love that would hopefully draw them to Jesus. I agree with Follis’ assessment that the apologetics of Schaeffer are still vibrant and relevant for today’s audience. Love between Christians has always been the true mark of a believer and it would serve the church well if we all operated under the principle of love as Schaeffer did.

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