Book Review: Francis Shaeffer

October 8, 2008

Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life. By Colin Duriez. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. 240 pp., $24.99, hard cover.


One of the most important figures in the areas of theology, apologetics, and culture of the last century is Francis Schaeffer. Until now there had not been a solid biographical work dealing with the life of this important figure. Colin Duriez, someone who knew the man personally, has helped to fill this great need by providing a look at the life of this great man. With an analysis of his books, interviews with Schaffer before he died, his family, friends, colleagues, and people who studied at L’Abri, Duriez offers a volume on the man that essentially comes from the very heart of Schaeffer himself.


Francis Schaeffer was born in 1912 and lived quite a tumultuous life until the Lord took him prematurely from Cancer in 1984. Growing up poor in Pennsylvania, he studied hard in school and sensed the call to pastoral ministry. He studied at Hampden-Sydney College and after studied for his seminary studies at Westminster Theological Seminary and then finished at the new Faith Theological Seminary which was formed out of controversy at Westminster. Much of Schaeffer’s apologetical thinking was developed under the Father of Presuppositional Apologetics, Cornelius van Til (although he departed in some key areas). Schaeffer saw how Christianity affected all of life. This thinking is what began his great cultural studies and how he developed the thinking that one could see where one was at and where one was going by studying the development of cultural expression in previous years (areas of art, music, philosophy, etc.). Serving as a Presbyterian pastor for a number of years he convinced the denominational body that a survey trip of Europe was necessary following World War II to see how the New Theology there had affected the churches. Schaffer’s trip was something that changed his thinking and developed a new approach to ministry as he sought to intellectually address issues in the growing modernist and soon-to-be postmodernist society. This resulted in the founding of L’Abri (The Shelter) in Switzerland where Schaffer could meet with those who were searching and talk openly about how Christianity was relevant and addressed issues of culture, the arts, and everything. Through Schaeffer’s speaking and writing, vast amounts of believers became in-tune with what was going on around them and were becoming more and more willing to present Christianity as culturally relevant and intellectually responsible.


There was much controversy and pain in the life of Francis and his wife Edith. People did not understand their new approach to ministry by interacting with people on this kind of casual level at L’Abri. The schedule was intense and with people living with the family it often took tolls on the family relationships and on health in general. Schaeffer though saw himself as being a defender of Christianity by presenting the Christ of the Scriptures and how all men everywhere need to be transformed by Him. Schaeffer’s unique approach allowed him to reach people who were not being reached by the church. The intellectuals of the world turned to Schaeffer as the one who presented a culturally relevant Christianity. To this end he was greatly used of the Lord.


Duriez traces all the events of the life of Schaffer from birth to death in a very readable way. He presents the life of this man and his family as a choice servant of God. This is a solid contribution to the history of evangelicalism in the last decade, to the history of apologetics, and ultimately, to the life of this man, so often misunderstood in his own life and today. The only real weakness is that Duriez does not interact with his theology as much as would be helpful. He admits in the beginning that this is not a theological biography, but one is necessary. Duriez offers a helpful look at the life of this man. Now, someone must look at the theology of this man to continue to better help the church. But, this book is highly recommended as a well-written account (from the very mouths of Schaeffer and those who knew him best) of the life of pastor turned denominational leader turned missionary turned prophet and apologist. May all of us have the dedication that Schaffer did for the cause of Christ today in our ministries. Read and be challenged and encouraged by the work of God in the life of His servant.

Peter Deyneka, SGA, and Missions

May 26, 2008

With my new position as Coordinator of Training and Equipping with Slavic Gospel Association I thought it fitting to learn more about the founder of SGA, Peter Deyneka Sr. (1898-1987). In the book, Peter Dynamite-Twice Born Russian: The Captivating Story of Peter Deyneka Sr. (by Norman Rohrer and Peter Deyneka Jr. from SGA, 2005), the picture is presented of a godly man of prayer who worked tirelessly to see his own people saved and discipled into the church of Jesus Christ. At one point in the book it speaks of Deyneka’s call to ministry and presents an incredible challenge for us.

“In the early days of his Christian life, Peter attended all the missionary conferences at Moody Memorial Church. In one service, Peter was unusaly attentive because Pastor Rader continually made reference to the need for workers in the ‘corn’ field. Was it actually so? Did the Lord need workers in the ‘corn’ field?

Peter listened closely. He was hoping to hear of a need for workers among his own Slavic people, but the speaker did not mention Russia. He kept calling workers in the ‘corn’ field instead.

At the close of the meeting Peter responded to the invitation. His heart was so moved that he wanted to eagerly serve the Lord wherever the need was greatest, even if it meant the ‘corn’ field. Only after the service ended did he discover that Pastor Rader was appealing for workers in the ‘foreign’ field!

Many Christians since have clearly understood the need for workers in foreign fields and have done nothing. Peter misunderstood the call and was uncertain of the conditions, but he obeyed first and learned the conditions later” (pp. 24-25).

Are you being called to full-time Christian service? I would challenge you to read this brief but challenging biography of one of God’s choice servants! Contact the SGA US office if in the United States or the SGA Canada office if in Canada to obtain a copy.

The Purpose of Christian Biography

April 24, 2008

“The great ends of Christian biography are instruction and example. By faithfully describing the lives of men eminent for godliness, we not only embalm their memory, but furnish ourselves with fresh materials and motives for a holy life. It is abundantly more impressive to view the religion of Jesus as operating in a living character than to contemplate it abstractedly. For this reason we may suppose the Lord the Spirit has condescended to exhibit, first and principally, the life of Christ; and, after his, that of many of his eminent followers. And for this reason he by his holy influences still furnishes the church with now and then a singular example of godliness, which it is our duty to notice and record. There can be no reasonable doubt that the life of Mr. Pearce ought to be considered as one of these examples. May that same Divine Spirit who had manifestly so great a hand in forming his character teach us to derive from it both instruction and edification.”

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) from Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Pearce, M.A. (Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, III, 444)

Forthcoming Publication

April 18, 2007

I wanted to let you all know about an interesting new resource coming out from Blackwell Publishers called The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. It is to be published in 3 volumes and is due out in 2008. Here is some information about it.

“The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization is a study of the cultural complex and civilization created during the past 2000 years by the Christian Church. Even as modern secular civilization has become the dominant cultural force in the world, Christianity remains a civilization in its own right with its own norms, values, institutions, forms of expression, terminology, and modes of communication. Further, there are elements of modern secular civilization that are of distinctly Christian origin, the calendar being the most obvious example. Even today, the pervasive influence of Christian ideas and legacies is evident in sectors of life that are far removed from the mainstream of Christian history. The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization will examine the sources of Christian culture and civilization, the depth of its historic influence on human culture and the reasons for its enduring strength.

I have the privilege of contributing two brief biographical entries in this encyclopedia. John Gill, the great Baptist Theologian, and Bob Jones, Sr., the 20th century evangelist and founder of Bob Jones University.

Keep a look out for this helpful up-coming encyclopedia.