Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality by William Edgar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Of the books I’ve read in the Theologians on the Christian Life series, this one is my favorite. I was drawn into it immediately in hearing the story of Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s life. The author is one who went to L’Abri, the ministry that the Schaeffers started, and knew the Schaeffers personally, so personal anecdotes are woven into the story.
I knew a little bit about Schaeffer from college, when I took “Introduction to Fine Arts” and we read the book How Should We Then Live? and watched the film. At the time, I thought it was fairly boring. 🙂 My interests have changed a bit since then and I’m much more interested in culture and worldviews, so reading about Schaeffer is much more fascinating. We already own several of Schaeffer’s books that I have yet to read but want to; so in reading this book, I became even more eager to read the Schaeffer books that we have (and plan to dive into The God Who Is There shortly).
While the book covers biographical info about the Schaeffers and how the ministry of L’Abri started, it also talks about Francis’ views of the Christian life. Much of his views can be found in his book True Spirituality. I found it interesting since I recently read a book on John Wesley and his view on Christian perfectionism, that this book addressed Schaeffer’s disagreement with Wesley on Christians reaching perfectionism in this lifetime.
I would definitely recommend this book to learn more about Francis Schaeffer and the ministry of L’Abri, which was influential in many lives over the years. These paragraphs sum up the book nicely:
“A number of years ago, McKendree Langley wrote an important book on Abraham Kuyper, titled The Practice of Political Spirituality. This title well expresses how Francis Schaeffer viewed public life. For him all of life, including politics, was a matter of spirituality, just as were prayer life, Bible reading, and the like. Not that he confused the church and the state, as we have seen. Nor that church life should be ignored, or that doing politics, writing a poem, making a scientific discovery, raising a family, and so on are strictly the same kinds of activities. yet in a deep sense, they are spiritual activities. For Schaeffer, then, spirituality was not restricted to the special practices we often associate with religious devotion.
Here we can emulate the Schaeffers’ approach, without necessarily living exactly as they did. The work of L’Abri may not be absolutely unique, but such a community-with its approach to prayer, to holding seminars, to discussing major issues around the meal table-is a special model for engaging culture. Other models might look different, though they are no less valid. I know of seminaries and churches that have culture and vocation programs, and of other para-church works that are focused on a particular realm of life, such as science, politics, or the arts. What we should take away from the Schaeffers’ teaching and example, and indeed, from the ongoing work of L’Abri around the world, is that Christ is Lord of all of life, and because of that, there is no realm of life not subject to our scrutiny and to our calling as Christians in the world. For many, this message and this practice represent what is so wonderful, so exciting, about the Schaeffer legacy.”
*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.