Friday, February 29, 2008

Letter to Christianity Today concerning their March 2008 article, "Not Your Father's L'Abri," by Molly Worthen

February 29, 2008

Dear Editor:

Inaccurate and flippant comments were strewn through the article, “Not Your Father’s L’Abri.” Francis Schaeffer was not an academic philosopher; however, as a philosopher, I recently reread all his apologetics books and found that they hold up quite well overall. It is untrue that Schaeffer’s work is unsuited to the challenges of postmodernism. He began The God Who is There saying that the essential problem facing the church was the meaning of truth—the crux problem of postmodernism. In Escape From Reason (1968), he critiqued Foucault (before any other evangelicals were doing so). Further, the article is terribly wrong in claiming that Schaeffer’s apologetics was presuppositionalist and “arrogant.” Schaeffer’s method, while influenced by Van Til, was more akin to Edward John Carnell’s hypothesis testing. It was dialogical and anything but arrogant. If younger evangelicals write off Schaeffer for these kinds of cavalier reasons, they will forfeit the wisdom and courage to be found in his life and writings.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy
Denver Seminary


Jeff Burton said...

"unsuited to the challenges of postmodernism" should probably be read as "unsuited to surrendering Christianity to postmodernism".

Beitler said...

If Schaeffer's philosophy is arrogant, I've lost my bearings on humble.

"Each time I see something wrong in others, it can be dangerous, for it can exalt self; and when this happens, my open fellowship with God falls to the ground. So when I am right, I can be wrong. In the midst of being right, if self is exalted, my fellowship with God can be destroyed...If I really love a man as I love myself I will long to see him be what he could be on the basis of Christ's work, for that is what I want or what I should want for myself on the basis of Christ's work." -F.S. in True Spirituality

dobrenen said...

Alas, I've lost my Schaeffer books. I had nearly all of his works and read them in the 80's. I am re-evaluating my worldview which in large part is based on the logic contained in his works. I just wrote in another post that the Screwtape Letters are as relevant today as they were 50 years ago. Schaeffer's works are still relevant. So is the Bible. Man is just finding new words, not new ways to try to live without God.

Edward T. Babinski said...

I read all of Schaeffer, a number of Van Til's books, all of Lewis's apologetics, Christian novels, essays and letters, all of Charles Williams's novels and his few published theological works, as well as about 30 works by G.K. Chesterton.

And I left the fold, primarily because of questions arising out of studying the Bible, comparative religion, spirituality, history and science. (Not that I became an atheist, but I did grow to have more questions than answers.)

Ed Babinski
(editor of Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists--featuring nearly three dozen first-person testimonies, a third of whom remained Christians though of a more moderate to liberal persuasion.)

noneuclidean said...

Here, here!

pgepps said...

Schaeffer's grasp of, for example, Hegel, does make him a poor choice for engaging the academic philosophical roots of postmodernism head-to-head. Studied out, though, those roots issue in fruit pretty nearly exactly as he described it, and which has the same rough outline in the history of ideas. He has the right Christ, and he orients history and social action on the right axis, away from the totalizing conceptions of modernity and toward the humanizing conceptions of creaturely dwelling in and upon Christ. He has flaws, and these can be critiqued, but his dismissal would darken us. Thanks for putting in a word on behalf of one who influenced me, like so many others, profoundly.

Rob Short said...

I was only recently (last year) introduced to Schaeffer. I found him on youtube, some clips from "How shall we then live". I was immediately blown away by how spot on he was. It was like he did it today. His explanation of Rome and it's fall is almost a perfect comparison to today. His diagnosis of the Church and culture and the ramifications of continuing on like they were, are right on. He was a simple man used by God.