For those interested in Francis Schaeffer as an apologist and evangelist, Truth with Love is a very helpful book. Schaeffer’s apologetic method is freshly organic considering the prevalence (and failure) of evangelistic gimmicks in a skeptical, postmodern age.
Follis devotes the first chapter to tracing where Schaeffer’s views fits in reference to Calvin’s understanding of the knowledge of God. In doing this, he traces Calvin’s influence on theologians like Edwards, Warfield, Kuyper, and Machen. Follis presents Schaeffer as an eclectic apologist—influenced by both Machen and Van Til—who preferred to think of himself as an evangelist rather than a proponent of any specific apologetic school. Hence, Schaeffer cannot be pigeon-holed as a presuppositionalist or an evidentialist.
The next chapter delves into the question of Schaeffer’s arguments and approach to evangelism. Context is so helpful, and I found that understanding how Schaeffer ran L’Abri (or tried to let God run it and not get in the way) gave perspective to the man himself:
“There was no grand strategy in Schaeffer’s ministry, for everything was allowed to develop in a relatively haphazard way, and this reflected his view that quietness and peace before God are more important than any influence a ministry, position, or activity may seem to give…Schaeffer’s great concern was not to build an empire but to help the individual, and central to the work at L’Abri was a ‘personal compassion, based on careful and sympathetic listening’” (p. 47).
Schaeffer’s approach was centered around showing respect to unbelievers as those made in the image of God, and on showing compassion in the context of relationships and community. His commitment to people was pretty profound:
“Everybody could come to their table, and [Schaeffer writes] ‘drugs came to our place. People vomited in our rooms…and we have girls come to our homes who have had three or four abortions by the time they are 17. Is it possible that they have venereal disease? Of course, but they sleep between our sheets’” (p. 58).
The third chapter ably defends Schaeffer against the charge of rationalism. Truth with Love had a previous life as a doctoral dissertation. It is here that a bit of the dryness of the academic approach peeks out. Nevertheless, the excellent documentation and refutation in the chapter are well worth it.
If nothing so far has intrigued you, buy the book for chapter four alone: “Love as the Final Apologetic.” Follis asks if Schaeffer is still relevant today, and it becomes clear that Christians need to listen to Schaeffer now more than ever. Working in Europe, which is several decades further down the path of apostasy than America, Schaeffer’s approach of treating unbelievers with respect and love, while taking their questions seriously, is what is the need of the hour. This chapter rattles the complacent.
Follis’ book was very helpful, but not without flaws. He repeatedly refers to Schaeffer’s spiritual crisis of 1951 without ever telling the reader exactly what it was (e.g. p. 161). This was somewhat irritating. Also bothersome was the author’s repetition throughout the book. These deficiencies are almost not worth mentioning in comparison with the value of the information. – Joost Nixon, Christian Book Previews.com
Francis Schaeffer was a well-known, extremely influential apologist and thinker who made his mark defending orthodox truth in the face of strong opposition. He was foremost in the vocation of apologetic ministry, and he was a brilliant man whom God used mightily during the decades of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.
In Truth with Love, Bryan Follis explores the theology and thinking that fueled the ministry of Francis Schaeffer, from his Reformed position to his understanding of fundamentalism. Follis examines Schaeffer’s apologetic argument and the role of reason in his discussions and writings. The position Francis Schaeffer took against modernism and its applicability in this day of postmodernism are studied as well.
This book is a beneficial resource for any Francis Schaeffer fan and any minister, teacher, or student who appreciates truth and its defense in the face of different kinds of opposition.