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Francis August Schaeffer IV was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, on January 30, 1912, the only son of Bessie Williamson and Francis August (Frank) Schaeffer III. Though raised in a Christian home, he had become an agnostic in adolescence. Pursuit of doubts and questions led to a study of philosophy and the Bible in his junior year in high school, and he was converted at a tent meeting conducted by Anthony Zeoli in 1930, the year he graduated from high school.
Schaeffer entered night school in Drexel Institute, Philadelphia, initially to study mechanical engineering, but changed his mind and decided to study for the ministry. He left Drexel and began classes for preparation to enroll at Hampden-Sydney College, Virginia, as a ministerial student. When he graduated in 1935, Schaeffer received the Algernon Sydney medallion awarded to the outstanding Christian student on campus. In later years, he was elected retroactively to the Phi Beta Kappa chapter at his alma mater on the strength of his academic record, twenty-one books, and two film series.
While at the college, Schaeffer met Edith Rachel Merritt Seville, whose parents had been missionaries to China. Frances and Edith were married on July 6, 1935. Schaeffer began his seminary studies at Westminister at the point when the faculty had made the decision to divide, and Francis was the first student to enroll in the newly-formed Faith Seminary. He graduated in June 1938, the same month that the Schaeffers' first daughter, Janet Priscilla, was born. Their second daughter, Susan, was born May 28, 1941, after Schaeffer had served pastorates at Bible Presbyterian Church and then Covenant Presbyterian Church in Grove City, Pennsylvania. Succeeding pastorates were at the Bible Presbyterian Church, Chester, Pennsylvania, and Bible Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri, where the Schaeffers moved in September 1943. Their third daughter, Deborah, was born there on May 3, 1945.
In the summer of 1947, Schaeffer was sent to Europe as a representative of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions to survey the state of churches in countries affected by the war. Responses from the churches and individuals led to the Board requesting the Schaeffer family to return to help and counsel, and to assist in setting up meetings for the formation of an International Council of Christian Churches to be held in Amsterdam in August 1948. After many travels, the Schaeffers settled in Switzerland at Champery. Their fourth child and only son, Franky (Francis August Schaeffer V) was born August 3, 1952. Two years later, on a return trip to America, Schaeffer was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity at Highland College in May 1954. During this visit, a difference in emphasis between Schaeffer and the Independent Board led to Schaeffer's severing of ties with the Board.
A chalet in Huemoz zur Allon was purchased by the Schaeffers in 1955 and was named L'Abri, the French word for shelter. This home ultimately became an international spiritual retreat center for informal study and discussion of Christian thought, life style, and goals. Schaeffer became known world-wide as a theologian, defender of biblical inerrancy and authority, and commentator on the Christian in contemporary culture. As of 1981, he had written twenty-two books, translated into twenty-one languages. Included among these books were Escape From Reason, The God Who Is There, True Spirituality, and A Christian Manifesto. Additional L'Abri-type centers were set up in Greatham, England; Eck en Weil, the Netherlands; Southborough, Massachusetts; and Rochester, Minnesota. Schaeffer died in 1984.
Scope and Content
The collection consists of one ninety-minute audio tape on which Schaeffer is lecturing to a small group of students following a chapel address at Wheaton College in 1963. There is no introduction on the tape. He elaborates on the address and answers questions in an informal session.
Topics covered include an analysis of contemporary nihilistic, existential philosophy; discussion of Camus, Sartre, and others; answer to a question about what to say to children about faith, guilt, and facing the evil in the world versus the romanticism of superficial Christianity; and to another question about how to reconcile the challenges of humanistic, intellectual disciplines with Christianity. Schaeffer discusses the need for Christians to face the hard question, "Is God really there," just as nihilistic philosophers do, and not to fear the quest or the answer, purging unrealistic romanticism from Christian thinking. He relates the origins of L'Abri and his own philosophical journey from doubt and depths of failure, urging an insistence on a fully realistic faith in God's supernatural power in contemporary history, the sense of personal encounter, and concrete evidences of that reality in today's existential moment in daily life as proof that Christian belief is facing all the hard realities and is victorious in the midst of them.
The tape in this collection was given to the Archives by Mrs. Evan Welsh in July 1981.
Accession 81-73January 25, 1983
T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 speed, 90 minutes, of an informal discussion with questions and answers following a chapel address by Francis Schaeffer at Wheaton College, 1963. Major topics discussed include Christianity's answers to nihilistic philosophy, origins and activities at L'Abri, Switzerland, and the challenge of twentieth-century life to the Christian.