“Throughout all of my work there is a common unifying theme, which I would define as ‘the Lordship of Christ in the totality of life.’ If Christ is indeed Lord, he must be Lord of all life . . . .”
Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster
Francis A. Schaeffer impacted countless lives through his ministry and has had an enduring influence upon the way Christians think and live in the world today. There is still much to be learned from Schaeffer, and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) seeks to serve the Church by providing unsurpassed opportunities and resources to support the study his life, work, and ideas. As custodians of the preeminent archival collection of Francis A. Schaeffer's personal papers, we provide access to letters, manuscripts, recorded discussions, and other unique primary sources created by Schaeffer's own hand and voice which offer an intimate glimpse into his ministry. We also support the study of these materials beyond Southeastern by facilitating access to digitized copies of the collection at The Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation in Gryon, Switzerland. The Francis A. Schaeffer Society at Southeastern encourages the study of these primary sources and Schaeffer's published works through events and group discussions that equip participants to understand Schaeffer's ideas and apply his principles in our current cultural context.
This research guide is intended to connect students, faculty, and the broader research community with information about the unique resources available at SEBTS, as well as, resources available through other organizations. It is our hope that by studying these resources our students, visiting researchers, and distance learners will gain a better understanding of the enduring significance of Schaeffer's ideas and be equipped to apply them in their ministries as pastors, missionaries, scholars, and church members.
See the following step-by-step recommendations if you are interested in learning more about how you can use this research guide or if you are new to Schaeffer Studies and want some tips on how to proceed.
Start your study of Francis A. Schaeffer by exploring his published works and secondary works others have written about Schaeffer. The vast majority of these resources will be available to you through the Library at Southeastern or from other libraries through Inter-Library Loan. More information on discovering these materials is available on the Library at Southeastern Resources page.
Once you have a basic understanding of Schaeffer and his ideas from reading published works, get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into his life and ministry by planning a research visit to explore the Francis A. Schaeffer Papers. Follow these steps to plan your research visit.
1. Search the finding aid and discover resources that are pertinent to your research
2. Submit a request to access the collection
3. Contact our archives staff to prepare for your research visit or if you have any questions about the process.
Now that you have gotten to know Schaeffer through his published works and personal papers, connect with others who share your interest in Schaeffer. The Francis A. Schaeffer Society at Southeastern supports opportunities for SEBTS students, faculty, and alumni to discuss Schaeffer's ideas and learn how to apply them in our current cultural context.
Anyone can participate in the Society and you do not have to have read Schaeffer or studied his papers to benefit from participation.
There are other fantastic resources available in other archives and online if you are interested in learning even more about Francis A. Schaeffer. These resources are hosted by groups that cross denominational lines and they each support the study of Schaeffer's life in unique and complimentary ways. At SEBTS we are happy to be part of this network of Schaeffer studies and encourage you to explore all of the resources that are available to you.
Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984) attended Hampton-Sydney College and upon graduation married Edith Seville (daughter of missionaries to China) and entered Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1935. After two years he transferred to the newly established Faith Seminary in Wilmington, Delaware along with Vernon Grounds and others. Schaeffer served two churches as pastor before moving his family to Switzerland in 1948 where he started a ministry for children living in war-torn Europe. In time, his ministry developed beyond a children’s ministry to university students and as Time magazine noted, to a ministry to the European intellectual. This was not something that was planned, it merely developed as the Schaeffers prayed and lived out their lives the best they knew how under the Lordship of Christ. In time, their work was known officially as L’Abri (Fr. Shelter) which continues to this day.
Schaeffer was a Christian apologist known for allowing unbelievers to realize the logical conclusion of their worldviews. He referred to this as “taking off the roof” in that, he allowed the unbelievers to see that the system which they were trusting in simply did not fit the real world. Once they came to that point, he would show them how historic Christianity answered the questions reality presented. A hallmark of Schaeffer’s apologetic was that it was driven by a deep and abiding love for humanity in which he truly empathized with those who were struggling with life in a world that was terribly out of joint. He would spend hours with one person asking questions until the individual had sufficient information to think further on the matter.
In 1978 Schaeffer learned that he had lymphoma cancer, succumbing to it in May 1984. However, almost until his death he maintained an active speaking schedule. During his life time he carried on a voluminous correspondence with many of the great evangelical minds of the day. He wrote 27 books (and many pamphlets), and produced two films with his son Frank. Of the two films, the most well-known is How Should We then Live? which is a companion to a book by the same title. In the second film, Whatever Happened to the Human Race with Everett Koop, Schaeffer shows the social and philosophical outcomes of abortion. Schaeffer also wrote on responsible stewardship of creation long before others in the 20th Century Christian community were talking about it. Schaeffer not only could think with the best minds of his day, he lived out his Christianity in very practical ways and urged all in the church to do the same. In the end, only the Day will properly declare the breadth and depth of influence the life of this one man had on the Kingdom of God.