Immediately after finishing seminary, I read through the life works of Francis Schaeffer. (In case you’re wondering, that’s 22 books, but many of them are short.) Like many who have encountered Schaeffer’s writings, I have been deeply impacted by Schaeffer’s approach to life and theology. Truth be told, I have something of a man-crush on this goateed knicker-wearing theologian/philosopher/mountain man. My first daughter even received part of his last name for her middle name (Schae). I know that makes me a nerd, but I still like it.
Of course, some of Schaeffer’s teachings have been helpfully critiqued, and I can’t say that I agree with everything he wrote. But I want to highlight one aspect of Schaeffer’s thinking that has had a big impact on the way I view the world.
Francis Schaeffer had great confidence in the Christian worldview. For quite some time now, most non-Christians and even many Christians have grown very skeptical of the Bible. Non-Christians don’t think the Bible is a reliable source of truth—whether it be spiritual, historical, philosophical, etc. Christians have been eager to preserve the spiritual truth of the Bible, but they have not always defended the historical and philosophical truth of the Bible. What this basically amounts to is that the Bible is not generally seen as offering a complete worldview. It may offer some spiritual insights that we can use to please God or operate in our world more effectively, but it doesn’t explain enough about this world and how it works to offer a complete worldview. Or does it?
Schaeffer was adamant that the Bible offers a complete “system.” Not only is the Bible reliable on every level, but it presents a view of the world that corresponds to our experience with the world and accurately answers all of life’s most important questions. The Bible tells us where we came from, where history is headed, why we have an innate sense of morality, why there is evil in the world and why we have the urge to fight against it, why mankind is unique, and a host of other important answers that help us understand the world.
This confidence in the biblical worldview set me free to explore a lot of issue that I had previously considered dangerous. If the biblical worldview is true, then it will hold up to intense scrutiny, and there is no question we cannot ask. We don’t need to shy away from controversial issues or challenges to our faith.
And that confidence led Schaeffer to another point that has deeply affected my thinking. He said that he was always ready to give “honest answers for honest questions.” Students would come to him from all over the world, from all sorts of religious and philosophic backgrounds, and he would take their questions at face value. They knew they could ask anything without being scolded because he would take their question seriously and give them an honest answer from the biblical worldview.
I find this approach inspiring. If God’s word is true, then it will guide us through whatever unique questions and dilemmas we face in our modern age. Our job is to understand the Bible as well as we can and then to listen with honesty and compassion to the questions that people around us are asking. No matter where you’re serving, faithful ministry means giving honest answers for honest questions.