The late pastor, teacher, and apologist Francis A. Schaeffer had a tremendous impact on generations of Christians and those investigating the claims of Christianity—including many who have since gone on to serve the Lord through their work at Covenant Seminary. Here are a few brief memories of Schaeffer the man and his influence. For more on Schaeffer, see the Winter 2012–Spring 2013 issue of Covenant magazine.
Dr. David Calhoun, professor emeritus of church history, heard Francis Schaeffer lecture at Covenant Seminary when Calhoun was a student here in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He later spent a summer at L’Abri in Switzerland where he often had extended conversations with Schaeffer during long walks. These memories are quoted from a personal interview with Dr. Calhoun in July 2012.
Dr. Schaeffer would often ask visitors to come for a walk with him to talk about what they were learning during their stay at L’Abri. The first time he asked me to do it, I was nervous; I was so in awe of him. He was a fast walker, too, so it was hard to keep up! But he was not difficult to be with. He was warm and down to earth. We talked about many things, but what impressed me most was the way he would often interrupt our discussion to point at something along the path—a rock or a tree—and say how it reminded him of a person who had talked with him about some crisis he or she was having, or who had come to Christ in that spot. Schaeffer remembered these people very well and would share their stories as we walked. For me it was like a course in pastoral theology. I had not expected that during our walks. I learned what it means to be in tune with people so you can see what they really need.
My wife, who had visited L’Abri as a high school student, remembers an incident when she and several friends were with Dr. Schaeffer on a tour of Rome. The trip was wonderful but what stood out most for her was a day when they were trying to cross a piazza that was busy with traffic. They saw an old man trying to pull a loaded wagon across the street. Without hesitation, Schaeffer took off his jacket, gave it to Anne to hold, and ran out to help the man pull his cart through the traffic. That was a great example of his compassion, what Dr. Schaeffer would call “observable love.”
More than anyone Schaeffer helped me move beyond the narrow view of Christianity I had grown up with to a greater appreciation of the wider stream of our Christian heritage.
More than anyone Schaeffer helped me move beyond the narrow view of Christianity I had grown up with to a greater appreciation of the wider stream of our Christian heritage. I met up with him again at the first Lausanne Conference in 1974 and was surprised that he remembered me. But again I was more impressed by the unexpected. One of the speakers at the conference noted that the next morning there would be a prayer meeting that was open to all members of the PCA and the PCUS, which I thought a good thing given the tensions that had only recently caused a split between the two. I turned to Dr. Schaeffer, who was sitting next to me, and I saw tears streaming down his face. He said, “That is the way it ought to be. We did not do it that way.” He was remembering the acrimonious divisions in the Presbyterian church of the 1930s out of which he had come. That underscored for me his commitment not only to the purity of the church, but also to the unity of the believing church. It was a powerful moment.
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