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Truth with Love: The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer Paperback – September 22, 2006
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"Truth with Love powerfully demonstrates that while Schaeffer's thought stands up to scrutiny, it is his distinctive style that enabled him to herald the Christian message with such compelling power."
—William Edgar, Professor of Apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary
"More than a thoughtful assessment of Francis Schaeffer's apologetics. An encouragement to Christians to love people around them and to bear witness of the truth of the gospel."
—D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Cofounder, The Gospel Coalition
"By skillfully and graciously responding to Schaeffer's critics, Follis reveals how extraordinarily powerful and relevant Schaeffer's ideas are."
—Ranald Macaulay, Speaker, L'Abri Fellowship; Coordinator, Christian Heritage, Cambridge
"The best introduction to Schaeffer's apologetics. Follis captures the unity of commitment to the Christian message and a life that lives that message faithfully-a unity that characterized the ministry of Francis Schaeffer."
—Jerram Barrs, Resident Scholar of the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary; author, Freedom and Discipleship and The Heart of Prayer
"The real Francis Schaeffer-Reformed apologist, youth evangelist, lover of God and of people-is here profiled and celebrated. The best appreciation of Schaeffer and his legacy yet written."
—J. I. Packer, Board of Governors' Professor of Theology, Regent College
About the Author
Bryan A. Follis (PhD, Queens University of Belfast) is the rector of Hillsborough Parish and a contributor to the Dictionary of Apologetics. He and his wife, Eleanor, live in Northern Ireland with their two daughters.
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I have to say that reading this while on the road in India gave me a much different perspective than if I was back in London or home in the U.S. With the pluralism that has been a part of this culture for centuries and the overwhelming number of gods, religions and religious people who don't question the existence of God, this was an especially interesting book as it pertains mostly to the needs and thinkings of westerners. As one friend put, "there are no atheists in India". Reading it here also gave me the opportunity to see that though his ideas wouldn't match the needs and questions of India's seekers, his hospitality and love for people would have had an equalling effect on them.
As I started into the book, I was thoroughly overjoyed to be given such a wide understanding of the history behind the thought system of Francis Schaeffer. Having studied many of the same ideas and authors from history, I was able to reconnect with my bachelor degree (Historical Theology) all within the span of about two hours of reading time. Follis gives a great introduction to Church history, specifically that which helped to shape Schaeffer's apologetic.
As I followed Follis throughout the book I was overwhelmed with how many gems I found page after page of information both about Schaeffer and also about others and their view of Schaeffer as well as their general thought systems.
Spelling out Schaeffer's main ideas again and again to drive home the point was excellent in wrapping together what Schaeffer believed and how he came to believe these things. The way in which Follis pointed out that Schaeffer kept coming back to the fact thae the problem wasn't drugs or alcohol for young people, but that it was a drastically changing epistemology that was at the root of the problem. With this, I totally agree. Follis's analysis of the apologetic of Schaeffer was very rewarding for me and this is one book that I will put on my shelf with pride and refer back to many times.
The one disappointing factor came for me at the end in his last chapter about the apologetic of love being the most important for Schaeffer. Here, he does one thing that ruined the chapter and almost the whole book for me. Follis denounces postmodernism and aligns himself with others who do the same. That's bad enough but beyond that he states that Scaeffer too would denounce postmodernism if was still alive. This all happened in the first pages of the last chapter. As a 28 year old seminary student who loves Jesus and the Church and wants to engage the youth and young adults of today with the relevance of the Gospel, I find this completely antithetical to the whole purpose of what Schaeffer himself was trying to accomplish through L'Abri. He did not denounce or condemn the thought systems of the young people coming to him. He listened to them, he fed them, he stayed up long hours and sacrificed vacations to spend time with them. He presented the Gospel and its clear demarcating points, but not until the young person knew they had dignity in his sight and were worth listening to themselves. He left the ball in their court as they thought through the evidences that he believed were self-verifying. In so doing, he dignified their person and their present thought system (tainted and scarred as it was) and challenged them to think further into it.
This present generation has an identity that attaches them to postmodernism. It isn't just a thought system for them, it has become an identity, something young people "are" and not just the way they think. As an identity, it has to be cradled to a certain degree and the way Follis denounced postmodernism outright and explained that Schaeffer would have done the same, is indicative of some misunderstanding of his in how postmoderns think as well as how they identify themselves. The whole book builds a case for the fact that Schaeffer would not have denounced postmodernism or any individual connected with postmodernism. He would have continued doing the same things he was doing from the beginning. He would have opened his home to them, fed them, listened to them, reasoned with them and hoped that in time his life lived before them would be the created context that would then be the strongest apologetic alongside the arguments he would present. This would give them enough reason and impetus to choose Jesus for themselves. He would have challenged the pluralism within postmodernism but as he did with modernism, he would have used what postmoderns use to ascertain truth as well as introducing them to his own methods. As Follis explains in his earlier chapters, Schaeffer would have started with what they have and moved into the tensions they had that were self-evident. This fits with Follis's analysis of Schaeffer as a an evangelist and not fitting into one camp of apologetics. This was all for the sake of making space for the visitors of L'Abri to be in continuing and safe conversations where their difficult and unanswered questions could be voiced and hopefully answered. This is all pointed out by Follis throughout the book, but he fails to follow Schaeffer's example in his own denouncement and loses the momentum that the book was building.
Every chapter about Schaeffer in this book only serves to build the reader's confidence in what he and his wife were doing and the effect that it had on the youth of his day. This same confidence in him, had he lived longer, would have carried him into the lives of young postmoderns today without denouncing them or their thought systems, but loving them and challenging those "tensions" that their non-Christian beliefs created. This is still a relevant method for a postmodern thinker today but it requires a relationship and time and not ascribing to failproof arguments. For this reason, I wholeheartedly disagree with the author's premise of condemning postmodernism and his view that Schaeffer would have done the same but also wholeheartedly and highly recommend the book for the rest of the chapters and most of the last chapter. Great analysis and research but some poor conlusions.
The book seems to be wrapped up in three main pursuits: 1) Outlining Schaeffer's approach, 2) Outlining and responding to critiques of Schaeffer and 3) Reflecting on Schaeffer's methods and suggesting how to adapt them to our present day.
For the first two pursuits, the author does a fantastic job on outlining the thought of Calvin and later Reformed theologians on apologetics and reason. This was very important so that the reader will be better equipped to understand where Schaeffer (and his detractors) are coming from. He then proceeds to outline Schaeffer's approach, and afterwards he has some frank and helpful interaction with Schaeffer's critics. As this book states, Schaeffer has been criticized for being too rationalistic, not rational enough, too presuppositional, and not presuppositional enough. The author fairly represents these critiques and provides some very convincing responses. Many critiques of Schaffer's work involve ignorance of the full range of Schaeffer's work. Others involved taking for granted (or ignoring) what Schaeffer's mission and purpose really was. The clear lesson is that you can't understand someone if you do not understand the whole range of his work.
Many of the critiques reviewed seem to be clearly wrong and baseless, such as those from Clark Pinnock. The author still deals with them sensitively. However, the author shows a remarkable deal of care in regard to the controversy with Van Til. The author is clear that Schaeffer is not strictly speaking a presuppositionalist. Further, he shows that Schaeffer was eclectic, drawing both on Princeton evidentialism and Van Tilian presuppositionalism, though strictly speaking, he was not a follower of either. Schaeffer was not intent on producing an apologetical system. He was primarily an evangelist at heart and he saw apologetics as means to an end and presuppositions, not as axioms, but as verifiable (or falsifiable) basic ideas. This put him at odds with Van Til, though they both respected each other a great deal.
A discussion of Schaeffer's apologetic that focused only on the controversies with other Christians would be quite useless, though I must say the author did a fine job of that part of the book. To Schaeffer, apologetics is ultimately about evangelism. His ministry ultimately revolved around community, prayer, and the final apologetic--love. Hence, "the final apologetic" is the heading of the concluding chapter, which brings us to the last pursuit of the book. I must say that this section is packed with a few too many semi-related things, and is sort of overwhelming, but I don't want to detract from its value! This section is perhaps the most compelling part of the book. I found it to contain excellent thoughts and helpful advise. It is ultimately concerned with reflecting on things of utmost importance to Schaeffer such as love, community, prayer, etc. It also discusses the relevance of Schaeffer's approach in our day, the progression from modernism to post-modernism, the emerging movement, etc. However, it is ultimately concerned with how we can apply and revise what we learn from Schaeffer so it has an impact today.
There is so much written by and about Francis Schaeffer that it is hard to believe that this book could provide something meaningful, let alone valuable. But Brian Follis has done a fine job, and I believe he has accomplished just that! I highly recommend that you get this book and read it if you have any sort of interest in the apologetics of Francis Schaeffer. And if you don't already have that interest, who knows? This book may spark a new interest in you!