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Visiting Schaeffer

In 1955, Dr. Francis Schaeffer and his wife, Edith, decided to open up their home in Switzerland to people who longed for answers to life's most vital questions. This birthed a study center and community called L'Abri, a French word which means "shelter." If you're not familiar with it, I encourage you to look up the organization that's still running today.


In many ways, I've modeled our Stage & Story gatherings after what Francis and Edith were trying to do. My wife and I have opened up our little cabin in the mountains a number of times to weary image-bearers looking for rest, inspiration, and encouragement with Christ at the center. Like the L'Abri gatherings, great numbers matter far less than great fellowship.

Over the last month, I've been slowly working through Dr. Francis Schaeffer's works. He was a philosopher and theologian interested in how worldviews impact culture. He also had a keen eye for creativity and the arts. Although I haven't studied his works in depth, I know his thinking has greatly influenced me.


This morning, I'd like to share one of his quotes that caught my eye from his work The God Who is There:

What does a historic space-time Fall involve? It means that there was a period before man fell; that if you had been there, you could have seen Adam before he fell; that at the point when he revolted against God by making a free choice to disobey God's commandment, there was a tick of the clock. Take away the first three chapters of Genesis, and you cannot maintain a true Christian position nor give Christianity's answers. (114).

Schaeffer has been considering why man is in his fallen state. Right before this he contrasts a non-biblical understanding with a biblical one.

A non-biblical option is that man has always been corrupted, always been in this dilemma (the "human condition"). Schaeffer calls this a metaphysical cause (110). This means that there was no garden of Eden in which man was free from the stain of sin. To be sinful means to be human.

The biblical position is different and we find the cause in Genesis 1-3. God created man good, and man rebelled against God, ushering sin into the world. Schaeffer refers to this as a moral cause (111). To be human does not mean to be sinful.


Last night as I read this next to our fire, I was reminded of the stories we tell today, especially in our movies. Every good story has a conflict, which is a clue to what the film thinks about man's condition.

When watching our modern films, you can ask yourself: What is the film saying the cause of man's problems are?

Is man responsible? Is God responsible? Is chance responsible?

And what might the filmmaker suggest is a (or the) remedy?

"Believe in yourself."

"Have faith in faith."

"Topple big, corrupt corporations."

"There is no remedy to man's state. Our world is hopeless and frightening."


Schaeffer is right to point out that understanding Genesis 1-3 is vital to understanding the remedy to man's condition. Briefly, this is what these chapters in Genesis tell us:

  1. God placed man in the garden without any blemish. God and man experienced true joy and fellowship.

  2. Man rebelled against God introducing sin into the world, bringing a separation between God and man.

  3. Man's loneliness, despair, fear, and pain can be traced back to this event.

The Christian answer to man's dilemma is specific: only God can reverse the terrible harm man did. Man will try to fix it and he will always fail. What man truly longs for is God, and only God can bring man back to himself.

Christ is how the Father accomplishes this.

As you watch our modern films with your heart, mind, and imagination consider what the film thinks the cause of the human dilemma is.

May your answer to the dilemma always end in Christ.


Dane is president of Stage & Story and cast chaplain at LifeHouse Theater in Redlands, CA.

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