Monday, April 09, 2007

A Review of "Truth with Love" by Brian A. Folis

Truth with Love: The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer by Brian A. Folis (Crossway Books, 2006)

Having read nine of Francis Schaeffer's books and listened to some L'Abri tapes, this book was naturally attractive to me. I was further impressed by the sharp cover design and the great endorsements it has received. I must say that the book met my high expectations. This is one of the most engaging and dynamic books I've read in quite some time.

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!

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