The key is to realize that they were born out of his conversion, his dark night of the soul, and his rediscovery of the gospel as a Christian:
The way to read my books, then, is to realize that I came through a real struggle in those early days, and I’ve tried to be honest in my study ever since. I try to approach every problem as though I were not a Christian and see what the answer would be.
Later on in my ministry I faced another crisis that equally influenced the writing of my books. It came after I had already been a pastor for ten years in the U.S. and a missionary to Europe for five years. Throughout this period one thing was dinned into my thinking: “Why,” I asked, “is there so little reality among orthodox evangelical Christians? Why is there so little beauty in the way Christians deal with one another?”
This led to doubts about the reality of spiritual things in my own life. I realized that although I had been studying for years and although I had been active in Christian ministry and although I was becoming more and more known in certain Christian circles, the reality of my own spiritual life was diminished. Somehow I had lost what I had when I first became a Christian.
For about two months I walked out in the Swiss mountains. When it rained, I walked in the old hayloft above our chalet. And as I prayed, I went all the way back to my agnosticism. With as much honesty as I could, I asked myself, “Was I right in becoming a Christian as a young man?” The unreality I had found in the Christian world, the ugliness I saw in Christian relationships, the fact that Christians were not able to talk to twentieth-century people—all these things made me ask, “Was I right?”
And finally the sun came out. I saw that my earlier decisions to step from agnosticism to Bible-believing Christianity was right, and I also discovered that I had been missing something vital in my biblical understanding. It was this: that the finished work of Christ on the cross, back there in time and space, has a moment-by-moment meaning. Christ meant His promise to be taken literally when He said that He would bear His fruit through us if we allowed Him to do so, not only in our religious life but in all of our life. Christ meant to be Lord of my whole life. This brought my life to a great shattering moment. What began as struggle ended in a song. Without that crisis, I could never have written True Spirituality, for that book is the outcome of that personal struggle.
—Francis A. Schaeffer, “Why and How I Write My Books,” Eternity Magazine, vol. 24 (March 1973): 64f.
HT: Bill Edgar