Thanks for asking about the CT article. Here’s my response to the editor.
Letter to the Editor –
David Neff, Editor
465 Gundersen Dr.
Carol Stream, IL 60188
Over the years secular journalists have visited Swiss L’Abri, interviewed Francis and Edith Schaeffer or other staff members of the Christian community, often with dismissive results. The article, “Not Your Father’s L’Abri,” (CT March 2008) has this resoundingly familiar ring to it. Considering that the author was with us for only 9-10 days at the beginning of a term, and according to her own conviction was not a Christian, this should come as no surprise.
What is shocking nevertheless is that Christianity Today, after I informed an associate editor of the author’s stance and limited contact with Swiss L’Abri, as well as the danger of significant distortions, went ahead with this remarkably inaccurate piece. Alas, a rather serious question arises: Where is CT’s credibility in its journalistic endeavors?
Extraordinary misinterpretation abounds with rhetorical flourish in this caricature. The generalized and broad sweeping negative statements and conclusions in this article lack substance and are due more to the biased interpretation of the author’s secular agenda, than to the nature and direction of Swiss L’Abri.
If anything, Swiss L’Abri is more clear of its calling and confident in its direction than ever. In many ways, we’re following in the stream of the Schaeffers’ concerns and teachings, and as they would have, openly engaging with current ideas and thought. Confronting new and different perspectives and cultural changes was part of the essence of Schaeffer’s passion, and is clearly not a break from it. He would have been desperately disappointed if L’Abri had gotten stuck merely interacting with the ideas of the past.
L’Abri has aimed, always in recognition of its imperfection, to be something of a demonstration of God’s existence and thankfully, we not only see this as a reality in the past, but as something that continues in the present. L’Abri has never tried to produce clones of Francis or Edith Schaeffer, but has gone to great lengths in time and energy to insure that the central vision of L’Abri’s theology, apologetics, spirituality and way of caring for people would be continued and built upon, which is happening in Swiss L’Abri and the other branches of I write.
There is a continual stream of serious people who come to our community seeking shelter and relevant and truthful answers to today’s questions. Usually about a third of our thirty-five students (limited to only that number because we stress a community of quality over quantity) are not Christians – some of these are from evangelical backgrounds and some not. At any given time, there are a number of students with us who are hurting, looking for healing, and making an attempt to reconnect with God (this has always been the case), but there are also many others (from Wheaton, Calvin, Regent, UNC, Univ of Chicago, etc.) who are here wrestling with today’s cutting edge ideas and issues – philosophy of language, postmodernism, biblical interpretation, emerging church, creation and evolution, to mention just a few.
For over 52 years now, Swiss L’Abri has welcomed strangers (as do all L’Abri’s) into our community where we study, work, and live together in the hope that people who come will know the living and true God, deepen their faith in Christ, grow spiritually, better understand their culture, and be educated and equipped with good and sufficient reasons for the truth of Christianity, all in order to have an impact on the world. And we’re still doing it in the same way: meeting them where they are, embodying God’s love towards them and sharing (and discussing) God’s truth with them.
Regarding L’Abri’s expansion and disunity, the article is again clearly wide of the mark. L’Abri expanded in England, Holland, Sweden, the United States (two branches), South Korea and Canada, with resource centers in Australia and Brazil, not out of any competition with the Swiss branch, but deliberately, prayerfully and with the backing of the L’Abri leadership, which is made up of representatives of each location. The various branches in other parts of the world grew out of much prayer and the conviction that this was the leading of God at the time. Furthermore, our communities are bound together by a deep commitment to Scripture as the Word of God, the loving redemptive work of Christ, and the unique and relevant teaching that has streamed out of L’Abri and graciously, thank God, is touching and touched so many lives. We have agreed on a body of statements expressing the commitment of a shared vision and direction, which are available on our website www.labri.org for any who care to read them.