Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America

Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America

Barry Hankins

Francis Schaeffer (1912–1984) was probably the single greatest intellectual influence on young evangelicals of the 1960s and ’70s. He was cultural critic, popular mentor, political activist, Christian apologist, founder of L’Abri, and the author of over twenty books and two important films. It is impossible to understand the intellectual world of contemporary evangelicalism apart from Francis Schaeffer.

Barry Hankins has written a critical but appreciative biography that explains how Schaeffer was shaped by the contexts of his life — from young fundamentalist pastor in America, to greatly admired mentor, to lecturer and activist who encouraged world-wary evangelicals to engage the culture around them. Drawing extensively from primary sources, including personal interviews, Hankins paints a picture of a complex, sometimes flawed, but ultimately prophetic figure in American evangelicalism and beyond.

Read the excerpt here.


Barry Hankins is professor of history at Baylor University. His other books include The Second Great Awakening and the Transcendentalists and American Evangelicals: A Recent History of a Mainstream Religious Movement.


Reviews

Christianity Today
“A skillful biography written with both fondness and a keen eye that discerns the underlying consistency of Schaeffer’s outlook. (Five Stars). ”

David Bebbington
— University of Stirling
“In a book of thorough research and sympathetic analysis, Barry Hankins shows how Francis Schaeffer was more responsible than any other individual for turning American evangelicalism from introspection to looking outward, from suspicion of the intellect to engagement with culture.”

William Edgar, Westminster Theological Seminary
“Amid the growing literature on Francis Schaeffer’s legacy, this book by historian Barry Hankins offers a fresh look at the man and his times. While covering a wide range of issues, Hankins is particularly concerned to understand Schaeffer’s relation to American fundamentalism. Brilliant, fascinating, provocative, critical, the volume will leave no reader indifferent. I recommend it highly as an important contribution to understanding these defining years in American religious history.”

Margaret Lamberts Bendroth, author of A School of the Church
“Significant lives are rarely straightforward or simple, a fact fully documented by Barry Hankins’s absorbing account of Francis Schaeffer’s steady transformation from working-class schoolboy and fundamentalist warrior to internationally famous evangelical author and lecturer, the founder of L’Abri, and an incalculable influence over a generation of young Christians trying to make sense of the 1960s. Schaeffer’s books and films — as well as that famous beard and Swiss knickers — are an essential piece of late-twentieth-century American evangelicalism and its complex passage into a movement out to wage war against the forces of secularism. Hankins’s deft treatment of Schaeffer’s life is a must-read for anyone interested in probing the human stories beneath the popular stereotypes.”

Journal of American History
“With other biographies of the late Francis Schaeffer functioning more as hagiographies, the historian Barry Hankins skillfully places the life and work of this extraordinarily complex figure in the historical and cultural contexts in which he lived. . . an excellent work on a very complex, important figure.”

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