Francis August Schaeffer (30 January 1912 – 15 May 1984) was an American Evangelical Christian theologian, philosopher, and Presbyterian pastor. He is most famous for his writings and his establishment of the L'Abri community in Switzerland. Opposed to theological modernism, Schaeffer promoted a more historic Protestant faith and a presuppositional approach to Christian apologetics which he believed would answer the questions of the age. A number of Christian leaders, authors, and evangelists credit Schaeffer's ideas with helping spark the rise of the Christian Right in the United States and were strongly influenced by him. Among them are Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, Focus on the Family's James Dobson, the 700 Club's Pat Robertson, Prison Fellowship's Charles Colson, columnist Cal Thomas, preacher and author Tim LaHaye, former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, and Liberty University and Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell.
Schaeffer's wife, Edith (Seville) Schaeffer, has become a prolific author in her own right. Schaeffer was also the father of — initially a collaborator with, and after his death the object of criticism from — Frank Schaeffer, an author, film-maker and painter.
Schaeffer was born on January 30, 1912, in Germantown, Pennsylvania to Franz A. Schaeffer III and Bessie Williamson.
In 1935, Schaeffer graduated magna cum laude from Hampden-Sydney College. The same year he married Edith Seville, the daughter of missionary parents who had been with China Inland Mission founded by Hudson Taylor. Schaeffer then enrolled at Westminster Theological Seminary in the fall and studied under Cornelius Van Til (presuppositional apologetics) and J. Gresham Machen (doctrine of inerrancy).
In 1937, Schaeffer transferred to Faith Theological Seminary, graduating in 1938. This seminary was newly formed as a result of a split in the Presbyterian Church of America (now the Orthodox Presbyterian Church) and the Bible Presbyterian Church, a Presbyterian denomination more identified with Fundamentalist Christianity and premillennialism. Schaeffer was the first student to graduate and the first to be ordained in the Bible Presbyterian Church. He served pastorates in Pennsylvania (Grove City and Chester) and St. Louis, Missouri. He later left the BPC and joined the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, a forerunner of the Presbyterian Church in America, an evangelical denomination.
In 1948, the Schaeffer family moved to Switzerland and in 1955 established the community called L'Abri (French for "the shelter"). Serving as both a philosophy seminar and a spiritual community, L’Abri attracted thousands of young people, and was later expanded into Sweden, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In 1954, Schaeffer was awarded the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Highland College in Long Beach, California.
In 1971, Schaeffer received the honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts.
In 1982, John Warwick Montgomery nominated Schaeffer for an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, which was conferred in 1983 by the Simon Greenleaf School of Law, Anaheim, California in recognition of his apologetic writings and ministry.
Schaeffer died of lymphoma on May 15, 1984, in Rochester, Minnesota.