“L’abri: There and Back Again” – Febuary 17,2008
A weekend full of lectures at the L’abri conference in Rochester, Minnesota is now over and I am going to try and put some contents from my notes (and hopefully the notes of the others who came to the conference… too many lectures and too little time for one person to get it all) on this blog. Stay tuned in the coming days/weeks for more content from the lectures and workshops. For this post I want to say something about L’abri generally. I was reminded this weekend of so many things I love about L’abri, its theology, and style of living the Christian life. Each of these deserves much longer treatment, but just to be brief, here they are:
What I like about L’abri:
1. Insistence the reality of God in the life of the Christian: God’s truth is not relegated to simply a “spiritual” realm that has no contact with our daily lives. The gospel has implications for all of life, and if it is true it we should live in that reality as much as we are able. An example of how this works itself out at L’abri is in their prayer life. L’abri does not advertise, seek out workers, actively call people to come, or ask broadcast their need for financial support. They worship a God who knows their needs, who has purposes for L’abri in the lives of certain students, and who cares about all his creations deeply. This is not just an intellectual idea at L’abri; it is something they try to work into the fabric of their everyday lives and operations.
2. Common grace: This was the theme of the conference this year and something I am so thankful to God for his use of L’abri to speak clearly of God’s common grace. L’abri insists that ALL people are made in the image of God and retains traces of their former glory, no matter how obscured those traces might be. Nothing is too twisted to be saved. God’s mark on his creations is indelible. As Francis Schaeffer said, “We are glorious ruins.”
3. Listening and respect: L’abri tries very hard to listen to every question and treat each person who brings comes to them with the utmost respect. This is not a groundless practice. It is founded on the belief in God’s common grace. If God has lavished such love on his rebellious creations, how could we fail to treat one another with dignity in the light of that love? Schaeffer said that if he had one hour talking with a person he would spend 50 minutes of that hour listening and asking questions to be sure that he could give the answers that the person really needs before they parted.
4. Worldview: L’abri insists that everyone has a worldview. There is no “neutral” way to live in this world. Everyone beliefs about the nature of the world, the nature of God, right and wrong, what has worth in this life, etc. This understanding of the way that people are allows L’abri to have a unusually perceptive view of the mysteries of the actions from something so large as western culture to something as small as an individual student who comes to any L’abri branch. This vision allows L’abri to do what Luther said and “preach the gospel in precisely the area that it is under attack” to both people and institutions.
5. Art: Hans Rookmaaker said, “Art needs no justification.” Francis Schaeffer wrote and thought deeply about art its power and that focus has stayed with L’abri ever since. L’abri values art for its ability to reveal the soul of a culture and its ability to display the glory of God in the talents of God’s creations.
6. No sacred/secular split: L’abri has always spoken against the idea that there is a line between some things in life which are “sacred” (church, prayer, bible reading, evangelism) and things that are “secular” (the rest of the world). There is a line, but it runs between every single thing, not a group of things. There is both lightness and darkness in every area of life and the call of the church is to play a role in the flourishing of the light wherever it finds itself.
7. Hospitality: This is yet another things I find so attractive about L’abri that has its roots it common grace. L’abri places a high value on making people feel welcome, and inviting them directly into the midst of real life. It is a powerful witness to Christian truth when non-believers see the gospel prpfoundly affecting the daily lives of Christians.
8. Flow of History: L’abri insists that a person must understand how he came to be where he is before he can really understand where he is at all. An eye toward history is all over the writings of Schaeffer, and L’abri students and workers carry that work forward into our present day.