Schaeffer was born on January 30, 1912, in Germantown, Pennsylvania, to Franz A. Schaeffer III and Bessie Williamson. He was of German and English ancestry.
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 the 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 between 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. Schaeffer eventually sided with the Bible Presbyterian Church Columbus Synod following the BPC Collingswood and BPC Columbus Split and became a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod when the Bible Presbyterian Church’s Columbus Synod merged with the Reformed Presbyterian Church’s Columbus Synod in 1965, a denomination which would merge with the Presbyterian Church in America, in 1982.
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, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Schaeffer received numerous honorary degrees. In 1954, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Highland College in Long Beach, California. In 1971, he received an 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.
- Born: 30 January 1912, Germantown, Philadelphia
- Died: 15 May 1984, Rochester, Minnesota
- Family: Married Edith Schaeffer and they had 4 children.
- Notable Works: The God who is there; Escape from Reason; How shall we then live?