L'Abri has become a community ambivalent about Schaeffer's legacy and ill at ease with mainstream evangelical culture. Half a century after L'Abri's founding and more than 20 years after Schaeffer's death, students come with very different questions
Between L'Abri's 1955 founding and the early 1970s, the ministry attracted European students schooled in modern philosophy and existentialism, as well as young Americans backpacking through Europe. … young people trying to square the Bible with Sartre and Kierkegaard.
Schaeffer wove thinkers as diverse as Leonardo da Vinci and Karl Barth into a confident narrative that sought to demolish modern secular philosophy and vindicate Christianity.
When John Sandri's [a son-in-law on staff at L’Abri] studies in literature led him to reread the Bible through the lens of narrative theology, Schaeffer was appalled. "He wanted me to withdraw from a teaching role in the community," said Sandri, [who] had come to question everything from the Trinity to predestination, "but the one that broke the camel's back was [biblical] inerrancy. Schaeffer felt this was the issue of the day, where Christians have to dig into the trenches," Sandri said. "I'm not an inerrantist, but I'm not an 'errantist' either. Both are wrong. Man makes these opposing points of view. The modernist agenda is behind both." …his unorthodox views are a telling expression of what L'Abri has become.
… "authenticity." That idea is far more important to today's L'Abri students than winning debates with secular intellectuals … current workers agree that, "the emphasis has shifted to personal issues, which people less readily see as related to ideas."
"For a lot of people, [L'Abri] is more about personal spirituality, which makes sense—that's the way religion is branded in the U.S.," said Jasie Peltier. Peltier tutors mostly female students, and though she'd prefer to talk about philosophy and theology, she usually ends up talking about boys. "No one has a clue what 'authenticity' is," she said. "They think it's spilling your guts, purging. They think, I'm going to be real here, and being real means sharing, over-sharing."
… students explore their faith (or lack of it—the occasional atheist finds his way here) by means very different from the apologetics of Francis Schaeffer. Those few students who have read any of his books consider him largely obsolete. The modernist philosophy that he targeted in most of his writings, the bogeyman of existentialism, is passé. “Now the question is, ‘Is there truth at all?’” said worker Thomas Rauchenstein. "Postmodernism's critique of truth is more of a factor in students' thinking."
… students and workers today have no use for Schaeffer's presuppositionalist apologetics, which he adapted from Cornelius Van Til. Van Til's aim "was to show the non-Christian that his worldview in toto and in all its parts must logically lead back to full irrationalism, and then to show him that the Christian system provides the universal which gives a valid explanation of the universe.
… Students today have the despair of having lost that certainty. The postmodern critique of objectivity has saturated them.
…when students say they seek authenticity, what they really want is certainty, an inner knowing. Convinced that they won't find it intellectually, many pursue that feeling of conviction through experience: in the communal life and worship at L'Abri; in the books by emerging church authors that are popular with many students, and in the charismatic worship style, that … is no longer taboo here.