Our good friend Nancy Pearcey wrote a brief eulogy for Edith Schaeffer, who died March 30 in Switzerland. Edith taught us both about the apologetics of beauty. Nancy’s post by that title tells it much better than I can.
What most impressed me in knowing Edith at L’Abri was her emphasis on everyday beauty.
Arriving as a critical agnostic, I was surprised to meet Christians who actually cared about the world of ideas and the arts. It was not merely that Francis Schaeffer lectured about the arts, however.
It was also that Edith thought it important for the Christian to incorporate beauty into all of life — such as simple but elegant table settings with a flower and a candle. Not expensive items, not conspicuous consumption. But creative (expressing your unique personality) and natural (using items and themes from nature when possible).
Though I had grown up in the church, I had never before met Christians who understood that our souls hunger for beauty just as much as for truth and goodness.
For me, as for many others who studied at L’Abri in the days when Edith still presided, there was an apologetics of beauty that made me want Christianity to be true, at the same time that I was working through a philosophical apologetics that was persuading me intellectually that it was true.
Edith described her love of everyday beauty in Hidden Art (the title was later expanded to The Hidden Art of Homemaking).
For my own experience, I will never forget the first time I had dinner with the Schaeffers in their home, the Chalet Les Melezes. The table was beautifully set with candles, cut dried flowers and linen napkins. The meal was beautifully presented, fresh and delicious. Nothing fast about this meal: it was “slow food” before anyone knew the term.
There is no occasion when meals should become totally unimportant. Meals can be very small indeed, very inexpensive, short times taken in the midst of a big push of work, but they should always be more than just food. Relaxation, communication, and a measure of beauty and pleasure should be part of even the shortest of meal breaks.
We learned the Apologetic of Beauty from Edith Schaeffer. Thank you Edith, for your life and all that you taught us through your life of hidden art!
- Darrow Miller