Jan 21


Francis Schaeffer, An Authentic Life, by Colin Duriez ★★★★

I haven’t thought much about Francis Schaeffer recently, but realized through conversations with younger Christians that Francis Schaeffer is no longer a recognizable name. This is to the shame of the church that he and his thinking aren’t occasionally brought back to mind. For many of us that became Christians in the 60’s and 70’s, especially during the era of the Jesus movement, he was quite influential at shaping our thinking and world view. I have read or listened to other biographies of Francis Schaeffer and his work, including the Tapestry and L’Abri, written by Edith Schaeffer, listened to the Covenant Seminary course on Francis Schaeffer, by Jerram Barrs, and have met and spoke at length with Edith Schaeffer and Francis’ son-in-law Udo Middelman, have read his complete works at least twice and watched both of his film series several times, but have never met Francis Schaeffer personally. I also have many friends who have spent time at L’Abri, all of whom would say that their contact with Dr. Schaeffer was heavily influential at affecting the remainder of their life course. My own pastor had spent many hours as a child with Francis, being that his father was president of Covenant Seminary. With that in mind, I review this book.

Colin Duriez, who has spent a number of years at L’Abri and much time with the Schaeffers, is a most capable person to be writing Schaeffer’s biography, and can include personal anecdotes, as well as the result of an interview with Schaeffer toward the end of Schaeffer’s life, in 1980, and this interview is contained in the appendix of the book. The biography is short, and thus is going to be missing in some important details. Specifically, other biographies suggest that Schaeffer was more of a churchman than is presented in this book. He was quite involved up to the end with his Presbyterian denomination, which eventually became the Presbyterian Church in America. His books such as The Church before the Watching World and others witness Schaeffer’s true concern for the Christian church as found in denominations, even though Schaeffer felt as much at home in a Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox or Pentecostal church as he did in his native Presbyterian church environment.  Duriez speaks often and peripherally about Schaeffer’s philosophy, yet doesn’t develop it systematically. True, Schaeffer would identify himself as an eclectic mix of evidentialist, presuppositionalist, etc., and yet there is meaning to Schaeffer’s madness over and above trying to create a philosophy that was primarily evangelical in it’s intent. Words and thinkers (like Dooyeweerd) are thrown out without offering the reader at least some explanation as to why these people are being mentioned in the context of Schaeffer’s life. I loved the story of Schaeffer visiting Karl Barth, and wish that could have been further elaborated.

Duriez mentions frequently Schaeffer’s love for art museums, with an affection for modern art. Schaeffer appreciated some of the contemporary filmography, but tended to be highly selective in what he considered worthy of review. Duriez also mentions Schaeffer’s love for contemporary rock music, and knowing the words to many songs for the big rock groups of the 60’s and 70’s. Oddly, Schaeffer had a particular distaste for much music such as that of Wagner, and many 20th century musicians. Schaeffer rarely ever mentions Bach’s music as formative of a broader Reformed Christian community. This selection of particular appreciation for the arts has permeated Schaeffer’s disciples, almost to the point that they view Schaeffer as their cultural pope. I find that to be a touch disingenuous.

Outside of my criticisms, the book was an enjoyable read. Schaeffer is sadly being forgotten by the Christian world, and it is to our detriment. Nobody within Christianity has yet risen that was as capable as Schaeffer at providing both a philosophical justification for Christianity while demonstrating the need for Christians to be obedient to the word of God. His was not an ethereal philosophy, but very practical, since it emphasized the need to never divorce religion from experience or history.



Francis Schaeffer, A Mind and Heart for God, edited by Bruce Little ★★★★

This short book was taken from a conference given in 2008 in Wake Forest, NC, which included five talks. I’ll briefly mention each talk.

Francis A. Schaeffer: The Man, by Udo Middelmann. This is a very brief but delightful summary of the life and thinking of Schaeffer.

Francis A. Schaeffer: His Apologetics, by Jerram Barrs. Jerram surveys the apologetic methodology of Schaeffer, concluding that Schaeffer was most interested in evangelism, and never ever thought of himself as an apologist for the faith. Thus, Schaeffer avoided debates, and avoided fixing himself within any apologetic category.

Francis Schaeffer in the Twenty-first Century, by Ronald Macaulay. This talk addresses the question as to whether Schaeffer was a prophet in foreseeing future troubles in the world. Schaeffer would have vigorously denied being a prophet, yet his cultural predictions have essentially become true. Schaeffer was particularly sensitive to a culture that advocated freedom without a Christian basis for it, or a Christian church based on religious sentiment rather than a dynamic belief in the word of God. Macaulay hits hard on Schaeffer’s war against contemporary pietism, which I appreciated. This was a delightful chapter to read, but am left wondering what Schaeffer would have been saying in today’s world. It is different than 50 years ago, in that, now that truth is universally accepted as unknowable, people no longer ask questions. The solution to any crisis in life is now resolved not by seeking philosophical consistency, but by seeking a hedonistic resolution for the moment without concern for future consequences. I would wonder regarding Schaeffer’s approach to the current political scene, now in a truly post-Christian scenario. “Speaking the truth in love” is going to take a different form than Schaeffer manifested throughout his life, perhaps being more pointed such as found in Christ’s, or perhaps Jeremiah’s ministry. What would Schaeffer say to a culture now overrun by the anti-Christian culture of the Muslim faith? I don’t believe that we could predict his response, and even if we could would still wish to defer to guidance from Scripture. Again, Schaeffer should not be treated as the political-cultural pope of our age, and he would agree with that if he could speak from the dead.

Francis Schaeffer: His Legacy and His Influence on Evangelicalism, by Jerram Barrs. Much of this talk focused on Schaeffer’s evangelistic method as it affected Jerram Barrs himself, as he became a Christian under the influence of Schaeffer. Barrs offers 8 points that characterize the nature and style of Schaeffer’s evangelistic methodology.

Sentimentality: Significance for Apologetics, by Dick Keyes. This talk has come under criticism from Amazon.com reviewers as being only peripherally related to Schaeffer, and not directly about him. Yet, I really enjoyed this talk, and felt that because it so heavily reflected Schaeffer’s thinking, that it was a worthy inclusion in this text. Sentimentality is displaced emotion that is directed toward the self. It denies a world that is not fallen, and does not result in appropriate responses. Though not mentioned in this chapter, my first thought was the outpouring of emotion when one watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion, yet I’ve to hear of even one life changed from this emotional Sintflut. Keyes discusses the result of Christians controlled by sentimentality, and how to deal with the sentimental person, by bringing them back to reality through some point of contact with reality.

I wonder how many more Francis Schaeffer conferences will be seen in the future, especially as those who lived in the 60’s and 70’s and were influenced by Schaeffer now are becoming a dying breed. Hopefully, his thinking will live on through such institutions such as Jerram Barr’s Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Seminary. The history of institutions devoted to a good cause seem to be rather sad. Just look at such institutions as the YMCA, which is now neither young, doesn’t know the difference between a man or woman, is definitely not Christian, but sadly remains an Association. Schaeffer’s books will live on, and hopefully will be read by our children’s children for many more generations. I pray that someone in a future generation will rise and capably question the culture, and be able to confront the culture as Schaeffer was able to do a half century ago.

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2 Responses to “More books about Francis Schaeffer”

  1. Onkel Dennis says:

    I heartily concur with your view and assessment of Francis Schaeffer. I agree that there has been nobody to come on the evangelical mainstream scene that has had anywhere near the impact for good on American and European Christendom than FAS has had. I read his books as they came out, back in the late ’60s, early ’70s, and they had a profound impact at organizing and simplifying my thinking about Christianity. His books were not read with any understanding by many Christians back then, though a few of us were impacted by them with a lasting influence.

    As I look back at Schaeffer, I perhaps appreciate him more now than when he was influencing me. Yet at the same time, my own understanding has matured and along with Os Guinness, I see the limitations and incompleteness of Schaeffer’s directions of thought. He was, for instance, just beginning to understand at the end of his life that the kingdom of Jesus is a political entity, just as Washington is a political entity, and that to become a Christian is to take an oath of loyalty to one and only political entity, the Kingdom of God. In practice that means that Jesus is Lord, and your lord is the one whose laws you obey. Today, the Christian church is politically about as syncretistic as it can get, trying to please both cross and flag. Schaeffer was beginning to understand that you have to choose between them; they are mutually exclusive when serving the one conflicts with serving the other.

    Just one glitch: “… a culture now overrun by the anti-Christian culture of the Muslim faith …”

    This is an example of American mind control. The Rulers want you to think of Muslims as the enemy, though Christians share much more in common with them in worldview and scripture than our mutual hedonistic and scripture-averse enemies in Washington, New York Wall St. district, and the City in London. Most American Christians do not know a single Muslim. I have known several and in no case were they even about to consider a conflict with scripture-oriented Christians. I suspect the Adventists, of all people, have discovered a scriptural view of Islam, as the “locusts” who bring God’s judgement against apostate Christianity. They have historically, against the Vatican, and now renegade groups of them are bringing havoc to apostate Euroamerica. Yet the vast majority of Muslims are a welcome relief to the deep rebellion against God in America and W. Europe.

  2. Ken says:

    Dennis; Thank you for your kind comments and consideration of this article. I wrote a response which promptly deleted itself, so, try #2.
    My only objection is what you consider to be a glitch. I don’t live in a vacuum, dear Dennis, and actually have many, many Muslim friends, acquaintances, and foes. Remember that Dee’s husband is Muslim, living in Portland, and are fine people that I enjoy visiting. Remember that it is not the rulers that are defining the debate, or evil websites. That is, unless you consider websites like Alex Jones and InfoWars to be a part of the vast conspiracy against us. You forget that I have spent much time in Muslim countries (Bangladesh) and regions (Extrem Nord Cameroon). Regarding Islam as a faith, it is possible to view it as a highly deviant Christian heresy, somewhat like the Arians, or present day JWs and Mormons. Their god is different enough, like the Mormons, for me to fail to label them as just another heresy, since their basic information about god comes from the Quran. Regarding their peace-loving mission to the west to instruct in moral principles and to provide us a “welcome relief” from the moral depravity of the west, just ask any of the 1000 ladies raped in Köln (as per InfoWars), the constant attacks in German swimming pools, etc. Even peaceful Muslims, and usually it is “peaceful” Muslims, that suddenly manifest their violent “mission from god” to slay the enemy. Sorry Dennis, but they do NOT bring in a higher standard of morality, as decedent as the west happens to be.
    It is true, the entire west (actually, the entire world) stands under God’s judgement, but the west is especially guilty since we knew the truth and threw it off. Like Habakkuk’s complaints, God does use more evil people to judge less evil people. And, like Psalm 137, even those evil people will be repaid in kind; their infants will also be dashed against the rock. Only God is truly just in all that he says and does. And, per Habakkuk, the just (us with the imputed righteousness of Christ, not just of our own account) will live by faith. Don’t forget that total depravity never means “as bad as one could possibly be”, and that there is in all people a common grace and restraint from God that keeps order in this world. That kindness, coming even from Muslims, will be found in all people, including serial murderers. Even Francis Schaeffer taught that.

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