Back in December, I reviewed Frank Schaeffer’s autobiography/memoir, Crazy For God. It was one of the first reviews out on the book (at least that I’d read), and I’ve been interested in reading what others have thought of the book.
Today I found a good review by Os Guinness at Christianity Today’s Books and Culture section, and I think the most telling criticism of the book is in this quote:
Francis Schaeffer, in his son’s portrait, lacked intellectual integrity. There was a lie at the very heart of the work of L’Abri, and the thousands of people who over the decades came to L’Abri and came to faith or deepened in faith, were obviously conned too.
And Guinness obviously disagrees with Frank’s assessment of his father.
I challenge this central charge of Frank’s with everything in me. I and many of my closest friends, who knew the Schaeffers well, are certain beyond a shadow of doubt that they would challenge it too. Defenders of truth to others, Francis and Edith Schaeffer were people of truth themselves.
Obviously, I don’t know Francis Shaeffer nearly as well as Os Guinness: I didn’t know him at all, in fact. From reading Frank’s books, as well as his father’s, I can see a conflict. It seems to me that Guinness is correct — Frank paints his father and mother both as people who were conned, and were possibly involved in doing some conning themselves.
And I think it’s tough to hang the hypocrite tag on Francis Schaeffer. Even while there were people who hung on his every word, there were people who would have loved to have seen him fall. Any sign of doubt, and hint of a struggle or crisis of faith, would have summoned the sharks. The sharks circled, but there was never any blood in the water; there was no kill. I’m not sure that any man is able to keep up the facade that Francis Schaeffer would have had to maintain to have avoided a quick and certain “outing” and the destruction of his ministry.
If you’ve read the book, read Guinness’ review. He expresses a lot of hurt, but he also interacts with what Schaeffer has written. The problems he has with the book mirror my own, and he’s said it much better, and with more authority, than I could have.
If you haven’t read the book, I think it’s still worth reading. Take what’s written with a grain of salt, though, knowing that those who were there (as Os Guinness was) often disagree with Frank’s assessment of the facts.