Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Crazed about God: Frank Talk about Frank (not Francis A.) Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer (formerly Franky Schaeffer before the fall) has written a memoir savaging everything about his parents, Francis and Edith, and about evangelicalism in general. About fifteen years ago, the younger Schaeffer left Protestantism for Eastern Orthodoxy and began to write tasteless, loosely autobiographical novels satirizing and lampooning his family. That was bad enough. Now he has blessed us with a gossipy expose on his life and associations with famous evangelicals called Crazy for God. I'll spare you the precious subtitle.

No, I have not yet read it. I don't know if I will. (I read the "sneeringly cynical"--to quote my wife--review of it in secular/leftist magazine, The Nation, which took to the book as judging the elder Schaeffers as hypocrites and all of religion as ingenuine and dangerous.) The writings and life of Francis Schaeffer have deeply shaped and inspired me, as regular readers know. Years ago, I read two of Franky's earlier books (Addicted to Mediocrity and Bad News for Modern Man), which, despite some merits, struck me as shrill and not as compassionate or insightful as his father's work.

Whatever the failing of Frank Schaeffer's family, there is a simple moral lesson here: "Honor your mother and father." As an Orthodox adherent, Schaeffer is not exempt from the Decalogue. Honor does not mean self-deception concerning the sins of one's parents, but it does not include distributing gossip. Yet junior Schaeffer endlessly exacts revenge on the purported failings of his parents, thus bringing misery on his siblings and others as well as delight to those who desire to sneer and hiss at the benighted Christians. He thus partakes of the rotten zeitgeist that drags everything supposedly exalted through the mud of resentment, anger, and rage. Call it debunk-ology, a putrid practice that is purely negative, self-serving, and (at least in this case) narcissistic.

I may have talked myself out of reading this book. It would just encourage him, although I am tempted to review it somewhere. Then again, as Walter Martin once wisely told me, "You can fight a skunk and win---but who wants to?"


Anonymous said...

It is truly unfortunate that son, Franky, has gone down this path. Years ago I read his book, A Time for Anger, and I thought it was relatively good, howbeit overly sharp. My reading of this book was so long ago, I might well have a different attitude on it now.

Anonymous said...

It is extremely sad that Frank has chosen to spend his life dedicated to smearing his family's legacy. According to the review, this book seems to be no more than an angry, emotive rant throwing kindling onto the anti-evangelical fire. I pray it does not turn into anything more than kindling. There are so many actually worthwhile books of substance out there to read; I believe that this one would be a time and energy waster.

matt said...

I think it's unfair to totally ignore Franky's thoughts on growing up in an evangelical home and being on the edge of the evangelical movement. And BTW, some of the best ways to honor one's parents is to avoid their errors and make them known to others. If he is given to slander, he should apologize, but I think we can make known error to benefit others.

I also think it is important to empathize with his apparent pain rather than dismiss it.

We should be careful to not walk down his road too . . . we probably should be careful to use name calling (i.e. "skunk"), but rather address his issues one by one (which may require reading the book before commenting on it).

Daniel said...

You should get this book just to throw it across the classroom like Blue Like Jazz. :)

Paul D. Adams said...

Sad. Truly sad that Frank has chosen this path. While ignoring what he has to say may not be entirely bad advice, I'm amazed that he does not see the tremendous value that his parents have brought the multitude of thinking evangelicals (did I mention Nancy Pearcey? See for example http://www.gnpcb.org/sites/total.truth/).

Shawn White said...

@ Paul -
That is a good book. I have made my way through it a couple of times.


Hovey said...

Having finished reading the review, I feel like I need to go take a shower to clean the cynical filth off. Though the Shaeffers are respectable, albeit saved by grace sinners, I am glad that the validity of my faith is based on Jesus. It is unfortunate that many people will read the book and assume that Evangelical Christianity must be false or a total crock because some of its leaders/thinkers "didn't have it all together." If the tone of the actual book is anything like that of the review, I would wonder if Frank may have some severe grudges, and needs to consider forgiveness. If he is positing a better way of life, it certainly doesn't show itself to be very humble or loving.

Tom Hinkle said...

If this book is anything like the last book you criticized without reading (The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs), I shall purchase this book and read it with relish, because Jacobs' book is insightful, funny, and the best "light" read I've had this year.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Groothuis and Sarah. Frank is just a snarky sybarite basking in the luxury of criticising others. I do not need to read the book to know this--it is patently obvious from the title!

The attitude that looks to point out problems in evangelicalism is a "rotten zeitgeist that drags everything supposedly exalted through the mud of resentment, anger, and rage. Call it debunk-ology." Frank seems to misunderstand why his father and Groothuis are permitted to engage in this practice, while infidels cannot. Schaeffer and Groothuis are right in their invective, while Frank is deliberately skewing things.

I, too, have NOT read the book, nor will I! ALL anti-Fundamentalist drivel is a "time and energy waster."

I pray that we do not kindle the fire by talking about it anymore.

Beyond The Rim... said...

Re: your question on fighting with skunks. If they are defecating in your house, you definitely need to fight with them. Whether this image is appropriate to the situation, I do not know.

One thing I do know and that is the politically correct, psychologically driven arguments in favor of allowing a son (especially one still claiming Christianity) to essentially trash his parents in order so everyone can empathize with his pain and learn from his angst is ridiculous and unbiblical.

You are correct that we all are under the requirement to honor our parents and what is really sad is that having sown the wind, Franky will now have to reap the whirlwind. It is a sad commentary all around.

Anonymous said...

Beyond the rim - good and appropriate comments. There does come a time when skunks need to be fought with. There is much, in my opinion, to be critical of in the Evangelical movement. There are times that I truly want to separate myself from Evangelicalism. But there does come a point when we need to address the sin of others in their unfounded criticisms, be it the subject of the Evangelical church or another topic of interest. Understandedly, nobody truly enjoys fighting the skunk, wherever they are found.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Groothuis:

My vote would be that you review it and put Frank on the cucking-stool!

I would also add that pyrrhic battles are worth fighting. It might be better to use the more precise term rather to engage in malicious name calling, too. Plus, I was a little confused and I wasn't sure if you were making a pun on the fact that Frankie smokes marijuana. Is that what you meant? or was it just an accidental play on words?

Tom Hinkle said...

righteousness first,
Can you back up your statement that Frank smokes (present tense) marijuana? I've never seen that, and I would like some proof, please.

Anonymous said...


You are correct. I should not have chosen the present tense verb. Thanks for the correction (I guess that obviates your question).

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


What?! I made no reference to Frank smoking anything. You either come up with odd interpretations (such as saying a commentor was using a racist term when he was not) or are pulling our legs.

DSP said...

Dr. Groothuis,
Please make good on your consideration to ban RF.
His parody is dishonest and ought not be tolerated.
Dissenters ought to be tolerated, but not this.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Groothuis:

I did not say that you said he smoked, but was wondering if you were making a pun. By your answer I can assume that you do not.

I'm really growing tired of people attacking me. Let me get this straight: I am subject to being banned because I felt uncomfortable with someone using a term that could (not necessarily) be construed as racist. Shame on me for trying to be above reproach, but I don't think I should be lynched.

Jeff Burton said...

I urge you to review this book. There is more here than the revelation of shameful family secrets. From the reviews I've read, and interviews with the author, I gather that he is trying to reinterpret his father's life work in a way that accords more with his own theological and lifestyle predelictions. If true, this must be answered.