Frank Schaeffer's Apologia

One of my jobs in Adult Services is to comb through book donations for titles to add to the collection. Recently a copy of The God Who is There, by Francis Schaeffer, turned up in my pile. I had not seen this book in over thirty years, but I remembered it now as a work that shaped my future.

I don't recall his name, that campus evangelist with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship whom I met in the plaza of the FSU Student Union in the mid-'70's. He was a mild and kind young man. He did not talk about himself, which is probably why I can't remember much about him. He was disseminating the publications of the InterVarsity Press, primarily the works of Francis Schaeffer, but others as well. Os Guinness comes to mind.

He gave me copies of Schaeffer's books; The God Who is There, and He is There and He is Not Silent are the two I remember. We would sit together on a campus lawn, and he would play cassette tapes of Schaeffer's lectures. Schaeffer was something different, as a Protestant evangelist. Back-to-the-Bible revivalism had little to offer to university students. Schaeffer was engaged with modern culture. He would take issue, for example, with Ingmar Bergman's film, Winter Light. Is Bergman right? Is God not there?

So I was interested to read his son Frank's memoir, Crazy for God, about growing up at L'Abri, his parents' mission-house in Switzerland, and what followed after. I could identify with him, in a way, having been brought up Anti-Communist. But I did not know the pivotal role that he played in enlisting his father and American evangelicals in the anti-abortion movement and in the service of the Republican party.

When I did convert, five years later, I would find my home not among the evangelical "Bible-believers", but in the liturgical and sacramental Episcopal church, and finally, in 1989, in the Roman Catholic church. Frank Schaeffer ultimately entered an Eastern Orthodox church.

I confess that after the first 150 pages, covering his childhood, I skimmed the rest. He proved not to be as interesting to me as his father. It reads like a show-biz memoir, a bit slapdash and overly anecdotal. My own life, were I to attempt to write it, would sound the same. Like me, he is not really a thinker, but a dreamer. Frank Schaeffer concludes that his father would have wished to be remembered as a witness to, not a warrior against, secular culture.

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