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Frank Schaeffer — Nowhere Near His Father’s Footsteps

Over the years I’ve had a fascination with Frank Schaeffer, the increasingly wayward son of Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984). The father was a great man who profoundly influenced a generation of Christian thinkers and encouraged some of the early proponents of ID (notably Charles Thaxton and Nancy Pearcey) to challenge evolutionary theory. The son, by contrast, has turned repudiating his father’s legacy into a full-time occupation, cultivating a churlishness and cattiness that is hard to match. My fascination has consisted in tracking how far the son will go in turning against the father.

What drew my attention to Frank most recently was his remark in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle that “Fundamentalism is the big story of the 21st century. Ask anyone trying to teach evolution in a public school.” Later in his article he remarks that “certainties are what unite all fundamentalists.” Let me suggest that Frank consider the possibility that this definition applies to him as well. For sheer dogmatism and certainty that fundamentalism is bad, Frank Schaeffer is in a class by himself.

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10 Responses to Frank Schaeffer — Nowhere Near His Father’s Footsteps

  1. Poor Frank. I can almost feel sorry for him like I can almost feel sorry for Ronald Reagan Junior. It must be very difficult living in the shadow of a great man knowing you’ll nver amount to anything near what the old man was.

    Frank’s a dying breed though and he’s got it all wrong why liberalism is in decline. Liberals are literally a dying breed. Conservatives on average have more children than liberals. San Francisco in particular has the lowest percentage of children of any large city in the nation. It’s no conincidence that it also has the highest gay population in the nation. As we used to say when I was young(er) – DUH!

    So you see, it’s all very Darwinian. Survival of the fittest and all that. Conservatives are being naturally selected over liberals.

    However, I predict this won’t result in a new species. Natural selection was never a force that created new species but rather served to preserve the status quo until a species goes extinct. Thus one might reasonably say that natural selection is a “conservative” force of nature. ;-)

  2. The most disturbing thing about his piece (to me), was when he said “I ‘get’ fundamentalists.” Okay, Frank. We get that you get fundamentalists. If he were a philosopher, the first thing he would do is define ‘fundamentalists’ clearly, instead of leaving it to the reader to apply it to whatever conservative/religious actor/caricature she had in her mind.

    Am I one of his fundamentalists? Well, let’s see. I do hold to a (graded) absolutist epistemology. Check. I am willing to associate myself with Intelligent Design Creationism and its plot to take over the North American Seaboard. Check. I am a ‘Jew for Jesus’. Triple check–that must seal it right there. But I also go to movie houses, and in 1997, my parents let me listen to jungle/drum ‘n’ bass, Pavement (but they didn’t know what kind of twisted Californian ethics were contained within the terrible rock and roll music!), dance the Hora, and go to a secular prom, without being forced to hand out evangelistic literature there. Tough call, eh Frankie?

    Maybe some of us are those odd ducks you could call open-minded fundamentalists (OMF). A mutated breed, which must surely die out. If anything, it is the OMFs that are the real problem. Their graded absolutism is just so ‘rationalist’ (as opposed to ‘sentimentalist’). Their hermeneutic about the world is just so ‘open’ (as opposed to ‘positivist’). Their haircuts are just so ‘sexy’. They are like Wiccans on speed, except they believe in absolute truth and even absolute morality (but without the certainty or irrevisability that you try to foist on us, you McCarthyite!) Worst of all, they believe they are headed to a place called ‘heaven’. What a bunch of wonder-filled wackos. Expect another Jonestown, except, rather than committing mass suicide, the OMFs will throw an awkward dance party with rather dated music, and maybe even ‘pray’ afterward. Its sick, just sick. Let’s put the OMFs in stocks to match their medieval mindset. Let’s force them into 3 foot cubes to match their apparent view of a square earth. They want to have an open view about the world while maintaining absolute truth? Then put them in a circus, and we’ll write novels about them.

    (that was for Francis Schaeffer, who wasn’t my favorite Christian philosopher, but one of the greats anyway. Apologies to Dr. Dembski if my sarcasm went overboard.)

  3. ariel: That was brillant!

    I feel rather bad for him. It must be a pretty sad exsistence to feel that much dislike for a group and spew that sort of hatred.

    Probably my favorite line out of this: “Many secular and/or moderately religious people just don’t feel comfortable saying things that might offend religiously fervent believers. On the other hand, fundamentalists equate criticism of their theology and/or politics with blasphemy.”

    I have never known a secularist who was afraid of bashing Christianity. But, please, bash away so that I can grow stronger in my defense of this consuming passion of my life (my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ)

    2nd favorite:”Holy warriors confront tolerant folks who believe that all religions are fine, or at least equally irrelevant. Tolerant people have trouble saying any beliefs are bad.”

    He needs to learn the true meaning of tolerance. Tolerance is not acceptance. I tolerate homosexuality and the like like I tolerate a sore throat. I don’t accept it as normal but just deal with it around me.

    I think that we, as Christians, need to pray for people like Frank. Treat them with kindnessif, for anything, it will annoy them to no ends!

  4. All that sarcasm, and I misquoted the guy. He said “I ‘get’ fundamentalism,” not fundamentalists. My point (or lack thereof) still stands.

  5. Tolerance is just another word for “I don’t care enough to get involved” and is the opposite of love.

  6. Notice his definition of freedom? It’s license. If he spent even five minutes thinking about what his father said he’d realize that his definition would lead to a far greater tyranny than any fantasy of a Bush led theocracy.
    Take the sexual excesses that occur under such a definition: As diseases and other ills mount, politicians, scientists, and other leaders come under increasing pressure to “do something”. Their solution might be a research program to combat the illness or laws prohibiting the practices. In either case new laws must be passed, new taxes collected, and new bureaucracies set up to administer the solution. When that doesn’t work? More laws, more taxes, and more bureaucracies. And when that doesn’t work? …
    In the end the freedom promised by license is always taken away along with a lot of other freedom. License, then, becomes a sort of negative feedback loop as the excesses it engenders cause harsher and harsher laws to be enacted to combat the excesses.

  7. As another Frank, I would like to say that the rest of us Franks would like to distance ourselves from Frank Schaeffer by affirming that “Francis” is actually a very manly name, and guys who go by “Frank” to avoid the question “It this your Wife’s credit card” (and the like) don’t have a lot of credibility in criticizing the emotional/psychological motivations of others.

    Now back to your serious blogging and commenting.

  8. [...] and Epistemic Humility”, by Joe Carter Part 1 (Posted 5/26/05) and Part 2 (Posted 5/27/05).Frank Schaeffer — Nowhere Near His Father’s Footsteps, by William A. Dembski (Posted 5/2 [...]

  9. I too have followed Frankie Schaeffer’s journey, especially his movement towards Orthodoxy. Having once visited a little fundamentalist Presbyterian Church in our neighboorhood that was a spin off of a spin off of a spin off of a spin off of the PCA, and where the sermon was about why they were leaving a denomination of 800 to form a denomination of 100 over some archane point of Calvinist theology, I can validate one of the sarcastic plotlines of Mr. Schaeffer’s novels. They have the ring of fictional autobiographical truth, which may explain the torment expressed by Mr. Schaeffer’s character and his views in real life. I find his writing to be profound in the vein of Graham Greene, the great stories of family pathology in the Jewish scriptures, and the deep insights of Eastern Orthodox theologians over 2,000 years regarding the relational depravitiy of our race and our need for a healing saviour. Frankie’s struggles and his honesty in sharing them provide additonal perspective and balance to his father’s brilliantly intellectual calvinist theology.

  10. One thing that Frank has done that his father never did was to be an only son of a famous evangelical missionary and not only lived to tell about it but to have had the guts to go where his heart led rather than to meet the expectations of the admirers of his father for him to carry on his father’s “legacy.”
    In many ways his father was a trail-blazer and, in this, so was he: he embraced the Eastern Orthodox Christian Confession. Ironically, this led him to the solution of some of his father’s theological problems.
    Being a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy myself, and also the only son of a missionary father, you can’t believe what a relief it is to be out of that Protestant/Roman Catholic stand-off. As they say on Monty Python’s Fling Circus, “And now for something completely different!” (well, not really completely. . .)

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