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September 21, 2012


Frank Schaeffer: Off His Meds Again

The walking, talking, writing delusion-machine that is Francis Schaeffer’s offspring sprung into print again this week. This time (just like every other time since Jerry Falwell became the biggest threat to All That Is Holy since Cotton Mather), Frank Schaeffer is warning the world about…well, you know:

Anything that leads to murder should raise doubts about its legitimacy when put in service of so-called spiritual truth.

Yes, I’ve often thought that about the Koran. Oh, wait, that’s not what Frankie is exercised about.

That killing was done “for God” and yet didn’t lead to a complete re-think about the theological “approach” to a relationship with God is simply insane. Yet this madness persists today. Every time a sermon is preached where someone says “the Bible says God says” the lie continues to be spread. The answer to all such claims is a loud “Says who?”

Evidently Frankie has decided to try out for the role of village atheist. That’s about the level that his “argument” achieves.

Listening to the BBC Radio 4 program In Our Time, hosted by the always wonderful Melvyn Bragg about Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563) one story hit home—hard! One of the show’s contributors told the story of Perotine Massey, a Guernsey woman burned for heresy by the Roman Catholics. She gave birth while in the flames. The baby was tossed back into the fire after it burst from her burning stomach and landed—alive—at the feet of a soldier guarding the pire.

This awful event was described in the quaint “Old English” title given to a contemporary engraving depicting the burning as: “A lamentable spectacle of three women, with a child infant brasting out of the Mothers Wombe, being first taken out of the fire, and cast in agayne, and so all burned together in the Isle of Guernsey, 1556 July 18.”

Such an account might confirm the superiority of Protestant Christianity to the brutality of Roman Catholicism—except that Protestants did the same sort of things to Catholics, not to mention to Native Americans.

Yes, they did, Frankie. In fact, followers of pretty much every religion known to man have at one time or another engaged in barbaric behavior. So what’s your point?

There is a “reason” for such viciousness: theology practiced as if it is an exact science. Call this the Roman Church/Protestant idea of spirituality as “correct” belief. That’s a liability. The equivalent would be to say that you’re only married if you can pass an exam on the correct details of your spouse’s life history, beliefs, likes and dislikes, blood-type and food preferences.

Frankie doesn’t like “correct” belief. He prefers incorrect belief, evidently. What he actually means is, “I object to anyone claiming that what they believe is correct, except me. I am correct, which is why I can say as many slanderous and/or foolish things about people I disagree with as I want, because I can guarantee that I will never get violent, except rhetorically.”

Oh, and by the way, Frankie—heaven help you if you can’t tell your wife those things. Because if you are operating under the illusion that your wife is actually, say, Michelle Obama, or you don’t know anything about her likes, dislikes, food preferences, etc., you’re going to be getting acquainted with the inside of your garage in an intimate way.

A theological approach to religious faith attempts to reduce something intuitive to an exact “science.” Tick the “wrong” box and you fail the exam.

It’s an approach taken by virtually no one except a handful of extremely fringe rationalists, but Frankie is convinced that all of Western Christianity is nothing more than a reflection of hyper-intellectual hyper-Calvinism.

From liberal to fundamentalist to charismatic, the Protestant denominations are still as united in their commitment to salvation-through-correct-ideas as are the Roman Catholics. The root of the Protestant commitment to salvation through correct belief lies in the retributive and juridical “rationalistic” history of the Roman Catholic Church from which all Protestant denominations evolved. Western Christianity has relied heavily on signing up to “correct” doctrines in order to be saved. Catholics and Protestants may disagree on what is correct but they agree that correct doctrine is needed for salvation.

Somewhere, Francis Schaeffer is shaking his head and wondering where he went wrong. I suspect it was keeping Frankie locked in a closet all those years and forbidding him from getting an education, which is the only explanation for this kind of know-nothing drivel.

The problem is that the book around which these “correct” doctrines are spun is not a book at all. In that sense it “says” so many things that it says nothing. So the book is a great mine to dig anything out of needed to support one’s personal tyranny over others but it is nothing more than that.

For any book to “say” something it has to fulfill 2 tests: First it has to be a work of non-fiction whose truth claims can be corroborated from outside of itself. Second, it has to be by one author or at least by authors who know each other and collaborate to bring their message to readers.

So fiction can’t “say something.” So a collection of essays by people with a common belief who don’t know one another and collaborate on the content can’t “say something,” can’t convey truth. Pardon the snark, but does this sound like the thinking of an educated person, or the ranting of a fanatic no longer in touch with reality?

Oh, and if I was Frankie’s priest or bishop, I’d be calling him in and asking him why he has rejected Eastern Orthodoxy, since as far as I know the Orthodox Church has not repudiated the Bible or declared it to no longer be a source of Christian truth and teaching.

What it can’t be and at the same time be said to have a single coherent message worth killing people over, is a collection of myths, essays, letters, stories, recorded oral history, misinformation and fables that were gradually collected and added to over thousands of years without the authors being aware that their bits and pieces of writing would someday be seen as “chapters” in one “book.” And since little to nothing in the book can be corroborated from outside testable sources, its truth claims (real or imagined) are worthless if taken as “fact”-based let alone in a juridical sense and then used to judge others.

And at this point I think we can pretty well conclude that Frankie Schaeffer—whose ignorance of the Bible, biblical history, biblical archaeology, theology, church history, and virtually any other subject on which he pontificates knows no apparent bounds—has been so thoroughly consumed by hatred of what he used to stand for and be that there is nothing left except a pile of ashes that occassionally growls at the world around it. Read it all, if you can stomach it.


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6 comments

Frank Schaeffer strikes me as someone pretty obscure today. He had his 15 minutes when he attacked his dad with a lot of things…I guess I can’t call them ‘lies’ because they can’t be proven or disproven either way. But now the secular left (who paid for his trash) has moved on from him, abandoning their ‘mole’, and they are on to other things.

Frank must be desperate for some recognition these days…poor, sad man. My God forgive him and bring him to repentance for what he has done.

“Do not move
    Let the wind speak
      that is paradise.

Let the Gods forgive what I
      have made
Let those I love try to forgive
      what I have made.” (Ezra Pound, Canto CXX)

[1] Posted by All-Is-True on 9-21-2012 at 01:50 PM · [top]

Frank Schaeffer strikes me as someone pretty obscure today.

The only time I’ve seen him in recent years is when I’ve channel-surfed over to MSNBC. Several times I’ve had to resist the urge to throw something at the TV when I’ve done so.

[2] Posted by the virginian on 9-21-2012 at 03:33 PM · [top]

Once upon a time, a younger version of myself asked a recent convert to Orthodoxy, what I should read about the EO church.  He had some positive recommendations and one negative one.  His negative recommendation was to ignore anything vitriolic written by Franky Schaeffer.

[3] Posted by J Eppinga on 9-21-2012 at 04:07 PM · [top]

Evidently Frankie has decided to try out for the role of village <strike>atheist</strike> idiot. 

Fixed that for you.

[4] Posted by Jackie on 9-22-2012 at 02:44 PM · [top]

I can’t help but wonder if Frankie has any friends that display the love of Christ to him. There is a part of me that actually identifies with his frustration over the knowledge Vs relationship part of Christianity.

It does appear that he can’t seem to find the intimacy with Christ that is needed for a functional faith. Without that, a smart person is going to end up in a place of cynicism, much like what Frankie seems be experiencing. I think that intimacy is often something that is modelled in the church (or not). It can’t be taught from a creed. The anger in him does make me wonder what the emotional tone of his home life was.

I still believe that the very fact that Frankie is still travelling in Christian circles and attacking the church/Christians may be a sign of hope for his eventual healing. Apathy is often a worse prognosis than open hostility.

Let’s remember to pray for him, even as he irritates us! His parents would want that, I’m sure.

[5] Posted by Capn Jack Sparrow on 9-22-2012 at 10:45 PM · [top]

“For any book to ‘say’ something it has to fulfill 2 tests: First it has to be a work of non-fiction whose truth claims can be corroborated from outside of itself. . . .”

Is Frankie repudiating his career as a novelist? I rather enjoyed his novel Portofino and thought it “said” quite a lot, even if it was fiction.

As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I cannot entirely disagree with Schaeffer’s characterization of Western Christianity as overly rationalistic, though I think he exaggerates and over-generalizes: It would not be difficult to find exceptions, and, moreover, the pendulum now seems to be moving back towards the center of the rational/empirical spectrum. But Schaeffer’s own stance seems to be at least as rationalistic as that of the Christianity he repudiates. Can he not see the huge log in his own eye?

[6] Posted by Roland on 9-27-2012 at 01:58 PM · [top]

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