“Schaeffer Sunday” Book review of Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life, by Colin Duriez

I have read several books about Schaeffer’s life and I hope to read this one soon.


Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life, by Colin Duriez


A decade ago, my pastor at the time introduced me to Francis Schaeffer. Since then, I have read his trilogy, The God Who Is ThereEscape from Reason and He Is There and He Is Not Silent, annually and read through The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview (5 Volume Set) at least four times. Outside the Bible, Schaeffer’s writings have influenced my thinking more than any other. It is from that perspective that I read Colin Duriez’s biography, Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life.Admittedly, my expectations were unattainably high, but I was moderately disappointed. A characteristic of a good biography is the way an almost intimate relationship develops between the reader and the subject. When the reader puts the book down, it should be as if they’ve ended a conversation with a close friend (unless the subject is a villain—in which case the reader is anxious to leave but somehow mysteriously drawn to return). Such was not the case with this biography.This is not to say that there were not periods of intimacy. There were, but they were isolated and disjointed. As a matter of fact, that seems to be the best descriptor for the book—disjointed. The author consistently jumps from subject to subject with very little regard for developing and focusing on a theme. Here is an example:

In those two remaining years from the move to Chalet Bijou to the beginning of an extended furlough in the United States, the work of lecturing throughout Europe on the dangers of the New Modernism and maintaining and encouraging the Children for Christ outreach continued. Mingled into it, hospitality and question times for constant visitors to Chalet Bijou became a significant element in a slowly changing focus. Fran and Edith’s perpetual activity on this “escalator” of events was punctuated in this period by a new and distinctive arrival in the family, following the disappointment and grief of a previous miscarriage. Franky, as he was known through much of his life (Francis August Schaeffer V), was born August 3, 1952. He is now well-known as the novelist Frank Schaeffer and is also a filmmaker and artist who wrote brash books in the eighties for an unwieldy evangelical constituency along the lines of his father’s concerns, such as Addicted to Mediocrity, before converting to Eastern Orthodoxy. His Calvin Becker trilogy of novels (Portofino, 1996, Saving Grandma, 1997, and Zermatt, 2003) openly mocks a “fundamentalist” and pietistic lifestyle.

And so goes most of the book. In that paragraph alone, the author spans decades of topics from Schaeffer lecturing during a furlough to the birth of a son to that son’s controversial writings. Rather than building a familiarity with the subject, the reader is left with a feeling of vertigo.

Despite the lack of coherency, it was a worthwhile read. In addition to the beneficial snippets scattered throughout the book (such as the brief section dealing with Schaeffer’s confrontation with Barth—fascinating, especially considering how he skewered Barth in his writings), overall it was encouraging. Many biographies portray giants of the faith as springing forth Athena-like, fully developed from the womb. Piper seems to have been laser-focused on his mission statement since seminary. Tozer seemed never to waver from the time he pastored a tiny rural church in West Virginia. Spurgeon evidently was born with sword in one hand and trowel in the other. Schaeffer was not that way. He developed and grew and struggled throughout his lifetime. He mellowed in some areas and maintained his fiery firmness in others. Despite the areas in which he could have improved the book, the author could not have picked a better title. Of all the things one could say about the life of Francis Schaeffer, the most accurate is that his was an authentic life. Just as he knew that God is there and is not silent, he lived authentically before Him.

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Crossway Books (May 31, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1581348576

Posted by Pastor Jimat 9:18 AM

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