As someone who knew Francis Schaeffer personally - I am delighted with the personal approach the author has taken in re-introducing us to the man who - as much as any other single person - shaped the thinking of an entire generation. I can only pray that such a thinker emerges to salvage this one!
C's review above is an excellent overview of this book, so I won't waste a lot of words repeating what has already been said. If someone wants a reasonably priced book (surely this is one) that efficiently sums up the life and thought of Francis Schaeffer, this is a fair and balanced effort. There are certainly tomes out there that will overwhelm you with minute details, but unless you are doing a doctoral thesis, I think this book will help you adequately understand the basics of the man and what motivated him. This is a good and fairly quick read, but you'll need to read other books to get a more full understanding. A good buy.
Somewhat difficult reading for me because I have limited familiarity with philosophical and theological scholarship
March 31, 2015
This book did provide the overall impression of Francis Schaeffers Christian significance and influence that I was looking for, plus 28 enjoyable photos of Francis and Edith, their parents, and their children. The book was a straightforward account of the phases of Schaeffers life from birth to death and included many comments drawn from 180,000 words of oral history gathered about Schaeffer from his family and friends. The author was a student of Schaeffers and later was his friend.
An interview by Duriez with Schaeffer late in S.s life is quoted in several spots in the text and is provided in full as an Appendix. This interview represented (for me) the best accessible opportunity for comprehending Schaeffers actual beliefs and attitudes with regard to several contemporary Christian issues (such as, for instance, whether or not total pacifism is possible in our times).
The text of the book gave me mostly the impression of a Schaeffer who was more deeply into abstruse intellectualizing about philosophical discernments regarding false and deadly approaches to Biblical Truth than a man who was thinking in practical terms about how Christians should or could live an authentic Christian life within the time frame of world events and Christian Thought in his times 20-30 years ago. I perceived Schaeffer as a man who was quite angry about the nature of villainous thought [my adjective], the identity of the culprits whod begun incipient dishonest use of the Bible, and the demise in our time of the true Truth of real Christianity due to wrong choices in Bible-based conceptual ideation about Christian Truth. S. was especially enimical to Karl Barth for his perceived sinister influence, the seeds of which S. thought went all the way back to Thomas Aquinas. I was intrigued by that opinion but I wasnt able to understand very well the reasons author Duriez gave as to why Schaeffer thought Aquinass method of discerning Biblical Truth was pernicious. The reason that I couldnt understand was that I found Duriezs use of philosophical and theological terminology beyond my scant familiarity with those areas of study. I also lacked familiarity with the names of some persons who had apparently influenced philosophic/theologic thinking in the direction of our perceived state of modernist and post-modernist disaster; therefore, I couldnt readily call to mind the meaningful significance of each mentioned philosophers or theologians body of thought which had a liberalizing effect on Bible-based faith in contemporary society from the 1940s into the 80s and 90s. I had heard of some of the modern philosophers referred to, such as Kirkegaard and Nietsche, but had never heard of others, such as Cornelius Van Til and Herman Dooreyeweerd. I had heard of Karl Barth, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Paul Tillich, and not Brunner, but I did not know their ideas, and I had no notion of how their thought seemingly (to my understanding of the text) developed in a trajectory out from the thinking of Barthall of which was a matter of concern for Schaeffer. Readers familiar with philosophical and theological terminology and scholarship will surely enjoy the book and get much more out of it than readers like myself who must struggle with same.
Duriez necessarily had to discuss at least summarily the state and process in advancement of Schaeffers philosophic and theologic concerns, but Duriez stated that he felt a biography was not the place to explain and deal in depth with Schaeffers thought. Duriez nevertheless conveyed some of the development over time of Schaeffers philosophical and theological convictions as S. was becoming increasingly vocal on the danger of a new, deceptive liberalism as regards the Bible. Schaeffers experience of an intense faith crisis eventually resulted in Schaeffers deep experience of the Holy Spirit which effected a change in his attitudes and his personality.
Duriez points out Schaeffers large influence on Protestant evangelicals and the role of Protestant evangelical values in politics, especially around the time of Ronald Reagans presidency.
Duriez says in his Preface that he has portrayed the establishment and impact of the LAbri community, and the deeper idea of a shelter, as Schaeffers most representative and abiding achievement, showing the development of this unique phenomenon and revealing its importance in the context of church and recent cultural history. Yes, Id agree Duriez has done that. The phenomenon that was LAbri came across pretty vividly to me.
In defining the essence of Francis Schaeffer, Duriez says that ironically, although he attacked old and new modernism, existentialism, and neo-orthodoxy, he demonstrated what might be called an existential Christianity." That is, Schaeffer eventually evinced a practice of living in the moment; embracing the reality of existence; seeing the underpinning certainty of Christian faith in the historical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ... And Schaeffer came to expect the Holy Spirit to influence persons so as to bring about a conversion in their lives.
Duriez deems Schaeffer an original thinker, which nonderivative and perhaps avant-garde quality in him [my adjectives] he deems remarkable and perhaps unique in someone who was Biblically orthodox. Id have liked to come away from the book with a bit more distinctive insight into Ediths personality, her thought, and her more essential role (which there surely must have been) in Franciss personal development and in his life. Duriez passed over her Hidden Art without saying much about what that was: Was it just the book of that title or was it an important call of some kind throughout her life?