And then there's this...

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June 04, 2008



I don't have enough knowledge of Os Guinness to have an opinion of what's he's written about in the book review, but I have watched Franky Schaeffer become slowly more and more bitter over the years. We enjoyed his first books (Addicted to Mediocrity) but later on, mentions of him were always shadowed with his every-changing (at least to the public) attitude towards his family and upbringing.

I didn't like him anymore. His anger just sort of slammed all that I'd read of his before.

Maybe there's an overwhelming honesty in his writing, but I don't see the benefit of it. It's more like he's hacked off and wants as many folks as possible to be on his side. I just don't buy that type of attitude. That, to me, is self-serving.

Btw, I hope this doesn't sound like I'm mad at you. :) Just get tired of anger, period. And Franky Schaeffer is one of my hot buttons!

Patricia Tryon

Yes, I think I can understand what you are saying. I was pretty hacked off at a couple of Frank's books (as my Amazon reviews show).

Here's what I think "Crazy" is about: a back story to the L'Abri thing, demonstrated not only by the problems of Frank and his parents, but more objectively apparent by what was done to John Sandri and by the views of two of Frank's sisters. For me, these things ratify what the book is about: that L'Abri cost the family at its center the ability to live with emotional authenticity. It cost them their hearts.

Why it matters is that L'Abri was, manifestly and unabashedly, not just about promoting a religious point of view, but about how to live. "What does it profit a family if they gain the attention of the evangelical world, but lose their emotional integrity?"

"Crazy" parallels a New Yorker article about a prominent Christian writer whose work, like the Schaeffers, seemed to help many families, but not her own. I don't care to name the writer or reproduce the link here, but email me if you think you'd like to see it.

Patricia Tryon

BTW -- do you think we might be about the last two people in the world to use the phrase "hacked off"? I just noticed that. Great minds... *grin*


Hmm . . . well, I don't think that Os owes his career to L'Abri at all. He wrote "Dust of Death" either while at L'Abri or shortly thereafter. He is a scholar, something that FAS never claimed to be, and has done important work. As he himself says, his mentor was Peter Berger. In other words, Guinness has an enormous appreciation for L'Abri, but he certainly is and was his own man.

Patricia Tryon

...and to what extent did his having been at L'Abri make him interesting and credible to publishers? That's the thing. Sans L'Abri, it's hard to see how he would have attained the prominence he has enjoyed in evangelical circles.

Looking at the big space CT allocated to this screed, one can only infer that "age has not withered... nor custom staled" the seemingly infinite thrall in which he and L'Abri are held by many evangelical ecclesial communities.

Guinness's patronizing view of women is fully on display in this article, never more so than when he extolls Mrs Schaeffer, a paragon who attained heights, in his view, not to be scaled by ordinary women. He glosses what her achievements might have cost her children and husband; indeed, he imposes his judgment instead of theirs as the canonical reading of her life.

And that's the problem with this article. Guinness tries to position himself as the person who can tell the "real" truth, or at least set boundaries on the truth that should be told. As far as I'm concerned, he's welcome to tell his version of the truth. He can do so without disputing to the point of demonizing someone else's.

And that's not post-modern, if you're headed that direction. It's catholic. Catholic, even.


As to who is able to tell the "real truth"...likely that is God alone; the rest of us have to piece it out. I find the Franky Schaeffer coda on his father and mother's achievements highly interesting. I don't judge him for it, it is his need to express his personal pain and bitterness... my family goes through this right now, we simply aren't so public.

It does not diminish my admiration and benefit from his parents work one whit, though. I feel Francis Schaeffer's work is monumental... the thinking is important and accessible- one of its strengths. He brought modern philosophy and culture into discussion with Christian doctrine, which was no small feat. It still works on that basis... try conversing in ways which bridge the gap between Christian thought and modern Western people without much of what he pioneered, both in the thinking and in the demeanor!

I feel the Schaeffers bravely attempted something quite ambitious; is that diminished by the fact that it wasn't fully successful? Did they truly lose the heart of their family when following the passion of their own? Can you have a family heart - with integrity- without having a place for the core of each persons passion? And is it in the child's interest that the child dictate the expression of their parents life work?
They could have been better parents, but there are many parents hobbled with faults who are gratefully loved and honored by their children. I don't know the way the dynamic works, but there are instances.

I'm still trying to gauge my own thoughts on that- difficult with my tremendous bias. But people each make their own place in life... and that is true of each of the Schaeffers. It is simply that many people [familiar through books and stories] are not very happy, either on the one side or the other of what that reality consists of...

This does not address the "wrongness" or "rightness" of what is actually said by Franky Schaeffer. I think Guinness tries to address that by balancing out with his own take on the situation.

Ought we skewer our parents publicly, even if they are public figures? I think this is what does not sit well with many in reading the latest of Franky's writings. It is a delicate thing to speak of the mistakes made and the wrongs done, yet give honor where it is due, as well. Perhaps we are incapable of that when in the throes of working out our hurt and anger. Maybe the books should be written after the emotional work is first done.

Patricia Tryon

Thanks for your very thoughtful comments.

For myself, I view Schaeffer's work not as a skewering of his parents, but as a telling of his own story. I think our stories belong to ourselves and it is up to us to decide whether to let a public record about our story, which does not square with what we believe to be true, stand uncorrected.

It is also my view that Schaeffer does not dishonor his parents at all in this book: to the contrary. He is respectful of the difficulties they faced and goes to considerable lengths to describe what he views as their strengths and successes. This, to me, is not a sign of someone who has not done his "emotional work": again, to the contrary.

Guiness's effort to correct Schaeffer's telling of his own story does not sit well with me. If Guinness would like to write his own biography, complete with a thorough and honest accounting of his life at L'Abri, he should do so. I do not think it appropriate for him to set himself as judge of someone else's story.

Again, thank you for your carefully considered reply to this thread.

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