December 2, 2020

The Weekend File 12:08:07: A Must Read Interview with Frank Schaefer + More

belushi1941.jpgOldspeak is the blog of John Whitehead, who has connections with the Schaeffer story, so it’s no surprise he has the best interview I’ve seen with Frank Schaefer regarding Crazy For God and many of the true, but controversial aspects of the book. It’s a must read interview.

On the same subject, Frank Schaefer’s early attempts to be an apologist of sorts for Orthodoxy weren’t warmly received by all the Orthodox. Some have written me to make sure I know that. I’m not quite sure what this kind of criticism is all about, since any famous convert is likely to write about his/her conversion. In Crazy for God, Schaeffer leaves the Orthodox apologetics at home. But in fairness to the folks who were insistent I post this link, here it is.

BHT fellow Travis Prinzi raises a fascinating issue regarding John Piper’s way of describing the relationship of the Father and the Son. Travis’s blog, Restless Reformer, is always good. Make it an RSS feed.

Dick Staub has a very good program on The Golden Compass and Pullman’s trilogy in general over at The Kindling’s Muse blog. As always, the discussions are diverse, intelligent and helpful. There are some spoilers, but parents probably won’t mind. It appears to me, btw, that the movie is not going to be a hit in America, which doesn’t surprise me. Narnia and Middle Earth had a considerable advantage in the public mind and years of build-up. Someone somewhere was reluctant to give this movie the same kind of push, and the pre-movie advertising left it very unclear what the movie was all about. (Too much Nicole Kidman.) Al Mohler also has some helpful and constructive things to say about Christians and this film.

Anyone know the proper use of the word “smarmy” when applied to Christian bloggers?

Finally, just to clarify a couple of things: 1) Certain well known bloggers who won’t stop using the term post-evangelical have- seriously- no idea what a post-evangelical is or how most of us use the label. Agreeing to certain bloggers’ assumed authority to define the terms used in all discussions is not a universal moral obligation. If it helps keep things simple for some of you, have at it.

Note this comment that perfectly represents what I mean.

As far as terms go, I am not drawn to very much that comes from present-day emergent, but I do like the term post-evangelical. Evangelicalism has over the decades collected a lot of strange debris that I really don’t care much for. Rather than re-invent doctrine and ecclesiology, I’m for returning to the simplicity of Acts 2:42-47, and immersing ourselves in the whole counsel of Scripture. My fear is that evangelicalism has turned the concept of church into a self-feeding monster.

2) Most of us who get thrown in by such bloggers into the Brian Mclaren fan club are not Mclaren followers, and many of us have little, if any, appreciation for Mclaren. Using Mclaren as the straw man for everyone who isn’t a “real Calvinist’ (RC?) is just another bullying ploy.

When a TR/RC uses the term evangelical as a NORM that shouldn’t be deconstructed, I’m amazed.

3) Before you type the standard response that pomos won’t define terms, see if you can get the folks I’m referring to to simply identify themselves- Yes or No- as:

Reformed Baptists
Truly Reformed
Evangelicals. (No qualifications. What’s good for all those emerging criticisms is good for the critic as well.)


  1. Considering that Frank Shaeffer’s activities as an apologist for Eastern Orthodoxy seem to have been extremley low-key for a long time (“The Christian Activist” ceased publication quite a while ago), and considering that the document you link to was written in 2005, it seems to me that there is a certain lack of forgiveness at work here. Surely, if his activities still were problematic from an EO perspective, his critics could have found some more recent evidence than that?

    I never was a great fan of Francis Schaeffer, and I noted the tone of anger towards his Evangelical heritage in some of Frank Schaeffer’s writings but neither am I a great fan of the way some people tend to stick labels on others which then are almost more indelible than the mark of the priesthood conferred by ordination according to Roman Catholic belief — and no-where near as beneficial.

  2. I kind of agreed with those others who objected to Franky’s “spilling the beans” on his family.

    After reading the interview, I actually have more respect for Francis and Franky. I have seen this kind of weirdness in evangelicals and the glossy-eyed cover up that goes with it and I’m glad that Franky talks frankly about it. Only when we confess our sins to each other can we be healed. That is one ancient church practice that would surely do us some good.

  3. The Orthodox seem to be about as prickly as porcupines. I am not surprised they would distance themselves from Schaeffer.

    I recently listened to some mp3 talks given at an Orthodox conference at the Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland.

    One was the testimony of journalist Terry Mattingly. From his account, he had to shoulder his way into orthodoxy with the nearest parish trying hard to keep him out. He said he would call for service times and they would not tell him. And when he went, he was regarded with suspicion and aloofness.
    Orthodoxy seems more ethnic and xenophobic than I imagined. Mattingly said they are suspicious of non- Greeks (Russians, – whatever the flavor of orthodoxy.)And they are not wild about enthusiastic protestant converts.

    Another speaker was Kyriacos C. Markides, author of Mountain of Silence. During Q&A he was asked about orthodox evangelism. And he seemed truly offended by the idea that the orthodox should try to get someone to become orthodox, or even Christian for that matter. He said it was arrogant to tell a Buddhist or Muslim they were wrong. Apparently, if you are born Orthodox, that’s fine. Otherwise, don’t bother applying.

    I am sure that some will protest these characterizations, but that’s what I heard being communicated.

  4. I think the reason why people want to make sure that you realize that Schaeffer isn’t well recieved in Orthodoxy is because you stated that he was “a leading member of his communion” in the commments to your post on his book. That’s a strong claim to make for someone that’s claimed elsewhere not to know much of anything about Orthodoxy. And since he’s not a leading member they want to make sure you know that and don’t put him forward as such (after all, there are many who read your blog who don’t know the first thing about Orthodoxy – they might just take your word for it).

    Also, you’re as critical as anyone of convert-apologists. So why would you of all people not understand someone’s frustration with such a person?

  5. Terry,

    Many Orthodox parishes are indeed very ethnic and often they aren’t very concerned about “evangelism” because many of them are only concerned with working and sending money back to their native country where there is often great persecution of Christians or otherwise poor living conditions. The parish exists just as an extension of the ethnic community and sometimes they don’t even understand why someone would want to convert to Orthodoxy if they’re not Greek or Russian or Lebanese, etc.

    Concerning Markides: He was raised Orthodox on the island of Cyprus but later in life left the church. As an academic, he became interested in Eastern religions and related topics and eventually rediscovered Orthodox spirituality through his study. Thus his various books. However, Markides doesn’t represent Orthodox thinking in that he thinks that all religions lead to God. That’s why in his view it’s offensive for one person to tell another that they’re wrong (whether Muslim, Buddhist, whatever). But that’s most certainly not how the Orthodox view it – most will tell you pretty clearly that they’re the one true church.

    Also, it’s foolish to assume that “evangelism” will look the same in Orthodoxy as it does in the West. In the Orthodox church, evangelism is modeled on monasticism and ascesis. I believe it was St. Seraphim who said that if one acquires the spirit of peace, then a thousand souls around us will be saved. In other words, Orthodoxy is fundamentally centered on living the Christian life (ascesis) and growing in Christian virtue and in mediating God’s peace others will be drawn to Christ. A rather different view than trying to convince people to accept a series of propositions or to scare them into conversion by threatening them will hell or by appealing to their baser desires by modeling the church and Christian life on culture at large. I think there’s a lot that can be learned from Orthodoxy on this point.

    Finally, I’ve been to lots of different Orthodox churches of different stripes and have never felt unwelcome, so my hunch is that the journalist’s story is the exception rather than the rule.

  6. mort_chien says

    Thank you Michael for posting the interview and the Orthodox review. This helps a lot and clears up everything for me. Not being as well informed as you on who is who means I must rely on such things before I make book suggestions. Amazon reviews simply define the extremes. Based on this info you supplied I could recommend Schaeffer to most people that I work with, the only exceptions being covered in earlier posts.

    Thank you again,

  7. There’s a chance Dick Staub will be speaking at our church during the Sundance Film Festival this year. We’ve really stepped up some efforts to help give many of our evangelical-minded folks a stronger heart towards evangelism…in ways they never dreamed of. We’ve had a real push towards having Christians communicate through the arts. One of the things that we do is have families host Christian and non-christian artists during their time at Sundance. Why? To hopefully dispel some sad assumptions that Christians hate everyone except other Christians.

    Hey, did I use post-evangelical in a wrong way? For me Evangelicalism was the system of church 1970’s – 2000 that I did so much ministry in, and so much of it I wanted to jettison. 15 years of youth ministry causes one to be a bit more missionally minded. You’re dealing with kids from all sorts of crazy backgrounds, and it feels normal. “Big Church” was plastic people, sacred buildings, expensive cantatas and musicals that were about 20 years behind culture, and so on.

  8. On the Orthodox thing (and I’m NOT Orthodox): Of all the churches I have visited, the Orthodox one was the most welcoming, with the most people trying to meet me and stike up a conversation. Granted, it was not an ethnically dominated congregation (Antiochian). But one should realise that there are friendly and unfriendly congregations in every single branch of Christianity.

    The initial criticism of Frank Schaeffer was centred around the perception that he carried “evangelical” methodology into Orthodoxy – what the current situation is, I don’t know.

    And regarding those definitions: I could identify myself as evangelical ONLY if considered in the original Lutheran use of that term. Otherwise, I’m none of those…

  9. excellent PoMo series at Regent Radio this week

    “Lecture Title: Why the Word of God?
    This series is an exercise in Spiritual Theology and seeks to demonstrate the relational nature of Christian discipleship as portrayed in John’s Gospel. Since John’s Gospel has always been counter-cultural, as interpreted by such reformers as Augustine, Luther, and Kierkegaard, its rebuttal of classical and gnostic cultures continues to challenge us today as we face post-modernism’s question of ‘doing theology’ the traditional way.”

  10. I respect the Schaefers more after reading this interview. It seems that that one can relate to their story and minnistry more because they were real people. It is refreshing to hear that someone of his stature could tell someone that he understood suicidal depression rather than just say “be a overcomer, you are a new creature, bla bla bla”.
    I find it encouraging that the concern with frank and the Orthodox was the issue of just chainging one fundimentalism for another. Like he says, that is not the Orthodox way. Its about mystery.
    Something that should speak to us about Orthodox is the fact that there are three official recognized theologins in of the Church. One is the writer of the gospel of John, another was a poet. Mystery is the heart of the matter, with theological overtones, not the other way around.

    Some might enjoy the story of a Wheaton Collage Baptist Pastor who was the pastor of Moody Bible Inst. President.
    This is his story-

    Wilbur David Ellsworth

  11. Well, the Orthodox Church in America has a mission in my neighborhood, so it’s certainly interested in evangelism. I visited it once and it was very friendly. The linked review mentions that the OCA and Antiochan churches have been the most missional, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they are rather different from the ethnic-enclave churches.