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Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life Hardcover – June 13, 2008
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"Francis Schaeffer was an amazing man-intellectually brilliant and set on truth, emotionally intense, devoted to God and compassionate; like Jeremiah, perplexed by the world, not because he didn't understand it but because he did. As one of his editors, I came to know him well, but only after he emerged as a writer. For me Colin Duriez fills in the fascinating details of his early years. Yes, this was the man I knew-one who was surprised by God as his influence grew from his pastoring small churches to teaching thousands in auditoriums around the world, from conversations one on one or with a handful of students to intellectual sparring with elite secular scholars and pundits. Duriez knows his subject; Schaeffer, the Jeremiah of the twentieth century, walks and talks again in these pages."
—James W. Sire, Author, The Universe Next Door and A Little Primer on Humble Apologetics
"An excellent biography of this influential thinker, mingling personal memories and theological analysis. A must for Schaeffer's admirers and those wanting to develop his heritage today."
—Alister McGrath, Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion, University of Oxford
"Francis Schaeffer taught evangelicals how to understand their world, exerting a profound influence over the next generation of young leaders after the publication in 1968 of The God Who Is There and Escape from Reason. His ministry at L'Abri, a Swiss center for caring for the hurt and the doubtful, had persuaded him of the need to discern how alternative worldviews had interacted over time with the Christian faith. He led the way, long before it was fashionable, in analyzing culture. Colin Duriez, who studied under Schaeffer and has interviewed many who were shaped by him, has written a lively biography that will introduce this powerful apologist to the twenty-first century."
—David Bebbington, Professor of History, University of Stirling
"I thank God for this unique servant of the Lord and now for this book. Dr Schaeffer was one of the most influential men in my life and in the movement of O.M. He affirmed us when many leaders were still keeping their distance. In 1966 he was the main speaker at an O.M. conference in Forest Hill, London, and our movement was never the same. This unique book is way overdue, and especially those of us who were impacted by this amazing man are very grateful. What Dr. Schaeffer wrote years ago is even more relevant in this postmodern era."
—George Verwer, Founder, Operation Mobilization
About the Author
Colin Duriez has appeared as a commentator on several mainstream documentaries, has authored biographies of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, and studied for several months under Francis Schaeffer at Swiss L’Abri before reading English and philosophy at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. He writes books, edits, and lectures.
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Top Customer Reviews
Despite my indebtedness, and despite his influence over me, I know so little about Francis Schaeffer. Though widely admired, it seems that few people have taken on the challenge of documenting his life (his son's recent attempt notwithstanding). It was with great interest, then, that I turned to Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life, a new biography written by Colin Duriez, who has previously written accounts of the lives of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
The publisher's description aptly summarizes the content. "From his working-class childhood in Pennsylvania, to the founding of L'Abri, his personal crisis of faith, and his latter years as a compassionate controversialist in the worldwide spotlight, all the eras of Schaeffer's life unfold within these pages. But Duriez, who studied under and interviewed Schaeffer, also takes a deeper look, revealing those distinct life phases, as well as Schaeffer's teachings and his complexities as a person, within their historical context so that contemporary readers may better understand all of who Schaeffer was--and why he still matters today." Duriez depends largely on oral history he gathered--upwards of 150,000 words of it, to describe the life of this great Christian.
I find that there are at least two kinds of biographies. There are some where the reader closes the cover and feels as if he now knows a lot about the book's subject; then there is the occasional sublime biography where the reader closes the book and feels as if he truly knows the subject. While I wanted this biography to fit in the latter category, I feel that it fits instead in the former. This is not meant as a critique as much as an honest assessment. Though the book has undoubtedly increased my knowledge of Francis Schaeffer, my respect for him, and my understanding of his impact on the church, I do not feel as if I really know him, as perhaps I did with Jonathan Edwards after reading Marsden's great account of his life or with Whitefield after enjoying Dallimore's two-volume masterpiece.
Yet the book stands on its own merits and it stands well. It is thorough without being burdensome and grapples well with the complexities of Francis Schaeffer, his life, and his ministry. It describes a man who had a unique gift for teaching and a deep, reverent love for his Saviour.
The best and, to my knowledge, the only full-length biography of Schaeffer available today, this one is well worth the read. I do not think it will stand in history as the definitive account of Schaeffer's life, but it is still a very good account and one that will bless you as you read it. If you have been influenced by Schaeffer or if you have sought to understand his ministry, you will want to secure a copy for yourself.
Colin Duriez is sympathetic toward the Schaeffers and deeply appreciative of the time he studied under Francis, yet at the same time he is engaged in writing an authentic and carefully researched biography, of telling "true Truth" (to use Schaeffer's nomenclature) about this extraordinary man. While noting Frank Schaeffer's very subjective memoir, and even quoting from it on occasion, he acknowledges that it added little to what he already knew (little, that is, that can be documented, that actually squares with reality). What he takes issue with is Frank's contention that his father kept up a "facade of conviction" in his latter years, something he says is not borne out by the evidence. And that's about all we hear of the strange memoir until near the end of the book where, in a footnote, Duriez cannot seem to restrain his feelings, noting that "he [Frank] is at times in error over fact or interpretation . . . in his unashamedly subjective and at times bizarre memoir." That's a restrained critique by a historian.
But enough of what the book is not. What it is is the best biographical treatment of the man and his mission that has yet been written --- scholarly, without being pedantic or lifeless; sufficiently nuanced, without chasing every thread of the man's life and work; sympathetic, and yet not avoiding the truth about the man's weaknesses and struggles. If you want to feel what animated Francis and Edith Schaeffer, to be caught up in the emotion of what they felt, read Edith's Tapestry and L'Abri. (Set aside sufficient time for their combined 906 pages, however!) But this is the biography for most to read, as it is concise and yet comprehensive enough not to miss any important detail of their story.
In eight chapters and a total of 208 pages, Duriez covers Schaeffer from birth in 1912 until death in 1984 from cancer. Along the way he speaks of his conversion, his years as a pastor, his involvement with the separatist movement and subsequent divergence from it, the L'Abri years, and the latter years of films and more political involvement. What emerges is a portrait of a man who, like any Christian, matured in faith and whose understanding of scripture and culture developed. And yet, looking at Francis Schaeffer's whole life, there no sense that he was a wholly different person in 1975 than in 1955. What comes across is his integrity and consistency. And while Duriez acknowledges Schaeffer's occasional anger or impatience, and even his depression, none of this does anything to damage his reputation. They endear him to us, demonstrating his humanity and his honesty (as these failings and struggles were acknowledged by him to those who knew him).
For most who are familiar with the Schaeffers and who have, perhaps, read Tapestry and L'Abri, much of what is written here will be familiar and unsurprising. What Duriez's succinct book does, however, is provide a kind of condensation for those much longer stories. I found myself drawn back into memories of some details contained in those books that were not included here, a very helpful effect. But the book is more than a revised Tapestry. It also contains excerpts of fresh interviews with the daughters of Francis and Edith Schaeffer: Priscilla, Susan, and Debbie. Once again, there are no surprises, and yet it is helpful to hear their memories and to hear the respect they had for their parents. Then are many other interviews as well, with L'Abri workers like Os Guinness and Dick and Marti Keyes, and perhaps going back farther than any other, with Hurvey and Dorothy Woodson (who actually had a L'Abri in Italy in the late 1950s). Dorothy said that "When Mr. Schaeffer would talk to you, there was nothing else in the world that was going on. He was totally focused on you and what you were talking about. . . ." Great comment. And that's how it goes. Real insights are given into the character of the man. Much is there to emulate.
I recommend Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life. If you think you already know him, this summary study of his character will sharpen your appreciation for him. If you don't know much about him, you'll meet someone you want to know better. And if all you've read is Frank Schaeffer's Crazy for God, remedy ignorance: get the "true Truth" here. (taken from [...])