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Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life
Colin Duriez, Wheaton, Illinois, Crossway Books, 2008
ISBN 987-158134-857-6, 240 pages, hardback. $24.99
Colin Duriez presents a first-rate, insightful account of the life and ministry of Francis Schaeffer. Arranged chronologically, Duriez, makes clear at the outset that he is not only writing in a disinterested fashion, but rather hopes that his book might “play a little part in drawing a new generation of readers to Schaeffer’s crucial work and message” (10). While not attempting to romanticize the man, Duriez is committed to a realistic portrait of Schaeffer’s humanity which involves both his “strengths and flaws” (11). What sets this biography of Schaeffer above others is that he faithfully keeps Schaeffer in his historical context or as Duriez says: “in the context of his times, portraying the formation of his ideas and the genesis of his lectures, writings, seminars, and movies, as well as the complex person and his relationships” (11). Based on first-hand knowledge of Schaeffer, his own time at L’Abri, and countless interviews with family and friends, this work pulsates with historical integrity showing the authentic life of the man, Francis Schaeffer.
Duriez’s work provides a refreshing corrective to some who have been less than charitable or accurate in their treatment of Schaeffer, especially his commitments to the Christian Right (see chapter eight). The story of Schaeffer and Hans Rookmaaker demolishes the idea that it was Rookmaaker who interested Schaeffer in the arts. The unfolding story of Schaeffer shows his love for humanity and how that eventually shaped his gracious attitude towards even those with whom he disagreed.
I am confident that those who read this book for what it is will realize that Duriez has, in fact, put us in contact with the true Schaeffer, the teacher (Duriez’s designate for Schaeffer) who pushed those who truly listened to explore more, to learn more, to be more prepared for living as a Christian and human being in today’s post-Christian, media-rich, exciting, dangerous world (10). He provides a picture of a man who never stopped thinking about his Christianity which in many ways is what made him such a powerful voice for Christianity—a great lesson for those who continue to be right theologically, but arrogant epistemologically.
Bruce A. Little, PhD
Professor of Philosophy, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Director, L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture