The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Son of Famous Christian Apologist Has Become the Tool of the Radical Left

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I haven’t heard much from Frank Schaeffer, the son of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, for some time. It’s probably because I don’t frequent his new world of leftist politics and anti-Christian screeds. But there he was. Attacking all things Trump and all his supporters in a seven-minute video.

What we are seeing is an attempt of a coup d'etat at every level of society, from popular radicals like Frank Schaeffer and the clandestine Antifa crowd and their financial backers to the media and former military men.

Frank broke with his famous parents not long after his father’s death in 1984. The worldview he now despises made him famous and probably rich. Here’s how Dr. Gary North tells it:

Franky adopted a specific marketing plan for over a decade. It worked as long as his father was alive. He cultivated a specific pose — the angry young man — but after his father died, he started coming off as a whiny kid. Today, he is an aging “kid emeritus.” Still, his tantrums continue. He has now slandered the very industry that he did his best to cash in on for ten years: Christian publishing. My guess is that his book royalties have run out. So, he publicly bites the hand that no longer feeds him. [1]

In 2007, Frank wrote Crazy for God, seemingly a tell-all book about his life with his parents Francis and Edith Schaeffer and how he “helped found the religious right and ruin America.” It’s an angry book, and an immature memoir. By the time someone is a grandfather, memories of sex, drugs, rock and roll, and idiosyncratic parents should be a distant memory. Frank seems to remember all the bad things about growing up with his famous parents as a major worldview shift was taking place in the evangelical-fundamentalist world.

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There’s one paragraph in Crazy for God that caught my attention. It describes what was wrong with the Schaeffer’s worldview and what may have contributed to Frank’s disillusionment and angry denouncement of his work among evangelicals:

The debate [over abortion] became vicious. And Dad and I went from merely talking about providing compassionate alternatives to abortion, to actively working to drag evangelicals, often kicking and screaming, into politics. By the end of the Whatever Happened to the Human Race? tour, we were calling for civil disobedience, the takeover of the Republican Party, and even hinting at overthrowing our “unjust pro-abortion government.”[2]

Francis Schaeffer never worked out the implications of his worldview, although he did lay the groundwork for further discussion. A Christian Manifesto was Schaeffer’s most popular book. In the 1981 preface, Schaeffer began with “the Lordship of Christ over all of life—philosophy, theology and the church, art, music, literature, films, and culture in general. The books that followed dealt with and extended areas of Christ’s total Lordship in all of life.”[3] 

This led Schaeffer to ask about the “next logical step”: “What is the Christian’s relationship to government, law, and civil disobedience?” [4] He followed the arguments of Scottish Presbyterian Theologian Samuel Rutherford (1600–1661) set forth in his book Lex, Rex: Or the Law and the Prince.

Schaeffer claimed that Rutherford’s arguments were used by John Locke in a secularized form and also by John Witherspoon (1723–1794), one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, for the justification of the War for Independence. Rutherford wrote in a time when the king was the law—Rex, Lex, as Schaeffer put it—and there was no way to bring about social or political change from the people.

But civil disobedience was not the next biblical step in America. There was and is so much that could have and was done without the call for civil disobedience. What made the Schaeffer’s believe that civil disobedience would bring about change when they couldn’t get enough Christians to vote for change?

To advocate civil disobedience was and is an admission that no constructive alternative to the humanistic system existed, and he didn’t have one to offer. Being a critic is the first step, but it must be followed with reconstruction. Because of Schaeffer’s pessimistic eschatology—he was a classic premillennialist—he could not envision a long-term strategy for change. Civil disobedience seemed to be the logical alternative.

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What’s become of Francis Schaeffer’s Legacy? C. Everett Koop was the co-author of the book Whatever Happened to the Human Race? (and later a film series). He became Surgeon General under Ronald Reagan. Liberals attacked him because of his anti-abortion stance and his relationship with Schaeffer. “The nomination was held up for more than eight months. Only after Dr. Koop promised to abandon the antiabortion circuit and to refrain from using the Surgeon General’s office as a pulpit for his right-to-life beliefs did the Senate finally vote its approval.” [5]

Under questioning, Koop admitted that as Surgeon General, he would recommend abortion as one way of dealing with the unborn children of mothers with AIDS. By the spring of 1987, Koop was self-consciously in retreat from his earlier Christian position. With respect to abortion, he commented, “I’ve written all that I have to write on that issue. There are other, bigger things that I should turn my attention to as surgeon general: Where this country is and where it’s going in health care.” [6]

In 1986 and 1987, Koop officially called for sex education on AIDS in the public schools as early as kindergarten and for public school instruction on how to use condoms. Homosexuality had become a politically protected lifestyle. “I am the surgeon general of the heterosexuals and the homosexuals,” Koop argued, “of the young and the old, of the moral and the immoral, the married and the unmarried. I don’t have the luxury of deciding which side I want to be on.” [7] He had retreated to what Schaeffer called “the line of despair.”

This so-called neutral moral position cost people their lives. Koop should have come out denouncing the behaviors that were causing AIDS. He did it with smoking. Why was “safe sodomy” an option but not safe smoking? Cigarette smoking kills, the government was telling everyone. Laws had been passed to make it increasingly more difficult for people to smoke in public buildings. Tobacco products are heavily taxed. Do we find the following on tobacco products? “Caution: Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health.... So be sure to use a filter if you decide to smoke.” Koop was calling for condoms (filters) to help curtail the transmission of AIDS instead of denouncing the behavior that was spreading AIDS.

After his father’s death, Frank continued to speak and write, but he seemed to be going in another direction. He could not sustain his father’s worldview because there was no place to take it beyond cultural criticism. Several of his books hit the best-seller list. The most memorable was A Time for Anger (1982). He produced four low-budget movies that were flops. The worst was Wired to Kill (1987). “So, in the end,” film critic Ted Baehr wrote, “this is a humanistic film about humanistic despair, showing no way out, no alternative.... Stay away from Wired to Kill unless you want to weep at how an opportunity for Christian filmmakers was thrown away.” [8]

Frank expresses his frustration with evangelicals and fundamentalists in Crazy for God. I share some of his frustrations. But instead of walking away in denouncement, he should have used the capital that he and his father had built up to work for change. The religious right was in its infancy when Frank walked away. In many ways it was a lot like the picture he paints of himself in Crazy for God—angry, immature, and impulsive. Like him, it needed guidance and direction, not rejection.

Now, he is a tool of the radical left that is attempting a coup d'etat. History is strewn with such noble ideals only to turn to dust, bloodshed, and wholesale tyranny. The French and Russian revolutions come to mind.

The following is from my friend P. Andrew Sandlin, Founder and President at Center for Cultural Leadership:

Every cultural revolution includes the “progressive” elites standing on the sideline, cheering on, abetting, and funding the radicals subverting, looting, firebombing, and smashing “The Establishment.” 
Only in the end do they learn the grim truth they are insufficiently pure, zealous, and radical, and will face at the hands of the nihilistic fanatics Robespierre’s guillotine, figuratively or literally.
The revolution always eats its own, who all along hypocritically relied on the evenhanded liberty of the alleged corrupt society that permitted its own subversion — and in the end, they ironically perish along with the society that alone kept them viable.

  1. Franky Schaeffer, Please Shut Up!,” Position Paper on Blasphemy (March 1992).[]
  2. Frank Schaeffer, Crazy for God: How I Helped Found the Religious Right and Ruin America (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2007), 293. I’m quoting from the advanced reading copy. The official publication date was October 1, 2007.[]
  3. Schaeffer, “Preface,” A Christian Manifesto (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1981). This book can be found in the five-volume series The Complete Works of Francis A Schaeffer, 5:417.[]
  4. Schaeffer, “Preface” (1981), A Christian Manifesto (1981), Complete Works, 5:417.[]
  5. Quoted in Gary North, Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), 199.[]
  6. Gary North, Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1996), 1004–1006.[]
  7. Quoted in North, Political Polytheism, 201.[]
  8. North, Political Polytheism, 176–177.[]
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