Frank Schaeffer’s latest book: a review

by Neil Rickert

This will be a brief review of Schaeffer’s recent book:

  • Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God, Frank Scheffer 2014.

Full disclosure — I “purchased” the Kindle edition of this book when the price was right (i.e. it was free).

I follow Schaeffer’s blog: “Why I Still Talk to Jesus — In Spite of Everything“.  I at least skim most of the posts, but only read a few in detail.  Schaeffer is a relentless self-marketer.  Some of his posts are of broad interest, and some are just selling himself or his latest book.

I had already purchased (for real money), his previous book “And God said Billy”, but I stopped reading that about halfway through.  So I had decided not to buy his latest book.  Even when Schaeffer announced that it would be free for two days, I continued with my decision to not “buy”.

Then I read Benjamin Corey’s post “When Two Formerly Fundies Chat: My Video Interview With Frank Schaeffer (and get his new book FREE)!”  It was a great interview.  I recommend that you watch it.  For me, it was Corey, rather than Schaeffer, who was the star of that interview.  In any case, that’s when I changed my mind and picked up the Kindle book while it was still free.

My review

Schaeffer’s book is mostly a personal memoir.  I’m inclined to say that personal memoir’s are not my taste for reading.  So there was a good part of this book that I read more as duty than out of desire. However, there were some parts of the book that stood out as particularly worth reading.  So I shall concentrate mainly on those.

In chapters IX through XIII, Schaeffer gives his view of where Christianity (and especially evangelical Christianity) has gone wrong.  Here’s an excerpt:

Jesus certainly was not a “Bible believer,” as we use that term in the post Billy Graham era of American fundamentalist religiosity that’s used as a trade-marked product to sell religion. Jesus didn’t take the Jewish scriptures at face value. In fundamentalist terms, Jesus was a rule-breaking relativist who wasn’t even “saved,” according to evangelical standards. Evangelicals insist that you have to believe very specific interpretations of the Bible to be saved. Jesus didn’t. He undercut the scriptures.

A little later (in chapter XII, he writes:

The humanist Enlightenment was the catalyst for Jesus’ empathy time bomb, the message of inclusion for the excluded. The Enlightenment came to Europe through philosophers like Voltaire who were influenced by the ethics Jesus taught.

So Schaeffer sees the enlightenment, rather than the church, as the carrier of Jesus’ message into the modern era.

I’ll add that I agree with a lot of what Schaeffer writes in those chapters.  I was a member of an evangelical church (in Australia) during my teen years.  And I took the teachings of Jesus to be the core of Christianity.  But, during those years, I became increasing disillusioned and began to see the church as a society of pious hypocrites.

The other section of the book that I found valuable, was in the few chapters starting with chapter XIV.  That’s where Schaeffer explains what he means by spirituality.  These days, we hear people saying that they are “spiritual but not religious.”  While Schaeffer does not use those words, he does a pretty good job of explaining what they mean.  For myself, I can enjoy the natural beauty of the world, much as described by Schaeffer.  But I am not inclined to call myself “spiritual.”   I don’t see that word as actually adding anything.  But I do appreciate Schaeffer’s account, as explaining how “spiritual” is used by those who think it worth saying.

Ratings

A few days ago, Schaeffer asked (via his blog) those who downloaded the book while free to add to the Amazon ratings for the book.  I’m not sure I will do that.  But, if I do, I will give it a rating of 3 (out of 5).  The parts of the book that I have described above (chapters 9-13 and and the discussion of spirituality) warrant a 5 rating, in my opinion.  But I would only give a 1-rating for the rest of the book.  So that averages to a 3.

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5 Responses to “Frank Schaeffer’s latest book: a review”

  1. Interesting review. Thanks. I was wondering about that book. About the descriptive term “spiritual,” I always found that to mean: “I don’t believe in someone else’s dogma, but I believe I have a separate essence that will live on after my body dies.”

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  2. I shant read it, but I appreciated the quick review. Frank’s Dad, was a part of my deconversion motivation — I read many of his books and then visited his campus in Switzerland. That is when I saw through the bullshit — especially my own.

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