“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Elie Wiesel
In 2016, I posted the following post below titled Why Would an Orthodox, Gospel, Holy Spirit Filled Theologian Like Francis Schaeffer Abuse His Wife? I asked some rather tricky questions with which I still struggle occasionally. The reason I reposted it was due to a conversation on Twitter in which a person was startled but appeared to accept Schaeffer physically and emotionally abused his wife, Edith. I offered to repost my thoughts, which I have done without deleting anything.
This post was written seven years ago, and abusive church pastors and leaders continue to be in the news. Some might say that the stories of abuse have increased. I would agree. I continue to be concerned that followers of celebrity leaders or even a small-town pastor with breathless adherents cannot or will not accept that their leaders have clay feet. These followers frequently tell me, “I know my pastor, and he would never do anything like that.”
I have often responded that unless one lives with a person 24/7, one does not know what goes on behind closed doors. Since then, we have watched the fall of Christian leaders like Ravi Zacharias and pastors like Andy Savage. My journey into Lutheranism has helped me deal with everything I see and must write about. Those who continue to believe must accept that we will continue to see both the powerful and the not-so-powerful fall. Each time I think of Martin Luther: “Simul justus et peccator.” We who understand this should understand that men like Zacharias and the 300+ pastors, as documented by the Houston Chronicle walk among us and use our naiveté to prey on the faithful.
Os Guinness writes, the portrait Frank paints of his parents “amounts to the death-dealing charge of hypocrisy and insincerity at the very heart of their work.…The thousands of people, who over the decades came to L’Abri and came to faith or deepened in faith, were obviously conned.”
(Update) Guinness appears to be defending the perspective that Frank Jr. was not telling the truth and that he, along with all the others, knew what was really going on. This is exactly the point I was trying to make. It is very difficult for those who love Schaeffer, and I used to be one of those, to believe that he could be an abuser.
Could you look at my questions at the end of the post? I realize that I understand that abusers are among us and to be on our guard. My questions go far deeper. Where is the conviction of the Holy Spirit in the life of these confessed leaders/believers? Are those who abuse committed followers of Jesus? Is the faith somehow applicable to men like Zacharias? Were the visitors to L’Abri conned? Have any of these leaders, caught in abuse, honestly and humbly repented? I have another post coming on that subject.
In the meantime, I plan to discuss Gwen Shamblin’s unusual cult-like group, the Remnant, which is alive and well and hurting people.
Begin original post:
In about a week, TWW received two emails that discussed some serious sins and the lack of response by the churches involved. Both churches have pastors that almost every reader here would immediately know. One woman said, “I bet you don’t believe me. No one does.” I answered, “I have no reason, at this point, not to believe you.”
Why did I answer like this? It is because of this blog. We have posted story after story of grave sin committed by Christian leaders. When we do, we inevitably get pushback. Some claim we are lying. Others say they go to his church and *know* he couldn’t do anything like that. Others say we shouldn’t talk about it because it is gossip and hurts the church when these things get out.
It is next to impossible to keep the sins of the pastor celebrities hidden because they exist in the public eye. Most of them will say, “I am not perfect,” but they never tell us what they mean by that. They could mean that they disobey speed limits or overeat. But they could also mean that they molest kids. When the bad thing that is done is finally revealed, their followers often state “Well, they said they weren’t perfect.”
As I take a long view of Scripture, it seems that serious sin is part and parcel of the lives of all Christians. I don’t want to get into a discussion of whether *so and so* is or is not a Christian. In the end, it is up to God to make that decision. Can we assume that because someone is a well-known theologian-type Christian, they are somehow less sinful than me, the *Joe Average* Christian?
When I first became a Christian, I was encouraged to read Francis Schaeffer’s books. His view on abortion had a significant effect on my pro-life stance. In my mind, he was one of those super-Christian celebrities who really *got* the Bible. He believed that the Bible should influence society and culture. This influenced me to become involved in politics until the last decade or so, when I realized it wasn’t my hill to die on. But, Schaeffer was always high on my list of go-to authors as a young Christian.
Then, today, I learned that Francis Schaeffer abused his wife, Edith. He had a terrific temper and would hit her and throw things against walls.
Francis Schaeffer allegedly physically abused his wife, Edith.
(ed. This link no longer works but I stand by my cut and paste quotes.CT seems to have removed it.) In 2013, Christianity Today published Remembering Edith Schaeffer, the Evangelical in Pearls and Chanel No. 5.
Of course, Edith didn’t really let us in on the secrets of the Schaeffer family; her son, Frank, did that later in his books Crazy for God and Sex, Mom, and God, telling us of Francis’ fits of abusive rage and apparent sex addiction, Edith’s periods of manic activity and her obsession with maintaining the impression of her family’s perfection, and his own drug use and sexual activity with the pretty hippie girls who dropped by L’Abri, all of which his parents knew about and carefully cloaked. Even as I would’ve been helped in my early adulthood by knowing that she wasn’t really that perfect, I had to sympathize with my dad’s response to Crazy for God: “If for some reason you need to write a tell-all about me, could you please wait until I’m dead?”
…Edith was from a different time; a time when people didn’t air dirty laundry and where maintaining outward appearances was considered an important part of being a good “witness for Jesus.” I will not defend her self-abnegating vision of Christian womanhood (to the point that she seems to have tolerated abuse), nor the fact that she presented a picture of family bliss that was not, according to her children, at all accurate.
Their children appeared to take second place in Francis and Edith’s ministry.
These may have been the hardest years of marriage for the Schaeffers, both of whom were extraordinarily intense, work-centered personalities. Edith was by nature proud and competitive, and Francis had for a long time struggled with a plant-throwing, pot-smashing temper. Stormy sessions between them were not infrequent.
…Edith also took up her typewriter, publishing L’Abri in 1969. In the mid-1970s, she wrote a regular column for Christianity Today, and by 1981 had completed a total of eight books on family life and devotional topics that had sold over 1 million copies. In her writing she often voiced opposition to “women’s liberation” and the trend toward two-career families. This latter was curious, given that Francis’s wider ministry commenced for her a new full-time career as a writer and lecturer. Meanwhile, 11-year-old Franky was trundled off to English boarding school.
Francis and Edith Schaeffer were Calvinist in their perspective.
According to their son, Frank, in Sex, Mom & God
Frank indeed grew up in a strange world. Growing up the son of hardline Presbyterian missionaries in a missionary chalet and spiritual-seeker-haven in Switzerland would have to have been a very unique experience (though it must be added that many, many people count their visits and time at L’Abri as seminal moments in their own Christian journeys…and I do wish I had been old enough to visit as well). As Francis and Edith grew more popular, Frank was left alone for long periods of time as his parents went on their speaking tours. He witnessed a double-life in his parents as well that scarred him deeply. Francis had a terrible temper and would hit and throw objects at Edit
Eventually, Francis apologized to Edith for hitting her (it took years) and worked on controlling his temper. Apparently, this meant giving up on his idea that men were the head of the household, according to his son.
My parents gradually learned to ignore the biblical teaching about men being the “head of the home” to our benefit.
Did Francis Schaeffer’s treatment of Edith affect today’s Calvinist teachers?
We are all aware of John Piper’s infamous video in which he said that women should endure abuse for a season. (ed. This link no longer works.)Even his attempts at clarification were not terribly helpful. I wondered if John Piper ever listened to Francis Schaeffer. Apparently, he heard Schaeffer speak at Wheaton College in the 1960s.
(The following two links no longer work. I stand by the quotes that were copied verbatim.) In 2009, John Piper recommended the following post at Crossway Francis Schaeffer and a World in Desperate Need.
Thus Schaeffer wrote, “The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.” “If we do not want to waste our lives,” Schaeffer continued, “then we must understand the importance of having a humble, quiet heart and the power of the Holy Spirit.”
…Schaeffer was not a flawless man, but we can benefit greatly today from his commitment to historic Christian orthodoxy, and for his compassion to reach this desperately lost generation with the only hope there is — the gospel of Jesus Christ and the truth of God’s Word, lived out across the whole spectrum of life, in compassionate response to the degeneracy of the world and the tragic consequences this has in the lives of people everywhere
The article ends by saying this.
I would commend this sermon by Francis Schaeffer as one that has profoundly shaped the work of Crossway and that has likewise provided a frequent checkpoint and challenge to me personally — to do “the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way,” in the power of the Spirit rather than the power of the flesh, and for God’s glory alone.
But despite this theology, he beat his wife!!!!
Sure, his orthodox teachings were fine and he wanted to save the lost but he was a terror at home, raging and throwing things at the wall while smacking Edith. Is this a normal response of those who have the power of the Holy Spirit? Did Schaeffer’s theology, so admired by today’s Calvinists, make a difference in the personal lives of these men?
I have a theological dilemma, folks, and I need your help figuring it out.
How could Schaeffer abuse his wife while functioning under the power of the Holy Spirit?
Since Schaeffer was a Calvinist, it is only fair that we view the Christian life through his lens to attempt to understand his actions.
Calvinists believe that when God, via His Holy Spirit, calls His elect to come to Him, they must respond in the affirmative since he is part of the Godhead. This is irresistible Grace, the letter *I* in the TULIP.
(ed. This link no longer works. )Irresistible Grace:
When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God. Some of the verses used in support of this teaching are Romans 9:16 where it says that “it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy”; Philippians 2:12-13 where God is said to be the one working salvation in the individual; John 6:28-29 where faith is declared to be the work of God; Acts 13:48 where God appoints people to believe; and John 1:12-13 where being born again is not by man’s will, but by God’s.
“All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out,” (John 6:37).
NAllChristians are given the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion. This is the same Holy Spirit that calls the elect to God. This is irresistible Holy Spirit now dwelling in the lives of the elect?
A number of the gospel™ boys recommended Jen Wilkin’s post Failure Is Not a Virtue at The Gospel Coalition website. Here is her construct.
If the Holy Spirit has transformed our hearts, we can obey. So says the Calvinists at TGC.
She starts off OK, stating that our hearts are now different because of the Spirit.
Interestingly, Jesus battled legalism in a different way than the celebratory failurist does. Rather than tossing out the Law or devaluing obedience to it, he called his followers to a deeper obedience (Matthew 5:17-48) than the behavior modification the Pharisees prized. He called for obedience in motive as well as in deed, the kind of godly obedience that is impossible for someone whose heart has not been transformed by the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit
We must stop disobeying and begin obeying because the gospel gives us the freedom to obey, so they say.
She has switched from the Holy Spirit to *the gospel.*
The gospel grants both freedom from the penalty of sin and freedom to begin to obey (Rom 6:16). And what are we to obey? The Law that once gave death now gives freedom. God’s Word teaches us that behavior modification should absolutely follow salvation. It just occurs for a different reason than it does in the life of the unbeliever. Modified behavior reflects a changed heart. When Peter says we have spent enough time living as the pagans do, surely he means that it is time to stop disobeying and begin obeying
How does this work for us? Through Biblical lists and Christian leaders according to TGC.
Earnest Christians look to their church leaders and ask, “Teach me to walk in his ways.” We owe them an answer beyond, “Fail and repent.” We owe them, “This is the way, walk in it.” This way is often delineated by lists—a list of ten don’ts in Exodus 20, a list of eight do’s in Matthew 5, a list of works of the flesh (Galatians 5:22-23) and spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) in Galatians 5, and so on.
Wait, where did the Holy Spirit go? Is the Holy Spirit ineffectual in causing us to obey? Is that why we need lists?
If the Holy Spirit is effectual in calling us to Christ, why is it not effectual in stopping men like Schaeffer from abusing their wives? Surely, Schaeffer knew all of the lists given by Wilkins. He knew all of the great Christian leaders of his time as well. So, why wasn’t knowledge of Scripture, orthodox doctrine, and a zeal for God not enough to stop a man like Schaeffer from abusing Edith?
What is the difference between the Holy Spirit and the gospel in Wilkin’s treatise?
Here is the list from Galatians 5:22-23. Is the Holy Spirit effective in helping us do these things? How effectual? When does it decide to let us attempt to do good on our own instead of helping us do it? If I pray for all of these fruits each day, why doesn’t the Holy Spirit guarantee that I can do it?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
Why do I ask these questions? The more I see the leaders fail in spectacular ways: adultery, pedophilia, domestic violence, child abuse, embezzlement, etc. I wonder what went wrong? Does being *orthodox* in one’s theology mean anything when it comes to sinful behavior?
I want to hear from you since I do not have any pat answers. I really, really want to know why the Holy Spirit is sometimes effectual but not effectual in stopping supposed Christian orthodox theologians and leaders who know all about the lists from abusing their spouses.
I think I would rather have seen a world without Francis Schaeffer’s works if it prevented him from abusing Edith.