Thursday, May 05, 2005


Here is another conversion story. Not a conversion from paganism but from evangelical Christianity. Not a conversion to the Roman Catholic Church but to the Orthodox Church.

Frank Schaeffer is a "trophy" Orthodox convert... He appeared all over the country, from Jerry Falwell's church to "The 700 Club." But he said he soon became tired of the "hero-worship cult" in evangelical circles, where a ministry rises and falls with its big-name founder.
In the mid- to late-1980s, he began to dissociate himself completely from that world, seeking a faith that would be his own, instead of being tied to his career as a Christian filmmaker or his father's reputation. He began studying church history and attending Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches.

But he couldn't reconcile the idea of the papacy, and the modern, stripped-down Catholic services he attended, with their "happy, clappy nonsense," felt less liturgical and even more Protestant than the services he grew up with.

At the urging of a friend, he visited an Orthodox church, where he said he found authentic Christian worship. In 1990, he was chrismated, or anointed, into the church as a member.

The conversion story includes his father, "the renowned evangelical theologian and philosopher Francis Schaeffer," who was a friend of Malcolm Muggeridge. Muggeridge was a convert to the Roman Catholic Church and was influenced by G.K. Chesterton. Muggeridge wrote "When I was still a schoolboy my father took me to a dinner ... at which G.K. Chesterton was being entertained ... As far as I was concerned, it was an occasion of inconceivable glory." (Chronicles of Wasted Time; quote courtesy of Dave Armstrong).

I have noticed, and I am sure that you have as well, that many conversion stories begin with a line like "Well, I read Merton's Seven Storey Mountain" or "Well, I read Chesterton's Orthodoxy (or The Everlasting Man, or The Ball and the Cross)." A man can have quite an influence. Chesterton was a very large man in many ways; a large man can make a large splash of waves and ripples in all directions. This conversion story is just one of many that was helped along by a splash from Chesterton.

Maybe someone over at the Small Pax Guild will someday draw up a picture of Chesterton in bathing attire and doing a "cannonball" into the Atlantic Ocean. And perhaps someone could write an article, to accompany the fine artwork, about the influence of the Big Splash. And ship it off to a dandy publication like Gilbert Magazine.

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