One reason we can trust Christian leaders like Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards is that their godly character is widely attested and can be proved. But what about purported ministers of the Gospel whose lives are largely mysterious, and whose reputation is shady at best? If you're a Dispensationalist, apparently you tout him as a champion of the faith and scholar of God's Word.
Cyrus Scofield is widely known as the author of the notes in the Scofield Reference Bible. But what is really known about him? Only two biographies existed before Joseph Canfield wrote The Incredible Scofield and His Book, and both were hymns of praise by ardent admirers promoting his reputation. Which, according to Canfield, was far from stellar. The picture that emerges from the myriad source documents he cites is far from favorable—and even ought, the publishers indicate, to make Dispensationalists question the very doctrines on which their theological system is built.
This isn't a typical biography. The usual stuff about childhood, marital history, and careers is here, but Canfield is more concerned with investigating the character of the man than celebrating a "great saint" or simply describing the events of his life. Through newspaper articles, letters, court documents, and a host of other sources, Canfield reveals a man prone to forgery, plagiarism, unwarranted claims, and questionable morality, certainly not the kind of man most Christians would want to follow, and yet one that has greatly impacted a huge sector of the Church with his eschatological views.
Eschatological views, it should be pointed out, at variance with those historically held by the Church. Canfield discusses these as well, and the "development"of Scofield's understanding of them. It should be noted that Canfield does have ulterior motives—this is not simply an objective biography (as mentioned above), this is a deconstruction of a man commonly held to be a hero of the faith, yet only on the shakiest of principles according to this scathing biography. Sometimes a little immoderate in his sarcastic asides, Canfield nevertheless calls into question the character and theology of a modern "hero" of many Evangelical Christians.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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