Since Christmas I have been reading "How Should We Then Live" by Francis Schaeffer when I could fit it into my Friday evening reading. (The rest of the title is "The Rise And Decline Of Western Thought And Culture", but I could not get the full title to fit in the title section above.) It has been over twenty years since I last read it. It is dated in some respects, which I will discuss in Part III. Yet it is especially pertinent for today in that he rightly proclaims that as the special place for Man, created in the image of God and the pinnacle of His creation, is rejected, the rights of man will be increasingly violated by authoritarian government structures in collusion with an allied scientific establishment. As for a short account of the sweep of history since the time of the ancient Greeks, there is no better guide. Schaeffer meant this book and the film series based on it to be a response to the humanistic PBS series "Civilization" and tried to get the film series based on the book aired on television, but PBS and other networks refused to show it. That should be no surprise. Still, it is too bad. If one would want to stimulate discussion between Christians and secularists by an examination of Western Culture, this is still the perfect vehicle. I can make this statement based on experience. If one were to introduce Christians to a Christian view of History, the Arts and Sciences, despite some inaccuracies, then this is the book. If one were to ask me for one book that explains how the West has evolved to what it is today or if a Christian needed a resource to explain how the Humanism of the Renaissance, which sought to exalt Man, ended up in reducing his status to either a machine or just an animal, this is the book. The Reformation on the other hand, returned to a view of Man that emphasized its creation in God's image, conferring on Man a dignity that enabled the development of democratic forms of government that allowed Man to govern himself. This is ably demonstrated by Schaeffer. With the exception of the Bible itself, this blog has quoted "How Should We Then Live?" more than any other book. For extensive quotation from this book on how modern science grew from a Christian base, see the links on the right side of this blog for "Exposing ExpelledExposed" and read the first article that appears.
Schaffer has come under increasing attack in recent years by those who wish to remake Evangelicalism to their liking or by those who would wish to bury it altogether. Among these critics are those committed to a Post Modern philosophy and those who would like to cut the ties between the Church in America and Conservative politics. I am not going to deal directly with these issues now. I have been planning to embark on a series of articles tentatively entitled "Evangelicalism And Its Enemies" for nearly a year. The all out attack on Schaeffer will be dealt with in that series.
In Part II, Schaeffer's predictions of an increasingly authoritarian government will be shown to be chillingly accurate.