Friday, April 13, 2018

Book Review: How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer

How Should We Then Live? is the second Francis Schaeffer book I’ve read. I loved the first one, The God Who is There, and How Shall We Then Live is just as excellent. It’s such a great book that I read it twice back to back - it’s that good! I highly recommend it to everyone, especially young people who are about to go out into the world and be inevitably educated with the prevalent secularism by the anti-Christian Intelligentsia.

Schaeffer wove through the history of western thought in the book and its influence in the culture, art, science, literature, music, film, and even church life and theology. He expertly documented, from Ancient Rome to the tumultuous 1970’s, how the slow departure from Christian values and absolute truth has resulted in a devastating descent of humanity.

Humanism’s focus that man’s logic is the basis of truth has resulted in making man a mere matter and without dignity. Modern man has replaced allegiance to absolute truth with the values of “personal peace and affluence.” In the process, modern man has willingly and stupidly given up innate human dignity and freedom for the sake of false peace and wealth.

Schaeffer foresaw the rise of postmodernism as the new “absolute” and its ruinous consequences that we now see, from redefining “life” as something dependent on the mother’s feelings to fluid gender and sexual identities independent of the individual’s physical and genetic attributes. The irony is glaring that Humanism (“man is everything”) has removed our innate human dignity, simply because we are all image-bearers of the living God, and reduced man to a group of molecules (“man is nothing”).

He prophetically declared, “When we see a political figure on TV, we are not seeing the person as he necessarily is; we are seeing, rather, the image someone has decided we should see.”

“Finally we must not forget the manipulative capacity of the high-speed computer. As a tool it is useful but neutral. It can be used for good purposes or equally for harm...The combined use of the technical capability of listening in on all these forms of communications with the high-speed computer literally leaves no place to hide and little room for any privacy.

“Similarly alarming are the indications that terrorist organizations from all over the world have in some way coordinated their efforts. We have already seen indications of how people give up liberties when they are faced with the threat of terrorism.”

Faced with the dim outlook of our culture and humanity, we are left to ask the book’s title, “How Should We Then Live?” Schaeffer answered this by encouraging his readers to go back to the truth of God’s Word and use its absolute truths as the foundation of our life. Without absolute truths there can be no morality. Without absolutes, life has no meaning. This book’s message is as relevant and urgently needed to the current generation as much as it was in the 1970’s when it was written.

After reading HSWTL, I see how Schaeffer’s writings have greatly influenced Christian leaders and thinkers like Nancy Pearcey, another favorite author. I must have highlighted 10% of this book. In every page are truth and ideas that accurately convey my thoughts and sentiments about the cultural trends we are facing now. This is remarkable because the book was written over forty years ago.

Here are some favorite quotes from it:

Man’s needs not only a God who exists, but a God who has spoken in a way that can be understood.

...if one begins with the Bible’s position that a person is created by God and created in the image of God, there is a basis for that person’s dignity. People, the Bible teaches, are made in the image of God—they are nonprogrammed. Each is thus Man with dignity.

The vocation of honest merchant or housewife had as much dignity as king.

The rise of modern science did not conflict with what the Bible teaches; indeed, at a crucial point the Scientific Revolution rested upon what the Bible teaches...modern science was born out of the Christian world view.

Because of the rationality of God, the early scientists had an “inexpugnable belief that every detailed occurrence can be correlated with its antecedents in a perfectly definite manner, exemplifying general principles. Without this belief the incredible labors of scientists would be without hope.”

The Christian world view gives us a real world which is there to study objectively. Another result of the Christian base was that the world was worth finding out about, for in doing so one was investigating God’s creation.

By the ruling of the Supreme Court, the unborn baby is not counted as a person. In our day, quite rightly, there has been a hue and cry against some of our ancestors’ cruel viewing of the black slave as a non-person. This was horrible indeed—an act of hypocrisy as well as cruelty. But now, by an arbitrary absolute brought in on the humanist flow, millions of unborn babies of every color of skin are equally by law declared non-persons. Surely this, too, must be seen as an act of hypocrisy.

If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute.

With such values (personal Peace and affluence), will men stand for their liberties? Will they not give up their liberties step by step, inch by inch, as long as their own personal peace and prosperity is sustained and not challenged, and as long as the goods are delivered?

The majority of the silent majority, young and old, will sustain the loss of liberties without raising their voices as long as their own life-styles are not threatened. And since personal peace and affluence are so often the only values that count with the majority, politicians know that to be elected they must promise these things. Politics has largely become not a matter of ideals—increasingly men and women are not stirred by the values of liberty and truth—but of supplying a constituency with a frosting of personal peace and affluence. They know that voices will not be raised as long as people have these things, or at least an illusion of them.

The problem is clear: Without the absolute line which Christianity gives for the distinctiveness of people, even things which can be good in themselves lead to humanness being increasingly lost.

Moral “oughts” are only what is sociologically accepted at the moment. In this setting will today’s unthinkable still be unthinkable in ten years? Man no longer sees himself as qualitatively different from non-man. The Christian consensus gave a basis for people being unique, as made in the image of God, but this has largely been thrown away.

The biblical message is truth and it demands a commitment to truth. It means that everything is not the result of the impersonal plus time plus chance, but that there is an infinite-personal God who is the Creator of the universe, the space-time is the truth that gives a unity to all of knowledge and all of life.

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