Escape from Reason

Is the title of the small book I lost and have now found again.  It is by Christian apologist Francis A. Schaeffer.

It is a thin book that traces how the 20th century mentality (secularism, pornography, substance dependence, atheism, existential nothingness) came about.  Trends in philosophy and art have reflected a dualism between nature and grace in Western thinking from Thomas Aquinas to the early 1960s.  So how can the Christian faith be made meaningful today?

The story line starts with Thomas Aquinas who in explaining the Fall of man due to original sin (i.e., our separation from the personal God creator), had left man’s intellect intact. This was a fatal error according to Francis which set off a chain of events that has led to many of society’s problems today.

An endless stream of philosophers then took up the challenge of  trying to use their intellect to find a unified theory of truth and knowing and failed. Hegel came along and said the method being used was the problem.  He recommended thesis-antithesis-synthesis.  According to Francis, this explains why parents and children do not understand each other.  Their frames are totally different and the methodology has changed.

Nature (below the line) ate up grace (above the line). So in today’s world, advances in science have led many people to give up any notion of a supreme being. Man is the supreme being for many today. There is no God hiding in the shadows any more. Life is ultimately meaningless and has no purpose. Our intellect is the only thing we can be sure of. However, increasingly society despairs of the strictly rational approach to thinking that has led us to this kind of life.

He then talks about “the leap”. For Francis, the Bible is the only “system” that points the way to a purpose in life, namely reestablishing our lost unity with God the personal creator. One must let go of one’s intellect to allow grace to due it’s work in each of us to permit faith in the irrational to bloom.  Fortunately we have the Gospel that enables us to make this leap and reconnect with the personal God creator who gives reason and meaning to our lives.

Churches are full of middle class “believers” who have no way of communicating with their children, intellectuals and the working class who are outside of the church. These latter have been so bombarded (smashed in the face he says) with worldly messages so that they no longer think the same way as believers do.  It is difficult to communicate.
He finishes by saying that his little book is not only of interest to academics for intellectual debate, it is crucial for those who are serious about communicating the Gospel in the 20th century.  The triumph of Faith over intellect for some is due to timeless Truth which does not change with the times. Relativism and existentialist nothingness are routed when one makes the leap.

Rather than try to explain any more what this book is about, I give you two reviews.  One positive, one not so positive.  These are from people much more able than I am to situate Schaeffer’s thinking.

The first is from Stephen Sawyer of AZ at:

The second is from David Haines of QC at:

In the moment, I think am going to have to read this book again to grasp its full meaning.  4 out of 5 stars.

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