Item description for How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture by Francis A. Schaeffer & Kate Reading...
Overview As one of the foremost evangelical thinkers of the twentieth century, Francis Schaeffer long pondered the fate of declining Western culture. In this brilliant book he analyzed the reasons for modern society's state of affairs and presented the only viable alternative: living by the Christian ethic, acceptance of God's revelation, and total affirmation of the Bible's morals, values, and meaning.
Publishers Description As one of the foremost evangelical thinkers of the twentieth century, Francis Schaeffer long pondered the fate of declining Western culture. In this brilliant book he analyzed the reasons for modern society's state of affairs and presented the only viable alternative: living by the Christian ethic, acceptance of God's revelation, and total affirmation of the Bible's morals, values, and meaning. How Should We Then Live? has become the benchmark for Christian worldview thinking today. This edition commemorates the 50th anniversary of L'Abri Fellowship, founded by Francis and Edith Schaeffer.
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Studio: Hovel Audio
Running Time: 480.00 minutes
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 6.1" Width: 5.1" Height: 0.8" Weight: 0.35 lbs.
Release Date Apr 1, 2007
Publisher Hovel Audio
ISBN 1596444290 ISBN13 9781596444294
Availability 0 units.
More About Francis A. Schaeffer & Kate Reading
Recognized internationally for his work in Christianity and culture, Francis A. Schaeffer authored more than twenty books, which have been translated into a score of languages and sold millions worldwide. He and his wife, Edith, founded L'Abri Fellowship international study and discipleship centers. Schaeffer passed away in 1984, but his influence and legacy continue worldwide.
Udo W. Middelmann is president of the Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation. He is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and a longtime worker at Swiss L'Abri. Udo and Debbie Middelmann have five children and three grandchildren.
Lane T. Dennis is president and publisher of Crossway Books and Good News Tracts. Dr. Dennis earned his BS in business from Northern Illinois University, an MDiv from McCormick Theological Seminary, and a PhD in religion from Northwestern University. Before joining Good News Publishers in 1974, he served as a pastor in campus ministry at the University of Michigan (Sault Ste. Marie) and as the Managing Director of Verlag Grosse Freude in Switzerland. He is the author and/or editor of three books, including the Gold Medallion-award-winning book Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer, and he is the former Chairman of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Dr. Dennis serves as the Chairman of the ESV (English Standard Version) Bible Translation Oversight Committee and as the Executive Editor of the ESV Study Bible. Lane and his wife, Ebeth, live in Wheaton, Illinois.
Reviews - What do customers think about How Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture?
Thoughtful review of worldviews Jun 28, 2008
This is a very thoughtful and penetrating book about different worldviews, especially modernism or post-modernism and Christianity. Helpful for helping those influenced by current Western culture.
A question we all have to ask ourselves Apr 26, 2008
A question we all have to ask ourselves, when we analyze our philosophical presuppositions about truth and morality, IS, "How Should We Then Live?" Whether we care to think about and admit it, we are all active moral agents in the world around us. Francis Schaeffer was a man consumed by this responsibility, and also a man passionate about his Christian faith. I chalk up a lot of the one star reviews to the latter fact about his life.
The book's first few sentences are indicative of the book's path and purpose: "There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted and has its wellspring in the thoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind- what they are in their thought world determines how they act." Schaeffer then gives a brief summary of Western culture and thought. He shows how the changing philosophies and the "pop culture" play off of one another.
Meanwhile, in an evaluation of the book we must also heed Schaeffer's disclaimer: "In no way does this book make a pretense of being a complete chronological history of Western culture. It is questionable if such a book could even be written." (15, Author's note)
I think that Schaeffer's most apt observation is Hegel's influence on philosophy and epistemology, and the resulting smorgasbord of "truths" that result. If ideas are no longer "true" and "false" but somehow combinable, one cannot emphasize enough how much this has relativized the entire Western way of thinking. Once truth is relativized, the ability to claim one idea as "right" and another as "wrong" vanishes; people begin to make decisions in terms of convenience and expediency rather than definite moral principles. One could argue that this moral attitude has always existed; however Hegelian epistemology could be said to have institutionalized relativism. Schaeffer argues this (162-163,215-220).
In a Western world where the only absolute is skepticism; any meaningful basis for society, any truth around which a country or group could define themselves, is instinctively undermined. Here Schaeffer was once again prophetic; predicting the growing skepticism of the West a good fifteen to twenty years before the phrase "hermeneutic of suspicion" became the predominant, if not exclusive, academic ideology of most universities. Consider his words on page 202: "If people begin only from themselves and really live in a universe in which there is no personal God to speak, they have no final way to be sure of the difference between reality and fantasy or illusion." This is the philosophical child, you might say, of Descartes and existentialists.
Of course there is much more Schaeffer could have said. There is, just in this one review, much more I'd like to say. However, I've blabbered on far enough already; let me say that I recommend this book to all Christians and to any thoughtful, open-minded person who is interested in the philosophical and historical progression of the West as seen through the eyes of a Christian thinker.
Wow, what an amazingly bad book Mar 14, 2008
Schaeffer writes "I am convinced that when Nietzsche came to Switzerland and went insane, it was not because of venereal disease, though he did have this disease. Rather, it was because he understood that insanity was the only philosophic answer if the infinite-personal God does not exist."
If you can follow this poorly written book (very obtuse and difficult to read) and find yourself agreeing with Schaeffer then obviously you are used to reading poorly written obtuse books. I'll let you guess which book I'm referring to.
Schaeffer goes through history and finds a way to denigrate everything that he believes is 'from below' and exalts everything that is 'from above' by deciding if it agrees with his basic assumption "The only way to live is to follow the Bible and it's teachings." If he thinks that it agrees with that premise then it is rewarded and if it doesn't fit his model of behavior then it is labeled a failure of 'humanistic thought'.
This book is filled with silly and ludicrous comments like my first quote. Schaeffer decides that Leonardo Da Vinci was depressed in his old age because "As man thinketh so is he--and humanism had already begun to show that pessimism was its natural conclusion." In Schaeffer's heavily religious mind anyone who doesn't see the world the same way he does is insane, depressed, or suicidal.
If Schaeffer doesn't like a piece of art, it becomes a failure of the humanistic mindset. If Schaeffer does like a piece of art then it becomes an indication that only through a Christian world view can an artist really see the truth of the world.
If you are a heavily religious person yourself, this book will help you feel better about your beliefs, by reinforcing them using 'historical facts'.
If you are a reasonable and educated person with a curiosity about history and how it relates to religion, I'd recommend reading anything else. Anything.
I wish I could give this book zero stars, but this site doesn't allow that.
The Misery of Modernity and Post-Modernity Feb 8, 2008
The Westminster Confession states that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. When men, beginning in the Fall, pervert the end to which they are created, by self-deception, to live for themselves, to be gods, as the center of the universe, they find themselves living in the world around them in horror, chaos and misery. This is Dr. Schaeffer's observation of modern and post-modern men, though he seems to lump them together as "modern men". His argument is that when men, living under the presupposition of human autonomy and anthropocentric worldview, attempt to explain the meaning and the purpose of life and the world around them beginning from themselves as the center and the starting point, whether by idolizing their reasoning and will powers and excluding the supernaturals, which is the heart of modernity or, upon realizing that reasons lead to nowhere but pessimism that human beings in the end are nothing but machines, rebel against the modern mindset which characterizes post-modernity as Prof. Dave Wells puts it, abandon reasons and embrace relativism; the result is the death and loss of both humanity and meaning; the ugly effects of which can be observed in for examples, but not limited to abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, concentration camps and gulags. And since there are no absolutes, what eventually matters that seems to become the ultimate pursuit of most individuals is personal peace and affluence.
If you enjoy European history, you might enjoy Dr. Schaeffer here traces how the West is where it is today by starting off with the Roman Empire, then contrasting the Reformed north and the Pagan south in philosophy, art, science and theology, whose influences were carried on, the latter being the dominant one to this day, with some implications by showing the examples of the effects of the Reformation and humanistic worldview. However, if you dislike such details as Renaissance painters, poets, scientists and philosophers and their works; and prefer instead more of sociology and Christology-based treatment of modernity and post-modernity, I would suggest Dave Well's "Above All Earthly Powr's: Christ in Post-Modern World." To me personally, though I love history, I like the latter better.
Good idea, flawed execution Dec 25, 2007
In reading How Should We Then Live, I found that Francis Schaeffer reminded me a great deal of another famous Christian writer, John Foxe. Like Foxe, Schaeffer's writing--specifically, his accuracy in assessing and describing art and culture--improve the closer he comes to his own era. I had never read anything by Schaeffer before but had always heard him highly spoken of, so when I came across this book recently I bought it on impulse. It was a fascinating, brisk read that I completed in two days.
What Schaeffer sets out to do is follow the development of the Western philosophy of life from the decadence of Rome to the decadence of the modern world and explain what has gone wrong with our society. He also seeks to describe how a proper worldview balances the universal with the particulars and how most modern philosophies overstress one or the other to a fault.
Schaeffer's flaws are not many, but they are often great. He begins the book with a brief explanation of presuppositions--unfortunately, many of his own presuppositions give an otherwise welcome brief history a bad flavor.
Starting with his presupposition--pointed out ad infinitum by other reviewers--that all pre-Reformation Christianity is unquestionably bad, he grossly misinterprets the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante, and Michelangelo, to name only a few. His view of Greco-Roman culture is also oversimplified. Ironically, for someone so keen on balancing the universals and the particulars, he is often only generally accurate in the broad strokes and does poorly on the particulars.
I've dwelt on the flaws, but this is still a good book. Just read it knowing that much of the early material is either oversimplified or misinterpreted. Once Schaeffer reaches Nietzsche, he is within his depth and gives a good, if too brief and simplified, overview of the major philosophical movements that shaped the 20th--and now 21st--century.
How Should We Then Live? is an ambitiously conceived book--its problems lie with the author's presuppositions and, to an extent, its brevity. If you're looking for a book with similar themes and goals, I'd recommend John Blanchard's Does God Believe in Atheists? instead. Blanchard's work is much more detailed and exhaustive, and far more balanced in its treatment of viewpoints that don't square 100% with his own.