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Average customer rating:
3.5 out of 5
ISBN/ASIN : 084231413X
Manufacturer : Tyndale House Publishers|
Release data : June, 1980
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Classic on Christian Epistemology
Schaeffer's book was a godsend to me, answering and echoing the questions that rang in my mind when trying to figure out what it really means to be a follower of Christ, and whether or not being one entails leaving reason behind in favor of revelation. This work goes a long way in answering the questions of HOW I know what I know; and exposing presuppositions about the nature of the universe that shape our thinking. It prepared me for many onslaughts against a reasonable faith, showing that there is another way other than accepting either the dissolution of absolute truth in postmodernism or the anti-reason/anti intellectualism of certain branches in fundamentalism. This is an excellent help to anyone experiencing a personal paradigm shift in Jesus' direction, or as a primer to exploring and examining competing worldviews.
Time to Think
To my mind there are a lot of alienated, thinking Protestants (not that they would use the "P" word)-- far outside of or on the fringes of the institutional church (whatever that is) who nevertheless have active minds, open hearts and hungry souls. Once there was a retreat area in the Swiss alps called L'Abri or "The Shelter" run by Francis and Edith Schaeffer that these seekers would be drawn to. Outside of that hands-on culture Schaeffer's books seem somewhat out of context. InterVarsity Press, which published most of them, once displayed them in its own rotating in-store rack, but now they are lost on the shelves (if they're in stores at all) amid much more viscerally-aimed, issues-oriented books about the crisis of the week or the conspiracy of the month. Not much for the thoughtful reader.
(Re)enter Francis Schaeffer, probably the author that seeking readers would like to seek out. Should they do so, however, one immediately finds two dozen or so books, with no idea where to start or how they're supposed to go together. Reading the many negative reviews, it seems that this book is especially misunderstood. But to my mind it remains one of his best.
This is the third book of a trilogy which begins in a non-obvious way with a tiny but densely written book called Escape From Reason. That book briefly traces the history of the split between nature and grace, lamenting it and, as many have pointed out, wrongly attributing it to St. Thomas Aquinas, who also lamented it. The second volume is a larger book called The God Who is There, which can be read on its own and which many readers have found quite engrossing.
This third book, which also stands on its own, is a very brief examination of epistemology (how we know and how we know we know). I took a philosophy class once which studied the exact same questions and I used to bring up Schaeffer's points in class. The instructor thought those were valid and interesting arguments, and I would suggest that the reviewers who don't like this book either have no taste for philosophy or don't like Schaeffer's style, or both.
Either impersonal forces created us as personal beings, or a personal creator did so. The other choice, that we are somehow impersonal beings resulting from one of the above options makes no sense but has nevertheless been argued by behaviorist B.F. Skinner in Beyond Freedom and Dignity and elsewhere. Schaeffer helps us see that there are really very few answers to this dilemma, and like Pascal, we must wager on one or the other. This book could be titled "Think Along with Schaeffer". For those who'd rather read the results of his thinking, they are laid out more simply in one of his best books, True Sprituality.
A well-intentioned but often inscrutable treatise
Schaeffer was a sincere, devout, extremely intelligent, and supremely compassionate man. Having a heart that was broken over the nihilism of the 1960s-70s, he tried valiantly to appeal to the reason of the cynics who were privately hopeless. But his reach often exceeded his grasp. Many of his conclusions are more than valid, but his means of arriving at them are hampered by oversimplification couched in (ironically) complicated technical language and repetition. The last chapter of "He Is There" (which is the true crux of the book and to which all the others serve as laborious prologue) is brilliant. Released by itself as a booklet, it would have been successful. The rest could have been distilled to a preface.
For all that, Schaeffer is still a fascinating man who left a lasting imression on the intellectual seekers of the hippie and anti-establishment culture. He accepted them without judgment but also remained true to his own beliefs. It is important to at least familiarize oneself with this significant Christian mind and heart.