How Should We Then Live? By Francis A. Schaeffer. Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1976. 288 pp. $12.95.
Have you ever wondered why the world today is in such a sorry mess? Here is a book that traces the various streams of history which over the past two millenniums have converged into the tumultous river of chaos presently inundating the latter half of the twentieth century.
As Dr. Schaeffer states in his introductory “Author’s Note”: “This book is … an analysis of the key moments in history which have formed our present culture, and the thinking of the people who brought those moments to pass. This study is made in the hope that light may be shed upon the major characteristics of our age and that solutions may be found to the myriad of problems which face us as we look toward the end of the twentieth century.”
The book’s subtitle is, “The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture.” I must confess that no single work has ever helped me to understand so clearly the reasons behind the present rapid decline running rampantly throughout the Western world, showing the reader how the various pieces all fit together in having brought about today’s ever increasing confusion.
With brilliant analysis and thorough scholarship, the author begins with the fall of Rome, tracing Western man’s progress down through the centuries to the present moment. Thus from ancient Rome to the Middle Ages, through the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment, up to our present scientific Atomic Age, each step of our cultural development is thoroughly examined, documented, and enlarged upon in the light of subsequent historical fact.
The book is also generously garnished with black and white illustrations which, by means of the eye-gate, assist the reader to more fully appreciate and apprehend the telling points made by the author.
The causes and effects of human thought and action upon prevailing attitudes and beliefs are scrutinized and evaluated in the light of theology, philosophy, history, sociology and the arts. Schaeffer concludes his masterful work with a clear Gospel emphasis, forthrightly presenting the fact that the only viable alternative is “the acceptance of Christ as Saviour and Lord, and it means living under God’s revelation. Here there are morals, values, and meaning, including meaning for people, which are not just a result of statistical averages. This is neither a utilitarianism, nor a leap away from reason; it is the truth that gives a unity to all of knowledge and all of life” (p. 252).
Following the actual text of the book there are three practical helps: a “Chronological Index,” a “Topical Index,” and a “Select Bibliography.”
Of the many books which have come from Schaeffer’s prolific pen over the past decade or so, this one may prove to be his magnum opus.
It should be noted that the ideas developed in the book have been made into a comprehensive major film and television series, available for rent from Gospel Films, Inc., Muskegon, Michigan.
The book’s price may be a little frightening, but I can personally attest to the fact that the dollars spent are an extremely worthwhile investment.
—W. Ross Rainey