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Escape from Reason (Pocketbooks) Paperback – Mar 1968

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Inter-Varsity Press; 5th THUS edition (Mar. 1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0851103405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0851103402
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 10.6 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,041,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Steven P. on 22 Dec. 2003
Format: Paperback
Although it's a fair few years since escape from reason was first published, the ideas and comment on modern thought is quite insightful. Schaeffer's 'line of despair' thesis is introduced, and the book sits nicely alongside the God who is there, and he is there and he is not silent. An extremely worthwhile read, providing an overview of the trends in thought and thus facilitates understanding of why people think the way they do today. I would recommend the book to any interested in philosophy or cultural studies type work; the implications of Schaeffer's thesis are wide reaching.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Highlander on 19 Nov. 2007
Format: Paperback
I was by the grace of God fortunate enough to meet with Dr Francis Schaeffer and to become a member of the International Presbyterian Church which he founded. But long before that happened I had been on the verge of total despair and contemplating suicide.I had become a Christian in the summer of 1963/64 and due to my own history of experiencing the loss and grief for the deaths of people who I loved which started when I was still a child had aged me beyond my years.Between the ages of seven and fifteen when I was converted I had been close to eight people who died both tragically by accidents or naturally by age or and infirmity including my father and my mother and an Uncle and Aunt.The first one was when I held my first best friend close to me,still with the seaweed round his neck and looked at his dead drowned face,his eyes still open, when I was seven years old.I had questions,big questions and I wanted and needed big answers.Almost needless to say I did not get them from my relatives or from the church and I was familiar with four different denominations,three Protestant,one Catholic.To cut a long story short I left my highland village and joined the ranks of the Hippie revolution,the revolution that failed.The flower power of our generation
is mostly displayed on our graves,we failed and our philosophies whether home grown,or foreign or do it yourself failed and many felt like me rudderless,and pointless.It was on a day of despair wandering around aimlessly I found Dr Schaeffers book "Escape from Reason".It had just been published and was on display in a Christian bookshop in Richmond on Thames where I was living in a hippie commune..
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Martin Horan on 14 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Escape from Reason (IVP Classics) is virtually the history of western culture in a nutshell.
That may seem ludicrous but Francis Schaeffer has managed to put the history of western culture in a comprehensive package. In fact he does so much more. He shows how all philosophical movements have gone first to the visual arts before being taken up in the other artistic and scientific disciplines. He also places them in the order in which they fall.
He shows how man's thinking has step-by-step descended into the confusion it is today. He also show why and how this has happened.
As a sideline, this book also makes the abstract art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries comprehensible to the average person.
Had Francis Schaeffer been known as a philsopher and not a theologian he would have turned the philosophical world on his head, in the ways that Aquinas (also a theologian) and Hegel, as two examples, did in the past.
The academic world has a prejudice against theologians, even when they are philosophers--unless of course they are men such as Kierkegaard or Barth who are willing to compromise.
Francis Schaeffer never did compromise and he stuck to logic, hard facts, and Scripture.
Escape From Reason is an education in itself and it is to my mind almost astonishing that such a small and easily readable book can contain so much information.
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By Amazon Customer on 8 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book by a great author
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 59 reviews
50 of 59 people found the following review helpful
Schaeffer diagnoses modern-day ills and prescribes cure 28 Sept. 2000
By Steven P. Sawyer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Do you value liberty, reason, science, individualism and progress? If so, read this short book by Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer to learn why these and other western values are hanging in the balance today. Schaeffer offers an explanation of the Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment that is in agreement with the traditional view of history that our most cherished western values are fruits of our Judeo-Christian tradition. This view has been promoted by such thinkers as Burke, Tocqueville and Acton. An excellent modern defense is given by M. Stanton Evans in his book The Theme is Freedom. Schaeffer's treatment is philosophically deep and historically broad, although the book's short length severely limits consideration of detail.
Schaeffer sees the true beginning of the humanistic Renaissance in the work of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Aquinas' dualistic Grace/Nature scheme was useful in many ways, but its critical flaw was in failing to recognize man's fallen intellect along with his fallen will. Aquinas saw man's intellect as essentially undamaged by the Fall. This had the unfortunate consequence of setting up man's intellect as autonomous and independent.
Aquinas adapted parts of Greek philosophy to Christianity, perhaps most importantly (and with the most negative consequences) the dualistic view of man and world as represented by the Grace/Nature split. As Schaeffer stresses, the main danger of a dualistic scheme is that, eventually, the lower sphere "eats up" the upper sphere. Another way to say the same thing is, once the lower sphere is given "autonomy," it tends to deny the existence or importance of whatever is in the upper sphere in support of its own autonomy.
Schaeffer explains how the Grace/Nature dualism eventually became the Freedom/Nature, then the Faith/Rationality split. He introduces his interesting idea of the Line of Despair, which began in philosophy with Hegelian relativism. Kierkegaard was the first major figure after this line. The line of despair is the point in history at which philosophers (and others) gave up on the age-old hope of a unified (i.e. not dualistic) answer for knowledge and life.
This new despairing way of thinking spread in 3 ways; geographically, from Germany outward to Europe, England and finally much later to America. Then by classes, from the intellectuals to the workers via the mass media (the middle classes were largely unaffected and remained a product of the Reformation, thankfully for stability, but this is why the middle class didn't understand its own children). Finally, it spread by disciplines; philosophy (Hegel), art (post-impressionists), music (Debussy), general culture (early T S Eliot)...then lastly theology (Barth).
Once this way of thinking set in, Schaeffer explains the need for "the leap," promoted by both secular and religious existentialists. On the secular side, Sartre located this leap in "authenticating oneself by an act of the will," Jaspers spoke of the need for the "final experience" and Heidegger talked of 'angst,' the vague sense of dread resulting from the separation of hope from the rational 'downstairs.' On the religious side, we have Barth preaching the lack of any interchange between the upper and lower spheres, using the higher criticism to debunk parts of the Bible, but saying we should believe it anyway. "'Religious truth' is separated from the historical truth of the Scriptures. Thus there is no place for reason and no point of verification. This constitutes the leap in religious terms. Aquinas opened the door to an independent man downstairs, a natural theology and a philosophy which were both autnomous from the Scriptures. This has led, in secular thinking, to the necessity of finally placing all hope in a non-rational upstairs" (p. 53, thus the book's title). This is in contrast to the biblical and Reformation message that even though man is fallen, he can and must search the scriptures to find the verifiable truth. Schaeffer devotes alot of space in his book to illustrating the many ways modern men have taken this "leap," assuming there is no rational way upstairs.
Schaeffer ends with a call to reject dualism and return to the reformation view of the scriptures, which is that God has spoken truth not only about Himself, but about the cosmos and history (p. 83). In order to do this, man must give up rationalism (i.e. autonomous reason), but by doing so he can retrieve rationality. "Modern man longs for a different answer than the answer of his damnation. He did not accept the Line of Despair and the dichotomy because he wanted to. He accepted it because, on the basis of the natural development of his rationalistic presuppositions, he had to. He may talk bravely at times, but in the end it is despair" (p. 82). No area of life can be autonomous of what God has said, since this will inevitably lead to the destruction of all value (including God, freedom and man). By placing all human activity within the framework of what God has told us, "it gives us the form inside which, being finite, freedom is possible" (p. 84).
God created man as significant, and he still is, even in his fallen and lost state. He is not a machine, plant or animal. He continues to bear the marks of "mannishness" (p. 89): love, rationality, longing for significance, fear of non-being, and so on. He will never be nothing.
The author emphasizes the existence of certain unchanging facts, which are true regardless of the shifting tides of man's thoughts. He challenges Christians to understand these tides and speak the unchanging truth in a way that can be understood in the midst of them.
32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5 stars for creativity 26 May 2005
By Engin Obucic - Published on
Format: Paperback
When reading Schaeffer, we have to bear in mind that he was dealing primarily with effects rather than intentions the discussed authors in his book produced in the Western world. Instead of discussing motives and intentions of the mentioned authors, Schaeffer was interested in understanding of the concepts as accepted and processed by the Western intellectual establishment. Schaeffer was interested in conceptual understanding of the history of philosophy and the development of the Western culture, and how such mentality reflects on communication of Christian message. We might say, he was interested in how rationality supports our lives and why it fails to keep us existentially stabile. This intention has been effectively reflected in Escape from Reason. Following his intention, I think it would be useless to read Escape from Reason outside this conceptual framework. It simply wouldn't suffice as it exceeds the scope of his project.

Personally, I've come across Schaeffer quite late in my Christian career. It's a great pity I haven't found him much earlier in my Christian walk when I needed such encouragement and conceptual engagement. Until recently - more precisely, until Plantinga's encouragement and strong leadership - conservative Christian intellectuals demonstrated an inherent inability to engage popular culture. Lack of confidence and a certain disorientation with respect to limits and conceptual permissions characterised a lot of apologetic Christian thought in the 20th century. Why? Simply because most prominent Christian and ex-Christian thinkers, as part of the same culture, did not feel a burden to defend their faith. Instead, they felt the need to explore their faith in a critical way. As a result, they were co-responsible for producing such culture in the first place in their attempts to understand the world and our place in it.

Schaeffer is a thinker who expressed his view as to the conceptual understating of the ideological coordinates by which we live. He engaged pop culture of his day analytically giving us better knowledge and the incentive, even permission, so to speak, to re-contextualise our own understanding and analyses of pop culture. To me, he is what Slavoj Zizek is to theoretical psychoanalysts: a progressive thinker who is willing to take unconventional and highly controversial turns. Like Zizek, he sometimes fails to do justice to the subject-matter under discussion. But who does? That's why it is unnecessary to accuse him of misunderstanding of certain authors such as Kierkegaard as well as other individual thinkers. It is equally wrong to say that he didn't read primary sources. As I mentioned earlier, Schaeffer is interested in the effects produced by the analysed authors. He is not so much interested in their motives and intentions. For example, in his discussion on Hegel, Schaeffer perceptively observed what effects Hegel's thinking exerted on the Western world. I paraphrase: Hegel caused compression of individual identity into an excessive and all-encompassing rational Identity, which by default renders accessible and regulatory every aspect of one's life. Finally, driven by desire for utter regulation and overrationalisation of human behaviour, Hegelian system failed to accommodate subjective forms of individual expression. Notice, he is not discussing what Hegel really intended and what his motives were. He is interested in the effects. In this sense, it is possible to say that he developed a commentary on secondary sources.

How, then, should we read Schaeffer's Escape from Reason? My answer is simple: as part of a dialogue on contemporary culture. All of us who think and write about popular issues know that we provide only partial and subjective representations of facts and reality. In fact, we all exist in interaction with one another in which we express our views and opinions on what the world is or isn't, or what it should be like. So it is OK to accept Schaeffer as a conceptual thinker who expresses his views in a cultural dialogue. I encourage all thinking individuals who both agree and disagree with Schaeffer to read Escape from Reason thus informing their choices in matters pertaining to rationality and its failures. I guarantee they'll be motivated to examine the same authors with more focus and interest. Moreover, they'll certainly better understand the development of the Western culture and its current themes.
188 of 245 people found the following review helpful
Schaeffer evidently didn't read primary sources 10 Sept. 2001
By Robert Moore - Published on
Format: Paperback
First, I have to express appreciation for Schaeffer. When I was in high school, I read through all of his books with great interest and avidity. He (along with C. S. Lewis) was a great example to me that you could be a Christian and still have a brain. I thought. Unfortunately, his books led to actually read the individuals he discussed. I went on to attend Yale University and the University of Chicago, studying theology and philosophy at both places. At Yale I met several Christian grad students who, like me, initially became interested in philosophy through reading Schaeffer. Every single one of us was grateful to Schaeffer. Every single one of us agreed: Schaeffer probably never read any of the people he discusses.
If you have just a little background in philosophy or the history of theology, and you look carefully through the footnotes of any of Schaeffer's books, it becomes fairly obvious that his reading was restricted almost entirely to secondary sources. He didn't read Aquinas so much as books about Aquinas. He seems to have been especially indebted to books by Dutch Reformed scholars. Most of his discussions of the great figures in the history of the church are travesties of their actual thought.
An example: Kierkegaard. Most of my graduate work both at Yale and Chicago was on Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard is a widely misunderstood scholar, but virtually everyone who has studied his work at any length will acknowledge that he was not a theological innovator, that he in no sense was trying to undermine Christian faith, and that he was utterly orthodox in his thought. It is impossible to find a single orthodox Christian doctrine that Kierkegaard attacks. In no sense is Kierkegaard an opponent of Christianity. Being as generous as possible, I think the most I can say is that Kierkegaard was a puzzlement to Schaeffer. The tragedy is that there are a very large number of excellent scholars, even Dutch Reformed scholars, who could have helped Schaeffer in his misunderstandings.
We can contrast this with C. S. Lewis. Lewis was not perfect as a thinker, but Lewis at least read the people he discusses. Had Lewis ever read Schaeffer, he would have been angered and disgusted at Schaeffer persistent misreadings of people like Aquinas (who I would also disagree with, but for very, very different reasons). Lewis was a perceptive and penetrating reader, and to discuss at length anyone without having studied their work at length would have been anathema to him.
Folks, Schaeffer's understanding of philosophy is not even up to the level of a good undergraduate. I am grateful to Schaeffer for having introduced me to the world of philosophical thought. Hopefully others go on to read the figures he discusses. If so, they also will see that Schaeffer is guilty of profoundly misrepresenting their thought. But I profoundly regret that others do not go to read any of the figures that he critiques. I regret this. I regret it as a Christian, and I regret it as a philosophy.
I especially regret it as a Christian because Christ and the Christian faith is not served by the distortion of the truth.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By David Haines - Published on
Format: Paperback
Escape from Reason. Francis A. Schaeffer. InterVarsity Press, 1974. 96pp. ISBN 0-87784-538-7.

Francis Schaeffer has been widely recognized as one of the twentieth century’s greatest Christian apologists. In his book Escape from Reason, Schaeffer proposes to help the reader to interact, on a more meaningful level, with the current culture. Why? “We must realize that we are facing a rapidly changing historical situation, and if we are going to talk to people about the gospel we need to know what is the present ebb and flow of thought-forms. Unless we do this the unchangeable principles of Christianity will fall on deaf ears. And if we are going to reach the intellectuals and the workers, both groups right outside our middle-class churches, then we shall need to do a great deal of heart-searching as to how we may speak what is eternal into a changing historical situation.” In order to help the reader to properly understand his current cultural situation, Schaeffer proposes to explain why people think the way they do today, and how we got to this point. Unless we understand the cause, we will be unable to know the effect fully. Schaeffer proposes, as a starting point, that the entire contemporary situation finds its starting place in a number of doctrines that he claims were proposed by Thomas Aquinas, namely: a distinction between nature and grace, and a partial fall of humanity by which humans retained some form of autonomy from their creator. “What is wrong? Again, it goes back to Thomas Aquinas’s insufficient view of the Fall which gives certain things an autonomous structure. When nature is made autonomous it soon ends up by devouring God, grace, freedom and eventually man.”

Schaeffer proposes that from this starting point we can follow the history of human philosophy and theology and give an explanation of contemporary thought, and how to approach it. He traces a line through the renaissance, the reformation, the development of science, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, contemporary existentialism, into contemporary culture. In his analysis of culture he considers the different domains of science, philosophy, and, primarily, the arts.

The most important contributions of this book are Schaeffer's intriguing analysis of contemporary culture and society, and how Christians need to approach it. Furthermore, Schaeffer shows how the work of the existentialist philosophers such as Sartre and Heidegger have influenced our society, and indeed the Christian church, more than what most people realize. One of the conclusions that the reader will inevitably draw, after reading this book, is that, in order to be able to successfully present the gospel, we need to truly understand our culture, however, in order to truly understand this culture, we need to understand the ideas that drive it. If we don't understand our culture, then, when we preach the gospel, those who hear it won't understand it; it will be like trying to speak english to someone who does not understand english.

The major problem of this book is that the starting point for his cultural analysis is factually wrong. He repeats his starting point on numerous occasions; namely, that Aquinas's distinction between nature and grace is the source of a dichotomy that has been influencing and destroying culture ever since. Regardless of his wrong interpretation of Aquinas, and his naming of Aquinas as the source of all the trouble, I do think that his diagnostic of culture is, in the main points, mostly right. It is a book worth reading for its diagnosis of culture, but not for its philosophical insights into the ancient and medieval philosophers. On the other hand, his critiques of Kierkegaard and Heidegger are a little bit more interesting, as he shows how these contemporary philosophers have had an enormous influence on our current society.

It is necessary to respond to his constantly repeated claim that "nature destroys grace", which shows up, in one form or another, throughout the book, as well as to his claim whereby he attributes a distinction between nature and grace to Aquinas, and the claim that Aquinas only allows for a "partial fall", allowing for human autonomy from God. These claims are simply false as anyone who is familiar with Aquinas would know. Aquinas claims, to the contrary, that the entire human nature is corrupted, but that the fall did not erase all traces of rationality, etc. To make such a claim would be to contradict Rom. 1:19-20 and Rom. 2:15. A good book on this subject, which will correct the erroneous claims of Schaeffer, is "Aquinas, Calvin & Contemporary Protestant Thought" by Arvin Vos.

In relation to his claim that Aquinas only proposes a partial fall Schaeffer constantly claims that the "biblical doctrine" of the fall implies a total fall, and he constantly claims that a biblical theology is uninfluenced by any type of philosophy. Both of these later claims are naive and simply false. Most reformation theologians were either nominalists, such as Luther, or Platonist, in their philosophy, and these philosophical views, which were quite popular at that time, influenced their theology. Furthermore, the only truly "biblical theology" is the words of the Bible itself properly interpreted; however as many modern philosophers have noted, as soon as we begin the process of explaining and interpreting the Bible, we do so in the light of the categories that we accept about the world. That is, the Bible is interpreted in light of how we define certain terms, and these terms are not defined in the Bible. I always cringe whenever I hear someone claim, "That's just what the Bible teaches!", as they are arrogantly claiming some sort of insight that is over and above that of every other human since the apostle's finished writing the New Testament. There is only one proper interpretation for every part of scripture, however, human limitations and sinfulness should keep us from the pretentious and dogmatic claim that our theology is 100% truth. Schaeffer’s claim that nature destroys grace is humorous, because there was a common saying in the medieval age: "Grace perfects Nature".

All in all, I agree with his analysis of culture, but was greatly discouraged by his analysis of philosophy and theology. When I finished the book, the first thought that crossed my mind was, "how in the world did Schaeffer gain as much popularity as a Christian apologist as C. S. Lewis?" In fact, one can find, in C. S . Lewis, almost every insight that Schaeffer is credited with, however, with a more profound analysis of philosophical and theological trends. In my humble opinion, one would be better off reading C. S. Lewis than Schaeffer.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Strong Christian apologetics 9 April 2008
By Scott Walker - Published on
Format: Paperback
Francis Schaeffer in his early life was left to accept agnosticism because of what he was taught by the liberal church. But today he is a warrior for Jesus Christ and a defender of Truth. He says, "the Christian is the real radical of our generation, for he stands against the monolithic modern concept of truth as relative" Schaeffer has come to an understanding that few of us will reach. He brings a new and refreshing perspective in apologetics, backed with powerful arguments; he is able to communicate to the laymen as well as test the Scholar. He tells us, "first I am not an apologete if that means building a safe house to live in, so that we Christians can sit inside with safety and quiescence. Christians should be out in the midst of the world as both witnesses and salt, not sitting in a fortress surrounded by a moat."

Some of what Schaeffer espoused in "The God Who Is There" is carried over into this book: the dichotomy that the early, brilliant artists, philosophers and scientists faced, only to end in irrational thought. These are the men who led us to modern day rationalism and naturalism. Early science dealt with the natural world, but it did not yet become "naturalistic" until later, "it was the biblical mentality which gave birth to modern science". Schaeffer argues that the Renaissance opened the door to humanistic autonomy and the recognizing of nature in a totally different light.

The destruction begins when nature is made autonomous----Grace is then eaten up by it. Man thus continually changes what is placed into the upper story (God) in hope for some kind of meaning. Without that upward belief in a creator and Christ-centered-absolutes we are then left with our downward relativistic rationality of the world: rationalism----where even evil becomes fuzzy. "In order to confront modern man effectively, we must not have this dichotomy. You must have the Scriptures speaking truth both about God Himself and about the area where the Bible touches history and the cosmos." We Christians might as well be speaking a foreign language unless we understand the minds (language) of today. What is tragic is the church has now accepted this dichotomy, or, duality.

Christians need to know the steps that brought us to this point, and the minds that have influenced the world, in order to strengthen us in defense of the truth.

A good book to add is "7 Men Who Rule From The Grave"

Wish you well
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