Steven H Propp
- Published on Amazon.com
Francis August Schaeffer (1912-1984) was a Christian theologian, philosopher, apologist, and Presbyterian pastor, as well as the founder of the L'Abri community in Switzerland. The other two volumes in this "trilogy" are Escape from Reason and He is There & He is not Silent. He has also written many other books such as How Then should We then Live, Genesis in Space and Time, The Church At the End of the 20th Century, Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History, Death in the City, The Church Before the Watching World : A Practical Ecclesiology, etc. He also turned to politics with Whatever Happened to the Human Race, which was influenced by his filmmaker son Frank (who later regretted this; see his book, Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect).
Schaeffer begins this 1968 book with the statement, "The present chasm between the generations has been brought about almost entirely by a change in the concept of truth... men and women are being fundamentally affected by the new way of looking at truth and yet they have never even analysed the drift which has taken place... this change in the concept of the way we come to knowledge and truth is the MOST crucial problem, as I understand it, facing Christianity today." (Pg. 13) He draws a line labeled "Europe around 1890"/"The U.S. about 1935," which he calls "The Line of Despair." He explains, "Above this line we find men living with their romantic notions of absolutes (though with no sufficient logical basis). This side of the line all is changed. Man thinks differently concerning truth, and so now for us, more than ever before, a presuppositional apologetic is imperative." (Pg. 15)
He suggests, "If it is true that philosophy, the first step in the line of despair, touched only a very few people, art, the second step, influenced many more..." (Pg. 30) He adds, "The various steps on the line---philosophy, art, music, theatre and so on---differ in details... but in a way they are only incidental. The distinctive mark of the twentieth century intellectual and cultural climate ... [lies] in the unifying concept... the concept of a divided field of knowledge." (Pg. 44) He concludes the first section on the note, "the greatest antithesis of all is that He [God exists as opposed to His not existing. He is the God who is there." (Pg. 48) Later, he explains, "I have chosen to use this expression 'God is there' as being equivalent to 'God exists' ... in order to meet the problem of the new theology, which denies that God is there in the historical biblical sense." (Pg. 145)
He argues that "Neo-orthodoxy leaped to what I call the 'upper storey' in order to try to find something which would give hope and meaning to life. The 'lower storey' is the position to which their presuppositions would have rationally and logically brought them. So theology too has gone below the line of despair." (Pg. 53) He adds, "The new theology itself is having an internal problem through separating the 'upstairs' and 'downstairs' into such water-tight compartments... In actual fact the new theology has a dead god in both the upper and lower storeys." (Pg. 78-79) He concludes, "So there is open to the new theology the possibility of supplying society with an endless series of religiously motivated arbitrary absolutes." (Pg. 84)
He says, "In historic Christianity a personal God creates man in His own image, and in such a case, there is nothing that would make it nonsense to consider that He would communicate to man in verbalised form... Why should God not communicate PROPOSITIONALLY to the man, the verbalising being, whom He made in such a way that we communicate propositionally to each other? Therefore ... there is the possibility of verifiable facts involved... also down into the areas of history and science. God has set the revelation of the Bible in history... God has also set man in the UNIVERSE which the Scriptures themselves say speaks of this God. What sense then would it make for God to give His revelation in a book that was wrong concerning the universe?" (Pg. 92)
He asserts, "Christianity says man is now abnormal... but by true moral guilt... Cruelty is ... a result of a moral, historic, space-time Fall. What does a historical space-time Fall involve? It means that there was a time before man fell; that, if you had been there, you could have seen Adam before he fell; that, at the point when he revolted against God by making a free choice to disobey God's commandment, there was a tick of the clock. Take away the first three chapters of Genesis, and you cannot maintain a true Christian position nor give Christianity's answers." (Pg. 104)
He contends, "no non-Christian can be consistent to the logic of his presuppositions. The reason for this is simply that a man must live in reality, and reality consists of two parts: the external world and its form, and man's 'mannishness'..." (Pg. 121) He adds, "when you face twentieth-century man, whether he is brilliant or an ordinary man of the street... you are facing a man in tension... Therefore, the first consideration in our apologetics for modern man... is to find the place where his tension exists... it will take time and it will cost something to discover what the person we are speaking about has not yet discovered to himself." (Pg. 122, 125) He suggests, "We try to move him in the natural direction in which his presuppositions would take him." (Pg. 127) He explains, "Every man has built a roof over his head ... as a protection against the blows of the real world... The Christian... must remove the shelter and allow the truth of the external world and of what man is to beat on him... This, I am convinced, is the true order for our apologetics in the second half of the twentieth century." (Pg. 129)
Schaeffer has fallen almost into disuse by 21st century Christians; nevertheless, his was a most distinctive voice, and no one on the contemporary scene is articulating these same points as effectively.