2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A great book - but with some caveats,
This review is from: HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE PB (Paperback)
Few would deny that the Western world has undergone tremendous changes in the context off thoughts and ideas. This book set out to accomplish two things: First, to give the reader a deep timeline of these changes and, secondly, to provide an explanation for them and their consequences.
Francis Schaeffer charts the course of Western thought, but does so in an evidence-based way. His main thesis is that by shifting its basis of thought from God to man, western society effectively removed the very foundation on which it stands, giving rise to the philosophical devaluation of human life and the constant - and often bloody - swings in political regimes. Without an absolute basis on which to create morals, laws and social structures, we have been essentially grasping in the wind, making it up as we go along only to see it sooner or later crumble like a deck of cards.
It's a compelling argument, and the book is thorough in supporting it with careful evidence. Schaeffer was a scholar and he he seeks to let the data speak for itself. He doesn't push - as some accused him - his own, Christian presuppositions in the book, but rather draws careful conclusions at the end of every chapter.
Having said that, we must remember that the book was written over 30 years ago. This commands both admiration for the book's durability and discernment on the book's centre of focus. In the '70's, Schaeffer saw the rise of "modern man", and most of us know what he's talking about. But due to its age, the book has very little to offer on explaining today's "Post-modern man", which might be of more interest to readers.
Secondly, it's fair to say that the book assumes a fairly good knowledge of western history and philosophy. Names come and go (fully indexed of course) and although the "biggies" are analysed fairly well, it would be of help to the reader to have a western philosophy "Who's who" index handy.
Nonetheless, this is indeed a timeless work, especially for those of us who wonder "how did we get here?". As a "clumper", Schaeffer finds patterns and helps us see how History repeats itself even in terms of thought. And, if anything else, you will certainly come away from the book with a greater understanding of the challenges that western thought is and will be confronted with.
Bottom line: Recommended wholeheartedly, but some background help/knowledge will go a long way.