Francis Schaeffer Escapes Reason

Stayed out late, woke up late, and posted late. This is a post of lates (but no humble apologies; my blog, my rules).

So I’m working my way through a tiny little book right now called Escape From Reason by Francis Schaeffer, a scholar from back in the sixties and seventies who was very influential in conservative Christian thinking, giving the Religious Right a whole bunch of backing for their ideas and policies (albeit indirectly, from what I can tell). However, I refuse to let that stop me. I won’t blame Darwin for the Holocaust; I won’t blame Adam Smith for lasseiz-faire politics, or Marx for Stalin’s Purge. In my mind, the origin of an idea cannot always be placed at fault for how someone distorted it. Jesus and the Apostles brought forth many, many wonderful thoughts and concepts that their followers corrupted and distorted later on; this doesn’t mean we disregard those original teachings. I can’t apply this in all cases, but that is a discussion for another day.

On to Schaeffer: Escape From Reason, published in 1968, was written at a time where many evangelical Christians thought the whole world was going to Hell. The Hippie movement was in full swing, and the church wanted nothing to do with it, not even to dialogue with it. Enter Francis Schaeffer, a scholar who utilized “secular” writings from throughout history to justify Christianity, but also, seemingly, to enter into dialogue with the world. He wrote LOTS of books, most prominently The Christian Manifesto, a sort of response to Marx and Engel’s The Communist Manifesto and Raymond Bragg’s Humanist Manifesto. I have yet to read that one, but give me time.

EFR is a short, insightful analysis into the thought of Schaeffer’s time, something which still has some validity today, though it is perhaps a bit dated. What impresses me thus far, however, is Schaeffer’s command of philosophy and both Christian and secular thought. This man is no one to shake a stick at; he know’s what he’s talking about, though I can’t say I fully agree with everything he’s said thus far (I’m on page 34 right now).  His thoroughness is impressive, beginning with Greek thought and moving his way through Aquinas and the Renaissance up to Kant and Rousseau.  I’m about to start on his views of Hegel (whom I’ve never liked much to begin with).

He sticks predominately to a Reformed view of apologetics known as “presuppositional apologetics,” a pattern of thought whose adherents believe that man cannot know anything without the existence of an infinite God and His personal grace, therefore presupposing that He does exist is necessary to man’s epistemology (or how man knows anything). Men in the Reformed tradition, such as B.B. Warfield or Cornelius Van Til (whose articles on the subject I have also taken to reading) have championed this view for the last couple centuries, though my own views on its validity have yet to be cemented.  A Reformed thinker would certainly tell you that no other view is valid and would be inconsistent with Scripture, so it’s pretty serious stuff.

Anyway, I’m thoroughly enjoying this so far.  While I tend to be more loose about my epistemology, leaving room for mystery and uncertainty, a grounding in solid rationalism can be relieving when I find myself in doubt.  More on this as the week (and my reading) progresses.

Posts might be sporadic forthcoming.  Working some weird shifts this week, so time to read (and therefore material for writing) are going to be sparse.  Hopefully see you guys tomorrow!

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