FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 214 The Humpback Roman bridge illustration (Feature on artist Charles Atlas)

_

Image result for francis schaeffer roman bridge

____

_____

Image result for francis schaeffer roman bridge

_______

Francis Schaeffer takes a look at Rome and why it fell. It fell because of inward problems. We have many of these same problems today in the USA.

The late Francis Schaeffer wrote of the significance of one’s world view, which, in the final analysis, represents one’s doctrinal perspective about God and life:

There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted and has its wellspring in the thoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind—what they are in their thought world determines how they act. This is true of their value systems and it is true of their creativity …

People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize. By presuppositions we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic world view, the grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. People’s presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth into the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and their basis for their decisions.

“As a man thinketh, so is he,” is really most profound. An individual is not just the product of the forces around him. He has a mind, an inner world …

Most people catch their presuppositions from their family and surrounding society the way a child catches measles. But people with more understanding realize that their presuppositions should be chosen after a careful consideration of what world view is true …

It is important to realize what a difference a people’s world view makes in their strength as they are exposed to the pressure of life. That it was the Christians who were able to resist religious mixtures, syncretism, and the effects of the weakness of Roman culture speaks of the strength of the Christian world view. This strength rested on God’s being an infinite-personal God and his speaking in the Old Testament, in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, and in the gradually growing New Testament. He had spoken in ways people could understand. Thus the Christians not only had knowledge about the universe and mankind that people cannot find out by themselves, but they had absolute, universal values by which to live and by which to judge the society and the political state in which they lived …1

Apathy was the chief mark of the late Empire. One of the ways the apathy showed itself was in a lack of creativity in the arts. One easily observed example of the decadence of officially sponsored art is that the fourth-century work on the Arch of Constantine in Rome stands’ in poor contrast to its second-century sculptures which were borrowed from monuments from the period of Emperor Trajan. The elite abandoned their intellectual pursuits for social life. Officially sponsored art was decadent, and music was increasingly bombastic. Even the portraits on the coins became of poor quality. All of life was marked by the predominant apathy.

As the Roman economy slumped lower and lower, burdened with an aggravated inflation and a costly government, authoritarianism increased to counter the apathy. Since work was no longer done voluntarily, it was brought increasingly under the authority of the state, and freedoms were lost. For example, laws were passed binding small farmers to their land. So, because of the general apathy and its results, and because of oppressive control, few thought the old civilization worth saving.

Rome did not fall because of external forces such as the invasion by the barbarians. Rome had no sufficient inward base; the’ barbarians only completed the breakdown — and Rome gradually became a ruin.

It is important to realize what a difference a people’s world view makes in their strength as they are exposed to the pressure of life. That it was the Christians who were able to resist religious mixtures, syncretism, and the effects of the weaknesses of Roman culture speaks of the strength of the Christian world view. This strength rested on God’s being an infinite-personal God and his speaking in the Old Testament, in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, and in the gradually growing New Testament. He had spoken in ways people could understand. Thus the Christians not only had knowledge about the universe and mankind that people cannot find out by themselves, but they had absolute, universal values by which to live and by which to judge the society and the political state in which they lived. And they had grounds for the basic dignity and value of the individual as unique in being made in the image of God.

Perhaps no one has presented more vividly to our generation the inner weakness of imperial Rome than has Fellini (1920-) in his film Satyricon. He reminds us that the classical world is not to be romanticized, but that it was both cruel and decadent as it came to the logical conclusion of its world view.

A culture or an individual with a weak base can stand only when the pressure on it is not too great. As an illustration, let us think of a Roman bridge. The Romans built little humpbacked bridges over many of the streams of Europe. People and wagons went over these structures safely for centuries, for two millennia. But if people today drove heavily loaded trucks over these bridges, they would break. It is this way with the lives and value systems of individuals and cultures when they have nothing stronger to build on than their own limitedness, their own finiteness. They can stand when pressures are not too great, but when pressures mount, if then they do not have a sufficient base, they crash-just as a Roman bridge would cave in under the weight of a modern six-wheeled truck. Culture and the freedoms of people are fragile. Without a sufficient base, when such pressures come only time is needed and often not a great deal of time-before there is a collapse.

E P I S O D E 1

ROMAN AGE

I. Introduction

A. Problem: dilemma of social breakdown and violence leading to authoritarianism which limits freedom.

B. We are, however, not helpless. Why?

C. Answer approached through consideration of the past.

D. Any starting point in history would be good; we start with Rome because it is direct ancestor of modern West.

II. Rome: The Empire Triumphant

A. Size and military strength of Empire.

B. Imperial sway evoked by Aventicum (Avenches), Switzerland.

III. Rome: Cultural Analysis

A. Greece and Rome: cultural influences and parallels.

1. Society as the absolute, to give meaning to life.

2. Finite gods as ground of accepted values.

B. Problems arising from Roman culture.

1. No infinite reference point as base for values and society.

2. Collapse of civic ideals therefore inevitable.

C. Results of collapse of ideals.

1. Dictatorship of Julius Caesar a response to civil disorder.

2. Firmly established authoritarian rule of Augustus.

D. Characteristics of regime introduced by Augustus.

1. Claim to give peace and the fruits of civilization.

2. Care to maintain facade of republican constitution.

3. People ready to accept absolute power in return for peace and prosperity.

4. Religious sanction for emperor-dictators: the emperor as God.

E. Christian persecution

1. Religious toleration in the Empire.

2. Christians persecuted because they would worship only the infinite-personal God and not Caesar also. They had an absolute whereby to judge the Roman state and its actions.

F. Viability of presuppositions facing social and political tension.

1. Christians had infinite reference point in God and His revelation in the Old Testament, the revelation through Christ, and the growing New Testament.

2. Christians could confront Roman culture and be untouched by its inner weakness, including its relativism and syncretism.

3. Roman hump-backed bridge, like Roman culture, could only stand if not subjected to overwhelming pressures.

IV. Rome: Eventual Decline and Fall

A. Growth of taste for cruelty.

B. Decadence seen in rampant sexuality and lust for violence.

C. General apathy, as seen in decline in artistic creativity.

D. Economic decline, more expensive government, and tighter centralization.

E. Successful barbarian invasions because of internal rot.

V. Conclusion

There is no foundation strong enough for society or the individual life within the realm of finiteness and beginning from Man alone as autonomous.

Questions

1. Dr. Schaeffer claims that, through looking at history, we can see how presuppositions determine events. Does his discussion bear this out and, if so, how?

2. How can a survey of Roman history in one-half hour be either useful or responsible? Discuss.

3. “History does not repeat itself.” —The parallels between the history of Rome and the twentieth century West are many and obvious.” How may these statements be reconciled?

Key Events and Persons

Julius Caesar: 100-44 B.C.

Augustus Caesar (Octavian): 63 B.C.-A.D. 14

Declared Pontifex Maximus: 12 B.C.

Diocletian: (Emperor) A.D. 284-305

Further Study

Here, as in succeeding suggestions for further study, it will be assumed that if you want to devote a great deal of time to a topic you can consult a library or a good bookstore. Suggestions given below are made on the basis of relevance to the text, readability, and availability.

Not all the books will necessarily agree at all—or in all details—with Dr. Schaeffer’s presentation. But as in the general conduct of life, so in matters of the mind, one must learn to discriminate. If you avoid reading things with which you disagree, you will be naive about what most of the world thinks. On the other hand, if you read everything—but without a critical mind—you will end up accepting by default all that the world (and especially your own moment of history) thinks.

J.P.V.D. Balsdon, Life and Leisure in Ancient Rome (1969).

E.M. Blaiklock, The Christian in Pagean Society (1956).

Samuel Dill, Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire (1962).

E.M.B. Green, Evangelism in the Early Church (1970).

Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans: A Selection (1972).

Virgil, The Aeneid (1965).

Film: Fellini, Satyricon (1969).

______________________

 

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE? “The Roman Age”  (Feature on artist…)

Francis Schaeffer has written extensively on art and culture spanning the last 2000 years and here are some posts I have done on this subject before : Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 10 “Final Choices” episode 9 “The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence”episode 8 “The Age of Fragmentation”episode 7 “The Age of Non-Reason” episode 6 “The Scientific Age” episode 5 “The Revolutionary Age” ,  episode 4 “The Reformation” episode 3 “The Renaissance”episode 2 “The Middle Ages,”, and  episode 1 “The Roman Age,” . My favorite episodes are number 7 and 8 since they deal with modern art and culture primarily.

Here are some of the key events and people in the arts and culture that are in Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?:

 

episode 10 “Final Choices,”, Paul’s speech in Athens: c. A.D. 53,Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: c. A.D. 60,J.K. Galbraith: 1908-2006,Francis Crick: 1916-2004,Daniel Bell: 1919-2011,The Coming of the Post-Industrial Society: 1973 Robert Theobald: 1929-1999s” ,

 

episode 9 “The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence,”,Oliver Wendell Holmes: 1841-1935 Herbert Marcuse: 1898-1979 Alexander Solzhenitsyn: 1917- Hungarian Revolution: 1956,Free Speech Movement: 1964 Czechoslovakian repression: 1968,Woodstock and Altamont: 1969,Radical bombings: 1970,Supreme Court abortion ruling: 1973 Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago: 1973-74

 

episode 8 “The Age of Fragmentation,” ,

Impressionists:Monet, Renoir, Pissaro, Sisley, and Degas.Post Impressionists:Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Seurat.

Also Picasso: 1881-1973, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon:

1906-7 Marcel Duchamp: 1887-1969, Nude Descending a Staircase: 1912: John Cage: 1912-1992, Music for Marcel Duchamp: 1947
Jackson Pollock: 1912-1956,Beethoven’s last Quartets: 1825-26 Claude Monet: 1840-1926,Poplars at Giverny, Sunrise: 1885 Paul Cézanne: 1839-1906, The Bathers: c.1905: Claude Debussy: 1862-1918 Wassily Kandinsky: 1866-1944 Arnold Schoenberg: 1874-1951:T.S. Eliot: 1888-1965,The Wasteland: 1922:Karlheinz Stockhausen: 1928-2007:Sartre’s Nausea: 1938,Beauvoir’s L’Invitée: 1943,Camus’ The Stranger: 1942,Camus’ The Plague: 1947,Resnais’ The Last Year at Marienbad: 1961 Bergman’s The Silence: 1963 Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits: 1965 Antonioni’s Blow-Up: 1966,Bergman’s The Hour of the Wolf: 1967 Buñel’s Belle de Jour: 1967

 

episode 7 “The Age of Non-Reason,”,Rousseau: 1712-1778,Kant: 1724-1804,Marquis de Sade: 1740-1814 The Social Contract: 1762 Hegel: 1770-1831 Kierkegaard: 1813-1855,Paul Gauguin: 1848-1903,Whence, What Whither?: 1897-1898 Albert Schweitzer: 1875-1965,Quest for the Historical Jesus: 1906 Karl Jaspers: 1883-1969,Paul Tillich: 1886-1965,Karl Barth: 1886-1968,Martin Heidegger: 1889-1976 Aldous Huxley: 1894-1963,J.P. Sartre: 1905-1980,Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper: 1967.

 

episode 6 “The Scientific Age,”Copernicus: 1475-1543, Francis Bacon: 1561-1626,Novum Organum Scientiarum: 1620,Galileo: 1564-1642,Pascal: 1623-1662,Isaac Newton: 1642-1727,Principia Mathematica: 1687,Michael Faraday: 1791-1867
Charles Darwin: 1809-1882,Origin of Species: 1859,Herbert Spencer: 1820-1903,Albert Einstein: 1879-1955,Russel Lee: 1895-,Heinrich Himmler: 1900-1945,B.F. Skinner: 1904-1990,Arthur Koestler: 1905-1983,Kenneth B. Clark: 1914-2005,Murray Eden: 1920-,Kermit Kranty: 1923-2007,,Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and Dignity: 1971
 

 

episode 5 “The Revolutionary Age,” Calvin: 1509-1564
Samuel Rutherford: 1600-1661 Rutherford’s Lex Rex: 1644John Locke: 1631-1704John Wesley: 1703-1791Voltaire: 1694-1778,Letters on the English Nation: 1733 George Whitefield: 1714-1770 John Witherspoon: 1723-1794 John Newton: 1725-1807,John Howard: 1726-1790 Jefferson: 1743-1826,Robespierre: 1758-1794 Wilberforce: 1759-1833,Clarkson: 1760-1846,Napoleon: 1769-1821,Elizabeth Fry: 1780-1845,Declaration of Rights of Man: 1789,National Constituent Assembly: 1789-1791,Second French Revolution and Revolutionary Calendar: 1792 The Reign of Terror: 1792-1794,Lord Shaftesbury: 1801-1855,English slave trade ended: 1807,Slavery ended in Great Britain and Empire: 1833
Karl Marx: 1818-1883,Lenin: 1870-1924,Trotsky: 1879-1940,Stalin: 1879-1953,February and October Russian Revolutions: 1917,Berlin Wall: 1961,Czechoslovakian repression: 1968

 

episode 4 “The Reformation,”Erasmus: c. 1466-1536 Dürer: 1471-1528,Lucas Cranach: 1472-1553 Martin Luther: 1483-1546 Farel: 1489-1565,Johann Walther: 1496-1570,Calvin: 1509-1564,Erasmus’ Greek New Testament: 1516 Luther’s 95 Thesis: 1517,Reform at Zürich: 1523 Wittenberg Gesangbuch: 1524 England breaks with Rome: 1534 Calvin’s Institutes: 1536,Geneva Psalter: 1562 Rembrandt: 1606-1669,Raising of the Cross: 1633,Bach: 1685-175,

 

 episode 3 “The Renaissance, Dante: 1265-1321, The Divine Comedy: 1300-1321 Giotto: c. 1267-1337,Brunelleschi: 1377-1446,Jan van Eyck: 1380-1441 Masaccio: 1401-1428, Fouquet: 1416-1480, Duomo, Cathedral of Florence: 1434 Leonardo da Vinci: 1452-1519 Michelangelo: 1475-1564 Michelangelo’s David: 1504,Francis I of France: 1494-1547”,

 

and the first two episodes:episode 2 “The Middle Ages,”,and  episode 1 “The Roman Age,”

 

Francis Schaeffer: How Should We Then Live? (Full-Length Documentary)

____________________

Today you will notice that Rome fell from within because of postmodernism. Here is the example that Schaeffer gives in the film:

A culture or an individual with a weak base can stand only when the pressure on it is not too great. As an illustration, let us think of a Roman bridge. The Romans built little humpbacked bridges over many of the streams of Europe. People and wagons went over these structures safely for centuries, for two millennia. But if people today drove heavily loaded trucks over these bridges, they would break. It is this way with the lives and value systems of individuals and cultures when they have nothing stronger to build on than their own limitedness, their own finiteness. They can stand when pressures are not too great, but when pressures mount, if then they do not have a sufficient base, they crash-just as a Roman bridge would cave in under the weight of a modern six-wheeled truck. Culture and the freedoms of people are fragile. Without a sufficient base, when such pressures come only time is needed and often not a great deal of time-before there is a collapse.

Francis Schaeffer and Postmodernism

by Chad Brand | Dec 01 2012 | Published in Uncategorized

For me, the ‘Seventies were virtually bookended by Francis Schaeffer. I read The God Who Is There for the first time in 1972 and my intellectual life was transformed. Though I struggled with some of the ideas in the book and at times I wished the author might have given a bit more background material to explain his assessments, I had the overwhelming sense that I had crossed over into a new world. Then in 1978 I spent ten successive Thursday nights going to a church in Ft. Worth, Texas, to view the successive installments of the film series, “How Should We Then Live?” At the time it was a tour de force in Christian film production, and it convinced me that it was possible not only to make a credible case for Christianity, but that it might also be done in an attractive and compelling format.

Schaeffer was the first apologist I ever read, and his impact on my thinking was profound. But he is more than that. Hegel reminded us that the Owl of Minerva flies at dusk, and if this is so, then one might surmise that the real jolt of Schaeffer’s work would not be felt until after he was gone. I personally believe this to be the case. As helpful as he was as a teacher to me when I was eighteen years old, now I read him as a prophet.
Schaeffer was one of the first evangelical thinkers to take note of rising postmodernity, though that term was not au courant in his time, and to recognize it for what it was, not what it claimed to be. His criticisms of Samuel Beckett and Mondrian, for example, show that though these postmodern cultural icons claim to be critiquing any possibility for objective truth claims, the fact is that they offer their own tacit affirmations about truth.

He labored as an evangelist. Schaeffer’s work might be seen as the reverse of the strategy exercised by postmodern critics such as Herbert Marcuse and Theodore Adorno in the early ‘Sixties. These members of the Frankfurt School launched a very caustic critique of all claims to knowledge and truth that stood in the heritage of classical antiquity, of the Christian worldview, or even of modernity. However it may seem to the casual reader of books like One-Dimensional Man, though, the goal of these iconoclasts was not the rejection of outmoded forms of discourse so that marginalized speech might finally have its place in cultural life. These men had political ends in view—they wanted to take over the state. In order to do that, of course, they needed to gain a mass following. Knowing that it was highly unlikely that their intellectual concerns would find a sympathetic hearing among either the working class or the bourgeoisie, these left-wing intellectuals turned to university students to obtain a pool of disciples. Marcuse and company knew full well that their stance of negativity toward prevailing institutions and truth claims would find a ready hearing among the disaffected youth of the (mostly) middle class. The result was the student protest movement in places such as Paris, Columbia University, and Berkeley.

Schaeffer’s work was an antidote to all of this in two ways. First, in his radical demythologizing of the (post)modern and existentialist myths, Schaeffer lifted the lid off of prevailing ideologies and demonstrated that non-Christians cannot give a unified account of reality. This is especially true of the intellectual traditions of the last century, in which thinking persons, under the spell of Kant, Hegel, and Kierkegaard, have slipped below the “line of despair.” Feeling self-conscious about the disarray in their worldview, such persons have thrown a blanket over the chaos to hide it from view, and then have assumed a Protean stance, like James Cagney standing atop a burning building and crying, “I’m on top of the world.” American youth in particular had fallen prey to the notion that nihilism was innocuous, a sort of playful exercise. Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin, and Frank Sinatra all made hit recordings of the song, “Mack the Knife,” a song about a serial murderer, sung to a sprightly tune, putting a sort of happy face on nihilism. (The full version of the song, from Brecht’s “Three Penny Opera” is more explicit than the American version.) Schaeffer sought to remove the blanket and let the daylight come streaming in to reveal the fractured character of these newly canonical epistemologies. Without diminishing the lure of relativism and nihilism or downplaying the genuine angst of young people in the contemporary world, Francis Schaeffer displayed the vacuity of the postmodern and existentialist “cures.” For me, reading Camus, Nietzsche, and Kafka through the decade of the ‘Seventies, Schaeffer’s sermons kept ringing back: “These men have fallen below the line of despair—they are of no final help to you.”

Second, Schaeffer wanted to tell these young persons who have been steeped in Marcuse, Sartre, and Nietzsche that they do not have to sell their souls to the devil of a fractured metaphysic. The answer to the human condition lies not in nihilism, but in the Infinite-Personal God of biblical revelation. This God seeks a relationship with humans through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. Though the church has often obscured the essence of the faith through its traditions, biblical Christianity understood in terms of the Reformation traditions provides the real solution to the human dilemma. We can know that this message is true both because it rings true in our lives and because it is presented in a Book that is absolutely trustworthy. Again, though my own approach to apologetics may not be completely Schaeferrian any more, his approach helped me work through issues related to presuppositionalism, evidentialism, and the classical approach.

Francis Schaeffer the prophet points us the way through the maze of postmodernity. Like other prophets to postmodernity, such as Solzhenitsyn and Alvin Gouldner, he reminds us that the advocates of existentialism and postmodernism are not disinterested, objective observers of the contemporary situation. They rather have adopted a discourse of radical suspicion for the purposes of transforming the moral condition of this world into something more fitting with their own rejection of Judeo-Christian values. Further, in their defense of marginalized discourses, though they appear to be the Robin Hoods of postmodern culture, taking from the bourgeoisie and their intellectual hired guns, in fact, beneath the mask they really are the Sheriff of Nottingham, with political goals of their own. Postmodernity is a power play by humanistic intellectuals for the purposes of intellectuals, and we ought not to be deluded into thinking otherwise.

Chad Owen Brand

__

Francis Schaeffer takes a look at Rome and why it fell. It fell because of inward problems. We have many of these same problems today in the USA.

The late Francis Schaeffer wrote of the significance of one’s world view, which, in the final analysis, represents one’s doctrinal perspective about God and life:

There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted and has its wellspring in the thoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind—what they are in their thought world determines how they act. This is true of their value systems and it is true of their creativity …

People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize. By presuppositions we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic world view, the grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. People’s presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth into the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and their basis for their decisions.

“As a man thinketh, so is he,” is really most profound. An individual is not just the product of the forces around him. He has a mind, an inner world …

Most people catch their presuppositions from their family and surrounding society the way a child catches measles. But people with more understanding realize that their presuppositions should be chosen after a careful consideration of what world view is true …

It is important to realize what a difference a people’s world view makes in their strength as they are exposed to the pressure of life. That it was the Christians who were able to resist religious mixtures, syncretism, and the effects of the weakness of Roman culture speaks of the strength of the Christian world view. This strength rested on God’s being an infinite-personal God and his speaking in the Old Testament, in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, and in the gradually growing New Testament. He had spoken in ways people could understand. Thus the Christians not only had knowledge about the universe and mankind that people cannot find out by themselves, but they had absolute, universal values by which to live and by which to judge the society and the political state in which they lived …1

Apathy was the chief mark of the late Empire. One of the ways the apathy showed itself was in a lack of creativity in the arts. One easily observed example of the decadence of officially sponsored art is that the fourth-century work on the Arch of Constantine in Rome stands’ in poor contrast to its second-century sculptures which were borrowed from monuments from the period of Emperor Trajan. The elite abandoned their intellectual pursuits for social life. Officially sponsored art was decadent, and music was increasingly bombastic. Even the portraits on the coins became of poor quality. All of life was marked by the predominant apathy.

Normal
0

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;}

As the Roman economy slumped lower and lower, burdened with an aggravated inflation and a costly government, authoritarianism increased to counter the apathy. Since work was no longer done voluntarily, it was brought increasingly under the authority of the state, and freedoms were lost. For example, laws were passed binding small farmers to their land. So, because of the general apathy and its results, and because of oppressive control, few thought the old civilization worth saving.

Rome did not fall because of external forces such as the invasion by the barbarians. Rome had no sufficient inward base; the’ barbarians only completed the breakdown — and Rome gradually became a ruin.

It is important to realize what a difference a people’s world view makes in their strength as they are exposed to the pressure of life. That it was the Christians who were able to resist religious mixtures, syncretism, and the effects of the weaknesses of Roman culture speaks of the strength of the Christian world view. This strength rested on God’s being an infinite-personal God and his speaking in the Old Testament, in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, and in the gradually growing New Testament. He had spoken in ways people could understand. Thus the Christians not only had knowledge about the universe and mankind that people cannot find out by themselves, but they had absolute, universal values by which to live and by which to judge the society and the political state in which they lived. And they had grounds for the basic dignity and value of the individual as unique in being made in the image of God.

Perhaps no one has presented more vividly to our generation the inner weakness of imperial Rome than has Fellini (1920-) in his film Satyricon. He reminds us that the classical world is not to be romanticized, but that it was both cruel and decadent as it came to the logical conclusion of its world view.

A culture or an individual with a weak base can stand only when the pressure on it is not too great. As an illustration, let us think of a Roman bridge. The Romans built little humpbacked bridges over many of the streams of Europe. People and wagons went over these structures safely for centuries, for two millennia. But if people today drove heavily loaded trucks over these bridges, they would break. It is this way with the lives and value systems of individuals and cultures when they have nothing stronger to build on than their own limitedness, their own finiteness. They can stand when pressures are not too great, but when pressures mount, if then they do not have a sufficient base, they crash-just as a Roman bridge would cave in under the weight of a modern six-wheeled truck. Culture and the freedoms of people are fragile. Without a sufficient base, when such pressures come only time is needed and often not a great deal of time-before there is a collapse.

 

E P I S O D E 1

ROMAN AGE

I. Introduction

A. Problem: dilemma of social breakdown and violence leading to authoritarianism which limits freedom.

B. We are, however, not helpless. Why?

C. Answer approached through consideration of the past.

D. Any starting point in history would be good; we start with Rome because it is direct ancestor of modern West.

II. Rome: The Empire Triumphant

A. Size and military strength of Empire.

B. Imperial sway evoked by Aventicum (Avenches), Switzerland.

III. Rome: Cultural Analysis

A. Greece and Rome: cultural influences and parallels.

1. Society as the absolute, to give meaning to life.

2. Finite gods as ground of accepted values.

B. Problems arising from Roman culture.

1. No infinite reference point as base for values and society.

2. Collapse of civic ideals therefore inevitable.

C. Results of collapse of ideals.

1. Dictatorship of Julius Caesar a response to civil disorder.

2. Firmly established authoritarian rule of Augustus.

D. Characteristics of regime introduced by Augustus.

1. Claim to give peace and the fruits of civilization.

2. Care to maintain facade of republican constitution.

3. People ready to accept absolute power in return for peace and prosperity.

4. Religious sanction for emperor-dictators: the emperor as God.

E. Christian persecution

1. Religious toleration in the Empire.

2. Christians persecuted because they would worship only the infinite-personal God and not Caesar also. They had an absolute whereby to judge the Roman state and its actions.

F. Viability of presuppositions facing social and political tension.

1. Christians had infinite reference point in God and His revelation in the Old Testament, the revelation through Christ, and the growing New Testament.

2. Christians could confront Roman culture and be untouched by its inner weakness, including its relativism and syncretism.

3. Roman hump-backed bridge, like Roman culture, could only stand if not subjected to overwhelming pressures.

IV. Rome: Eventual Decline and Fall

A. Growth of taste for cruelty.

B. Decadence seen in rampant sexuality and lust for violence.

C. General apathy, as seen in decline in artistic creativity.

D. Economic decline, more expensive government, and tighter centralization.

E. Successful barbarian invasions because of internal rot.

V. Conclusion

There is no foundation strong enough for society or the individual life within the realm of finiteness and beginning from Man alone as autonomous.

Questions

1. Dr. Schaeffer claims that, through looking at history, we can see how presuppositions determine events. Does his discussion bear this out and, if so, how?

2. How can a survey of Roman history in one-half hour be either useful or responsible? Discuss.

3. “History does not repeat itself.” —The parallels between the history of Rome and the twentieth century West are many and obvious.” How may these statements be reconciled?

Key Events and Persons

Julius Caesar: 100-44 B.C.

Augustus Caesar (Octavian): 63 B.C.-A.D. 14

Declared Pontifex Maximus: 12 B.C.

Diocletian: (Emperor) A.D. 284-305

Further Study

Here, as in succeeding suggestions for further study, it will be assumed that if you want to devote a great deal of time to a topic you can consult a library or a good bookstore. Suggestions given below are made on the basis of relevance to the text, readability, and availability.

Not all the books will necessarily agree at all—or in all details—with Dr. Schaeffer’s presentation. But as in the general conduct of life, so in matters of the mind, one must learn to discriminate. If you avoid reading things with which you disagree, you will be naive about what most of the world thinks. On the other hand, if you read everything—but without a critical mind—you will end up accepting by default all that the world (and especially your own moment of history) thinks.

J.P.V.D. Balsdon, Life and Leisure in Ancient Rome (1969).

E.M. Blaiklock, The Christian in Pagean Society (1956).

Samuel Dill, Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire (1962).

E.M.B. Green, Evangelism in the Early Church (1970).

Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans: A Selection (1972).

Virgil, The Aeneid (1965).

Film: Fellini, Satyricon (1969).

In about A.D. 60, a Jew who was a Christian and who also knew the Greek and Roman thinking of his day wrote a letter to those who lived in Rome. Previously, he had said the same things to Greek thinkers while speaking on Mars Hill in Athens. He had spoken with the Acropolis above him and the ancient marketplace below him, in the place wherethe thinkers of Athens met for discussion. A plaque marks that spot today and gives his talk in the common Greek spoken in his day. He was interrupted in his talk in Athens, but his Letter to the Romans gives us without interruption what he had to say to the thinking people of that period.

He said that the integration points of the Greek and Roman world view were not enough to answer the questions posed either by the existence of the universe and its form, or by the uniqueness of man. He said that they deserved judgment because they knew that they did not have an adequate answer to the questions raised by the universe or by the existence of man, and yet they refused, they suppressed, that which is the answer. To quote his letter:

The retribution of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Because that which is known of God is evident within them [that is, the uniqueness of man in contrast to non-man], for God made it evident to them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived by the things that are made [that is, the existence of the universe and its form], even his eternal power and divinity; so that they are without excuse. [Roman 1:18ff.]

Here he is saying that the universe and its form and the mannishness of man speak the same truth that the Bible gives in greater detail. That this God exists and that he has not been silent but has spoken to people in the Bible and through Christ was the basis for the return to a more fully biblical Christianity in the days of the Reformers. It was a message of the possibility that people could return to God on the basis of the death of Christ alone. But with it came many other realities, including form and freedom in the culture and society built on that more biblical Christianity. The freedom brought forth was titanic, and yet, with the forms given in the Scripture, the freedoms did not lead to chaos. And it is this which can give us hope for the future. It is either this or an imposed order.

As I have said in the first chapter, people function on the basis of their world view more consistently than even they themselves may realize. The problem is not outward things. The problem is having, and then acting upon, the right world view — the world view which gives men and women the truth of what is.

___

Charles Atlas

Charles Atlas was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1958. Atlas is a filmmaker and video artist who has created numerous works for stage, screen, museum, and television. Atlas is a pioneer in the development of media-dance, a genre in which original performance work is created directly for the camera. Atlas worked as filmmaker-in-residence with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for ten years.

Many of Atlas’s works have been collaborations with choreographers, dancers, and performers, including Yvonne Rainer, Michael Clark, Douglas Dunn, Marina Abramovic, Diamanda Galas, John Kelly, and Leigh Bowery. Television Dance Atlas—the artist’s critically acclaimed prime-time event on Dutch television—was a four-hour montage of original and found footage incorporating dance styles as varied as ballet, burlesque, and figure skating. Atlas also creates video installation works. The Hanged One—a work inspired by symbolism from the Tarot and foot-fetish culture—incorporated numerous video elements as well as rotoscopes, motorized mannequins, and theatrical lighting. Atlas is the recipient of three Bessie (New York Dance and Performance) Awards. His feature-length film Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance won the Best Documentary Award at Dance Screen 2000 in Monaco.

His work has been shown at international institutions, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Atlas acted as Consulting Director for “Art in the Twenty-First Century” (Seasons 2 through 5), creating the original opening programs for each hour-long segment of Season 2, as well as supervising the “Stories,” “Loss and Desire,” “Memory,” “Play,” “Protest,” and “Paradox” episodes. Charles Atlas lives and works in New York City and Paris.

________

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: