03/15/2012 by Patrick Review: Escape From Reason by Francis Schaeffer


Review: Escape From Reason by Francis Schaeffer

As I hoped, this didn’t take me too long to read, and I won’t lie, much of it wasn’t exactly new material for me, but that’s okay. Schaeffer’s not writing to the theology student, but to the masses.

So, Escape From Reason can be considered a heavy book with rather simple writing.  The entire text functions as an explanation of man’s deviation from the thought patterns of the Reformation, beginning with Aquinas in what the author calls an allowance of the autonomy of Man’s thought, flourishing in the determinism and loss of freedom in Kant and Hegel, and ending with the philosophy of the sixties, dominated by men and women rebelling against Enlightenment thinking and its broken promises.  Schaeffer also levels his critical eye at modern and liberal theology, the likes of whom he sees (to some extent, rightly so) as forsaking foundational truths in favor of a god more compatible with the philosophies of the Enlightenment and Existentialism. He demonstrates rather well the failure of such systems to supply answers to the cosmos, and how their rejection of Scripture as the tipping point to tumble downhill into despair.

For 94 pages, there are LOTS that could be discussed from within this book, and I would love to someday do that, but that is not for today.  This is a day for review.  First, what I liked:

1) Schaeffer’s command of secular philosophy and thought is amazing.  He demonstrates himself as a man well educated, yet rooted in strong Reformed traditions. He does not follow the church with blind authority, but defends it with rigorous critical analysis and unflinching boldness that could only come from a man who has examined all his options and found all but one wanting.  He sets an example for Christians to do the same.

2) He has a respect for things that aren’t “Christian” in nature (secular), and demonstrates this when he says things like, “Man is fallen, but he is still man, made in the image of God.” This view is not held well amongst Christians even today (though it gets better as the years go by).  The need to see beauty even in things that do not praise God explicitly is a necessity.

Things I didn’t like so much…

1) His blatant contempt for Catholic writers.  It seems like whether it was Thomas Aquinas, author of the great Summa Theologicae, or Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit Priest, author of The Phenomenon of Man and paleontologist who aided in the discovery of the Peking Man, Schaeffer places the root of modern thinking (and thus despair) in their very minds, as if their thinking was a symbol of defiance of God.  While I do think that many in the Catholic Church have softened Jesus into a symbol, made him some guy on a cross that you might see hanging in cathedrals or in homes, these two men in particular (and others, for that matter) are NOT those kinds of Catholics.  Their writings demonstrate an devout love for the creator, and an ability to see and understand His ways in all of Creation in a very real and personal way.  I do see perhaps where Schaeffer comes from with this, but I think it is ill-founded.

2) On a similar note, Schaeffer seems to disregard everything that happened in the church from the end of the Bible to the Reformation, missing out on centuries of great teaching and philosophy that could easily supplement his Reformed thinking, rather than antagonizing it.  This is common, however, amongst evangelicals even today, so I can’t exactly blame him for being a product of his own generation, even if he doesn’t know what he’s missing.

3) Not so much an objection as a wariness of his dependence of presuppositional apologetics.  As I said two days ago, I know little of this school of thought and aim to learn more about it, but I am wary of things that claim to be so absolute in how to understand God so clearly, though Schaeffer doesn’t fully fit this bill.  One of my favorite quotes from this book was, “God does not speak exhaustively about himself, but he does speak truly.” The willingness to abandon rationalism in favor of rationality (as he puts it) is something I can welcome, but most pre-suppers scare me with their certainty.  Again, I have much to learn on this thinking.

So, another book’s checked off as read. Stil in Pilgrim’s Progress right now, and I’ve put off  Piper for awhile. I’ll be coming back to him soon, perhaps, though a friend of mine wants to  delve into Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason together in the near future, something I am very grateful for, as Kant is one of those intimidating writers for me.  Anyway, see you Friday!


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