A review by Alison Sailer Bennett of How Should We Then Live? (Introduction)

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    August 12, 2010 · 12:38 pm

How Should We Then Live? (Introduction)

“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. It is true of their corporate actions, such as political decision, and it is true of their personal lives. The results of their thought world flow through their fingers or from their tongues into the external world. This is true of Michelangelo’s chisel, and it is true of a dictator’s sword.”

Francis Schaeffer’s book How Should We Then Live? is a study of “the rise and decline of western thought and culture” from a Christian worldview. Published in the mid-seventies, it was written during a time when historians were trying to make sense of the sixties’ cultural upheaval and its implications for the future of the church and American society. Armed with the presupposition that all humans have presuppositions, Schaeffer begins his analysis with the fall of Rome, followed by the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation, and last but certainly least, the Enlightenment, focusing primarily on the influences of twentieth century art, music, literature, and film.

How should we then live? is a question to each of us as we see trace the ascent or descent of truth and morality throughout history. Schaeffer’s answer is found in God’s response to the prophet’s identical question in Ezekiel 33: “But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.”

In Schaeffer’s own words, “This book is written in the hope that this generation may turn from…the paths of death and may live.”

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