My friend Raymond, a history professor, believes religion is at the heart of all human misery and turmoil. He ought to read How Should We Then Live?
In a few hundred pagesFrancis Schaeffer analyses the history of western philosophy, art, and politics, and argues that Judeo Christian ethics essentially civilized our world, until the reemergence of Greco-Roman thought instigated a downturn. The case he presents might at least prompt Raymond to reconsider.
The history prefaces Schaeffer’s theme, that the future of humanity is in dire jeopardy, thanks to our culture having accepted a world-view he calls the “existential methodology.” Under this system, he contends, we must base all decisions either exclusively upon “reason” or “non-reason.” He argues that reason, strictly employed, insists we conclude that humans are machines, ruled by deterministic principles. And reliance on “non-reason,” by which he means feelings and impulses, delivers us into the postmodern realm of value-relativity from which the concepts of good and evil have been expelled in favor of “if it feels good, do it.”
Schaeffer traces the “existential methodology” back to Soren Kierkegaard. Without attempting to probe Kierkegaard’s thought, he asserts that the philosopher opened the gateway to relativism.
Since the book offers no evidence that Schaeffer read Kierkegaard, I suppose he is relying on the common misconception that Kierkegaard, often labeled the father of existentialism, was advocating for the death of critical thinking at the hands of a culture ruled by philosophical libertines.
Anyone who holds that opinion of Kierkegaard, please read Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing.
Schaeffer proposes that a return to Judeo Christian values is the only antidote to the collapse of Western civilization. On this point, I tend to agree. But I have to ask, “So, does this fellow mean we should believe in God simply because the faith is practical? ”
I prefer to think we are challenged to find what is true.
I’m no authority on Francis Schaeffer. But after one book, I fear the man is a prime example of the us vs. them attitude that has sent many bright, honest, and creative minds fleeing in dismay from the church and which may prove to be even more evil and dangerous than relativism.
by Ken Kuhlken, who now means to turn from defending Kierkegaard to reflecting upon the philosopher’s ideas.