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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shows its age, but still a strong critique of western thought and culture
The value of this critique is perhaps best noted in the key ideas that spring from it and seem to provide explanatory power for much of the modern condition. The "upper story/lower story" dichotomy of values is just as strong today as ever. We can also see that Schaeffer's indictment of the impoverished modern values of "personal peace and affluence" is applicable today...
Published on Oct. 18 2010 by Rodge

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3.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking --but it only goes so far.
Previous reviewers have called this a wonderful book, Schaeffer's best, and a book with a Christian agenda. Their ratings vary from best to worst. This reader thinks they are all correct. Schaeffer does present us with an effective sketch of Western Culture from Plato to the 1960's. He does provide an interesting framework within which to understand the ebbs and flows...
Published on July 18 2001 by Todd C. Truffin


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shows its age, but still a strong critique of western thought and culture, Oct. 18 2010
By 
Rodge (Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (Paperback)
The value of this critique is perhaps best noted in the key ideas that spring from it and seem to provide explanatory power for much of the modern condition. The "upper story/lower story" dichotomy of values is just as strong today as ever. We can also see that Schaeffer's indictment of the impoverished modern values of "personal peace and affluence" is applicable today as strongly as in 1976 when he published this. For these ideas alone this book is worth it. The journey from the Roman Empire to the modern culture is actually quite compelling - Schaeffer tries to draw a narrative from the history which results in some points being assumed which perhaps would require more debate. The final chapters where Schaeffer tries to look ahead to whats next are also somewhat weak - we know now which predictions of his have not come to pass. In the 70s inflation was an issue for instance, and that would get worse before it would get better - obviously Schaeffer was not an economist so his thoughts on that front were somewhat muddled (real economists are bad enough, of course).

Despite the handful of drawbacks though, and the fact that not everything Schaeffer states passes without argument, this is still a remarkably strong book, with strong ideas that will stick with you and force you to think them through as you examine the world around you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Diagnosis, Strange Cure..., Aug. 26 2003
By 
This review is from: How Should We Live (Paperback)
This is one of the best books to point out the slow break from Christianity that has pulled Western Civlization into a moral tailspin. If you want to know why a nation with every mark of an advanced culture can approve of abortion without batting an eye, buy this book.
The problem is that he presents a distorted view of the Reformation and thus makes a faulty case for the cure as a return to "Reformation Christianity." How does he do this? Well for starters he flat-out ignores the fact that Sola Scriptura is almost a guarantee of the religious relativism he strenuously condemns (how can it not, any possible interpretation can be thrust upon a text without an authoritive interpretation). He strangely claims that the Reformation lead to Democracy, which, considering that every nation that sided with the Reformers did so out of greed and desire for absolute power is strange to say the least. One of the negative aspects of the Reformation that he does address is that everywhere the Reformation took hold edured destruction of art and wholesale looting of monestaries on a massive scale. He tries to answer this charge by saying that the destruction pertained, for the most part, only to people who owned the art and images themselves. While it might be true for some of the cases, it makes no sense to apply this to the numerous cases of destruction and looting of monestaries, churches and church lands (along with numerous instances of martyrdom among the clergy in those lands).
While I would wholely recommend the book to anyone who wants to know how are culture descended into relativism. However the author's biases color his view of history to a degree that it might make him uncredible in the eyes of more historically oriented observers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, Sept. 5 2013
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This review is from: How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (Paperback)
There are few books that age well. With few exceptions 'How Should We Then Live' is as relevant today as when it was written at the tail end of the seventies beginning of the eighties.

For anyone looking for an overlay of Christian Church history over particularly western world history, this book is a must read. Intelligently written, thoroughly researched and accessible to the man in the street. It leaves the reader with an overview of world events, and how secular humanism has usurped the Church's place out from under the foundations of the western world view.

Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A work of genius, May 22 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: How Should We Live (Paperback)
Incredibly thought-provoking.
Stimulating.
A work of real genius.
Schaeffer knew more about the history of mankind, and of what mankind is suffering from at the moment, then anyone else I've ever read. Only C.S. Lewis comes close...
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Life Changing Book, Oct. 3 2003
By 
Paula Davis (Harlingen, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How Should We Live (Paperback)
Not many people know that there was a 10 episode film series with the same title, and that there is a paper back study guide that compliments this book. I first read this book 22 years ago when I was trying to figure out why the world was going to hell in a handbasket. It answered a lot of my questions and made me ask more questions. I rate this as one of the 10 most important books I've read in my lifetime, and I'm getting to be an old lady now. I'm getting ready to read it again because I feel it has a new relevance for our time in light of the persecution of Christianity in the public arena. I also bring to your attention his book, A Christian Manifesto. If you seek true wisdom born of knowledge, this is your book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Holistic Analysis, Sept. 23 2003
By 
Dr. W. G. Covington, Jr. (Edinboro, Pennsylvania) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How Should We Live (Paperback)
Francis A. Schaeffer covers a lot of territory both geographically and in terms of subject matter in this book. Chronologically he starts with ancient Rome and goes to the 1970s, the time the book was published. Illustrations are included to assist in making his case. Schaeffer contends there is a flow or pattern to history and in this book he sets out to explain the flow of Western culture. On page 52 he discusses the role philosophy had in separating the influence of divine revelation as found in the Bible from man-made epistemology. He uses Raphaels' painting of "The School of Athens" (c. 1510) to illustrate the separation. Symbolically the painting depicts two viewpoints, one looking upward toward God, the other viewing lower sources such as man. In Europe this gravitation toward one or the other direction took the forms of the Reformation (God) and the Renaissance (man). He discusses the philosophies of the prime movers in each of the two schools of thought. On page 108 he notes "Many good things in England came from Scotland." One of them being the concept of "Lex Rex: Law is King." The concept was that no one was above the law, that it was the same for everyone regardless of rank or position. He traces the idea for the American Revolution back to these seeds planted in the minds of those of English ancestary. The reader is carried up to the 1970s. This is a thought-provoking book that helps a person see cause-and-effect consequences over the long haul. It reminds one of the observation of Russell Kirk, "ideas have consequences."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ideas matter, Aug. 24 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: How Should We Live (Paperback)
In 1972, I received my MA in English, with a concentration in 19th century American Literature, from a very secular university. With that in hand and serious doubts about the historical authenticity and relevance of Christianity, I read some of the earlier works in which Schaeffer explored the ideas developed in HSWTL. I was struck by the piercing insights into Western Thought and Culture that paralleled my English studies.
On a personal level -- and there is always a personal level, one of the ideas in the book -- I have had many opportunities to examine the presuppositions of my education, upbringing, and culture in the light of those ideas. In 30 years, I have found those ideas to be challenging and illuminating. I can say from personal experience that in no way does Schaeffer offer glib answers. Also, there is nothing intellectually cheap about his analysis. The cultural analysis framework in HSWTL has continued to be helpful through a career in Information Systems and Enterprise Architecture. I find that framework still helps me see the "really big picture" facing companies in the 21st century (which, it turns out, includes deep moral issues).
One of Schaeffer's notable ideas is that truth should not only be self-consistent but practical/livable. Based on my experience, "How Should We Then Live?" is a credible analysis of the history of ideas.
PS: Perhaps the reader might wonder I did not end by saying the book contains a "powerful prescription" or "an excellent social roadmap," etc, as if Schaeffer had an agenda he wants all of us to follow, lock-step. He is unapologetic about being a Christian and pointing to the person of Christ (of the Bible) for credible answers to modern dilemmas. If that makes readers uncomfortable.... Well, that is his purpose--to make us (the modern Church) uncomfortable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A compact history of western culture., Nov. 14 2001
By 
tvtv3 "tvtv3" (Sorento, IL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How Should We Live (Paperback)
In this intriguing, thought-provoking, interesting work, Schaeffer analyzes the rise of Western culture (after the fall of Rome) and why the current society seems in such disaray. Schaeffer's thesis is bascially this: that the reason the world in which we live is in such chaos is because we no longer have a moral and ethical foundation to build upon. In as much detail as possible (that roughly 260 pages allows) Schaffer illustrates that it was because of the Judeo-Christian value-foundation of Western civilization that the rise of Western culture occurred and that it is because of the forsaking of that value base that has brought about a decline in our current civilization. Schaeffer examines everything from philosophy to history to literature to music to cinema to support his point. Though not all may agree with what Schaeffer writes, this book is full of useful information, is quite thought-provoking, and provides some great reading.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking --but it only goes so far., July 18 2001
By 
Todd C. Truffin (Tiffin, OH USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How Should We Live (Paperback)
Previous reviewers have called this a wonderful book, Schaeffer's best, and a book with a Christian agenda. Their ratings vary from best to worst. This reader thinks they are all correct. Schaeffer does present us with an effective sketch of Western Culture from Plato to the 1960's. He does provide an interesting framework within which to understand the ebbs and flows of philosophic thought through time. As for a Christian agenda, he makes no secret about the fact that he is viewing history from a Christian world view.
However, one must pay close attention to Schaeffer's opening and closing point: persons operate based on presuppostitions about what is true, sometimes without knowing it. Schaeffer is not immune. While excellent in some respects, the book is trapped in a Cold War mentality. Further, several of Schaeffer's views on art seem quite arbitrary since he never defends them. For instance, throughout the book, Schaeffer is categorically against non-realistic art, but he never defends his position that realistic art is inherently good.
In the final analysis, HSWTL provides a thought-provoking analysis of western thought. However, it should not be taken as the final word on the subject. I believe Schaeffer himself would agree that no 258 page book on the subject could ever really cover the complexities therein. As a starting point, it works. As a final statement, it is woefully inadequate.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great summary of western world history, July 13 2001
By 
Carl A. Redman (Austin, TX United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How Should We Live (Paperback)
"How Should We Then Live?" is a wonderful summary of western world history written from a Christian perspective by Francis Schaeffer. The people and events presented throughout the work reminded me of my basic European history class I took in high school, but throughout Schaeffer adds his views.
Schaeffer is able to discuss many different topics because of the large time range he covers in the book (Roman days until present times). My favorite issues addressed included: --The concept of charity, in which Schaeffer talks about how the older churches were very compassionate with wealth, but since the Industrial Revolution, many Christians have forgotten this and focused on personal accumulated wealth. --Open vs. closed systems --Evolution and in turn the purpose and meaning of life --La Boheme, which I found very interesting because of the recent movie "Moulin Rouge." This popular opera by Puccini presented the fundamental concepts of Rousseau -- autonomous freedom leads the hero to fight all of society's standards, values, and restraints. --Origin of life (i.e. "In the beginning..."), including the idea of pantheism. --And perhaps my favorite came on the topic of existentialism. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, "Oh man! Take heed of what the dark midnight says: I slept, I slept -- from deep dreams I awoke: The world is deep -- and more profound than day would have thought. Profound in her pain -- Pleasure -- more profound than pain of heart, Woe speaks; pass on. But all pleasure seeks eternity -- a deep and profound eternity."
Yes, it is the idea that we all seek the pleasure of eternity. Nietzsche said that God is dead, and thus he believed man is dead. It's not surprising that Nietzsche went insane! Without God, what are you left with? Nietzsche said that you are left with "systems." In today's world we might call them "game plans." Schaeffer probably can summarize the implications a lot better than I can:
"A person can erect some sort of structure, some type of limited frame, in which he lives, shutting himself up in that frame and not looking beyond it. The game plan can be one of a number of things. It can be filling your life with material possessions. Or it can be a scientist concentrating on some small point of science so that he does not have to think of any of the big questions, such as why things exist at all. It can be a skier concentrating for years on knocking one-tenth of a second from a downhill run."
The final chapter of the book answers the question of "How Should We Then Live?" and although Schaeffer's suggestions are not that specific, he does get to the very heart of living, culture, and our world's future.
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How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture
How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture by Francis A. "Schaeffer " (Paperback - March 3 2005)
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