Most helpful critical review
Thought provoking --but it only goes so far.
on July 18, 2001
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.