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
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Still an Important Work 25 years Later,
In "How Should We Then Live," Francis Schaeffer seeks to give an analysis of the events of history and how they have shaped our present cultural philosophies, thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. Schaeffer begins with the culture of Ancient Rome and leads us all the way through to (written in 1976) the present. How has our current way of thinking developed? Through philosophy? The arts? Science? Religion? The answer is through all of them, and Schaeffer shows how a Christian worldview (or a lack of one) did and continues to affect people and nations. According to Schaeffer, modern man really only cares about two things: personal peace and prosperity...at any cost. How we have arrived here is a very interesting story...
Schaeffer himself admits in the introduction that a comprehensive study of the rise and fall of Western thought and culture would be a near impossibility. He's right. But many times in the book I think he fell short. Schaeffer tends to explain concepts during certain periods in history very clearly, then assumes that the reader is familiar with other periods without the same foundation being laid. Again, as he said, the problem is he can't treat the subject comprehensively in only 258 pages (many of which are photographs). I also felt that Schaeffer was somewhat uncomfortable in knowing how to fit musical influences into the book. His musical statements don't seem to support some of his ideas very well at times. (However, he handles the influence of art quite well.) Also, as with any book examining culture that is 25 years old, much of the material is outdated. It's a shame that Schaeffer didn't live to see and comment on some of the events of the past decade. It would have been very interesting to hear him speak of things (such as cloning) which are now very real.
I have read four previous Schaeffer works. None of the books I have read are very long (well under 300 pages), but some can be a pretty rough road. "How Should We Then Live" is very readable and most of the time very clear. The book is well worth your time.
4.0 out of 5 stars One of Schaeffer's Best Works,
This book, which was also produced into a film, is one of Schaeffer's best works. This is because, he matches history, art, rise of cultures, etc, and compares them to a Christian worldview and how Western Culture has steadly declined after certain ideas have surfaced in soceity.
These ideas and their consequences are demonstrated and connected to certain events in history. For example, he connects the Englightenment ideas to the French revolution and the horrors it produced. (Another reviewer dismisssed this idea, however, it has been well documented by many historians that the French revolution and its terror was a result of Enlightenment thinking-because there were no moral restraints).
Schaefffer is not a historian, expert in art (even though he loved art) or a professional philosopher and sometimes this is appearant as he makes some conclusions that are not completely warranted. For example, to connect humanistic ideas with Michelango's David is a far reach (P. 72).
The strength of his critique on the decline of Western Culture is in the realm of morals and virtues. The assertions are warranted and very accurate. It is also quite prophetic and chapters 8 thru 13 are well worth the read.
Lastly, coming from Schaeffer, this is a pleasent read. Some of his books are slow and difficult to get through. His style has often been burdensome. This book, is very easy, yet, detailed, and not cumbersome in any way. A very good book on modern culture, even though it is twenty plus years old.
3.0 out of 5 stars Sincere, but seriously flawed.,
...I believe the book is an articulate expression ofconservative Christian thinking, regarding the decline of Westerncivilization. It is more "intellectual" than many otherChristian books. I agree, with Schaeffer, that the West, generallyspeaking, is increasingly fragmenting. There are forces in Westernsocieties which encourage a de-humanization of individuals. And thereare ethical concerns, coming from that de-humanization process, suchas violent crime, drug use, not to mention war, genocide, andterrorism.
But I have to part with Schaeffer, in his explanation ofwhat accounts for these phenomena. He affirms that it all stems from asociety not having a "consensus", arising from a"Judaic-Christian" worldview. In other words, if the folksin charge of running the show, and the general populace, have a strongfaith in the God of the Bible, then there'll be solidity andorder. That's why, for example, he uses the Roman bridge as anillustration of how civilization in the West lasted so long.
Aftergetting through one chapter, one gets the impression that Schaeffer'sout of his league, when it comes to history, and the issues ofsociology. His specifically-Christian premise, and the way heselectively tries to bolster his argument, doesn't jibe withhistory. The Roman empire lasted for roughly 300 years -- but notbecause of Jewish-Christian theism. Roman religion did play a role incementing their world together. But it certainly wasn't the only, orthe primary, factor. Schaeffer also tries to make the point -- notvery well --that the ideas of the Enlightenment led directly to theatrocities of the French "Reign of Terror". They didn't. Atthe same time, he conveniently ignores the fact that secular thinking,in large measure, contributed to the Declaration of Independence, theUS Constitution, and the stress on freedom and human rights.
It canbe argued, persuasively, that the excesses of capitalism andconsumerism (the corporate need to make a buck, over the needs of theindividual), urbanization, and immigration, are as much a causes ofthe mediocrity in the West, as the decline of religiousbeliefs. Probably more so. An ethical culture is a worthwhile goal toshoot for, and to preserve. But to say that the one, valid way for itto happen is by having faith in the Bible, and cultivating a Christiansociety -- that's myopic, in the least, and, to me, a bitarrogant. History doesn't really bear that out that view. Democracy,secularism, and a concern for human needs can, and do, gotogether. (Take a look at most of US history, Scandinavia, Canada, anddemocratic Western Europe.) Humane policies, and ethical behavior bycitizens, takes place without belief in God. Not always. (See Stalin.)But theism isn't a necessary prequisite for loving one's neighbor. Itcan precede it. But too many examples of religious tyranny, along withhumanistic literature, art, and social endeavors, tend to discount thetheory, promoted in this book, that theism is THE way togo.
Secularization isn't the culprit behind Western society's ills;a combination of many other social forces have contributed to thefrustrations of our modern life. But Schaeffer tends to oversimplify-- and in the process, distort -- what's really happened inhistory. The value of reading the book, along with his "ChristianMaifesto", is learning the rationalization for much ofconservative Christian politics. It expresses a genuine desire toappreciate and improve our culture. But like the Puritans of NewEngland, it's a misdirected approach, which advocates theocratictendencies in government as the only cure. Schaeffer has a point, whenhe says that a cultural consensus should be sustained, to help a givensociety survive. But why should theism be a necessary component?Schaeffer never really answers the question.
"How Should WeThen Live?" should be read by more people, because of itsinfuence -- but thoughtfully and crtically. He shouldn't be agreedwith, just because he was a spokesman for "a Christianworldview". His arguments relating to history arewell-intentioned, but weak. As a result, he makes a poor case for histhesis.
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting,
By A Customer
Yes, the book itself is quite interesting in many places, and absolutely captivating in others. What is, to me, the most interesting is the need of some self-proclaimed atheists (i.e., the "reader from California") to trash Christian writings. They so often seem to have a compulsion to pick fights with those they deem inferior in intelligence to themselves. Apparently they just can't stand it when a true intellectual supports Christian and even (=gasp=) conservative viewpoints. How sad.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rise & Decline of Western Thought & Culture,
"People's presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth into the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and therefore the basis for their decisions."
Schaeffer does an amazing job in tracing the coarse of ideas, where they came from, who originated them, and what they eventual lead to. Schaeffer's walk through time gives the modern reader a clear understanding of our own world, as we are able to clearly see where ideas came from and how they developed.
Though Schaeffer does not ever directly answer the question of "how should we then live," he does raise the question in the readers mind as he shows how we do live. Schaeffer traces the history of philosophy, religion, and science in the Western World. He begins with Rome (with the incorporation of Greek values) and proceeds through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, Industrialism, Modernity and the post-modern world.
This is a very basic history covering the past 2000 years. However, there is substantial depth in this book. Schaeffer is able to extract the most important people and events that spurred the dominant ideas that have shaped Western Civilization, past and present, in a clear and concise manner.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in History, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Art, Culture and or Ideas. Schaeffer also provides an excellent chronological index for quick referencing along with over sixty pictures of notable people, places, and works of art.
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow,
This has to be one of the best books on this subject available thus far. It's *very* easy to understand, and it's not long or drawn out. Basically Schaeffer divides man and his view on the world into two categories; belief in an infinite God vs. humanism (belief in the absence of an infinite deity). The first creates a solid basis for morales, ethics and right and wrong. Man has *meaning* and a *purpose* in the world, something to hold on to and develop a strong sense of direction from. The latter induces that the world is of random chance (the big bang theory) and that man is nothing more than a machine. Morales are subjective to each person, a personal decision. There is no base for right or wrong, or good or evil. Man loses his sense of direction and ultimately, he falls. Schaeffer also provides a deep analysis of how science, in it's infancy, was based on the belief of and infinite God and how the early scientists were almost all Christian, like Newton. He describes the failure of the humanistic scientist back then and it's defeat against the Christian science and it's transition into the vice-versa of modern day. A fantastic read!
3.0 out of 5 stars Let us consider a case in point....,
....such as the "reader from California," for those of you considering a first-time purchase of a Schaeffer book. If you bring up a list of Schaeffer's books for sale on Amazon, you will see that at least three or four of his books have been reviewed by a certain induhvidual "from California" who claims to be intelligent and informed. Schaeffer probably isn't the best theologian of the 20th century, but do not let this reader's sad reviews dissuade you from a purchase. This "Californian" hated the first one, the second one, the third one, etc. Yet, what kind of intelligent life form wastes so much time on such apparently valueless work and such apparently clueless friends? Perhaps someone with a penchant for lies, or--in the unlikely event that he actually read the books he claims to have read--an unhealthy streak of masochism. Again, pay no attention. You might find Schaeffer convincing, you might not. You will not, however, find him reviewing things he has not studied at all.
Please, Senor California, e-mail me and tell me where you've published your own stunning analysis of western history: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you haven't published, don't e-mail me. I've got no time to waste.
1.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable incompetence and discredit,
By A Customer
Reading such a book containing that many historical and philosophical mistakes is appalling. And seeing that all these Christian reviewers give such high marks to such a compilation of mistakes says much about their poor discernment capacities. And these guys want us to believe they have the truth? I admit that some Christian authors produce academic or otherwise serious books, but what should I think when I see that Christian readers cannot discern (among their own books) the good ones from the awful piece of drivel such as this present book? I agree with the reviewer below (name: Klebanoff, Dec. 1998; whom I understand is an atheist like me): this book is worthless, save your money. Read instead Drange's nonbelief. And I will not recommend the books by better, serious Christian thinkers, that's their problem, they have to know themselves their more acceptable, serious books.
5.0 out of 5 stars Reasoned view of history. Truly predicts current society.,
By A Customer
Schaeffer follows history through the ages and shows that man can choose two paths: (1)God's way which leads to maximum responsibility and maximum freedom or (2) man's way (do your own thing) which leads to minimal responsibility and minimal freedom (tyranny). As the US follows man's way and we reject God we see our government taking over our liberties and violence in schools erupting. Just as Schaeffer predicted.
5.0 out of 5 stars "As a man thinketh, so is he.",
Schaeffer's analysis of a world which chooses to deny theexistence of a supreme Creator is dead on. Furthermore, the facts of history bear out Schaeffer's most poignant assertion--men tend to live according to their presuppositions whether or not they realize they are doing so. Man's pessimism in a world which he believes to have been created by time plus chance alone follows from his denial of the Christian worldview. Nonetheless, humanist man still struggles to sow meaning from a meaningless foundation. Schaeffer shows with compassion and honesty that Christianity is the cure for a hurting world.
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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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