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on June 23, 1999
This is a very poor book. Schaffer's analysis of Aquinas is fundamentally wrong and his contention that Aquinas is responsible for issuing in the modern age and reason's revolt against revelation is false. Schaffer claims that because St. Thomas asserted that reason can know some truths independent of divine revelation, he allowed reason to exist in its own autonomous sphere and this led to the view that belief in God is dispensible and reason alone is supreme. St. Thomas taught that there are things that can be known from the light of reason. This is of course, self evident and it is even biblical (see Romans 1:20 where St. Paul even asserts that the existence of God can be known from the knowledge of created things, so that all have knowledge of God, even those without Divine REvelation in the Scriptures). So Schaffer is clearly wrong even from a biblical point of view (which he claims to espouse). Also, his analysis of existentialism is perhaps partially correct from a point of view, but it is superficial. All in all, this book gives a distorted view of western thought. I would recommend reading Frederick Copleston's 9 Volume History of PHilosophy to get a much more balanced and thorough account of the development of western philosophy and christian thought.
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on August 21, 1997
With this book, Schaeffer has two noble aims:

1 to analyze the evolution of philosophy from the Christian Middle-Ages up to the Atheist existentialism of Sartres,
2 to show that Atheism and Mysticism are non-sense and that only Christianity is true.

Unfortunately Schaeffer lamentably fails.

Concerning the history of philosophy the book is plagued by Schaeffer's ignorance. For example his blaming of Aquinas for the decline of Christianity is completely unfounded and simply false. Aquinas is the father of most consistent, soundly-founded and complete Christian philosophy ever built. The fideism (blind faith) of the Luther, Kierkegaard or the Agnosticism of Kant should rather be blamed for the decline of Christianity.

Concerning Schaeffer's defense of Christianity, one can only be appalled at the misery of Schaeffer's logic. That Atheism and Mysticism are irrational entails in no way that the Bible is God's word or that Chistianity is true! Yet this is how Schaeffer reasons!
The book has also some interesting insights on the history of art, but I am unable to evaluate them .

Schaeffer could be thought of as the worst among the famous Christian "thinker " of the century. But was Schaeffer really Christian? He did not believe in the doctrine of hell and eternal damnation , a most basic Christian doctrine contained in all Christian creeds, neither did he believe in some other Christian doctrines.

I would not recommend his books to readers who appreciate logic, cogent arguments and well-researched studies. I recommend instead some books written by authors that are really Christian and can think logically:

- the works of Norman L Geisler, James P Moreland, William L Craig and Douglas Geivett. These evangelical professors of philosophy are currently the best Christian thinkers and their works are outstanding. Most of their books are written in an academic style, although a few are more popular works.

- the non-fiction books of the Anglican Clive S Lewis for those who appreciate literary writings (although his writings are somewhat old).

- the Socratic dialogues written by the Roman Peter Kreeft. They are really fun to read
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on September 10, 2001
First, I have to express appreciation for Schaeffer. When I was in high school, I read through all of his books with great interest and avidity. He (along with C. S. Lewis) was a great example to me that you could be a Christian and still have a brain. I thought. Unfortunately, his books led to actually read the individuals he discussed. I went on to attend Yale University and the University of Chicago, studying theology and philosophy at both places. At Yale I met several Christian grad students who, like me, initially became interested in philosophy through reading Schaeffer. Every single one of us was grateful to Schaeffer. Every single one of us agreed: Schaeffer probably never read any of the people he discusses.
If you have just a little background in philosophy or the history of theology, and you look carefully through the footnotes of any of Schaeffer's books, it becomes fairly obvious that his reading was restricted almost entirely to secondary sources. He didn't read Aquinas so much as books about Aquinas. He seems to have been especially indebted to books by Dutch Reformed scholars. Most of his discussions of the great figures in the history of the church are travesties of their actual thought.
An example: Kierkegaard. Most of my graduate work both at Yale and Chicago was on Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard is a widely misunderstood scholar, but virtually everyone who has studied his work at any length will acknowledge that he was not a theological innovator, that he in no sense was trying to undermine Christian faith, and that he was utterly orthodox in his thought. It is impossible to find a single orthodox Christian doctrine that Kierkegaard attacks. In no sense is Kierkegaard an opponent of Christianity. Being as generous as possible, I think the most I can say is that Kierkegaard was a puzzlement to Schaeffer. The tragedy is that there are a very large number of excellent scholars, even Dutch Reformed scholars, who could have helped Schaeffer in his misunderstandings.
We can contrast this with C. S. Lewis. Lewis was not perfect as a thinker, but Lewis at least read the people he discusses. Had Lewis ever read Schaeffer, he would have been angered and disgusted at Schaeffer persistent misreadings of people like Aquinas (who I would also disagree with, but for very, very different reasons). Lewis was a perceptive and penetrating reader, and to discuss at length anyone without having studied their work at length would have been anathema to him.
Folks, Schaeffer's understanding of philosophy is not even up to the level of a good undergraduate. I am grateful to Schaeffer for having introduced me to the world of philosophical thought. Hopefully others go on to read the figures he discusses. If so, they also will see that Schaeffer is guilty of profoundly misrepresenting their thought. But I profoundly regret that others do not go to read any of the figures that he critiques. I regret this. I regret it as a Christian, and I regret it as a philosophy.
I especially regret it as a Christian because Christ and the Christian faith is not served by the distortion of the truth.
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on September 7, 1999
I was given this book by a Christian who tries to convert me by claiming that Christianity is the only rational choice for those who think. I read that small book quickly, and it just confirmed what I knew, that Christians are really stupid and ignorant. When they imagine that they are " intellectuals" they do not even realize they are still dead ignorant and unable to think. I still prefer the unsophisticated fundamentalists who do not pretend to be "intellectuals" and who honestly confess that they are "fools for Christ."
There are many excellent atheistic books around which I recommend instead. The latest one I read is really great (Nonbelief & Evil by Theodore Drange.) Unfortunately my Christian friend is not open enough to face truth and will not read any of my books.
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