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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.
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on June 12, 2001
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 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.
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on November 13, 2001
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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on October 2, 1998
If you want to understand the terms of the culture war, and why so many people are dedicated to restoring Christian values in our society, read this book. Schaeffer explains his world view in terms of a divinely inspired Bible, it's truths, and why they are true. There's more, too. Even for the skeptic, this book provides an excellent background (used as supporting evidence) in Western culture, arts, philosophy, music, and architecture from the Roman Empire days until present. Schaeffer, in his 40 years of study and skepicism himself found the truth of the Bible and God's revelation alive in just about all mankind does. An excellent book. An excellent reference. Schaeffer is in the same league as C.S. Lewis and "Mere Christianity".
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on October 2, 2003
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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on November 17, 1998
I was drawn to Francis Schaeffer because of his reputation as a "scholarly" apologist, and I came away from this book impressed with the scope of his knowledge. Unfortunately, Mr. Schaeffer's considerable erudition is misused, and the book is essentially a series of bald assertions, questionable generalizations, and gross oversimplifications. (His caricature of Aldous Huxley borders on the slanderous.) Mr. Shaeffer is not analyzing history; he is filtering it to find support for his predetermined conclusions. Sympathetic readers might find his arguments compelling; I found them appallingly specious.
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on September 5, 2013
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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on August 24, 1999
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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on June 9, 1999
Francis Schaeffer has taken and given a complete synopsis of history, philosophy, theology and art and has shown the progression of humanist thought in every culture through out history. This book, written in the 70's, makes predictions of where our culture was headed at the time and 23 years later he is correct in those predicitions. From his predictions that euthanasia would become an ethical problem of the future like abortion at the time of the writing of the book. This book is clear and concise and shows the direction our culture is headed at present time.
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on July 25, 1998
Dr. Schaeffer offers observations of world history that are not common sense. Weaving philosophical development with corresponding expression of the arts, the author makes the case that there are fundamentallyonly two streams of thought. The first centers on the Creator as the central point. It is the Creator who offers meaning to Man. The second puts Man as the central figure and discloses the logical end to such thinking.
Though not a quick read, this book is valuable for those who seek to establish a foundational basis for a Christian world view.
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