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Escape from Reason
Author: Frances Schaeffer
Publisher: interVarsity Press
The period of Protestant Church history, from the late sixties until around 1980 ,could be authentically titled, "The Age of Schaeffer." Frances Schaeffer, a scholar, theologian, pastor, preacher and evangelist, came into literary prominence in the Christian world in 1968 with this little book based on talks he gave at his Swiss Chalet turned commune, L'Abri. Escape from Reason became the foundation of most of Schaeffer's subsequent books and his official answer to Eric Fromm's iconic Escape from Freedom.
Schaffer's argument was that society and culture was descending from an age of rational thought and reason which influenced every thing from art, media, politics and government to the nuclear family, to a time of existential irrationality based on a secular humanistic which sought to build meaning, values and moral universals from humanity alone. In his view of cultural history, the dominiant Judeo-Christian view stemmed from a historic belief in the revelation of the word of God through the Bible. In Schaeffer's belief system, the Bible offers the one direct source for rationality, reason, beauty and ethics. Once this was culturally severed, the downward slide began toward irrationality and relativism based on subjective experience rather than an unchangeable eternal and absolute truth. Prior to this divorce of faith and reason, humanity had an infinite reference point to build a worldview based on absolutes so that the particulars added up to the greater whole. Without this, man is left with only particulars with no reference point beyond himself. In Schaeffer's view and its at times hard to argue with many of his examples, this leads ultimately to failure and despair.
During the intervening years,
Dr. Schaeffer's thesis of the separation of faith from nature, what he
has called the 'upper and the lower story' has come into question because
his example, used in this book, is that of none other than St. Thomas Aquinas.
Schaeffer leaves the entire responsibility for the button pushed that brought
on the onslaught of secular humanism on Aquinas. This has been argued
to be at best too simple, a claim to which Schaeffer admits, or just plain
wrong, as many inside and outside of Schaffer's own camp argues.
But what is hard to argue against is the outcome of the continuous slide
into a radical subjective relativism that has contributed to so much despair
in the church, the world, culture, government and on and on.... Even
those who may oppose Shaeffer's distinctly Protestant Calvinistic Christianity,
use an absolute standard by which to gauge their arguments for social,
political and moral reform, liberals and conservatives alike. In
this sense, when Escape from Reason was first published amidst America's
involvement in Vietnam, college campus unrest, and the dominance of existential
philosophy, Escape from Reason made relevant arguments of ideas
the counter-culture thought to be absurd and outdated.
Probably most important, and as a tribute and memorial to Frances Schaeffer, he was among the first populist theologians who helped to equip the average Christian with the tools to present the faith to a world who had counted a rational Christian thought as an oxymorn. In this sense, in this writer's opinion, his greatest accomplishment may have been enlarging the definition of Chrisitan evangelism beyond manipulative sales tactics and into the realm of a committed engagement with the world in which we live and, as Schaeffer was fond of teaching, overwhich Jesus Christ is also Lord.