Escape from Reason, Francis A. Schaeffer

Escape from Reason, Francis A. Schaeffer, Inter-Varsity Press (1968), 94 pages, $8.00.

What is man, and what is the meaning of life? As Protestant Reformed Christians we believe that these questions are answered in the Bible and articulated in the Three Forms of Unity. We accept the Bible as true. We believe that in the Bible God has revealed himself to us, and therefore we may know him personally. Furthermore, we believe that God has revealed to us in the Bible that he is the creator of the universe, that he is our creator; that we sinned and are in need of redemption through Jesus Christ. This truth that God gave us was developed and articulated in the great movement we call the Reformation. However, another great movement occurred around the same time, the Renaissance. The Renaissance parallels the Reformation in many respects, except that rather than developing the truth of God found in the Bible, men began to seek truth elsewhere.Image

In his book, Escape from Reason, the Christian philosopher, Francis A. Schaeffer attempts to trace the thought of man from Thomas Aquinas (a philosopher/theologian of the late middle ages), who was a primary developer of the idea of natural theology (that man may know God, prove his existence, and such, through the use of reason and nature alone, i.e. without revelation from God) through his then present 1960s (I realize the book is a bit dated, but not much has changed in secular ‘intellectual’ thought from the 60s to today – then they had ‘hippies,’ today we have ‘hipsters’). Schaeffer shows that when man attempts to know God apart from scripture he ends up where he is today, a naturalist, which is the ground of evolutionism. Naturalism is the idea that space, matter, time…the stuff that we can see and observe, is all that exists. There is no such thing as God or any other supernatural entity. Naturally, if there is no God, if there is nothing spiritual, no soul of man…then man is nothing more than an animal. As Schaeffer puts it, “…on the basis of all reason, man as man is dead. You have simply mathematics, particulars, mechanics. Man has no meaning, no purpose, no significance. There is only pessimism concerning man as man” (46-47). The result of this conclusion of modern man is all of the crazy stuff that exists in modern popular culture and the arts. One example Schaeffer gives is the paintings of Picasso but there are plenty more examples of this sort of thing in modern art.

Many of you reading this are in college or will be in college soon. Escape from Reason is a good book to read if you want a sense of the origins and development of the modern secular worldview. Those who have some introduction to philosophy, particularly with regard to the Modern era, will have a greater appreciation for the book, but Schaeffer’s style is clear and the book is generally quite understandable for any reader. Make no mistake, though the author may be considered a generally more conservative Christian, he is not Protestant Reformed, which means you must read critically. Nevertheless, an understanding of the current thinking in the world is important with regard to understanding the signs of the times, especially with regard to the forces that Satan is using to bring about his kingdom of anti-Christ.

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Matthew 24:24-27

JH

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