Complete Works of Francis SchaefferI have been wanting to read through The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, 5 Volumes and I have put it off long enough. As I am doing with my reading through the church fathers, I am going to have a weekly (hopefully) posting titled Saturdays with Schaeffer in which I will either post a long excerpt, several short ones, summarize a point he makes in the weeks reading or even do a book review once I finish one of the books in the volume I am in. I am doing this for two reasons. First, I have been challenged to read the complete works of at least one great Christian author and so I have choose Francis Schaeffer. Second, I chose Schaeffer because I enjoy apologetics and Schaeffer was one of the greatest apologists Christianity has ever produced.

The first volume is titled A Christian Worldview of Philosophy and Culture which contains the following books:

  1. The God Who is There
  2. Escape From Reason
  3. He is There and He is not Silent
  4. Back to Freedom and Dignity

In the first section of The God Who is There Schaeffer discusses what he calls “the line of despair” which is to say people have “given up all hope of achieving a rational unified answer to knowledge and life.” (p. 23) The shift in thinking started in philosophy and eventually reached its way into theology. Before the shift that brought about “the line of despair” man thought rational even though they had no foundation upon which to do so. Schaeffer explans:

Above the line, people were rationalistic optimists. They believed they could begin with themselves a draw a circle which would encompass all thoughts of life, and life itself, without having to depart from the logic of antithesis. They thought that on their own, rationalistically, finite people could find a unity within the total diversity – an adequate explanation for the whole of reality. (p. 10)

At some point in Europe around 1890 and in America around 1935, this all changed within the field of philosophy. Schaeffer explains again:

But at a certain point this attempt to spin out a unified optimistic humanism came to an end. The philosophers came to the conclusion that they were not going to find a unified rationalistic circle that would contain all thought, and in which they could live. It was as though the rationalist suddenly realized that he was trapped in a large room with no doors and no windows, nothing but complete darkness. (p. 10)

Since man could no longer start with oneself to find a unifying answer to all of life they looked without. The “line of despair” marks the point at which man sought an existential experience which seeks for an experience outside of oneself (existential). This experience was incommunicable and yet gives meaning to life. In response to this, Schaeffer shows us how the incarnation of Christ is an answer to those seeking an existential experience to bring meaning to all of life:

“Yes, I have had a final experience, but it can be verbalized, and it is of  a nature than can be rationally discussed.” Then I talk of my personal relationship  with the personal God who is there. I try to make them understand that this relationship is based on God’s written, propositional communication to men, and on the finished work of Jesus Christ in space-time history. They reply that this is impossible, that I am trying to do something that cannot be done. (p. 18)

It is amazing to see that though God has revealed himself to man in the person of Christ, man still rejects Him, instead seeking something else which will only lead him further from God. This reminds me of one of my favorite passages of Scripture, John 1:1-18:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The lightshines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (ESV)