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How Should We Then Live? (L'Abri 50th Anniversary Edition): The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture Paperback – March 3, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 179 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"There are books that quickly go out of print and there are books for the ages. How Should We Then Live? is one for the ages. Any serious thinker must read it again and again." -- --Cal Thomas, Fox News contributor, syndicated columnist

"This is a modern-day classic, one of Schaeffer's books that awakened me to how biblical truth affects all of life." -- --Charles Colson, founder, Prison Fellowship Ministries --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Review

"This is a modern-day classic, one of Schaeffer's books that awakened me to how biblical truth affects all of life."
Charles Colson, founder, Prison Fellowship and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview

"There are books that quickly go out of print and there are books for the ages. How Should We Then Live? is one for the ages. Any serious thinker must read it again and again."
Cal Thomas, Syndicated Columnist, Host, After Hours, Fox News Channel

"How Should We Then Live? was produced by a genius who cared about the battle of ideas. It's also the book I still recommend to students for a quick overview of 'the rise and decline of western thought and culture.' Schaeffer brilliantly takes readers from ancient times through the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment, then discusses the breakdown in philosophy and science and moves on to art, music, literature, film, and much else besides."
Marvin Olasky, Editor in Chief, World News Group

"Go to any evangelical Christian gathering . . . and ask twenty people the simple question: 'What single person has most affected your thinking and your worldview?' If Francis Schaeffer doesn't lead the list of answers, and probably by a significant margin, I'd ask for a recount."
Joel Belz, Founder, World magazine

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway; 50th Anniversary ed. edition (March 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1581345364
  • ISBN-13: 978-1581345360
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Wolverton on June 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
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 prosperity...at 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.
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Format: Paperback
In reading How Should We Then Live, I found that Francis Schaeffer reminded me a great deal of another famous Christian writer, John Foxe. Like Foxe, Schaeffer's writing--specifically, his accuracy in assessing and describing art and culture--improve the closer he comes to his own era. I had never read anything by Schaeffer before but had always heard him highly spoken of, so when I came across this book recently I bought it on impulse. It was a fascinating, brisk read that I completed in two days.

What Schaeffer sets out to do is follow the development of the Western philosophy of life from the decadence of Rome to the decadence of the modern world and explain what has gone wrong with our society. He also seeks to describe how a proper worldview balances the universal with the particulars and how most modern philosophies overstress one or the other to a fault.

Schaeffer's flaws are not many, but they are often great. He begins the book with a brief explanation of presuppositions--unfortunately, many of his own presuppositions give an otherwise welcome brief history a bad flavor.

Starting with his presupposition--pointed out ad infinitum by other reviewers--that all pre-Reformation Christianity is unquestionably bad, he grossly misinterprets the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante, and Michelangelo, to name only a few. His view of Greco-Roman culture is also oversimplified. Ironically, for someone so keen on balancing the universals and the particulars, he is often only generally accurate in the broad strokes and does poorly on the particulars.

I've dwelt on the flaws, but this is still a good book. Just read it knowing that much of the early material is either oversimplified or misinterpreted.
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Format: Paperback
"People's presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth into the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and therefore the basis for their decisions."
Schaeffer does an amazing job in tracing the coarse of ideas, where they came from, who originated them, and what they eventual lead to. Schaeffer's walk through time gives the modern reader a clear understanding of our own world, as we are able to clearly see where ideas came from and how they developed.
Though Schaeffer does not ever directly answer the question of "how should we then live," he does raise the question in the readers mind as he shows how we do live. Schaeffer traces the history of philosophy, religion, and science in the Western World. He begins with Rome (with the incorporation of Greek values) and proceeds through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, Industrialism, Modernity and the post-modern world.
This is a very basic history covering the past 2000 years. However, there is substantial depth in this book. Schaeffer is able to extract the most important people and events that spurred the dominant ideas that have shaped Western Civilization, past and present, in a clear and concise manner.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in History, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Art, Culture and or Ideas. Schaeffer also provides an excellent chronological index for quick referencing along with over sixty pictures of notable people, places, and works of art.
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