Up until a few years ago I probably averaged about 1 book per year. I just didn't enjoy reading. I suppose that was because in college I was forced to read boring textbooks on a subject I cared little about. I also didn't get much satisfaction from reading fiction because, while slightly amusing, it just wasn't worth the time. If I wanted to be entertained I would watch a movie that, even if it wasn't amusing, at least I knew it would be over in 2 hours rather than 10.
Then a few years ago I began to start seriously asking questions about life and that is when topics like Theology, Philosophy, Arts, Sciences, History became a lot more interesting to me. I no longer looked at certain books as a way to amuse myself but rather a way to understand my surroundings and then try to form some sort of path, based on my understanding, of what I should do with my life.
What I am discovering though is a topic for another time. You probably can determine where I am heading based on some other blog posts. What I care to talk about today is a book I am currently reading. It is Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer.
Francis Schaeffer's life was very interesting. Just like all of us, he grew up to some degree agnostic. He didn't know what to think about God and so he lived according to what had been revealed to him through his experiences. But somewhere along the way (I am recalling his life from memory, you may want to read more about it somewhere else) Francis Schaeffer began to ask the questions of life and then came to the conclusion that Christianity is the only belief system that makes sense of the world rationally. Depending on who is reading this post, that may seem like a surprising conclusion to come to but that is really what this book is about. Before I get to the books contents, I want to discuss a section of Acts that demonstrates what Schaeffer aims to do in his book.
In Acts Chapter 17 the Apostle Paul enters Athens to share the gospel of Jesus. While he is in Athens he is summoned to Mars Hill to share his thoughts with the towns great philosophers. Athens, which is in Greece is really the cradle of some of the greatest systems of thought that have influenced our culture over history. So, Paul was going head to head with some of the greatest minds of the time. What we are told in this narrative is that Paul went through Athens and studied the culture. Statues and monuments were all over the place. There were statues to the pagan gods throughout the city. Paul then finds an angle to begin his discussion with the Athenians. He sees a statue to an "Unknown God". The Greeks believed there was a God for everything but since not everything could be known, a separate god had to be established to account for everything unknown.
What is significant here is that Paul didn't just speak the gospel that he knew. This is something that many Christians do today. They speak the gospel and it contradicts the worldview of the hearers of the gospel and they often reject it. What made Paul so persuasive is that he took the time to get inside the mind of others. He wanted to understand how they thought and he was confident in his beliefs that there was no fear that he would abandon his faith. He became familiar with the beliefs of the Greeks and then found the irrationality in their systems. Irrational leaps of faith were being made. When Paul exposed these, it left those with these pagan beliefs empty. Their whole worldview had been lit on fire and burned to the ground. Then Paul would show them the truth of the gospel of Jesus.
Now back to Schaeffer..... he states the following as the everlasting responsibility of the Church: "It's responsibility is not only to hold to the basic, scriptural principles of the Christian faith, but to communicate these unchanging truths 'into' the generation in which it is living." Schaeffer emphasizes this point in his other books I have read (The God Who Is There, He Is There and He Is Not Silent). He not only spoke this but he lived it. He and his wife Edith founded a ministry call L'Abri where they brought in young men and women who were trying to make sense of life and showed them love and hospitality, but most importantly gave them the gospel of Jesus.
Escape From Reason does what Paul did. He observes the world around him and asks the question, "Why are things the way they are and why do people do what they do?" These are the main questions of any philosopher. Schaeffer examines the "great" philosophers throughout history and how their conclusions to these questions have gone in many directions, only to be corrected by later generations until finally we land where we are today where mankind has given up hope for an answer to meaning. You are on your own to determine what to make of life and to think that any meaning can exist is irrational. Their argument is typically that Christianity is irrational because it makes a leap of faith between the tangible to the intangible. This leap is irrational and based on wishful thinking.
What you see in art, music, theater, science, televison, etc is a reflection of the philosophical views of men and women who are looking for something to live for. But in their minds they believe that there really is no meaning and to think that there is is to live a lie. This really is the core of Postmodernism. They have realized that the scientific world holds the truth and the truth is very deterministic and leaves no room for meaning in life. This is cold and hopeless so our society has now graduated to Postmodernism where they make a leap of faith according to what their core beliefs tell them is a lie.
Reading page after page and coming to a better understanding this tension in the minds of many people, this book inevitably does something to a Christian. It shows you the horror of hopelessness and the damage that these belief systems lead to. This does for you a few things, it makes you appreciate the true hope that you have and it also gives you a compassion for those who live in this hopeless state of mind. It compels you to help others out of this situation they are in and to lead them to the hope only found in the gospel of Jesus.
One great problem in the minds of most people today, including many in the church is that deep down they have a fear that Christianity is a lie. They believe it to be a false hope just like any other belief system in the world today. The only difference is that Christianity seems to produce more positive results than other belief systems. This is the sad but true reality of the minds of most people today. This fear leads to inaction.
An obstacle we must get past today is a false view that science conflicts with religion. This is a broad, universal statement that is usually true but in some cases untrue. For example, to say that Buddhism is unscientific may be correct but to say that Christianity is unscientific is false. The claims of Christianity can be supported rationally through archaeology, philosophy, coherency, eye witness accounts, etc. if only you care to stop and look. Of course, there is always going to be a strong opposition to Christian rationalistic claims. They are often viewed as "unscientific" because of a system of science that presupposes that God and the miraculous cannot exist. But to presuppose that God doesn't exist is a greater leap of faith than presupposing He does exist. Its no wonder that most people believe in God but don't know what to make of Him.
Science is only concerned with what can be verified as being true. But what is missing is that certain things happen that are true but are not verifiable. We cannot suppose that everything unverifiable is therefore untrue. To do this reveals our biases and exposes our hardened heart. Ultimately a changed heart which I believe is a miracle of God will have the ability to reverse this way of thinking and create a desire to prove that God exists instead of our natural agenda to prove that He doesn't exist.
By the Grace of God, He has opened the minds of Christian thinkers throughout history, most notably the Reformers in the 16th century. The Reformers bridged this rational-irrational gap. They changed faith with a lowercase "f" to Faith with a capital "F". The difference is that faith can be rational. Miracles can be explained rationally. The resurrection can be explained rationally. Many books on doctrine and apologetics have been written since this time exposing this reality. So then we have access back to the boldness that Paul had when he spoke to the Athenians. He spoke the gospel confidently, not because he was irrationally hoping it was all true, but because he was certain it was true.