31 Days, 31 Books
Francis Schaeffer’s book How Should We Then Live? is the companion volume to Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism. Kuyper came to the United States in 1898 and spoke with great optimism about the New World, this new country, and the energy of Calvinism in North America. He was giving a version of American Exceptionalism. He saw this land as poised to further a Christian civilization beyond what the world had known. America in 1898 was in a really strong position in so many ways. The land was large and the faith was strong. Colleges and universities, such as Princeton Seminary where Kuyper was speaking, were still largely Christian. The missionary impulse for promoting the Gospel both within the nation and throughout the world was strong. America was, as Kuyper, cheerfully noted, in its springtime. Kuyper then lectured on “how we should then live” and apply the Reformational principles to all areas of life.
In 1976, some 78 years later, Francis Schaeffer came to the United States to teach and preach about the Christian Faith. Schaeffer was an American who had spent years teaching and lecturing in Switzerland. He and his wife, Edith, had started a Christian work called L’Abri, which means “shelter.” The Schaeffers took in travelers and seekers, offered them food and shelter, and sought to answer the questions of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Francis Schaeffer talked about philosophy and history, music and art, faith and reason. He was a Christian apologist, a Christian philosopher of sorts, a Christian social critic, but primarily, he was an evangelist. He believed, as stated in the title of his book, that God is here and He is not silent.
Schaeffer took bits and pieces of his writings and lectures and organized a 10 chapter book on Western Civilization. As the subtitle shows, he viewed the matter as The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. Like Kuyper, he sought to apply the faith to all areas of life. Unlike Kuyper, Schaeffer believed that America in 1976 was not in the springtime of its age, but the approaching winter and death.
Schaeffer offered concise, simple and simplistic summaries of history and answers to the philosophical, moral, and theological questions of the age. Scholars and experts scoffed and academics winced over the lack of depth. But Schaeffer knew his gifts. He was the expert, the scholar, the philosopher of his age. He was a preacher preaching Christian salvation and a teacher training others to go beyond his work.
Schaeffer taught about the Protestant Reformation in chapters 4-5 of How Should We Then Live. But the whole of the book is actually about the key issues of the Protestant Reformation. The authority of Scripture, the abiding nature of God’s moral law, the ever-present call to faith or unbelief, and the wide application of Christian thought were all Reformation themes.
How Should We Then Live was both a book and a video series. I use the video series and teach the book. This is the best source for familiarizing students (of all ages) with the long list of Christian leaders, philosophers, artists, musicians, books, movies, and cultural movements through the ages. The “grammar,” that is, the names, dates, and terms, of the book provide a good foundation for students. This book, and the video, testify to the ongoing impact and need of the Protestant Reformation.