Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Review of Books by Modern Christian Philosophers: Technology and Justice; In American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile; How Should We Then Live

Every person who wants to objectively analyze why our culture and society is shaped the way it is should read three very impressive books.:  Technology and Justice by George Grant; American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile by Richard John Neuhaus; and How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer.

It is hard to review all the depth and detail these books provide on a subject that is so relevant for today. So in a nut shell: all three provide an outline of the progression from Western Society's ability to think from a Christian base to thinking from a secular base. Each author in his own words detail how the “Enlightenment Thinkers” from the Renaissance turned the tide from using a belief system that was grounded in the fact that there is a God, that He created the universe for a purpose and He is reasonable to our modern mode of thinking that asserts there is no God, there is no purpose and it is impossible to reason.

George Grant (1918-1988), the author of Technology and Justice, taught religion and philosophy at McMaster University and Dalhousie University in Canada (according to the back of the book he was considered one of Canada's leading political philosophers). His book focuses on how the above mentioned evolution of western society's beliefs produced modern technology and how this technology influenced society's values. His last two chapters, dealing with abortion and euthanasia, are especially worth reading.

Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009) was president of the Institute on Religion and Public Life and a Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of New York.  In American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile, he follows along the same line of thought as Grant's book but centers his book on the modern day Christian and how he has to live swimming upstream in order to maintain Biblical beliefs in a society that is now blatantly predjudiced against those beliefs.

                                        Finally, Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) is considered one of the greatest
 Christian thinkers of this century. In his wonderful book, How Should We Then Live? he follows along the same lines as the other books but with an emphasis on the impact the Reformation had on the sophistication of society and contrasts it with the secular humanists attempt to create “progress".  He vividly describes the impact  the aetheist viewpoint has had on our society (producing leaders and thinkers like Nietszche, Hitler, Stalin et al). Schaeffer also works more from the viewpoint of how our value systems are reflected in fine art. (i.e. When man believed in a reasonable God, his art reflected rational, understandable paintings and music. When man turned away from God he concluded that it is impossible to reason or understand anything-hence art without form or structure).

All three of these reviews are bare bones because there is so much meat in each book that I don't feel that I can adequately describe them in a blog. All I can do is highly recommend that you read all of them. Each book, though written by different men at different times, support each other's premise and if you read all three you will find yourself familiar with names such as Voltaire, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietszche, as well as many other philosophers and scientists that have impacted our modern society. These books are also valuable to the Christian because they articulate so clearly why it is far more reasonable to believe in the Chrisitan God than to reject Him.

One final thought: after reading these books, especially Schaeffer's, I realized that our public school system, in order to teach from a secular outlook on history, science and  socio-political events must give an inaccurate view of those subjects. In other words, in order to leave out God, educators have to cut out huge chunks of historical events-such as the Medieval Church and the Reformation's impact- very positive impact, I might add, on our society. To me this renders education sterile. How can one come to a correct conclusion about our life, where we came from, and why we think the way we do if a major component (Christian thought) is excluded?

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