Rationality and Faith: An Excerpt from Escape from Reason

In Escape from Reason, Francis Schaeffer’s classic examination of postmodernism and Christianity’s response.

Escape from Reason is justifiably ranked as one of the greatest apologetic works of the twentieth century, in part due to Schaeffer’s overwhelming compassion for those lost in humanism that engages the Christian heart and mind on every page.

In this excerpt from Chapter 7, “Rationality and Faith,” Schaeffer insightfully contrasts man’s eternal significance as a creation of God with humanism’s ultimate meaninglessness:

The Bible teaches that though man is hopelessly lost, he is not nothing. Man is lost because he is separated from God, his true reference point, by true moral guilt. But he will never be nothing. Therein lies the horror of his lostness. For man to be lost, in all his uniqueness and wonder, is tragic.

We must not belittle man’s achievements. In science, for instance, man’s achievements demonstrate that he is not junk, though the ends to which he often puts them show how lost he is. Our forefathers, though they believed man was lost, had no problem concerning man’s significance. Man can influence history, including his own eternity and that of others. This view sees man, as man, as something wonderful.

In contrast to this there is the rationalist who has determinedly put himself at the center of the universe and insists on beginning autonomously with only the knowledge he can gather, and has ended up finding himself quite meaningless. It comes to the same thing as Zen Buddhism, which expresses so accurately the view of modern man: “Man enters the water and causes no ripple.” The Bible says he causes ripples that never end. As a sinner, man cannot be selective in his significance, so he leaves behind bad as well as good marks in history; but certainly he is not a zero.

Christianity is a system which is composed of a set of ideas which can be discussed. By “system” we do not mean a scholastic abstraction, nevertheless we do not shrink from using this word. The Bible does not set out unrelated thoughts. The system it sets forth has a beginning and moves from that beginning in a noncontradictory way. The beginning is the existence of the infinite-personal God as Creator of all else.

Christianity is not just a vague set of incommunicable experiences, based on a totally unverifiable “leap in the dark.” Neither conversion (the beginning of the Christian life) nor spirituality (the growth) should be such a leap. Both are firmly related to the God who is there and the knowledge he has given us—and both involve the whole man …

So what is said in this book is not merely a matter of intellectual debate. It is not of interest only to academics. It is utterly crucial for those of us who are serious about communicating the Christian gospel.

Schaeffer, F.A., & Moreland, J.P. (2014). Escape from Reason. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.


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Logos Staff

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