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One of the first primarily philosophical books on Christian thought I ever picked up was Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer. I started reading it during the end of high school and the beginning of college as I was being challenged about my worldview.
The interesting things about worldviews is that we all have them and we are oftentimes unaware of them and yet, they color everything we see to the point that true objectivity is probably just an ideal. It is impossible, to say the least, to separate out our experiences and cultural history from our thoughts about things if we fail to think through them and give them adequate consideration.
Schaeffer deals with the origins and influences in Western thinking over nearly the past century in Escape From Reason. What I loved about this is that the historical context of why we think the way we do is so important; humans are funny as we tend to react against previous ideas and swing wildly on the pendulum all the time proclaiming that this time, what we are saying must be right and are fore bearers somehow missed the boat back in what seemed like the Dark Ages (even if it was just a couple years ago).
While this might sound all academic for the sake of academia, it’s not. It never has been.
One of my favorite places growing up was the bookstore. There was a little one right across the street from my church that I wandered into whenever I could where I happily exchanged my birthday money for countless titles and little tchotchkes. Somehow I was never able to save up for the Precious Moments doll I wanted to badly because I could never delay gratification long enough to resist the Christian themed stickers, erasers, and pencils at the checkout counter.
Yes, as Christians, we have our own stickers, erasers, pencils, mints, music, movies, jewelry, and clothing.
I’m not picking on these industries at all. It sells because we buy. But sometimes we buy because we, as Christians, have an alarming tendency to retreat from our culture in order to form our own safe, little comfortable corner where the ickiness of the world can’t touch us. It’s not really about bookstores or anything else inanimate we call “Christian”: it is about our mindset.
We’ve mistakenly applied the concept of being in the world, but not of the world to withdrawing of the world. We’ve exchanged our effectiveness as salt to the world for the safety we think we can create by staying in our own circles.
The problem is that there is only the illusion of safety here though. There is nothing safe about failing to live as God intended us to. We must engage our culture in order to for our culture to see Christ.
It’s why I walk through the doorways of Child Protective Services as a foster parent. It’s why many of my friends have left the security of living in our nation to live and serve in poverty-struck and isolated countries around the world.
It isn’t about volunteering though and being kind. Jesus wasn’t just kind and in fact, if you read through the gospels, you’ll see a very different picture as He, often forcefully, confronted the sin and failings of man and specifically the religious leaders all while offering grace, if only people would choose to follow Him.
Jesus engaged in culture. He thoughtfully discussed ideas and challenged the accepted thoughts of the day with the true reality: Himself and grace through God’s redemptive plan. He turned the world upside down with what He said and did.
The problem for us is that we can’t turn something on it’s head though, if we don’t know which way is up ourselves.
That is why I love Escape From Reason. The whole point is to understand the world as well as current and historical worldviews so we can be meaningful in the world while abiding in Christ and living in grace.
There is a big difference between being meaningful in a hopeless place and living by the world’s standards. We don’t need to be so scared of the darkness when we bring Christ, the light of the world, with us.
Instead, we should be scared of what will happen to our hearts and souls if we choose to not obey. We’ll whither and harden until the sacrifice of what Christ did for us will no longer mean what it should mean and we’ll forget why we need grace so badly. We’ll never be able to truly help.
If you don’t know where to start, try picking up a copy of Escape from Reason
. Our actions flow from our worldview. If we don’t understand this, we’ll never be able to engage in both mind and deed.