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Review: How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer

There are many good books and a few great books but only a handful that should be reread at least once a decade.

How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer is one of them.

Beginning with the Romans, Schaeffer traces the history of Western thought right up to the present.  Yes, even though he passed away almost thirty years ago, his book describes events happening today.  Most likely he was able to tell the future so accurately because he understood the past so well—not merely the facts but especially the principalities and powers behind them (Ephesians 6:12).

Schaeffer says:  “To understand where we are in today’s world—in our intellectual ideas and in our cultural and political lives—we must trace three lines in history, namely, the philosophic, the scientific, and the religious.”

So, starting with the Romans as mentioned earlier, Schaeffer traces those three lines, through the middle ages, the renaissance and reformation, the ‘enlightenment’, the rise of modern science, and the breakdown of all that to modern thought, modern worship, a powerful elite, and our easily-manipulated society.  He discusses philosophy, art, science, theology, and literature, arriving at a chilling analysis of our popular culture and modern world.

In the end, only Christianity can give hope for the future of this world.  Of course we know what that means for individuals, but often we don’t really understand how it applies to society.  By showing how one idea leads to another, Schaeffer gives us a new understanding of the problem and points to the details of a solution.

In response we, as Christians, must not adopt the deadly and unBiblical split between reason and faith that characterizes our society but must understand that God’s Word is true for all aspects of life. We must understand what this means and act upon it to influence society in all its aspects.   That is part of what it means to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

Each time you read the book, Schaeffer’s call to action will resonate with you in a different way.  So do consider as you finish the book:  what is God calling you to do right now?  Obviously, if you are a homeschooler, it will have implications for your homeschool, especially for how you teach your teens.  It may also have implications for other aspects of your life and service, depending on your current commitments.  But be careful. Don’t neglect your daily calling to be a wife and mother at home for something out in the world; there is a time and a season for everything, and right now loving and educating your children is the most important and influential task you have.

I have read How Should We Then Live? at least three times, and each time I read more slowly and thoroughly.  It’s that kind of book.  As you grow and learn about life, you become more able to understand the book, which helps you understand the world better, and so on in a very positive spiral.  It’s hard to start but you need to start somewhere, and I’m glad Mr. 17 had his first go at this book last month with the Omnibus program.  I wish all Christian teens had such an opportunity.

How Should We Then Live? is used in the wonderful Truth Quest history series and is also a selection in the Omnibus program.  If you wish your teen to understand some of the background ideas that influence us today and what to do about them, do include this book in your high school curriculum.

This is yet another book in the in the 2013 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Encourage One Another Wednesday, and Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure: I bought How Should We Then Live? many years ago and am thankful for the opportunity to tell you about it. This review represents my own opinions and, as always, I am not compensated in any way.


  1. Jeanna M says:

    I don’t know if you use videos but Amazon has the video series of this that you can watch instantly. I bought it sometime back, I know it wasn’t expensive but I can’t remember the price.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Thanks. I was going to post about the videos next week since they went up on YouTube, but I didn’t know they were still for sale. I hope everything is above board.

  2. Amy says:

    This is one of those books that I have always wanted to read but just haven’t yet. I’ve been reading so much to the kids that I neglect to read myself. I should get myself this one to read outside as the kids play this summer!

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Sounds like a great idea! That way you won’t overwhelm yourself by trying to read the whole thing at once. 🙂

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