Ten Quotes: Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer

My father introduced me to Francis Schaeffer, a gift for which I am very grateful. Schaeffer’s thought guided me through much of my college and post college years. It is has been a long time since I read anything by him. A friend of mine recently read Escape from Reason and then my oldest son just read How Should We Then Live? After hearing some of the conversation about Schaeffer, I decided to pick him up again. I was glad I did. He saw fifty years ago, what many Christians cannot even see today when our country and to a large degree the church has abandoned rationality (not rationalism) for mysticism and self-determination. Here are some of my favorite quotes from Escape from Reason. Many of these are longer because it helps to have context. Remember as you read these quotes that Schaeffer wrote this in 1968.

When nature is made autonomous, it is destructive. 

It is an important principle to remember, in the contemporary interest in communication and in language study, that the biblical presentation is that, though we do not have exhaustive truth, we have from the Bible what I term “true truth.” In this way we know true truth about God, true truth about man and something truly about nature. Thus on the basis of the Scriptures, while we do not have exhaustive knowledge, we have true and unified knowledge. 

Men act the way they think.

The conclusions he [Marquis de Sade] drew were these: if man is determined then what is is right. If all of life is only mechanism-if that is all there is- then morals really do not count. Morals become only a word for a sociological framework. Morals become a means of manipulation by society in the midst of the machine. The word “morals” by this time is only a semantic connotation word for non-morals. What is, is right. 

The basic position of man in rebellion against God is that man is at the center of the universe, that he is autonomous-here lies his rebellion. Man will keep his rationalism and his rebellion, his insistence on total autonomy or partially autonomous areas, even it means he must give up rationality.

Often they [20th Century Middle Class Americans, which made up many churches] still think in the right way-to them truth is truth, right is right-but they no longer know why.

The significant thing is that rationalistic, humanistic man began by saying that Christianity was not rational enough. Now he has come around in a wide circle and ended as a mystic-though a mystic of a special kind. He is a mystic with nobody there. The old mystics always said that there was somebody there, but the new mystic says that that does not matter, because faith is the important thing. It is faith in faith, whether expressed in secular or religious terms.  

 The God is Dead school still uses the word Jesus…But Jesus here turns out to be a non-defined symbol. They use the word because is is rooted in the memory of the race. It is  Humanism with a religious banner called Jesus to which they can give any content they wish. 

Any autonomy is wrong. Autonomous science or autonomous art is wrong, if…we mean it is free from the content of what God has told us. This does not mean that we have a static science or art-just the opposite. It gives us the form inside which, being finite, freedom is possible.

It is possible to take the system the Bible teaches, put it down in the  market place of the ideas of men and let it stand there and speak for itself.  

And One:

There are certain unchangeable facts which are true. These have no relationship to the shifting tides. They make the Christian system what it is, and if they are altered, Christianity becomes something else. This must be emphasized because there are evangelical Christians  today who, in all sincerity, are concerned with their lack of communication, but in order to bridge the gap they are tending to change what must remain unchangeable. If we do this we are no longer communicating Christianity, and what we have left is no different from the surrounding consensus.  

8 thoughts on “Ten Quotes: Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer

  1. I really like the reference to “true truth”, man being the center, etc. So true.

    Where I run into problems with Schaffer (Pearcey, Colson as well) is that quite often he does not root his arguments in Christ and His cross. The goal of “reclaiming culture” is out of touch with the gospel. Did Jesus come to reclaim culture? No, He came to reveal the glory of the Father (John 12:28).

    Oddly, in Schaffer's references anthropocentrism, we find him anthropocentric, because he doesn't make Christ and Him crucified his focus.


  2. Jeff, Christ as unifying factor is rooted in the truth about God and man as fallen. Without a personal God who speaks we do not have the truth of man's creation, fall, true moral guilt and God's justice/holiness, which required Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Schaeffer believes that adequate presentation of Christ crucified requires an understanding of how our culture communicates. I am not sure the book is about “reclaiming culture” as much as it is about understanding the culture so we can communicate the Gospel.


  3. Thanks Peter for the followup. As challenging as these discussions can be, I truly appreciate the dialogue.

    My observation of Bavinck’s statement is that he is missing what Christ said about Himself in relation to God speaking through the prophets (John 5:39-40, Luke 24:27, John 5:46), and he does not reference the fact that Jesus was active in creation (Hebrews 1:2, Colossians 1:15-17), and he does not reference that fact the Jesus IS the word of God (John 1:1-14).

    It appears that Bavinck is (perhaps unwittingly) bifurcating Christ from Scripture.

    If this is the best Bavinck has done to explain why Christ cannot be the way we organize our theology, then I am at a loss for words.

    The devil’s primary attack on Christianity is to attack Christ, especially through theologians.


  4. Peter, one last comment. You said, “Christ as unifying factor is rooted in the truth about God and man as fallen.”

    Man's fall is part of God's design in His work to reveal the kind of God that He is – and in this context, revealing Himself as the kind of God that will die for His enemies.

    Redemption then is one of the products of God's self-revelatory work; it does not somehow supersede or even attain the same level as revelation.

    Revelation and redemption don't walk hand-in-hand down the street (this would be anthropocentric);

    Revelation walks far ahead and receives glory from redemption, creation, sanctification and the many other tools God uses to reveal Himself.


  5. Jeff, I will post Bavinck's final paragraph on how he sees dogmatics being unified. You can judge from that what he is aiming at. It might clear up some misunderstanding. It is too long to put in a comment, so I will put on the blog. Your final comment even sounds like Bavinck in some ways. In Christ, Peter


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