A great deal of The God Who Is There traces what Schaeffer calls “the line of despair.” This can be likened to a gradual downward decay of man’s view of truth. The lower down on the line of despair, the further from the Christian view of truth one gets. Schaeffer’s examination traces the line of despair from philosophy, to art, to music, to general culture, and on to theology. His thesis is that change in society begins with the ideas of philosophy. Philosophy creates a ripple effect through art, music, culture, and final permeates theology.
Schaeffer emphasizes truth. This is a primary concern and the core of his endeavor throughout the trilogy. He stresses the reality of Christianity in history and its ability to stand up under critical scrutiny:
In Christianity the value of faith depends on the object towards which the faith is directed. So it looks outward to the God who is there, and to the Christ who in history died upon the cross once for all, finished the work of atonement, and on the third day rose again in space and in time. This makes Christian faith open to discussion and verification.1His goal is to show that Christianity is true and verifiable, and all other philosophies, or worldviews, fall short. Throughout each chapter, the author exposes the shortcomings and inadequacies of all opposing worldviews. Schaeffer demonstrates that without the Christian worldview, man truly is falling below this line of despair.
The apologetic aspects of Schaeffer’s trilogy are very valuable. Of course, Schaeffer himself has had a profound and lasting effect on the apologetic landscape of Christianity, and this springs not only from his brilliance as a thinker, but from his genuineness as a Christian. His motivation of Christian love permeates his writing and can be especially noted in the helpful appendices. As Schaeffer states: “There is nothing more ugly than a Christian orthodoxy without understanding or without compassion.”2
Schaeffer’s skill as a communicator of the Gospel is not in his watering down of the truth. Instead, he seeks to take what is profound and make it as accessible as possible:
The problem which confronts us as we approach modern man today is not how we are to change Christian teaching in order to make it more palatable, for to do that would mean throwing away any chance of giving the real answer to man in despair; rather, it is the problem of how to communicate the gospel so that it is understood.3Schaeffer is passionate about correct epistemology (one’s theory of knowledge). He points out that if one’s epistemology is wrong, then all that flows from it will be flawed. The author shows that much of the drift down the line of despair has been a shift in epistemology. Accordingly, Schaeffer seeks to expose the problems with postmodern thinking, relativism, scientism, and the like.
Francis Scaeffer’s Trilogy can be highly recommended as a book still very relevant to our present time. It has much apologetic value, with its strong emphasis on truth and the critique of other worldviews. Finally, this volume will acquaint the reader with one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the last century.
1 Francis Schaeffer, Trilogy: The God Who is There (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), p. 65.
2 Ibid., p. 34.
3 Ibid., p. 145.