Monday, August 26, 2013
Book Review: "He Is There and He Is Not Silent"
That is, until I was introduced to a man by the name of Dr. Francis Schaeffer. It might be odd to read a Catholic praising the work of a Presbyterian minister, but here I am. Though I disagree with the fundamental differences that would naturally separate a Catholic from a Protestant, Schaeffer's writing and thought is crucial in our time.
By chance, I found a copy of one of his books at a local bookstore, sitting almost unnoticeable in a pile of torn-up devotionals and old Bibles - He is There and He is Not Silent. This is the book that is so desperately needed in our day and age - its pages literally cry out to be read by Christians today, be they Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox.
I find that many whom I have spoken with are afraid of touching, let alone even beginning works like this. They often remark that these kinds of works are too hard for the average reader to understand, but to this I always say, "Just read it. Simply begin. One has to start somewhere."
Now, though this work is deep, it is easily approachable by anyone. Schaeffer has an uncanny ability to make even the most profound concepts easy to digest and understand - this is not like diving into Bl. John Duns Scotus, but in my mind, it is just as heavy.
In just over 100 pages, Dr. Schaeffer points out the problems of man in our age with acute clarity and terrifying accuracy - "The dilemma of modern man is simple: he simply does not know why man has any meaning. He is lost. Man remains a zero. It is the damnation of our generation."1 "The modern man has no real basis for fighting evil."2 "We are surrounded by a sea of anti-philosophy."3 "Modern man is left either downstairs as a machine with words that do not lead either to values or facts but only to words, or upstairs to a world without categories in regard to human values, moral values, or the difference between reality and fantasy. Cry for our generation."4
He does not lose the reader in a multitude of quotes and footnotes as Henri de Lubac often succumbs to in his work The Drama of Atheist Humanism - instead, Dr. Schaeffer cuts to the quick. Simply and plainly, he points out the metaphysical, moral, and epistemological necessities of there being a God - and not just any god, but the infinite and personal God of the Christian religion. His arguments are brilliant, and he leaves no modern thinker untouched, from Sartre (the icon of atheist existentialism) to the films of Ingmar Bergman. He is not afraid to engage with modern culture without surrendering to it and succumbing to its influence a la modernism. His voice is a clarion call for Christian reason in an age of absurdity.
Suffice it to say, this book simply must be read - for the Christian soul, it expertly explains why we live in the culture of secularism, atheism, and absurdity that we now find ourselves in. Though it may not have the wit of G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy, it doesn't need it. It is equally as brilliant as Fr. Seraphim Rose's scathing Nihilism and Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen's more gentle but incredibly accurate portrayal of man's moral problems in Peace of Soul. Dr. Schaeffer's work is a classic in my opinion - readable, clear, accurate, and profound. It will shake your world and the way you view it, and it will help anyone who reads it to understand with clarity the times we now live in.
1 - He is There and He is Not Silent, ch. 1
2 - ibid., ch. 2
3 - ibid. ch. 3
4 - ibid., ch. 3