This post resumes a series based on Rick’s trip to Europe last fall. You can read the first three posts in the series beginning here.
I’m sure most of us can point to a book that has had significant influence in our lives (beyond the Bible of course). For me, it was a book by Francis A. Schaeffer, “How Should We Then Live?”…released in 1976.
A university student that year and relatively new in my faith, I was enrolled in a course, “Ancient and Medieval Philosophy” that began to shake the foundation of what I believed.
I soon discovered that I was ill equipped to provide a defense of the historicity of Christianity…often being challenged to do so in class by the professor (after my feeble attempts to question him on the validity of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle…which seemed like a good idea at the time).
Schaeffer helped me think through how Christianity uniquely provides “real answers to the basic problems that all humanity faces…offering an explanation for all of life.” He helped me to articulate a world view through a biblical lens.
I felt as though I was walking back in time through the pages of Schaeffer’s book on a recent visit to Paris. We have global partners throughout Europe in France, Germany, the U.K., Belgium, Moldova, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Trying to reach post-Christian Europe with the gospel is as difficult as my attempts to go head-to-head with my philosophy professor. According to Operation World, the percentage of evangelicals in Europe is about 2.5. Slow going.
While in Paris, I had a unique opportunity to see the city while looking through a historical, philosophical and religious lens. I joined a 5 hour walking tour of “The History of Ideas in the Latin Quarter”.
The Latin Quarter was at one time the true student and intellectual center of Paris…evoking images of Camus, Sartre, Beckett, the French resistance, the riots of 1968, let alone Abelard, Bacon, Magnus, Dante, Erasmus, Descartes, Locke, Pascal, Voltaire…even Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams.
My walking tour began at the Notre-Dame de Paris, (completed in A.D. 1345) in front of the Portal of the Last Judgment facade. It was here at Notre Dame in 1793 that the “Cult of Reason” emerged during the Enlightenment. Christianity was replaced by “reason, nature, happiness, progress, and liberty.”
The tour concluded in the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, at the tomb of Rene Descartes. Known as the “father of modern philosophy” (“cogito ergo sum”; “I think, therefore I am”), his radical doubt would eventually place an “insurmountable roadblock to biblical faith”. While perhaps unintentional, he planted the seeds for later dissent from the theistic view of the world.
So in this year of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Europe is far removed from upholding the biblical absolutes that ignited the movement back to Scripture. America has followed. I pray that the spirit, zeal and courage of reformers such as Farel, Luther, Zwingli and Calvin take hold in us once more.
Written by Rick Pierson, Executive Director of CompassGlobal