Escape from Reason by SchaefferLast week was the final post on Schaeffer’s popular book The God Who is There. The next book in the first volume of Schaeffer’s works is Escape from Reason. Here, Schaeffer seeks to trace the roots of the development of thought of the modern man. It is only after having done this that Schaeffer feels one can be able to speaking meaningfully into ones own age.

In the first chapter Schaeffer opens with a discussion on the grace/nature distinction. Grace deals God as creator, heaven, unseen realities and man’s soul. Nature addresses the creation, visible realities and man’s body. Prior to Thomas Aquinas there was a proper emphasis on grace and the heavenly things as above nature. One of Aquinas contributions to apologetics was his five fold natural proofs for the existence of God: unmoved mover, first cause, argument from contingency, argument from degree and the teleological argument. While there is some debate as to why Aquinas developed these arguments for God’s existence, there is no question as to the unintended impact they had on the grace/nature distinction.

Schaeffer roots the modern development of natural philosophy within Aquinas’ five proofs. What grew out of these proofs was the belief that man was and could be an autonomous self. Thus, while previously the grace/nature distinction was still held together (nature being dependent upon grace), now, nature had split apart from grace and it began to “eat it up” (p. 212). Further, philosophy had broken free from revelation. Along with many other things, this has worked its way into our educational system:

Today we have a weakness in our educational profess failing to understand the natural associations between the disciplines. We tend to study all our disciplines in unrelated parallel lines. This tends to be true in both Christian and secular education. This is one of the reasons why evangelical Christians have been taken by surprise at the tremendous shift that has come in our generation. We have studied our exegesis as exegesis, our theology as theology, our philosophy as philosophy; we study something about art as art; we study music as music, without understanding that these are things of man, and the things of man are never unrelated parallel lines. (p. 211)

One of the ways in which this split shows itself most manifestly is the famous painting The School of Athens by Raphael. The the painting Raphael portrays the difference between the Aristotelian and Platonic schools of thought. In the picture Aristotle is pointing downwards towards the particulars while Plato is pointing upwards to the universals. Schaeffer points out that what this painting so clearly shows is the loosening of the particulars from the universals. The grace/nature distinction has now become a separation that was never intended.

Moving to chapter two Schaeffer lays out the response to the disunity between grace and nature as found in the Reformation. With the advent of natural philosophy and the belief in the autonomous self came the needed idea that man was not completely fallen. The Reformation “rejected the concept of an incomplete Fall resulting in man’s autonomous intellect and the possibility of a natural theology which could be pursued independently from the Scriptures.” (p. 217)

One of the implications of sola scriptura in relation to natural theology was that it rejected the notion that man, through reasoning with natural revelation, could become the authority for determining the reality of God and the universals. Second, sola scriptura implied that salvation was found only in Christ as revealed in Scripture and not nature. (p. 218) Schaeffer notes:

The Reformation said “Scripture alone” and not “the revelation of God in Christ alone.” If you do not have the view of the Scriptures that the reformers had, you really have no content to the word Christ – and this is the drift in modern theology. Modern theology uses the word without content because Christ is cut away from the Scriptures. The Reformation followed the teaching of Christ Himself in linking the revelation Christ gave God to the revelation of the written Scriptures. (p. 218)

It is this return to Scripture alone that is the key to bringing the disunity between grace and nature back together. Scripture is the unifying factor between the universals and the particulars. One of the other positive results of the unifying effect of Scripture to grace and nature is that man can know who he is.  By recognizing the God who is there man can know who he is. This is a constant theme throughout Schaeffer’s works thus far and I suspect it will continue.

It is in Scripture that man can know who he is. He can know that he is created in the image of God and that he has fallen from God. Schaeffer felt that the modern idea of determinism created in man a sense of meaninglessness and nothingness. He had no sense of dignity. However, what God communicates to man in Scripture is a sense of dignity because he was created in Gods image despite the fact that he is fallen. Further, man has true moral guilt in his rebellion against God because he is not programmed as determinism would have had man believe (p. 221). Schaeffer states about the Reformers in this regard,

They had a biblical understanding of what Christ did. They understood that Jesus died on the cross in substitution and as a propitiation in order to save  men from true guilt…Christ dies for man who has true moral guilt because man had made a real and true choice. (p. 221)

Coupled with this biblical truth is that while man is a creature like everything else God created, therefore, distinct from the creator, he is, unlike the rest of creation, in relationship with God. Man has personality. Schaeffer concludes with this:

The biblical position, stressed at the Reformation, says that neither the Platonic view nor the humanist view will do. First, God made the whole man and He is interested in the whole man. Second, when the historic space-time Fall took place, it affected the whole man. Third, on the basis of Christ’s work as Savior, and having the knowledge  that we possess in the revelation of the Scriptures, there is redemption for the whole man. In the future, the whole man will be raised from the dead and will be redeemed perfectly. (p. 224)