Saturdays with Schaeffer

Genesis in Space and Time by SchaefferAfter a unexpectedly long break from my reading and blogging through The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, 5 Volumes we are now into the 2nd volume A Christian View of the Bible as Truth. This volume contains Genesis in Space and Time, No Final Conflict, Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History and Basic Bible Studies.

In Genesis in Space and Time, Schaeffer addresses the importance of the first eleven chapters of Genesis as they relate to the flow of Biblical history (a key phrase and concept in this book and Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History). In the first three chapters Schaeffer deals with the six days of creation. Taking cue from Psalms 136, Schaeffer sets the stage for how he interprets Genesis 1-11, as a fact of space-time history.

The opening verse of Genesis, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,’ and the remainder of chapter 1 brings us immediately into a world of space and time. Space and time are like warp and woof. Their interwoven relationship is history. Thus the opening sentence of Genesis and the structure of what follows emphasize that we are dealing here with history just as much as if we talked about ourselves at this moment at a particular point of time in a particular geographic place. (7)

With the belief that Genesis 1-11 is presenting space time history there are several important aspects of the narrative that Schaeffer draws out.

First, the beginning of creation does not entail a beginning to God as creator. He must necessarily exist prior to creation itself for it to have a beginning (8). Pointing to Eph. 1:4 & 2 Tim. 1:9 Schaeffer turns our attention to the fact that the Godhead had an eternal relationship before creation. To aid in this discussion Schaeffer chooses the word sequence as opposed to time as it relates to the existence of things and creatures (9, 14). Further, Gen. 1:2 and Jn. 1:1-14 give us clear indication that each member of the Godhead not only existed before creation but also took part in it. Schaeffer has some great discussion on the intricacies of Jn. 1:1-3 as it relates to Christ and His existence before creation and activity at creation (12-14).

Second, the way in which God created is through His spoken word. This is creation by fiat. God as creator is much different then man as creator. While both may conceive of their creation in their minds, God created something from nothing while man creates something out of what already exists. God speaks things into existence and man shapes things into existence. Interestingly enough, Schaeffer briefly touches on the big bang theory stating that he does not feel that it can be owned by the Christian worldview based in Gen. 1. He states

The simple fact is that what is given in Genesis 1:1 has no relationship to the big band theory – because from the scriptural viewpoint, the primal creation goes back beyond the basic material or energy. Even if one accepts the big bang theory, Genesis 1:1 would then go beyond it by saying that God created out of nothing the primal stuff present at the big bang. We have a new thing created by God out of nothing by fiat, and this is the distinction (17).

As the big bang theory is proposed it requires something to be present in the universe from which the bang can proceed from. Genesis 1 reaches back farther then that to when nothing existed outside of God and He created everything.

Third, Schaeffer points out that at creation we see differences and divisions between the various things created. For example, the first point of differentiation and division occurs between the unformed and unfilled state of Gen. 1:2 to the creation of light in Gen. 1:3. There is a difference between the darkness that was and the light that was created. Further, the light that was created caused a natural division between the two. In reference to the significance repetition of the word “let” Schaeffer states, “In these places God is not so much making something come into being, or even differentiating it as being, as he is indicating what this sort of being means.” (22) Schaeffer walks the reader through the various states of difference and division such as “bare being to light…differentiated spaces, areas of water and earth, the nonliving and the living plants…..and the day and night on the earth…..between conscious and unconscious life,” and between man and the rest of creation (25-26).

Fourth, Schaeffer ties the complementary nature of Gen. 1 & 2 together with the historicity of Adam and Eve as the first pair of humans God created which to which every person every conceived can trace their lineage back to, thus, giving everyone the same original first progenitors. Schaeffer cites Jesus’ own words in Matt. 19 & Mark 10 in which Jesus refers to both Gen. 1 & 2 as referring to the same people – Adam and Eve. Perhaps the most shining support for the historicity of Adam and Eve as real people comes in Paul’s writings. Rom. 5:12-15, I Cor. 15:21,22, 2 Cor. 11:3, 8-9 and I Tim. 2:13-14 are all passages in which Paul clearly operates on the belief that they were real people just as Jesus Christ was. His theology of Christ is built on this historicity of Adam. “If we tamper with this ordinary way of understanding what is written in the Bible, the structure of Christianity is reduced to only an existential leap.” (29)

Fifth, though he does not linger on this topic, Schaeffer emphasizes the importance of man as created in the image of God which is the climax of creation and definite separation between man and the rest of creation. It is our imaging God that sets us apart from the rest of creation and is the basis for the next aspect of creation – mans dominion over creation.

Sixth, as created in the image of God man is given a form of rulership and authority over all creation. He is a steward and representative of God on the earth to the rest of creation. God formed all space and filled it with living creatures. In a similar way, man forms creation and fills it with more humans who are also created in God’s image (Gen. 5:3). We will get into in more in the next post when we discuss chapter four but Schaeffer quickly notes that the fall has not removed the image of God in man though it has tainted it (34).

Seventh, as we noted earlier, God existed before creation and therefore is independent of it in His existence. Further, creation is not an extension of God but is clearly distinct from it. It is here that we see some of the character of God. First, the mere existence of the world speaks to the existence of God. Second, we can clearly see that the world has order as opposed to chaos. It is because of the order of the universe that man is able to live and explore all God has made. Third, creation speaks to the goodness of creation despite the fallen nature it exists in. It’s goodness was not removed though it is tainted. Fourth, that God is personal is the only explanation for many things we observe in mankind like personality and communication.

Eight, with a beginning (Gen. 1-2) and an end (Rom. 8:21-23 & Rev. 19-21) we see that history is going somewhere (43). There will be an end to time as we currently experience it with the introduction of eternity and the new heavens and earth. The next sequence of events in the flow of history will begin.

Next week we will look at chapters four and five in Genesis in Space and Time in which Schaeffer will discuss the Fall and its effects on creation.

He is There and He is not Silent by SchaefferThis is the third and final post on Schaeffer’s He is There and He Is Not Silent. See the previous two posts here and here.

In the third and fourth chapters of He is There and He Is Not Silent Schaeffer discusses the area of epistemology, the study of knowledge, specifically focusing on the problem of knowledge and the answer.

The Problem

This issue of the problem of knowledge is what can we know and how do we know it? Or, to put it into Schaeffer’s own favorite phrase, what are the universals (pertaining to knowledge) that exist in order for us to explain the particulars? “How can we find universals which are large enough to cover the particulars so that we can know we know?” (p. 306) This problem persisted for centuries as men like Plato, the Greeks, Aquinas and even da Vinci tried to produce the universals upon which the particulars could be grounded. Despite the fact that the early scientists believed God existed and that the universe was discoverable, when the modern scientists came along beginning with Newton we are back to a world that is once again groping for universals. We now have a worldview that sees man as a machine and the universe as a closed system.

At this point Jean-Jacques Rousseau becomes important as he takes the next step in the line of thinking without universals. Schaeffer notes that he replaces the nature and grace distinction with nature and freedom (p. 310). This freedom is nothing short of the autonomy of man, the autonomy of man from everything – especially God. After Rousseau we move to Kant and Hegel who went from antithesis as the way of knowing things to synthesis.

Further down the road we get to the theory of positivism which held that the knower has no presuppositions upon which he approaches anything. Positivism fails because it (1) one cannot say that anything exists and (2) even if one did believe they knew something they would have no reason to trust that they know it truly. Following this line of thinking came verificationism and falsificationism.

In closing his short history of mankind trying to find an adequate theory of knowledge Schaeffer concludes with this,

All the way back to the Greeks, we have for 2,000 years the cleverest men who have ever lived trying to find a way to have meaning and certainty of knowledge; but man, beginning with himself with no other knowledge outside himself, has totally failed. (p. 319)

The Answer

The heart of the answer for Schaeffer to the problem of knowledge began with the Reformation idea (and Biblical idea) that language conveys meaning, or propositional truth. However, language is not stand alone. It is spoken by someone. Therefore, someone is there who speaks. For the Christian, the answer to the problem of knowledge is simply that God is there and He is not silent. Schaeffer points out the basic nature of language to man:

We communicate propositional communication to each other in spoken or written form in language. Indeed, it is deeper than this because the way we think inside of our own heads is in language. We can have other things in our heads besides language, but it always must be lined to language. A book, for example, can be written with much figure of speech, but the figure of speech must have a continuity withe the normal use of syntax and a defined use of terms, or nobody knows what the book is about. So whether we are talking about outward communication of inward thought, man is a verbalizer. (p. 325)

Man is a verbalizer, a communicator through language. Why then is it so hard to believe that God could communicate to man? It should not be, says Schaeffer. For Christianity, there is no problem of epistemology. Is is only because God exists and has communicated about Himself in propositional revelation that men can know at all and communicate at all. For Christians there is a connection and unity between God, man and the Bible. God exists, He created man in His image and He has communicated to him through the Bible. This is how we can know and it is the only theory of knowledge that makes sense of and adequately accounts for our human experience of knowing, language and communication.

He is There and He is not Silent by SchaefferWe have now moved through the first two books in what is considered the Schaeffer Trilogy: The God Who is There and Escape from Reason. The final book is He Is There and He Is Not Silent. In the title of the book Schaeffer tips his hat to the content of the book: that God exists and that He has spoken. For those familiar with apologetics you will recognize that these two statements are the fundamental building blocks to the apologetic method presuppositionalism: God exists and He has revealed Himself. He is there and He is not silent the title states. These two simple truths are the fundamental building blocks to all of life.

The basic aim of He Is There and He Is Not Silent is to show “the philosophical necessity of God’s being there and not being silent – in the areas of metaphysics, morals, and epistemology.” (p. 277) That is to say, for these three categories to even exist, let alone be discussed and have some foundation, it is required that God exist and have spoken. These concepts are heavy. Schaeffer addresses metaphysics and morals in one chapter each and epistemology in two chapters. This post will deal with a basic introduction to the concepts, the next will deal with the first two and a third will deal with the last. Let’s briefly introduce them.

  1. Metaphysics  – This deals with existence or being. It deals with what is. This deals with the basic philosophical question why is there something rather than nothing?
  2. Morals  – Here, Schaeffer addresses the dilemma of man as seen through the fact that man is personal, yet finite. That he has nobility (he is made in the image of God), yet he is cruel. Schaeffer sums it up as “the alienation of man from himself and from all other men in the area of morals.” (p. 279)
  3. Epistemology – This deals with the area of knowing. That is to ask, how do we know and how do we know we know? God’s existence and self-revelation are tied to how we know things and how we know we know things. We’ll explain this more later.

With these basic ideas in place Schaeffer lays some preliminary groundwork in the area of philosophy before he begins to look at how to address the three above areas. Schaeffer is very insistent upon Christians understanding that philosophy is not an enemy of Christianity. They both address the same questions though they have different vocabulary and can have different answers. They should not be thought of as Christianity vs philosophy but rather working together.

What can help us understand this relationship is to see philosophy from two angles. First, philosophy is a discipline in that it is a field of study and those who study it are called philosophers. There are few people in this category. Second, there is philosophy as a worldview. That is, a world and life view. Just as everyone is a theologian so is everyone a philosopher in the sense that everyone has a worldview (whether or not they realize it). In regards to the attitude of Christians to philosophy, Schaeffer rightly notes,

Christians have tended to despise the concept of philosophy. This has been one of the weaknesses of evangelical, orthodox Christianity – we have been proud in despising philosophy, and we have been exceedingly proud in despising the intellect. Our theological seminaries hardly ever relate their theology to philosophy, and specifically to current philosophy. Thus, students go out from the theological seminaries not knowing how to relate Christianity to the surrounding world-view. It is not that they do not know the answers. My observation is that most students graduating from our theological seminaries do not know the questions. (p. 279)

When it comes to addressing the three areas above, Schaeffer points out that there are two ways of answering them. First, one can say that there is no logical rational answer. But any thinking person can realize that this position is impossible to live. In fact, livability is a test criteria for the validity of a worldview. Schaeffer notes, “The first reason the irrational position cannot be held consistently in practice is the fact that the external world is there and it has form and order. It is not a chaotic world.” (p. 280) The second kind of answer is that there is one that is logical and rational.

On a final note to the introductory material for He is There and He is Not Silent, Schaeffer will rightly argue that there is not a range of possible answers to the areas of metaphysics, morals and epistemology but that there is only one answer – Christianity. Next week we will look at metaphysics and morals and then follow up with epistemology in the following week.

Escape from Reason by SchaefferThis is the final post for the final three chapters of Schaeffer’s . In the previous chapters we saw how rise of natural philosophy, and thus the autonomy of man in human reasoning, influenced both the religious and philosophical enterprises. In chapter five Schaeffer looks at how the destruction of the universals/particulars and creator/creature distinction has influenced various other fields such as art, music, theater, poetry and television. Two example here can suffice. In regards to Picasso’s abstract art Schaeffer writes:

Abstraction had gone to such an extent that he had made his own universe on the canvas – in fact, he seemed at time to be successfully laying at being god on his canvas. But at the moment when he painted a universal and not a particular, he ran head-on into one of the dilemmas of modern man – the loss of communication. The person standing in front of the painting has lost communication with the painting – he does not know what the subject-matter is. What is the use of being god on a two-by-four surface when nobody know what you are talking about. (p. 247-48)

Another example can be seen in t.v. Schaeffer observes that both the popular BBC an American television fell prey to existentialism and entertained people to death. Schaeffer recounts an experience that is rather sobering:

I happened to hear the program on BBC when the famous four-letter word was first used. There was a tremendous outcry. Such usage was obviously a serious departure from old standards; yet I would say that if I were given a choice and had to choose, let us have ten thousand four-letter words rather than the almost subliminal presentation on English television of twentieth-century thinking without the four-letter words. The really dangerous thing is that our people are being taught this twentieth-century mentality without being able to understand what is happening to them. (p. 255)

In the final chapter Schaeffer concludes with some consequences of pitting faith against rationality, that is, putting Christianity within the upper story of the universals:

  1. This effects morality in that how can we establish a relationship between Christianity and morals? Because the separation of faith and reason has left nothing in the upstairs what good is it to put Christianity there?
  2. This effects law in the same manner as Christianity. If law is pushed into the upper story with nothing there then it becomes meaningless and cannot speak to the lower story of the particulars. Schaeffer points out that “the whole Reformation system of law was built on the fact that God had revealed something real down into the common things of life.” (p. 261)
  3. This effects the ability of Christianity to speak to the problem of evil. If there are no universals in the upper story, and Christianity is placed there, then it cannot speak to the historic, space-time, real and complete Fall in Genesis 3.
  4. This effects the ability of Christianity to evangelize to the modern man. If there are no universals from which to speak into the particulars, then Christians cannot speak the truth of God into the real spiritual needs of fallen man. There would be no unified field of knowledge with which to address mans deepest needs.

With a restoration of the universals/particulars distinction Schaeffer offers the solution:

It is not sufficient to say only that God reveals Himself in Jesus Christ, because there is not enough content in this if it is separated from the Scriptures. It then becomes only another contentess banner. All we know of what that revelation of Christ was, comes from Scriptures. Jesus Himself did not make a distinction between His authority and the authority of the written Scriptures. He acted upon the unity of His authority and the content of the Scriptures. (p. 263)

The fundamental idea we can see as we have journeyed from The God Who is There to the end of Escape From Reason is that unless we hold to the distinction between the universals/particulars and creator/creature then man will be without hope. He will, as Schaeffer described it, fall below the line of despair. If Christianity allows these two distinctions to effect its thought then it will have no basis for its own existence nor a rational or ability to speak into the despair of the modern man. Once again, though Schaeffer’s words were spoken decades ago they still ring true today. Twenty-first-century man is in no less of a disparity then was twentieth-century man.

Escape from Reason by SchaefferAs we saw from last week, Schaeffer has shown us how the rise of natural philosophy gave way to the autonomy of mankind. The grace/nature distinction and unity began to be broken apart by man’s claim to autonomy. Where the Renaissance left off in terms of developing man’s autonomy Kant and Rousseau carried the ball even further. Schaeffer states:

By the eighteenth century there was no idea of grace – the word did not fit any longer. Rationalism was now well-developed and entrenched, and there was no concept of revelation in any area. Consequently the problem was now defined, not in terms of “nature and grace,” but of “nature and freedom.” (p. 227)

From here autonomy gave way to determinism in the field of physics as being applied to people.  This led to a new kind of natural science. Christian scientists always believed in natural science “but what they did not believe in was the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system.” (p. 229) thus the machine was created:

The modern modern scientists insist on a total unity  of the downstairs and the upstairs, and the upstairs disappears. Neither God nor freedom are there anymore – everything is in the machine. In science the significant change came about therefore as a result of a shift in emphasis from the uniformity of natural causes to the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system. (p. 230)

One of the most sobering examples of the result of thinking of man and all of reality as in a machine was Marquis de Sade, the catalyst for the modern porn industry. Schaeffer notes the devastating results:

The conclusions he 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 nonmorals. What is, is right. (p. 231)

After Kant, came Hegel who relativized epistemology and methodology with synthesis (p. 233). On the heals of Hegel came Kierkegaard because he gave up on a unified field of knowledge (p. 234). With Kierkegaard came “the leap of faith.” Thus, there is no connection between the “upper” and “lower” stories. Nothing connects what’s left of the universals and particulars. Schaeffer explains:

Below the line there is rationality and logic. The upper story becomes the nonlogical and nonrational. There is no relationship between them. In other words, in the lower story, on the basis of all reason, man as man is dead. You have simply mathematics, particulars, mechanics. Man has no meaning, no purpose, no significance. There is only pessimism concerning man as man. But up above, on the basis of a nonrational, nonreasonable leap, there is a nonreasonalbe faith which gives optimism. This is modern man’s total dichotomy. (p. 237-38)

Following Kierkegaard we come back to what Schaeffer discussed in the first chapter of The God Who is There, existentialism’s search for a “final experience.”  Within secularism this manifested itself in the form of drugs. The goal was to “authenticate” one’s self through “an experience so big that it gives you certainty you are there and a hope of meaning – even though, rationally, you cannot have such hope.” (p. 238-39) Within the field of religion Karl Barth carried the existential ball. We will close with three paragraphs from Schaeffer on Barth:

He held the higher critical theories until the day of his death – the Bible contains mistakes, but we are to believe it anyway. His position was that though the Bible contains mistakes, “a religious word” comes through anyway. “Religious truth” is separated from the historical truth of the Scriptures. Thus there is no place for reason and no point of verification. This constitutes the leap in religious terms.

The separation of what the Bible teaches in religious and spiritual matters – as being authoritative in these areas, while saying the Bible contains mistakes where it would be verifiable – is the curx of this form of irrationalism.

What is particularly important to notice in this system is the constant appearance in one form or another of the Kierkegaardian emphasis on the necessity of the leap. Because the rational and logical are totally separated from the nonrational and the nonlogical, the leap is total. Faith, whether expressed in secular or religious terms, becomes a leap without any verification because it is totally separated from the logical and reasonable. We can now see, on this basis, how the new theologies can say that though the Bible, in the area of nature and history, is full of mistakes, this does not matter. (p. 240-41)

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)

In my reading of the first volume of five of Schaeffer’s works, I have come to the close of reading The God Who Is There. One of the themes he discusses in the final chapters of the book is one which resonates deeply with me. It is the issue of the responsibility of Christian parents to evangelize, disciple and equip their children to live out their Christian life in a world that does not share their belief’s about God, Christ and Scripture.

Part of the content of Schaeffer’s emphasis of evangelizing, discipling and equipping our young people to live out their Christianity in the world in which they live is to teach them apologetics. While Schaeffer believed in Christians addressing the questions and issues being addressed in the Christians current generation rather than continually imposing the questions and answers of generations gone by, his words speak to all generations of Christians raising the next generation of Christians. Schaeffer’s words here need to be headed by both parents and the church together.

It is unreasonable to expect people of the next generation in any age to continue in the historic Christian position, unless they are helped to see where arguments and connotations directed against Christianity and against them as Christians, by their generation, are fallacious. We must prepare Christian young people to face the monolithic twentieth-century culture by teaching them what the particular attack in our generation is, in contrast to the attacks of previous generations.

I find that everywhere I g0 – both in the United States and in other countries – children of Christians are being lost to historic Christianity. This is happening in not only small groups in small geographical areas, but everywhere. They are being lost because their parents are unable to understand their children, and therefore cannot really help them in their time of need. This lack of understanding is not only on the part of individual parents, but often also of churches, Christian colleges and Christian missionaries.

So then, the defense, for myself and for those for whom I am responsible, must be a conscious defense. We cannot assume that because we are Christians in the full Biblical sense, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, automatically we will be set free from the influence of what surrounds us. The Holy Spirit can do what He will, but the Bible does not separate His work from knowledge; nor does the work of the Holy Spirit remove our responsibility as parents, pastors, evangelists, missionaries or teachers. (p. 151-52)


In part three of The God Who is There, Schaeffer addresses how historic Christianity differs from the new theology. Here, Schaeffer discusses three basic differences: the personality of man, the communication of God to man and the dilemma that man finds himself in is moral failure. Below I will simply provide some quotes from Schaeffer on these issues.

The Personality of Man:

“The biblical Christian answer takes us back to the very beginning of everything and states that personality is intrinsic in what is; not in the pantheistic sense of the universe being the extension of God (or what is), but that a God who is personal on the high order of Trinity created all else.” (p. 93)

In response to the position of Sir Julian Huxley that God is dead but live as if He were alive because it is better for mankind, Schaeffer states: “These thinkers are saying in effect that man can only function as man for an extended period of time if he acts on the assumption that a lie (that the personal God of Christianity is there) is true. You cannot find any deeper despair than this for a sensitive person. this is not an optimistic, happy, reasonable or brilliant answer. It is darkness and death.” (p. 95)

On the centrality of personality to the Christian worldview: We tend to give the impression that we will hold on to the outward forms whatever happens, even if God is really not there. But the opposite ought to be true of us, so that people can see that we demand truth of what is there and that we are not dealing merely with platitudes. In other words, it should be understood that we take this question of truth and personality so seriously that if God were not there, we would be among the first to have the courage to step out of the queue.” (p. 96)

The Communication of God to Man:

” Why should God not communicate propositionally to the man, the verbalizing being, whom He made in such a way that we communicate propositionally to each other? Therefore, in the biblical position there is the possibility of verifiable facts involved: a personal God communicating in verbalized form propositionally to man – not only concerning those things man would call in our generation :religious truths,” but also down into the areas of history and science.” (p. 99-100)

“It is plain, therefore, that from the viewpoint of the Scriptures themselves there is a unity over the whole field of knowledge. God has spoken, in a linguistic propositional form, truth concerning Himself and truth concerning man, history and the universe. Here is an adequate basis for the unity of knowledge…..The unity is there because God has spoken truth into all areas of our knowledge….To say that God communicates truly does not mean that God communicates exhaustively……though the infinite God has said true things concerning the whole of what He has made, our knowledge is not thereby meant to be static. Created in His image, we are rational and, as such, we are able to, and intended to, explore and discover further truth concerning creation.” (p. 100)

The Dilemma of Man a Moral Failure:

In answering the new theologies answer to the dilemma of man in the world: “The new theology has no answer to the dilemma either. Its followers are caught equally in Camus’ problem and Baudelaire’s proposition. All that is reasonable in their position, based on observing the world as it is, says God is the devil. Nevertheless, because they do not want to live with this conclusion, by an act of blind faith they say God is good. This, they say, is what the ‘scandal of the cross” is – to believe that God is good against all the evidence open to reason. But this is emphatically not the ‘scandal of the cross.” The true scandal is that however faithfully and clearly one preaches the gospel, at a certain point the world, because of its rebellion, will turn from it. Men turn away in order not to bow before the God who is there. This is the “scandal of the cross.” (p. 111)

“God can know about things that are not actualized. For example, He knew all about Eve, but she was not actualized until He made her. The same thing can be true in the area of morals. When man sins, he brings forth what is contrary to the moral law of the universe and as a result he is morally and legally guilty. Because man is guilty before the Lawgiver of the universe, doing what is contrary to His character, his sin is significant and he is morally significant in a significant history. Man has true moral guilt.” (p. 115)

As we have seen from last week, in The God Who is There, Schaeffer has been discussing the line of despair. This is the point at which man has given up “hope of achieving a rational unified answer to knowledge and life.” (p. 23) This began in philosophy and worked its way through until it finally reached theology. Thus man turned to what is called existentialism in the search for meaning. Modern existentialism began with Kierkegaard but it was Karl Barth who open its door into theology. This new theology, as Schaeffer describes it, ” has given us hope of finding a unified field of knowledge. Hence, in contrast to biblical and Reformation theology, it is antitheology.” (p. 54)

In the second section, The Relationship of the New Theology to the Intellectual Climate, Schaeffer gives two examples of how the line of despair has impacted theology, thus creating the “new theology”. First, in regards to liberal German theology Schaeffer observes:

The old liberal theologians in Germany began by accepting the presuppositions of the uniformity of natural causes as a closed system. Thus they rejected everything miraculous and supernatural, including the supernatural in the life of Jesus Christ. Having done that, they still hoped to find an historical Jesus in a rational, objective, scholarly way by separating the supernatural aspect of Jesus’ life from the “true history.” (p. 52)

Those who have kept up with the historical Jesus Seminar can see where this came from and that it has not changed it its underlying assumptions.

Second, Schaeffer makes a telling observation in how the new theology uses words as they tried to apply the use of symbol from the field of science. Within the scientific field symbol has a well-defined meaning in order to bring further precision to the discussion and ones understanding. Schaeffer notes:

But the new theology uses the concept of symbol in exactly the opposite way. The only thing the theological and scientific uses have in common is the word symbol. To the new theology, the usefulness of a symbol is in direct proportion to its obscurity. There is connotation, as in the word god, but there is no definition. The secret of the strength of neo-orthodoxy is that these religious symbols with a connotation of personality given an illusion of meaning, and as a consequence it appears to be more optimistic than secular existentialism. One could not find a clearer examples of this than Tillich’s phrase “God behind God.”

At first acquaintance this concept gives the feeling of spirituality. “I do not ask for answers, I just believe.” This sounds spiritual, and it deceives many fine people. These are often young men and women who are content only to repeat the phrases of the intellectual or spiritual status quo. They have become rightly dissatisfied with a dull, dusty, introverted orthodoxy given only to pounding out the well-known cliches. The new theology sounds spiritual and vibrant, and they are trapped. But the price they pay for what seems to be spiritual high, for to operate in the upper story using undefined religious terms is to fail to know and function on the level of the whole man. The answer is not to ask these people to return to the poorness of the status quo, but to a living orthodoxy which is concerned with the whole man, including the rational and intellectual, in his relationship to God. (p. 60-61)

I think what Schaeffer has said here still has relevance for today. I am a thirty something and I can attest to the pull there is today towards abandoning historic Christian orthodoxy for avante garde theology. It is new for the sake of being new and not old. There are those within theological academia who are pushing for theological expressions that are edgy. Everyone has to say something new and everyone wants to be the next theological maverick. Orthodoxy has been given a black eye by this kind of theological thinking.

I am reminded of two passages from the New Testament that we would be wise to head:

I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3)

Follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard form me, in faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit that dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (2 Tim. 1:13-14)

Complete Works of Francis SchaefferI have been wanting to read through The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, 5 Volumes and I have put it off long enough. As I am doing with my reading through the church fathers, I am going to have a weekly (hopefully) posting titled Saturdays with Schaeffer in which I will either post a long excerpt, several short ones, summarize a point he makes in the weeks reading or even do a book review once I finish one of the books in the volume I am in. I am doing this for two reasons. First, I have been challenged to read the complete works of at least one great Christian author and so I have choose Francis Schaeffer. Second, I chose Schaeffer because I enjoy apologetics and Schaeffer was one of the greatest apologists Christianity has ever produced.

The first volume is titled A Christian Worldview of Philosophy and Culture which contains the following books:

  1. The God Who is There
  2. Escape From Reason
  3. He is There and He is not Silent
  4. Back to Freedom and Dignity

In the first section of The God Who is There Schaeffer discusses what he calls “the line of despair” which is to say people have “given up all hope of achieving a rational unified answer to knowledge and life.” (p. 23) The shift in thinking started in philosophy and eventually reached its way into theology. Before the shift that brought about “the line of despair” man thought rational even though they had no foundation upon which to do so. Schaeffer explans:

Above the line, people were rationalistic optimists. They believed they could begin with themselves a draw a circle which would encompass all thoughts of life, and life itself, without having to depart from the logic of antithesis. They thought that on their own, rationalistically, finite people could find a unity within the total diversity – an adequate explanation for the whole of reality. (p. 10)

At some point in Europe around 1890 and in America around 1935, this all changed within the field of philosophy. Schaeffer explains again:

But at a certain point this attempt to spin out a unified optimistic humanism came to an end. The philosophers came to the conclusion that they were not going to find a unified rationalistic circle that would contain all thought, and in which they could live. It was as though the rationalist suddenly realized that he was trapped in a large room with no doors and no windows, nothing but complete darkness. (p. 10)

Since man could no longer start with oneself to find a unifying answer to all of life they looked without. The “line of despair” marks the point at which man sought an existential experience which seeks for an experience outside of oneself (existential). This experience was incommunicable and yet gives meaning to life. In response to this, Schaeffer shows us how the incarnation of Christ is an answer to those seeking an existential experience to bring meaning to all of life:

“Yes, I have had a final experience, but it can be verbalized, and it is of  a nature than can be rationally discussed.” Then I talk of my personal relationship  with the personal God who is there. I try to make them understand that this relationship is based on God’s written, propositional communication to men, and on the finished work of Jesus Christ in space-time history. They reply that this is impossible, that I am trying to do something that cannot be done. (p. 18)

It is amazing to see that though God has revealed himself to man in the person of Christ, man still rejects Him, instead seeking something else which will only lead him further from God. This reminds me of one of my favorite passages of Scripture, John 1:1-18:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The lightshines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (ESV)