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)