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.

Last week we introduced the layout of Schaeffer’s He Is There and He Is Not Silent. This week we want to explore the first two areas of metaphysics and morals. As noted last week, Schaeffer is operating on the belief that God exists and that He has spoken – thus, He is there and He is not silent.

Metaphysics

Metaphysics deals with the idea of existence. That which is. In fact, metaphysics can even be discussed at all because something exists rather than nothing and a part of that something, namely, humans, are capable of reflecting on the something that exists of which they are a part of. There are two primary answers to the question of existence, why is there something rather than nothing? There is the impersonal and the personal answer.

The impersonal answer suggests that everything that exists had an impersonal beginning. Off the bat Schaeffer notes that with an impersonal beginning for everything leaves mankind without and answer for or meaning to give to the particulars. Thus, an impersonal beginning of everything is not a universal that can give meaning to the particulars. If the impersonal is the explanation for everything then we cannot make sense of many things, including, most fundamentally, the very personality we find in ourselves.

To the contrary, the personal answer, as presented by the Christian worldview, states that the only answer to the question of existence as we know it is to have a personal beginning, or beginner. Schaeffer states the problem like this,

The dilemma of modern man is simple: he does not know why man has any meaning. He is lost. Man remains a zero. This is the damnation of our generation, the heart of modern man’s problem. But if we begin with a personal and this is the origin of all else, then the personal does have meaning, and man and his aspirations are not meaningless. (p. 285)

But it is not enough to have a personal beginner. This personal beginner must possess certain traits, characteristics or properties that adequately explain the personality of man and everything else that exists. “To have an adequate answer of a personal beginning, we need two things. We need a personal-infinite God (or an infinite-personal God), and we need a personal unity and diversity in God.” (p. 286) Schaeffer points out two major ideas here: (1) God must be infinitely personal and (2) he must be both unified in some way as to be one and diversified in another way as to ground and explain the diversity we see in life. Thus, we need an infinitely personal triune God. We need the God as revealed in Scripture. An infinitely personal triune God is the only being than can adequately explain (1) why something exists rather than nothing and (2) why what exists exists the way it does. Schaeffer boldly states, “Without the high order of personal unity and diversity as given in the Trinity, there are no answers.” (p. 288) With that statement Schaeffer has the following words to say on the close of metaphysics,

Man is made in the image of God; therefore, on the side of the fact that God is a personal God the chasm stands not between God and man, but between man and all else. But on the side of God’s infinity, man is as separated from God as the atom or any other finite of the universe. So we have the answer to man’s being finite and yet personal.

It is not that this is the best answer to existence; it is the only answer.

The only answer to the metaphysical problem of existence is that the infinite-personal God is there; and the only answer to the metaphysical problem of existence is that the Trinity is there. (p. 288-90)

He is there and He is not silent in relation to the question of metaphysics. God has told us who He is and who we are and how we relate to one another; both God to man and man to man.

Morals

Not only is God necessary for the answer to existence but also for the answer of morals. For Schaeffer this naturally flows from the observation that man has “estranged himself from himself and other men.” (p. 293-94) We can discuss morals because while man is wonderful he is also cruel.

Like with metaphysics, the first answer to the question of morals is from an impersonal beginning. While there may be a problem of man’s finiteness and cruelty, which can be separated, an impersonal beginning melds these together. This discussion can be hard to follow so let’s let Schaeffer explain it in his own words:

With an impersonal beginning, morals really do not exist as morals. If one starts with an impersonal beginning, the answer to morals eventually turns out to be the assertion that there are no morals. This is true whether one begins with the Eastern pantheism or the new theology’s pantheism, or with the energy particle. With an impersonal beginning, everything is finally equal in the area of morals. With an impersonal beginning, eventually morals is just another form of metaphysics, of being. Morals disappear, and there is only one philosophic area rather than two. (p. 294)

As Schaeffer notes, Marquis de Sade put it best when he stated that, “What is, is right.” (p. 297) There is no eternal ground for morality. The ground of morality in a world with an impersonal beginning is the ever changing ground of the present spirit of the age. This is a shifting ground which is really no ground at all.

The second answer is that there is a personal beginning, or beginner. Schaeffer notes that this can cut two ways. First, one could look at the world as it is presently and conclude that if there is a personal God as the Christians believe then how is this God any different than man himself? That is, if man is finite and cruel, why is God any different? This is problematic for two reasons. First, it makes man the reference point for understanding God and His personality and morality. Second, it gives man no hope of escape in the future from his present condition of cruelty. ” If we say that man in his present cruelty is what man has always been, and what man intrinsically is, how can there be any hope of a qualitative change in man?” (p. 299) The second answer to morals as grounded in a personal beginning is that man as how he is now is not how man always was. This is the answer and this is the answer the Bible gives. Schaeffer put it as follows:

There was a space-time, historic change in man. There is a discontinuity and not a continuity in man. Man, made in the image of God and not programmed, turned by choice from his proper integration point at a certain time in history. When he did this, he became something that he previously was not, and the dilemma of man becomes a true moral problem rather than merely a metaphysical one. Man, at a certain point of history, changed himself, and hence stands, in his cruelty  in discontinuity with what he was, and we have a true moral situation: morals do exist. Everything hangs upon the fact that man is abnormal now, in contrast to what he originally was. (p. 300)

What separates existence and morals is the fact that man was not always what he is now. If this were not so then existence and morals would be the same. What is, as Sade said, would be what is right. Since these two areas are separate man has true moral guilt before the infinite personal triune God. The answer to this guilt is the substitutionary and propitiatory death of Christ. Without either there is no meaning to Christ’s death on the cross (p. 303).

So, in answer to the problems of existence and morals, we need an infinitely-personal God who is unified and diverse (triune) and the way to keep these problems separate is to recognize the Fall that separates man from how he was, how he is now and how he can become because of Christ’s work on the cross.

Next week we will tackle the third area of epistemology by looking at the problem and the answer(s).

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.

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)