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.

Francis-Schaeffer

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)