Tag Archives: 20th Century Problems

Schaeffer on Epistemology, He is there and he is not slient

I just finished Schaeffer’s little but powerful book on the three main areas of philosophy; Metaphysics, Ethics and Epistemology. I picked it up for a friend but ended up reading it before I gave it to him. There are so many priceless, insightful, and terse lines I thought I would share some. He cuts to the heart of the issue with some very beautiful summaries. Here are some of my favorites from the first chapter, the others will follow in later posts (I hope).

“Man is personal and yet he is finite, and so he is not a sufficient integration point for himself. We might remember another profound statement from Sartre, that no finite point has any meaning unless it has an infinite reference point. The Christian would agree that he is right in this statement.” (2)

“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 intellectual. Our theological seminaries hardly ever relate their theology to philosophy, and specifically to the current philosophy. Thus, men go out from the theological seminaries not knowing how to relate it. It is not that they [do] not know the answers, but my observation is that most men graduating from our theological seminaries do not know the questions.” (4)

“If a man held that everything is meaningless, nothing has answers and there is no cause-and-effect realtionship, and if he really held this position with any consistency, it would be very hard to refute. But in fact, no one can hold consistently that everything is chaotic and irrational and that there are no basic answers. it can be held theoretically, but it cannot be held in practice that everything is absolute chaos” (5)

He hits the nail on the head in so many of these. The last one is especially important when we consider Hume. He refutes the belief in induction as rationally based. There is no objective basis, when rationally considered, for believing that the future will resemble the past, or that x causes y. Yet, in spite of this ‘bombshell’ (as my profs used to call it), his approach to the philosophical life was a purely professional one. That is to say, philosophy is to be left in the study, and should not encroach on living a normal life. Hume was not willing to step off a cliff, because he knew that he would fall to his death. Yet, Nietzshce somewhat embodies a thotough going rejection of God, and trust in revelation…. and of course loses his mind at the end of his life.

“Perhaps you remember one of Godard’s movies, Pierrot le Fou,” (I dont, but thanks anyway) “in which he has people going out through the windows, instead of through the doors. But the interesting things is that they do not go out through the solid walll. Godard is really saying that although he has no answer, yet at the same time he cannot go out through that solid wall. This is merely his expression of the difficulty of holding that there is a totally chaotic unverse while the external world has form and order.” (6)

“…That which is personal began everything else, the very opposite of beginning with the impersonal. In this case man, being personal, does haev meaning. … These things are not abstract, but have to do with communicating the Christian gospel in the midst of the twentieth century. I get tired of being asked why I don’t just preach the ‘simple gospel.’ You haev to preach the simple gospel so that it is simple to the person to whom you are talking, or it is noo longer simple. 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.” (11)

“It is not that [Christianity] is the best answer to existence; it is the only answer” (15)

“…Man, beginning with himself, can define the philosophical problem of existence, but he cannot generate from himself the answer to the problem. The answer to the problem of existence is that the infinite-personal, triune God is there, and that the infinite-personal, triune God is not silent.” (19)

Schaeffer speaks so clearly on many of these topics. It has been a great encouragement to me to read him and be reminded of the positive account we have in the Bible, in God’s word. I often am consumed with the negative account of why postivism, rationalism etc. fail, but neglect the positive. The account that Schaeffer builds is exactly what we need. What I would hope to do at some point is use secular philosophers (like Wittgenstein, Quine, etc.) to frame the exact problems on a more technical level so as to more clearly explicate biblical beliefs in contrast to the emptiness of the worlds attempts to answer the questions. Some day…maybe.

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