Book Review: The Psychology of Atheism – By R.C. Sproul

SproulPsychologyofAtheism

Letter MMuch has been written trying to explain the psychology of theism. The foundational text in that field is probably Sigmund Freud‘s The Future of An Illusion, where Freud theorizes that religion came about as a sort of coping mechanism; it was comforting for early man to personalize the forces of nature and to turn their chiefs into legends, and eventually this evolved into the more institutional forms of religion.

Freud may have been the first, but he was far from the last. Feuerbach theorized that the gods were just man’s projections of himself onto the universal scale. Marx theorized that religion was just a way to keep the working class placated. Nietzche theorized that religion was rooted in fear of the nihil; Bertrand Russell followed a similar line of thinking. More recently, Richard Dawkins dismissed religion as a meme, a sort of ‘mind-parasite’.

In each case these writers are not asking “Is there a God?” Rather, they presuppose there is not a God, and then ask why there is religion. At the same time, they suppose – at the very least through implication – that they are explaining away or debunking religion. In each case these writers fail to realize that explaining what a man can or might do is not in the least determinate for what he actually did do. Or, as Sproul puts it:

Continue reading

Pascal: Faith & Reason

BlaisePascal

Letter TThe question of the relationship between faith and reason is one of the perennial questions within Christian philosophy.

Nearly every major Christian thinker down through the ages has said something on the topic of faith and reason, especially those with some sort of apologetic in mind. The greats of these ranks include those such as Tertullian, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas in the ancient and medieval church, and those such as Kierkegaard, Van Til, and Bavinck in the more modern world.

Coming closer towards the beginning of the modern period stands Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician and philosopher of the 17th-Century perhaps best known for his famous assertion that “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” In the preface to his commentary on Pascal’s Pensées, Peter Kreeft asserts that “God in his infinite mercy struck Pascal dead at the tender age of thirty-nine, before he could complete the greatest book of Christian apologetics ever written.”

Being a work of apologetics the Pensées naturally discusses the relationship between human reason and the Christian faith, indeed epistemology is the topic of the very first chapter and Pascal spends the bulk of the book elaborating on the topic.

His first paragraph begins with a discussion of the difference between the strictly rational and the intuitive minds, and it is this distinction which serves to undergird the majority of his arguments throughout the text. In making the distinctions that he does Pascal is often approached with some hesitation by those within Christianity for seemingly removing the sphere of faith from that of reason.

These critics label Pascal at best as a fideist, or at least as having fideistic tendencies, at worst as a mystic. There thus arises the question of what the relationship between faith and reason is for Pascal and in what category this view places him in.

His aforementioned assertion regarding the reasons of the heart as well as the statement in his wager that neither the proposition “God is” nor the one that “He is not” can be defended according to reason certainly seem to demonstrate a clear hostility to the things of reason. Yet Pascal asserts that there are actually two excesses: “to exclude reason, to admit nothing but reason.”

Pascal as an apologist was not hostile to reason, rather, he saw the proper place for reason in its relation to the things of faith; Pascal recognized the limits of reason, and rather than assert that faith is contrary to the ideal of reason he asserted that it is beyond and above reason, specifically reason as it is in fallen man.

pascal.jpegIn examining this position it will be helpful to examine his view of epistemology, specifically his distinction between the rational mind and the intuitive mind, to examine his view of apologetical proofs, and finally to take a look at some of the arguments that Pascal does actually provide for the Christian faith.

Pascal and Epistemology

In discussing the relationship between faith and reason it is only natural to begin with a discussion of epistemology.

As has already been mentioned Pascal begins his Pensées by discussing the difference between the ‘mathematical’ or ‘geometric’ mind – that is, the mind of pure reason – and the intuitive mind, which is roughly the realm of ‘feeling’ or of the heart. The former is the aspect of thought “which uses principles and demonstrations”; it is that part of the mind which uses premises to arrive at conclusions, and thus by ‘reason’ Pascal here means discursive or logical reasoning. The latter is the aspect of thought through which “we know first principles,” it is that aspect which discerns the premises. This includes both logical principles like the law of non-contradiction as well as ethic principles like doing good and avoiding evil.

A good summation of this division comes in Pascal’s statement that “Principles are felt [intuited], propositions proved, and both with certainty though by different means.”

This statement is also of importance because in it one can observe that Pascal once again does not wholly dismiss the validity of reason, he notes that propositions can indeed be proven with certainty. Where Pascal separates himself from the great thinkers of his day – the rationalists – is in maintaining that there is something which can create certainty apart from the reason.

It is this rebellion against the Cartesian method that is the initial thrust of Pascal’s apologetic, to assert that discursive reasoning is not the sole authority for arriving at knowledge and understanding.

The tendency of Pascal’s contemporaries who also rebelled against rationalism was to side with other great thinkers of the day – the empiricists – yet Pascal was careful to avoid this as well.

Thus while both the reason and the senses do convey knowledge, there is something else which also conveys knowledge, that is, the intuition of the heart – thus the heart may have ‘reasons’ which are not arrived at (known) by the reason. This intuition of the heart is not strictly opposed to reason or to the senses, rather it is above them, beyond them (and given that it provides the first principles on which reason functions, it is ‘before’ them): “Reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it.”

This realm of the heart which is above and beyond reason is for Pascal also the realm of faith, hence “It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. That is what faith is: God perceived by the heart, not by the reason.”

For those who would define fideism pejoratively as a faith which is against reason this would seem to clear Pascal of the charge. Yet for those who define fideism as any epistemology which sets its foundation outside of reason, Pascal still stands firmly within that realm. It is also of great importance here to note another division, or clarification – though one which is more implied by Pascal than it is stated outright – that is the division between the ideal of reason and the fallen reality of reason.

If by reason one refers to the latter then Pascal indeed states that faith is opposed to this sort of reason.

Thus Pascal states that “There no doubt exist natural laws, but once this fine reason of ours was corrupted, it corrupted everything” so that “nothing, according to reason alone, is just in itself.” On the one hand this is a simple observation along the same lines of the one C.S. Lewis makes in his book The Abolition of Man, where he states that “If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved.”

On the other it is an acknowledgement of the noetic effects of sin. The division is between the ideal of reason and the reality of reason, where the former may be perfectly in line with – even if above – faith and the latter may be against it.

The implication of this division can be seen again in such statements asAll mathematicians would then be intuitive if they had clear eyesight” and “One of the ways in which the damned will be confounded is that they will see themselves condemned by their own reason, by which they claimed to condemn the Christian religion,” which implies that in the final days when all eyes have clear eyesight then the reasonableness of the Christian faith will be clearly seen.

To say that the fallen reason is opposed to faith in this sense is not to say that it is merely opposed to faith, but that it is opposed to the intuitions of the heart in general, which in this context means to be opposed to first principles.

Therefore Pascal says “It is through the [heart] that we know first principles, and reason, which has nothing to do with it, tries in vain to refute them.” It is because of this that “If we submit everything to reason our religion will be left with nothing mysterious or supernatural.” Yet submitting everything to reason will not only leave the faith with nothing supernatural, but trying to found everything to reason will also leave morals defunct so that “whoever carries it back to its first principles destroys it.”

It may therefore be observed that there are two chief divisions in Pascal’s epistemology: the first is between the intuitive mind (the heart) which discerns first principles directly, and the rational mind which uses principles in order to arrive at conclusions; the second is between the rational mind as it would function ideally and the rational mind as it functions in fallen humanity.

As regards the first division, faith stands as a work of the intuitive mind, a work of the heart and of clear eyes, above reason. As regards the second division, faith stands in accord with reason as it would operate ideally (although it is not a product of this reason), yet in opposition to reason as it operates in the fallen human mind.

Thus faith must be instilled into man from above by God through a reorientation of the heart and a clearing of the eyes.

For Pascal this reorientation may or may not be accompanied by proper reasoning, therefore he states that Christians should “not be surprised to see simple men believe without reasoning” although generally religion is put “into the mind by reasons, and into the heart by grace.” It may thereby be observed that Pascal would maintain that in some cases the reason may be bypassed.

A final restatement may need made at this point for clarification. That is, while Pascal may imply that Christianity is in accord with the ideal reason, this is not to say that salvation is simply a matter of fixing the reason that it may recognize the truth of Christianity.

As Pascal states many times in multiple ways, it is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. Unless the heart perceives and the eyes are directed at Christ, then even the ideal reason would work in vain. Afterall, the reason works from premises and principles, and these principles must be discerned by the heart and the eyes.

If the principles are not discerned, then even perfect reason cannot come to a correct conclusion; thus, the need of the nonbeliever goes far beyond simply the correcting of a cognitive defect, their heart must be turned by the cross.

Pascal and Apologetics: Proofs

This division between the ideal reason and the fallen reason leads well into the discussion of Pascal’s approach to the use of rational arguments in general and proofs from nature and reason specifically.

While Pascal sees the insufficiency of rational arguments to produce faith he still notes that the apologist must nonetheless make use of them, saying “to those who do not have it we can only give such faith through reasoning, until God gives it by moving their heart, without which faith is only human and useless for salvation.” The reasoning which Pascal believes to be proper will be explored in the following section, though here it is of note that while Pascal believed that apologist must make use of reasons, he was not in favor of the traditional proofs; one of Pascal’s most direct statements on this topic is that “It is a remarkable fact that no canonical [Biblical] author has ever used nature to prove God.”

Thus not only does Pascal use Scripture as his precedent for not employing proofs but he also views them as generally ineffective: “The metaphysical proofs for the existence of God are so remote from human reasoning and so involved that they make little impact,” going on to state that even if they do help some people it will only be for the moment that the demonstration is in front of them.

Pascal acknowledges that such proofs are not only removed from the grasp of the general populace, but also that he did not believe they would convince a hardened atheist, especially because “such knowledge, without Christ, is useless and sterile.” It is important to note here that as Peter Kreeft points out “Pascal does not say that the traditional philosophical proofs of the existence of God are logically weak,” but merely that they are not permanently convincing or able to convert the heart from pride to humility.

Pascal and Apologetics: Reasons

Despite Pascal’s lack of confidence in proofs and his acknowledgement that reason is insufficient for producing faith (given that faith is a gift from God, beyond reason), he still maintained – as was mentioned above – that the Christian must still provide reasons until God moves in the unbelievers heart.

Yet the reasons that Pascal provides are not general reasons which may lead to a deistic god just as easily as to the Christian God, for Pascal views deism as being just as opposed to Christianity as is atheism.

He – like Cornelius Van Til – is not content to prove the god of mathematical truths, but only the “God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”

Thus the reasons which Pascal provides for the faith are reasons which derive from Scripture; therefore he argues from miracles, from prophecies, from the uniqueness of Christianity in these ways as well as in how it is the only religion to “propose to men to hate themselves.” Following from this aspect of its uniqueness, Christianity is also the only religion which can “please those who hate themselves, and who seek a Being truly lovable.” Thus for Pascal it is in Christianity that men find true happiness. Pascal again argues from the improbability of the apostles plotting to say that Christ had risen and then dying for conspiracy.

It can be seen in this that Pascal uses a wide variety of reasons for defending the Christian faith, yet his reasons are founded on and unique to Christianity – they are not proofs which could be used to prove any general deity, thus Pascal’s quarrel is “not with those who seek to make a rational case for faith, but with those who seek to know God as a philosophical abstraction or theoretical entity.”

Classifying Pascal

It has been observed thus far that Pascal sets the intuition of the heart as a thing which is beyond reason. Faith is a work of the heart for Pascal, and thus without a work in the heart by God faith will not be accomplished, regardless of whatever reasons may be provided to the rational mind.

While for Pascal it may be possible to have faith without reasoning, on the whole he posits that God changes the heart and the mind upon salvation, thus it is possible for Christianity to make sense within its own system (according to the ideal of reason rather than its fallen state).

For the rationalist, this removes faith their sphere.

From the outside the Christian faith is seen as having a gap which cannot be passed by reason alone, hence Pascal notes that the faith appears foolish since even though there are apparent reasons “it is not all this which makes people belong to it.”

It is this gap which motivates Pascal to posit such arguments as that in his wager, stating that since [discursive] reasoning is neither for or against Christianity that one should simply wager. Kierkegaard later on makes a similar sort of assertion with his leap, which is to “accept in faith that which indeed cannot be thought.”

Some would term this sort of stance as fideism while others such as Peter Kreeft would tselliot.jpgobject, although he offers no alternative classification. Some even bring up the charge of mysticism, though as T.S. Elliot points out in his introduction to the Pensées “Pascal was not a mystic… but what can only be called mystical experience happens to many men who do not become mystics.”

Elliot’s idea accounts both for the fact that a mystical (supra-rational) experience occurs, and yet the system itself is not mystical, yet Elliot also provides no category. Perhaps the best category which might be provided is that provided by C. Stephen Evans, positing that “Perhaps we should call fideism that can be rationally defended responsible fideism.

In this view as in Pascal faith is “beyond reason rather than against reason, since there is no necessary conflict with reason, but only a conflict with reason that has suffered damage but refuses to recognize this” resulting in a scenario of ‘faith seeking understanding’ similar to that of Anselm, where “To understand is to know the truth in the way it should be known.”

This responsible fideism would therefore be to acknowledge the actual state of the Christian faith as being something that although reasonable within its own system (according to the rectified reason rather than the fallen reason), yet also as something which cannot be reached through reason. It acknowledges that the problem is one of the heart rather than one of the mind.

This does operate at the risk of taking on the baggage of the term fideism, but if the Christian is to be intellectually honest this may be a necessary risk – there is a certain mystical or existential element to the Christian faith which cannot be denied, a moment of decision where “the individual needs divine assistance.”

Modern Relevance

As it was observed in the beginning the question of faith and reason is one of the perennial questions in Christianity, and this is just as true today as it was in Tertullian’s, in Anselm’s, in Pascal’s or in the modern day. On the one hand the Enlightenment desire for rationalism still pervades areas of thought today and many refuse to believe if concrete logical reasons cannot be provided to them. For these individuals Pascal reminds them of the logical reality that reason cannot produce its own principles and presuppositions, it reminds them that reason standing alone can only tear down principles, not establish them.

On the other hand there is also the great distrust logic which has reacted against the Enlightenment ideals and has gravitated towards emotion. For these individuals Pascal provides reasons as to how the Christian faith renders individuals “intelligible to ourselves and offers us a way to attain the self-completion that our hearts naturally and most deeply desire.”

For the Christian apologist who is faced with confronting these two groups as well as others, Pascal reminds them that the work of salvation is not in human hands, but rather that it is a work of God in the heart: “we cannot procure it for them by reasoning” but in the final call must wait “till God himself impress it on their hearts.”

Pascal centers his apologetic entirely on the need for the work of Christ, and therefore although he spends little time on the gospel as such he still provides an apologetic which takes the need for the gospel as its primary foundation. In the debate of which apologetic to use it is good to remember that the arguments of man are not the final producer of faith, that the work of God through Christ is ever the vital element.

As Pascal says, “What makes them believe is the cross.”

 

 

Book Review: Faith Beyond Reason, A Kierkegaardian Account – By C. Stephen Evans

 

faithbeyondreasonAll throughout history, and especially since the Enlightenment, the question of how we know what we know has been a big question. Within Christianity this has played out in the debate of how faith and reason interact – is one to have precedence over the other, and if so, how does this work itself out practically.

In his book – Faith Beyond Reason, A Kierkegaardian Account – C. Stephen Evans provides his contribution to this discussion. Tracing the history of his thought through Aquinas to Kant to Kierkegaard (with special focus no the latter), Evans formulates an account of what he calls ‘responsible fideism’, that is “fideism that can be rationally defended.”

The primary theme of Evans is the outworking of this responsible fideism, discussing the ways in which faith is both above reason and the ways in which it is against reason. The first aspect is framed in a discussion of whether there are limits to reason and whether we can come to know these limits – Evans concludes that there are and that we can, and in lie with Aquinas and Kant asserts that there are many aspects of faith which are beyond the scope of reason.  The second aspect is primarily built upon Evans’ reading of Kierkegaard, and is set in the context of the Christian doctrine of the fall (and thus the noetic effects of sin). In this latter discussion Evans distinguishes between reason as it works in its ideal state and reason as it works in its concrete state (that is, in its actual workings in the fallen human); it is only reason in it’s concrete state, it’s state of fallenness, that faith may be said to be properly against reason.

Evans conclusion is that “perhaps it is best to describe such a faith as faith beyond reason rather than against reason, since there is no necessary conflict with reason, but only a conflict with reason that has suffered damage but refuses to recognize this. The metaphor of ‘beyond’ aptly conveys the thrust of the historic Augustinian view of faith seeking understanding. What is sought is in some sense beyond, or one would not need to seek it… to understand is to know the truth in the way it should be known. From the fideistic perspective, faith that seeks this understanding is also the faith that heals reason so as to make it possible to move towards understanding. Faith both seeks and enables understanding. Faith enables human beings to move beyond the limitations of finite, fallen human reason.”(p153)

All in all Evans book is a very good read. Despite taking on a topic that is usually bogged down with dense philosophical language and obfuscation, Evans is very readable and his thought very accessible. While his book might not make for a great introduction to the discussion of epistemology and the relationship between faith and reason, it will make for a great resource in grasping this issue once the basic terms are understood. All in all it’s a good, refreshing light read given the subject matter covered.

Memorable Quotes:

-“There is a kind of circularity present when I ask myself how I know what I know. I cannot certify that this knowledge is genuine without assuming some knowledge of the same general sort. I could not, for example, test my sensory faculties to see if they are reliable without employing those very sense faculties and thus assuming they are reliable. There is no internal guarantee that I am not mistaken, and my belief that I have knowledge reveals my already-present commitments.”(p46)

-“Furthermore, it is hard to see how a logical contradiction could serve as the ‘boundary’ or ‘limit’ of reason as the incarnation is supposed to do. To recognize a ‘square circle’ as a formal contradiction one must have a fairly clear grasp of the concepts of ‘square’ and ‘circle’. In one sense at least, therefore, such a concept falls within the competence of reason. The point of the incarnation, according to Kierkegaard, is that it is a concept that reason cannot understand. This is so not because reason has a perfectly clear grasp of what it means to be God and what it means to be human and properly judges that the two concepts are logically contradictory. In fact, just the reverse is the case. Human reason is baffled both by human nature and by God. It is further baffled by the conjunction of the two concepts, but not because reason has a real understanding of either what it means to be human or what it means to be God. The incarnation may appear or seem to human reason to be a logical contradiction, but it is not known to be such, and the believer does not think that it is a formal contradiction.”(p83)

-“We accept as reasonable what we are taught as reasonable, and those who control society also control what is transmitted through teaching.”(p94)

-“Objective evidence may be neither necessary nor sufficient for faith. However, it doe not follow from this that objective evidence is simply irrelevant for faith, or that the believer will have no concern for evidence.”(p110)

-“… hence religious truths are not only above but go against human reason as it concretely functions, even though such truths may not be against reason as it ideally functions. On this view faith requires the transformation of the person so that the damage done to reason can be repaired or at least alleviated.”(p152)

Specific Criticisms

While on the whole I did enjoy my reading of this book, it is far from being perfect. Perhaps the first and most annoying thing that I came across in the book is Evans’ misrepresentation of some of the thinkers in the book (such as Cornelius Van Til). While Evans does preface his discussion of the various thinkers with the statement that he may not be discussing the final thought of these individuals, it’s still annoying when he then proceeds to misrepresent them. I do not think that this is by any means intentional on his part, I still found it bothersome.

The second, and perhaps more important, criticism is that of his argument against irrationality. In his second chapter ‘Fideism as Irrationalism’ Evans states that “I shall argue that these particular claims are irrational and indefensible…”(p17) and then at various points through the rest of the book mentions how he has proven in Chapter 2 that this sort of fideism is irrational. The problem here is that this sort of fideism is asserting itself as irrational – it is hardly an argument against an irrationalist system to say that it is irrational.

Book Review: Escape from Reason – Francis Schaeffer

schaefferThe caption for this book is “a penetrating analysis of the trends in modern thought.” The goal of the book is to provide an brief overview and outline of the past 800 years of theological/philosophical progress – especially as relates to the development of the modern theological climate (though note that the book was published in 1968) – with the intention of giving the reader an understanding of the current landscape so that they may better communicate the truths of Christianity into the generation in which they’re living. It is an attempt to help a generation of Christians “to speak meaningfully to its own age.”

To start off, the book is very short, and at 94 pages can be read fairly easily without having to dedicate too much time to it. The world which Schaeffer sets up is one in which there is a dualism between man and truth, between the rational and the irrational. The eternal questions of how one may find meaning in the world, how far reason can take the mind, and how we can know anything are the things we have to figure out.

In this attempt create an outline of modern thought Schaeffer begins with Aquinas and attributes the first creation of this duality to him, he then progresses up through Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard and Barth while taking detours to discuss the trends as they flow through art, literature and film. The over-riding principle that Schaeffer sees as developing is one of an increasing separation of man from rational truth, ending in a complete wall between man and his ability to form a unified field of knowledge; as Schaeffer notes, “Modern man has given up his hope of unity and lives in despair – the despair of no longer thinking that what has always been the aspiration of men is at all possible.” It is the loss of a unified answer for knowledge and life which tries to jump the gap from rationalism to meaning through any way possible, whether a ‘leap of faith’, drugs, nonrational experiences and feelings.

On the whole Schaeffer does have a good point to make. In the most general of ways his outline of philosophical history speaks truth, but it needs to be taken wit a spoonful of salt. His general mood is correct, and his feelings towards various thought trends are also correct, such as the trends towards “faith in faith” and using the terms God and Jesus more for their connotations than for their orthodox meanings. The gap which he describes is one which needs to be addressed and he is right in his position that in order to effectively communicate to a generation one must understand their thought patterns (this is most relevantly posited in the gulf between parents and their children during his time-frame, where the children are being educated in increasingly skeptical worldviews where truth is being forced to give way to relativism and subjectivism). Finally, he’s got some interesting insights into art and literature.

The issue with the text is that while he gets various things correct and the overall message of the book is acceptable, his scholarship is dubious at best. The caption designates it as “a penetrating analysis of the trends in modern thought” when in fact it feels as though Schaeffer simply took what he knew to be true about the theological landscape and patched together a sketchy outline of philosophic history based on the vague impressions he had of each theologian. “Penetrating” is hardly the word I would use – it’s more like a cursory outline that one might formulate after reading a philosophy textbook.

That said, the book is not without merit. If you take everything at face value you’ll come away misinformed, but at least you’ll come away motivated to engage the thought-trends where they are (since I’d say that even if his history is skewed he’s got a good hold on the present), hopefully you’ll even come away motivated to read the source-texts of the authors which Schaeffer condemns as creating the current theological climate – you’ll probably be happy to find that many of them have very valuable things to contribute to the conversation, some are even an orthodox, and few are the heralds of irrationality and mysticism that Schaeffer makes them out to be.

Memorable Quotes:

-“These things are never merely theoretical, because men act the way they think.”

-“The early scientists also shared the outlook of Christianity in believing that there is a reasonable God, who had created a reasonable universe, and thus man, by use of his reason, could find out the universe’s form.”

-“Today there are almost no philosophies in the classic sense of philosophy – there are anti-philosophies.”

-“Once the historic Christian answer is put away, all we can do is to leap upstairs and say that against all reason God is good.”

Specific Criticisms

1) Early on in the book Schaeffer makes Aquinas the foundational starting point for the progress of rationalistic philosophy. He states that “In Aquinas’s view the will of man was fallen, but the intellect was not… Mans’ intellect became autonomous… philosophy also became free, and was separated from revelation.” A few things here, on is that Aquinas had an exceptionally high view of revelation; to assert that man can know things through reason is not to make reason autonomous. Furthermore, if man’s will is fallen then one can’t help but have the intellect affected.

Aquinas did not ‘set philosophy free from revelation’ as Schaeffer posits – indeed, philosophy had been free for quite some time, I’d give it at least 1500 years or more. Afterall, if anything, Aquinas served simply to bring the thought of Aristotle back into play. Note that Aristotle was a philosopher over a thousand years before Aquinas and he had no place for revelation in his philosophy. As Chesterton would argue “St. Thomas did not reconcile Christ to Aristotle; he reconciled Aristotle to Christ” and acknowledge that there is a root in part to wisdom in the real world rather than solely intangible truths of Platonism. What he would point out is that if the unbeliever is to be proved wrong, it should be done so on their own grounds (as proving them wrong on somebody else’s ground does no good). At most in Aquinas we have a subordinate autonomy, which is hardly equal to Schaeffer’s weighty claim – if he allowed his philosophy to step away from his theology it was grounded in an absolute certainty of the truth of God, that since God is true the facts of necessity can lead to nothing other than Him; and yet he still held the place of revelation in the knowledge of God (for otherwise the uneducated masses would have no hope of coming to know God).

2) Another point of poor scholarship on Schaeffer’s part is in his view of thought pre-Aquinas. He tries to point out that the heavenly things were all important for those early thinkers, but then creates a dichotomy in saying that nature was just a backdrop for them. If we’re talking about the superstitious folk here the case is nothing of the sort, nature wasn’t just a backdrop, nature was what was heavenly – filled to the brim with spirits and gods and nymphs. If we’re talking about the philosophers we can look to Maurice de Wulf (author of ‘A History of Medieval Philosophy’) noting that “The earliest Grecian philosophers confined themselves to the study of the external world.” Again, Schaeffer simply seems to have not done his research, but is rather relying on the feel he gets from a few pictures to make a generalization about over a thousand years worth of philosophy.

The closest he might have to a valid point here would be that much western thought in Europe pre-Aquinas was dominated by Plato, which gives priority to the realm of ideas (what Schaeffer might interpret as ‘heavenly things) over the physical world (which Plato asserts as being modelled on the world of thought).

3) Schaeffer states that modern man has given up hope for a unified system of knowledge. While it is true that modern [secular] man has acknowledge the lack of a unified system, they haven’t given up hope; a point which can be made by referencing Hawkings ‘A Brief History of Time’. Science is still searching for this unified system, specifically in reconciling the general theory of relativity with quantum mechanics (that is, the way normal to really big things operate in terms of gravity versus the way very tiny things operate).

4) Schaeffer posits that, in regards to the middle class who are generally unaffected by philosophical and theological shifts “they still think in the right way – to them truth is truth, right is right – but they no longer know why.” I’d simply disagree. If anybody knows why truth is truth it is the down-to-earth middle class, those unaffected by the rampant skepticism of the past century. They know why truth is truth, the fact that they can’t express it in philosophical form isn’t an argument against them (and to use it as such is to near begging the question).