Francis Schaeffer: An Introduction to his Apologetics by Jim Leffel

Francis Schaeffer: An Introduction to his Apologetics by Jim Leffel

Episode VII – The Age of Non Reason

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Episode 8: The Age Of Fragmentation

Published on Jul 24, 2012

Dr. Schaeffer’s sweeping epic on the rise and decline of Western thought and Culture

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I love the works of Francis Schaeffer and I have been on the internet reading several blogs that talk about Schaeffer’s work and the work below  by Jim Leffel was really helpful. Schaeffer’s film series “How should we then live?  Wikipedia notes, “According to Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live traces Western history from Ancient Rome until the time of writing (1976) along three lines: the philosophic, scientific, and religious.[3] He also makes extensive references to art and architecture as a means of showing how these movements reflected changing patterns of thought through time. Schaeffer’s central premise is: when we base society on the Bible, on the infinite-personal God who is there and has spoken,[4] this provides an absolute by which we can conduct our lives and by which we can judge society.  Here are some posts I have done on this series: Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 10 “Final Choices” episode 9 “The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence”episode 8 “The Age of Fragmentation”episode 7 “The Age of Non-Reason” episode 6 “The Scientific Age”  episode 5 “The Revolutionary Age” episode 4 “The Reformation” episode 3 “The Renaissance”episode 2 “The Middle Ages,”, and  episode 1 “The Roman Age,” .

In the film series “WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE?” the arguments are presented  against abortion (Episode 1),  infanticide (Episode 2),   euthanasia (Episode 3), and then there is a discussion of the Christian versus Humanist worldview concerning the issue of “the basis for human dignity” in Episode 4 and then in the last episode a close look at the truth claims of the Bible.

Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer: An Introduction to his Apologetics

with Jim Leffel

Course Outline

Week Three: From Fragmentation to Postmodernism

“I believe more and more that this is truly the central task of the Christian, to give the Lord the opportunity to exhibit his existence.” (Letters, 63,4).

The age of fragmentation: Failure of the humanist base

Truth

Objective————————–> Objective——————-> Limited knowledge
Reason & revelation Reason alone Correspondence Technology and science
  • Radical empiricism/ logical positivism: Attempt to reduce all truth to propositions verified by science.
  • Loss of any absolutes

“We can now see why it is impossible to find a criterion for determining the validity of ethical judgments. It is not because they have an absolute validity which is mysteriously independent of ordinary sense experience, but because they have no objective validity whatsoever. If a sentence makes no statement at all, there is obviously no sense in asking whether what it says is true or false.” — A.J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic

“The existentialist, on the contrary, thinks it is very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him; there can no longer be an objective Good, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. Nowhere is it written that the Good exists, that we must be honest, that we must not lie; because the fact is we are on a plane where there are only men. Dostoevsky said, ‘If God didn’t exist, everything would be possible.’” — Jean-Paul Sartre, “Existentialism Is Humanism”

Reality

Creation of God———->Machine——————————–>Inaccessible
Open system of cause and effect Closed system of cause and effect, manipulable More chaotic and less machine-like
  • Kant’s noumenal/phenomenal distinction
  • Reality as it is cannot be apprehended, only interpreted

Man

Image of God—————————–> Rational————————> Machine
Both intrinsically valuable and fallen Man is fragmented Man the machine Autonomy collapses into social Darwinism There is no unifying basis for man
  • Dilemma: Reason says man is a machine, but there remains a quest for inner meaning and significance and definition. What is man? How is the individual connected to ultimate reality?

“Has existence significance at all? This is the question which will require a couple of centuries even to be completely heard in all its profundity.” — Fredrich Nietzsche, Joyful Wisdom

“The fact that God could create free beings vis-à -vis of Himself is the cross which philosophy could not carry, but remained hanging therefrom.” — Soren Kierkegaard, Aphorisms

How Should We Then Live, “The Age of Fragmentation”

  • Discussion
    • How do the art, music and religious thought reflect legitimate human longings?
  • What are the logical conclusions of humanist presuppositions?
  • Where is man in tension with rationalistic presuppositions?
  • How do we “take the roof off”?

From fragmentation to postmodernism

Ideological shift to postmodernism

  • Why ideology matters

Truth

Objective—————> Objective————> Limited knowledge—-> Constructivism
Reason & revelation Reason Correspondence Technology and science Subjective, relative. Desire, experience, and power
  • Paradigms: From “metanarrative” to “local knowledge”
  • Power substitutes for truth

“The best we can hope to do is convert someone from their set of beliefs to ours. This is persuasion. It has nothing to do with transcendent truth or knowledge. It is an art, as the old rhetoricians knew. Fortunately, our belief structures contain within themselves the possibility of alteration, of adopting a new opinion.” — Stanley Fish, Atlantic Monthly, March 1991

  • Propositional truth is out. Words do not convey meaning
  • Some thoughts on “Words are Useless”

Reality

Creation of God—->Machine————————>Flux——————> Social construct
Open system of cause and effect Closed system of cause and effect, manipulable Chaotic, less machine-like Cultruall relative paradigms
  • A story of three umpires
  • Reality is socially constructed
  • No common ground
  • Openness and tolerance are the only (arbitrary) absolutes

Man

Image of God———–> Rational——————> Machine———–> Social construct
Both intrinsically valuable and fallen Man the machine Autonomy collapses into social Darwinism Fragmented No unifying basis for man No human essence. Defined by cultural determinism.
  • Human personhood as a “social construct”
  • Postmodern art and human identity: Selected interviews
    • Jeff Koons: What is an artist?
      • Seducers, manipulators
  • Artists must exploit themselves first
  • After we learn to manipulate, then we exploit the masses
  • This is a moral quest
  • Ashley Bickerton: People are social constructs
    • Individuals defined by a series of choices prescribed by culture
  • Artistic intent is nullified: Experience of viewing is the end
    • Grotesque and beautiful are eclectic
  • Viewer has a sense of complicity with the art, but there is no objective meaning
  • Explanations make art poor by ruining the experience
  • Robert Pincus Witten: Transition to postmodern art
    • Modern artists saw art as a means through which society could have been bettered. That didn’t work, so postmodern artists realize that art’s role is to make sarcastic, ironic commentary on society.
  • Art as a commodity

The Posthuman

  • Human nature
    • Product of Darwinian evolution
    • Self is a social construct, thus it is possible to “reinvent” one’s self by artificial evolution. Computers and biotechnology make this possible..
    • There is no correct or true model of the self.
    • Postmodern era is a period of disintegrated selves.
  • Reality
    • There is a “multiplicity of possible realities.”
    • Reality is rooted in perception.
    • Reality appears to be increasingly irrational.
  • Values
    • Should we take control of our bodies? Is it right to artificially control evolution?
    • Are genetic manipulations “improvements”?
    • There is a sense that we are advancing, but not progressing.
    • Okatu represent a new view of social interaction, relating to machines over people.
    • Traditional norms of gender, sexuality and self-identity need to be explored.
    • Will the posthuman era produce increased freedom or manipulation?
  • Truth
    • Absolute truth no longer applies. There are numerous ways to look at the world, and numerous equally valid standards of behavior.
    • There is little sense of past or future.
    • Absolutes no longer apply in political and social contexts.
    • New technologies lead to new structures of thinking. Deductive rational structures are eclipsed by electronic media’s compressed sense of time. Images replace deduction.
    • Patterns of thinking are becoming less rational.
    • Hierarchical belief systems are being replaced by perceptual, multifaceted ones.
  • Key points of tensions raised by the author:
    • The need to create a new moral vision. What shall we do with the technologies that are increasingly part of postmodern life?

“Postmodernism has often been viewed as morally bankrupt because it fails to profess any fundamental values or principles. More forcefully put, postmodernism fails to offer arguments against Nazism or any other form of cultural tyranny.” — Kenneth Gergen, The Saturated Self

  • With no stable meaning or value to personhood, how will individuals find any basis for their lives?
  • If modern utopian faith in rational solutions is rejected, and irrationalism is substituted, how can we hope to govern ourselves? As society fragments into “multiple realities” the sense of lostness and alienation are likely to pervade.

Understanding postmodern culture

  • The manipulability of belief

“We assume beliefs are under conscious control at all times. But beliefs can be created merely by passively accepting information without attempting to analyze it. . . [W]hen distractions derailed their train of thought, volunteers in psychological experiments who had been given reason to doubt false information nevertheless tended to accept that information as true.”

— Bruce Bower, Science News (January 5, 1991, 14)

  • Beliefs are more absorbed than carefully thought out
  • What are the implications to “plausibility structures”?

1. The power of social consensus

2. The opportunity to provide a compelling case for the gospel by causing uncertainty and tension

  • Some thoughts on relativism statistics
  • How inclusive and tolerant is postmodern relativism?
  • Sociological shifts and influences on personal identity: Dilemmas and opportunities
    • Family

1. Loss of trust, alienation

2. Power of Christian love

  • Education

1. General cynicism, pragmatism

2. Relevance, clarity and authenticity still make a difference

  • Faith

1. No consensus, virtues of tolerance and openness

2. Necessity of pre-evangelism

3. Thankfully, nominalism is dead

  • Media

“Used in one way, the press, the radio and the cinema are indispensable to the survival of democracy. Used in another way, they are among the most powerful weapons in the dictator’s armory. . . In regard to propaganda the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or it might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalistic democracies–the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions. . . Only the vigilant can maintain their liberties, and only those who are constantly and intelligently on the spot can hope to govern themselves effectively by democratic procedures.” — Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited

1. Beliefs and values shaped by media

2. Media is not trusted as a source of truth

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