Book Review : He Is There and He Is Not Silent by Micah Thornton

Book Review : He Is There and He Is Not Silent by Micah Thornton

How Should We Then Live? Episode 5: The Revolutionary Age

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The Scientific Age

Uploaded by  on Oct 3, 2011

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Episode VII – The Age of Non Reason

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  Micah Thornton 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.

Book Review : He Is There and He Is Not Silent

Posted on November 7, 2010 by Does God exist? Can we ever know God? How can we know? These are the questions addressed by Francis Schaeffer in He Is There and He Is Not Silent. In the book, Schaeffer presents the Christian worldview by systematically arguing for the necessity of the existence of God. Schaffer’s thesis in the book is that the existence of God and the fact that he has spoken to man is a philosophical necessity and is demonstrated in the areas of metaphysics, morals, and epistemology.

The first chapter deals with the metaphysical necessity. This is the basic philosophical question of being that stems from the fact that something is there rather than nothing. Schaeffer presents the metaphysical dilemma of man: Man is personal, as opposed to impersonal and he is finite. This is what Schaeffer calls the “mannishness” of man. Schaeffer asserts that there are only three possible logical answers in the area of being: Everything that exists came out of absolutely nothing, all that now is had an impersonal beginning, or all that now is had a personal beginning. Looking at the first possible answer, for everything to come from nothing, you literally have to begin with absolutely nothing, or what Schaeffer calls “nothing-nothing” to hold to this view. Schaeffer writes that this argument is unsustainable because it is “unthinkable that all that now is has come out of utter nothing” (7).

Examining the second possible answer in the area of existence, the impersonal beginning, Schaeffer writes that what you are really faced with is reductionism. To start with an impersonal beginning means that everything that is in the universe is finally reduced to the original factor or factors, whether it is energy, mass, or motion. Schaeffer concludes an impersonal beginning cannot explain the complexity of existence or the personality of man.

Finally, Schaeffer presents and argues for the third possible answer, the personal beginning. With a personal beginning, the mannishness of man does have meaning and a solution to explain it. In order to have a personal beginning, there must be a personal-infinite God, and a personal unity and diversity in God. Only a personal-infinite God is big enough for there to be absolutes to give any particulars meaning. Furthermore, the personal-infinite God is personal unity and diversity in the Trinity. In the Trinity, we have “three Persons in existence, loving each other, and in communication with each other, before all else was” (14). This is the answer not only to the philosophic need of unity and diversity, but also personal unity and diversity, which cannot exist before or behind God, because God exists before all things. This answer points to Schaeffer’s first major premise: God is there.

Leading into chapter two, Schaeffer writes that the reason we have the answer is because God has spoken, which is the other major premise of the book: God is not silent. Building on his thesis that God is there and not silent, Schaeffer writes about the moral necessity for God. The moral dilemma of man is the nobility of man, contrasted with man’s cruelty. Man has moral motions, yet he is still prone to cruel actions. If we have a personal beginning and look at man as he now is, what is the explanation for man’s cruelty? Schaeffer presents two possibilities: Man in his cruelty is was he has always intrinsically been, or man as he is now is not what he was; he has changed and is now abnormal. Schaeffer argues for the latter. If man is intrinsically cruel, then the conclusion is that God who made man is himself bad and cruel. The Christian position, Schaeffer says, is that man, created by God as personal, has changed himself by choice. God is not a bad God; he has not changed man and made him cruel. Man by choice turned away from how God created him. And so we have a moral situation on our hands: morals suddenly exist (27). As the personal creator, God himself and his character is the moral absolute of the universe.  This is the answer to man’s moral dilemma: God is there and he is not silent. He has spoken in verbal, propositional form and has told us what his character is, which has become our moral law and standard. And so man has a standard of morality of which he has fallen short and needs a solution for it, which shows the need for and the meaning of the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

Chapters three and four deal with the epistemological necessity for God. In chapter three, Schaeffer takes the reader through a history lesson of epistemological thought to show man’s current dilemma of knowing. Schaffer reminds the reader that there must be more than particulars if there is to be meaning. There must be universals that give meaning to the particulars. Schaeffer demonstrates through the history of epistemology that at the heart of modern man’s problem of knowing is the absence of those universals. As a result, man is unable to discern reality from non-reality. He is left in a world without categories in regard to human values, moral values, or the difference between reality and fantasy (52).

In chapter four, Schaeffer explains the Christian answer to the epistemological problem. First, the infinite personal God who created the universe and man, created man to live in that universe, and has spoken in the Bible to tell us about the universe. Once again, the answer is that God is there and he is not silent. Because of this, the Christian has a basis for true knowledge. “The Christian has certainty right from the start that there is an external world that is there, created by God as an objective reality” (66). Next, the Christian can truly know other people. Even if the non-Christian does not know who he is, the Christian can relate to the non-Christian because they are both made in the image of God. “We know that beyond the façade there is the person who is a verbalizer and who loves and wants to be loved. And no matter how often he says he is amoral, in reality he has moral motions” (73). Furthermore, among Christians, there is a more profound way to truly know each other. As we allow the norms of God in values and knowing bind the inward man as well as the outward man, there will be less discrepancy between the inward man and the outward man (73-74). Finally, the Christian has the freedom to discern reality from fantasy. “Being a Christian and knowing that God has made the external world, there is no confusion for me between that which is imaginary and that which is real” (75). Man’s dilemma of knowing is because of his attempted autonomy, he is robbed of any certain reality. The Christian epistemology brings an end to this confusion because his certainty of reality comes from the fact that God is there is he is not silent.

Overall, this book, while it is short in length, is a challenging read. There are portions in the book, especially in chapter three, where the reader must take the time to read slowly and thoughtfully. In chapter three, a reader who is not already well read in the areas of philosophy and epistemology will likely encounter unfamiliar vocabulary and schools of thought and he will need to spend additional time looking up definitions and background information on various theological systems in order to fully understand what the author is communicating. However, this is not a weakness in the book, as it is not the author’s purpose to teach an introduction to philosophy but to make a philosophical argument for the necessity of the existence of God. Having said that, the rest of the book follows a logical flow of thought in which the author makes a strong, convincing argument for his thesis.

Clearly, the book is well researched. This is particularly evident as the author presents the history of epistemological thought. Schaeffer’s expert knowledge of these various schools of thought allows him to understand the dilemma of man and demonstrate how the personal God who is there and who speaks to man is the only answer to that dilemma. The author is also fair in presenting other viewpoints that are opposed to the Christian worldview. Schaeffer does not berate, belittle, or in any put down those who hold to these viewpoints such as positivism or existentialism, for example. Rather, he simply and logically shows how these viewpoints are inadequate in answering the dilemma of man. In fact, he shows genuine compassion for those who are looking for the answers in themselves and cannot find them. He truly longs for them to look to the infinite, personal God, discover who he is and in turn, learn who they themselves are.

It can be said with confidence that Schaeffer accomplished his intended purpose of the book. In the early pages of the book Schaeffer laments that he has grown tired of being asked why he does not just preach the “simple gospel”. Schaeffer reminds us that for the most part, we are dealing with a generation whose basic presupposition is that the universe had an impersonal beginning. Before you can even share the “simple gospel”, you have to make the case for the necessity for the existence of the infinite, personal God who is there and who speaks. You first have to answer the questions of the existence, personality, and morality of man, and show how these things only find their answer and meaning in the God who is there and is not silent, before you can even demonstrate the need for the substitutionary atonement of Christ; which is precisely what Schaeffer has accomplished with this book.

He Is There and He Is Not Silent is a book that can be beneficial to a variety of people. For the non-Christian who is trying to answer the questions of his existence and wonders if it has any meaning, this book can help guide him to the answer. For the Christian, it can give him a more solid foundation in his faith. For the evangelist, the missionary, or the pastor, it can be a valuable tool for ministering to non-Christians and leading them to Christ. To that end, this book is a valuable resource.

Francis Schaeffer

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