“Truth Tuesday” Excerpts from Francis Schaeffer book “The God who is there”

Excerpts from Francis Schaeffer book “The God who is there”

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

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 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,” .

Very good:

Excerpts from

The God Who Is There

by Francis Schaeffer

(Emphasis added throughout)


“The present chasm between the generations has been brought about almost entirely by a change in the concept of truth. Wherever you look today the new concept holds the field. The consensus about us is almost monolithic, whether you review the arts, literature or just simply read the newspapers and magazines…. On every side you can feel the stranglehold of this new methodology—and by ‘methodology’ we mean the way we approach truth and knowing. … And just as fog cannot be kept out by walls or doors, so this consensus comes in around us, till the room we live in is no longer distinct, and yet we hardly realise what has happened….

        “Young people from Christian homes are brought up in the old framework of truth. Then they are subjected to the modern framework. In time they become confused because they do not understand the alternatives with which they are being presented. Confusion becomes bewilderment, and before long they are overwhelmed. This is unhappily true not only of young people, but of many pastors, Christian educators, evangelists and missionaries as well. So this change in the concept of the way we come to knowledge and truth is the most crucial problem, as I understand it, facing Christianity today.”13

If you had lived in … the United States before about 1935, you would not have had to spend much time, in practice, in thinking about your presuppositions. … What were these presuppositions? The basic one was that there really are such things as absolutes. They accepted the possibility of an absolute in the area of Being (or knowledge), and in the area of morals. Therefore, because they accepted the possibility of absolutes, though men might disagree as to what these were, nevertheless they could reason together…. So if anything was true, the opposite was false. In morality, if one thing was right, its opposite was wrong…. 14

The shift has been tremendous. Thirty or more years ago you could have said such things as ‘This is true’ or ‘This is right’, and you would have been on everybody’s wavelength. …Thus in evangelism, in spiritual matters and in Christian education, you could have begun with the certainty that your audience understood you.”14

TENDENCY TOWARDS A UNIFORM CULTURE

…the world-spirit does not always take the same form. So the Christian must resist the spirit of the world in the form it takes in his own generation. If he does not do this he is not resisting the spirit of the world at all. … It is our generation of Christians more than any other who need to heed these words which are attributed to Martin Luther:

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere fight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”18

HEGEL, THE DOORWAY

It was the German philosopher Hegel (1770—1831) who became the first man to open the door into the line of despair. Before his time truth was conceived on the basis of antithesis, not for any adequate reason but because man romantically acted upon it. Truth, in the sense of antithesis, is related to the idea of cause and effect. Cause and effect produces a chain reaction which goes straight on in a horizontal line. With the coming of Hegel all this changed….

What Hegel taught arrived at just the right moment of history for his thinking to have its maximum effect.’ Imagine that Hegel … said, ‘I have a new idea. From now on let us think in this way; instead of thinking in terms of cause and effect, what we really have is a thesis, and opposite is an antithesis, and the answer to their relationship is not in the horizontal movement of cause and effect, but the answer is always synthesis.’ … It has never been the same since. If one understands the development of philosophy, or morals, or political thought from that day to this, one knows that Hegel and synthesis have won. In other words, Hegel has removed the straight line of previous thought and in its place he has substituted a triangle. Instead of antithesis we have, as modem man’s approach to truth, synthesis.20

KIERKEGAARD, THE FIRST MAN BELOW

“It is often said that Søren Kierkegaard, the Dane (1813-55)… is the father of modern secular thinking and of the new theological thinking…. Why is it that Kierkegaard can so aptly be thought of as the father of both? What proposition did he add to Hegel’s thought that made the difference? Kierkegaard came to the conclusion that you could not arrive at synthesis by reason. Instead, you achieved everything of real importance by a leap of faith. So he separated absolutely the rational and logical from faith…. 21 

“…from that time on, if rationalistic man wants to deal with the real things of human life (such as purpose, significance, the validity of love) he must discard rational thought about them and make a gigantic, non-rational leap of faith. The rationalistic framework had failed to produce an answer on the basis of reason, and so all hope of a uniform field of knowledge had to be abandoned.”22

[C. S. Lewis illustrates this new thinking: Truth + myth = understanding of evolving truths. See Surprised by Joy]

“…the evolutionary humanism as a whole, which is current today, is in the same plight. Anyone can assert with all the persuasion at his command that man is due for a rosy future. But this again is a leap of faith, if there is no point of observation, either clinically or sociologically, to demonstrate that man will be better tomorrow than he was yesterday or is today.
“Sir Julian Huxley has taken such a purely optimistic answer one step further by stating that man will only be improved by accepting a new mystique. Thus he suggests that society will function better if it has a religion, even though no god really exists. For example, he says:

“From the specifically religious point of view, the desirable direction of evolution might be defined as the divinisation of existence—but for this to have operative significance we must frame a new definition of ‘the divine’ free from all connotations of external supernatural beings.
“Religion today is imprisoned in a theistic frame of ideas, compelled to operate in the unrealities of the dualistic world. In the unitary humanist frame it acquires a new look and new freedom. With the aid of our new vision it has the opportunity of escaping from the theistic impasse and of playing its proper role in the real world of unitary existence.”26-27

“Now it may be true that it can be shown by observation that society copes better with life through believing that there is a god. But, in that case, surely optimistic humanism … shows exactly the same irrational leap of faith… if in order to be optimistic, it rests upon the necessity of mankind believing and functioning on a lie.”27

THEOLOGY AND SEMANTIC MYSTICISM

Neo-orthodoxy at first glance seems to have an advantage over secular existentialism, in that it appears to have more substance in its optimistic expressions than its secular counterpart. … But in the new theology, use is made of certain religious words which have a connotation of…  meaning to those who hear them. Real communication is not in fact established, but an illusion of communication is given by employing words rich in connotations.”56

THE USE OF WORDS AND SYMBOLS

“Every word has two parts. There is the dictionary definition and there is the connotation. Words may be synonymous by definition but have completely different connotations. Therefore we find that when such a symbol as the cross is used, whether in writing or painting, a certain connotation stirs the mind of people brought up in a Christian culture, even if they have rejected Christianity. So when the new theology uses such words, without definition, an illusion of meaning is given which is pragmatically useful in arousing deep motivations….

“An illusion of communication and content is given so that, when a word is used in this deliberately undefined way, the hearer ‘thinks’ he knows what it means.” 57

“To the new theology, the usefulness of a symbol is in direct proportion to its obscurity. There is connotation, as in the word god, but there is no definition. The secret of the strength of neo-orthodoxy is that these religious symbols… give an illusion of meaning. …
“At first acquaintance this concept gives the feeling of spirituality. ‘I do not ask for answers, I just believe.’ This sounds sharply spiritual and it deceives many fine people…..  The new theology sounds spiritual and vibrant and they are trapped….

Whenever men say they are looking for greater reality, we must show them at once the reality of true Christianity. This is real because it is concerned with the God who is there and who has spoken to us about Himself, not just the use of the symbol ‘god’ or ‘christ’ which sounds spiritual but is not. The men who merely use the symbol ought to be pessimists, for the mere word god or the idea god is not a sufficient base for the optimism they display…. 

“This is the kind of ‘beievism’ which is demanded by this theology…. It is no more than a jump into an undefinable, irrational, semantic mysticism.”58

TODAY’S OPPORTUNITY FOR THE NEW THEOLOGY

“Men are facing a society without structure and they want to fill the void that has appeared. For a long time Reformation ideas formed the basis of North European culture, and this extended to include that of America and English-speaking Canada, etc. But today that has been destroyed by the relativism both inside [82] and outside the churches. Hence historic Christianity is now a minority group….       “Society cannot function without form and motivation. As the old sociological forms have been swept away, new ones must be found or society breaks down altogether. Sir Julian Huxley has stepped in at this point with his suggestion that religion has a real place in modern society. But, he would contend, it must be understood that religion is always evolving and that it needs to come under the control of society.

      “This suggestion is not as ridiculous as it sounds, even coming from a convinced humanist, if one understands the mentality of our age. The prevailing dialectical methodology fits itself easily into religious forms….
     Teilhard de Chardin… illustrates that the progressive Roman Catholic theologians are further away from historic Reformation Christianity than classical Roman Catholicism, because they are also dialectical thinkers.

     “The orthodox Roman Catholic would tell me that I am bound for hell because I reject the true Church. He is dealing with a concept of absolute truth. But the new Roman Catholic who sits at my fireside says, ‘You are all right, Dr. Schaeffer, because you are so sincere.’ In the new Roman Catholicism such a statement usually means that the dialectical method has taken over.

Therefore we are not surprised to find that … others such as Hans KUng have been strongly influenced by neo-orthodoxy. It is important to note that the position on Scripture by the Vatican Council has shifted in the same-direction and men such as Raymond Panikkar, Dom Bede Griffiths [close friend of C. S. Lewis]… are proclaiming a synthesis between Roman Catholicism and Hinduism.” 83

“The time, therefore, does seem right for this new theology to give the needed sociological forms and motivations. It is true, of course, that society could look elsewhere amongst the secular mysticisms for a new evolving religion, but the new theology has some strong advantages.
      Firstly, the undefined connotation words that they are using are deeply rooted in our Western culture. This is much easier and more powerful than using new and untraditional words.
      Secondly, these men control almost every large denomination in Protestantism…. This gives them the advantage of functioning within the organisational stream of the Church, and thus both its organisation and linguistic continuity is at their disposal.
      Thirdly, people in our culture in general are already in process of being accustomed to accept non-defined, contentless religious words and symbols, without any rational or historical control. Such words and symbols are ready to be filled with the content of the moment. The words ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ’ are the most ready for the manipulator. The phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ has become a contentless banner which can be carried in any direction for sociological purposes.

“…because the phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ has been separated from true history and the content of Scripture, it can be used to trigger religiously motivated sociological actions directly contrary to the teaching of Christ…. It is against such manipulated semantic mysticism that we do very well to prepare ourselves, our children and our spiritual children.” 84

___________

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