This issue of the problem of knowledge is what can we know and how do we know it? Or, to put it into Schaeffer’s own favorite phrase, what are the universals (pertaining to knowledge) that exist in order for us to explain the particulars? ( God has communicated to us through the Bible and we have evidence the Bible is true!!!)


He is There and He is not Silent by SchaefferThis is the third and final post on Schaeffer’s He is There and He Is Not Silent. See the previous two posts here and here.

In the third and fourth chapters of He is There and He Is Not Silent Schaeffer discusses the area of epistemology, the study of knowledge, specifically focusing on the problem of knowledge and the answer.

The Problem

This issue of the problem of knowledge is what can we know and how do we know it? Or, to put it into Schaeffer’s own favorite phrase, what are the universals (pertaining to knowledge) that exist in order for us to explain the particulars? “How can wefind universals which are large enough to cover the particulars so that we can know we know?” (p. 306) This problem persisted for centuries as men like Plato, the Greeks, Aquinas and even da Vinci tried to produce the universals upon which the particulars could be grounded. Despite the fact that the early scientists believed God existed and that the universe was discoverable, when the modern scientists came along beginning with Newton we are back to a world that is once again groping for universals. We now have a worldview that sees man as a machine and the universe as a closed system.

At this point Jean-Jacques Rousseau becomes important as he takes the next step in the line of thinking without universals. Schaeffer notes that he replaces the nature and grace distinction with nature and freedom (p. 310). This freedom is nothing short of the autonomy of man, the autonomy of man from everything – especially God. After Rousseau we move to Kant and Hegel who went from antithesis as the way of knowing things to synthesis.

Further down the road we get to the theory of positivism which held that the knower has no presuppositions upon which he approaches anything. Positivism fails because it (1) one cannot say that anything exists and (2) even if one did believe they knew something they would have no reason to trust that they know it truly. Following this line of thinking came verificationism and falsificationism.

In closing his short history of mankind trying to find an adequate theory of knowledge Schaeffer concludes with this,

All the way back to the Greeks, we have for 2,000 years the cleverest men who have ever lived trying to find a way to have meaning and certainty of knowledge; but man, beginning with himself with no other knowledge outside himself, has totally failed. (p. 319)

The Answer

The heart of the answer for Schaeffer to the problem of knowledge began with the Reformation idea (and Biblical idea) that language conveys meaning, or propositional truth. However, language is not stand alone. It is spoken by someone. Therefore, someone is there who speaks. For the Christian, the answer to the problem of knowledge is simply that God is there and He is not silent. Schaeffer points out the basic nature of language to man:

We communicate propositional communication to each other in spoken or written form in language. Indeed, it is deeper than this because the way we think inside of our own heads is in language. We can have other things in our heads besides language, but it always must be lined to language. A book, for example, can be written with much figure of speech, but the figure of speech must have a continuity withe the normal use of syntax and a defined use of terms, or nobody knows what the book is about. So whether we are talking about outward communication of inward thought, man is a verbalizer. (p. 325)

Man is a verbalizer, a communicator through language. Why then is it so hard to believe that God could communicate to man? It should not be, says Schaeffer. For Christianity, there is no problem of epistemology. Is is only because God exists and has communicated about Himself in propositional revelation that men can know at all and communicate at all. For Christians there is a connection and unity between God, man and the Bible. God exists, He created man in His image and He has communicated to him through the Bible. This is how we can know and it is the only theory of knowledge that makes sense of and adequately accounts for our human experience of knowing, language and communication.



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