Philosophy

What was the alleged “Dominionist” theologian, Francis Schaeffer, doing back in the 1950’s – 80’s?

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The late Francis Schaeffer, 1912 - 1984

One of the recent brouhahas in the rising “silly season” of the 2012 US election cycle, is how certain ID-friendly candidates such as Mrs Michelle Bachmann, are allegedly Christo-fascist “Dominionists” influenced by that nefarious “Dominionist,” the late theologian, Francis Schaeffer.

All of this is in a context where, in the recent Aug 17, 2011 B4U-ACT pro pedophilia conference, we heard academic advocates asserting that:

Our society should “maximize individual liberty. We have a highly moralistic society that is not consistent with liberty.” [Cf.onward UD post here.]

Of course, this patently and potentially destructively confuses license for true liberty, as can be easily seen by comparing the classic definitions in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:

LIB’ERTY, n. [L. libertas, from liber, free.] . . .

3. Civil liberty, is the liberty of men in a state of society, or natural liberty [i.e. sense 1: “. . .  the power of acting as one thinks fit, without any restraint or control, except from the laws of nature.”], so far only abridged and restrained, as is necessary and expedient for the safety and interest of the society, state or nation. A restraint of natural liberty, not necessary or expedient for the public, is tyranny or oppression. civil liberty is an exemption from the arbitrary will of others, which exemption is secured by established laws, which restrain every man from injuring or controlling another. Hence the restraints of law are essential to civil liberty.The liberty of one depends not so much on the removal of all restraint from him, as on the due restraint upon the liberty of others. In this sentence, the latter word liberty denotes natural liberty.

LI’CENSE, n. [L. licentia, from liceo, to be permitted.] . . .

2. Excess of liberty; exorbitant freedom; freedom abused, or used in contempt of law or decorum.License they mean, when they cry liberty.

It is worth pausing to see and to note how, again and again, we can see how insightful George Orwell’s 1984 was: the willful corruption of language is the first step to shackling men’s minds to a new tyranny.

Plato's Cave of mental slavery by shadow shows confused for reality (Source: University of Fort Hare, SA, Phil. Dept.)

In addition, we must recognise the close link between genuine liberty, duties and rights, for without duties of neighbourliness in the circle of the civil peace of justice,  there can be no basis for rights.

Likewise, when we hear silly smear-words like “Christo-fascist” being tossed around, it is a helpful first cross check to notice that the most notorious case in point of Fascism, was called National SOCIALISM.  (Without endorsing all that is said in the links, take a quick look here and here  for an eye-opener.)

Having cleared the air of some poisonous and polarising smoke, we can now see clearly enough to understand Francis Schaeffer a bit better, as an example of a Christian thinker responding responsibly to the key worldview trends and issues of our civilisation, at a serious level.

(Not least, we should note the pioneering significance of Schaeffer in this regard, as the man who almost single-handedly taught evangelical Christians in the generation of the 1950’s – 80’s, to think in worldview terms, and to engage the cultural and spiritual implications of worldviews. And as a pivotal pioneer who had vast impact within the church and significant impact on many lost souls and the wider Western Culture at large in the era of despair in the aftermath of the shockingly dark age revealed by the horrors of two World Wars and the looming shadow of global nuclear war and/or Communist conquest, we should not disown him or dismiss his heritage because of whatever inevitable flaws we will find there. For, we are all finite, fallible, morally falling/struggling, and more often ill-willed than we like to admit.)

Thanks to some sterling contributions by longtime UD commenter and contributor  StephenB, we may now adapt  Steve Sawyer’s Amazon reader review [as adjusted to clarify and correct the analysis] as a pretty good start point for a renewed, critically aware appreciation:

Schaeffer sees the true beginning of the humanistic Renaissance in the work of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). [Here, we must correct:] Aquinas’ dualistic Grace/Nature scheme [for analysing ways different truths are warranted as knowledge] was useful in many ways, but its critical flaw was in failing to [fully draw out and underscore the impacts of] recognize man’s fallen intellect along with his fallen will [in engaging the issue of natural theology in certain key much- referred- to texts, where natural theology in light of Rom 1:18 – 24 & 28 – 32, Eph 4:17 – 24, 2 Cor 10:4 – 5 and Ac 17:16 – 34 is inescapably an exploration of what we can learn and warrant about God from observing our common world, and our hearts and minds within]. [While] Aquinas [From Summa Theol I Q 85, Art 3 clearly] saw man’s intellect as essentially undamaged [wounded and impaired] by the Fall [when he set up the project of natural theology in Summa Theol I, Question 1, he did not there and then fully address the emphatic concerns Paul had on how a fallen and willfully rebellious, warped mind can find itself inexcusably caught up in a stubborn rejection of the evidence from our world and from our inner life that points strongly to God; willfully locking God out from the sphere of knowledge and thus triggering chaos in one’s life and community]. This [understandable — Aquinas lived in a place and time in which the existence of God seemed all but self evident — want of full emphasis] had the unfortunate [and plainly unintended] consequence of setting up [a way for others in future generations to improperly treat] man’s intellect as autonomous and independent.

Aquinas [had] adapted parts of Greek [and Islamic] philosophy to Christianity [and also drew on Paul’s note in Rom 1:19 – 20 that there is enough evidence in the world to strongly point us to God], [however, he did not “there and then”  sufficiently emphasise what follows in vv. 21 – 32, on how we can end up suppressing that testimony, setting up systems of thought and ways of life that suppress that evident truth.]

[In looking back, we can see that] perhaps most importantly (and with the most negative consequences) [he then threw the weight of his focus on how an exploration of what would later be called natural theology, draws a distinction between what is common to man: natural reason, and what must be drawn from revelation by grace through faith. Commendably, he expressed his strong confidence in the truth we can know from revelation and even stated that truths of grace should correct our errors in using our natural reason.] [However, what in the end counted in the hands of later men of a more skeptical bent,] was  his emphasis on the [difference between what can be learned naturally and what must be learned from revelation, which invited others to take up a fully] dualistic view of man and world as represented by the Grace/Nature split. As Schaeffer stresses, the main danger of a dualistic scheme is that, eventually, the lower sphere “eats up” the upper sphere. Another way to say the same thing is, once the lower sphere is given “autonomy,” it tends to deny the existence or importance of whatever is in the upper sphere in support of its own autonomy.

Schaeffer explains how the Grace/Nature dualism eventually became the Freedom/Nature, then the Faith/Rationality split. He introduces his interesting idea of the Line of Despair, which began in philosophy with Hegelian relativism [and with Kant’s similar dichotomising of the world of experience from the inner life of the conscious mind joined to his dismissal of the concept of self-evident truth] . Kierkegaard was the first major figure after this line. The line of despair is the point in history at which philosophers (and others) gave up on the age-old hope of a unified (i.e. not dualistic) answer for knowledge and life.

This new despairing way of thinking spread in 3 ways; geographically, from Germany outward to Europe, England and finally much later to America. Then by classes, from the intellectuals to the workers via the mass media (the middle classes were largely unaffected and remained a product of the Reformation, thankfully for stability, but this is why the middle class didn’t understand its own children). Finally, it spread by disciplines; philosophy (Hegel), art (post-impressionists), music (Debussy), general culture (early T S Eliot)…then lastly theology (Barth).

Once this way of thinking set in, Schaeffer explains the need for “the leap,” promoted by both secular and religious existentialists. On the secular side, Sartre located this leap in “authenticating oneself by an act of the will,” Jaspers spoke of the need for the “final experience” and Heidegger talked of ‘angst,’ the vague sense of dread resulting from the separation of hope from the rational ‘downstairs.’ On the religious side, we have Barth preaching the lack of any interchange between the upper and lower spheres, using the higher criticism to debunk parts of the Bible, but saying we should believe it anyway. “‘Religious truth’ is separated from the historical truth of the Scriptures. Thus there is no place for reason and no point of verification. This constitutes the leap in religious terms. Aquinas opened the door to an independent man downstairs, a natural theology and a philosophy which were both autonomous from the Scriptures. This has led, in secular thinking, to the necessity of finally placing all hope in a non-rational upstairs” (p. 53, thus the book’s title). This is in contrast to the biblical and Reformation message that even though man is fallen, he can and must search the scriptures to find the verifiable truth. Schaeffer devotes a lot of space in his book to illustrating the many ways modern men have taken this “leap,” assuming there is no rational way upstairs.

Schaeffer ends with a call to reject dualism and return to the reformation view of the scriptures, which is that God has spoken truth not only about Himself, but about the cosmos and history (p. 83). In order to do this, man must give up rationalism (i.e. autonomous reason), but by doing so he can retrieve rationality. “Modern man longs for a different answer than the answer of his damnation. He did not accept the Line of Despair and the dichotomy because he wanted to. He accepted it because, on the basis of the natural development of his rationalistic presuppositions, he had to. He may talk bravely at times, but in the end it is despair” (p. 82). No area of life can be autonomous of what God has said, since this will inevitably lead to the destruction of all value (including God, freedom and man). By placing all human activity within the framework of what God has told us, “it gives us the form inside which, being finite, freedom is possible” (p. 84).

God created man as significant, and he still is, even in his fallen and lost state. He is not a machine, plant or animal. He continues to bear the marks of “mannishness” (p. 89): love, rationality, longing for significance, fear of non-being, and so on. He will never be nothing.

The author emphasizes the existence of certain unchanging facts, which are true regardless of the shifting tides of man’s thoughts. He challenges Christians to understand these tides and speak the unchanging truth in a way that can be understood in the midst of them.

We may capture this extended, somewhat corrected Schaefferian vision in two diagrams based on his famous Grace/Nature Dichotomy and Line of Despair diagrams in Escape from Reason.

In the first diagram, we see how once the unity of grace and nature is compromised, nature tends to become autonomous and “eats up” grace. As Schaeffer came to accept by the time of his 1982 revised edition of Escape from Reason, the actual dichotomising occurred under those who succeeded Aquinas, as the project of natural theology took up a life of its own and natural reasoning became increasingly autonomous and eventually increasingly skeptical, leading to a fundamental and in the end irreconcilable disjointedness in the worldview of Western Man:

Dichotomising nature and grace leads to inescapable disjointedness in western man's worldview

In the second diagram, we look at the timeline that follows, as the project of natural theology was challenged increasingly by autonomous rationalising then eventually outright naturalistic skepticism; of course culminating in Darwinism; which is seen by the dominant part intellectual elites as making the apparent design of life credibly only apparent — though the problem of imposed a priori Lewontinian materialism significantly undercuts that case for those who understand that issue.

This also provides a capital case in point of how a priori, censoring worldview level commitments block people from receiving the actual force of evidence that may be presented by those involved in a natural theology exercise. Let us therefore cite the key passage in Lewontin’s 1997 NYRB article, Billions and Billions of Demons,”  as just linked:

. . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident [[actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . ] that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test  [[i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [[another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [[i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [And, if you have been led to think that the just following words I have deliberately omitted JUSTIFY the above tactics and question-begging, kindly read the fuller clip and notes here.]

No wonder, Philip Johnson was led to retort as follows, some months later in a First Things article:

For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”
. . . .   The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

In short, we can see through a by now familiar case, just how much the root problem is not the strength of evidence or the quality of logic as such, but the a priori imposition of ideological materialism on origins science. Worse, Lewontin and others apparently do not realise that the claim, assumption or inference that “science [[is] the only begetter of truth” is not a claim within science but instead a philosophical claim about how we get warranted, credibly true belief, i.e. knowledge. So, they have contradicted themselves: appealing to non-scientific knowledge claims to try to deny the possibility of knowledge beyond science!

In short, professing themselves wise, we have here instead a stumbling into patent but unrecognised absurdity.

That is why Schaeffer’s focus on the historical and ideas roots of worldviews and on critically analysing the incoherence of modern secular humanist and/or neo-pagan views is so important.

In this process of course a key point to note, of course, is that Schaeffer was demonstrably incorrect to infer that Aquinas thought that the mind was not impaired by the primordial Fall. But, it is equally true that in certain key texts in Aquinas’ voluminous corpus of work — texts that in succeeding generations of discussion and debate over natural theology tended to take on a life of their own, directly and indirectly — Aquinas’ discussion of the project of natural theology did not “there and then” emphasise the issue of how even compelling evidence will be blunted in its effects by resistance to unwelcome conclusions, backed up by worldview level commitments that can make even patent truth seem absurd or simply wrong.  We just saw how decisive that can be, with Lewontinian a priori materialism. And, ironically, the issue of willful and intellectually  irresponsible blindness to evident reason actually the central emphasis in Paul’s discussion of the same natural theology themes that Aquinas based his arguments on.

On fair comment, this subtle error of emphasis opened the door to a pattern of development across time, which demands an adequate worldview level response, hence the continued relevance of Schaeffer’s work:

Extending (and correcting) Schaeffer's vision of the course of western thought, worldviews and culture, C1 - 21

Iconoclastic former Bultmannian and evangelical theologian Eta Linnemann expands on the path to and then beneath the line of despair a bit, with particular reference to modernist theology and its philosophical roots. In so doing, she shows some of the ways in which Schaeffer’s work continues to be highly relevant and valid:

Eta Linnemann, former Bultmannian NT Scholar

There is nothing in historical-critical theology that has not already made its appearance in philosophy. Bacon (1561 – 1626), Hobbes (1588 – 1679), Descartes (1596 – 1650), and Hume (1711 – 1776) laid the foundations: inductive thought as the only source of knowledge; denial of revelation; monistic worldview; separation of faith and reason; doubt as the foundation of knowledge. Hobbes and Hume established a thoroughgoing criticism of miracles; Spinoza (1632 – 1677) also helped lay the basis for biblical criticism of both Old and New Testaments. Lessing (1729 – 1781) invented the synoptic problem. Kant’s (1724 – 1804) critique of reason became the basic norm for historical-critical theology. Hegel (1770 – 1831) furnished the means for the process of demythologizing [through the Hegelian dialectic model for socio-cultural evolution] that Rudolph Bultmann (1884 – 1976) would effectively implement a century later – after the way had been prepared by Martin Kähler (1835 – 1912).

Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855) . . . reduced faith to a leap that left rationality behind. He cemented the separation of faith and reason and laid the groundwork for theology’s departure from biblical moorings . . . . by writing such criticism off as benign . . . .

Heidegger (1889 – 1976) laid the groundwork for reducing Christian faith to a possibility of self-understanding; he also had considerable influence on Bultmann’s theology. From Karl Marx . . . came theology of hope, theology of revolution, theology of liberation. [Biblical Criticism on Trial (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2001), pp. 178 – 9.]

Now, Schaeffer was in Continental Europe across the 1950′s – 70′s as an orthodox, Dutch Reformed missionary to whom the students gasping for intellectual coherence in a sea of existentialist despair, came. Came in numbers amounting to a movement. To the point where the village he was based in made it into at least one popular song. A movement that still has consequences today, to the point where conservative Evangelical and pro-ID US presidential candidate Mrs Bachmann has noted that she has been influenced by his work. Which is what has brought out the rhetorical knife-men.

We can set them and their notorious trifecta tactics — distract, distort, and demonise to dismiss —  to one side.

Back on topic.

Fundamentally, then, critical analysis of worldviews and their cultural implications was what Schaeffer was doing, and sufficiently well that when he passed away from cancer in 1984, major news magazines noted on his life work with a modicum of respect.

He was doing so in an atmosphere dominated by the great lights of learning in Europe who were building an existentialist worldview out of the wreckage of two world wars and the collapse of the academy as a leader in enlightenment (and under the distant looming shadow of the heirs of Marx and Lenin), given the dark age the horrible wars demonstrated beyond all doubt.

Don’t forget, one of the leading lights used to tell his students that the first thing is to make sure you don’t commit suicide. And, the description of a man who came to him, clinging to the fading memory of a “final experience” as an anchor for a sense of being in contact with something that can be seen as objective reality, as a drowning man clutches a straw, is iconic of his underlying compassion.

That should be respected, and we should reckon with Schaeffer’s successes as well as his limitations, whether or not we in the end agree with him on all or even most points.

Beyond that, the current Alinskyite attempt to turn him — live donkeys kicking a 26 years dead lion — into a strawmannish scapegoat to score cheap propaganda points off Bachmann et al, is despicable.

This brings us back to the debate over whether Schaeffer was right to talk of Aquinas as in effect innovator of the Nature/Grace dichotomy.

From the above corrected summary, we can see why many scholars say you can find antecedents, and it is arguable that Aquinas’ intent was to reach out to those who do not receive the scriptures by finding common ground, helping to close the nature-grace gap. But of course, Aquinas was the towering figure, who lived and taught in France and Italy, writing voluminously.

So, as fair comment: though Aquinas plainly sought to bridge the gap between reason and revelation, and sought to emphasise that God’s truth is true and will correct man’s errors, the gap in especially introductory remarks, where his framing of natural theology approaches did not — to my mind — sufficiently highlight Paul’s warning on the possibility of suppressing knowable truth about God on nature, and our experience of being minded, deciding, enconscienced, morally and rationally governed creatures, inadvertently helped to spread the nature-grace issue far and wide.

Thus, we come to the famous — and famously flawed — five ways (cf skeletisation here and discussions with videos here)  for arguing to the reality of God under the project of natural theology. In later centuries, enlightenment era skeptical thinkers would use these as a pivot for arguing that in fact reason shows that there is no solid and indubitable evidence pointing to God.  But also, long before that would happen, men were already setting nature up in its own right as an independent realm of thought, and soon nature would begin to eat up grace in their minds.

The better part of a millennium later, we therefore know the consequences of claiming “proofs” of God accessible to any reasoning man. Namely, through the rise of the skeptical spirit, anything — save “Science”! — that modern men are disinclined to hear that does not amount to an absolute proof beyond doubt to all rational minds  is dismissed with the assertion “there is NO EVIDENCE.”

Of course, the suspicious gap on the subject of science reveals the selective hyperskepticism at work: matters of fact (and so also matters rooted in facts) are generally not demonstrable beyond all doubt on axioms acceptable to all. So, if you don’t like the conclusion and cannot overturn the logic, object to the premises. Even if otherwise similar matters would be accepted as a matter of course.

And that is why for instance we so often see objectors here at UD pointing to “assumptions” and dismissing reasoned arguments on inference to best explanation across live options.

So the key challenge –as say Simon Greenleaf highlighted in his classic treatise on Evidence, from Ch 1 on — is that one must have a reasonable and responsible consistency in standards of warrant on important matters of fact or matters rooted in facts. We thus see the standard of reasonable and consistent, albeit provisional warrant that appears in all sorts of serious contexts such as the courtroom, history, science [especially origins sciences], and many matters of affairs.

As Greenleaf explains in the just linked treatise, with particular emphasis on the courtroom:

The word Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . .

None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [Greenleaf was almost a century before Godel] , and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction. Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone ; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration.

In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd. The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them. The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to he proved . . . .

By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond reasonable doubt. The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man ; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest joncern and importance to his own interest . . . .

Even of mathematical truths, [Gambler, in The Study of Moral Evidence] justly remarks, that, though capable of demonstration, they are admitted by most men solely on the moral evidence of general notoriety. For most men are neither able themselves to understand mathematical demonstrations, nor have they, ordinarily, for their truth, the testimony of those who do understand them; but finding them generally believed in the world, they also believe them. Their belief is afterwards confirmed by experience; for whenever there is occasion to apply them, they are found to lead to just conclusions. [A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, 11th edn, 1868 [?], vol 1 Ch 1, , pp. 45 – 46.]

The best overall approach to these matters, then — which BTW, instantly removes the force of accusations on question-begging — is to objectively compare the difficulties of competing explanations on responsible and well-informed abductive inference to best explanation per factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power.

Through using that approach, we can look at the question of sound or at least trustworthy and reasonable worldviews foundations in light of the fact that we all have to start from key first principles of right reason, and also that every argument or inference has roots. Similarly, when we look at or touch something and accept it as real, we are accepting the testimony of fallible senses. So, there is a reasonable question as to why we should accept such.

The logical structure then is: A, because of B. But B then needs C, . . .

It’s turtles, standing on turtles . . .

"Turtles, all the way down . . . "

So, our choice is clear: (1) infinite regress [absurd], (2) circularity [question-begging], or (3) some cluster of first plausibles that define a worldview foundational faith-point.

Some of those first plausibles, we may believe, are self-evident: true and necessarily true once understood, on pain if immediate and patent self-contradiction. For instance, Josiah Royce’s “error exists,” is uncontroversially true. But also, if we try to deny it, we see that the denial is self contradictory as we have P: error exists, and Q: no error exists in front of us. At least one must be in error, and it is obviously Q, on the easily understood meaning of P. (And even if we were to insist that it is P, then P would be seen as true as it is self-referential.)

However, it is notorious that no worldview of consequence can be built up solely from self-evident start points. We are back at the project of comparative difficulties, and plainly neither infinite regress nor circularity are satisfactory. The only reasonable solution is to put the serious options on the table and compare them in light of what we know and can analyse.

I am fairly sure Schaeffer knew (probably from experience) that trying to debate Aquinas’ five ways and modern extensions or refinements thereof as though these are proofs accessible to all men, would only open up side tracks and strawman issues, frustrating serous progress.

So, instead, he went for Paul’s Mars Hill solution: blow up the system from its cracked foundations. In Paul’s case his subtle point is there in his opening remarks to the Areopagites in Acts 17: here we are in the most prestigious centre of learning and inquiry for our civilisation, and on the most important possible point of knowledge, the root of our being, the whole city has had to build and maintain a public monument to ignorance, the famous altar to the UNKNOWN God.

Kaboom!

(You may laugh him off and dismissively brush him aside, but that was the decisive blow; delivered in his opening words. The classical synthesis was irretrievably bankrupt, and this had been exposed, not only in the empty idols but the institutionalised ignorance of the learned on the most important issue of knowledge of all; the very root of our being.)

In Schaeffer’s work, especially through his partnership with Rookmaaker on the arts as an expression of foundational assumptions in a culture, he continually highlighted the key cracks in the foundations of modern thought (and what we now call post modern — more accurately, ULTRA-modern (as in push the volume knob to eleven, not just ten) — thought).

Actually, that is just what Paul did in Athens, when he pointed to the temples, idols on every street corner and the now famous altar to the unknown God.

As I have said already, Schaeffer read Paul with a profound insight.

There are ever so many deeply symbolic and revealing features in statues, architecture, paintings, poems, novels, the structures of government, the structures of laws and state documents, the way universities and institutions such as science operate, etc etc etc. So, the first task of worldview reformation is to throw the spotlight on the fatally cracked foundation of the proud monument to humanistic achievements, and toss in the already fuzed stick of analytical — note to strawmannising objectors: metaphor not call to violence — dynamite.

Kaboom!

The bankrupt system implodes and collapses.

(BTW, bin Laden, it seems, was trying that all too literally and with tellingly callous disregard for innocent life. Planes were invented, notoriously by Americans, as were Skyscrapers. So, he crashed the one into the other, to bring the latter down; hoping to crash the American Economy too, which was more nearly successful — a US$ 100 billion blow was no small potatoes — than we want to remember. Even the date was significant, 318 years, less one day, from the Jan Sobieski-led cavalry charge that broke the 1683 siege of Vienna in the strategic heart of Europe; and turned back the Islamist military thrust permanently, i.e UBL was advertising to those who knew, that he was bidding to take over from the last high water mark of the Caliphate.)

But, if you are going to analytically — never, never, never, literally!!! — blow up an old order you had better have a sound alternative.

And, that was Schaeffer’s key contribution: contrasting the reformation with the renaissance, he underscored how the former did not face the fatally revealing incoherence in what would become the line of despair as the gap in the system of thought that started with nature vs grace and ended with essentially deterministic mechanical reason vs freedom, proved unbridgeable.

So, he effectively took us back to the key point Paul was making on Mars Hill:

Ac 17: 22 . . . Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,2 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;3

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. [Of course from such slender beginnings, the gospel and the Christian faith founded on it peacefully prevailed in Greek culture, in the teeth of mocking dismissals, slanderous and spiteful caricatures, and waves of brutal persecution.] [ESV]

In short, He is there and is not silent.

So, we ought to listen to Him, and renew our souls and wider civilisation based on his wisdom, not our own fatally flawed misunderstandings.

What is the relevance of all this to the design theory debates?

1: It shows us that conceiving of design theory or wider science as a project in natural theology considered as “proving God” through the teleological argument is a predictably futile endeavour. Matters of facts and best explanations of facts simply are not matters of demonstrative proof.

2: It shows us that the exposure of the scientific and logical bankruptcy of imposed a priori Lewontinian materialism, is a first step to restoring sound science and sound science education, especially on origins.

3: It highlights the importance of worldviews thinking and analysis in preparing the groundwork for sound science, and for a soundly scientifically informed worldview.

4: It highlights that we should always be aware of how worldviews foundations and prestigious institutions of learning — whether the thinking of the dominating elites is sound or not — strongly shape how we think, what seems reasonable to us, how we make morally tinged decisions, and how our culture consequently develops, for good or ill.

5: It points out how dominant elites, even when the cracked foundations of their proud systems have been exposed, tend to dismiss and even ridicule criticism, so that real reformation tends to come from the margins and only after a time (pessimists say the old generation has to die off first) of controversy and cultural conflict — which can get pretty nasty — will a new order emerge.

6: We see also, in the face of Dionysius the Areopagite — remembered afterwards as the first Bishop of Athens and its patron saint — the importance of sponsorship from the elites or at least a sufficient power centre, for a new idea to succeed. (That’s why the old order tends to turn on any such with especial ferocity, as Dr Sternberg found out, and as the ID-friendly candidates for the upcoming US Election cycle will find out. [For that matter, this is part of why Paul himself was such a lightning rod in C1: he was, after all, “a Pharisee of the Pharisees.” TRAITOR!, they cry as they pounce on such.])

7: Last, but not least, it shows that reformation of an entrenched but fatally flawed order is possible. As is happening (ever so slowly, and with fits and starts) with science and science education in our day.

______________

So, while clearly the silly rhetoric that ID is creationism in a cheap tuxedo fronting a Christofascist totalitarian theocratic agenda is obviously a sticking plaster intended to cover up and distract from the fatal cracks in the foundation of a priori materialism imposed on science, science education and the wider culture, long-term we cannot simply plaster over a fatal structural defect.

The evolutionary materialist old order in our day is coming down, crashing due to its own fatal cracks. Already, we are hearing some pretty alarming creaks and pops, and things are beginning to sway and shake.

So, task number one for design theory is that we need to build a new order for science, on a sounder footing. (Or, perhaps, restore and update an older, sounder order, e.g. cf. Newton’s thoughts here and here.)

And, in so doing, we must be patient (and even compassionate) as the mortally embarrassed materialistic elite lashes out with desperate ferocity now that the fatal crack has had the cover-up plaster stripped off for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. END

57 Replies to “What was the alleged “Dominionist” theologian, Francis Schaeffer, doing back in the 1950’s – 80’s?

  1. 1
    Chris Doyle says:

    Yes, Dmullenix, we remember Tiktaalik. Why would we forget?

    Don’t you see that the “sudden appearance” of new body plans and species is completely contrary to the predictions of the theory of evolution? Punctuated equilibrium is merely an exercise in moving the goal posts. If you haven’t watched it yet, take the time to view “Darwin’s Dilemma” you can see it online, for free, and it will explain to you the scale of the problem that you think can be covered up by entirely unsupported appeals to “punctuated equilibrium”.

  2. 2
    Chris Doyle says:

    Sorry, clicked “Reply” in my preview and not “Post Comment” (again!). This comment belongs to another thread: please ignore it (or delete it).

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    Strangely relevant, we’ll let them stand!

  4. 4
    ciphertext says:

    You know, it is with articles/postings such as this OP (and others on this site) that I realize I am woefully inadequate in my understanding of a great many “important” things. I should really should amend my reading list such as to allow myself the ability of a more complete and effective cogitation on these topics. Who was it that said Philosophy is the King of the Sciences and Theology is the Queen? Personally, I believe that our greatest scientists were philosophers first and then given to their respective “disciplines” second. Why is it, do you suppose, that we no longer require a rigorous understanding of thought (not just the scientific method) before one becomes a “scientist”? Seems like you would become a much more effective and thorough scientist after having understood the mechanisms of thought and logic. Or at the least, to understand the limits of what you can know.

  5. 5
    William J Murray says:

    What a wonderful and informative post!

    What is indicative that we’re reaching a social tipping point is when the classically liberal (now called “conservative”) theistic non-materialists running for office stop hemming and hawing and trying to contort their responses to appease the cultural “elites” and materialist gate-keepers, and simply state flat-out their rejection of the various materialist, post-modern, socialist state-as-god narratives – such as Darwinism, AGW, etc.

    This is happening more and more as they realize that the majority of the population yearns for leaders that reject materialist/atheistic nihilism and moral solipsism.

    Liberty cannot exist in a country populated by moral solipsists and relativists, nor can it exist in cooperation with any fundamentally contradictory moral system.

    Liberty is not License!!! What a grand cleaver of a concept to cut through the Orwellian claptrap force-fed by the legacy media, where every special-interest group erroneously (or deceptively) claims a right by principle of Liberty, but are really just conflating liberty with license to undermine and destroy the necessary and meaningful moral fabric of our nation.

  6. 6

    KF, another great post on Schaeffer!

    Ciphertext,

    Hi. Don’t think I’ve seen you here before. Welcome.

    I think part of the post modern dynamic is to turn us into subservient and dependent non-thinking (programmed) androids.

    The media attempts to program us to think in terms of political correctness.

    The educational institutions go a bit further in selling historical revision and unchecked/unmindful materialism.

    It’s all a part of the outcome of what Schaeffer terms the “Line of despair.” It’s there because there really is actual evil in the world and the post modern man does not know how to respond to it.

    If there is no power that compels humans to be anything more than what their genes control (the only perceived inward control), then the safe response is control from without; “might makes right.”

    So we end up with social and biological engineering as the solution to the “evil” androids who are only doing what is in their genes. The problem is that in viewing it this way, they’re also redefining what they view as evil, and whatever perceived threat becomes a part of that; thus 9/11 caused a shift in thinking about religious beliefs; they are now no longer simply an irrational diversion, but a large part of what is “evil.”

    There’s no attempt to take a good hard look at the underlying bases for religious belief. It’s evil because it attempts to take us on a different road than the one post modernism is taking us. It’s anti-progress. It’s anti-Darwin.

    So appeals to reason in shaping a post modern society are a thing of the past. We live in the technological age and it is our technology that will save us from ourselves, rather than our ability to reason.

    I think most of us are woefully inadequate in our understanding because we have been continuously fed the kibble from the post modernists. Some of it started with Darwinism, some of it started much sooner.

    I think you’re on the right track though; science can go nowhere good without a firm foundation in philosophy.

  7. 7

    What post modern man wants is not more liberty, but more license. “Let’s legalize marijuana and other street drugs, let’s make euthenasia legal. Let’s lower the age of consent. Let’s make it easier to sue big corporations.”

    All of these issues have absolutely nothing to do with liberty. They have to do with allowing humans to do whatever they choose: license. And licence is just the issue that liberty seeks to limit in order for us to live civilly in society.

    In misconstruing the two, post modern humans believe that they will have more liberty. It’s just the opposite.

  8. 8
    StephenB says:

    Kairosfocus, congratulations on another excellent post. Anyone who tries to extract a theocratic world view from Schaeffer’s writings is simply demonstrating their ignorance, and I thank you for dramtizing this point so effectively. Please permit me to offer the following proposed amendment:

    Schaeffer is incorrect when he claims that Aquinas “separates” grace from nature. Quite the contrary, Aquinas is simply making a “distinction” between the two. Contrary to Schaeffer’s unfounded claims, nothing in that distinction, or for that matter, nothing in the distinction between form and matter, would lead to secularism. For all his gifts, there can be little doubt that he misread and misunderstood Aquinas.

    Here is the historical context: Aquinas was refuting the Islamic notion of a “double truth,” the irrational idea that something can be true in philosophy (or science) and, at the same time, be false in religion. Indeed, this idea of double truth has been resurrected in the 20th Century, exhibited in large measure by Christian Darwinists and other anti-ID partisans.

    Aquinas addressed the problem of double truth by making the DISTINCTION between nature and grace. He was simply pointing out that we can learn some things only by studying nature and we can learn some things only by studying Divine truth. We can analyze nature from now until the cows come home, but we will never discover anything about the Trinity. By contrast, we can scrutinize Scripture with all of our might, but we will never learn all the intricacies or all of the quantitative dimensions inherent in a “finely tuned universe.”

    Expanding on this point, Aquinas went one step further, insisting that some truths may be learned from BOTH sources, that is, from Scripture AND scientific/philosophical investigation. Indeed, his main point was that truth is UNIFIED, which means that we can use one aspect of truth to confirm or learn more about the other–and that neither could ever contradict the other. By understanding this composite nature of epistemology, we realize that God reveals himself through Scripture AND through nature, as Newton taught us centuries ago.

    Francis Schaeffer was a profound thinker and a positive influence with respect to the intellectual challenges present in 20th Century debates on secularism, but he was profoundly wrong about Aquinas, and his errors on that score are the source of much mischief and confusion.

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    Steve:

    You are right, I believe, on Aquinas’ intentions; the problem comes from the effect of his teachings in the hands of an increasingly skeptical, secularised elites across time. Whether or not the issue was a misreading, it was real and the nature eats up grace effect [and its successors up to the current line of despair phenomenon] was even more real.

    Certainly by the time of the renaissance, we definitely have an anti-Christian humanism at work, and nature eating up grace. When I see Machiavelli, the pattern is blatant. Petrarch’s willful inversion of light and dark imagery to create the perception of the dark middle ages, is similar.

    And so forth.

    I can see a very similar pattern with Newton and the Newtonians who built on his work.

    When I read the General Scholium and the Opticks Query 31, I see one Newton. When I reflect on the pattern of Newtonian thought as it developed and fed into Deism and onward Positivism and the like, I see a very different thing.

    We can start with Laplace’s “I have no need of THAT hypothesis.”

    My thought is, that unintended consequences and emphases can come along and lead in directions we did not at all intend.

    For that matter, I suspect Marx would have been shocked to see what a Lenin would do, much less a Stalin, a Mao or a Pol Pot.

    So, in our time, we need to build on what was handed on down to us. In the case of Schaeffer, my thought is that the key contributions pivot on his reading of Paul; we can adjust the readings of the line from the Middle ages, but I think the issue will be details not the overall pattern.

    Let’s see if we can do so together.

    GEM of TKI

  10. 10
    StephenB says:

    Kairosfocus, thanks for your response. While I agree wholeheartedly with your main theme, I must offer additional comments about the intersection of nature and grace. [Notice I didn’t say “union” (one extreme) and I didn’t say “separation” (the other extreme].

    In my judgment, the first thing to keep in mind is the truth of the matter being discussed. If Aquinas makes a valid point, namely that nature is something different than grace, then he makes a valid point. What others may make of that point, or how they choose to misrepresent it or abuse it does not, in my judgment, warrant holding the author of that point responsible for those misrepresentations or abuses.

    Recall Dembski’s point that the science of Intelligent Design bears some resemblance to the Logos theory of the Gospel. He has a point. We also know how others misrepresented the point and why they did it. Was that Dembski’s fault? Should he have held back the truth knowing that those who could not grasp the subtleties involved would misapply what he said and use it against him by claiming that he said things that he did not say? I say no.

    On matters of substance, it must be said (and I wish that I didn’t have to say it) that Schaeffer falsely attributed to Aquinas the idea that the fall harmed only the will that it left the intellect unaffected. That is simply not true. Aquinas argues forcefully that the will was weakened and the intellect was darkened. To miss that point, as Schaeffer clearly did, is to miss a great deal, and it serves as a good example of Aristotle’s point about how “little errors in the beginning” create large problems in the end.

    In examining the relationship between grace and nature, Schaeffer argues that nature has slowly been ‘eating up’ grace—and so it has. Indeed, as a result of secularism, the body, which is related to nature, has been, so to speak, slowly eating up the soul, which is related to grace. In like fashion, matter has been eating of form. It doesn’t follow, however, that the person responsible for this perverse set of circumstances is the one who told us that the body is something distinct from the soul or that matter is something different than form.

    Sorry, but for all his virtues, Schaeffer is way out of line on this one point because he bases much of his argument on a serious misunderstanding about the difference between the distinction of nature and grace, which was Aquinas’ point, and the so-called separation between nature and grace, which was not. In fact, grace perfects nature just as God’s Divine power helps us to acquire gold habits and conquer bad habits. That could hardly be the case if there was no distinction between the grace that brings the power and the nature (our nature) that has been positively influenced by that power.

    Having said all that, I re-emphasize and echo your original point that securists are, in their own way, misrepresenting Schaeffer and those who have been blessed by his positive influence, especially the ridiculous charge that he and his admirers, of which I am one, seek a political theocracy. Ridiculous!

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    Further valid points.

    Let’s see if we can pick up specific individuals who began the diversion from distinction to opposition.

    Or, will we have to settle for individuals/movements who/that represent nature gobbling up grace, in full bloom?

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: The blog exchange here (and follow up here) may help us see another facet of how the debate goes on, with Descartes in the middle. I suspect Petrarch, Machiavelli and others will play their own roles too, Steve.

    I am thinking the concepts of intersection and distinction vs opposition are going to play important roles in our own synthesis — and folks, SB and I are on an exercise in critical synthesis (and that is the Hegel-Marx influence on my thought speaking . . . I did go to a Marxist university!) in light of the Thomist thesis, the Dutch Reformed-Schaefferian antithesis, and our own insights. This will be an exercise in how a blog exchange should go.

    When the dust settles, we will have a good adjustment to the original post which will be there as a reference.

    And, TWT et al, don’t worry, we are a-comin’ for you.

    Not, to take over your dolly house world (as you falsely allege by cartoonishly pushing into my mouth [I was actually speaking as a panel member warning on the dangers of writing judicial activism into the Caribbean Court of Justice treaty!]), but to blow up the structural cracks in the foundations of your worldview.

    Just like Paul of Tarsus on Mars Hill back in 50 AD.

    GEM of TKI

  13. 13

    Through a google search of “Francis Schaeffer on Aquinas” I found an interesting and very civil exchange between an apparent Thomist and a non-Thomist. I found it insightful.

    http://the-supplement.blogspot.....uinas.html

    The Thomist used a paraphrase of a quote attributed to Schaeffer to make his point regarding Schaeffer’s misinterpretation of Aquinas and the non-Thomist calls him on it to the extent of a bit of a change in perspective; though with some continued disagreement.

    It’s difficult for me to address this directly since currently my sister has the first two volumes of Shaeffer’s complete works. Some time I’ll have to ask for them back.

  14. 14

    KF, I think you beat me on that one. I submitted my link just after you posted, I think. Oh well, we seem to be thinking on similar tracks.

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: nice summary on Aquinas. Summa Contra Gentiles here [EPUB 240 pp], Summa Theologiae here [about 4,000 pp].

    –> I strongly suggest getting Firefox with the EPUB reading extension, and Sigil [text generator and editor for epub], as well as Calibre reader with conversion facilities.

    –> I have The Word and Esword, and I have Summa Theol in book format.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    Yup, CY, thanks.

    My thinking is to read Schaeffer right we need to track back to his MAIN source, Paul.

    I think he is picking up something people can and did draw out from Aquinas’ corpus, whether or not that is fair to the angelic doctor.

    We need to balance our readings of both, and see where Schaeffer hit the nail on the head — he is not summarising these men as a whole — maybe he should have, but he was not like that; but he was picking up a trend and inferring roots. He is broad-brush, but we need that.

    G

  17. 17
    StephenB says:

    Kairosfocus: Yep, that is the idea. We fearlessly fine tune our ideas through intellectual exercise in the spirit of fraternity, friendliness, and mutual respect. Now and then I think it helps to stretch out on those rare topics that we view differently in order to discover if those differences are substantive or semantic in nature. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 2: Here, in essence is D’s presentation on Schaeffer’s case, and here too is the heart of R’s retort to it:

    D: >> We agree that Modernity’s Rationalism was crystallized in the Descartes’ axiom, “I think, therefore I am.” The foundation for this axiom is the idea that man, beginning only with his reason and without resort to God’s revelation in Scripture, can attain to universal truth, meaning and value. Now, who promoted this idea that became foundational to Modern Rationalism? Aquinas! St. Thomas laid its cornerstone by proclaiming that man, beginning with only his reason, can find Truth apart from Scripture.

    As you correctly stated, “St. Thomas affirmed that reason can arrive at truth, and that is not dependent upon theology to do so.” Schaeffer said the same, “In [Aquinas’] view, natural theology is a theology that could be pursued independently from the Scriptures.” Escape from Reason, p. 11. He goes on to say:

    “Though it was an autonomous study, [Aquinas] hoped for unity and said that there was a correlation between natural theology and the Scriptures. But the important point in what followed was that a really autonomous area was set up. From the basis of this autonomous principle, philosophy also became free, and was separated from revelation. Therefore philosophy began to take wings, as it were, and fly off wherever it wished, without relationship to the Scriptures…. Aquinas had opened the way to an autonomous Humanism, an autonomous philosophy, and once the movement gained momentum, there was soon a flood.” Escape from Reason, pages 11-13.

    Thus, Aquinas begat Descartes, and Descartes begat Modern Rationalism. There is no escaping it. >>

    R: >> Possibly (Probably?) he has something in mind more like what St Thomas says in I q1 a1 ad2, where St Thomas says that “theology included in sacred doctrine differs in kind from that theology which is part of philosophy.”

    In short, I’m not sure what exactly he might be referring to. If he means by “natural theology” a theology discoverable by reason, then I’d say that Aquinas does argue on the basis of reason for a number of truths about God. And if that’s what Schaeffer means in the quotation above, then he’s got it pretty straight on that count. Unfortunately, it seems that he doesn’t stop there.

    “But the important point in what followed was that a really autonomous area was set up. From the basis of this autonomous principle, philosophy also became free, and was separated from revelation. Therefore philosophy began to take wings, as it were, and fly off wherever it wished, without relationship to the Scriptures…. Aquinas had opened the way to an autonomous Humanism, an autonomous philosophy, and once the movement gained momentum, there was soon a flood.” Escape from Reason, pages 11-13.

    But Aquinas set up no such “autonomous principle,” and this is where I say Schaeffer got things wrong (and in consequence has misrepresented St Thomas). Because (as I point out in the post) St Thomas says “Whatsoever is found in other sciences contrary to any truth of this [sacred] science must be condemned as false.” Why? Because truth cannot contradict truth. And because the truths of sacred theology are far more certain than the truths we may arrive at by means of reason—owing to the fact that the truths of sacred theology are received by divine revelation—if reason and faith be found in apparent conflict, it is reason which has erred. Far from being absolutely autonomous, then, in St Thomas’ view reason goes astray when it sets aside the truths of faith. So Schaeffer errs in proposing that autonomy was “set up” by Aquinas, and it’s absurd for him to suggest otherwise. >>

    Seems to me that TA says some things that he intends to be held in a context of scripture and traditions, similar to Newton in his GS; and he says things that he intends as safeguards, But, others with a different intent head in a very different direction.

    Steve, is that beginning to capture the balance from the other side?

    G

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    Steve, at 5.2.1.2 above, I use the D-R exchange to set up the issue as I think I can make out on skeletal form, not being a Thomistic scholar.

    Note, I just pulled vol I of Schaeffer 5 vols, and note ch 1 EfR: >>Aquinas’s view of nature and grace did not involve a complete discontinuity between the two, for he did have a concept of unity between them. From Aquinas’s day on, for many years, there was a constant struggle for a unity of nature and grace and a hope that rationality would say something about both. It must be said that Thomas Aquinas certainly would not have been pleased with all that was extended from his writings as the years passed . . . . While there were good results from giving nature a better plasce, it also opened a way for much that was destructive. In Aquinas’s view [check!] the will of man was fallen, but the intellect was not [is this by implication, i.e a contradiction between TA’s praxis in thought and his formal declarations?]. From this incomplete view of the biblical Fall flowed subsequent difficulties. Out of this as time passed, man’s intellect was seen as autonomous . . . .

    In this view, natural theology is a theology that could be pursued independently from the Scriptures. Aquinas certainly hoped for unity and would have said that there was a correlation between natural theology and the scriptures. But the important point in what followed was that a really autonomous area was set up.

    From the basis of this autonomous principle, philosophy also became increasingly free, and was separated from revelation. Therefore philosophy began to take wings, as it were and fly off wherever it wished, without relationship to the Scriptures. This does not mean that his tendency was never previously apparent, but it appears in a more total way from this time on.>> [pp, 210 – 211.]

    Looks like there are nuances in Schaeffer, and the key commitment or issue is tied tot he question of the mind being de facto not irretrievably warped by the fall.

    How can we evaluate, and draw key conclusions to build on?

    G

  20. 20
    StephenB says:

    It seems like an interesting and courteous interchange. Here, though, is the irony missed by one of the debaters: Aquinas introduced the relevant distinctions in the first place in order to combat the Muslim error of a “double truth” and to argue on behalf of unified, indivisible truth. So, it is, indeed, strange that anyone, even so learned and kindly a man as Schaeffer, would come along and say that Aquinas was proposing autonomous truths that could be divided. Quite the contrary, Aquinas was not suggesting that there are two kinds of truths, but that there is one truth that can be understood and analyzed from two perspectives.

    In effect, Schaeffer is accusing Aquinas of the same error that Aquinas was refuting, namely the Islamic philosophy of the double truth. It really is bizarre. Aquinas, more than anyone else, was responsible for the SYNTHESIS between faith and reason, which was meant to be, and should have been interpreted as, the intellectual safeguard against the very problem that Schaeffer is fighting.

    Still, Schaeffer’s contribution is immense because, even though his misunderstood the origin and causes of the problem, he certainly did grasp its essence. Truth cannot be divided and The “bottom story” really is gobbling up the “upper story.” Aquinas would have agreed with that point because he anticipated it (or something like it) 800 years earlier.

  21. 21
    StephenB says:

    KF: “Looks like there are nuances in Schaeffer, and the key commitment or issue is tied to he question of the mind being de facto not irretrievably warped by the fall.”

    Yes, this is a key question.

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    Steve

    I suspect it is more like one reality.

    Truth is whatever says of that reality that what is, is; and that what is not, is not.

    But the further issue is to identify the truth as warranted, not just a guess that might be lucky; or might not — and that in contexts where the truth is not so obvious it is utterly undeniable, like: there is a sun in the sky.

    In that context, the ability of the human mind to apprehend the truth is crucial.

    So also, is the problem of a sinfully warped mindset that willfully suppresses the truth.

    Looking in Paul’s Ep to the Romans, ch 1 – 2, I find there that on P’s view we do have access to truth but culpably tend to suppress it, turning away from unwelcome truth and making up substitutes that then lead us to warped thinking that rejects the truth and loses control of passions.

    I think that issue of the tension between capacity to apprehend some basic truth and the problem of willful suppression is always back of FS’ thought. This is the mindset warped by being not only fallen but willfully resistant to truth we SHOULD know.

    So the pivotal issue is warrant and capacity/ willingness to address warrant.

    FS’ view, plainly, is that such a rebellious mind will declare independence of any such revelation from nature and the inner man, much less scripture, and will predictably go off and erect a new system that is more accommodating to the desired sinful lifestyle or prideful mindset.

    TA, on the other hand, we can take it, is in the general era of the crusade wars, and is addressing the ferment where Aristotle’s teachings and Muslim commentators are challenging Christendom in the West.

    I think at that general time there was an internal struggle in islamic thought, on the degree of autonomy of the mind, and the degree of freedom of Allah’s will. Not sure how much of that would reach the West, the other side of a major series of wars. But, maybe the tendency to absolutise Allah’s will and the tendency to dispute with Christians on textual matters and doctrinal claims held to be blatantly absurd, leads to a challenge.

    Here are some clips from the 1264 work in rebuttal to Islamic challenges that may help clarify:

    TA: >> The following are the things you say the Muslims attack and ridicule: They ridicule the fact that we say Christ is the Son of God, when God has no wife (Qur’ân 6:110; 72:3); and they think we are insane for professing three persons in God, even though we do not mean by this three gods.

    They also ridicule our saying that Christ the Son of God was crucified for the salvation of the human race (Qur’ân 4:157-8), for if almighty God could save the human race without the Son’s suffering he could also make man so that he could not sin.

    They also hold against Christians their claim to eat God on the altar, and that if the body of Christ were even as big as a mountain, by now it should have been eaten up . . . .

    Concerning merit, which depends on free will, you assert that the Muslims and other nations hold that God’s fore-knowledge or decree imposes necessity on human actions; thus they say that man cannot die or even sin unless God decrees this, and that every person has his destiny written on his forehead.

    On these questions you ask for moral and philosophical reasons which the Muslims can accept. For it would be useless to quote passages of Scripture against those who do not accept this authority. I wish to satisfy your request, which seems to arise from pious desire, so that you may be prepared with apostolic doctrine to satisfy anyone who asks you for an explanation . . . .

    First of all I wish to warn you that in disputations with unbelievers about articles of the Faith, you should not try to prove the Faith by necessary reasons. This would belittle the sublimity of the Faith, whose truth exceeds not only human minds but also those of angels; we believe in them only because they are revealed by God.

    Yet whatever come from the Supreme Truth cannot be false, and what is not false cannot be repudiated by any necessary reason. Just as our Faith cannot be proved by necessary reasons, because it exceeds the human mind, so because of its truth it cannot be refuted by any necessary reason. So any Christian disputing about the articles of the Faith should not try to prove the Faith, but defend the Faith. Thus blessed Peter (1 Pet 3:15) did not say: “Always have your proof”, but “your answer ready,” so that reason can show that what the Catholic Faith holds is not false . . . [goes on to specific debate-points] >>

    We can take this as a sample of TA’s approach to arguments with Muslim ideas.

    We do definitely see here a concept of truths of grace communicated by revelation, and the confidence that they will not be refutable by “necessary reason,” which I suppose means that they will not be incoherent, nor will they contradict self-evident or otherwise indisputable fact. We see here a plain case of a dichotomy on warrantability per necessary reason.

    That can indeed be seen as a dichotomising of nature and grace, from at least one way of looking at it, certainly in terms of dealing with practical rationality and argument.

    Yes, TA would indeed see a unified truth, and holds confidence that the unity of truth will be undefeatable by necessary reason.

    But at the same time,there is a definite dividing line on warrant.

    That’s going to look considerably different to one with a different (and hostile or resistant) mindset, who is going to read this as an invitation to challenge on that ground, claiming incoherence and/or contradictions to what we confidently know about the world. Even to make the Christian claims sound ridiculous, exactly what the Muslim claims advanced are saying.

    In the case of Muslims, the first thing specifically addressed is the idea of God having a wife.

    TA’s defense tries to point to ways we can have mental offspring, and by analogy this extends to how God’s Son will not be like our sons. Having had a few exchanges with Muslims, that is not going to be very persuasive for them [and will not work very well in protecting dhimmis under pressure in an environment of hostility and pressure — oh, that TA had been better briefed or had key Quranic excerpts to hand . . . ], but I think his intent is to secure the believer on a defense within the accepted Christian system, not so much to prove it to the resistant mind.

    A more successful approach on this one is to assess the assertions of Shirk, that Mary and her son are being improperly — idolatrously — elevated to partnership with God. It is easy to show that no orthodox Christians have ever held the divinity of Mary, and to point out that the Incarnation is virginal and miraculous, not sexual, i.e there is a gross misunderstanding. I normally then point the credibility of the record and the historical evidence of the passion, death, burial and resurrection with 500 eyewitnesses and resurrection supernatural power in the lives of millions since. The recorded revelation is accepted on the strength of the testimony of One who had power over death, and in light of the 700+ year old prophecy of that salvific death, burial and resurrection.

    Along the way, dismissive accusations of text tampering etc can be addressed.

    But the underlying issue is that it looks fairly like the FS type reading can be seen as working on an in-practice basis, on at least one specific test case; especially from the viewpoint of unintentionally opening the door to letting nature eat up grace.

    Yes, there are formal declarations of the unity of truth, but at he same time we see the dichotomy on warrant, an a priori confidence in the unity of truth, and an implicit invitation to challenge. Which plainly has been followed up and backed up by the sort of commitment to a different view that Rom 1 – 2 warns against.

    This looks to me like a mixed bag?

    I suspect TA can be cited on believing that the sinful mind is warped by sin; but, if in practice a challenge like the above is given, the Rom 1 -2 factor walks in the door.

    Similarly, we can see a formal commitment to and confidence in the unity of truth despite a dichotomy on warrant. But, again, the way the claim is raised opens the door to a skeptical challenge.

    So, Schaeffer seems to have had a point, though the matter is not at all straightforward?

    Thoughts?

    G

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    NB the just above.

  24. 24

    I also found an eBook version of Summa Theol from Amazon for free on Kindle. Kindle has thousands of public domain books that you can download for free. If you don’t have a physical kindle device, you can download the computer version of Kindle.

    Here’s the Mac version:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/featu.....1000464931

    and the PC version:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/featu.....1000426311

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Observe these clips from SCG, Ch 2:

    TA: >> CH 2: . . . taking heart from God’s lovingkindness to assume the office of a wise man, although it surpasses our own powers, the purpose we have in view is, in our own weak way, to declare the truth which the Catholic faith professes, while weeding out contrary errors; for, in the words of Hilary, 2 7 acknowledge that I owe my life’s chief occupa-1 Ps. ciii. 24. 3 De Trin. i. 37.

    tion to God, so that every word and every thought of mine may speak of Him . But it is difficult to refute the errors of each individual, for two reasons. First, because the sacrilegious assertions of each erring individual are not so well known to us, that we are able from what they say to find arguments to refute their errors. For the Doctors of old used this method in order to confute the errors of the heathens, whose opinions they were able to know, since either they had been heathens themselves, or had lived among heathens and were conversant with their teachings. Secondly, because some of them, like the Mohammedans and pagans, do not agree with us as to the authority of any Scripture whereby they may be convinced, in the same way as we are able to dispute with the Jews by means of the Old Testament, and with heretics by means of the New: whereas the former accept neither. Wherefore it is necessary to have recourse to natural reason, to which all are compelled to assent. And yet this is deficient in the things of God.

    And while we are occupied in the inquiry about a particular truth, we shall show what errors are excluded thereby, and how demonstrable truth is in agreement with the faith of the Christian religion. . . . .

    Ch 3: Since, however, not every truth is to be made known in the same way, and it is the part of an educated man to seek for conviction in each subject, only so far as the nature of the subject allows, 1 as the Philosopher most rightly observes as quoted by Boethius, 2 it is necessary to show first of all in what way it is possible to make known the aforesaid truth. Now in those things which we hold about God there is 1 i Ethic, iii. 4. a De Trin. ii.

    truth in two ways. For certain things that are true about God wholly surpass the capability of human reason, for instance that God is three and one : while there are certain things to which even natural reason can attain, for instance that God is, that God is one, and others like these, which even the philosophers proved demonstratively of God, being guided by the light of natural reason.

    That certain divine truths wholly surpass the capability of human reason, is most clearly evident. For since the principle of all the knowledge which the reason acquires about a thing, is the understanding of that thing’s essence, because according to the Philosopher’s teaching 1 the principle of a demonstration is what a thing is, it follows that our knowledge about a thing will be in proportion to our understanding of its essence. Wherefore, if the human intellect comprehends the essence of a particular thing, for instance a stone or a triangle, no truth about that thing will surpass the capability of human reason. But this does not happen to us in relation to God, because the human intellect is incapable by its natural power of attaining to the comprehension of His essence : since our intellect’s knowledge, according to the mode of the present life, originates from the senses : so that things which are not objects of sense cannot be comprehended by the human intellect, except in so far as knowledge of them is gathered from sensibles. Now sensibles cannot lead our intellect to see in them what God is, because they are effects unequal to the power of their cause. And yet our intellect is led by sensibles to the divine knowledge so as to know about God that He is, and other such truths, which need to be ascribed to the first principle. Accordingly some divine truths are attainable by human reason, while others altogether surpass the power of human reason . . . >>

    We see the same general pattern of thought, not surprising for two works completed in 1264.

    Note in particular the dichotomy on warrant, joined to confidence in degree or attainability of warrant.

    This opens the door to the dismissal of the fruits of natural theology as failed deductive proofs, joined to sneering at and ridicule of the truths of revelation.

    Plainly, not TA’s intent, but the door was pushed open by men of later times, as we well know.

    G

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Clipping ST, First Part, opening remarks:

    >> Whether, besides Philosophy, any Further Doctrine Is Required?

    Objection 1: It seems that, besides philosophical science, we have no need of any further knowledge. For man should not seek to know what is above reason: “Seek not the things that are too high for thee” (Ecclus. 3:22). But whatever is not above reason is fully treated of in philosophical science. Therefore any other knowledge besides
    philosophical science is superfluous.

    Obj. 2: Further, knowledge can be concerned only with being, for nothing can be known, save what is true; and all that is, is true. But everything that is, is treated of in philosophical science—even God Himself; so that there is a part of philosophy called theology, or the divine science, as Aristotle has proved (Metaph. vi). Therefore,
    besides philosophical science, there is no need of any further knowledge.

    On the contrary, It is written (2 Tim. 3:16): “All Scripture inspired of God is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice.” Now Scripture, inspired of God, is no part of philosophical
    science, which has been built up by human reason. Therefore it is useful that besides philosophical science, there should be other knowledge, i.e. inspired of God

    I answer that, It was necessary for man’s salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed by God besides philosophical science built up by human reason. Firstly, indeed, because man is directed to God, as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason: “The eye hath not
    seen, O God, besides Thee, what things Thou hast prepared for them that wait for Thee” (Isa. 66:4).
    But the end must first be known by men who are to direct their thoughts and actions to the end. Hence it was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation. Even as regards those truths about God which human reason could have discovered, it was necessary that man should be taught by a divine revelation; because the truth about God such as reason could discover, would only be known by a few, and that after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors. Whereas man’s whole salvation, which is in God, depends upon the knowledge of this truth. Therefore, in order that the salvation of men might be brought about more fitly and more surely, it was necessary that they should be taught divine truths by divine revelation. It was therefore necessary that besides philosophical science built up by reason, there should be a sacred science learned through revelation.

    Reply Reply Obj. 1: Although those things which are beyond man’s knowledge may not be sought for by man through his reason, nevertheless, once they are revealed by God, they must be accepted by faith. Hence the sacred text continues, “For many things are shown to thee above the understanding of man” (Ecclus. 3:25). And in this, the sacred science consists.

    Reply Obj. 2: Sciences are differentiated according to the
    various means through which knowledge is obtained. For the astronomer and the physicist both may prove the same conclusion: that the earth, for instance, is round: the astronomer by means of mathematics (i.e. abstracting from matter), but the physicist by means of matter itself.
    Hence there is no reason why those things which may be learned from philosophical science, so far as they can be known by natural reason, may not also be taught us by another science so far as they fall within revelation. Hence theology included in sacred doctrine differs in kind from that theology which is part of philosophy.

    SECOND ARTICLE [I, Q. 1, Art. 2]

    Whether Sacred Doctrine Is a Science?

    Objection 1: It seems that sacred doctrine is not a science. For every science proceeds from self-evident principles. But sacred doctrine proceeds from articles of faith which are not self-evident, since their truth is not admitted by all: “For all men have not faith” (2 Thess. 3:2). Therefore sacred doctrine is not a science.

    Obj. 2: Further, no science deals with individual facts. But this sacred science treats of individual facts, such as the deeds of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and such like. Therefore sacred doctrine is not a science.

    On the contrary, Augustine says (De Trin. xiv, 1) “to this science alone belongs that whereby saving faith is begotten, nourished, protected and strengthened.” But this can be said of no science except sacred doctrine. Therefore sacred doctrine is a science.

    I answer that, Sacred doctrine is a science. We must bear in mind that there are two kinds of sciences. There are some which proceed from a principle known by the natural light of intelligence, such as arithmetic and geometry and the like. There are some which proceed from principles known by the light of a higher science: thus the
    science of perspective proceeds from principles established by geometry, and music from principles established by arithmetic. So it is that sacred doctrine is a science because it proceeds from principles established by the light of a higher science, namely, the science of God and the blessed. Hence, just as the musician accepts on
    authority the principles taught him by the mathematician, so sacred science is established on principles revealed by God.

    Reply Obj. 1: The principles of any science are either in
    themselves self-evident, or reducible to the conclusions of a higher science; and such, as we have said, are the principles of sacred doctrine.

    Reply Obj. 2: Individual facts are treated of in sacred
    doctrine, not because it is concerned with them principally, but they are introduced rather both as examples to be followed in our lives (as
    in moral sciences) and in order to establish the authority of those men through whom the divine revelation, on which this sacred scripture or doctrine is based, has come down to us. >>

    Here we see TA’s confidence in the unity of truths, revealed and worked out on self evident first principles.

    He again underscores the discontinuity in warrant, noting by analogy to say a musician vs a mathematician.

    The skeptic, of course, will take a very different view, and the door is opened to the challenge noted on by FS.

    GEM of TKI

  27. 27
  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Joseph Kenny here on the interaction of TA with Arab scholars on reason and revelation (in a context which shows a surprising quantum of interaction with works of Muslim scholars):

    7.5 Reason and revelation

    For Ibn-Sînâ, a prophet is someone whose intelligence is supremely developed and he can grasp much at once. That is because of his power of intuition (Œadas), but especially because he is open to the influences of the heavenly spirits. (21) This is exactly what Thomas Aquinas calls “natural prophecy”. (22)

    Against the tendency of the Arab philosophers to reduce prophecy to a completely natural phenomenon pertaining to those who are eminent in intelligence, Thomas Aquinas holds that true prophecy is a purely gratuitous gift out of the control of the prophet, which he cannot exercise whenever he wishes. As a gift, it has nothing to do with the natural intelligence of the prophet, but the adaptation of his intellect to receive divine enlightenment is a supernatural gift. (23)

    Against the ¥anbalite and Ash`arite theologians who so exalt revelation that they give little or no value to reason, and against Muhammad ar-Râzî who recognizes only human reason, Thomas agrees with the other Arab theologians and philosophers who recognize the autonomy of reason and of revelation. Each of them leads to areas of truth where the other cannot go, but they overlap when it comes to certain fundamental truths concerning God, man and creation in general. (24)

    Can there be a conflict between the two? God has endowed us with reason by which we know certain truths so clearly that it is impossible to deny them. It is likewise illegitimate to deny the truths of faith, which are confirmed by divine authority. Thus anything that is contrary to the truths of reason or of revelation cannot come from God, but must come from wrong reasoning. The conclusions of such reasoning have no validity, but only the appearance of truth. (25)

    There does not seem to be a monolithic Islamic philosophical view.

    The concept of an overlap is there, but I note Kenny — a translator/editor of Aquinas, that TA views the revelatory and the reasoned as “autonomous.”

    It looks like the matter is plainly not simple or cut and dry.

    FS has a point, and there are others who are seeing many of the same things he does, but we need to find a nuanced synthesis that will do justice all around.

    Time for some careful summary.

    G

  29. 29
    StephenB says:

    KF: When an intellectual distinction of any kind is made, or when a paradox is explained, the person who explains the composite truth inherent in the paradox “opens the door,” as it were, for all those who would emphasize one element at the exclusion of the other. In this sense, the one who passes on this paradoxical or two-dimensional truth opens the door to abuse from those who would, without justification, obsess over one dimension and ignore the other.

    Consider, for example, the truth that God has revealed himself in Scripture (the tenets of which are accepted by faith) and in nature (the truths of which are apprehended by reason). Simply by making this point, one “opens the door” to the possibility of abuse and misrepresentation. The extremist can, for example, emphasize the faith-based truths of Scripture at the exclusion of the truths arrived at by reason and fall into the error of fideism. On the other hand, other extremists can overemphasize the importance of reason-based truths at the expense of faith-based truths and fall into the error of rationalism.

    In fact, reason cannot work without faith and faith cannot work without reason. Even so, to introduce both concepts is to open the door to the possibility of secularism at one extreme or the possibility of superstition at the other extreme. Still, we can differentiate these two ways of knowing without separating them. We can, for example, speak of the philosophical truth arrived at through reason, as expressed by Romans 1:20, which explains that invisible truths can be discerned by observing nature. At the same time, we can speak of the theological truths accepted on faith, as expressed in the Gospels. Each approach complements the other. If speaking of both of these approaches means that we have “opened the door” to abuse from those who would overemphasize the first point at the expense of the second (rationalism) or to those who would overemphasize the second point at the expense of the first (fideism), then open the door we must, even if the extremists insist on walking through it.

    In fact, any subtle analysis will opoen the door to the possibility of abuse and disproportionate analysis, which is another way of saying that Schaeffer’s notion that Aquinas opened the door to secularism by making important and relevant intellectual distinctions is simply not a charge that can pass the test of reason. Schaeffer should have directed his wrath at the true author of relativism/secularism, Immanual Kant.

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Steve, I just dug out a 1968 edn of EfR — my wife’s; I do not now know where my own copy is — and compared the passage I cited from the 1982 edn in the Complete Works, Vol I. It is clear that Schaeffer in the CW, has added some clarifying remarks, e.g. the part:

    “It must be said that Thomas Aquinas certainly would not have been pleased with all that was extended from his writings as the years passed . . .”

    . . . is new to that revision.

    Let me take the onward part on natural theology and phil — which seems to be the/a pivotal passage in understanding Schaeffer’s take on Aquinas — and bold where changes have happened between 1968 and 1982, putting back in what was clipped off from 1982 in curly brackets, and italicising: {}:

    In Aquinas’s view the will of man was fallen, but the intellect was not. From this incomplete view of the biblical Fall flowed 68: {all the} subsequent difficulties. 68: {Man’s intellect became autonomous. In one realm, man was now independent, autonomous.} | 82: Out of this as time passed, man’s intellect was seen as autonomous.

    This sphere of the autonomous growing out of Aquinas takes on various forms. One result,for example, was the development of natural theology. In this view, natural theology is a theology that could be pursued independently from the Scriptures. 68: {Though it was an autonomous study, he hoped for unity and said that there was a correlation between natural theology and the scriptures.} | 82:Aquinas certainly hoped for unity and would have said that there was a correlation between natural theology and the scriptures. But the important point in what followed was that a really autonomous area was set up.

    From the basis of this autonomous principle, philosophy also became increasingly free, and was separated from revelation. Therefore philosophy began to take wings, as it were and fly off wherever it wished, without relationship to the Scriptures. This does not mean that this tendency was never previously apparent, but it appears in a more total way from this time on.

    Nor did it remain isolated in 82: what developed out of Thomas Aquinas’ philosophic 68: {-} theology. Soon it began to enter the arts.

    Today we have a weakness in our educational process in failing to understand the natural associations between the disciplines. We tend to study all our disciplines in unrelated parallel lines. This trends to be true in both Christian and secular education. This is one of the reasons why evangelical Christians have been taken by surprise at the tremendous shift that has come in our generation. We have studied our exegesis as exegesis, our theology as theology, our philosophy as philosophy; we study something about art as art; we study music as music, without understanding that these are things of man, and the things of man are never unrelated parallel lines.

    I was of course deeply struck from the first, thirty or so years ago, by the thought that parallel lines are very closely related indeed, but the point is to study disciplines in isolation.

    As I look at the two editions interwoven, what strikes me is how much of what is there in 1982 was there from 1968, and then how the changes made reflect the onward exchanges that must have happened. He seeks to clarify, and he adjusts a few aspects, significantly softening the force of what he says about TA. But the point is there, and it is clear that the sort of readings that I clipped overnight must lie behind it.

    It is simply false to suggest that FS has not read TA, he has seen a facet that he may not have expressed the best way [especially at the first], but the issue he sees is definitely there as a way to read TA. Especially, for those who are not going to wade through hundreds or thousands of pages to take TA in fully nuanced balance.

    The comparative clip above makes it clear that by 1982, FS was emphasising the ONWARD developments, and was clarifying that TA did not actually use the term “natural theology,” but was practising what we now call natural theology.

    The “hoped for unity” remark underscores the issue of TA’s declarative confidence that what God said in revelation and what could be proved on self-evident principles through natural reason, in the restricted areas that that can access, will — and must [per the premise that God speaks truly] agree. However, this to my mind underestimates the degree to which sufficiently determined objectors will reverse an implication, denying the consequent to challenge the antecedent premises. For, if P, then Q always carries with it the direct point NOT-Q so NOT-P as a possible reading.

    This pulls into focus the theological issue of the connexion between willfully rebellious man, with a will enslaved to sin, and how that will affect the reasonings of such a man. Rom 1 – 2 makes a pretty direct connexion, as does Eph 4:12 – 19, and also Jn 3:19 – 21. I would like to see some reference on how TA handled this link, the tainting of the mind through the fallen moral nature of rebellious, sinful man. I have no doubt that TA would have immediately agreed that a sin-tainted will implies a sin-tainted mind, but perhaps in the practice of reasoning and dialogue, he was [understandably] naively optimistic in how he expected others to respond to what he said and the arguments he presented, such as the five ways that have ever since defined the core of the project of natural theology.

    I note how ever so many philosophic and theological commenters hold that certainly TA’s forms were deficient, even if they think there are more sophisticated forms that are valid and arguably sound.

    I notice the recent presenters tend to acknowledge the deny the consequent issue, and raise the question of the implied worldview commitments and incoherence that may well result from denying the arguments taken as a whole. That is the shift is to a discussion on comparative difficulties and implied abductive inference to best explanation of our world, using he fibres, strands, ropes principle: thin, short fibres twisted together give longer, stronger strands. By counter-twisting repeatedly, we get a long strong and stable rope.

    In that context, to attack the fibres and strands as individually too weak — as though that implies that the rope built by getting the fibres, strands, and yarns to work together yielding an emergent structure — therefore must NECESSARILY be weak, becomes a patent fallacy of composition.

    So, one has to look at the cumulative case and evaluate worldviews as wholes on comparative difficulties across factual adequacy, coherence, and explanatory power.

    At least, if one is reasonable.

    And, we also see that faith and reason are inextricably intertwined as we dig to the roots of our worldviews.

    There is no system of thought that escapes the challenge of committing oneself to first things that are taken as plausible, and such global systems can only escape circularity by being assessed on comparative difficulties in a context of inference to best explanation. Precisely what we are usually NOT taught how to do.

    And so also, it is quite clear to me that there is a deeply rooted crack in the system of thought of modern man, tracing at least to the way generations across time have read TA’s type of synthesis of the field of what can be seen as a warranted worldview.

    The issue of limitations on warrant relative to first principles held to be self-evident and/or appealing to more foundational disciplines that have that root, to my mind, does lead to the issue of challenging core Christian claims as unproved and perhaps even apparently ridiculous.

    (But, I often ask people if it is possible to stand at one point on earth and be due north of London, Bridgetown Barbados and Kingston Ja — we could substitute New York and Tokyo if you want. The vast majority, never mind what we were taught in geogrpahy, do not realise that the trick is to shift concepts from the usual flat and square local maps, and see that we live on the surface of a round globe. The north pole is a single point and it is due north of all other points on the surface! So, what seems absurd to us may indeed reflect our inadequate conceptions rather than any absurdity in what is being said. A similar point relates to the notion of arbitrarily assigning i as the square root of negative 1. Seems absurd, but go on from there and work out the implications and you have grounded whole fields of mathematics and make much better sense of existing areas of study. And, to cap off, you end with the most astonishing result in all mathematics, 1 + e^ pi*i = 0. That imaginary move, leads to amazing discoveries about the fabric of reality. So, what seems absurd to me may not be an indicator that the thing sis indeed absurd, where I do not have the depth of understanding in practice to see what is going on; i.e we need a bit of epistemological humility and to hold back the rhetorical horses lest we arrogantly dismiss warnings and gallop over the edge of a cliff.)

    So, where does this leave us with TA and FS?

    GEM of TKI

  31. 31
    kairosfocus says:

    Steve:

    I just did a comparative on what looks like a key text in EfR.

    Let’s look at it in context before drawing final conclusions.

    G

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    Steve

    On fair comment, I think I would have preferred if TA had taken time to explicitly exegete Rom 1 in laying his groundwork. (He tended to clip various brief passages, esp from the apocrypha, and proceed with the dichotomy, reflecting more on Aristotle, the fathers and the Muslim thinkers than from Paul.)

    I think that weakness in his approach did invite the sort of reactive skeptical reading we are discussing, and I think as filtered through the School men and the general humanistic climate as the renaissance emerged, there is a trend to the sort of dichotomy FS highlighted. Centuries before Kant, so he cannot be the pivotal figure, though he is important in the arrival at the full line of despair. And, Schaeffer definitely highlights that in turn.

    Reflecting back on say Dembski on the Logos theology remark and the dispensing with the EF remark, I do think that there was a need to have more adequately anticipated how a skeptical misreading would tend to work.

    In the case of TA, remember the formalised structure of ST, with anticipated objections and replies. That gave a lot of room, in principle to foresee the sort of skeptical dismissals that would develop. But of course TA was living in his own times and simply did not foresee the way future generations would think in response to his work as it filtered through the educated classes.

    As I showed just now, FS, between 1968 and 82, did pull back significantly and emphasise that TA was a gateway, so the primary blame is on following generations.

    So, your complaint has a point, but the overall issue is still somewhat mixed. We have to account for the line of influence on the renaissance, and the most significant thinker in the several centuries leading up to the renaissance, who taught in France and Italy and who wrote voluminously, is a reasonable candidate for a pivotal influence.

    Where I am most curious, is to find something in TA that addresses the corruption of the mind of willfully rebellious man, along lines similar to Paul in Rom 1 – 2.

    For, there is an issue as to whether FS’s reading of TA on the mind, is off base; whether formally/declaratively or in practice. You will see on the latter my clips above on TA’s opening remarks in addressing Muslims and the wider world of the nations outside of Christendom.

    Any thoughts?

    G

  33. 33
    StephenB says:

    KF: To be sure, the conceptual divide that Schaeffer deplores, and should be deplored, exists, but it didn’t begin with Thomas Aquinas. In terms of the Christian community, it would be more accurate to say that it began with a Scholastic named Siger of Brabant, who embraced the same error as the Muslims (double truth)–the very same error that Aquinas, another Scholastic, had refuted. Or, from another perspective, one could argue that it began with Descartes, or Kant. But to suggest that it began with Aquinas is simply not correct.

    Speaking of Siger of Brabant, his heresy has been characterized as Averroism, the false teaching that Aristotle’s philosophy was complete and did not need to be reconciled with Christian belief. I can only speculate, of course, but it seems that Schaeffer did not make the distinction between the philosophy of Aquinas and the opposing philosophy of Siger of Brabant.

    Or perhaps there is another explanation for Schaeffer’s misunderstanding. His perception of Aquinas’ philosophy seems to have been shaped, at least in part, by his mistaken notion about Aquinas and the fall. In fact, Schaeffer states outright that, for Aquinas, the intellect was not affected by the fall. Clearly, he was wrong about that, as we can easily discern by Aquinas’ own words:
    (ST Q83, A 3)

    “Therefore in so far as the reason is deprived of its order to the true, there is the wound of ignorance; in so far as the will is deprived of its order of good, there is the wound of malice; in so far as the irascible is deprived of its order to the arduous, there is the wound of weakness; and in so far as the concupiscible is deprived of its order to the delectable, moderated by reason, there is the wound of concupiscence.”

    It should be evident, then, that Schaeffer was wrong about Aquinas’ views on the relationship between the human intellect and the fall. The more important point, though, is that this mistake seems to have shaped many of his objections. Naturally, an intellect that is thought to have remained perfectly in tact after the fall would also be an intellect whose power is grossly exaggerated and vulnerable to the error of pride and faithlessness—subject to running off on its own, radically autonomous, and impervious to the demands of faith.

    Apparently, this is the view of the intellect that Schaeffer attributes (or once attributed) to Aquinas, but this view goes against the facts. Laboring under such a misconception, it is no wonder he felt that Aquinas was creating division. As Aristotle points out, “a little error in the beginning” manifests itself in a more serious error later on?

    Or perhaps he wasn’t familiar with Aquinas own statement about the very subject on which Schaeffer holds forth. Consider Aquinas’ comments in ST 1, Q1

    “The principles of other sciences either are evident and cannot be proved, or are proved by natural reason through some other science. But the knowledge proper to this science [theology] comes through revelation and not through natural reason. Therefore it has no concern to prove the principles of other sciences, but only to judge of them. Whatsoever is found in other sciences contrary to any truth of this science must be condemned as false: “Destroying counsels and every height that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)”

    In other words, knowledge in the form of revealed truths is superior to that obtained in the other sciences in the sense that, among other things, it is more certain. “Whatsoever is found in other sciences contrary to any of this truth of science must be condemned as false.” In the other sciences, we may make errors of reason, reach incorrect conclusions. Also, we may draw valid inferences that are, nevertheless, false because the evidence is inadequate. (This is a point that you often make).

    What does this mean? It means that Aquinas did not separate grace from nature because, for him, revelation JUDGES nature. Or, to put it another way, nature must answer to Revelation. Aquinas’ position is almost the very opposite of the position that Schaeffer assigns to him.

    For all his great talents and contributions, and they were many, Schaeffer simply misunderstood Aquinas and he did misrepresent him, doing him a great injustice.

  34. 34
    kairosfocus says:

    Steve:

    A significant contribution.

    There are of course several facets of the matter we need to reckon with as we draw our own synthesis. And, one of those is the development in FS’ views between 1968 and 1982 as documented.

    The second clip you cite is not a great help on the matter, as the later more skeptical persons would be apt to discard the authority of revelation over natural reason, due to their refusal to retain God in their knowledge per Rom 1:28 ff. The first is much more on the key point, through on searching it is actually ST, I, Q 85 Art 3. This is indeed important on the formal matter:

    [Q 85] Article 3. Whether weakness, ignorance, malice and concupiscence are suitably reckoned as the wounds of nature consequent upon sin?

    Objection 1. It would seem that weakness, ignorance, malice and concupiscence are not suitably reckoned as the wounds of nature consequent upon sin. For one same thing is not both effect and cause of the same thing. But these are reckoned to be causes of sin, as appears from what has been said above (76, 1; 77, A3,5; 78, 1). Therefore they should not be reckoned as effects of sin.

    Objection 2. Further, malice is the name of a sin. Therefore it should have no place among the effects of sin.

    Objection 3. Further, concupiscence is something natural, since it is an act of the concupiscible power. But that which is natural should not be reckoned a wound of nature. Therefore concupiscence should not be reckoned a wound of nature.

    Objection 4. Further, it has been stated (77, 3) that to sin from weakness is the same as to sin from passion. But concupiscence is a passion. Therefore it should not be condivided with weakness.

    Objection 5. Further, Augustine (De Nat. et Grat. lxvii, 67) reckons “two things to be punishments inflicted on the soul of the sinner, viz. ignorance and difficulty,” from which arise “error and vexation,” which four do not coincide with the four in question. Therefore it seems that one or the other reckoning is incomplete.

    On the contrary, The authority of Bede suffices [Reference not known].

    I answer that, As a result of original justice, the reason had perfect hold over the lower parts of the soul, while reason itself was perfected by God, and was subject to Him. Now this same original justice was forfeited through the sin of our first parent, as already stated (81, 2); so that all the powers of the soul are left, as it were, destitute of their proper order, whereby they are naturally directed to virtue; which destitution is called a wounding of nature.

    Again, there are four of the soul’s powers that can be subject of virtue, as stated above (Question 61, Article 2), viz. the reason, where prudence resides, the will, where justice is, the irascible, the subject of fortitude, and the concupiscible, the subject of temperance. Therefore in so far as the reason is deprived of its order to the true, there is the wound of ignorance; in so far as the will is deprived of its order of good, there is the wound of malice; in so far as the irascible is deprived of its order to the arduous, there is the wound of weakness; and in so far as the concupiscible is deprived of its order to the delectable, moderated by reason, there is the wound of concupiscence.

    Accordingly these are the four wounds inflicted on the whole of human nature as a result of our first parent’s sin. But since the inclination to the good of virtue is diminished in each individual on account of actual sin, as was explained above (Question 1, Article 2), these four wounds are also the result of other sins, in so far as, through sin, the reason is obscured, especially in practical matters, the will hardened to evil, good actions become more difficult and concupiscence more impetuous.

    Reply to Objection 1. There is no reason why the effect of one sin should not be the cause of another: because the soul, through sinning once, is more easily inclined to sin again.

    Reply to Objection 2. Malice is not to be taken here as a sin, but as a certain proneness of the will to evil, according to the words of Genesis 8:21: “Man’s senses are prone to evil from his youth” [Vulgate: ‘The imagination and thought of man’s heart are prone to evil from his youth.’].

    Reply to Objection 3. As stated above (82, 3, ad 1), concupiscence is natural to man, in so far as it is subject to reason: whereas, in so far as it is goes beyond the bounds of reason, it is unnatural to man.

    Reply to Objection 4. Speaking in a general way, every passion can be called a weakness, in so far as it weakens the soul’s strength and clogs the reason. Bede, however, took weakness in the strict sense, as contrary to fortitude which pertains to the irascible.

    Reply to Objection 5. The “difficulty” which is mentioned in this book of Augustine, includes the three wounds affecting the appetitive powers, viz. “malice,” “weakness” and “concupiscence,” for it is owing to these three that a man finds it difficult to tend to the good. “Error” and “vexation” are consequent wounds, since a man is vexed through being weakened in respect of the objects of his concupiscence.

    On the formal matter, FS is wrong in his inference that TA confines the fall to will as opposed to intellect. (I would add that if the will has become perverted from the good, it will adversely affect the mind twisting it into a rationaliser of evil. Hence the issues of the intellectual virtues approach to epistemology.)

    That is an important point for us to note.

    However, I do not think it is the only point.

    For, the issue of how the outworkings of this in-principle consideration applies now must come up.

    Which comes back to Rom 1 and its application to the process of rebellious reasoning in the teeth of the evident signs of God in nature and in our hearts and minds. Or, Eph 4:17 – 18, on how “. . . the Gentiles [walk] in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” [ESV]

    In that context, I think we face a challenge in responding to Aquinas when he formally says in ST 1 Q1, as was already cited:

    The principles of other sciences either are evident and cannot be proved, or are proved by natural reason through some other science. But the knowledge proper to this science [theology] comes through revelation and not through natural reason. Therefore it has no concern to prove the principles of other sciences, but only to judge of them. Whatsoever is found in other sciences contrary to any truth of this science must be condemned as false: “Destroying counsels and every height that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

    The problem here is that TA is stating a confidence he has, but which invites the counter-challenge of autonomous human reason on skeptical premises. Hence the concern I raised on how he responded to Islamic questions etc. I think we have to address the bondage of will and mind in the very process of erecting claimed knowledge that locks out God, often a priori like Lewontin. 800 years ago much the same was the case in responding to the sort of talking points as was already discussed.

    Also, we can see where FS has indeed corrected his timeline, noting that there is a post TA trend. From the outset in 1968, as already shown, he directly stated that the issue was not original to TA. However, the point is there, that TA’s towering influence meant that the gaps that were there when we move from the formal commitment to the actual applications to specific cases of reasoning, have consequences. Unintended, unanticipated, but nonetheless real.

    And, it is quite plain that secularist humanism was already in full flood by the time of the renaissance. (The sequence in EfR on portraits of Mary is telling.)

    To translate back from his colourful lower/ upper story metaphor, we have a consistent challenge of incoherence in secular humanist influenced, worldview level thought, which led to a struggle that ultimately so thoroughly failed that unity was walked away from at the time of Kant, Hegel etc. A pattern that was pervasive across the culture. And then ultimately, we have the line of despair at the turn of C19, which is a very pat metaphor for the breakdown of reason in the past 200 years, even as proud rationalism, positivism, evolutionism, Freudianism, Marxism, Modernism, and then now Ultra-Modernism, etc have arisen.

    Despite his errors, only partly corrected in his lifetime, FS has much to teach us.

    Let us build a synthesis, and find a way to move forward.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Observe the adjustment and emphasis 1968/82. The dichotomy is occasioned by the contrast being made, in the hands of those who would make nature autonomous, i.e. the natural theology project without a corrective emphasis on mind in willful rebellion, is inherently self defeating. I think Greenleaf on selective hyperskepticism spotlights the dichotomising from a very useful angle.

  35. 35
    kairosfocus says:

    Steve,

    I have updated the original post in light of your inputs.

    Thanks a million.

    Notice, how I have used a correction of the Sawyer summary to draw out the misunderstandings and correct them.

    You will see that I still hold the view that TA should have emphasised the issue of skeptical suppression of the knowable truth about God as Paul underscores. Notice the comparative emphasis in Paul on this, rather than on what can be known. Paul’s main point is that we are without excuse, as we tend to suppress and distort that which we know or should know. I think a properly balanced natural theology needs to start from that.

    You will secondly see that I have done an extended diagram on Schaeffer’s line of despair concept, and that I have brought to bear Greenleaf’s remarks in his treatise on Evidence.

    Your further thoughts are very welcome.

    G

  36. 36
    kairosfocus says:

    I have put up a notice on the changes to the OP, here.

  37. 37
    StephenB says:

    Thank you for your response. I continue to be amazed that someone with your ability in science can also be so philosophically astute. I will address directly the question as to whether Aquinas argues for an “autonomy” of the intellect” followed by a very brief comment on Aquinas and St. Paul’s description of willful ignorance. I can elaborate further on the second point if necessary. First, though, we address the problem of “autonomy.”

    We can begin with Aquinas comments at ST 85, Q3

    “As a result of original justice, the reason had perfect hold over the lower parts of the soul, while reason itself was perfected by God, and was subject to Him. Now this same original justice was forfeited through the sin of our first parent, as already stated (81, 2); so that all the powers of the soul are left, as it were, destitute of their proper order, whereby they are naturally directed to virtue; which destitution is called a wounding of nature … [T]hrough sin, the reason is obscured, especially in practical matters, the will hardened to evil, good actions become more difficult and concupiscence more impetuous.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Article 85, Question 3)

    Elaborating on the point at ST 109, 1, He writes this:
    “Hence we must say that for the knowledge of any truth whatsoever man needs Divine help, that the intellect may be moved by God to its act … We always need God’s help for every thought, inasmuch as He moves the understanding to act.”

    Obviously, an intellect that needs God’s help for every thought, cannot, at the same time be “autonomous.” But there is much more to it than that. Let’s explore how autonomy of the intellect is ruled out through a proper understanding of the relationship between faith and reason.

    Schaeffer writes this:
    “While there were some good results from giving nature a better place it also opened the way for much that was destructive…In one realm man was now independent, autonomous.

    This sphere of the autonomous in Aquinas takes on various forms. One result, for example, was the development of natural theology. In this view, natural theology is a theology that could be pursued independently from the Scriptures. Though it was an autonomous study, he hoped for unity and said that there was a correlation between natural theology and the Scriptures. But the important point in what followed was that a really autonomous area was set up.

    From the basis of this autonomous principle, philosophy also became free, and was separated from revelation. Therefore philosophy began to take wings, as it were, and fly off wherever it wished, without relationship to the Scriptures. (Francis Schaeffer, Escape from Reason, pp. 11-12)”

    Well, no, not exactly, in fact, not at all. Granted, Aquinas says that we can know things about God independently of Divine revelation, but here is nothing particularly controversial about that fact. Romans 1: 20 and Psalm 19 both dramatize the same point—an understanding of natural theology (God’s revelation in nature) is encouraged by the Bible. This speaks to the different spheres of faith (accepting God’s word as truth) and reason (discovering universal truths through reason [more about that later]. I need not be familiar with God’s plan of salvation to know that 2+2 = 4. Schaeffer does not dare to deny this point, so he simply ignores it. To be sure, his protests are just because he is complaining against the philosophy originally put forth by Sigar of Brabant:

    “Sigar of Brabant said this: the church must be right theologically, but she can be wrong scientifically. There are two truths; the truth of the supernatural world, and the truth of the natural world, which contradicts the supernatural world. When we are being naturalists, we can suppose that Christianity is all nonsense; but then, when we remember that we are Christians, we must admit that Christianity is true even if it is nonsense. In other words, Sigar of Brabant split the human head in two, like the blow in an old legend of a battle; and declared that a man has two minds, with one of which he must entirely believe and with the other may utterly disbelieve. (G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox, pp. 92-93)”

    In fact, Aquinas was asked to deal this this specific problem, both in writing and in his lectures:

    “St. Thomas had asked the professors of theology never to prove an article of faith by rational demonstration, for faith is not based on reason, but the word of God, and if you try to prove it, you destroy it. He had likewise asked the professors of philosophy never to prove a philosophical truth by resorting to the words of God, for philosophy is not based on Revelation, but on reason, and if you try to base it on authority, you destroy it. In other words, theology is the science of those things which are received by faith from divine revelation, and philosophy is the knowledge of those things which flow from the principles of natural reason. Since their common source is God, the creator of both reason and revelation, these two sciences are bound ultimately to agree; but if you really want them to agree, you must first be careful not to forget their essential difference. Only distinct things can be united; if you attempt to blend them, you inevitably lose them in what is not union, but confusion. (Etienne Gilson, The Unity of Philosophical Experience, p. 50).

    That paragraph admirably summarizes points Aquinas has made in much greater detail throughout his many volumes.

    Now to address your relevant and valid points about a wayward will working against the intellect such that man is “without excuse.” I agree that this is a distinct, though related issue concerning the relationship between faith and reason and needs to be addressed on its own merit.

    Aquinas ST (76, 1)

    “Whether ignorance can be the cause of sin?”

    “It is clear that not every kind of ignorance is the cause of a sin, but that alone which removes the knowledge which would prevent the sinful act. …This may happen on the part of the ignorance itself, because, to wit, this ignorance is voluntary, either directly, as when a man wishes of set purpose to be ignorant of certain things that he may sin the more freely; or indirectly, as when a man, through stress of work or other occupations, neglects to acquire the knowledge which would restrain him from sin. For such like negligence renders the ignorance itself voluntary and sinful, provided it be about matters one is *bound and able to know.”

    Those who refuse to know that which they are “bound and able to know” are “without excuse.” Does this subject need more elaboration?

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    Steve:

    Thanks for further thoughts.

    I ask you to look at the diagram I have put up and updated. My thought is that Schaeffer’s emphasis is rooted in his quite astute reading of Paul.

    Paul’s emphasis, e.g. Rom 1, is not on how we can know, but that having access to knowledge we culpably suppress and so are without excuse.

    When I open up ST or SG or the response to Muslim issues, as shown above, I do not see an immediate, due emphasis on this issue, which is critical.

    Yes, some hundreds of pp in in ST, there is a correct doctrinal formulation [which, I have duly noted on and linked in the revised OP], but that is precisely a big part of the problem. Emphasis and the point of balance. I should not have to wade into some to the toughest reading in the business 4- 500 pp in to find the balance point, especially when that side is what the founding philosophical Christian thinker stresses.

    FS, obviously, missed the reference on intellectual impairment. Understandably so, I am afraid.

    I note your further clip, from Gilson:

    “St. Thomas had asked the professors of theology never to prove an article of faith by rational demonstration, for faith is not based on reason, but the word of God, and if you try to prove it, you destroy it. He had likewise asked the professors of philosophy never to prove a philosophical truth by resorting to the words of God, for philosophy is not based on Revelation, but on reason, and if you try to base it on authority, you destroy it. In other words, theology is the science of those things which are received by faith from divine revelation, and philosophy is the knowledge of those things which flow from the principles of natural reason. Since their common source is God, the creator of both reason and revelation, these two sciences are bound ultimately to agree; but if you really want them to agree, you must first be careful not to forget their essential difference. Only distinct things can be united; if you attempt to blend them, you inevitably lose them in what is not union, but confusion. (Etienne Gilson, The Unity of Philosophical Experience, p. 50).

    Part of this sounds trivially true and how can you object. But, from the Pauline base, something sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. Namely, that we have an invitation to the kind of willfully rebellious autonomy that subtly begs the questions at the beginning, and then finds that “there is no evidence” leading where it would not go.

    I know, it is a hard thing to raise such an issue and it is harder yet to deal with it in a phil or broad4er worldviews context. But that does not mean that this is not a real issue. Indeed, it is precisely the issue that Schaeffer was so effective in addressing. he makes some mistakes, where not discovering where the impairment of intellect is brought out, he goes on the inference from the balance of emphasis that is much more accessible. His mistake is to confuse want of due emphasis for absence. Likewise, he did — from 1968 — see that TA was not the first to speak on the matters, and he would correct himself to strike the more warranted view that TA opened the door to a trend, inadvertently inviting those of more skeptical bent to invert his way of thinking. I guess he found that here was indeed a corrective and he obviously accepted it. I am sure that had he known that TA spoke of impairment, he would have adjusted in that light too.

    Similarly, yes, TA does say that the investigation of natural reason will be subject to correction by scripture.

    However, as I pointed out above, once the emphasis of Paul is not there in the opening volleys, and once the stress falls on we can reason this stuff out naturally and BTW, if you go off from my system, the system will correct you, the man of skeptical bent will begin to chafe under what sounds to him like imposition of a censoring party-line.

    In the name of intellectual freedom, he will declare autonomy and go off on his own, erecting his own systems, much as we see in that diagram. So, there is another little error at the beginning, an error of want of due emphasis.

    So, when we go on to look at the project of natural theology, the skeptically minded person — who in that era would have been full of the proofs of Euclidean geometry as the paradigm for a system of perfect deductive knowledge — will be wondering at the logic, syllogisms and axioms. And, on challenging axioms [and some of the weaker chains of reasoning] he will be likely indeed to eventually come down where Hume et al and Kant et al came down.

    A wiser approach is to look at worldviews and warrant, thus also what it means for humans to credibly know.

    In this case, science and law provide very useful balancing paradigms to geometry — as would the discovery of non Euclidean Geometry; which balanced out our view of axiomatic systems and self-evident truths. In this context for those able to follow the invention of the complex numbers is a very rich stimulus for thought. For, here we have a totally counter-intuitive set of propositions that then turns out to be astonishingly rich and powerful for mathematics, science and engineering. Indeed, it happens to capture an astonishing result, the famous 1 + e^i* pi = 0.

    We can then explore the way worldviews are rooted in first plausibles such that we must all intertwine faith and reason in the roots of our worldviews. Then, we can compare our sets of first plausibles, our faith-points, on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power, in an integrated exercise of abductive inference to best explanation.

    Of course, this is 800 years on from TA.

    I am confident that when we do so, we will come back to where Paul was 2000 years ago. Certain things about the root of our being, are warranted enough to be knowable, sufficiently so that to suppress them is culpable.

    As I summarise here on, these things point to first principles of right reason, a world in which we see signs of a beginning that force us to examine the logic of cause, signs of design that lead us to infer to a necessary being as root cause capable of designing and building a cosmos. Then, when we look within and see that we are objectively morally governed, we can see that the only serious explanation is that we are the enconscienced creatures of a good Creator-God.

    In aggregate, these are not absolute, deductive proofs, but warrant for most things of importance will not be like that. And, that is where the issues of selective hyperskepticism in general and the particular case in response to specific claims in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, become important considerations.

    We need to have reasonable and consistent standards of warrant, especially on matters of fact.

    Including, in science.

    I think we need to pause and take a balanced view of these issues, and of the significant — warts and all — contribution Schaeffer made.

    GEM of TKI

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Maybe my remarks here in the intro to phil course, may help capture what I am driving at.

    Wood, here, is direct:

    Intellectual virtues . . . include character traits such as wisdom, prudence, foresight, understanding, discernment, truthfulness and studiousness, among others. Here too are to be found their opposite vices: folly, obtuseness, gullibility, dishonesty, willful naiveté and vicious curiosity[4], to name a few. Certain excellences and deficiencies, then, shape our intellectual as well as our moral lives. An epistemology that takes the virtues seriously claims that our ability to lay hold of the truth about important matters turns on more than our IQ or the caliber of school we attend; it also depends on whether we have fostered within ourselves virtuous habits of mind. Our careers as cognitive agents, as persons concerned to lay hold of the truth and pursue other important intellectual goals, will in large measure succeed or fail as we cultivate our intellectual virtues . . . . Careful oversight of our intellectual lives is imperative if we are to think well, and thinking well is an indispensable ingredient in living well . . . only by superintending our cognitive life (the way, for example, we form, defend, maintain, revise, abandon and act on our beliefs about important matters) can we become excellent as thinkers and, ultimately, excellent as persons.

    If we fail to oversee our intellectual life and cultivate virtue, the likely consequences will be a maimed and stunted mind that thwarts our prospects for living a flourishing life. [Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous, (Leicester, UK: Apollos/IVP, 1998), pp. 16 – 17.]

    ______________

    [4] Explanatory note: “Vicious curiosity” is best understood from a Christian perspective, as the opposite of true love of learning: immoral pursuit of so-called “learning” that seeks to corrupt, deceive, exploit and/or destroy. Those who are always inventing new ways to do evil [cf. Rom 1:30 – those who pursue weapons of mass destruction for aggressive reasons ever so easily spring to mind here!] are especially in view, but the thought is equally applicable to those who are ever drawn to the novel — but not in order to learn and live by truth. [Cf. Ac. 17:21.] In a lust-besotted entertainment-obsessed age, the ever-growing fascination with and addiction to the twin pornographies of [often perverted] sensuality and violence is another telling case in point. The rebuke applies to those who would seek and exploit insider knowledge of market conditions to rob those not so priviliged, too. Similarly, for those who would seek enlightenment from the forces of darkness and deception, or who would call evil good and good evil, Is 8:11 – 22, esp. v. 20, 5:20 – 25 and also Eph. 5:11 – 21 & Deut 18:9 – 22 have grim words of warning. In response to such expressions of vicious curiosity, we are encouraged to overturn deceptive arguments and pretensions that block people from the true knowledge of God. [Cf. 2 Cor 10:4 – 5.] This is a major, and quite legitimate, function of Christian Apologetics, which has long been tasked to give a reasonable account for the Christian hope. [1 Pet. 3:15.]

  40. 40

    I wrote a post on my own blog about Schaeffer’s misunderstanding of Aquinas a couple of years ago and it remains the most hit upon post on my blog (http://vereloqui.blogspot.com/.....ng-is.html). The problem, it appears to me, is that Schaeffer seems almost entirely unfamiliar with what Aquinas actually said, a result, I am guessing of never actually having read him. That seems to me the most charitable interpretation, since Schaeffer, as Stephen B has pointed out, attributes to Aquinas a view that is the exact opposite from what he plainly held regarding the fallen status of the intellect. It’s hard not to conclude that Schaeffer got is Aquinas second hand.

    This is a continuing problem in the discussion of Aquinas among protestants: they get their view of Aquinas from Schaeffer, and Schaeffer himself appears to have gotten it from somewhere else than Aquinas himself.

    Schaeffer was just flat out wrong on this and it affects everything else he says on Aquinas, making Schaeffer a very bad place to go for an accurate picture of what Aquinas said.

    In regard to Aquinas being the first one to make a distinction between nature and grace, we are in no better position. Aquinas was not the first one to make this distinction. This distinction goes back into the early years of the Church. The discussion of the relationship of reason and faith was worked over pretty hard among the Church fathers. Tertullian asked what Athens had to do with Jerusalem centuries before Aquinas arrived on the scene and Augustine had quite a lot to say about the issue in the City of God and On Christian Doctrine to name just two sources.

    One of the interesting things about Schaeffer’s comments is that he never argues with the correctness of Aquinas’ distinction. Is there really no distinction to be made between nature and grace? Are they the same thing? Schaeffer never says, and I know of no Christian thinker who would argue with the distinction, not event he most hard-boiled presuppositionalist.

    Schaeffer implies what you have said explicitly: that the problem is with what people did with the distinction later on. Well, why is that Aquinas’ fault? Since when are thinkers to be blamed for misinterpretations or distortions of their views?

    Paul uttered many views that were misinterpreted and distorted by later thinkers. Is that Paul’s fault? Should Paul have not uttered them?

    In fact, as Chesterton argues, every mistaken modern worldview is founded on some Christian virtue that has been isolated from all the other Christian virtues, distorting it and causing cultural havoc. Is that an argument against articulating the Christian virtues?

    Schaeffer’s entire analysis seems to me fatally flawed because he completely inverts the problem. He sees Aquinas as the culprit rather than the cure. It was the falling away from Thomas’ synthesis that doomed the West (as Richard Weaver points out in Ideas Have Consequences), not the embrace of it. It was William of Ockham (preceded, in lesser fashion, by Peter Abelard and Duns Scotus) whose dismantling of the Christian synthesis of Aquinas brought about what we see today. Schaeffer (and this still mystifies me) completely missed this.

    Ockham’s nominalism questioned the real existence of transcendental ideas, resurrected the “two truths” doctrine, and turned the tradition idea of the rationality of God on its head, replacing it with the Divine Will and creating an arbitrary God. Every competent analysis of the history of ideas focuses on Ockham, but somehow Schaeffer manages to completely miss this.

    I suggest you get your hands on Michael Allen Gillespie’s Theological Origins of Modernity, as well as Etienne Gilson’s Unity of Philosophical Experience just for starters. Even a general treatment like Richard Tarnas’ The Passion of the Western Mind very adequately covers this territory.

    I read many of Schaeffer’s books when I was in college too, but the protestant penchant of relying exclusively on Schaeffer for the treatment of the history of ideas leads to a very narrow–and clearly misleading–understanding of why we’re in the shape we’re in.

  41. 41
    StephenB says:

    KF, I certainly agree that a balanced view of Schaeffer is called for. Alas, in my attempt to set the record straight on one side issue, albeit a vitally important issue, I may have upset that balance.

    Indeed, I remember reading many of his works with great admiration for his illuminating clarity. For my part, he has, more than most, raised our consciousness to the moral crisis in the West, and his ability to summarize philosophical/cultural issues is second to none.

    In keeping with your post, I agree wholeheartedly that both he and those politicians who admire him have been slandered, and I congratulate you for taking up this issue. He certainly deserves better than what he has been getting from his offspring and from the militant anti-Christians in the press.

    I thank you for a great discussion and for your open and supple mind.

  42. 42
    StephenB says:

    Martin, you make a lot of good points, all of which I agree with. I really was torn on this issue because, though Schaeffer did, indeed, do unjust harm to Aquinas’ name, the press is now doing the same thing to Schaeffer. I didn’t necessarily want the first point to totally eclipse the second point because the current political environment is almost (but not quite) as anti-Christian as it is anti-Catholic. The problem with the Schaeffer/Aquinas thing is that many there are many, KF not being among them, who reject the historical truth of the matter even after having been issued the corrective.

    Yes, I think William of Ockham would be an excellent candidate as the first major figure who introduced the insanity of subjectivism (in his own way of course). If universals exist in name only, then universal truth cannot exist and relativism is the next logical step.

  43. 43
    kairosfocus says:

    Martin:

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    I have, of course, for many years, been aware of Schaeffer as controversial.

    However, I have also been aware of his sheer and unequalled impact in the 1950’s – 70’s especially, and have had a rather “survival of the fittest” view of his work. An impact, BTW, that went well beyond merely protestant circles; L’Abri was a centre of refuge and hope for a generation of struggling students in Europe and beyond. And, sorry, he was no mere easily dismissed “autodidact,” he was a student of van Til.

    He could not have survived and thrived in the environment in which he operated, unless he had something profoundly right.

    Even, where he was wrong, he could not have been wholly wrong.

    Or, he would not have survived. (Cf. OP on that.)

    Maybe an experience from my early days of teaching 6th form Physics will help. During a class discussion, due to students drawing my attention to it, I suddenly realised that my then view of displacement, x, was different from the authors of textbooks I was using in class. And yet, my understanding worked perfectly in analyses.

    What was going on?

    I promised my students to investigate, and I did some fairly serious reading — our Internet access today makes that sort of follow up immensely easier [I once had to cross a city for a day, and call on fairly serious support from librarians and experts, to look up a fairly minor — but significant — point in the only library that had enough on the topic; now, all of that is a few clicks away].

    On investigation, I realised that I had unconsciously synthesised the Mathematician’s concept of location, x, to the physicist’s concept of displacement. (I see the wisdom in my old Abbott, of using s instead!) Distance moved in a specified direction will work very much like vector location, but the subtle difference in focus — physicists are studying motion — is itself meaningful.

    Schaeffer lived and worked in an era where rare books were costly and very hard to access.

    In accessing such — probably in the reference section of a library [with a librarian or two hovering, doubtless], you were always under time pressure, and you were not going to wade through a 4,000 pp work, or a 250 pp one or two, when something is apparent repeatedly on the sort of look to the main structural feature survey that I snipped out above. Remember, Schaeffer’s reading matches what you would conclude on reading the introductory, framing discussions, without realising there is something else deep in the corpus. AND, SCHAEFFER’S READING PASSED THE EDITORIAL PANELS OF SEVERAL SIGNIFICANT AND RESPONSIBLE PUBLISHING HOUSES, I.E. IT PASSED EDITORIAL FACT CHECK.

    I have no doubt that he was also a product of the Dutch Reformed tradition, which has taken a dim view of the pre-reformation era Catholic understanding of the Fall. That is going to be influential, especially, when at the same time, one is seeing the balance of emphasis in Paul, in light of the same reformation era tradition.

    I therefore strongly disagree with the dismissive notion that Schaeffer probably never read Aquinas.

    On the contrary, his summaries reflect a subtle balance of insights that suggest he DID read what is reasonably easy to access from source materials (probably including the 1264 responses to Islamic claims); as influenced by expectations of someone coming from his presuppositionist- influenced Dutch Reformed background multiplied by knowledge of the path of subsequent history, where the sort of reading — or, perhaps better, response — that Schaeffer summarised did prevail across time.

    (Cf my markup on Sawyer in the OP and the immediately following diagram, multiplied by the clip from Linnemann on how this played out in Theology. And BTW, the issue is that the Grace/nature split marks an incoherence in various modern and related antecedent worldviews, i.e. he is actually making a comparative difficulties point. One further driven by his obvious deep familiarity with Paul, which hammers home that men who have access to evidence pointing to God and to duty under God, routinely suppress that evidence through moves rooted in sinful rebellion, personal and embedded in their cultures. This point is the pivot on which there is a unification of Grace and Nature: nature is a creation of the good God, we are morally governed reasoning and deciding, acting creatures with a stewardship over the rest of Creation — hence our “Mannishness,” and there is adequate evidence to warrant recognising and respecting the Judaeo-Christian scriptural tradition as revelation worthy of trust, on matters pivoting on the eyewitness and life transformation attested resurrection of Christ and the prophecies of such from up to 700 years ahead of the events. (C.f. discussions here, here and here on.) That comes out in Schaeffer’s studies on Romans, e.g. in his True Spirituality, but in the three core works we are looking at, he is looking at worldviews issues and only glancingly alludes to these matters. In short, he is arguing that on the C1 Christian synthesis that is epitomised in Paul, Grace and Nature are unified, as the reformers realised — but as many who simply put a leap of faith in Jesus in our time do not realise; however, Schaeffer did not address the warranting of knowledge question in details anywhere in his corpus that I am aware of — notice my use of Greenleaf on that, and also I will link a key neglected passage in Locke, and my discussion of another that goes all the way back to Plato in The Laws, Bk X. So, with all due respect, on the wider evidence I do not think you have fully read Schaeffer’s position correctly. In passing, I should think the reality of key universal ideas is that they are eternal truths held in the mind of the eternal, necessary being and architect of the observed contingent and fine-tuned cosmos, a being who has just one serious candidate as to identity: God. Similarly, a fairer reading of both Schaeffer and Paul is not that natural theology is to be dismissed as useless [though many in our time would agree with that, on the rough handling Aquinas and successors have had at the hands of skeptical philosophers], but that it is a case where accessible well-warranted albeit limited knowledge is subverted by willful sinfulness and endarkenment of the mind consequent on inherited, enculturated, institutionalised and chosen sin. Notice how, in say The God Who is There, Schaeffer emphasises how we should help the person trapped in the lower storey or making an irrational leap to the upper one to see the incoherences in his worldview, as a first stage to seeing the way out, using the image of erecting a roof on a flawed worldview and the idea of taking the roof off. Do you remember the point where he discusses the attempted suicide of one of the people he was dealing with at that point, and how he thought long and hard on what if the attempt had been successful? But that set of concerns and balancing information on my part does not constitute warranting evidence that on your part, your information on Schaeffer is therefore second-hand. [I do ask you to extend the same courtesy to Schaeffer, in light of the far more difficult challenge of wading through the Aquinas Corpus under the circumstances he would have most likely faced.])

    For specific instance, if we use modern Web power, we can fairly easily access ST I, Q 85 Art 3 today [as I have clipped above (notice how SB actually missed the correct reference, I was looking in an EPUB copy and could not find it so I ended up doing a web search on text-clips and found the references that way . . . )], if we know what to look for under what terms — an interaction with Bede that talks in terms of impairments and four wounds; which from the objections seems to have been the debated issue in his day.

    But, under the conditions of research for an older generation, unless you have a first class index, or guidance from someone who knows, and knows profoundly, you are most unlikely indeed to catch something 400 – 500 pp deep in pretty tough reading; BTW, hence the value of a good introduction and a good summary. And, that is already to skip over the issue of the original being in Latin, and the related problems of translation, in light of what seems to be the very crabbed Latin hand of Aquinas — yes, it seems the actual autographs are still in hand! (I saw where a translator was saying it took him two years to learn how to read Aquinas’ hand!)

    I think it is fairly easy to see where FS would miss the actual sort of correct statement we can find under our unprecedented conditions of research.

    If you have been tracking he exchange, you will notice that I compared the key text in EfR in the 1968 and 1982 edns, and noted on the key developments in Schaeffer’s summary of the issues with Aquinas; also, that I was suspicious that the will/intellect issue was likely to be an error. It is clear that in the years between 68 and 82, Schaeffer took on board the correction that Aquinas invited a trend instead of making a complete cleavage between Grace and Nature, rather than initiating it himself. That strongly suggests that in that period of 14 years, even with several panels of editors at reputable theologically minded publishers — error checking is a key function of good editors — one “bug” was much easier to catch than the other. FS’s responsive attitude, is clear, and as my markup of Sawyer above will show, the key issue could have been fairly easily addressed, once the second bug has been caught.

    If you will look at the extension to Schaeffer’s famous Line of Despair diagram in the OP above, I have laid out what I think is the actual problem.

    An understandable error of emphasis on Aquinas’ part, in a context that has not sufficiently taken on board the force of Paul’s actual balance on the subject, in both Rom 1:18 – 32, and Eph 4:9 – 24, especially 14 and 17 – 19, also we can see a key sidelight in Ac 17:16 – 34 [probable historical context for the underlying analysis], and the remarks in Jn 3:19 – 21. I note FS specifically discusses Paul’s experiences in Ac 14 and 17, pointing to Rom as an elaboration that draws out the underlying message in more details than the report of two interrupted speeches will. (I recall that FS makes the observation that he thought Paul was actually killed by the stoning in Ac 14, but was quietly raised from death by God, as his personal view.)

    As the clips above show, in ST, SG, and the responses to Muslim rhetoric, TA did not strike the same balance as Paul: the reality of God is knowable [to moral/factual — as opposed to Euclidean “Geometrical” — certainty], but that knowledge can be suppressed through a willful turning away that can become culturally and thus institutionally embedded. Thus, we can have a sort of artificial ignorance that is culpable, and will manifest itself in patterns of suppressive behaviour when challenged, rhetorical and of course, sadly, much worse than rhetorical.

    Aquinas, in championing the project of natural theology and the idea that the truths of reason will correspond — up to the limits of errors we make — with truth revealed by God, in my considered opinion, unfortunately, failed to sufficiently emphasise the issue of suppression of truth. His words (especially where he cites revelation as corrective) therefore invite the more skeptical reading that he is in effect imposing a censoring party-line on reason, which is therefore not truly free.

    So, while antecedents to Aquinas, and the interactions he was making with the likes of Occam or some of the Islamic thinkers accessible in translation — may well be relevant, but they are supplementary rather than central. Yes, per SB, he is pointing to a distinction on how we may warrant claimed knowledge, that does not NECESSARILY (per logic) imply a dichotomy. However — and as Schaeffer does correct himself by 1982, he does leave the door to that reading open.

    And, across time, in generations to follow, that reading is the one that would count. (Which BTW, Schaeffer explicitly states in the 1982 edn, as I noted above in my comparative clip.)

    Sadly, Aquinas, then, is not the cure.

    For, the key error is one of imbalance of emphasis in light of inadequate appreciation of our human plight as finite, fallible, morally fallen/struggling, and too often ill-willed; and I still find that error being made today.

    If you will look up the term “selective hyperskepticism,” you will see that I have championed this matter, in light of the form the problem usually takes. Namely, a double standard on warrant, as Simon Greenleaf — note the extensive clip in the OP as updated — pointed out. A double-standard that reflects an unwillingness to go where the evidence of the world around us, the testimony of mind and conscience within, and the witness of millions who have had life-transforming encounters and relationships with God jointly point to the level of moral certainty. Should it not be suspicious that in the name of science, we see an a priori imposition of Lewontinian materialism? Should we not be astonished to see how such evolutionary materialism leads straight to amorality and nihilism, and yet wen this is exposed, it is clung to? Should we not get very concerned when a look at the cumulative evidence strongly points to the origin of a cosmos in a necessary being and cosmic architect who designed a fine tuned cosmos fitted for C-chemistry cell based life which is itself full of signs of design, but his is routinely treated as career-busting heresy of the worst order? Should we not be very suspicious when we find ourselves morally governed but often refuse to accept that this points to our being the creation of an inherently good Creator God, the ONLY serious explanation of that inconvenient little fact?

    Should we not be even more suspicious when we look into scientific methods and see that there is a blatant double-standard on warrant being sued to reject the above cluster of evidence?

    And, when we go on and see how those who take the cluster of evidence seriously are increasingly treated and viewed out there, should that not tell us that the Pauline issue of willful suppression of knowable truth is a central worldviews issue in our day, and has been for centuries?

    Take this up, and then contrast the way that the project of natural theology is routinely treated.

    Yes, Schaeffer made some errors, and some have not accessed corrections within Schaeffer and beyond Schaeffer. But also, in light of the actual emphasis in Aquinas and the actual relevance and patent power of the bulk of what Schaeffer had to say, it is not enough to spend time battering away at Schaeffer’s errors.

    Let us correct them, then let us move on to a positive synthesis that deals with the real issue in our mortally wounded civilisation.

    (Did you see where the OP begins? having achieved the cultural triumph of destroying the hitherto universal, common-sense, creation order based understanding of marriage and family, the next push on the agenda is to legitimise child sexual abuse. Is that not a wake-up call of the first order? Does this not demand that we highlight the fatal foundational crack and call for reformation?)

    Maybe, in God’s mercy, a miracle can restore the terminal stage of the mortal ailment. And, at any rate, even if that is not possible [as cultural reprobation may have set in so deeply that we must look to a new age of collapse and chaos], we must call the remnant to save themselves as brands plucked form burning, from an untoward generation (even as in the days of Noe).

    And, that is my call to action.

    GEM of TKI

  44. 44
    kairosfocus says:

    SB, valid, but Occam is nowhere near so pivotal as Aquinas. As I have highlighted above, and in the remark you can see just below, I think the key issue is a understandable error of emphasis that opened a doorway.

  45. 45
    kairosfocus says:

    Steve

    Appreciated. And Franky/Frank moved from one extreme to the other.

    My thought is that we need to take on board with due balance the point where correction is needed [actually fairly minor] and then build on the strengths.

    Hence the diagram above.

    And you will see that I decided, on balance, to update it to include the Pauline synthesis. Paul gets a lot of flak he does not deserve, but he is in fact the pivotal pioneer of Christian Western Civilisation, the Roman Citizen, form a Greek city and Jewish Rabbi turned Christian missionary who brought together the heritage of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome in Christ.

    Aquinas wrote from inside that synthesis, but one of the key inputs from the renaissance era at the hands of men like Petrarch [e.g. inversion of Light/Dark imagery and vision so the somewhat and significantly though of course imperfectly Christianised medieval era is still largely remembered today as the DARK ages], Machiavelli [e.g. power/success centred amorality and an excessive admiration for the ruthless Romans etc], and many others, is to begin that move to secularisation through re-importation of pagan, speculative and skeptical elements that led to the incoherence that was struggled with for centuries.

    Then, by the time we come to the turn of C19, the effort is abandoned and we are past the Enlightenment, beneath the line of despair.

    Bring to bear Darwin’s contribution — notice how Wallace’s alternative was brushed aside — and we are at the brink of our ultra-modern era.

    There is a true post modernism emerging, per Daniel’s vision of the passing nature of the kingdoms and ages of man, but it is not coming from those who celebrate and perpetuate what the true moderns mourned.

    Absent a miracle of awakening and reformation, the mortal wounds in our civilisation are advancing to what any reasonable prognosis would indicate. So, let us now work to call out and build up the remnant to stand the crises and chaos ahead, whichever way this goes.

    GEM of TKI

  46. 46

    Kiarosfocus,

    Wow. I’m not sure my post warranted a 2700 word response. In fact, I’m not sure any post warrants a 2700 word response. But thank you for taking what must have been a good chunk of your day to write it.

    You say, “it is not enough to spend time battering away at Schaeffer’s errors. Let us correct them, then let us move on to a positive synthesis that deals with the real issue in our mortally wounded civilisation.” But you spend much of the rest of this lengthy post arguing that Schaeffer can be excused for his errors that you never fully acknowledge as errors. I’m fine to move on after admitting errors, but it seems to me that in order to do so you have to actually admit the errors, which you seem in some parts here to do and in other parts to take back.

    I said very simply that Schaeffer got Aquinas’ view of the fallen intellect wrong. It is demonstrably wrong if you read Article 83 Question 3. He directly contradicts Schaeffer here. It’s not really debatable and nothing you have quoted Schaeffer saying in 1982 corrects his earlier error.

    My hypothesis (there is no way to know for certain) that Schaeffer never read Aquinas is based on a process of elimination: either Schaeffer read Aquinas and deliberately misstated his views, in which case he was lying; or he read Aquinas and didn’t understand him, in which case he was an uncritical and uncomprehending reader; or he didn’t read Aquinas at all, in which case he was simply ignorant of his views (and announced what they were anyway, which, it seems to me is rather irresponsible). I was, as I said, being charitable in my selection of the last alternative, since the others seem to be less plausible, in addition to being somewhat harsh. If you can think of another possibility here, I would certainly entertain it. I fail to see how getting one of Aquinas’ fundamental beliefs wrong can possibly count as constituting a “subtle balance of insights.” Interpreting someone to mean the opposite of what they plainly said is neither subtle nor balanced. It is wrong.

    On the matter of the nature/grace distinction and natural theology, you seem to acknowledge, as far as I can make out, that natural theology is valid in light of the early chapters of Romans, but you make several arguments in attempt to excuse Schaeffer from making an error about Aquinas’ view here which you elsewhere seem to argue is not an error all, but a correct observation.

    First of all, you attribute to me the belief that both Schaeffer and Paul dismissed natural theology. Then you assert that my “information on Schaeffer” is “second hand.” It seems to me that we have the same problem here as Schaeffer displayed on Aquinas: you have interpreted me to say the exact opposite of what I, in fact, actually said. I said that Schaeffer did not come right out and argue that natural theology was wrong, but that his analysis seemed to imply that there was something wrong with it. My information on Schaeffer, unlike much of the information on Aquinas on this thread, is very much first hand. I spend a number of years reading Schaeffer.

    Your first defense of Schaeffer’s error on natural theology (or not, depending on which paragraph of your post we are reading) is that he can be excused because of his “crabbed Latin.” If you are referring to the clarity of his expression, I am at a loss to know what you are referring to here. I have translated a number of passages from the Summa Theologica and in fact use them in my Latin classes as model examples of clarity. If you are referring to his penmanship, I am at a loss again because I have never heard the charge in any criticism of Aquinas that the manuscripts are problematic in this regard in any appreciable degree.

    Second, you argue, as best I can determine, that Schaeffer doesn’t see Aquinas’ view of natural theology itself as mistaken, but only what later thinkers made of it. And you quote passages from 1982 which you say demonstrate a change from his earlier views. But the only difference in the later writings is to attribute good intentions to Aquinas. Nothing in these later passages addresses the substantive question of whether Aquinas was right or wrong on natural theology: in fact they repeat his earlier statements that imply that Aquinas’ view was mistaken.

    Third, you argue that there is a lack of “balance” in Aquinas “emphasis” between the truths that men know apart from revelation and the “issue of suppression of truth.” Here again we are faced with a charge that could have been prevented by a simple familiarity with Aquinas’ actual writing. Aquinas devotes a whole section in the Prima Pars of the Summa on the issue of sin and its causes, and there are four complete articles on just this issue: malicious sin. Aquinas devotes more actual space to this issue than Paul himself and he’s not striking the proper “balance”?

    It seems to me that if someone is going to make public pronouncements on the writings of a particular thinker, they have an obligation to be adequately versed in their writings. This was the problem with Schaeffer and it seems to be a problem on this thread. I would suggest actually reading the Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles before making definitive statements about what Aquinas does and does not think and what he does and does not emphasize. And on the issue of natural theology, it would hurt to read his Commentary on the Book of Romans either.

  47. 47
    kairosfocus says:

    Martin:

    Pardon, but the answer is obvious, as I already noted.

    Schaeffer did read TA, but missed items that were deep in some pretty tough reading, as is fairly common. As I pointed out, you, too missed some things in Schaeffer, and Schaeffer is much easier and briefer reading as a corpus than TA.

    (And BTW, if I were of that inclination, I could go to town on how badly you have misread me in the span of a fairly short remark by comparison with 100 pp books, 250 pp books and 4,000 pp books; e.g. I find it astonishing that after what I have stated in the OP as revised — notice how I have marked up Sawyer! and, what is in the diagram! and, what I said otherwise! — and in remarks above, you seem to think I have not sufficiently acknowledged that Schaeffer made some errors that are regrettable. And you did this in public too. But chasing down that rabbit-trail would be pointless, apart from helping us all understand how easy it is to miss what someone else is saying.)

    The pivotal issue in any case, is not what Schaeffer read or did not, or whether he got some aspects of TA wrong, or even if TA was the first to raise the Nature/Grace issue. Indeed FS, as of the 1982 edn of EfR — as I showed in a marked up cite above — corrected his earlier writing; in which, he makes plain that TA is a gateway person, and even in 1968 it was arguable that he spoke of TA as the prominent rather than the first figure. I am confident that had he known the material in ST I Q 85 ART 3, about 400 pp in from the opening materials we have all focussed on, he would have likewise corrected himself on impairment of the mind on the fall. (I note, again that these errors were missed by copy editors at responsible publishers, i.e. these were — circa 1968 and 1982 — not exactly easily known facts, and a significant part of the problem is exactly the emphases that are obvious, which lends itself to the sort of skeptical readings that happened in later generations and which have been historically and culturally significant. Which issue Schaeffer has got fundamentally correct.)

    That’s not the material issue — unless the intent is to brush aside what else FS had to say that we all need to heed very carefully indeed. The material issue is that of emphasis that lies right there in Paul, the first Christian natural theology advocate.

    The main issue is that there is a significant problem with the project of natural theology that traces to an aspect of Paul that has been under-emphasised. Precisely the issue Schaeffer drew attention to: what happens when sinful, rebellious men confront the evidence that warrants the reality of God and our duty to him. They tend to sinfully suppress it, by putting in the place of God some substitute worldview-root claimed reality.

    So, we should balance the discussion of such evidences and logical arguments in that light.

    Which leads right to the issues of warrant for claims, worldviews foundations etc and the question of comparative difficulties across live options that then exposes the culpable errors that lock out our ability to hear what the evidence is saying.

    For instance, you may want to look here on (and in context) to see where I go with that idea.

    I trust this helps clear the atmosphere.

    GEM of TKI

  48. 48

    Kairosfocus,

    Thank you for your response.

    In regard to Schaeffer’s first hand familiarity with Aquinas, it is going to be rather hard to adjudicate the question since a claim either way is unverifiable, but his unfamiliarity with two of Aquinas’ clearly stated and fundamental positions is certainly evidence for one of the three possibilities I outlined, one of which was that he didn’t read Aquinas. You have neither offered evidence that he was familiar with Aquinas nor offered another alternative other than the ones I outlined.

    Second, I am certainly ready to accept your acknowledgement that Schaeffer was mistaken, but it is hard to tell exactly what your acknowledgement is. In regard to Aquinas’ natural theology, you still try to implicate Aquinas’ natural theology and the only argument I see that he doesn’t adequately emphasize the influence of sin on human judgment. But I have pointed out that Aquinas not only mentions it, but devotes four separate articles to that precise issue (and that’s just what he covers in the Summa Theologica, in which case he gives it more emphasis than Paul himself, who you think does emphasize it adequately.

    You did not even address that point in your last post. I would be curious as to what your argument is for the position that Aquinas does not emphasize the effects of sin adequately. If I said that Schaeffer didn’t emphasize something enough in his works, I would give the definite impression to my audience that I was familiar with his works, since that is the only way I could know that his works didn’t emphasize something adequately. I would presumably have at least taken the trouble to read them. I am trying to find out what the evidence is from Aquinas’ work that has brought you to this conclusion. So far, you have only made the assertion that Aquinas didn’t emphasize this adequately, but offered no evidence or argument.

    I think it would clarify things to know what the evidence is for your position. That’s all.

    Thanks.

  49. 49

    Kairosfocus,

    I wrote this before reading your post on my blog, by the way. I’ll read that and just respond there. Thanks for the discussion.

  50. 50
    kairosfocus says:

    Martin

    Did you read my discussion and fairly extensive excerpts of key opening bat passages above? Did you notice the pattern in the places where he lays out his approach in ST, SG and the 1264 responses to Muslim arguments? Also, the note on the space gap between Q1 and Q 85 — the usual corrective put forth on the impairment of mind question? If the emphasis in the usual discussions is on the former, and the emphatic point by Paul is not addressed in very close proximity, do you see what is being inadvertently invited from skeptical readers or hearers? Historically, across the centuries, how did the skeptical readers tend to respond to natural theology arguments, and what is the typical view of same today, why? How can their typical view be cogently addressed?

    Cf here on.

    Did you see the contrast in Paul in Rom 1, where the EMPHASIS falls on dealing with suppression of evident truth?

    Do you now see the issue of emphasis I am highlighting?

    Does that now make an emphasis on how worldviews are grounded and put together and how they come to seem plausible to adherents despite critical foundation cracks, appear as important, especially given the related issues of warrant and comparative difficulties?

    GEM of TKI

  51. 51
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I don’t know if the following rephrasing will help make my point more clearly, regarding what Schaeffer had a finger on regarding Aquinas, while duly noting where he did miss out on an accurate summary:

    Pioneers and champions natural theology, duly noting the impairment of will and mind by the fall and sin. However, in key texts he does not “then and there” adequately emphasize Paul’s issue of culpable suppression of what one knows or should know about God. This inadvertently invites a cleaving apart of grace and nature,and a resulting splitting apart of worldviews.

    Does the “then and there”-ness issue help clarify the concern on adequacy of emphasis in relevant key texts — such as the cluster I cited above — that tend to take on a life of their own, directly and by allusion or derivative uses?

  52. 52
    StephenB says:

    KF: Thanks again for the discussion. I will make one more statement (only one more) and give you the last word.

    [A] We have already discussed the point that Schaeffer profoundly misunderstood Aquinas’ position on the effects of the fall on the intellect and the fact that this error leaked into his analysis at every level. So there is no need to belabor the point.

    [B] The problem with the balance issue is twofold: On the one hand, Aquinas does, indeed, say the things you insist that he should say, but he doesn’t say them all in the same place. I have already provided one passage in which he addresses the problem of willful ignorance, but there are many more. Further, he makes it quite clear that intellectual capacity alone does not determine one’s proclivity to accept or reject (suppress) truth and that the will plays a key role in the suppression.

    Among other things, he writes about intellectual vices opposed to truth and understanding, intellectual virtues, the relationship between virtues, the relationship between the intellect and the will, and so on. When I say “so on” I mean the number of relevant themes he considers with respect to this subject seems almost endless. And, of course, he has written his own commentary on Romans that addresses the relevant issues.

    [C] On the other hand, Schaeffer, for his own part, fails to answer all the key questions that would allow us to understand the true nature of his protests. You, I, Aquinas, and Schaeffer all agree that grace and nature should not be separated. The question is: Should any distinction be made at all? On this essential matter, Schaeffer is conveniently silent. We all agree that natural theology cannot suffice for revealed truth. The question is: Does God reveal himself in nature at all? Again, Schaeffer has nothing to say. We all agree that that reason cannot attain to all truth. The question is: Can reason attain any to truth at all? Yet again, Schaeffer will not tell us. If he had made a reasonable effort to answer these questions, he would have immediately recognized the flaw in his argument. Everyone knows, or should know, that nature and grace cannot be the same thing and since they cannot be the same thing, they must be different. If they are different, they should be distinguished. None of this leads to their separation. The separation comes from the “double truth” principle, as has been indicated.

    Without any justification, Schaeffer concludes that Aquinas, by explaining reason’s role in the acquisition of truth, was also arguing for reason’s autonomy. That simply does not follow and it also militates against facts already in evidence. Even if there was no evidence, Schaeffer’s argument would not work. By his logic, Plato left the door open for chance-driven Darwinism by acknowledging the role of chance in nature and Christian Saints left the door open for new age spirituality by advocating mental prayer.

    Can you not detect the flaw in this type of reasoning?
    The door to secularism is not opened by those who make distinctions, which, as it turns out, make truth more accessible. The door to secularism is opened by those who explicitly militate against truth, such as Sigar of Brabant, who denied the unity of truth, opening the door to relativism and William of Occam, who denied universals, opening the door for subjectivism.

  53. 53

    Kairosfocus,

    I’m not sure why Aquinas has any obligation to discuss the effects of sin in his instructions on how to reply to Muslims. He discusses the effects of sin in the section of the Summa on the effects of sin. The title of the section is, unsurprisingly, the “Effects of Sin,” in the general section on “Vice and Sin.” It wasn’t as if he was hiding it anywhere.

    I seriously doubt that Schaeffer had any more access to De Rationibus Fidei than he did to the Summa. The Summa is by far Aquinas’ most well known and available work. In fact, I don’t understand how what he says in De Rationibus Fidei has any bearing at all on how Schaeffer might have derived his mistaken views of Aquinas’ beliefs. It is a relatively obscure work compared to the Summa which was probably extremely hard to get one’s hands on until the arrival of the Internet, while the Summa is and has been available in multiple printed editions. And I’m not sure why anyone would expect him to discuss the effects of sin there anyway.

    You seem to be saying that Schaeffer was confused by what Aquinas said in De Rationibus Fidei when there is even less evidence he read this than that he read the Summa, which is to say, very little.

    And in fact what he says in this more obscure work, had Schaeffer read it, which I doubt he did, should have been sufficient to dispel the idea that Aquinas believed what Schaeffer thought him to have believed, which is why it mystifies me why you would use it as an example.

    Aquinas expounds here very clearly his idea that you do not prove rationally what is known only by faith–just like you don’t assume by faith something that requires reason and evidence to know. Somehow from this you conclude:

    “We see here a plain case of a dichotomy on warrantability per necessary reason. That can indeed be seen as a dichotomising of nature and grace, from at least one way of looking at it, certainly in terms of dealing with practical rationality and argument.”

    Yes, Aquinas is saying that there is a distinction between reason and faith and that they are two independent modes of inquiry that lead to the same truth. I think that’s what we’ve been saying all along. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether he was correct in thinking so. It is no argument against his position to charge him with advocating his position. We all know he advocated it.

    If you think that reason is not distinct from faith, then you should argue your point. Schaeffer failed to do so, which is one of the confusing things about his writing: he (like Van Til) expects us all to have a bad vibe about it, but they never come out and tell us what’s wrong with this distinction.

    If you are fideist, like Van Til, then you should wear it proudly and argue your case. If you are a Two Truther, like Ockham or Sigar of Brabant, then stand up for what you believe. But if you are neither one of these extreme positions, then you’re going to have to accept the only one that is left: Aquinas’ natural theology position. And if you do that, then I simply don’t understand what the big deal is about Aquinas making this distinction.

  54. 54
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks:

    Pardon just now, I have been busy overnight, and will take some time before I get back on a substantial response.

    It seems to be quite hard to communicate clearly on this topic; maybe for now I can note that my focus is not so much on where Schaeffer got some things wrong (fairly easily corrected and he and Thomas probably sat down to a beer or two up in Thomas’ mansion on that . . . back in 84, our time . . . ), but where he got absolutely pivotal things right.

    Things we need to heed, desperately, in the face of mortal danger to our civilisation, nay, a patently mortal wound that if not miraculously healed, will be fatal.

    Just note how I have updated the OP above, and how I have laid out where all of this is going here, in a draft course under development.

    Later

    GEM of TKI

  55. 55
    kairosfocus says:

    M: I will comment later, but do you not see the point that in three key works — and the response to Muslim arguments catches my eye because that is a key context of the main argument above and of personal interest where I have a direct cross-check through my own experiences, but I have also clipped his two best known works — we see the same pattern of reasoning that, if used in the usual way where key texts take on a life of their own, the consequence easily feeds the dichotomy and lower story dominance incoherence dynamics FS points out? [And, BTW, fair comment: do you see how, again — even after I pointed out the problem wit how you are even reading me, you are again off on a rabbit trail chasing a strawman?]

  56. 56
    kairosfocus says:

    Steve and Martin (also onlookers):

    Let me respond on points now, as the easiest way to make sure I deal step by step:

    1: Schaeffer has made some errors [as already acknowledged], but as I have shown, they are by no means fatal for his project of addressing intellectual roots of our civilisation’s dilemmas. This should be clear from further adjustments in OP and the onward link.

    2: The mistake of not following Paul’s pattern of emphasis in the sort of key passages highlighted is quite understandable given TA’s environment, and his approach. However, that did not prevent it from having precisely the unintended consequences of opening a doorway for what would follow. As noted FS has by 1982 conceded that it was the successors who went through the opening.

    3: There is obviously a distinction between nature and grace, and the point that some truths can be warranted by natural reason on the facts of our circumstances as contingent, morally governed creatures in a contingent and intelligible world that is credibly fine tuned, do adequately warrant an onward inference to a cosmological designer and maker who is close enough to the traditional theistic view of God for government work.

    4: In addition, as was already linked [cf the Units 1 and 2 of the NCTS], there is adequate warrant to authenticate the gospel based on the resurrection of Jesus, e.g through the minimal facts and inference to best historical — without naturalistic a prioris — explanation approach.

    5: Similarly, there is adequate warrant to trust the NT and OT scriptures as authentic revelation, thus a credible source of knowledge beyond the realm of what natural reason may access.

    6: That Schaeffer believed, advocated and argued these points is more than indicated by simply the titles, much less the substance, of the three core books: The God who is there, He is there and is not silent, Escape from Reason.

    7: EfR however, shows the key point that Paul stressed and which the natural theology tradition has missed. Adequacy of warrant is one thing, confronting a prioris that block people from accessing that warrant is another. In the update to the OP, I have given the Lewontinian a priori materialism case as a familiar example to UD regulars.

    8: Notice, as at now, I am outright arguing that the issue on design theory at present is not the adequacy of the evidence and inference to design on evidence, but the a prioris that are being brought to the situation that endarken understanding.

    9: In the case of advocates at a certain level of responsibility, that is outright culpable, for those who have naively trusted them and have been frankly had, the issue is how to recognise and snap open the chains of mental slavery, then break out of today’s version of Plato’s Cave.

    10: It is unfair for you to assert that FS is silent on the issue of distinction between nature and grace, he has many times and in many ways shown how the sort of argument I outlined above applies. BUT THE ISSUE IS NOT THE WARRANT FOR THE CONCLUSION, IT IS THE CORRECTION OF ENDARKENING ASSUMPTIONS AND WAYS OF THOUGHT THAT BLOCK PEOPLE FROM BEING ABLE TO ACCESS THAT WARRANT. Indeed, his discussion and diagrams in The God Who is There on taking he roof off through a comparative difficulties exercise point down the road I think we need to go.

    11: Schaeffer therefore has emphasised the issue of addressing the roadblocks. No, he does not go through any elaborate discussion of the usual theistic arguments, though he does explore significant aspects in genesis in Space and Time and in his Studies and remarks on Romans and Acts.

    12: His focus, quite properly, is that if something is blindfolding people then the blindfolds have to be taken off first. Notice in particular his emphasis that we should take the roof off and force people to see the unlivable consequences of their worldviews, i.e he is doing a comparative difficulties exercise and exposing factual inadequacies, incoherence and want of explanatory capacity.

    13: This is actually going over to the offensive, breaking the presumptions that lock people up from hearing the actual force of warrant of the evidence accessible to the eye of reason. he is particularly fond of the issue of moral incoherence, and so is using an implicit form of the moral argument.

    14: His discussion of Aquinas is flawed, inasmuch as he had to correct himself on priority and on the locus of the cleavage, and was evidently unaware of Aquinas’ view on the impairment of mind. (I am sure, on track record, that had a delegation with relevant information simply visited him, he would have been happy to correct.)

    15: I have already repeatedly pointed to the subtle gap on emphasis, and its consequences, which are traceable in writings, art forms and patterns of life across the renaissance era. Remember, the use of clipped out key texts and citations therefrom was a well known, common pattern at the time, and in many regards down to today.

    16: I am not blaming Aquinas for the opening, but I am saying there are consequences we have to recognise, and lessons we must learn and address in our own cases. Paul’s balance is the one we need.

    17: When TA replies to Muslim issues, which use rhetoric of ridicule and projected absurdity to reinforce the Islamic position, it is DOUBLY important to address blinding factors, as well as the pattern of red herring distractors led away to strawman distortions soaked in as hominems and ignited through incendiary rhetoric.

    18: This is all the more important when the Christians living under dhimmitude were and are subjected to intimidation silencing tactics. So, we who have the freedom to speak clearly should speak on the behalf of those who dare not.

    19: It is not enough, as I have now repeatedly said, to have a section — or even several sections — somewhere on the subject, the key passages that set the tone for the whole work, need to deal with the problems that are predictable simply on asking oneself why Paul takes the balance he does.

    20: It is the difficulty in seeing this point that is flipping up a red warning flag for me.

    21: if this issue is not getting through, given the level of participants, it is probably indicating that here is an a priori at work somewhere that is blocking ability to see it. This is reinforced by the number of times I find myself unrecognisable from the descriptions proffered.

    22: Please, one more time. The issue is not adequacy of warrant, that was settled long ago, on inference to best explanation such as would be used to argue a court case. it is whether the audience is in a fit condition to be able to hear the case.

    23: until this prior issue is resolved, there will be no progress, no matter how solid the latest twists on arguments will be. And to deal with that, we are going to have to deal with worldviews and their roots, and expose the critical foundational cracks. As Paul did on Mars Hill, my paradigm model. Notice, it was not the stranger, Paul who won over the city, he could only call out a remnant of witness, it was those who went on to across time win the day.

    24: As already noted, I am not arguing that FS saw the answers the Muslim arguments of 1264, but instead that when we look at the framing contexts — I would almost say, thesis statements — in three key works, we see the same gap. That suggests it is systemic.

    25: Nor, do I need to make any further great elaboration on how FS could have missed the sections that are in the case I identified, 400 pp on in the document, where in the three key documents the pattern I have highlighted comes early, and in framing remarks. Yes, it would have been better if FS had seen the relevant sections and saved himself some errors, and if there were a delegation of say the Order of Preachers who could have visited him at L’Abri, a simple train ride up from Italy [after all, a lot of students were making the trip!], it could have saved us all a lot of trouble. Neither happened, sadly. For that matter if the bishop who drove him out of an earlier home in Switzerland had instead helped him get this issue right, much could have been averted.

    26: In any case the error is not material, especially when we look at the main issue at stake: breaking an intellectual stronghold that is leading our civilisation down into the morass. So, pardon me for taking note of the errors and going on to work in light of what FS manifestly and powerfully — from his impact — got right.

    27: Actually, in response to “Aquinas expounds here very clearly his idea that you do not prove rationally what is known only by faith,” I would say instead that one responds in faith to a rationally grounded — warranted — confidence that a given revelation is worth listening to; starting with the well warranted historicity of the Christ, the authenticity of the record, the credibility of the resurrection, and the manifestations of life-transforming, healing, liberating, saving power.

    (BTW, his is also very relevant to dealing with Islamic anti-Christian apologetics of the Deedat type; I have had the experience as a talk show host, of having Muslim advocates repeatedly calling in internationally to raise agendas of issues, and then going to the relevant island and sitting down in radio studios there for hours at a time to take them on on their home turf. Then backing it up with conferences on the subject.)

    28: As to “If you think that reason is not distinct from faith,” I have repeatedly stressed that faith and reason are inextricably intertwined in the roots of a worldview. Just look at the turtle diagram in the OP above, as a start. For a more explicitly detailed exposition, cf here on, as already linked. (I keep getting the feeling you have pigeonholed me, M, only in a slot that I do not fit.)

    29: I think, too you are not reading FS right, as he is looking at warrant of worldviews on comparative difficulties, in light of factual adequacy, coherence — hence his stress on dichotomies [incoherence!], and explanatory power.

    30: As I again pointed out above, and as is detailed in the lined to a first level, I believe that the evidence of nature and mind and conscience warrants a theistic view as reasonable faith. I suggest you read and ponder the clip from Locke’s intro to his essay on human understanding, in the already linked.

    G’day,

    GEM of TKI

    GEM of TKI

  57. 57
    Dan Lawler says:

    Martin Cohran, you can run but you can’t hide!

    Gentlemen,

    Let me clarify Schaeffer’s criticism of Aquinas in a way that not even Martin can obscure.

    Knowledge is impossible without universals and categories. Aquinas’ error was his presupposition that natural reason could induce universals and categories. It can’t. That was Schaeffer’s point, and he was correct.

    Dan

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