08 December 2007

Francis Schaeffer: Thesis and Antithesis Don't Equal Synthesis

Francis Schaeffer continues to blow me away. I am left astounded continually when I read his works. Earlier this summer I read The God Who Is There for pure and sheer enjoyment. I was left without breath the book was so good. Recently I have been enjoying Perkins or occasionally Starbucks with a friend just to talk about our lives and how we got to where we are. This of course involves talking about our spiritual journeys, an incredibly uncomfortable topic for those brought up in a society where speaking about one's private spirituality is certainly not the norm.

For instance, I may just disagree with something you have experienced. I may just look at you and tell you that the experiences you have had reflect deep problems in your thinking. I may just look at you and tell you that if you keep going that way you will end up where the liberals ended up. I may just tell you you're wrong. Or you may do the same to me.

This of course is infuriating. In today's culture personal spirituality must never be attacked and personal experience must never be negated. "Authentic" pursuit of "god" is enough in today's relative culture to apparently make anyone acceptable to whatever deity one worships. This makes you a good person and no one should be allowed to impede into your privacy to tell you, "I have a thesis and what you believe is the antithesis to my thesis, you are in the wrong."

The greatest heresy, it would seem, is calling anything a heresy.

Thus, when my friend and I arrived at the fork in the road concerning methodology and epistemology (how we come to know what we know and how we know what we know) Francis Schaeffer immediately popped into my head.

My friend said, in essence, "I do not believe that anyone can truly know that something is true. You only say that Christianity is true because you have come to believe it through your limited experiences and from your personal perspective, however, the Buddhist is really doing the same thing and they believe based upon their one experience of knowing. I do not have to believe Jesus Christ is the truth just because you believe this is so. Your knowledge of this truth does not validate it as true any more than the Buddhist's sure knowledge that he is true."

This of course addresses things that Schaeffer drives at in the very first chapter of The God Who is There. He opens with one of the greatest lead lines of all time, "The present chasm between the generations has been brought about almost entirely by a change in the concept of truth." This is precisely what my friend needs to hear. The concept of truth is under attack.

Schaeffer stunningly launches into an explanation of his present situation (which sounds frighteningly like our present situation and exactly what my friend said) in explaining that one day there was a concept of truth that went like this, "All A is A and all Non-A is Non-A and therefore A cannot be Non-A and Non-A cannot be A." This is the concept of thesis and antithesis. The concept that there is an absolute objective linear truth and that thesis and antithesis make a contrast.

There was a day when everyone believed this to be the case. No one doubted that there was a thesis and an antithesis. Everyone would have agreed that to say that A and Non-A could go together was preposterous and ridiculous. But they could not agree on what the correct thesis was. They tried again and again but for the life of them no one could figure out what the right one was.

This is because they started at fallible finite man and built from there.

Somewhere along the line after yet another someone had claimed that their thesis was the correct thesis the philosophers realized that this wasn't working for them. So some guy named Hegel showed up and said that thesis and antithesis shouldn't equal contrast, they should equal synthesis.

In other words, there are no absolute truths, there is no "right" thesis, only many ideas that may result in synthesis.

Of course, you can see how this is damaging. This leaves us reeling. Not only is there no longer a basis for truth, there is no truth. Schaeffer called it The Line of Despair.

My friend, really quite a few of my friends, could use a good solid dose of this truth. It is ridiculous to believe even for a moment that A and Non-A could be the same thing. A and Non-A are mutually exclusive, and therefore one or both of them must be wrong.

Schaeffer issues one of the greatest challenges I have ever faced in my life,

Those standing in the stream of historic Christianity have been especially slow to understand the relationships between various areas of thought . When the apostle warned us to, "keep ourselves unspotted from the world," he was not talking of some abstraction. If the Christian is to apply this injunction to himself he must understand what confronts him antagonistically in his own moment of history. Otherwise he simply becomes a useless museum piece and not a living warrior for Jesus Christ.

And this after only two chapters! Schaeffer must have been a prophet,

Soli Deo Gloria!

R.D. Thompson

1 comment:

  1. Hey Ryan- Tell me about "The Voice" series by emergent. I don't have your email. Mine is lucaspick@gmail.com .

    you can erase this when your done. Please get back to me as soon as you can.