Archive for the ‘Book notes:’He is there and He is not silent’.’ Category





The Epistemological Necessity (part 1)


(brief bites into the ass of that blind elephant called philosophy)


Following on from previous posts,here is the next in the series from Francis Schaeffer’s excellent Book ‘He is there and he is not silent’.

The Epistemological Necessity.

Epistemology is defined as the study of knowledge and deals with questions such as what is knowledge and how do we know that we know.

What is the justification (warrant) for knowledge ?

The epistemological problem can be summed up as, how do we know, that what we know, is reality and not non reality?

Schaeffer begins with a the problem of universals and particulars:


‘In the area of knowledge you have particulars , by which we mean the individual “things” that we see in the world.

At any given moment, I am faced with thousands, indeed, literally millions of particulars, just in what I see with the glance of the eyes. What are the universals which give these particulars meaning? This is the heart of the problem of epistemology and the problem of knowing’


Going slightly off topic,Schaeffer expects the justification for knowledge to go in one direction, that is from the universals to the particulars. If meaning is to be assigned to particulars it will be from the universals -this is the very opposite of reductionism and materialism -where the hope (in vain in my view)is to give meaning to universals from particulars.

Meaning hangs upon universals exclusively,those universals have to be big enough to hold that meaning.

To clarify further Schaeffer uses the example of the Greeks who had two ways to anchor meaning in universals :



meaning city , the meaning included the structure of society,Greeks took the idea of society and its values to be big enough to provide universals. This was short lived as an idea because it brought either a ruling elite or the rule of the 51% vote.

In either case universals could not be given that would cover all the particulars ,also the values represented by the Polis would be constantly changing.

This reminds me of the atheists argument for moral norms exclusive of any external agency as being sufficient,they are norms but they are always changing and so definitions of good and bad are never anything but relative. What is good is good for you .at this moment in this context. -where’s the value in that?


2.Greek gods

The Greeks moved from the Polis as a giver of universals back to the Greek gods,but these proved to be too much like other people and not big enough to provide universals.



‘The gods fought amongst themselves and had differences over all kinds of petty things. All the classical gods put together were not really enough, which is why, as we saw in the concept of the fate, in Greek literature, one never knows for sure whether the fates are controlled by the gods or whether the fates control the gods. Are the fates simply the vehicle of the action of the gods? There is constant confusion between the fates and the gods as the final control. This expresses the Greeks’ deep comprehension that their gods simply were not adequate:they were not big enough with regard to the fates and they were not big enough with regard to knowledge.’


From the Greeks failure to find adequate universals Schaeffer moves to the birth of a bipartite view of the world .

Thomas Aquinas saw the lack of emphasis on particulars and understood the dilemma of the Greek world which prompted him to redress the balance,this brings us to the bipartite view of our knowledge.

The best explanation for the origins of this view, comes from Nancy Pearcey’s book ‘Total Truth‘.

She says:

‘Why did Plato view the material world as inferior..he regarded matter as pre-existing from all eternity. The role of the creator was merely to impose rational Form upon it. But the pre-existence of Matter meant it had independent properties over which the creator had no control;as a result, the deity was never fully successful in forcing it into the mold of forms. This explains why there is always some chaos , disorder, and irrationality in the world.’

Plato’s view can be represented as:





Eternal Reason




Eternal Formless Flux



To cut a long story short (see Nancy Pearceys book’ Total Truth’ for the long version) the Greeks placed the emphasis on metaphysics, seeing the physical material world including the body and its various functions as bad because it resists Gods forms and is the source of evil. This attitude was adopted by monastic orders across Christendom ,but reflected a unbiblical view .



Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic priest and philosopher saw this unbiblical idea of matter pre-existing God and the subsequent attitude towards Gods creation including the body and sexuality as damaging. He sought to place nature in its right perspective


Nancy Pearcy says:

‘The end result was that Aquinas retained the dualistic framework of Greek philosophy while changing the terminology.

In the upper storey he put grace,a supernatural influence that gave meaning to particulars.

In the lower story he put nature, not nature in the modern scientific sense but in the Aristotelian sense of the “nature of the thing”, meaning its ideal or perfect form,its full potential,the goal towards which it strives,its telos Aquinas adopted and Christianised Aristotle’s philosophy that is that natural processes are good because the are the means by which they fulfil there nature and arrive at a perfected form.’


Aquinas’s bipartite view:




A supernatural add-on




A built-In Ideal or Goal



The result of this emphasis by Aquinas was both positive and negative,the positive was to re-emphasise Nature and to pave the way for Science,the possible negative side was to allow particulars to become autonomous of Grace-Gods influence , and so the relationship between universals and particulars was loosened.

This stated negative is controversial, something, for the next instalment.

Dr[1]. Francis Schaeffer.jpg
Ok… Ok I know it’s been a while since I posted.

Here is another instalment in my notes on Francis Schaeffer’s Book ‘He is there and He is not silent’For the previous instalment please go here.

Last time, we looked at what a philosophically adequate personal beginning looked like, today we are looking at the Moral Necessity.

I have to admit it I’m shrinking, a continual process of apoptosis is reducing my stature, cell by miserable cell is giving up the ghost and leaving me less likely to be allowed onto those really scary rollercoaster rides, currently I am ok, at a shade off of six foot tall but who knows how much longer I can nonchalantly walk past the height barrier?

Mans sense of finiteness demonstrates itself in our failing capacities and the sense of loss we feel when a friend or loved one dies.It is this characteristic of finiteness that shows us that Man alone in an impersonal world is not enough to give an adequate foundation for living.Within a conversation between two people there is an agreed shared meaning applied to the sounds that are made by each person. That meaning is our reference point, our dictionary .Schaeffer puts it like this’ as finite beings there is no reference point big enough and there are no morals by the same token. With an impersonal beginning we cannot talk about what is really right or wrong.’We need a reference point outside of ourselves, external and eternal for there to be any meaning.Assuming an impersonal beginning ‘Man’ has by chance become a being with aspirations, including a moral capacity  for which there is no ultimate fulfilment in the Universe as it is. 

  “Without love, what are we worth? Eighty-nine cents! Eighty-nine cents worth of chemicals walking around lonely…” (Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, M*A*S*H 4077)*

 These Moral motions (as Schaeffer puts it) have no meaning, if all is ultimately reduced to down to the materialistic what does it matter what our morals are? 

 With the impersonal there is total Silence regarding Morals.

 The French philosopher Marquis de Sade adopted a materialistic determinism out of which this statement came: ‘What is, is right’.I am so glad that De Sade –who’s only reference point, was himself, has finally lost his reference point…being dead,  because his morals stink!The only morals open to a subscriber to a closed universe is moral relativism that’s the belief that behaviour and the value of Human beings have no absolute reference.Moral relativism is handcuffed to make no judgment upon anything because the judge making that judgment will one day cease to be –so what value that judgment?Sociological relativism the rule of the 51% is just as fleeting, what societies deem acceptable constantly changes as history demonstrates. Abortion was illegal and considered (quite rightly) a sin, now it’s considered a right.This is just skating the surface of moral relativism.Next time in this series we will look at Mans cruelty and God.

* Hat tip to Holopupenko

Dr[1]. Francis Schaeffer.jpg

For the previous post in this series please go here.

To have an adequate answer from a personal beginning we need:

1.A personal infinite God

2.Personal unity and diversity in God

1.God needs to be both Personal and infinite, without these qualities, there is no base from which Man can operate with logical and individual consistency. If God is not personal then there is no answer to our experience of personality, there is also the problem of the origin of personality since we are not causa Sui.

Is personality an emergent quality of an underlying neurological process, or is this a convenient ‘Black Box’ for metaphysical naturalists to use so as to avoid explaining why we have personality, in the process they explain away any sense of being unique or basis for individual significance.

God is infinite because he is not limited like we are limited. Also he is infinite in regard to time –he has no beginning he is the unmoved mover. God views time much like we would look at a picture in an art gallery –he see it all at once as Psalm 90:4 states:’ For a thousand years in your sight are but yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night’. Apart from Biblical teaching no system has God being both Infinite and personal.

2.God provides a basis for unity and diversity as found in the relationship of the trinity.

Matt 28:19 says: ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,..’

For more about point 2 go to this previous post.

Only God is independent-there is a chasm between God and created finite things such as man, animals, flowers and the machine. Regarding infinity man is as separated from God as is the atom, the animal or any other part of creation.

In regard to personality, the gap is between man and the animals, the planet and the machine, as Man is made in the image of God, the originator of personality.

The Nicene creed was produced by the council of Nicea in 325AD its format underlines the idea of three persons in loving communication before all else including space/time existed. Creed did not produce the doctrine of the trinity but reflected the doctrine that was laid out in the Bible.

Here is the creed:

“We believe (I believe) in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages. (God of God) light of light, true God of true God. Begotten not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. And was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and was made man; was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures. And ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, and shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, of whose Kingdom there shall be no end. And (I believe) in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son), who together with the Father and the Son is to be adored and glorified, who spoke by the Prophets. And one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We confess (I confess) one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for (I look for) the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

If this loving communication did not exist before the beginning of time then we would have had a God who needed to create in order to love and communicate. God would have needed the universe as much as the universe needed God. He would not of been perfect as he would of needed to add to himself.

This communication between the three persons of the trinity, is the model for family, the model for marriage, the model for mans need to be part of a community, the model for communication –as Schaeffer say ‘The reason we know anything is that he is not silent’.

Dr[1]. Francis Schaeffer.jpg


Regarding Existence:

There are three fundamental options regarding Existence, they are:

1. Everything that exists came out of nothing-the starting point for all that is, is nothing.

This position is difficult to sustain.

Schaeffer gives this definition to nothing similar to (Thomas Baldwin’s previously):

Suppose we had a very black blackboard that had never been used. On this blackboard we drew a circle, and inside the circle there was everything that was-and there was nothing within the circle. Then we erase the circle. There is no energy, Man, motion, time or space or any personality.

2. All that now is had an impersonal beginning i.e. energy/mass.

Schaeffer says ‘If you accept an impersonal beginning you are faced with some form of reductionism. Reductionism argues that everything there is now from the stars to man himself, is finally to be understood by reducing it to the original impersonal factors or factor’

Victor Frankl, in an essay on “Reductionism and Nihilism,” wrote: Reductionism is more than just saying time and again that something is nothing but something else. It is an approach and procedure that deprives the human phenomena of their very humanness by reducing a human phenomenon in dynamic terms to some sub-human phenomenon, or deducing human phenomena, in genetic terms, from sub-human phenomena.

Reductionism maintains an attitude ranging from indifference to hostility towards the object studied. All that is of value in studying this object is to be found only in its parts and the relationship between those parts as opposed to the object’s inherent qualities.

The problem with reductionism (beginning with the impersonal) is to find any meaning for the particulars.(A particular is any individual factor, or any individual thing).Modern Science uses reductionism to great effect but since Man has become part of the machine reductionism views personality as only the impersonal plus complexity.
The impersonal beginning is equivalent to the Pantheism.

The Stanford encyclopaedia of Philosophy defines pantheism as: ‘…. a metaphysical and religious position. Broadly defined it is the view that “God is everything and everything is God … the world is either identical with God or in some way a self-expression of his nature” (Owen 1971). Similarly, it is the view that everything that exists constitutes a “unity” and this all-inclusive unity is in some sense divine (MacIntyre 1967:).

Schaeffer saw 2 problems with pantheism:

1.The need for unity

2.The need for diversity

Pantheism gives an answer to the problem of unity, as the quote by Owen indicates, but has no answer to the problem of diversity. With Pantheism there is no basis or reason for significance in variance. This means if everything is equal then there is no basis for morality what is deemed good is equal to that which is considered evil.

3.Begin with a personal beginning.

A personal beginning gives meaning to personality –man and his aspirations are not meaningless. Personality has meaning because it is not alienated from what has always been, and is and what will always be.

A personal beginning distinguishes personality from non-personality.

To have an adequate answer from a personal beginning we need:

1.A personal infinite God

2.Personal unity and diversity in God

More next time regarding a personal beginning

Dr[1]. Francis Schaeffer.jpg

Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984), a Christian Theologian and Philosopher, has been someone who has influenced me on and off since I was 15.I think part of the reason he has stuck around in my head for so long (steady I am not that old!)Is how very different his approach to the big questions we are all trying to answer or avoid answering, was. He not only spoke like someone who could ‘see’ further into the distance than most and time has proven him correct with many of his insights. He tried (imperfectly as he would admit) to live out his Christianity through setting up a community known as Labri (French for shelter) ( This remains to this day and has grown in number and influence.

Out of the many books Schaeffer wrote, the first three are considered core, they are called: ‘The God who is there’, ‘Escape from Reason’ and ‘He is there and He is not silent’. I have just finished reading ‘He is there and He is not silent’. With this I am starting a series of bite-sized posts looking at ‘He is there and He is not silent’. I’m assuming no prior knowledge, so be warned. The most immediate queestion is why should I be bothered with Philosophy, (don’t you need to be dead and Greek?)Schaeffer said:No man can live without a world-view;therefore,there is no man who is not a philosopher’ in a similar vein several thousand years earlier,in book 1 of ‘Metaphysics’ Aristotle wrote ‘all men by nature desire to know.An indication of this is the delight we take in our sense;for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves;and above all others the sense of sight.For not only with a view to action,but even when we are not going to do anything,we prefer seeing (one might say) to everything else.The reason is that this,most of all the senses,makes us know and brings to light many differences between things.’ We all have an opinion about life,our life and the world we find ourselves in.Our opinions are often unthinkingly caught like the the cold virus from our enironment,from the time and culture we live in.

Why does it matter ? Isn’t this an ego game of one-up man ship? I don’t think so,worldviews affect the way we behave,and the last hundred years have tragically shown how destructive an incoherent inaccurate or poorly applied worldview can be to whole countries and generations.

So here goes with the first chunky bite…

The first chapter is entitled: The Metaphysical Necessity.

Two questions come to mind straight away: what is metaphysics and why is it Necessary?‘
Meta’ is a Greek word meaning ‘after, with’ it refers to going beyond or above something. Metaphysics is concerned with looking at reality from above but not apart from nature-it seeks to produce a working logical model of the world.So what is a necessity? A necessity can be described as a foundational fact that is true in all situations. Necessity is analogous to the notion in astrobiology that extra terrestrial life (if there is any to be found anywhere in the universe) must be based on water, this is the universal solvent. There are laws regarding life that must be the same where ever In the universe we go, this is a necessity., without these laws no life would exist. So a metaphysical necessity could be described as answers to questions without which we could not construct a coherent working logical model of the world.Ok this is dangerously close to not being Bite sized so more later regarding what these metaphysical necessities are, according to Schaeffer.