FRANCIS A. SCHAEFFER, Before the Chasm

The present chasm between the generations has been brought about almost entirely by a change in the concept of truth.
Wherever you look today, the new concept holds the field. The consensus about us is almost monolithic, whether you review the arts, literature or simply read the newspapers and magazines such as Time, Life, Newsweek, The Listener or The Observer. On every side you can feel the stranglehold of this new methodology — and by “methodology” we mean the way we approach truth and knowing. It is like suffocating in a particularly bad London fog. And just as fog cannot be kept out by walls or doors, so this consensus comes in around us, until the room we live in is no longer unpolluted, and yet we hardly realize what has happened.
The tragedy of our situation today is that men and women are being fundamentally affected by the new way of looking at truth, and yet they have never even analyzed the drift which has taken place. Young people from Christian homes are brought up in the old framework of truth. Then they are subjected to the modern framework. In time they become confused because they do not understand the alternatives with which they are being presented. Confusion becomes bewilderment, and before long they are overwhelmed. This is unhappily true not only of young people, but of many pastors, Christian educators, evangelists and missionaries as well.
So this change in the concept of the way we come to knowledge and truth is the most crucial problem, as I understand it, facing Christianity today.
If you had lived in Europe, let us say prior to about 1890, or in the United States before about 1935, you would not have had to spend much time, in practice, in thinking about your presuppositions. (These dates are arbitrary as the change came, in Europe at least, fairly gradually. In America the crucial years of change were from 1913 to 1940, and during these relatively few years the whole way of thinking underwent a revolution; 1913 was a most important year in the United States, not because it was the year before the First World War, but for another highly significant reason, as we shall see later.)
Before these dates everyone would have been working on much the same presuppositions, which in practice seemed to accord with the Christian’s own presuppositions. This was true both in the area of epistemology and methodology. Epistemology is the theory of how we know, or how we can be sure that what we think we know of the world about us is correct. Methodology is how we approach the question of truth and knowing.
Now it may be argued that the non-Christian had no right to act on the presuppositions he acted on. That is true. They were being romantic in accepting optimistic answers without a sufficient base. Nevertheless they went on thinking and acting as if these presuppositions were true.
What were these presuppositions? The basic one was that there really are such things as absolutes. They accepted the possibility of an absolute in the area of Being (or knowledge), and in the area of morals. Therefore, because they accepted the possibility of absolutes, though people might have disagreed as to what these were, nevertheless they could reason together on the classical basis of antithesis. They took it for granted that if anything was true, the opposite was false. In morality, if one thing was right, its opposite was wrong. This little formula, “A is A” and “If you have A it is not non-A,” is the first move in classical logic. If you understand the extent to which this no longer holds sway, you will understand our present situation.
Absolutes imply antithesis. The non-Christian went on romantically operating on this basis without a sufficient cause, an adequate base, for doing so. Thus it was still possible to discuss what was right and wrong, what was true and false. One could tell a non-Christian to “be a good girl” and, while she might not have followed your advice, at least she would have understood what you were talking about. To say the same thing to a truly modern girl today would be to make a “nonsense” statement. The blank look you might receive would not mean that your standards had been rejected, but that your message was meaningless.
The shift has been tremendous. Thirty or more years ago you could have said such things as “This is true” or “This is right,” and you would have been on everybody’s wavelength. People may or may not have thought out their beliefs consistently, but everyone would have been talking to each other as though the idea of antithesis was correct. Thus in evangelism, in spiritual matters and in Christian education, you could have begun with the certainty that your audience understood you.

Preluat din : Schaeffer, F. A. The complete works of Francis A. Schaeffer : A Christian worldview. Westchester: Crossway Books.


One thought on “FRANCIS A. SCHAEFFER, Before the Chasm

  1. Excellent. This is the first time I ever heard of Schaeffer. I will try to find the book. He expresses my own concerns, but has a better grasp of history than I do.

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