Thursday, October 19, 2006

He is there and He is not silent

This is a book written by Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer. He wrote this book after "The God Who Is There" and "Escape From Reason". It was a book with deep insights on understanding the need of modern man for truth, beauty and meaning of life. I would say its not an easy to book to follow if one does not have some basic understanding of philosophy as the subject is very much a philosophical one. He challenges the pessimism of modern man who find only silence in the area of values and meaning because they do not know as the Christians had the privilege to know - the infinite-personal God who is there and He is not silent. The book is a short one compared to others that I had read - merely four chapters, starting with the topic on metaphysical necessity, followed by the moral necessity and then to the epistemological necessity: the problem and ends with the epistemological necessity: the answer. I personally find the first two chapters profound.

The problem of existence has always been a hot topic among the philosophers. Jean Paul Sartre had said that the basic philosophic question is that something is there rather than nothing being there. The starting point is important - do we begin with nothing nothing or with a beginning? A beginning can be personal or impersonal. The impersonality may be mass, energy or motion but there is problem finding meaning for the particulars such as a drop of water or man. When we begin with the impersonal, how do any of the particulars have any meaning, any significance? Now, this is a dilemma. However, if you begin with a personal beginning, man being personal does have meaning. It is the Christian who has the answer at this point. I like what Schaeffer said, "we have the reality of the fact that personality does have meaning because it is not alienated from what has always been, and what is, and what always will be. This is our answer, and with this we have a solution not only to the problem of existence of bare being and its complexity - but also for man's being different, with a personality which distinguishes him from non-man."

However, if man was created by a personal-infinite God, how can we escape the conclusion that the personal God who made man cruel is himself also bad and cruel? No wonder Baudelaire (famous art historian, poet and great thinker) had a famous sentence: "If there is a God, He is the Devil." Schaeffer dealt with this issue very thoughtfully as he found out many Christians would want to put a defence using an irrational approach. In contrast, he is rational to say that if God has made man as man now is, then this is what man, as man, is. However, he went further to state that man as he is now is not what he was; that man is discontinuous with what he has been, rather than continuous with what he has always been. He put it this way - man is now abnormal - he has changed, not because God changed him, but because he changed himself. Man, by his own choice, is not what he intrinsically was. In this case we can understand that man is now cruel, but that God is not a bad God. As such, the substitutionary death of Christ now has meaning - it makes sense that we can have hope of a solution concerning man if man is abnormal now. That is why the christian should be in the front line, fighting the results of man's cruelty, for we know that is not what God has made. We are able to be angry at the result's of man's cruelty without being angry at God or being angry at what is normal.

It is not improper that men should ask questions concerning metaphysics and morals. On the contrary, they are relevant questions and Schaeffer pointed out clearly that the Christian answers are the only answers. It is this or nothing. There is just no better answer to be found. Therefore, our duty is to strive to know who He is, and what His character is. The good news is He had reached out and spoken to us. He had made Himself known to us - He is certainly not an impersonal God who sits at His throne and acting dumb.

by sinsee