Why Credit Schaeffer but not Aristotle?

This is my problem with w-w proponents. When they explain the accomplishments of people with the wrong w-w they play the “common grace” card. Why, of course, folks without a proper w-w understand some truth because ultimately God set it up that way. Listen to a recent account of Aristotle’s abilities:

This does raise the obvious question, what about all those pagans who did get things right? Surely Aristotle, for example, was correct in much of what he said about God, virtue, etc., even if he wasn’t saved? The worldview proponent can happily concede this fact, but it doesn’t prove the existence of universally accessible axioms of reason. Any true beliefs the unbeliever does hold (and in principle there’s no limit to the number of true beliefs an unbeliever may hold) are attributable to common grace. That is, any truth, goodness, or beauty found among unbelievers is a gift from God, but these gifts are not given equally to all. Common grace does not entail common reason, nor can everyone be an Aristotle.

Granted, Aristotle entered the world with certain capacities for which he could not take credit. But can’t we attribute anything to his years of study, his clarity of prose, his competent arguments. Doesn’t he himself deserve praise for some of his accomplishments?

What’s odd about the above rendering of Aristotle and common grace is how much this same w-w apologist has no problem giving credit to Christian w-w proponents, instead of chalking up their insights to “special grace”:

The first Christian to use the term “worldview” was the Scottish theologian James Orr (1844-1913). Orr claimed that our view of Jesus affects our view of everything else in life—of God, of man, of sin and redemption, of the meaning of history, and of our destiny. While Orr gave Christians the building blocks for the idea of a Christian worldview, it was the Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) who took the idea and ran with it. . . .

Credit for popularizing the idea of a Christian worldview among evangelicals in North America undoubtedly goes to Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984), who founded the L’Abri community in Switzerland and wrote extensively on apologetics, art, and culture. Schaeffer had a profound impact upon the following generation of evangelicals, including Nancy Pearcey and Charles Colson (see How Now Shall We Live?) and James Sire (see The Universe Next Door). These evangelicals all affirmed the two key insights of Orr and Kuyper: 1) that the Christian faith forms a unified and coherent vision of all of life, and 2) that this vision stands in irreconcilable opposition to all competing non-Christian visions of life.

That’s a double standard.

I thought w-wers were opposed to dualism.

In point of fact, w-w theory has a serious flaw if it fails to recognize the goodness of creation and the accomplishments of creatures who use their gifts with remarkable ability even without the aid of the Holy Spirit’s redemptive work. That seems like all the more reason to give folks like Aristotle even more credit (humanly speaking) than Schaeffer.

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27 thoughts on “Why Credit Schaeffer but not Aristotle?

  1. In some ways, How Shall We Then Live is a very good book. But, if the better question is How Shall We Then Live With Others, which I think it is, it is sadly deficient.

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  2. Granted, those who “become Reformed” entered the world with more IQ points than Arminians, and for that they cannot take credit. But can’t we attribute something to years of studying good confessionally Reformed theology? After all, that simple old “Jesus died for you and it will work if you accept” gospel was what God sovereignly used to effectually call us, correct? And knowing about election might not be even a second blessing because sometimes that only puts you in a “cage-stage”….

    http://newbreedcp.org/191-a-word-in-season.html

    an evangelical—“The late Francis Schaeffer once noted that bitter divisions among Christians give the world the justification they’re looking for to disbelieve the gospel. But when reconciliation, peacemaking, and unity are on display inside the church, that becomes a powerful witness to this fractured world. Conflict has “given the world the justification they’re looking for to disbelieve the gospel”.

    Roger Olson, another evangelical— “C S. Lewis more than implied that God will sometimes accept as worship of Him the worship of other gods. The logical import of such a statement is that, in effect, the person was worshiping ‘the same God’ whether they knew it or not. Billy Graham stated very publicly in a video recorded interview with Robert Schuller, that he did not think only Christians could be saved…..

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  3. From the linked article: Credit for popularizing the idea of a Christian worldview among evangelicals in North America undoubtedly goes to Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984), who founded the L’Abri community in Switzerland and wrote extensively on apologetics, art, and culture. Schaeffer had a profound impact upon the following generation of evangelicals, including Nancy Pearcey and Charles Colson (see How Now Shall We Live?) and James Sire (see The Universe Next Door). These evangelicals all affirmed the two key insights of Orr and Kuyper: 1) that the Christian faith forms a unified and coherent vision of all of life, and 2) that this vision stands in irreconcilable opposition to all competing non-Christian visions of life.

    There doesn’t seem to be any tangible evidence that evangelicals actually live affirming the two non-negotiable statements. Further, I think it’s time we laid to rest the idea that evangelicals are all about changing culture. They simply whine about it without doing anything. As for “apologetics, art, and culture,” that’s the Cliff Clavin Jeopardy answer: “What are three things evangelicals know nothing about?”

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  4. MarkMc: Granted, those who “become Reformed” entered the world with more IQ points than Arminians, and for that they cannot take credit. But can’t we attribute something to years of studying good confessionally Reformed theology? After all, that simple old “Jesus died for you and it will work if you accept” gospel was what God sovereignly used to effectually call us, correct? And knowing about election might not be even a second blessing because sometimes that only puts you in a “cage-stage”….

    Yes.

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  5. Hi Mark, gotta respond on a few things cause I’m not sure anyone else will –

    Mark: Granted, those who “become Reformed” entered the world with more IQ points than Arminians, and for that they cannot take credit.

    Everyone enters the world in the same condition – dead, spiritually, that is; and also separately, with the ’ intelligence’ given to them. All a gift for sure. We steward those gifts. Eph 2:5; James 1:17

    Mark: Billy Graham stated very publicly in a video recorded interview with Robert Schuller, that he did not think only Christians could be saved

    Watch out Mark – you can believe whoever and whatever you want – but that doesn’t change reality.
    Acts 4: 12 And there is salvation in no one else (Jesus) ; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
    John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

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  6. Well, I would prefer the company of truth seeking virtuous pagans to mean spirited “Christians”.
    Now a person who is virtous and loving AND professes that Jesus loves and died for sinners, is a compelling witness.

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  7. DG,

    Are you more in line with a Classical Apologetic via Aquinas? Do you dislike Clark and Van Til, or is it their progeny who get things wrong? I’m sure you’ll give a vague 1 sentence answer. Should I get a Bahnsen book or Peter Kreeft?

    Isn’t it more dualistic to assume that it isn’t the inherent worth given to the creation that gives rise to Aristotle(s) and instead somehow Aristotle(s) arise apart from common grace? Why not give the credit to God, not Aristotle and not Schaeffer? Maybe I misunderstand common grace – I’ve never attached it to salvation but that the rain falls on just and unjust people – I’ve never attached the Holy Spirit to common grace either – it is an inherent component of creation perpetually upheld by God. I thought the point of Presuppositionalism is that though the sinner assumes many truths about the world that are true and useful they at the same time ground those realities in absurdities due to a failure of the will regarding worship toward God and that the task of the apologist in many ways is to show a person that Christianity is the true picture of reality that must be held rendering worship in the end. What’s wrong with that? Wouldn’t Calvin agree with that?

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  8. The pietist brethren I know would certainly give God the glory for anything good from pagans or Christians. I’m sure the author of the quote would too If you pressed him with the inconsistency of the quote.

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  9. Matt, “Why not give the credit to God, not Aristotle and not Schaeffer?”

    But that’s not what the post did. I gave God credit for Aristotle, and Schaeffer credit for w-w. Why can’t we give Aristotle credit for Politics?

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  10. Assume a “sarcasm alert” every time—I often get agreed with by those who think that being Reformed is the optional cherry on top of the evangelical sundae.

    If you want some “dualism”, check out Calvin—“The body which decays, weighs down the soul, and confining it within an earthly habitation, greatly limits its perceptions. If the body is the prison of the soul, if the earthly habitation is a kind of fetters, what is the state of the soul when set free from this prison, when loosed from these fetters? Is it not restored to itself, and as it were made complete, so that we may truly say, that all for which it gains is so much lost to the body? . . . For then the soul, having shaken off all kinds of pollution, is truly spiritual, so that it consents to the will of God, and is no longer subjected to the tyranny of the flesh; thus dwelling in tranquility, with all its thoughts fixed on God. “Tracts Relating to The Reformation, p 443

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  11. Will there still be two kingdoms after King Jesus comes? Will “common grace” continue in that “creation kingdom” so that the non-elect will be given eternal life in order to sin forever?

    John Bolt—The 1924 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, though it ostensibly wanted to defend Abraham Kuyper’s doctrine of common grace, failed to guard its formulation from the perils of possible salvific universalism. Kuyper would not have been happy with that. By joining Kuyper’s insistence on the particularity of grace, Herman Hoeksema was right and the Christian Reformed Church was wrong

    John Bolt—“God’s saving grace is always particular, to the elect. The promise of the gospel “that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life…, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel” (Canons of Dordt, II, 5)…. Whatever “light of nature” remains in man only serves to make him inexcusable….”

    http://standardbearer.rfpa.org/node/54475

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  12. from the Bible quoter -reminds me of this great story…

    God gives king stuff; king positive he is the source of that stuff; God recalibrates him; king’s mind brought to reality; God restores ‘majesty and splendor’ and adds ‘surpassing greatness’ . Incredible.

    Daniel 4:30 The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ 31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, 32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ 34 “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever;
    For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
    35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
    But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
    And among the inhabitants of earth;
    And no one can ward off His hand
    Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’
    36 At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”

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  13. “Granted, Aristotle entered the world with certain capacities for which he could not take credit. But can’t we attribute anything to his years of study, his clarity of prose, his competent arguments. Doesn’t he himself deserve praise for some of his accomplishments?”

    Very true, but God the Creator was the one who providentially gifted Aristotle not only with his natural capacities, but with the personality and drive to pursue his studies and attain his accomplishments. Since Aristotle certainly did not deserve or merit these providential gifts we may legitimately speak of them as the fruits of “common grace” (though I won’t quibble if you follow the “there’s nothing common about grace” crowd and prefer to call it something else).

    At bottom I think this “w-w” debate is more a matter of semantics and emphasis than of actual substance. Why quibble over terminology when such quibbling only serves to promote unhealthy controversy? (And why play into the anti-Calvinist stereotype of Calvinists as a quarelsome lot who enjoy multiplying controversies for controversy’s sake?)

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  14. Ali, wouldst thou dare to be a Daniel, though, and willingly learn at the feet of the pagan’s at the U of B, even taking a political post at the appointment of Nebuchadnezzar with nary a hint of protestation or opportunity to “speak to truth to power?”

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  15. Geoff, then again, if worldviewry is a categorical shift from faith to philosophy then might you agree it’s worth putting up some fuss? After all, isn’t that a Kantian move? If so, then don’t you have to shut up a little bit about the dangers of Protestant liberalism which sought to make Christianity all about ethics over belief (or deeds not creeds)?

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  16. Geoff, it doesn’t look good to non-believers when Christians give credit for all the good stuff but don’t attribute Dylan Roof to divine providence.

    Plus, I’m not sure why giving credit to Aristotle isn’t also giving credit to God. When your wife cooks a great meal, do you say a prayer of compliment to God (I hope not) or do you thank her, pay the compliment, and know inside you are enjoying gifts from your maker and redeemer?

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  17. Zrim: Ali, wouldst thou dare to be a Daniel, though, and willingly learn at the feet of the pagan’s at the U of B, even taking a political post at the appointment of Nebuchadnezzar with nary a hint of protestation or opportunity to “speak to truth to power?”

    alright, Zrim, I was thinking about holding a food-storage-Tupperware-type party tonight, but ok, instead I’ll respond something to you

    DG: “This is my problem with w-w proponents.”
    What? There are people that don’t actually have any view of the world?

    DG: Aristotle entered the world with certain capacities for which he could not take credit.
    What? But then there are other certain capacities he entered the world with that he could take credit for?

    DG :w-w theory has a serious flaw if it fails to recognize the goodness of creation.
    Is that like worshiping creation rather than the Creator.

    DG: accomplishments of creatures who use their gifts with remarkable ability even without the aid of the Holy Spirit.
    See the whole Bible for how the Lord feels about those who do not see fit to acknowledge God.

    Zrim: Ali, wouldst thou dare to be a Daniel
    if so, only by the power of the Lord, that’s for sure. You have to admit the whole beautiful orchestrated Daniel-episode is fantastic; even then recorded just for our benefit; and too, have you ever noted God’s commendation of Daniel -calling him ‘highly esteemed’ and how it was that the ’God of Daniel’ was praised by others because of Daniel’s acts of faith.

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  18. Zrim: “Geoff, then again, if worldviewry is a categorical shift from faith to philosophy then might you agree it’s worth putting up some fuss? After all, isn’t that a Kantian move? If so, then don’t you have to shut up a little bit about the dangers of Protestant liberalism which sought to make Christianity all about ethics over belief (or deeds not creeds)?”

    GW: I don’t quite follow you. Are you saying that because I am suggesting that this in-house Reformed debate over “worldview” appears to be more about semantics than about substance, that I am therefore undermining the orthodox case against Protestant liberalism? (If so, then you simply have not understood the intent of my comments.)

    Protestant liberalism is different in substance from historic, orthodox Christianity. It is, as Machen argued in his book “Christianity and Liberalism”, another religion altogether. But Reformed worldviewism vs. Reformed non-worldviewism is an in-house debate amongst Christian brothers; and I would contend it is a debate that is largely one of semantics and of brethren talking past each other.

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  19. D.G. Hart: “Geoff, it doesn’t look good to non-believers when Christians give credit for all the good stuff but don’t attribute Dylan Roof to divine providence.”

    GW: I doubt that most unbelievers care one whit about the biblical doctrine of providence. I understand your concern about Christians who give God credit for the good stuff but not the bad, but I for one am certainly willing to attribute Dylan Roof to Divine providence (as all confessional Calvinists should be). God has not only decreed special and common grace and their good fruits, but has also decreed all the sins of men and of angels (but has done so in such a way that neither is He the author or approver of sin, nor is violence done to the will of the creatures, as our Westminster Standards affirm).

    D.G. Hart: “Plus, I’m not sure why giving credit to Aristotle isn’t also giving credit to God. When your wife cooks a great meal, do you say a prayer of compliment to God (I hope not) or do you thank her, pay the compliment, and know inside you are enjoying gifts from your maker and redeemer?”

    GW: Your comments actually help to underscore the point I was trying to make. Yes, of course giving credit to Aristotle (the creaturely cause of his intellectual attainments and works) is also giving credit to God (the ultimate Cause of Aristotle’s existence and accomplishments). So, yes, I’m perfectly comfortable giving Aristotle credit for his intelligence and accomplishments, and to do so all the while recognizing God’s common grace and overruling providence behind it all. (Just like I am happy to compliment my wife for her excellent cooking while also recognizing God’s providence in granting her her culinary abilities — abilities for which I am truly thankful.)

    See, we agree in substance on this matter, though we may differ in semantics or the manner by which we articulate the matter. Which was the exact point I was trying to make in my previous comment.

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  20. Geoff, what I’m saying is that worldviewry is the Reformed version of Protestant liberalism insofar as what animated the latter was a way of making Christianity more of a this-worldly philosophy with religious trappings and accouterments. In that way, it’s not really quite as innocuous as you suggest or negligible. Again, the fundamental shift is in the language itself, i.e. worldview versus faith. Worldview is about this world and its concerns; faith is otherworldly and how to get from the temporal to the eternal, which is why the temporal-eternal dichotomy is a vital one in this debate.

    So, I think you’re quite missing it when you dismiss the whole thing as simply matter of “semantics and talking past each other.” That’s what some who found themselves between the old school confessionalists and the new school liberals said, and plenty of other divides down through church history. Do you think it’s any wonder that demons with heavy Kuyperian influence like the RCA and CRC are considered by some the Dutch Reformed versions of the American Protestant mainline? Why do you think that might be?

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  21. Geoff, We agree on part of the matter, I think. But maybe not the substance. As I understand it, the substance in this case is how we talk about the accomplishments of people. You seemed to defend the inconsistency of the blog post I quoted. I criticized it. How is that agreement?

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  22. Zrim: “Worldview is about this world and its concerns; faith is otherworldly and how to get from the temporal to the eternal, which is why the temporal-eternal dichotomy is a vital one in this debate.”

    GW: I think this is a bit of a generalization, and I doubt many “Christian Worldview” (or “w-w”) advocates would consider this a fair representation of their concerns. Like it or not, your emphasis on faith as otherworldly (an emphasis I agree with) itself reflects a worldview — a way of viewing the world in light of the biblical system of doctrine taught in our Reformed Confessions.

    Regarding the temporal-eternal dichotomy, I doubt many “w-w” advocates would disagree with it (though they might not emphasize it as much as you do or they may express it with different terminology). As I recall Michael Horton (by no means a Kuyperian) once saying, the Reformed Faith recognizes that this present life is of significance, but it is not of ultimate significance. (That would be the next life, post-eschaton.)

    Zrim: “Do you think it’s any wonder that demons with heavy Kuyperian influence like the RCA and CRC are considered by some the Dutch Reformed versions of the American Protestant mainline? Why do you think that might be?”

    GW: I’m not a Kuyperian (I lean more in the 2K direction), but I doubt that Kuyper would be happy with the heterodox-liberal trends in the RCA and CRC. Blaming the current descent into liberalism in those denoms on Kuyper strikes me as being on the same level as blaming the liberalism of the reorganized, post-1929 Princeton Seminary on the theological emphases of orthodox Princeton theologians like the Hodges (Charles and A.A.) and B.B. Warfield. I.E., it is an example of the genetic fallacy.

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  23. D.G. Hart: “As I understand it, the substance in this case is how we talk about the accomplishments of people. You seemed to defend the inconsistency of the blog post I quoted. I criticized it. How is that agreement?”

    GW: What I am suggesting is that I suspect the author of the quote you cited above would, if pressed, likely agree with your concerns in substance. I think the quote deals with the ultimate cause of Aristotle’s intelligence and accomplishments; whereas you, while rightly recognizing in your comment above that God gets the ultimate glory for Aristotle, seem more focused on the proximate causes in Aristotle’s case, and on the fact that to compliment Aristotle for his intelligence and accomplishments is not to detract from God’s glory.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but I see this as a difference in emphasis and terminology, not a real difference in substance. Your comment above has not convinced me otherwise.

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  24. Like it or not, your emphasis on faith as otherworldly (an emphasis I agree with) itself reflects a worldview…

    Geoff, sorry, but this seems like the kind of semantical world play you were talking about above. But “I believe” as opposed to “I view the world” is the way historical and creedal Christians have spoken, then maybe we should dispense with this kind of thing.

    As I recall Michael Horton (by no means a Kuyperian) once saying, the Reformed Faith recognizes that this present life is of significance, but it is not of ultimate significance. (That would be the next life, post-eschaton.)

    Right, that’s the triadalism 2k affirms and the not the dualism of which its critics accuse it. A high view of creation tempered with the temporality of the same creation. This life and world are very good and matter, but more than that they are passing.

    I’m not a Kuyperian (I lean more in the 2K direction), but I doubt that Kuyper would be happy with the heterodox-liberal trends in the RCA and CRC. Blaming the current descent into liberalism in those denoms on Kuyper strikes me as being on the same level as blaming the liberalism of the reorganized, post-1929 Princeton Seminary on the theological emphases of orthodox Princeton theologians like the Hodges (Charles and A.A.) and B.B. Warfield. I.E., it is an example of the genetic fallacy.

    I’m not sure who blames liberalism on an emphasis on orthodoxy (?), but do these things just come out of nowhere? Remember that worldviewry promotes the whole “ideas have consequences” thing, the direct and constant link between belief and practice. It’s a form of ideology, so I have some sympathies, but let’s not go too far. Still, I’m not suggesting a relationship between worldviewry and liberalism but worldviewry and anti-confessionalism. The potential danger in worldviery is that it guts churches of their doctrinal commitments and makes them cultural captives, left or right. My own concern is that those with rightist cultural commitments don’t see the problem–so long as nobody goes leftward culturally, then perhaps all we have here a failure to communicate (ahem).

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  25. Geoff, but the difference whether substantive or not is important to the 2k-1k divide. The critics of (r)2k love to point out how 2k secularizes matters that should be Christian all the way down (because Christ rules every square inch). But they don’t play by the same rules when they give Kuyper credit.

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