He Is There and He Is Not Silent Part III: Modern Man’s Epistemological Problem -- By: Francis A. Schaeffer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 128:512 (Oct 1971)
Article: He Is There and He Is Not Silent Part III: Modern Man’s Epistemological Problem
Author: Francis A. Schaeffer


He Is There and He Is Not Silent
Part III:
Modern Man’s Epistemological Problem

Francis A. Schaeffer

[Francis A. Schaeffer, Director, L’Abri Fellowship, Huemoz, Switzerland.]

These last two articles are really a unity.1 They have to do with the rationalistic modern man’s epistemological problem and the Christian answer to the problem, or we might word it “The Christian’s View of Knowing.” These articles are the very heart of the modern problem that we must understand if we are going to understand how to communicate to our generation.

The word “epistemology” means the theory of the method or grounds of knowledge, or it sometimes is defined as the theory of knowledge. Or again, it may be defined as how we know. Epistemology is the central problem of our generation. I am totally convinced that the generation gap is really an epistemological gap simply because the modern generation looks at knowledge in a radically different way than the previous ones.

Greek Philosophy: The Dilemma of Particulars and Universals

In this series I want to begin at the time of the Greek philosophers. The Greeks spent much time grappling with the problem of knowledge. One who wrestled with this with great sensitivity was Plato. He understood the basic problem, that is, in the area of knowledge as in the area of morals there must be more than merely particulars if there is to be any meaning. He understood this very, very well.

In the area of knowledge you have particulars by which we mean the individual things which we see in the world. Constantly throughout life at any given moment we are confronted with thousands of particulars. The problem is what are the universals which give these particulars meaning? This is the heart of the problem of epistemology and the problem of knowing.

A related problem to this is the way we learn. Let us consider for example the question of apples. There are sheepnose apples, Queen of Canada—I do not know how many varieties of apples, hundreds of varieties of apples. Everytime I wanted to talk about apples, I could simply memorize this list of all the varieties of apples and I could go through the whole list and I would be summing up apples. But, of course, we do not do it this way. We just use the single word “apple,” and that includes all the particular kinds of apples that fall under the concept of apple. This is actually the way we learn. If you watch a little child, you will notice that he is constantly naming things and then bringing them together under collective words. This is the way God has made our minds.

We can...

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