How nature ate up grace

March 8, 2007 at 9:25 pm Leave a comment

A Whirlwind History of Modern Thought, Part I

So I started reading Francis Schaeffer for the first time over the weekend. I quickly discovered it’s my loss that I haven’t gotten to him sooner.

escape.gifI started off with the slim little volume Escape from Reason, which is a brief but incisive critique of the history of modern thought. In it, I was struck by Schaeffer’s opening analysis of Thomas Aquinas and his contribution to the modern way of thinking. Here’s a whirlwind summary:

The first point of note about Aquinas is that he held to an incomplete view of human depravity. He believed that the human will is fallen, but the intellect is not.

If the intellect was not fallen, this opened up the possibility for human reason to become something autonomous, free to work independently of divine revelation in the Bible.

Whereas earlier thinkers had taken for granted that all knowledge and all subjects of study were intimately tied up with Scripture and revelation, Aquinas loosed the various disciplines to become self-sufficient. Reason was free to run off on its own, and the disciplines of philosophy and natural science suddenly became independent from revelation.

For Aquinas, theology was still superior to philosophy or natural science. However, the eventual effect of making the various disciplines independent was that theology was excised from philosophy and natural science, with the latter two overpowering the former.

As Schaeffer puts it, nature [i.e. that which is known through reason] began to ‘eat up’ grace [i.e. that which is known through revelation].

So here’s the progression:

Unfallen intellect > Autonomous disciplines > Nature eats up grace

What happened next? Well, that’s the subject of the rest of Schaeffer’s book—and the subject of a follow-up post tomorrow.

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Profile

profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

Email me: jamie.kiley@gmail.com

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