In Schaeffer’s other works he shows you step by step on how to “take the roof off” of a stoned-up hippie. He doesn’t do that in this one. This is more of a Dooyeweerdian (though he never acknowledges it) deconstruction of the nature-grace dualisms. I think he succeeds, though there are a few howlers. Along the way he gives brilliant insights, but the frustrating thing is that they are all in passing and are never developed.
Most of the book is a summary of He is there and He is Not Silent and The God Who is There. Still, as a summary it avoids most (but not all) of Schaeffer’s weak points and the argument is forced to be tighter.
Aquinas as Fall
He wants to blame Aquinas for everything. I’m sympathetic to that idea, and there is much wrong with Aquinas, though I don’t think we can pin every problem on him, at least not as regards art. Aquinas’ focus on particulars opened up the world of nature in art. Previously, art focused on the universal. Artists after Aquinas began to focus more on nature. The danger was that nature was autonomous and ate up the upper storey of grace. Schaeffer writes, “Aquinas lived from 1225 to 1274, thus these influences were quickly felt in the field of art” (Schaeffer 12). Who is he talking about? He means Cimabue (1240-1302). Thus, with Cimabue we see Aquinas’s focus on the particular. Strictly speaking, this is a logical fallacy. It reads:
If Aquinas’s focus on particulars, then we will see the influence of Cimabue’s paintings on nature.
We see the influence of Cimabue’s paintings on nature.
Therefore, Aquinas is the influence.
This is the fallacy of affirming the consequent. In any case, it’s doubtful that Aquinas’s monastic writings would have been mainstreamed in the art community. Nevertheless, Schaeffer offers a number of diagrams that demonstrate this nature-grace fall (which I will show at the end of the review).
Reformation man didn’t have this duality of nature and grace, since God’s propositional revelation spoke to both storeys. Therefore, even though nature isn’t grace, we have a unified propositional revelation from God.
The Modern Era
There is Schaeffer’s notorious section on Hegel, notorious in the sense that he gets everything wrong. But this also reveals that Schaeffer misplaces the antithesis. We commend Schaeffer for his take on the law of non-contradiction. We just reject this as the antithesis. If this is the point of antithesis, and if the Greeks upheld it as Schaeffer maintains, then on his gloss the Greeks were quite biblical in epistemology. This is unacceptable.
His analysis of modern art is quite good, or so I imagine. I don’t know much about modern art, except that most of the stuff in the National Endowment of Arts is trash.
I like this book better than the others in his trilogy. I read it in one sitting. It’s very well-written. And the diagrams are great. My main problem is that it reads too much like a genealogical critique. What I mean is that Schaeffer traces the problem of a thought by seeing the problems in its predecessor’s thought. This is very close to the genetic fallacy.
But there is another problem. Let’s grant that Schaeffer’s analysis is correct. This can’t substitute for the hard work in epistemology and metaphysics that the budding apologist has to do.
Schaeffer’s project represents the “two-storey” universe. God is up top. Man on the bottom. Unhinged from biblical revelation this means that the world of “universals” is above and the world of particulars below. They either never meet or one eats up the other.
[Kant and Rousseau]
Schaeffer has a brilliant point there. Reformation man posited the uniformity of nature within an open system. Apostate man believes in the uniformity of nature within a closed system, and is left with a mechanical determinism when it comes to human freedom.
[Kierkegaard and the New Theology]
Optimism must be non-rational
All rationality = pessimism