ESCAPE TO THE LOGOS

Donald Ray Hargrove

Writing and Research Skills SM401

August 12, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


ESCAPE TO THE LOGOS

A little over forty years ago, the late Francis Schaeffer wrote his famous philosophical-theological treatise, Escape from Reason, on modern man’s escape from rationality.[1] Schaeffer demonstrated how modern man, due to the rejection of the biblical God and His absolutes, was required to make a giant leap of irrational faith just to make sense out of life and retain true dignity, meaning, and purpose as a human being.[2]

Since the time of Schaeffer, the modern man has morphed into the postmodern man.[3]  After modern man jettisoned God for autonomous reason, he ended up in epistemological bankruptcy, which forced his postmodern “offspring” to continue the deconstruction of reason, truth, absolutes, and logic. While Schaeffer’s focus was on modern man’s escape from reason by rejecting God and the Bible, this study focuses on the need for man to escape to reason by turning to the Logos. An overview of the irrationality in modernism and postmodernism is provided as well as a close examination of the Logos with its implications with regard to reason, logic, rationality, truth, and Christianity.

Francis Schaeffer on Modern Man’s Irrational Leap of Faith

While Schaeffer’s scholarship has been criticized as being “derivative and often flawed,”


recognition of his great legacy continues.[4] A key aspect of his legacy is in the documentation of modern man’s epistemological dead end as “man begins absolutely and totally from himself, gathers the information concerning the particulars, and formulates the universals.”[5]

One need not accept all aspects of Schaeffer’s presuppositional apologetics or his denigration of Thomas Aquinas[6] in order to appreciate his insights into our postmodern age of irrationality—before the term postmodernism was even coined. One can agree with many of Schaeffer’s conclusions regarding man’s irrational faith without agreeing with him on blaming Thomas Aquinas. One need not be a Presuppositionalist to appreciate Schaeffer’s great contribution to apologetics. The notable Norman Geisler states, “Few contemporary Christians, however, have given more thoughtful and philosophical backing to a kind of pragmatic test for truth than has Francis Schaeffer.”[7] However, Geisler also points out that Schaeffer was wrong in blaming Aquinas for the rise of modern secularism and that many apologists “are directly dependent upon Aquinas for our basic theology, philosophy and/or apologetics.”[8] Schaeffer was correct in assessing the irrationality and despair of man—even though he was mistaken about Aquinas. Schaeffer was correct in pointing out that no man can live consistently with godless presuppositions and that is why he must make an irrational leap of faith simply to live as a

human being.[9] Man’s innate sense of value and justice cannot be destroyed. Man is hardwired with a sense of right and wrong known as “conscience” as per Romans 2:15.[10] Grasping the unbeliever’s epistemological bankruptcy can be very helpful in getting him to see his house of cards and his need to turn to the only solid foundation of the Lord Christ (1 Cor. 3:11).

Schaeffer not only discusses the irrationality of the unbeliever’s leap of faith, but he also critiques irrational movements within Christianity. In The God Who Is There, he notes that Soren Kierkegaard became the father of this new irrational theological thinking by teaching that one could not arrive at synthesis by reason.[11] It was Kierkegaard who made a radical separation between the rational and faith that resulted in the idea that one could indeed have faith without truth because faith and truth were separated into two different unrelated spheres.[12]

The consequence of acceptance of this dichotomy is a “new” theology that strips biblical Christianity of its rationality. To strip Christianity of its rationality is to strip Christianity of doctrine and objective truth and to assign it to the realm of anti-intellectualism, mythology, and nonsense! To remove Christianity from the realm of Truth is to destroy its very nature as well as to attack the veracity of its founder, namely Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

The Postmodern Man and Irrationality

Since the era of Schaeffer, man has moved from modernism to postmodernism with the problem of irrationality increasing both in society and in Christianity.[13]  Since unbelievers have no epistemological basis for truth, meaning, purpose, and rationality, it should not be surprising that they must make an irrational leap of faith by grasping at the straws of existentialism and mysticism simply to escape the emptiness of nihilism. However, there is simply no excuse for those who identify themselves with Christ to deconstruct Him and His saving gospel.

Regarding postmodernism, Millard J. Erickson lists seven beliefs:  (1) denial of objectivity of knowledge, (2) knowledge is uncertain (since there are no indubitable first principles), (3) all-inclusive systems of explanation are to be abandoned, (4) the inherent goodness of knowledge is questioned, (5) true progress is rejected, (6) truth is defined by the community, and (7) truth is not known through reason, but through other channels, (e.g. intuition).[14] Postmodernism is not merely irrational, it is anti-rational!   

In religious circles modern man’s nonsense of celebrating and worshiping the irrational and equating irrationalism with true piety and worship[15] has only become more insulting in postmodern “Christianity.” The most radical form of postmodern “Christianity” is known as the Emerging or Emergent church movement where new truths emerge from consensus and conversations in the spirit of “Christ” where “feelings and experiences preclude the acceptance of propositional truth.”[16] The Emergent church movement blasphemes God by systematically deconstructing God, Christ, grace, faith, the Bible, truth, objectivity, theology, and evangelism.[17] In an attempt to compromise with our postmodern world, the Emergent Church movement “attempts to be all things to all people”[18]—even if that entails the deconstruction of Christ along with the metanarrative of His cross where He tasted death for everyone (Heb. 2:9).

The Logos

The Logos is one of those titles for Christ that not only reaches back throughout eternity past in the Godhead, but also as extends to Christ’s grand incarnation:

In the beginning was the Word [the Logos], and the Word [the Logos] was with God, and the Word [the Logos] was God. . . . and the Word [the Logos] became flesh (John 1:1, 14).

 

While Logos is usually translated “Word” in John 1:1, this does not mean that it refers to

 

a word that is simply composed of letters. Rather than being a word merely composed of letters,

 

Logos refers more to a proposition that is composed of logically connected words. This strong logical nuance in Logos has prompted Gordon Clarke to indicate that the Logos in John 1:1 could be translated as the Logic.[19] In his book on logic, Gordon Clarke goes to great lengths to demonstrate that Logos could be translated “logic,” and says that those who are shocked by such a translation only show their distance from the thought of the Greek New Testament.[20] He wonders why it would be offensive to call Christ “logic,” when it does not offend to call Him a Word.[21] He notes that Logos has a strong intellectual connotation as seen “in its several possible translations.”[22] He maintains that any translation of John 1:1 that obscures the emphasis on mind or reason is a bad translation, and if anyone complains that this obscures the personality of the second person of the Trinity, he should alter his concept of personality.[23]

Norman Geisler, in his own logic book, comments on Clarke’s translation of the Logos:

The late professor Gordon H. Clark pressed this point when he boldly, if not entirely accurately, translated John 1:1 this way: “In the beginning was Logic [the logos]. And Logic was with God, and Logic was God.” Of course, God is more than a rational being; he also has feeling and free will. Nonetheless, God is rational, and the principles of good reason do flow from his very nature. Consequently, learning the rules of clear and correct reasoning is more than an academic exercise. For the Christian, it is also a means of spiritual service.[24]

This orderly rational concept in the Logos is also inherent in logic. In his book on logic, Geisler notes that the key concept in logic is an ordering of thoughts and that “logic really means putting your thoughts in order.”[25]

Note the pervasive rational nuance of the Logos in The American Heritage Dictionary:

1. Philosophy

a. In pre-Socratic philosophy, the principle governing the cosmos, the source of this principle, or human reasoning about the cosmos.                                      

b. Among the Sophists, the topics of rational argument or the arguments themselves.        

c. In Stoicism, the active, material, rational principle of the cosmos; nous. Identified with God, it is the source of all activity and generation and is the power of reason residing in the human soul.

2.  Judaism

a. In biblical Judaism, the word of God, which itself has creative power and is God's medium of communication with the human race.

b. In Hellenistic Judaism, a hypostasis associated with divine wisdom.

3. Christianity In Saint John's Gospel, especially in the prologue (1:1-14), the creative word of God, which is itself God and incarnate in Jesus. Also called Word. [26]

 

The Encyclopedia Britannica notes that the Logos was the divine reason that ordered the cosmos and that it came to describe the role of Jesus Christ in the creation and continuous structuring of the cosmos and that it even “underlies Christian doctrine.”[27] Greek lexicons indicate the strong rational propositional nature of the Logos by translating it with the English words: thinking, reckoning, reason, revelation, speaking, a statement, a declaration.[28]

Clark provides one of the most comprehensive philosophical/theological studies of the Logos in The Johannine Logos.[29] He notes that Logos “is always an intelligible proposition.”[30] Clark illustrates the rejection of Logos as reason by German romanticists in Goethe’s Faust in which “in the beginning was the Word” was rejected for “in the beginning was the Sense.”[31]

Logos is never used for irrationality, disorder, chaos, unintelligibility, feelings, emotions, or any type of nonsense. There is nothing irrational (e.g., insane, nonsensical) about the Logos, Christ, or biblical Christianity. Logos is always used as some type of rationality. Logos was used of both reason and a proposition because the latter is simply a product of the former. Logic is what is required to orderly put it together. The Logos is the rational being who has brought us  rational propositional revelation. He is more than mere rationality for He has a will and feelings, but He is rational and offers us His living Logos (Heb. 4:12) and His mindset (Phil. 2:5-6).

Conclusion

 

It was in the 1960s when Schaeffer sounded an alarm regarding modern man’s escape from reason due to rejection of the biblical God and biblical principles. He pointed out how rejection of God leaves man without any epistemological justification regarding truth, significance, and meaning in life as a human being. Man had to take an irrational leap of faith just to deal with life.

This irrational leap of faith has only continued to grow in society as well as in certain segments of the church. This problem of irrationality can only be solved by a return to the God of the Bible, who alone can give man universal absolute truth as well as significance.

The Logos as a title for Christ points to His eternal rational nature as well as His rational messages of absolute truth. As the Logos, He stepped into our world in a real way and brought divine messages of matchless grace and absolute truth (John 1:1, 14, 14:6). Apart from rationality we could neither understand nor have absolute confidence in Him or what He has revealed. It is because those messages are rational that we can compare, develop, and arrive at the various Christian doctrines regarding God and the various issues of life.

The only true escape from our age of relativity, irrationality, and nonsense is to escape to the Logos—to Christ and His Word. Since Christianity is not built on cleverly devised tales (2 Pet. 1:16), the believer can give the many reasons for the hope (1 Pet. 3:15). The Christian hope is not a hope built on an irrational God or a leap of faith. It is a hope built upon the Christian faith for which there is an abundance of rational evidence—from the undeniable makeup of man’s soul and its need for truth and value to the overwhelming evidence of fulfilled prophecy of the coming of the Logos and His salvific grace gift of justification, “by His knowledge [by knowing Him] the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many” (Isa. 53:11).


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arndt, William, Frederick W, Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the

New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.  3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2000.

 

Clark, Gordon. Christian Philosophy. Vol. 4 of The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark.  Unicoi:       The Trinity Foundation, 2004.

 

———. Logic. Unicoi: The Trinity Foundation, 1985

———. The Johannine Logos: the Mind of Christ. Jefferson: The Trinity Foundation,        1989.

Elliot, Paul, M. “The Emergent Church’s Retreat into Pre-Reformation Darkness, “The Trinity      Foundation, no. 292-293 (Jan-April 2010).       http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=269 (accessed July 31, 2010).

Erickson, Millard J.  Postmodernizing the faith: Evangelical Responses to the Challenge of             Postmodernism. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998.

———. The Word Became Flesh: A Contemporary Incarnational Theology. Grand           Rapids: Baker Books, 2000.

Felder, Harold, C. “Postmodernism,” Giving an Answer.      http://www.givingananswer.org/Online.html (accessed July 24, 2010).

Geisler, Norman. Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983.

———. Systematic Theology. 4 vols. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2003.

———. Thomas Aquinas: An Evangelical Appraisal. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991.

Geisler, Norman and Ronald M. Brooks. Come, Let Us Reason. Grand Rapids: Baker Book          House, 1998.


Kittle, Gerhard, Geoffrey W. Bromley and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of

the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979.

 

Liddell, Henry, and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford: At the Clarendon

Press, 1977.

 

Moulton, James and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament.

Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing. 1982.

Schaeffer, Francis. Escape from Reason: A Penetrating Analysis of Trends in Modern Thought.     Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1968.

———. How Should We Then Live?  The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1976.

———. The God Who Is There. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1968­

Snell, R.J. “Thomism and Noetic Sin, Transposed: A Response to Neo-Calvinists

Objections.” Philosophia Christi. 12, no. 1 (2010): 7-28.

 

 

 

 


 



                [1]Francis A. Schaeffer, Escape from Reason (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1968). For his book on how modern man’s autonomy effects society, see How Should  We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (Old Tappan:  Fleming H. Revell Company, 1976). For his work on the existence and the relevance of God to the modern irrational man, see the God Who is There (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1968).

 

                [2]Ibid., 46-57.

 

                [3]For historical summary of pre-modernism, modernism and postmodernism see Millard J. Erickson, Postmodernizing the Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998), 14-20.

                [4]R. J. Snell, “Thomism and Noetic Sin, Transposed: A Response to Neo-Calvinists Objections,” Philosophia Christi 12, no.1 (2010): 8-10.

 

                [5]Schaeffer, Escape from Reason, 34.              

 

                [6]Ibid., 9-13.

 

                [7]Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983), 110-111.  In the preface of this great work, Geisler gives great credit to Aquinas for following the New Testament Apostles.     

 

                [8]Norman Geisler, Thomas Aquinas: An Evangelical Appraisal  (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991), 12, 14-15. The great influence of Aquinas on Geisler can also be seen throughout Geisler’s four volume work  Systematic Theology (Minneapolis:  Bethany House, 2003) as Geisler lays out and answers the various objections to his positions in much the same style as Aquinas in Summa Theologica.

                [9]Schaeffer, Escape from Reason, 46-57.

 

[10]Unless otherwise stated, all Bible references are taken from the New American Standard Bible.

 

                [11]Schaeffer, The God Who is There, 21-22.

 

[12]Ibid.

 

            [13]For an overview of the acceptance of postmodern philosophy by the prominent postmodern “evangelical” leader, Stanly Grenz, see Millard J. Erickson, Postmodernizing the Faith, 83-102.

 

                [14]Millard J. Erickson, Postmodernizing the Faith, 18-19.

 

                [15]For the details see Gordon Clark, Christian Philosophy (Unicoi: The Trinity Foundation, 2004), 4:72-85.

 

                [16]For a scathing exposé of the Emergent Church’s blasphemous deconstruction of Christianity see Paul M. Elliot, “The Emergent Church’s Retreat into Pre-Reformation Darkness,“ no. 292-293 [Jan-April 2010], The Trinity Foundation,  under “Review Archives,” http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=269 (accessed July 31, 2010).

 

                [17]Ibid.  

 

                [18]Quote from Harold C. Felder in his excellent discussion with David Johnson on the heresy of postmodernism, “Postmodernism,” Giving an Answer Web site, Windows Media Player audio file, http://www.givingananswer.org/Online.html (accessed July 24, 2010).     

 

                [19]Gordon Clark, Logic (Unicoi: The Trinity Foundation, 2004), 115-116.

 

                [20]Ibid.

 

                [21]Ibid.

 

                [22]Ibid., 116.

 

                [23]Ibid., 116.

 

                [24]Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, Come, Let us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990), 7.

 

                [25]Ibid., 11-12.

 

               [26]American Heritage dictionary as referenced in TheFreeDictionary.com, s.v. "Logos," http://www.thefreedictionary.com/logos (accessed August 3, 2010).
 

                [27]Encyclopedia Britannica Online,  s.v. “Logos,” http://www.britannica.com/ EBchecked /topic/ 346460/logos (accessed August 1, 2010).

 

                [28]See “Logos” in William Arndt, Frederick W, Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2000) and Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1982) and Henry Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1977). For an extended etymological, theological, and philosophical discussion of Logos, see Gerhard Kittle, Geoffrey W. Bromley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), 4:69-136.

 

                [29]Gordon H. Clark, The Johannine Logos (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1989), 13-58.   

 

                [30]Ibid., 49.

 

                [31]Ibid., 19.