Francis Schaffer: Evidentialist or Presup?

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by sastark, Oct 16, 2007.

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  1. sastark

    sastark Puritan Board Graduate

    Last night, we had a guest speaker (Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason) for one of my classes. He was a great guy, and I really enjoyed listening to and talking with him. But, he said one thing I had never heard before (well, he said several, but this one made me curious): he believes Francis Schaffer was an evidentialist and not a presuppositionalist. Has anyone heard this claim before? Was Schaffer an evidentialist and I have just never realized it?
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2007
  2. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Kim Riddlebarger's lectures are helpful on this. Schaeffer doesn't seem to fit neatly in any category. Both Van Til and Clark were always on him about it. However, he doesn't easily fall into Evidentialism either. He is Presupevident or an Evisupper.
  3. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    He was a compromised presuppositionalist. While Schaeffer explicitly advocated, in formal terms, the use of presuppositional reasoning, he didn't really live up to it in practice.

    Bahnsen helped out here

    Bahnsen writes,
    So what was he: presup or evidential? Both, I think. Norman Geisler gave an even sharper critique than Bahnsen, though I am less impressed with Geisler on this one.
  4. sastark

    sastark Puritan Board Graduate

    Hmm. Interesting. Thanks to you both.
  5. MrMerlin777

    MrMerlin777 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    His approach is definitely eclectic. He doesn't seem to fit into either catagory snuggly.

    Either way I like his stuff.:2cents:
  6. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    From what I have read about Schaeffer, I think he primarily saw his role as being an evangelist and wasn't as consumed by what could be termed academic concerns as others were. His was a more pragmatic approach.
  7. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Schaeffer was very weak on philosophy, but AWESOME on social ethics. He copied and pasted RJ Rushdoony on some points, although he pulled back at points.
  8. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    this will be fun
  9. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    One more thing, Covenant Seminary has two online courses about Francis Schaeffer. They are taught by Dr. Jerram Barrs, a former L'Abri Worker and student of Schaeffer. Of course they are sympathetic to his ministry and not critiques of Schaeffer but throughout the courses Barrs often answer criticisms of Schaeffer. Schaeffer often got criticized on many different fronts in total contradiction to equally vociferous attacks from another angle.
  10. Sebastian Heck

    Sebastian Heck Puritan Board Freshman

    Schaeffer was no systematician, not involved in creating an apologetical methodology - for better or worse. (See William Edgar's excellent article "Two Christian Warriors: Cornelius Van Til and Francis A. Schaeffer Compared," Westminster Theological Journal 57.1 (1995): 57-80. Edgar, now at Wstminster, studied with both Schaeffer and Van Til.)

    Schaeffer has some "presuppositional" influences, but all in all is very eclectic. Sometimes he even argues like a Thomist with some kind of nature/grace-dualism: he says that unbelievers only have "one half of the orange" and the apologict must give them the other. So, the are right "as far as it goes"... Also, Schaeffer usually let human reason (natural reason) stand unchallenged and unchecked for far too long. The Bible came in very late... Only after the preparatory work of reason has been done, the evangelist can appeal to the unbeliever to repudiate his autonomy and accept the dogmatic truth of Scripture. I don' t think that works!
  11. ReadBavinck

    ReadBavinck Puritan Board Freshman

  12. Robert Truelove

    Robert Truelove Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think the real issue is not what METHOD Schaeffer employed. As many have pointed out, he comes across rather eclectic.

    The issue is what was his view of epistemology as argued from a presuppositionalist or evidentialist perspective? I've always seen this as the real issue in the debate over apologetics. A presuppositionalist can use evidences as part of his defense and still be consistent and an evidentialist can use the presuppositional argument to tear down the faulty world view of the non-Christian and still be consistent.

    I use both methods depending on the situation and many times within the same conversation. As to the question of epistemology as it relates to these two schools of apologetics, I remain happily undecided.
  13. Vytautas

    Vytautas Puritan Board Freshman

    It would seem that evidences and arguments come under the topic of method rather than epistemology, since evidence and arguments are what the apologist employs, rather than uses to warrent his belief in Christianity. Could you explain the difference between method and epistemology Robert?
  14. ReformedChapin

    ReformedChapin Puritan Board Freshman

    He kind of mixed both systems. Just from reading his books he presents arguments for God but keeps the pressup. format by analyzing non-christian positions through the eyes of scripture.
  15. Grymir

    Grymir Puritan Board Graduate

    Yea, It seems his approach was presuppositional, but his philosophy was evidential. He talked about theologians going under the line when they use the Bible in a Kierkegaard leap of faith. His epistemology (how do we know what we know) was based on the Bible, but he said it was trustworthy and the evidence backed it up. But when doing apologetical methodology, he would use the presup approach with people. To take the roof off and show there was no evidence for their clinging to non-biblical worldviews. Hope this help's - Grymir
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2008
  16. Robert Truelove

    Robert Truelove Puritan Board Sophomore

    Your question seems to make you think I meant that epistemology is irrelevant to one's apologetical methodology. I didn't say that exactly.

    While there is a difference between method and epistemology in regards to apologetics, these two are fundamentally connected.

    I however, as I stated, am happily undecided (meaning I don't feel the obsessing need to force myself under the banner of presuppositionalism or evidentialism in regards to epistemology, though I employ both methods in my own apologetics). Schaeffer seems to have been in the same camp with me in this regards. He made his case without drawing epistemological/apologetical lines in the sand.

    I suppose one of the problems I have with an 'either or proposition' on the question of epistemology is that I honestly believe my indecision is due to the hunch that there is more work that needs to be done in this area. I have issues with both schools of thought in regards to the claim that either understanding has completely 'nailed down' the issue of epistemology.

    Having said that, I have a great respect for both sides of the debate (as long as they are actually employing their apologetics to defend the faith and not merely engaging in polemics over the subject).

    Last edited: Feb 9, 2008
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