He is There and He is Not Silent: Self-Revelatory Character of God

Obviously, the title for this paper and for this section come from the late great Francis A. Schaeffer’s book bearing the same title. In this wonderful work Schaeffer came up with the title in response to the philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s work. Wittgenstein basically said, “you have propositions of natural science. This is all that can be said; it is all that you can put into language. This is the limit of language and the limit of logic. ‘Downstairs’ we can speak, but all that can be spoken is the mathematical propositions of natural science. Language is limited to the ‘downstairs’ of reason, and that ends up with mathematical formulations.”[1]

Wittgenstein saw no meaning in life. He said that there is only silence. So although man desperately needs values, ethics, and meaning he can never understand nor obtain such things. All he is left with is nothing, only silence. This thought led Wittgenstein into linguistic analysis which in many ways he helped to popularize, but as Schaeffer aptly points out, “Although it [linguistic analysis] defines words using reason, finally language leads to neither value nor facts. Language leads to language, and that is all. It is not only the certainty or values that is gone, but the certainty of knowing.”[2]

In order to combat the lostness and emptiness of the silence that natural man sees in God’s good creation Schaeffer declared that God is there and He is not silent. Schaeffer was a prophet, and a titan before his time, and his cry to fallen man is needed even more so today. Thus, my goal here is to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before me (though only briefly), and proclaim that God is here and He is not silent.

The fact that God is there and He is not silent is not only the reason for man’s existence, but it the reason man can find meaning in that existence. Francis Schaeffer explains:

Evangelicals often make a mistake today. Without knowing it, they slip over into a weak position. They thank God in their prayers for the revelation we have of God in Christ. This is good as far as it goes, and it is wonderful that we do have a factual revelation of God in Christ. But I hear very little thanks from the lips of evangelicals today for the propositional revelation in verbalized form which we have in the Scriptures. He must indeed not only be there, but He must have spoken. And He must have spoken in a way which is more than simply a quarry for emotional, upper-story experiences. We need prepositional facts. We need to know who He is, and what His character is, because His character is the law of the universe. He has told us what His character is, and this becomes our moral law, our moral standard. It is not arbitrary, for it is fixed in God Himself, in what has always been. It is the very opposite of what is revelativistic. It is either this, morals are not morals.[3]

So we can see that ontology and ethics are inextricably linked, but so too are they both inextricably linked to epistemology. Herein lies the distinction between the Protestant doctrine and all others. The distinction lies in the fact that the Protestant concept of God necessarily stands over and above man. Cornelius Van Til writes:

The Protestant doctrine of God requires that it be made foundational to everything else as principle of explanation. If God is self-sufficient, he alone is self-explanatory. And if he alone is self-explanatory, then he must be the final reference point in all human predication. He is then like the sun from which all lights on earth derive their power of illumination. You do not use a candle in order to search for the sun. The idea of a candle is derived from the sun. So the very idea of any fact in the universe is that it is derivative. God has created it. It cannot have come into existence by itself, or by chance. God himself is the source of all possibility, and, therefore, of all space-time factuality.[4]

[1] Francis A. Schaefer, “He Is There and He Is Not Silent,” in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaefer, (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 316.

[2] Ibid., 317.

[3] Ibid., 302-303.

[4] Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge, (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1969), 12.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s