Francis Schaeffer on Warrantless Belief in Absolutes

I was doing some leisure reading last night and thought I’d share this nice quote by Francis Schaeffer noting the pervasiveness of relativism in our day, but also showing the belief in moral absolutes held even by non-believers are held without sufficient warrant.

If you had lived in Europe, let us say prior to about 1890, or in the United States before about 1935, you would not have had to spend much time, in practice, thinking about your presuppositions…. Before these  dates everyone would have been working on much the same presuppositions, which in practice seemed to accord with the Christian’s own presuppositions.  This was true both in the area of epistemology and methodology….

Now it may be argued that the non-Christian had no right to act on the presuppositions he acted on.  That is true.  They were being romantic in accepting optimistic answers without a sufficient base.  Nevertheless they went on thinking and acting as if these presuppositions were true.

What were these presuppositions?  The basic one was that there really are such things as absolutes.  They accepted the possibility of an absolute in the area of Being (or knowledge), and in the area of morals.  Therefore, because they accepted the possibility of absolutes, though people might have disagreed as to what these were, nevertheless they could reason together on the classical basis of antithesis.  They took it for granted that if anything was true, the opposite was false.  In morality, if one thing was right, its opposite was wrong.  This little formula, “A is A” and “If you have A it is not non-A,” is the first move in classical logic.  If you understand the extent to which this no longer holds sway, you will understand our present situation.

Absolutes imply antithesis.  The non-Christian went on romantically operating on this basis without a sufficient cause, an adequate base, for doing so.

The God Who is There in The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, vol. 1, pgs. 6-7.

Rev. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)
Anaheim, CA