How to give love, create beauty and find peace

by Frank Schaeffer


The author excoriates Daniel Dennett and Carl Sagan by name, and by implication all of the New Atheists. My criticism of Richard Dawkins, to name another, is that he has blind spots about religion and is dishonest in addition to being irrational and ignorant. I give Dawkins a character quotient of zero. Jean-Paul Sartre, on the other hand, gets a character quotient of 100 because of the following quote:

Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion. (Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, New York: Washington Square Press, p. 784)

Sartre and Schaeffer have similar concepts of God. The “contradictory” nature of God is perfectly consistent with Thomas Aquinas’s understanding that God is pure act of existence and humans have an existence that is limited by an essence. The paradox, contradiction, or mystery about God is the question of what would motivate an infinite being to create finite beings.

God has revealed to mankind through the prophetic religions of the Near East, the mystical religions of India, and the Wisdom religions of China that there is life after death. We are not guaranteed salvation, but can hope for it with “fear and trembling.” We have to decide whether this is true, not whether or not God exists. Faith is both a decision and a gift from God. Schaeffer does not believe our freedom is before God because God does not want him to believe. Schaeffer has no grounds for thinking that his metaphysical insights are what prevent him from believing that his beloved mother is in heaven.

Sartre and Schaeffer both realize that the Resurrection of Jesus was an historical event that can’t be understood in terms of any other historical event. He says, “the Enlightenment was a Christian heresy.” (location 1355) Schaeffer calls himself a Christian because Jesus taught that human beings should be compassionate. Schaeffer does not see the Enlightenment as a rejection of Jesus, but rather an improvement of Jesus’ message. Needless to say, he does not think that the Enlightenment caused the genocide and wars of the 19th and 20th century.

Sartre admits that life without God has no meaning, but Schaeffer thinks it does and tries to prove it by telling about his loving parents, successful careers, and happy marriage. His only rational argument against religious faith is the insight that if God cared about our welfare, He would not cause so much suffering in the world. I’m giving Schaeffer a character quotient of 50.