A couple weeks ago, my friend Bob Weathers mentioned that while at Fuller Seminary, he read something by Francis Schaeffer that criticized Soren Kierkegaard. I knew of and admired Schaeffer on account of his L’Abri community, but I hadn’t read his any of his books.
Now, while reading How Then Should We Live? (written, like Kierkegaard’s Either/Or, in answer to the question Aristotle raised) I see Schaeffer’s problem with Kierkegaard.
He appears to blame Kierkegaard for the result of his ideas, for what the philosopher’s followers have wrought, which Schaeffer calls the “existential methodology” that places reason and non-reason (the objective and subjective, in Kierkegaard’s terms) as mutually exclusive processes.
Schaeffer blames this “existential methodology” for causing the flight of reasonable people from Christian ideals and ethics. He maintains that existentialists, beginning with Kierkegaard, have convinced us that values belong to the realm of “non-reason” or blind faith and therefore can never be universally or culturally applied. So, according to Shaeffer, on account of the existentialists, our culture as a whole considers values as relative only to the individuals who choose to follow them.
Certain existentialists may argue for the relativity of values, but according to my reading of and about him, Kierkegaard made no such argument. I have found not the least indication that he denies the value of reason, a faculty he consistently applies with a master’s touch. His rejection of reason is only of the insistence that it is all we have with which to discover truth.
Schaeffer appears to believe we must either rely exclusively upon reason or ban reason and rely only upon the “non-reason” of our instincts, desires, and wishful fantasies.
This morning I came across an article about scientists who contend that reason is only one of our tools, and perhaps not the one we most often apply, even while we consider ourselves reasonable, logical. Please click and read.
Surely reason is a factor in what Kierkegaard means by the subjective. Likewise, intuition, emotion, and perhaps divine inspiration, influence our reasoning. After all, we are not droids.
This Schaeffer v. Kierkegaard conflict ought to matter to anyone concerned who has ever wondered if evangelists should aim to influence the objective or the subjective; the mind, the heart, or the whole individual. A worthy question, especially for those who take The Great Commission to heart.
Kierkegaard v. melancholy, post 10