Friday, April 20, 2007

True rationality but not only rationality

A discussion is raging (well, simmering) on my previous post, regarding whether you need more than empiricism to do science (or conversely, whether anything more than empiricism actually undermines science). In that context, I thought I'd post another short extract from Schaeffer:
Although rationality is important, it should never become exclusively so. ... The Christian is not rationalistic; he does not try to begin from himself autonomously and work out a system from there on [which was, of course, Descartes' method - EfG]. But he is rational: he thinks and acts on the basis that A is A and A is not non-A. However, he does not end with only rationality, for in his response to what God has said his whole personality is involved....

A number of years ago I was at a discussion group in Detroit. An older black pastor was there. We discussed many intellectual and cultural problems and the answers given by Christianity. One would have called the discussion "intellectual" rather than devotional. As he was leaving, the pastor shook my hand and thanked me. If he had said, "Thank you for helping me to defend my people better," or "Thank you for helping me to be a better evangelist," I would have been very glad that what I had said had been helpful, and then possibly I would not have given it another thought. But what he actually said was, "Thank you for opening these doors to me; now I can worship God better." I will never forget him because he was a man who really understood. If this is not our own response first of all, and then the response of those whom we try to help, we have made a mistake somewhere.

Francis Schaeffer, "The God Who is There"
The modernist, empirical approach, as far as I can see, gives no real foundation for anything other than rationality - and indeed, only offers as a foundation for rationality the fact that it works. This is incredibly distant from what we are as human beings. The awareness of this limitation was I suspect what caused Dawkins to write "Unweaving the Rainbow".

But no matter how you add, subtract, multiply and divide, the modernist worldview still can't allow us to be more than zeroes. The only way in which we can have the significance we instinctively invest in ourselves (and which even - perhaps especially! - Dawkins invests in himself) is if that significance is externally attributed.