Review of No Final Conflict by Francis A. Schaeffer

No Final Conflict, The Bible Without Error in All That it Affirms by Francis A. Schaeffer, L’Abri Pamphlets, InterVarsity Press, 1975, 48 pp.
While the subtitle of this pamphlet does properly indicate that it is about biblical inerrancy, that main title more accurately reflects the specific intentions of the author, Francis Schaeffer, who contends that there is an ultimately harmonious relationship between Biblical revelation and scientific knowledge.
For Schaeffer, evangelicalism is not consistently evangelical unless one “takes a full view of the Scripture.” (p. 14) That is, he desires that the Bible not be divided between true “religious” material and false historical or scientific passages. The opponent is neo-orthodoxy which “unhappily … now has come into some of that which is called evangelicalism.” (p. 12) Schaeffer’s thesis is that “the Bible, including the first eleven chapters of Genesis, sets forth propositional truth, both where it touches history and the cosmos and where it touches religious matters.” (p. 16)
Schaeffer argues on both internal and external grounds that there is unity in the book of Genesis. The Biblical authors themselves, he contends, see Genesis as telling true historical information. But to satisfy his thesis, Schaeffer brings up seven “possible freedoms”; interpretative maneuvers regarding the early chapters of Genesis that function as potential escape clauses to avoid any conflict between Scripture and science. These include the old “gap theory” and “day-age view” among others. He does not commit to any of these theories but leaves them as “theoretical possibilities.” (p. 33)
In wanting to resolve any apparent conflict with Biblical revelation, Schaeffer apparently first thinks there is some definite conclusions which science or general revelation provides about the nature of the cosmos. It is not clear, however, what these conclusions are in Schaeffer’s mind, for he does not provide any. In fact, he even notes, “The history of science, including since in our own day, has often seen great dogmatism about theories which later have been discarded. Thus there is no inherent reason why a current scientific theory should immediately be accepted.” (p. 24)
So why juggle interpretations of Genesis to avoid conflict with science when there is no finally established science? In my own view (influenced by Gordon Clark’s The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God) there is no conflict between the truths of the Bible and the truths of Science because there are no truths in science.
But Schaeffer appears to favor some kind of verificationism. That is, he basically says that unless something is verified by scientific study, that truth it is only “in one’s head.” (p. 14) In this, along with his appeal to “possible freedoms,” it is hard not to think that in Schaeffer’s epistemology Biblical revelation holds a secondary place to general revelation.

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