But since he apparently didn't, Schaeffer, who may be the most influential protestant thinker of the 20th century, got it utterly and completely wrong when he said:
In Aquinas's view the will of man was fallen, but the intellect was not. From this incomplete view of the biblical Fall flowed all subsequent difficulties. (Francis Schaeffer, Escape from Reason, p. 11)As I mentioned in the original post, this has a become a meme that surfaces almost every time St. Thomas comes up in a discussion with protestants. If they know anything about St. Thomas, they know this.
But, as I pointed out in the post, St. Thomas' actual writings contradict Schaeffer's claim. Thomas clearly thinks the intellect suffered from the fall (Summa Theologica, Article 85, Question 3). And he attributes the proper function of the intellect to God (Summa, Article 109, Question 1).
Notice that Schaeffer gives no references whatsoever to where he derived his idea to the contrary.
In any case, although the post was written about two years ago, I received the following comment on it the other day:
The blogger acknowledges that Schaeffer correctly read Aquinas to be saying that man's reason alone can find universal truths without resort to the revelation of Scripture. The blogger's quotation from Etienne Gilson confirms Aquinas' revelation/reason dichotomy that Schaeffer attributed to him. Aquinas presumed that the philosophers could reason their way from the particulars of nature to the universal truths of Scripture relying on reason alone and without ever resorting to the Scriptures. But Aquinas gave the philosophers an impossible task and the project was doomed from the start.Well, I realize that Schaefferian devotion dies hard, but it appears the commenter, Dan Lawler, didn't read the post too well. The first part of this comment is true: Aquinas made a strict distinction between what you could know by reason and what you could know by faith. But part of the reason he did this was to show exactly the opposite of what Mr. Lawler says in the second part.
Here is what I quoted from Thomist philosopher Etiénne Gilson:
St. Thomas had asked the professors of theology never to prove an article of faith by rational demonstration, for faith is not based on reason, but the word of God, and if you try to prove it, you destroy it. (Etienne Gilson, The Unity of Philosophical Experience, p. 50)Kind of exactly opposite of what Mr. Lawler says I said, ain't it? But Mr. Lawler does not stop there. He continues his critique with what, I'm afraid, is a rather confused analysis of what actually happened in the Middle Ages:
At first, the philosophers bought into Aquinas' false hope that they could find universals through reason alone and this provided the foundation for Descartes’ modern rationalism ("I think, therefore I am"). But hope eventually gave way to pessimism leading to the postmodern view that either there are no universals, or if universals exist we have know way of rationally knowing what they are.First, Lawler shifts from charging (erroneously) that Aquinas believed he could go from the "particulars of nature to the universal truths of Scripture" to critiquing his belief that we can find "universals through reason alone." I gather then, that Lawler doesn't believe we can find universals (any) through the process of reason. If so, then it would be interesting to know how we do it? It might also be informative to know what his definition of "universal" is.
Second, how in the world did Aquinas' ontology lead to Descartes rationalism? And if this is true, then why do Thomists universally revile Descartes? (See Gilson on this) And how does Aquinas' view that universals exist lead to the postmodern view that they don't? At bottom such a charge is counter-intuitive, so it would be nice to see an actual argument.
And is Lawler aware that we didn't have to wait for postmodernism to encounter the rejection of universals? Universals were rejected by modernism long before postmodernism arrived on the scene. In fact, reformed protestant thought in particular and protestant thought in general displays a disturbing tendency to lapse into nominalism, so it is rather odd for an apparently reformed protestant to accuse Thomas of endangering the belief in universals.
Whether you want to call this an ontological problem (universals do not exist) or epistemological (we have no way of rationally knowing what they are) is really beside the point. The point is that both ideas are the logical result of Aquinas' affirmation that human reason can arrive at truth without resort to the Scriptures.Well, it's a nice assertion, but I don't see an argument. What reason is there to believe this? Lawler doesn't say. It is hardly self-evident that someone's belief that universals exist leads to the belief that they don't, so it would be nice to see why what process this could have happened. As it stands, Lawler doesn't give any.
Lawler also argues against my charge that those who criticize Aquinas don't make a distinction between ontology and epistemology by pointing out that in Schaeffer's book He is There and He is Not Silent has separate chapters on each of them. I'll have to wait to respond to that until I can lay my hands on the book.