I have written on Franky Schaeffer in our blog before where we looked at the irrational things he has said in public. He’s the son of the late Christian apologist and evangelist Francis Schaeffer. Franky himself is an apostate has spent much time and energy attacking his father and the Evangelical faith of his father.
I just found out that his latest book is titled “WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD.” Most people would think, “Is that logically possible?” Frank in a video recorded book discussion have said that he intentionally had a provocative title to make people think and:
Basically telling people that first of all labels are Nonsense.
He’s not the only one that says something like this. I had flashback of hipster Emergents, old College hippie professors, etc., when I heard Franky say that.
What are Franks’ reasons for why he thinks labels are nonsense? He’s explained:
“Because you may describe yourself one thing today but give it twenty years and you may well look at yourself as something else. And we all change in our journey.”
And in his dribbling monologue he’s also talked about the need to embrace paradox rather than resolve everything.
I want to address this issue since it’s bigger than him and many people throw this or something similar out there during religious discussions.
1.) Whenever I hear someone say labels are categorically nonsense I always want to show them a picture of this:
A picture is worth a thousand words. Seriously, labels are nonsense?
2.) Secondly, Frank’s first reason for why labels are nonsense does not logically follow. Just because people do change over time this does not necessarily mean labels are in of itself nonsense. Sure, people twenty years from now may change in their views of themselves and what they believe but that doesn’t mean labels are in of itself are nonsense. It just means one might change “labels” even if that label is something different than the previous label or those labels are different from the larger segment of the population. Go change labels a hundred times that still doesn’t mean labels are nonsense!
3.) Frank’s second reason for why labels are nonsense is equally problematic. Just because there are paradoxes in life that one must embrace surely does not logically follow that labels are nonsense and ought to be categorically rejected. What about two paradoxical labels? Should we embrace them (give his call to embrace paradox)? Or should we reject them because they are labels? We have here a rational/irrational tension. Note here that Frank’s second reason is talking about a different subject (paradox) and not the issue at hand of why labels are nonsense. A categorical fallacy.
4.) Paradoxes won’t exists if two or more objects are at minimum in a contrary tension (I don’t think paradoxes must necessarily be in actual contradictory relationship). People often use shorthand terms to denote things, and when we identify paradoxes we are saying two or more things share a tension in their relationships. Notice denoting things is an act of “labelling.” Thus to talk about paradox one are already engage in the act of giving labels.
4.) As an example of point four, look at his own author-talk where Frank does the same thing. His talk goes on about the problem of the label love and hate and yet he talks about “hating less” is an act of “love.” Even for an anti-label guy like Frank, he’s incurably using labels.
5.) Someone might object that Frank does not refer to “labels” as the act of denoting, naming, defining something but rather sterotyping something. But that does not seem to be case because as one seen in the quote above, Frank talks about how the labels we give ourselves changes. I don’t think Frank is saying we are sterotyping ourselves ignorantly. His talk in the beginning makes it pretty clear he does not like “Certainty Addicts” who wants him to define things. Frank is against the very act of defining things.
6.) Concerning “labeling” as sterotyping people, isn’t ironic that Frank’s writing always engage in labeling others in that sense of the term? Within that Huffington Post I linked, note how he labels pro-science advocates and fundamentalists: “Somewhere between the sterile, absolute, and empty formulas of reductionist, totalitarian science and the earnest, hostile, excessively certain make-believe of religious fundamentalism, there is a beautiful place.”
7.) By the way, rejecting a bad and negative label does not mean one should reject labeling in the first sense of the term.
8.) Per point five, since Frank is against the act of labeling in the sense of defining things, he’s destroyed in his own worldview the ability to communicate since words must mean something and not mean its opposite, etc. But he doesn’t really believe that inside even though he claims it because he’s still communicating with words the words that undermine the intelligibility and meaningfulness of those words. Franks’ father had a mentor who would have noted the folly and suppression of the truth in Frank’s apostate antinominian atheist worldview.
Frank’s rejection of labels is nonsense.