Chapter 3


The Renaissance

As a man thinketh so is he–and humanism had already begun to show that pessimism was its natural conclusion.
  • Although this past age did include the early Christian church, it became increasingly clear that the sort of human autonomy that many of the Renaissance humanists had in mind referred exclusively to the non-Christian Greco-Roman world. Thus Renaissance humanism steadily evolved toward modern humanism–a value system rooted in the belief that man is his own measure, that man is autonomous, totally independent.
  • Art could still have moved toward either biblical or a nonbiblical concept of nature and the particulars (that is, the individual things, including the individual man). Up to this time it could have gone either way. It was good that nature was given a proper place. And there could have continued an emphasis on real people in a real world which God had made–with the particulars, the individual things, important because God made the whole world.
  • The statue David
    • Is not the Jewish David of the Bible. David was simply a title.
    • We are not to think of this as the biblical David but as the humanistic ideal. Man is great! It serves as the statement of what the humanistic man saw himself as tomorrow.
    • In this statue we have man waiting with confidence in his own strength for the future.
    • Even the disproportionate size of the hands says that man is powerful.
    • If a girl fell in love with the statue and waited until she found such a man, she would never marry.
  • Leonardo da Vinci understood that man beginning from himself would never be able to come to meaning on the basis of mathematics. And he knew that having only individual things, particulars, one never could come to universals or meaning and thus one only ends with mechanics. Everything, including man, is the machine.
  • The humanists had been sure that man starting from himself could solve every problem. There was a complete faith in man. Man could solve all. The humanistic cry was, “I can do what I will, just give me until tomorrow.” but Leonardo, in his brilliance, saw at the end of his life humanism’s coming defeat.
  • There was a split between Leonardo’s theory and the way it worked out in practice. He could not bring forth the universal or meaning in either mathematics or painting, and when King Francis I (1494-1547) of France brought Leonardo to the French court as an old man, Leonardo was in despondency. As a man thinketh so is he–and humanism had already begun to show that pessimism was its natural conclusion. Actually, we could say that we went to Renaissance Florence and found modern man!

Cover Photo: David by Michelangelo

This post contains quoted and paraphrased passages of How Should We Then Live? by Francis A. Schaeffer. 50th L’Abri Anniversary Edition, © 2005 by Crossway Books.

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