Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Further Remarks on Clark's View of Common Ground

"Note well that this does not say that there is no common ground between a Christian and an unbeliever.  I hold that Christ is the light and logos that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.  I hold that every man is made in the image of God, and that every man has what may conveniently be called an innate idea of God.  All this is common ground between the Christian and the unbeliever."   [Selected Letters].

"Therefore, without in the least denying that sin has affected their volition, it must be asserted that sin has also affected their intellect."  [God's Hammer].

-- Dr. Gordon H. Clark

In my previous post, Did Gordon H. Clark Advocate a Common Ground View of Apologetics?, I stated that it was Gordon H. Clark's view that there is no common ground between the unbeliever and the believer.  However, in my Facebook debate group, Calvinism Defended Against All, Doug Douma posted a comment that quoted from the Selected Letters of Gordon H. Clark where Clark does say that there is at least some common ground between the believer and the unbeliever.  The letter was written to Dr. J. Oliver Buswell in regards to Buswell's review of Clark's book, A Christian Philosophy of Education.  Somehow the quote that Doug posted is not showing in Facebook anymore so I will type out the quote here for the reader:

It is not necessary for you to say that you have not tried to do me any injustice.  I have never detected in you any kind of injustice; and if you are not literally the most just man with whom I have had dealings, at least I have met no man more just.

It amuses me somewhat to compare what you say of my thought with what Dr. Van Til says.  You complain that I do not allow for a "common ground" while Dr. Van Til condemns me because I do.  Probably I suffer from inability to express myself clearly.  And for this reason I think you have done me an injustice unwittingly.  You have every right to argue against my position, and I have enjoyed reading your argument.  But at one point, I must say, you have mistaken my meaning.

On page four you say, "he denies that we have any common ground, in facts or rationality, with unbelievers."  And you quote from page 164 of my book.  But you do not begin your quotation soon enough.  The preceding two sentences are important:  "There is no such thing as a common ground between Christianity and a non-Christian system.  From a world naturalistically conceived, one cannot argue to the God of the Christians."  Note well that this does not say that there is no common ground between a Christian and an unbeliever.  I hold that Christ is the light and logos that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.  [John 1:9]  I hold that every man is made in the image of God, and that every man has what may conveniently be called an innate idea of God.  All this is common ground between the Christian and the unbeliever.  But there is no common ground between Christianity and a non-Christian system.  It seems to me that it is wise to keep distinct what is true about a system and what is true about individual persons.  Systems attain a high degree of consistency; people often do not.  I fear that misapprehension of my meaning has affected several parts of your review.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark.    Clark and His Correspondents:  Selected Letters of Gordon H. Clark.  Compiled by Douglas J. Douma.  Edited by Thomas W. Juodaitis.  (Unicoi:  Trinity Foundation, 2017).  Pp. 127-128. 

I would like to make several comments about this quote.  First, as Dr. Clark himself said, individuals are not always consistent with any particular system of propositional truth, including the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Inductive reasoning can and does often lead to logical fallacies and invalid reasoning.  The fact that all men are created in God's image (John 1:9; Genesis 1:27) does not negate the noetic effects of sin (Romans 1:18-32; Romans 3:10-23; Jeremiah 13:23) and the propensity of individuals to make logical errors in thinking.  (Romans 1:21).  However, if there were no such thing as rationality no one would be able to communicate at all since even languages and grammatical constructions depend on word definitions and logical propositions.  All knowledge is propositional in nature, including the formulation of language.  This is also why the Bible is not an idol composed of paper, leather and ink spots on a page.  It is indeed written on paper and the ink forms letters that together formulate linguistic expressions that form words and sentences that can be understood with the mind.  But every jot and tittle of God's written word forms words with definite definitions and definite propositional revelation such that God's written word can have only one correct meaning in any given verse.

The emphasis is that individuals who are committed to non-Christian systems have no common ground with Christians who accept the system of knowledge revealed in Scripture and from which the Christian makes other deductions by good and necessary consequence.  But that does not mean that all communication between the believer and unbeliever is meaningless conversation.  Even an atheist can understand that the Bible defines a sovereign God but the atheist refuses to believe what he understands the Bible to say about God.  The Arminian understands very well that Calvinism contends for the absolute predestination of all things, including moral evil.  But the Arminian refuses to believe what he understands as the Calvinist exegesis of the Scriptures.  The problem is not understanding the argument but refusing to believe what is understood.  This is why Arminians are so opposed to Christianity as defined by the Calvinist system of dogmatic truth summarized by the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Sadly, today many semi-Arminian Calvinists only believe an edited version of the Westminster Confession.

It goes without saying that the unregenerate elect and the unregenerate reprobate share unbelief.  But at some point God, who has foreordained the election and reprobation of certain and particular individuals whom He knows by name, will cause the arguments used by evangelists and theologians to take effect through the means of God's written word so that the elect will be effectually called to saving faith.  (John 1:12-13; John 3:3-8; John 10:3; 2 Timothy 2:19; Isaiah 55:11-12).

We too should read the Confession. And we should preach it with vigor. Not only have Romanists, modernists, and neo-orthodox departed from the teachings of the Bible, but there are also others, who in spite of professing to adhere to the Scripture, have diverged, sometimes widely, from the truth. There was a Bible professor in a Christian college who taught that man was a sinner, man was in a bad way, man was sick in sin. Now, salvation, so this Bible professor explained it, is like medicine in the drug store; and the sick man ought to drag himself to the store and get the medicine, and be cured. There was also a convinced Presbyterian on this faculty, who taught in accordance with the Westminster Confession.

So evident to the students was the contrast between these two theologies that the President disconnected the Presbyterian from his post.

The Bible and the Confession teach that man is not just sick in sin; he is dead in sin; and salvation rather than being compared with medicine is compared with a resurrection.

Gordon H. Clark. Articles on the Westminster Confession of Faith (Kindle Locations 358-367). Kindle Edition.

The doctrine of total depravity teaches that no part of human nature escapes the devastation of sin, and among the passages on which this doctrine is based are some which describe the effects of sin on human knowledge. For example, when Paul in 1 Timothy 4:2 says that certain apostates have their consciences seared with a hot iron, he must mean not only that they commit wicked acts but also that they think wicked thoughts. Their ability to distinguish right from wrong is impaired, and thus they give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. Therefore, without in the least denying that sin has affected their volition, it must be asserted that sin has also affected their intellect. And though Paul has in mind a particular class of people, no doubt more wicked than others, yet the similarity of human nature and the nature of sin force the conclusion that the minds of all men, though perhaps not to the same degree, are impaired.

Gordon H. Clark. God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics.   (Gordon Clark) (Kindle Locations 575-582). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

These noetic effects of sin have been used to support the conclusion that an unregenerate man cannot understand the meaning of any sentence in the Bible. From the assertion “there is none who understands,” it might seem to follow that when the Bible says, “David…took out a stone…and struck the Philistine in his forehead,” an unbeliever could not know what the words mean.

Gordon H. Clark. God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics.  (Gordon Clark) (Kindle Locations 590-592). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

It should not be concluded, therefore, that Gordon H. Clark agreed with the Three Points of Common Grace or any other system that asserts a common ground between the world's system of knowledge or epistemology and the system of propositional truth summarized by the Westminster Confession of Faith, which Clark says is the best doctrinal and dogmatic system of theology ever deduced from the Bible.  (See Westminster Confession of Faith 1:6).  I say this for the simple reason that Clark completely rejected empirical science as an epistemological system that could produce knowledge or even moral values.  For Clark logical positivism is self refuting because its starting axiom is itself unverifiable or falsifiable by means of a tabula rasa, blank slate, or the five senses.  According to Clark, it is impossible to demonstrate how one could get from sensations to perceptions to mental images.  A second criticism Clark registers is that empirical science commits the fallacy of induction.  Science is always changing and can never arrive at any final truth on anything, most especially when it comes to morality, ethics and values.

This brings me to my objection to certain political philosophies that are derived from secular systems or non-Christian systems of thinking in regards to current controversies in the culture wars and politics.  Let it be said that any political science or philosophy that is deduced from empiricism or the secular sciences is inherently relativistic and therefore non-Christian if not out and out anti-Christian.  This would include any so-called "Christian" libertarianism.  There can be no common ground and no co-belligerence between libertarianism and Christianity for the simple reason that the proponents of the modern libertarian movement are what Gordon H. Clark called contemporary impuritans:

Contemporary Impuritans
.....The central cause of this widespread moral collapse, so it seems to me, is located in the decline of Puritan religion. This returns us to the main theme of religious rather than civil history. When the seminaries and churches declare that God is dead, or when, less extreme, they substitute for the Puritan God of the Ten Commandments a different concept of god, inconsistent with the Ten Commandments, it logically and factually follows that morality is changed, too. A man’s view of morality depends on his view of God or whatever his first principle may be. Different types of theology produce different types of morality.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  "The Puritans and Situation Ethics."  Trinity Review.  January/February 1989.  Audio lecture.

The previous lecture began with the moral principles of the Puritans and then contrasted them with our contemporary moral anarchy. It has always been clear that the Puritans derived their ethics from the ten commandments and the God who gave them. What is not always so clear is that competing systems, and even anarchy, must also presuppose or imply a particular theological position. Some systems may deliberately announce a different kind of God and then deduce their ethics from their concept of deity. More frequently, however, a system of ethics is erected on an independent foundation and a type of deity is then manufactured to suit the ethics.

Gordon H. Clark.  "The Decline of Theology in America."  Transcript of audio lecture.  The Gordon H. Clark Foundation.

According to Gordon H. Clark, one cannot get an "ought" from what "is":

The principle by which logical positivism dismisses all metaphysics and all theology as meaningless nonsense is their verification principle. They hold that nothing can be true or even false unless it can be verified or falsified by sensory experience. What is unverifiable is neither true nor false, but completely meaningless. Our objection now is that this verification principle cannot itself be verified, and hence it is meaningless. But if their basic principle is as much nonsense as they think theology is, they have no basic principle on which to impune theology.

The second point, unlike some of these technicalities, is well within the range of the general public. It is derivative and subsidiary, but it is more a matter of daily life. This second point is that empiricism cannot establish any norm of morality. I am not saying that secular morality and Christian morality are different. A recent defense of abortion, a TV interview, was that the government should enforce only rational morality and not revelational morality. My point is that so-­called rational morality does not exist. The reason should be easily understandable.  Empirical philosophy claims to base all its truth on observation. Therefore, any evaluations or moral judgments empiricism makes must be inferred from observations. Now, observations at best can only give statistical information as to what is the case. It can record record how many murders occurred in Philadelphia last month, how many divorces were granted in Washington, and how many cases of arson there were in Boston. But a simple logical principle prevents the empiricist from concluding that murder is unjustifiable. One of the essential requirements for a valid argument is the presence in the premises of every term found in the conclusion. If any term in the conclusion is missing from the premises, the argument is a fallacy. For example, if all cows are wise animals, and if all wise animals are beautiful, it logically follows that all cows arebeautiful. It does not follow that all cows are lame, or that all dogs are beautiful. Neither lame nor dogs are found in the premises. Therefore, they cannot be allowed in the conclusion. The point of this example is that empirical premises contain nothing but statements of empirical facts. They give observational data. They state what is. Hence, nothing but observational data can be put into the conclusion. If the premises state only what is, the conclusion cannot state what ought to be. There is no way of deriving a normative principle form an empirical observation.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark, "Empiricism."  Transcript of audio tapeThe Gordon H. Clark Foundation.  

In opposition to so-called Christian libertarianism, therefore, Clark said that political and judicial law should be deduced from the Christian system of epistemology or special revelation, not any revelation deduced from natural law or reason.  Just as we cannot deduce the Trinity from natural revelation or natural theology so we cannot deduce that fornication, adultery, homosexuality, transgenderism or gambling is sinful from what can be observed in nature or by way of empirical science.  But particularly devastating to the so-called Scripturalists who advocate a judicial morality that is deduced from a secular system of political libertarianism is Clark's remarks in the question and answer session on Puritan ethics:

Moderator: Dr. Clark, should the federal and state governments of the U.S. include the ten commandments in their basic body of ordinances?

Moderator: This is in line with your Puritan ethics, I suppose.

Dr. Clark: If you make the franchise dependent on church membership, it results in great hypocrisy in the church. And it has proved deleterious in the case of the Puritans. Now, what was further in that question?

Moderator: Should we, should the federal and state governments of the U.S. include the ten commandments in their basic body of ordinances?

Dr. Clark: Well, yes I rather suppose so. And in fact it has been done done perhaps not completely. But people who say that you cannot legislate morality and people who say they don’t want Christian morality imposed on them, don’t seem to object to laws against theft.  Particularly if they’re the victims. And the law against theft of course comes from the ten commandments. So those who make these objections are inconsistent. They don’t follow the logic of their principles. I don’t see how they could sustain any laws.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  Question and Answers:  A Panel Including Gordon H. Clark.  Transcript of audio tapeThe Gordon H. Clark Foundation.

I could give much more evidence that Clark was opposed to libertarian political philosophy.  He also says that secular humanism has no  basis for morality or ethics for the same reasons that empiricism can produce no morality or values.  Libertarianism is another variety of godless non-Christian systemic anarchy.  In a future post I will examine what Dr. Clark had to say about the civil magistrate and from where governments can legitimately derive their authority.  Unless the government is derived from special revelation from God the end result is tyranny.  This would include all forms of secularism, including libertarianism.  I make no apologies for quoting extensively from Clark's writings and his lectures.  It seems fairly self-evident to me that Scripturalists who endorse secular libertarian political philosophy are out of accord with Clark himself and in fact advocating a contradiction if not outright moral anarchy.  The doctrine of common grace has been rightly said to attribute civic good to the reprobate.  But as with all of the effects of the original sin of Adam, sin has corrupted more than just individuals but sociological systems as well.  Principalities and powers are in operation here.  (Ephesians 3:10; 6:12).

You shall not at all do as we are doing here today-- every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes-- (Deut. 12:8 NKJ)

 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Jdg. 17:6 NKJ)

 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Jdg. 21:25 NKJ)

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise. (Prov. 12:15 NKJ)

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts. (Prov. 21:2 NKJ)

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Did Gordon H. Clark Advocate a Common Ground View of Apologetics?

"The Christian worker cannot convince him [the unbeliever] of the truth of the Gospel. He is not supposed to. After we present the Gospel, we then pray that the Holy Ghost will convince him, that God will change his mind, grant him repentance, that God will give him the divine gift of faith, cause him to believe the axioms of Scripture and raise him from the death of sin to a new life in Christ."  

-- Dr. Gordon H. Clark

It has been contended by certain Van Tilian apologists and theologians that Gordon H. Clark said that reason is a common ground between believers and unbelievers.  But I will show in this post that that was not Clark's view at all.  Critics of Clark keep accusing him of rationalism and using other straw man arguments against his position instead of dealing with his actual position.  One article I found from Chalcedon Magazine in 1997 said that Gordon H. Clark was a Cartesian philosopher of all things.  There are so many misrepresentations on the internet in regards to Clark's actual philosophy and theology that it is almost impossible to refute and rebut them all.  Moreover, some of the views being perpetuated online are advocated by self professing admirers and proponents of Clark's dogmatic philosophy.

The article from Chalcedon Magazine in 1997, The Philosophy of Gordon Clark, by Joseph P. Braswell, makes at least three mistakes in regards to Clark's philosophy.  First, the author confuses Clark's view with Alvin Plantinga's foundationalism.  He then goes on to accuse Clark of being a Cartesian philosopher.  I guess if one charge will not stick another one will do just as well.  Of course, Descartes was a rationalist who tried to prove that man exists because of the proposition that "I think therefore I am."  But Gordon H. Clark totally rejected cartesian philosophy.  The same author thinks that Van Til was in agreement with Immanuel Kant's innate knowledge view, which I cannot verify or falsify.  However, I can say that in some ways Clark agreed with Kant in that Clark says that God has created man with certain innate abilities such as the ability to think rationally, to mark time as the passing of one thought to another thought in the mind.  But Clark does not deduce these innate abilities from Kant but from Scripture.  Clark also advocated the view that John 1:9 does not refer to salvation but rather to man as the rational image of God and that Christ in His pre-incarnate person of the divine Logos enlightens every man such that even fallen men can know some truth.  But is this common ground?

Braswell says:
For Clark, logic is the common ground-principle between believers and unbelievers (based on the argument in book gamma of Aristotle’s Metaphysics), but logic needs true premises—premises that are logically primitive, basic beliefs. We must have a source of such incontrovertibly certain truths—foundational truths—if we are to deduce anything by means of logic, since conclusions are only as good as the premises from which they derive. Clark also believes (following Augustine) that the assertion of skepticism is self-refuting and that skepticism is the reductio ad absurdum of any epistemological theory (i.e., any theory that leads to skepticism can be eliminated from further consideration). He thus seeks to eliminate all competition to his axiom by reducing all other epistemological contenders to skepticism. After the field is cleared of rationalism and empiricism, if he can show that the axiom he has proposed succeeds in making some knowledge possible (a set of propositions, however limited in number), he believes he has justified his starting point. The only test of his system of propositions is the logical test of the internal consistency of the system qua a coherent, noncontradictory system.  (Ibid.)

This assessment at first glance sounds like a reasonable summary of Clark's view.  However, the writer seems to think that Clark begins with reason and tries to prove his axiom and justify his view by means of logic.  This is not Clark's view at all.  In fact, Clark begins with Scripture and consistently shows that God's written word is in fact propositional revelation.  If God's written word is not logically consistent, how could we know anything from God at all?  Revelation from God must be intelligible and understandable.  For Clark God does not breathe out lies, contradictions, half truths, or irrationalisms.  (2 Timothy 3:16; Matthew 4:4; 2 Peter 1:19-21).  Basic to all thinking, according to Clark, is the law of contradiction.  If God says yes, it cannot mean no or both yes and no because that would be a contradiction.  If God says, "Do not commit adultery," it cannot mean, "Thou shalt commit adultery."  According to Clark, we know that God is not only logical in the way He thinks but He is Logic.  John 1:1 uses the Greek term Logos, which is defined as rationality.  It seems odd to me that Evangelical Christians today have no problem with the proposition that God is love (1 John 4:7-8) but they seem to have a problem with John's proposition that the Word was God.  (John 1:1).

Clark, while contending that all men are created in God's image and have an innate ability to think logically, recognized that men are fallen in sin and that there is a noetic effect caused by the sinful nature such that men are unable to reason consistently and therefore make errors in logic.  (Romans 1:18-25).

But for Clark truth is systematic because propositions are logically consistent with all the parts of the truth.  Truth exists only in God's mind and if mankind knows anything that is true then God being omnipotent knows that same truth.  In fact, the reversal of the proposition is that if mankind cannot know anything God knows it logically follows that man knows nothing that is true since all truth originates in the mind of God.  God is eternally omniscient and has never learned anything new.  God is the Truth.  (John 17:17).

According to Gordon H. Clark, Christianity is not a religion.  In fact, Christianity is a philosophical and theological worldview that is deduced from the axiom of Scripture.  Clark rejected the proposition that there is common ground with other epistemological systems despite the assertion of his critics to the contrary:

Because this whole subject has so many facets, and because the details are so complex, the conclusion can canvas only one objection. The objection is this. If every system of philosophy derives from its own unique set of axioms, it becomes impossible for those who accept one set of axioms to hold a meaningful discussion with those who hold another set. The two parties to the dispute have nothing in common, and hence, neither has any basis for convincing the other.  This is an ancient, not a recent, objection. It does not require genius to think it up. But though so common, indeed because it is so common, it needs a clear answer. An historical reference will serve as a starting point.

Anselm wanted to appeal to the Jews and Moslems on their own ground without using revelation. “Reason” (in quotation marks) was supposed to be the common ground. But “reason” (in quotation marks) was not clearly defined nor was a common proposition actually identified. But common sense supposes that whenever we try to persuade people of anything, we appeal to what they already believe. But common sense is wrong. This works only on secondary matters and not on all of them. On basic matters no one ever appeals to a common ground between two systems of philosophy.

Take this for example. Can an empiricist, on the basis of sensation, convince me of empiricism when I do not accept sensation? Well, how then may we present the Gospel to an unbeliever? We present the Gospel as fully as possible. We explain to him as many of the historical details as we have time for and as many of the logical connections as our prospect will listen to. But sermons, arguments, and explanations will not convert him. The Christian worker cannot convince him of the truth of the Gospel. He is not supposed to. After we present the Gospel, we then pray that the Holy Ghost will convince him, that God will change his mind, grant him repentance, that God will give him the divine gift of faith, cause him to believe the axioms of Scripture and raise him from the death of sin to a new life in Christ.

[From the transcript of Gordon H. Clark's audio lecture, "How Does Man Know God?"  Posted at the Gordon H. Clark Foundation website.  For the Sermonaudio version of this lecture click here.]

I therefore conclude that Clark did not advocate common ground between the believer and the unbeliever.  In fact, Clark did not try to prove his axiom since axioms cannot be proved in the first place.  By definition axioms are unproven and unprovable starting points.  Since everyone starts with unproven starting points and everyone is a fideist, why criticize the Christian for starting with the axiom of Scripture?   Clark's lecture on Empiricism makes the same point as the above quote.  There is no common ground with other epistemological and philosophical worldviews or systems.

There is another lecture on YouTube by Michael Butler, "Refuting Gordon H. Clark," that criticizes Clark as well.  But I will answer the objections raised in this lecture in a future post.  But surprisingly Butler attacks the truthfulness and logical consistency of Scripture and never once mentions the fact that the Westminster Confession of Faith is a logical and propositional system of truth that is logically deduced from Scripture by good and necessary consequence.  (Westminster Confession of Faith 1:6).

I should also point out that Doug Douma and two of his colleagues have done the majority of the footwork to type and post the transcripts of Clark's audio lectures and unpublished papers at the Gordon H. Clark Foundation website, although the site is hosted by Whitefield Seminary and Dr. Kenneth Talbot.  Doug does a blog at:  A Place for Thoughts.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Incarnation Part 10: The Necessity of the Deity of Christ

"The ecclesiastical situation is similar to the political, where many Americans have advocated this or that part of communistic propaganda without knowing its source and aims. 

But put the question thus:  If the Virgin Birth is not an historical event, and if the body of Christ did not come out of the tomb, and if the Scriptures are often in error, what hope is there of long maintaining the deity of Christ?  Indeed, can one be said truly to believe in Christ if he denies these things?"   --Dr. Gordon H. Clark

The following words of Dr. Gordon H. Clark are a telling indictment of the current state of the Presbyterian and Reformed churches even in so-called "orthodox" or "conservative" Presbyterian denominations.  In fact, his words are almost prophetic since Dr. Clark passed away in 1985.  The situation today is even worse that it was in the mid 1980s.

Although the present temper of the churches with their doctrinal laxity and ecumenical obsession does not issue in explicit attacks on the Trinity, it would be a mistake to conclude that this doctrine more than others enjoys uniform acceptance.  Whether the Virgin Birth is rejected as an impossible biological miracle, or whether the creeds are eviscerated by making them symbolic, pointers, or myths, the very nature of the Godhead is called into question.
An attack against the citadel is not always frontal.  Sometimes the outer defenses are first put out of commission, one by one;  sometimes the foundations are undermined; sometimes the supplies are cut off.  This is not to suggest that all those who attack some doctrine or other intend to weaken their testimony to the deity of Christ.  It does not even imply that all those who deny the Virgin Birth are conscious enemies of trinitarianism.  The ecclesiastical situation is similar to the political, where many Americans have advocated this or that part of communistic propaganda without knowing its source and aims.
But put the question thus:  If the Virgin Birth is not an historical event, and if the body of Christ did not come out of the tomb, and if the Scriptures are often in error, what hope is there of long maintaining the deity of Christ?  Indeed, can one be said truly to believe in Christ if he denies these things?  Suppose one should say, I believe Napoleon was a real historical character who actually lived; but I reject the legendary accretions which say he put an end to the French revolution, became Emperor, fought Spain, Italy, Australia, invaded Russia, lost the battle of Waterloo, and was exiled on St. Helena.  But of course I believe in Napoleon!
Is this any more silly than to say, I believe in Jesus Christ, but of course miracles are impossible and the story of the resurrection is a kerygmatic myth?
There is either one Christ or there is none.  If Jesus was not the eternal Son of God, equal in power and glory with the Father, then let's have done with all talk about Christianity.  Let us admit honestly that we are Unitarians, Jews, Buddhists, or humanists.  But not Christians.  For the historical Jesus said, Upon this rock, of the deity of Christ, I will build my Church.  Some other organization may call itself a church, but it is not his.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  What Do Presbyterians Believe?  (Unicoi:  Trinity Foundation:  2001).  Pp. 34-35.

The doctrine of the incarnation of the eternal Logos in the human person of Jesus Christ is under attack on many fronts today, not least of which is the oblique attack on the doctrine of the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture, the infallibility of Scripture, and the inerrancy of Scripture.  Some Evangelical theologians who still wish to be known as Evangelicals claim to believe in the same doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture as Warfield and Hodge but on further examination they have changed the meaning of the term to fit with their implicit acceptance of neo-orthodoxy.  Since everything we know about Jesus Christ and the trinity is logically deduced from the Scriptures, it is a serious departure to change the meaning of a theological term that has traditionally been understood as the fact that God literally inspired every jot and tittle of Scripture and every single word of Scripture such that even quotes from pagan poets and apocryphal books are a God breathed record and meant to convey a propositional truth.  In fact, Scripture is not analogical but propositional.  That is, God reveals His written word to us in logical, rational, and propositional form so that a system of dogmatic truths can be deduced from the Scriptures:

6.  The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. (2 Tim. 3:15–17, Gal. 1:8–9, 2 Thess. 2:2) . . . 
Westminster Confession of Faith.  Chapter 1:6

This is not to say that the Bible contains no analogies, no metaphors, no similes, no parables, no poetry, and no apocalyptic material.  Far from it.  But what it does mean is that behind every parable, every metaphor, every analogy there is a proposition that can be logically deduced from the text by a good exegesis of the text.  The Evangelical method of exegesis is the historical and grammatical method, not the neo-orthodox method where the Bible is simply a record or analogy of revelation and not revelation itself.  When the Westminster, California and Westminster, Philadelphia theologians say that only God knows the system of theology in His incomprehensible mind and we only have an analogical system of theology, they are in effect--whether they realize it or not--saying that the Bible is not really God's inspired Word in every single word at every single point but instead the Bible is merely a human record or a framework of God's unknowable revelation in God's mind.  Their position is that there is no single point at which God's written Word, the Holy Scriptures, and the system of theology in God's mind coincide.  Not one.  This is nothing more than neo-orthodoxy.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark came under attack when he was a professor at the fledgling Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania because he dared to stand for the classical view that the Bible is univocally the very inspired words of God in every single jot and tittle, every word.  It was Dr. Clark's position that if we know anything that is true, then God must know that same truth just as we know it and vice versa.  If we can know nothing God knows then obviously we can never know the truth whatsoever.  Does God know that David was the king of Israel, that Jesus Christ was literally and physically raised from the dead or that 2 + 2 = 4?  And it logically follows if we know those same truths, then we know what God knows on that single point of coinciding truth as a propositional statement.  This does not imply that we are omniscient nor that we are prying into the secret mind of God since revelation is not secret but revealed!  (Romans 16:25-27; Deuteronomy 29:29).  All truth originates in God's mind, not in empirical science, logical positivism, rationalism, or a blank tabula rasa or blank tablet.

The doctrine of the incarnation is intimately tied to the doctrine of the Trinity.  In fact, the early church had not fully developed their understanding of the biblical propositions and through a series of church synods and councils further deductions from Scripture were made so that it became apparent that in order to sustain the doctrine of Christ as both God and man there must in fact be three Persons within the one divine being, divine nature, or Godhead.  Three personal distinctions within one divine being or nature does not imply three separate gods, however, because this would violate the monotheism of the Hebrew shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) and other proof texts.  (Mark 12:29; Deuteronomy 4:35; 1 Corinthians 8:4).

As Dr. Clark said many times, the Westminster Confession of Faith orders the doctrines of the propositional system in a descending order of importance.  The first three doctrines are:  1. Holy Scripture.  2.  The Holy Trinity.  3. Predestination.  Yet all three of these primary Presbyterian doctrines today are under attack in Evangelical denominations and Evangelical seminaries.  Creation is chapter 4 and Providence is in chapter 5.  Some churches just completely ignore these foundational doctrines and refuse to preach them.  Others outright attack them.  These preliminary doctrines lead up to the doctrine of the incarnation in chapter 8, Of Christ the Mediator.

So how can God be one God in essence and nature and yet three distinct persons within the one Godhead?  There is so much material on the doctrine of the Trinity that it would take several lifetimes to read and study it all in detail.  Here I will try to summarize the key points of the doctrine from a Clarkian and Scripturalist perspective and utilizing the classical Calvinist and Reformed theologians.

Since it is Scripture that defines God and His attributes as given in propositional form in the inspired texts, no doctrine of the Trinity can afford to dismiss Scripture as merely a record of God's revelation rather than revelation itself.  Although it is true that justification by faith alone or Sola Fide is the doctrine that Martin Luther said determines whether a church stands or falls, all the other doctrines in the Bible are equally important.  Without the doctrine of Scripture as fully inspired of God one cannot deduce the doctrine of justification in the first place.  The same can be said for the doctrine of the trinity and the doctrine of the incarnation.  Both of these doctrines are deduced from Scripture.  This is why Scripture or Sola Scriptura is primary in the Calvinist or Presbyterian system of dogma.  Every other doctrine flows out of Sola Scriptura.  Once the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration, infallibility and inerrancy are undermined or rejected, everything else collapses.  There is no Christianity left--none at all.

To introduce the subject this treatise will begin with a chronological or historical approach, though eventually it will perforce become more logical than historical. At any rate we start with the Old Testament. This historical approach is not only convenient; it is pedagogically necessary also. Seminary students today, unless they came from Christian grade schools and high schools, have had little Scriptural or catechetical instruction. Accordingly, since the material out of which the doctrine of the Trinity is constructed is the Scriptural data, such passages must of necessity be kept in mind or else the discussion loses significance. Like any other treatise on the Trinity this one does not profess to give all the relevant material; it does profess to give more than some other volumes on Systematic Theology give. But the student must do some spade work of his own and is urged to search the Scriptures, for in them ye think (and think correctly) ye have eternal life.  [John 5:39].

Gordon H. Clark. The Trinity (Kindle Locations 77-83). The Trinity Foundation.

The biblical evidence for the doctrine of the trinity is extensive but the doctrine is only explicitly taught in the New Testament.  In Genesis 1:26 God says, Let us make man in our image.  Some have advocated the view that this verse teaches the trinity because the Hebrew word for God in that verse is Elohim, which is a plural word according to the Hebrew grammar.  But most scholars have interpreted this use of the word Elohim as a majestic plurality and not as a reference to the trinity:

אֱלֹהִים2570 noun masculine plural (feminine 1 Kings 11:33; on number of occurrences of אֵל, אֱלוֺהַּ, אֱלֹהִים compare also Nesl. c,) 1 plural in number.
a. rulers, judges, either as divine representatives at sacred places or as reflecting divine majesty and power....
From Biblehub.com's Strong's numbering link.

I could go through all of the biblical data but I think any systematic theology from a Reformed perspective can do that adequately.  Also, you can read Dr. Clark's book, The Trinity, which is available in ebook and paperback at the Trinity Foundation site.

The needed emphasis on the unity of God precluded any understanding of the Godhead as a Trinity. There were hints, however. The plural Elohim might have suggested some sort of plurality in the divine being; but with the idea of three absent, and no explanation given, it was natural to understand the word as a plural of majesty. But may we not suppose that the use of the name Jehovah three times and three times only in Numbers 6:24-26 and Daniel 9:19 is something more than a rhetorical or liturgical flourish? The same phenomenon occurs also in Isaiah 33:22.
Some theologians see more Old Testament anticipations of the Trinity than others do. I. A. Dorner (System of Christian Doctrine, Volume I) surely overdoes it. He not only takes the frequent use of Davar as indicative of the Logos, he even sees this Word in Genesis 1:3, 6, 9 (God said). He also mentions Psalm 33:6, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made;” Psalm 107:20, “He sent his word.” Rather obviously the ancient Hebrews could not see the Trinity in Genesis one; but Psalm 107 indeed suggests some sort of plurality.

Gordon H. Clark. The Trinity (Kindle Locations 90-104). The Trinity Foundation.

As this discussion will be lengthy, I hope the reader will pardon me for postponing the discussion of the Athanasian Creed until later.  Also, in a future post, since I came from a Pentecostal background, I want to spend a little time discussing the oneness Pentecostal view of the trinity and the incarnation and show why their view is not only heretical but self contradictory.  The oneness Pentecostal will say that Jesus is God.  But does their view lend itself to the full and complete deity of Jesus Christ?

Index to posts on Clark's view of the Incarnation.

Support Reasonable Christian Ministries with your generous donation.