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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

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Clark/Van Til Controvery: The Text of a Complaint (Part Four)

[The following is a continuation of the charges made by Cornelius Van Til and his supporters against Dr. Gordon H. Clark and their opposition to his ordination as a teaching elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The implications of the thoughts of Van Til continue to this day at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia and in the denominations drawing their ministers from that institution. Remember that even if the charges seem legitimate at a first reading all is not clear until one has heard both sides of a matter (Proverbs 18:17). I will be typing more of the complaint in coming days. The response given by Clark is just as lengthy but I hope to get to that soon. To read the entire article see Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. See Part One for the link to the Answer given by Dr. Gordon H. Clark to the Complaint.]



The Clark/Van Til Controvery: The Text of a Complaint (Part Four)



An even clearer statement of the equal function of man's various faculties in faith is given by Warfield (“On Faith in its Psychological Aspects”, Studies in Theology, pp. 337, 338-9, 340-341):

The mode of the divine giving of faith . . . proceeds by the divine illumination of the understanding, softening of the heart, and quickening of the will [cf. Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 31]. . . . Man . . . is conscious of his dependence on God. . . . In unfallen man, the consciousness of dependence on God is far from a bare recognition of a fact; it has a rich emotional result in the heart. This emotional product of course includes fear, in the sense of awe and reverence. But its peculiar quality is just active and loving trust. Sinless man delights to be dependent on God and trusts Him wholly. . . . In this spontaneous trust of sinless man we have faith at its purest . . .

In accordance with the nature of this faith the Protestant theologians have generally explained that faith includes in itself the three elements of notitia, assensus, fiducia. Their primary object has been, no doubt, to protest against the Romish conception which limits faith to the assent of the understanding. [!] The stress of the Protestant definition lies therefore upon the fiducial element. This stress has not led Protestant theologians generally, however, to eliminate from the conception of faith the elements of understanding and assent. . . . In every movement of faith, therefore, from the lowest to the highest, there is an intellectual, an emotional, and a voluntary element, though naturally these elements vary in their relative prominence in the several movements of faith. . . .

The central movement in all faith is no doubt the element of assent. . . . But the movement of assent must depend, as it always does depend, on a movement, not specifically of the will, but of the intellect; the assensus issues from the notitia. The movement of the sensibilities which we call 'trust', is on the contrary the product of assent. And it is in this movement of the sensibilities that faith fulfills itself, and it is by it that, as specifically 'faith', it is 'formed'”.

As for repentance: The Shorter Catechism could not be more clear in regard to the three aspects of man's soul being active in repentance (Q. 87):

Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”

If a sense of sin and apprehension of God's mercy are not intellectual, if grief and hatred are not emotional, and if turning with purpose and endeavor is not volitional, then words do not mean anything; and these are all equally “high” aspects of this particularly religious activity of men. 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 includes precisely the same elements: the knowledge of sin instilled by Paul's first epistle, godly sorrow for sin (accompanied by indignation, fear, longing, and zeal) and an earnest care which manifested itself in clearing themselves and avenging the wrong done. Again, there are three equally important and lofty functions in repentance: intellectual, emotional, and volitional.

As for sanctification: “we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God” (Shorter Catechism, Q. 35). Sanctification is, in a sense, continual or repeated repentance, so far as man's activity in it is concerned. Accordingly, all that has been said about repentance applies here with equal force. There is an important additional point, however, and that has to do with the specific words that we are “renewed in the whole man after the image of God”. That very work was begun and, in it essential form, accomplished in regeneration. In regeneration the original moral image of God, consisting of knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, was restored to us. Sanctification is a continual progress toward that image in our outwards lives. But if that process includes intellect, emotion, and will, then surely we would expect to find all three of those aspects in the image of God in man. The conclusion is justified: we find precisely that in Biblical language and in Reformed theology. Just as God has those three faculties, so man, created in God's image, has them. Man is intellectually created in God's image, emotionally created in God's image, volitionally created in God's image.

A recollection of Dr. Clark's forthright denial of anything that might be “emotion” in God, cited above, will thus impress us that he not only does violence to the Scriptural and Reformed doctrine of man's religious life, but also to the tremendously important doctrine of God's creation of man in his own image. To defend the doctrine of God, to defend the doctrine of creation, to defend the doctrines of salvation, we must protest against any sympathy toward this idea of the “primacy” of the intellect.

As for man's religious activity in a more general way, Reformed Theology is equally vigorous in upholding the equal importance of all man's faculties. The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us that “man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”; we are to learn how to do this from the Bible alone, and the Bible teaches “what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man” (Qs. 1-3). Obviously duty, which is volitional if anything, is placed side by side with knowledge, and that duty is “obedience to his revealed will” (Q. 39), again a matter of volition. The sum of that obedience is love. (Q. 42), which just might be an emotion; and even if it is not an emotion, we are to love God with our heart, which is the best Scriptural indication of emotion.

Calvin, who so clearly gives the intellect a control over will, though not by virtue of that a primacy over will, speaks along the same line (Institutes, Bk. I, Ch. II):

Properly speaking, we cannot say that God is known where there is no religion or piety. . . . By piety I mean that union of reverence and love to God which the knowledge of his benefits inspires. For until men feel that they owe everything to God, that they are cherished by his paternal care, and that he is the author of all their blessings, so that nought is to be looked for away from him, they will never submit to him in voluntary obedience; nay, unless they place their entire happiness in him, they will never yield up their whole selves to him in truth and sincerity.

The effect of our knowledge rather ought to be, first, to teach us reverence and fear; and secondly, to induce us, under its guidance and teaching, to ask every good thing from him, and, when it is received, ascribe it to him. For how can the idea of God enter your mind without instantly giving rise to the thought, that since you are his workmanship, you are bound, by the very law of creation, to submit to his authority?—that your life is due to him?—that whatever you do ought to have reference to him? If so, it undoubtedly follows that your life is sadly corrupted, it it is not framed in obedience to him, since his will ought to be the law of our lives. On the other hand, your idea of his nature is not clear unless you acknowledge him to be the origin and fount of all goodness. Hence would arise both confidence in him, and a desire of cleaving to him, did not the depravity of the human mind lead it away from the proper course of investigation. . . . He by whom God is thus known, perceiving how he governs all things, confides in him as his guardian and protector, and casts himself entirely upon his faithfulness,—perceiving him to be the source of every blessing, if he is in any strait or feels any want, he instantly recurs to his protection and trusts to his aid,—persuaded that he is good and merciful, he reclines upon him with sure confidence . . . —acknowledging him as his Father and his Lord, he considers himself bound to have respect to his authority in all things, to reverence his majesty, aim at the advancement of his glory, and obey his commands,—regarding him as a just judge . . . , he keeps the judgment seat always in his view. . . .

Such is pure and and genuine religion, namely, confidence in God coupled with serious fear.

Pure and genuine religion is not, then, merely intellectual apprehension of propositional truths.

So also Bavinck (Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, Vol. I, pp. 276-277):

The result is, therefore, that religion is not limited to but one of man's faculties, but pervades the whole man. The relationship to God is a total and central relationship. We must love God with all our mind and with all our soul and with all our strength. Precisely because God is God he claims us completely in body and soul, with all our faculties and in all our relations. To be sure, there is also order in this relationship of man to God. Here also each faculty exists and works in man according to its own nature. Knowledge is first; there is no true service of God without true knowledge: ignoti nulla cupido, Unknown is unloved. He who goes to God must believe that he is the rewarder of them that seek him: Hebrews 11:6. Belief cometh from hearing: Romans 10:13, 14. The heathen came to ungodliness and unrighteousness, because they did not retain God in their knowledge: Romans 1:18f. But the knowledge of God works itself out in the heart and awakens there all sorts of emotions of fear and hope, despair and joy, guilt and forgiveness, misery and release, as the whole Scripture witnesses, particularly in the Psalms. And through the heart it works in turn on the will; faith reveals itself in love, in works: James 1:27, 1 John 1:5-7; Romans 2:10-13; Galatians 5:6, 1 Corinthians 13, etc. Head, heart and hand work together, each in its own way, taken captive by religion; religion takes the whole man, body and soul, into her service.”

Cf. also Deuteronomy. 29:29: “the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children, that we man do all the works of this law”.

The knowledge of God, which is set before us in the Scriptures, is designed for the same purpose as that which shines in creation, viz., that we may thereby learn to worship him with perfect integrity and unfeigned obedience, and also to depend entirely on his goodness” (Calvin, Institutes, Bk. I, Ch. X, Sect. 2).

It may be said, indeed, that the whole glorious climax of the covenant relationship which is so essential a part of the Reformed Faith is, as witnessed by Scripture, our standards, and Reformed writers, obedience to God. This is still no “primacy” of the will or of any other faculty; it is simply an eminently Reformed statement of the nature of the Christian's religious activity. It certainly goes far beyond an exaltation of the apprehension of propositions.

It may be noted that the discussion so far has assumed throughout that the religious man in question is a Christian, regenerated by God. The assumption has constantly been that the unregenerate man is polluted in every thought, every emotion, and every act of his will. Precisely here must be raised a final objection to Dr. Clark's view of the primacy of the intellect. Dr. Clark does not deny the necessity or the fact of regeneration but he makes no absolute qualitative distinction between the knowledge of the unregenerate man and the knowledge of the regenerate man. With the same ease, the same “common sense”, the unregenerate and the regenerate man can understand propositions revealed to man (p. 20; 28:13-16; 31:13-17; 34:13-35:2).

The result is simply this, that all men have a certain amount of religious activity, some more and some less, some with more falsehood mixed in and some with less, but all with some; there is not one shred of evidence that man's religious activity undergoes any qualitative change through regeneration. That bears all the earmarks of rationalism, humanistic intellectualism. It seems to share the very same vicious independence from God that obtains in the voluntarism and emotionalism to which Dr. Clark is so unalterably opposed.

To sum up briefly a few of the conclusions of this section, Dr. Clark's view of the primacy of the intellect is at serious variance with Scripture, with our standards, and with recognized Reformed writings, not only in the general concept of human psychology or of man's religious activity, but specifically in the doctrine of God's spiritual nature, in the doctrine of the image of God in man, in the doctrine of man's spiritual nature, in the doctrines of faith, repentance, and sanctification, in the doctrine of the covenant, in the doctrine of sin, particularly as regards its noetic effects, and in all the ethical implications of these doctrines. The variance is no minor matter; it is the product of a rationalistic dialectic. The approval or overlooking of such a variance is a matter of the utmost gravity.

See Part Five.



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Reasonable Christian Blog Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen. 1662 Book of Common Prayer

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