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 Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Reformed Forum Does a Hatchet Job on Gordon H. Clark

[Addendum:  3/17/2012  My view of Clark's doctrine of the incarnation has changed since this was posted.  His view appears to be a variation on the two wills of Jesus Christ.  Jesus had both a divine will and a human will.  Further theological reflection in this direction is called for.  As Dr. Clark pointed out, a human nature cannot be impersonal because a human person has a "reasonable soul".]  

It is ridiculous that this program pretends to objectively represent Clark’s views when all that happened was that a superficial misrepresentation of Clark’s position was presented. It really amounts to a strawman since at several points Dr. Oliphint either misunderstands Clark or else deliberately mispresents Clark.

I am not a Clarkian per se, though I am sympathetic to Clark’s doctrine of propositional truth. But then so was Carl F. H. Henry!

I will be reviewing the discussion on my blog later. But just to mention a couple of points, Oliphint clearly ignores Clark’s response to the Complaint. I read the response and it seems to me that both sides were talking past one another. Clark’s view is not “rationalist”. Oliphint’s reassertion of that accusation is a bit tiring.

The real problem with Clark is that his philosophical presuppositional position is “philosophical realism”. Anyone who had bothered studying Clark’s book, The Trinity, could have seen this. I wonder how much actual study Oliphint has put into understanding Clark’s “actual” position?

The one point where I agree with Oliphint’s assessment is that Clark did indeed embrace what appears to be Nestorianism. Oliphint completely misses the boat when he accuses Clark’s view of the Trinity as being impersonal. That could not be further from the truth. If Oliphint had read The Trinity carefully he would have seen that Clark simply redefines “essence” and “nature” as “definition”. Unfortuately, Clark’s redefinition simply introduces another monkey wrench into the works. I don’t find Clark’s re-examination helpful.

In my opinion, if one wants to examine the weaknesses of one’s own position, then read the criticisms leveled at it by opponents. If I want to understand the weaknesses of Van Til, I can read Clark and others. If I want to understand Clark’s weaknesses, I can read Clark’s critics.

It seems to me that the ectypal/archetypal distinction is simply a capitulation to Kantian philosophy and Barthian theology! If propositional truth is not true then all we have is incomprehensible relativism and postmodernism, something that Oliphint indirectly acknowledges in his numerous corrections of “misunderstandings” of Van Til’s position in this program.

The fact is Van Til’s legacy is a mixed one. His students have introduced such heresies as theonomy and triperspectivalism. And it has been rightly pointed out by some Clarkians that Van Til erroneously endorsed Norman Shepherd’s confusing of faith and obedience as “orthodox”. As the complaint indicates, Van Til was quite willing to endorse neo-legalism rather than to uphold the Gospel. One might also point to the Federal Vision controversy as part of Van Til’s legacy. If propositional truth is merely analogical then the confusion of faith and obedience is merely a “paradox” rather than an actual heresy!

It is also rather silly to pretend that Van Til did not personally attack Clark in the Complaint. The writing obviously reflects Van Til’s personal thoughts. Simply because Van Til hired a couple of hit men does not absolve him of his responsibility in the attack. Ironically, Oliphint acknowledges that Clark was vindicated of all charges.

If 2 + 2 = 4 is merely analogy, then what is the point of saying anything is true at all? Oliphint’s clever evasion of the issue by attempting to redefine “analogy” in more acceptable terms is unsatisfactory.

If Clark’s view is overly optimistic in solving apparent paradoxes, Van Til’s paradox leaves all sorts of loopholes for postmodernists, liberals, legalists, and various other heresiarchs. I would say we ought to be more honest in assessing the weaknesses of both men. Oliphint hints at this when he points out that presuppositionalism and transcendentalism are useless terms now. I think he is downplaying the degree of Van Til’s commitment to these terms because he knows both fail.

Clark’s presuppositionalism is as bad as Van Til’s presuppositionalism for the simple reason that both are tautological and prove nothing to anyone except someone in their own camp.

And I might point out that both men were not strictly beginning with Scripture but bring to Scripture other presuppositions.

If your program were interested in a more objective evaluation, someone from the Clarkian side should have been invited to respond. Also, Oliphint totally ignored Clark’s own response in The Answer.

You can read both documents here: The Complaint and The Answer.

It truly is sad that Oliphint labels Clark as a “rationalist” and then proceeds to totally discount Clark’s body of work. As I said before, Clark’s worst mistake occurred in his last book. But even in The Incarnation Clark’s critique of the orthodox position is a legitimate critique! The problem is that Clark’s solution is unacceptable. I for one will never embrace Nestorianism or Clark’s supposed solution to the remaining problems in the doctrine of the hypostatic union. In fact, I had a huge debate with Sean Gerety and his cronies at God’s Hammer last year over this very thing.

I do not blindly follow any theologian or apologist. That would include both Clark and Van Til and their students. As for Monty Collier or Red Beetle, the guy is obviously not a reliable source for understanding Clark. Collier doesn’t understand Clark or Van Til.

To hear the program click here:  The Clark/Van Til Controversy:  Reformed Forum

Addendum:  My views have changed somewhat.  I still do not accept Clark uncritically.  Personal intregrity requires that thought goes into every theological issue, which would rule out a blanket or generalized endorsement of any theologian.  That being said, I find Clark's theology to be superior to Van Til's theology.  I still do not believe Clark solved the problem of the Incarnation.  That being the case I stand by the Athanasian Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon 451 and I stand by the Scriptures from which those creeds draw their most certain warrant.  Clark himself was committed to the Westminster Confession of Faith as the purest expression of Christianity.  That document affirms that Jesus Christ was one person with two natures.   While that language is not perfect, defining a "nature" as a definition and that a nature is a person defined by what he thinks is not helpful in the end.  Unfortunately, GHC died and is unable to clarify or futher comment on this issue. 

Addendum:  3/17/2012  My view of Clark's doctrine of the incarnation has changed since this was posted.  His view appears to be a variation on the two wills of Jesus Christ.  Jesus had both a divine will and a human will.  Further theological reflection in this direction is called for.



Charlie J. Ray said...

I posted this response here because it didn't get published in the comments over at the Reformed Forum.


aaytch said...

Nice debate over there, and here. Well done, Charlie.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Thanks, Hudson.

Charlie J. Ray said...

For the record, my comments at the Reformed Forum were deleted and removed. That shows you how honest these neo-liberals are. They do not want an honest debate. And, for the record, my view now is that Gordon H. Clark was completely right. Biblical presuppositionalism is the only way forward. 9/2/2013

Daniel said...

Your comments appear to be still there. Though they are greyed out I can still read them.

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