Collect of the Day
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.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Clark's Answer to Van Til: On Intellect, Will, and Emotions: Part 8
[The following is the continuation of The Answer given by Dr. Gordon H. Clark and his supporters to The Complaint by Dr. Cornelius Van Til and his supporters. The Answer will be given in installments as time permits. To read the pdf image file click on the links above. The following is Clark's response to Van Til in regards to his views on human psychology. See Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, and Part Seven. See also, The Answer, in PDF].
On Intellect, Will, and Emotions
The second theological section of the Complaint treats of two subjects: first, the problem of emotions in God; and, second, the problem of the relation between man's intellectual activity and his emotional and volitional activities. The first of these problems is discussed on pages 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, and 36 of the Complaint. The Answer will consider this problem before commencing discussion of the remainder of pages 25-41, in which the complainants state their views of the second problem.
The dispute takes its rise from the statement in the Confession that “God is without body, parts, or passions.” The continental creeds generally do not contain this phrase. It is found in the Irish Articles of 1615, and seems to have been adopted by the Westminster Assembly from the Thirty Nine Articles of 1563. The first of these Articles says, “Deus aeternus, incorporeus, impartibilis, impassibilis,” i.e., “God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions.” As the Latin text was definitive, and as the meaning of impassibilis in the previous history of philosophy and theology is fairly clear, the basic theological problem is whether or not an emotional God is impassibilis. [See: Thirty-nine Articles of Religion: Article I. --Charlie].
The concept of passion or passibility as a technical term, here denied of God, was originated by Aristotle. His basic definition in Metaphysics D 21 is, “'Affection' means (1) a quality in respect of which a thing can be altered . . . (2) the already actualized alterations; (3) especially, injurious alterations and movements, and, above all, painful injuries; (4) experiences pleasant or painful, when on a large scale, are called 'affections.'” In De Anima III, 3, 429 a 7, he uses the same word for emotions. Cf. Notes, R. D. Hicks, in Aristotle, De Anima, 403 a 16. St. Augustine lists (Confessions X, 22) lust, happiness, fear, and sadness as the four perturbations or passions of the soul. Descartes wrote a Treatise on the Passions of the Soul. He lists six basic passions: admiration, love, hate, desire, joy and sadness; and connects them closely with bodily disturbances. Very obviously emotions are included in the sphere of passions. In the history of theology, philosophy, and language, therefore, it is not unusual, rather it is usual, to find emotions classed as one species of the genus passion. Passion is the wider term and emotion is included under it. Therefore, the complainants ought not to object to this linguistic usage. They may themselves wish to define the terms so as to exclude emotion from passion. Let them do so: They have no right to object to the more usual usage. Emotion, therefore, as Dr. Clark defines it, is included in the concept of passion which the Confession denies to God.
The Complaint (P. 8, 1; O. 29) suggests that Dr. Clark's definition of emotion is an a priori oddity. If this were true, which it is not, still there would be no ground for complaint. The confusion in the argument of the Complaint becomes obvious by an analysis of the definition of emotion which the complainants wish to substitute for Dr. Clark's definition. The complainants want to define emotion as (P. 8, 1; O. 30), “something which arouses the will and thus determines action.” From this definition follows one of two consequences. First, if the term retains any of its colloquial connotations, then anger and hate may determine actions, for colloquially they are emotions; but the cool, unemotional calculation of a business venture could never arose the will, for such an activity is intellectual. Or, second, if the complainants admit that considerations of truth sometimes influence conduct, then they are guilty of the a priori oddity of calling intellectual activity an emotion. The desire to substitute another definition of emotion for Dr. Clark's definition is not a proper ground for complaint.
The final reference to this subject is (P. 9, 2-3; O. 36), “A recollection of Dr. Clark's forthright denial of anything that might be called 'emotion' in God, cited above, will thus impress us that he not only does violence to the Scriptural and Reformed doctrine . . .” Dr. Clark never made any “forthright denial of anything that might be called 'emotion' in God.” Love or wrath “might be called an emotion.” Dr. Clark did not deny love and wrath to God. He holds that while some people might call God's love and wrath emotions, it is better to classify them as volitions. In this Dr. Clark is accord with a large section of the history of theology, and even of literary usage. As an example of literature (not of Reformed theology), it is possible to cite Pascal on page 24 of Everyman's translation: “It is natural for the mind to believe, and for the will to love.” As an example of Calvinistic thought these phrases of Augustus Toplady are appropriate (Complete Works, 1869, pp. 106, 107, and 687): God “is not, for instance, irascible and appeasable; liable to the emotions of joy and sorrow; or in any respect passive.” “When love is predicated of God, we do not mean that he is possessed of it as a passion or affection. . . . Love, therefore, when attributed to him signifies . . . his everlasting will, purpose, and determination to deliver, bless and saved his people.”
R. L. Dabney, Syllabus and Notes, 1927, page 153, supports Dr. Clark's views in a particularly clear manner:
“Our Confession says, that God hath neither parts nor passions. That He has something analogous to what are called in man active principles, is manifest, for He will and acts; therefore He must feel. But these active principles must not be conceived of as emotions, in the sense of ebbing and flowing accesses of feeling. In other words, they lack that agitation and rush, that change from cold to hot, and hot to cold, which constitute the characteristics of passion in us. They are, in God, an ineffable, fixed, peaceful, unchangeable calm, although the springs of volition. That such principles may be, although incomprehensible to us, we may learn from this fact: That in the wisest and most sanctified creatures, the active principles have least of passion and agitation, and yet they are by no means become inefficacious as springs of action—e.g., moral indignation in the holy and wise parent or ruler. That the above conception of the calm immutability of God's active principles is necessary, appears from the following: The agitations of literal passions are incompatible with His blessedness. The objects of those feelings are as fully present to the Divine Mind at one time as another; so that there is nothing to cause ebb or flow. And that ebb would constitute a change in Him. When, therefore, the Scriptures speak of God as becoming wroth, as repenting, as indulging His fury against His adversaries, in connection with some particular event occurring in time, we must understand them anthropologically. What is meant is, that the outward manifestations of His active principles were as though these feelings then arose.”
The evidence in the Complaint is that the complainants know and admit that Dr. Clark is in agreement with the Confession. On page 51 the complainants admit: “In this connection reference must again be made to Dr. Clark's view that God has no emotions. If his definition of emotion be granted, God certainly has none.” In other words, the complainants know and admit that when Dr. Clark says that God has no emotions, his thought is correct. And yet knowing this, they spend some six pages trying to represent him as seriously out of accord with the Confession.
(pages 26-28a of The Answer).
Posted by Charlie J. Ray at 12:23 PM