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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, December 06, 2011

Clark's Answer to Van Til: On Intellect, Will, and Emotions: Part 9



Clark's Answer to Van Til: On Intellect, Will, and Emotions: Part 9

[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, Part Seven, and Part Eight. See also, The Answer, in PDF].

The second problem of this section is one of human psychology, and its discussion will again underline the fact that the Complaint is not a matter of the doctrines of the Westminster Confession but of technical and abstruse subtleties more suitable for philosophers than for preachers. The charge made against Dr. Clark is that he arranges the several types of the soul's activities in a hierarchical scheme with the intellectual acts as the highest. This position, the complainants assert, is “humanistic intellectualism” (P. 7, 3; O. 29). That the position is a form of intellectualism is not denied; that it is humanistic is a charge so completely at variance with the evidence that it could only have been made in a moment of rashness. The complainants virtually give their case away, for they quote (P.8, 3; O. 32) Calvin, Institutes I, xv, 6-8, as saying “the intellect rules the will”; and then they try to argue that he did not mean it. A summary of these sections of Calvin may prove instructive.

Calvin begins these sections on human psychology by singling out Plato as the heathen philosopher who more clearly than the others saw that the soul id immortal. He makes a brief mention of the soul's relation to the body, and emphasizes that the soul with its innate knowledge, including the seeds of religion, find its chief purpose in worshipping God. He then analyzes the soul. He repudiates the theory that man has two souls, a sensitive one and a rational one. But the whole discussion he prefers to leave to philosophers as being rather remote from theology. Yet he does not prohibit the study of such philosophy and in fat finds it useful and entertaining. He then sketches the usual Aristotelian hierarchy of the soul's functions: the special senses, the common sense, the imagination, the reason, and lastly, the understanding. This scheme of itself is sufficient to show that Calvin placed intellectual activity at the apex of the soul's functions. It becomes still more clear as we proceed. The will, he continues, chooses what the reason and the understanding propose to it; the irascible faculty apprehends objects presented by imagination and sensation. All this is strictly a form of intellectualism. Calvin admits that such discussions are obscure, and if someone prefers a different distribution of the powers of the soul, he will not object, for the discussion hardly touches any article of faith. He even suggests a simpler division that would suit him: “the human soul has two faculties which relate to our present design, the understanding and the will. Now, let it be the office of the understanding to discriminate between objects as they shall respectively appear deserving of approbation or disapprobation; but of the will to choose and follow what the understanding shall have pronounced good.” The understanding, he continues, is “the guide and governor of the soul; the will always respects its authority and waits for its judgment.” Beyond these “no power can be found in the soul which may not properly be referred to either one or the other of these two members,” i.e., the will or the understanding. (Emotion is not mentioned.) And to emphasize the primacy of the intellect still more, Calvin applies to it the Stoic term to hegimonikon, the principal or governing part. So far Calvin.

Thus it is obvious that Calvin is far from holding the theory of the complainants. Their theory is not well worked out in the Complaint, but clearly they reject the notion that the intellect has any superiority over the emotions. The Complaint (P. 8, 3; O. 32) says, “both Calvin (!) and Bavinck insist on the total activity of the human being in religion,
with no subordination of one faculty to another.” It also speaks (P. 9, 1; O. 34), “of equal function of man's various faculties.” And it also says (P. 9, 2; O. 35), “Again, there are three equally important and lofty functions.” Obviously therefore the complainants hold that emotion and intellection are exactly on the same level; there is no superiority or subordination at all. But if this theory were true, if emotion and intellection are equally lofty, then it would be a matter of indifference whether one followed one's anger or his sober judgment of truth. If emotion is not subordinated to the intellect, then emotion could reject one's own best thought—through despair or fear—with as much right as the intellect could judge such despair or fear unfounded. In fact if emotion were the equal of the understanding, there would be no need of the understanding to direct conduct or to judge between right and wrong: emotion could govern us just as well. And this theory of the complainants is what they wish to make a test of orthodoxy! They ask Presbytery to declare various decisions and acts null and void because the man involved agrees with Calvin rather than with some more modern tendencies.

To show that Calvin and Dr. Clark are not alone in holding their position, a few quotations without discussion are here added. Note that the intellect is placed first, the will second, and note that the emotions receive a rather minor emphasis.

Charnock, Discourse IV, On Spiritual Worship, page 210: “With the same powers of our soul whereby we contemplate God, we must also worship God; we cannot think of him but with our minds, nor love him but with our will; and we cannot worship him without the acts of thinking and loving.” Ibid., page 211: “This excellent Being was to be honored with the motions of the understanding and will, with the purest and most spiritual powers in the nature of man.” “Prayer (i.e., vain prayer), is muttered over in private, slightly, as a parrot learns lessons by rote, not understanding what it speaks, or to what end it speaks it; not glorifying God in thought and spirit, with understanding and will.” Ibid., page 212: “A sincere act of the mind and will . . . was required by God.” Ibid., page 248: “He bestows upon man a spiritual nature, that he may return to him a spiritual service; he enlightens the understanding, that he may have a rational service; and new moulds the will that he may have a voluntary service.” Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. II, page 99, says: “His (man's) reason was subject to God; his will was subject to his reason; his affections and appetites to his will.” See also the quotation from Breckenridge, below. These considerations show that Dr. Clark's view of the intellect, will, and emotions follows a distinguished line of Reformed theology.


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