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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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gordon H. Clark: Truth Exists Only in Systematic Form

"Disjointed propositions can hardly be called true; truth can only exist in systematic form."  -- Dr. Gordon H. Clark


Recently I have been studying for my professional educator's certification through an alternate route to teaching in the public school system.  Much to the credit of the current philosophy of education there is now an emphasis on higher order thinking skills and logical processing of information rather than simply regurgitating facts, dates and rote memorization.  Not that the latter skills are unimportant but merely reciting information is not the same thing as understanding, comprehension and genuine learning.  Of course, as an Evangelical and Reformed Christian and an Anglican I have problems with other presuppositions in the philosophical approach to public education.  

That being said, the following quote from Dr. Gordon H. Clark supports the view that higher order thinking skills is an essential part of learning and education:

Results and Methods

When the opposition between truth and falsity is taken as fixed, or even if truth is considered to have evolved to a given point, there is a tendency to see the significance of philosophy in the results so laboriously achieved.  And in ordinary prefaces, perhaps in ordinary systems, these results are contrasted with the results of other authors.  College students in particular think they have learned philosophy when they can state these results:  such as, Aristotle said the world was finite; Plotinus put a One above the Intelligible World; Descartes argued, Cogito ergo sum.  If they write them down correctly, they think they should get a good grade.  That these propositions should be supported by reasoning hardly occurs to them.  What is worse, instructors sometimes obscure the reasoning by using the twentieth-century pedagogical stupidity of so-called objective examinations.  In reality all this sort of thing is an attempt to combine the appearance of being in earnest with an actual neglect of the subject matter.  These results by themselves are not philosophy.  Common unreflective opinion usually distinguishes between the method and the content of the positive sciences; but in philosophy no such separation is possible.  The conclusions arrived at are meaningless apart from a knowledge of the process by which they were obtained.  Disjointed propositions can hardly be called true; truth can only exist in systematic form.  

Gordon H. Clark.  Thales to Dewey:  A History of Philosophy:  An Entertaining and Enlightening Survey of the World's Great Thought.  Reprint, 1980.  (Grand Rapids:  Baker, 1957).  P. 443.
Dr. Clark was quick to point out in his theological lectures and books that Calvinism is not a disjointed hodgepodge of pick and choose proof texts.  Rather, Calvinism is a complete systematic exposition of the basics of biblical theology drawn from the Holy Scriptures.  The Reformed confessions are by no means an exhaustive exposition of all the particulars of Reformed theology, but they do stand as a basic systematic summary of the most important points of the doctrines of sovereign grace.  Of course, Dr. Clark also said that proof texting is something everyone does, including liberals.  In and of itself, proof texting is not bad.  It is when proof texting is misused or out of context that problems arise.

I have to wonder why more pastors in Reformed congregations do not take seriously the challenge of Christian education?  After all, what is the point of having an educated minister who is prepared for pastoral ministry if he is keeping his congregants ignorant rather than instructing them in biblical theology, systematic theology and Reformed confessional theology?  Christian education must be more than dumbing down everything to a few rote recitals of key Bible verses and a few quotes from the Shorter Catechism.  No, true understanding comes from synthesizing and processing the propositional truths of Scripture and the systematic outline of those truths in the Reformed confessions and catechisms.  In short, it is the duty of the minister not to just give memorable one-liners from the pulpit but to teach higher order thinking skills through expository preaching from the Scriptures and the Reformed catechisms. 

It is also the duty of the pastor to encourage Christian education through attendance in Sunday school where the leaders have been taught how to do basic exegesis.  These leaders should have an adequate understanding of Scripture and the Reformed confessions in systematic form.  In other words, if there is no higher order thinking going on in the sermons or in the Sunday school, the pastor is not doing his job, nor is anyone being properly discipled in the Christian faith as a total worldview and as a systematic understanding of the Scriptures.  Even a plow boy can understand the Bible if someone shows him how to read it as a whole.

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