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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, July 13, 2013

Theologia Crucis: Mike Horton's Ontological Mess



"I wish to affirm that a satisfactory theory of revelation must involve a realistic epistemology. By realism in this connection, I mean a theory that the human mind possesses some truth – not an analogy of the truth, not a representation of or correspondence to the truth, not a mere hint of the truth, not a meaningless verbalism about a new species of truth, but the truth itself."  -- Dr. Gordon H. Clark



It is truly ironic when an irrationalist Lutheran calls Mike Horton's view an ontological mess.  But at least this demonstrates my point that Horton is incredibly confused and contradicts himself many times over in his systematic theology,  The Christian Faith:  A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way.  Dr. Jack Kilcrease is no Lutheran lightweight.  Although he is a layman, he is an adjunct professor of theology at the Institute for Lutheran Theology and Aquinas College.  The lead in of his article is compelling:

Michael Horton (a Reformed theologian and frequent guest on Issues, etc.) has written a systematic theology a while back that received a lot of attention. I read it about a year ago and had some initial technical problems with it (for one thing, it was one of the worst edited books I've ever read. The first footnotes in one chapter read "Ibid."). Through my research into the history of Western and Eastern Christian theology, I've come to appreciate how Horton's basic way of construing human knowledge of God is a complete mess. What he attempts to do is combine Western scholastic approach to the knowledge of God with an Eastern distinction between "essence" and "energies." These are completely contradictory approaches to ontology and the knowledge of God. Below, I will flesh out some of my criticisms. 


I happen to concur completely with this thesis.  Eastern Orthodoxy is blatantly pelagian through and through, yet Horton tries to reconcile the contradiction by way of Van Til's theology of paradox.  Ironic, is it not?  It should not be surprising to those who follow the theology of Gordon H. Clark to find Van Tilians who are enamored with the mysticism of Eastern Orthodoxy.  Dr. Kilcrease makes an excellent point here in that regard:

Gregory of Nyssa emphasized that one couldn't treat the divine essence like this. It was mysterious and essentially unknowable. In his Life of Moses, Gregory described the Christian life metaphorically as being like the ascension of Moses up Mt. Sinai. One enters farther and farther into the darkness of the mountain of God, without ever reaching a knowledge of the divine being in itself. Of course, this certainly served the polemical situation, but the fact of the matter is that it simply created another problem: how do we know anything about God if he is incomprehensible? 

Unfortunately, modern Lutherans have fallen into the same trap as the Van Tilians when they deny that Scripture is a logical and a rational revelation from God and that Scripture is univocally the very words of God.  Kilcrease has more in common with Horton than would at first appear:

This has epistemological implications: Since God is these things properly and creatures are these things in a derivative manner by similitude to God, God is conceptually knowable by analogy. 
Even more unfortunately, Kilcrease sides with Aquinas rather than Augustine's view that Scripture is a reasonable revelation of God and fully comprehensible.  Aquinas begins with reason and tries to prove God's existence, and Aquinas is the originator of the theology of Scripture as analogy rather than the very words of God.  So it would appear that the rationalism of Aquinas does lead to irrationalism and skepticism just as the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark contended.  Of course, Dr. Clark's own theology, often described as presuppositional Scripturalism, also included a healthy dose of Augustinian realism.

For the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark the idea that reason apart from revelation can lead to faith, or that analogy can explain what Scripture teaches, was anathema.  His thesis is that rationalism, represented by Thomas Aquinas, leads to skepticism and irrationalism.  And judging from the evolution of philosophy from Immanuel Kant to Kierkegaard and the existentialists, this is not a wrong assessment.  Even worse, the neo-orthodox theologians thrived on the theology of paradox which they further developed from Kierkegaard and others.  Surely those who side with irrationalism should reconsider the words of the late Gordon H. Clark:

In conclusion, I wish to affirm that a satisfactory theory of revelation must involve a realistic epistemology. By realism in this connection, I mean a theory that the human mind possesses some truth – not an analogy of the truth, not a representation of or correspondence to the truth, not a mere hint of the truth, not a meaningless verbalism about a new species of truth, but the truth itself. God has spoken his Word in words, and these words are adequate symbols of the conceptual content. The conceptual content is literally true, and it is the univocal, identical point of coincidence in the knowledge of God and man.

Gordon Clark (2011-07-02T18:48:21+00:00). God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics (Gordon Clark) (Kindle Locations 774-779). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.



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