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

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Incarnation Part 9

“Ectypal knowledge is true, but analogical. An analogy is parallel to, but does not intersect the original.”  R. Scott Clark.  Posted in the Puritan Board, “Analogically, Univocally, and Equivocally.”

“That there is a most important qualitative difference between the knowledge situation in the case of God and the knowledge situation for man cannot possibly be denied without repudiating all Christian theism. God is omniscient; his knowledge is not acquired, and his knowledge, according to common terminology, is intuitive while man’s is discursive.”  Gordon H. Clark

A Theological and Scripturalist Defense of Gordon H. Clark’s Two Person View of the Incarnation
Part  9
By Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.

I promised in my last post to delve into the doctrine of the Trinity.  Unfortunately the information in regards to the doctrine of the Trinity and how that relates to the Incarnation is a huge quantity of material the quality of which may or may not always be good.  That’s intended to be a pun, by the way.  While the following excursion may not seem at first glance to be related to the doctrine of the incarnation, I will follow the Clarkian Scripturalist view that all the propositions in a system of propositional truth are interrelated and all the parts fit together in harmony and consistency.  That’s why the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of the Incarnation are good and necessary deductions that are not divorced from the rest of the system of theology deduced from the Bible.  (See: Westminster Confession of Faith 1:6).

This week I was listening to the first of four Heidelcast posts by Dr. R. Scott Clark of Westminster Theological Seminary, California.  During that lecture Scott Clark correctly distinguished between the sui generis of God and man as two different classes of beings.  Man is not God and God is not man.  However, during the lecture Scott Clark went off in what can only be called a neo-orthodox direction.  (See:  I Am That I Am, Part 1).  Scott Clark contends that we can know absolutely nothing that God knows just as God knows it.  Additionally, R. Scott Clark advocates that God’s theology and what is revealed in the Bible never intersect at any single point.  In short, the implication plainly stated is that the Bible is not God’s inspired Word nor is it the theology God knows.  Two parallel lines never intersect here or in eternity and thus the creature can know nothing God knows except by analogy.  R. S. Clark contends further that there is not a quantitative difference between God’s knowledge and our knowledge but rather there is a qualitative difference between man’s knowledge and God’s knowledge.  But I would like to know what this qualitative difference is?  Words need to be carefully defined.  

According to R. Scott Clark the qualitative difference is that we are creatures and God is the Creator.  We are also affected by the sinful nature and the noetic effects of that sinful nature.  R. S. Clark then contends that there is no quantitative difference between man and God because it is impossible for man to know anything that God knows.

But Gordon H. Clark contended that the difference between God and the creature is not only qualitative but quantitative.  However, even that is a bit of an oversimplification because Gordon Clark also said that man thinks discursively and is subject to the linear progression of time.  One thought passes to the next.  But in God’s eternal mind there is no passing of time and therefore God does not think in linear progression of time or one thought after another.  God knows all the propositions that can be known and all the relations between the propositions in that system of propositional truth in His mind and He knows them all at the same time.  So Gordon Clark did not confuse the creature with the Creator as his opponents continually assert.  It is fairly easy to demonstrate this from Clark’s own writings.  The fact of the matter is that Gordon Clark did not reject the qualitative difference between God and the creature because he distinguished between man’s knowledge as discursive and God’s knowledge as intuitive:

The professors above referred to assert, “there is a qualitative difference between the contents of the knowledge of God and the contents of the knowledge possible to man” (The Text, 5:1). That there is a most important qualitative difference between the knowledge situation in the case of God and the knowledge situation for man cannot possibly be denied without repudiating all Christian theism. God is omniscient; his knowledge is not acquired, and his knowledge, according to common terminology, is intuitive while man’s is discursive. These are some of the differences and doubtless the list could be extended. But if both God and man know, there must with the differences be at least one point of similarity; for if there were no point of similarity, it would be inappropriate to use the one term knowledge in both cases. Whether this point of similarity is to be found in the contents of knowledge, or whether the contents differ, depends on what is meant by the term contents. Therefore, more specifically worded statements are needed.

Gordon Clark. God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics (Gordon Clark) (Kindle Locations 651-659). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

G. H. Clark contended that Van Til’s views amount to an equivocation or waffling back and forth between Reformed orthodoxy and Barthian neo-orthodoxy:

To avoid doing an injustice to Van Til and his associates, it must be stated that sometimes they seem to make contradictory assertions. In the course of their papers, one can find a paragraph in which they seem to accept the position they are attacking, and then they proceed with the attack. What can the explanation be except that they are confused and are attempting to combine two incompatible positions? The objectionable one is in substantial harmony with Existentialism or Neo-orthodoxy. But the discussion of the noetic effects of sin in the unregenerate mind need not further be continued because a more serious matter usurps attention. The Neo-orthodox influence seems to produce the result that even the regenerate man cannot know the truth.

Gordon Clark. God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics. (Gordon Clark) (Kindle Locations 623-628). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

Moreover, R. Scott Clark and the Van Tilian theologians claim to derive their theology of analogy from Francis Turretin and begrudgingly acknowledge their debt to the theology of Thomas Aquinas’s view that theology is an analogical system rather than a system of propositional truth.  But it turns out that much of their theory is derived from Karl Barth and Soren Kierkegaard.  Kierkegaard was a huge influence on Barth and is usually identified as the father of modern existentialism and neo-orthodoxy.  It could be inferred that this theology came to certain of the Van Tilians through Martin Heinecken, a liberal Lutheran scholar from the mainline liberal Lutheran denomination called the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  In my re-reading of one of my Arminian systematic theology books from college this morning I came across this account from Millard Erickson of Barth’s theology of total transcendence and the relationship between Kierkegaard and Barth:

Karl Barth’s Model

In the twentieth century, a new major emphasis on God’s transcendence appeared in the thought and writing of Karl Barth, particularly in his early work, and most notably in his Romerbrief.  In that work he emphasized the Unknown God.  God is altogether other; immensely above the rest of the deities of the world of Paul’s day and all the deities which modern thought creates.

God is not an aspect of man or the best of human nature.  He is separated from man by an infinite qualitative distinction.  There is within man no spark of affinity with the divine, no ability to produce divine revelation, no remainder in him of a likeness to God.  Moreover, God is not involved in nature or conditioned by it.  He is free from all such limitations.  Nor is he really known by us.  He is the hidden one; he cannot be discovered by man’s effort, verified by man’s intellectual proofs, or understood in terms of man’s concepts.  Barth’s vigorous attack upon all forms of natural theology was an expression of his belief in divine transcendence.  Revelation comes only on God’s own initiative; and when it does come, it is not mediated through general culture.  It comes, in Barth’s language, vertically from above.  Man is never able in any way to make God his possession.

In the judgment of many theologians, including even the later Barth himself, Barth’s early view of transcendence was extreme.  Taken in its most literal form, it seemed to virtually cut off any real possibility of communication between God and man.  There was too severe a distinction between God and man . . .

Soren Kierkegaard’s Nonspatial Model

Soren Kierkegaard’s conception of divine transcendence was in many ways influential on Karl Barth.  While there are a few extreme elements in Kierkegaard’s thought, he offers some genuinely creative ways of expressing the idea of transcendence.  Two of them are what Martin Heinecken has expounded under the labels of qualitative distinction and dimensional beyondness.

By qualitative distinction is meant that the difference between God and man is not merely one of degree.  God is not merely like man but more so.  They are of fundamentally different kinds. Thus God cannot be known by taking the highest and best elements within man and amplifying them.  Being qualitatively distinct, God cannot be extrapolated from the ideas that man has nor from the qualities of man’s personality or character.  

Millard Erickson.  Systematic Theology.  (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985).  Pp. 314-315.

From the above it can be legitimately inferred that if the Bible is not a logical and propositional revelation and communication between God and man is virtually and actually impossible, then the Bible is not really God’s inspired Word.  Van Tilians contradict themselves when they say that revelation is possible but only analogically so.  In fact, even though they acknowledge that the Bible is a rational revelation, they contend that logic is not essential to revelation.  Gordon H. Clark, on the other hand, said that the Bible teaches that God is Logic (John 1:1) and that because man is made in God’s image and likeness, man is an intellectual and logical and rational being.  (Genesis 1:27).  G. H. Clark rejected the view that the Bible is analogical revelation because the Bible only uses analogies and metaphors in certain passages of Scripture.  Not everything in the Bible is an analogy and even where there are analogies and metaphors utilized behind those analogies and metaphors there is a univocal and propositional truth.  What is analogical about the statement that David was the king of Israel?  Is that a straightforward proposition of historical fact or is it a mythological and analogical truth that only man knows?  After all, man and God cannot know the same thing.  Does God know that 2 + 2 = 4?  Or does man alone know 2 + 2 = 4?

R. Scott Clark continually uses the mantra of ectypal and archetypal knowledge as it was expressed by Francis Turretin.  He accuses Gordon H. Clark of ignoring this qualitative distinction between God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge.  But as I have shown above, Dr. Gordon H. Clark did acknowledge a qualitative and quantitative difference between God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge.  I would contend, however, that R. Scott Clark and other Van Tilians are reading their existentialist views into Francis Turretin and their dialectical and Barthian views cannot be proved from Turretin.  That’s because Turretin did not reject propositional revelation.  I also discovered that Turretin only mentions the ectypal and archetypal distinction in the Institutes of Elenctic Theology in regards to his rejection of rationalism, not as an acceptance of a Hegelian dialectic philosophy or a Kantian noumenalism where God is so completely transcendent as to be unknowable:

VI. True theology is divided into: (1) infinite and uncreated, which is God’s essential knowledge of himself (Mt. 11:27) in which he alone is at the same time the object known (epistēton), the knowledge (epistēmōn), and the knower (epistēmē), and that which he decreed to reveal to us concerning himself which is commonly called archetypal; and (2) finite and created, which is the image and ectype (ektypon) of the infinite and archetypal (prōtotypou) (viz., the ideas which creatures possess concerning God and divine things, taking form from that supreme knowledge and communicated to intelligent creatures, either by hypostatical union with the soul of Christ [whence arises “the theology of union”]; or by beatific vision to the angels and saints who walk by sight, not by faith, which is called “the theology of vision”; or by revelation, which is made to travellers [viz., to those who have not yet reached the goal and is called “the theology of revelation”] or the stadium).

Francis Turretin.  Institutes of Elenctic Theology.  Vol. 1.  Ebook.  “First Topic:  Theology”.  Translated by George Musgrave Giger.  James Dennison, editor.  (Phillipsburg:  Presbyterian and Reformed, 1997).  P. 49 in the ebook edition.

Reason is not the principle of faith. 

V. The reasons are: (1) The reason of an unregenerate man is blinded with respect to the law (Eph. 4:17, 18; Rom. 1:27, 28; 8:7). With respect to the gospel, it is evidently blind and mere darkness (Eph. 5:8; 1 Cor. 2:14). Therefore, it must be taken captive that it may be subjected to faith, not exalted that it may rule it (2 Cor. 10:3–5*). (2) The mysteries of faith are beyond the sphere of reason to which the unregenerate man cannot rise; and, as the senses do not attempt to judge of those things which are out of their sphere, so neither does reason in those things which are above it and supernatural. (3) Faith is not referred ultimately to reason, so that I ought to believe because I so understand and comprehend; but to the word because God so speaks in the Scriptures. (4) The Holy Spirit directs us to the word alone (Dt. 4:1; Is. 8:20; Jn. 5:39; 2 Tim. 3:15, 16; 2 Pet. 1:19). (5) If reason is the principle of faith, then first it would follow that all religion is natural and demonstrable by natural reason and natural light. Thus nature and grace, natural and supernatural revelation would be confounded.

Turretin, p. 64.  Ebook edition.

It should first be pointed out that Turretin predates both Kierkegaard and Barth.  Secondly, rejecting rationalism as the basis for faith is not the same thing as rejecting the Bible as an axiom which asserts a logical and propositional revelation.  Every theology has a starting point.  To start with God and not the Bible is to start with an unknown and undefined God.  The Bible, even according to Turretin, is not an irrational book.  Instead reason is necessary to understand the propositional revelation:

III. Having established this point, I say that to reason belongs the judgment of discretion in matters of faith, both subjectively (because it belongs to the intellect alone to know and distinguish these matters of faith) and normally; and indeed with respect to the truth of conclusions in all propositions (whether known by nature or by revelation), but with respect to the truth of propositions only in those known by nature and even then with this threefold caution. (1) That the judgment of reason not be considered as necessary, as if theology could not do without it. (2) That the word of God (where also these truths are revealed) be considered always as the primary rule and reason as the secondary. (3) That when the word adds something unknown to nature to a thing known by nature, then we should not judge of it by nature or reason, but by the word (not that the word and reason are at variance, but because reason is perfected by the word). But in things known only by revelation (as the mystery of the Trinity, of the incarnation, etc.), the only rule is the word of God, beyond or above which we must not be wise. 

IV. The question is not whether the mysteries of faith are above reason or whether reason can reach them. For we readily grant that there are things which far surpass the comprehension not only of men, but even of angels the disclosure of which was a work of supernatural revelation. We also grant that reason is not only incapable of discovering them without a revelation; not only weak in comprehending them after being revealed; but also slippery and fallible (readily pursuing falsehood for truth and truth for falsehood), and never believing the word of God and its mysteries unless enlightened by the grace of the Spirit. Rather the question is—Is there no use at all for it, and should we entirely reject the testimony of reason, as often as the truth or falsity of any doctrine is to be judged? This our opponents hold and we deny.

Turretin, p. 69.  Ebook edition.

Modernists and Socinians use reason to deconstruct Christianity because they also reject supernatural revelation.  So that was Turretin’s concern.  The problem with the Van Tilians is that they falsely accuse Gordon H. Clark of rationalism, which could not be further from the truth.  In fact, Clark begins with the axiom of Scripture.  Since it is Scripture that affirms that man is a rational creature unlike any of the other creatures and that God is Logic, it follows that reason is not to be rejected in deducing a propositional system of theology from the Scriptures.  If, as the Van Tilians contend, there can be no communication between God and man, then it would follow that Jesus in His incarnation as a real human person could not know anything God knows either.  Man is the image of God and God’s image is logic.

As these are complicated matters I will comment more on the doctrine of God and the Trinity in the next post and develop Dr. Clark’s view of propositional thinking from the Athanasian Creed and from the Scriptures as that relates to both the Trinity and the Incarnation.

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