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

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

John Frame's Rejection of the Bible as Logical and Propositional Revelation

. . . The purpose of apologetics is to produce as detailed a system, detailed a system as possible to meet the systems of logical positivism or mechanism in physics, or other non­-Christian systems. And the only way that you can have any systematic knowledge is to begin with indemonstrable axioms.   -- Dr. Gordon H. Clark

John Frame’s Rejection of the Bible as Logical and Propositional Revelation

It is amazingly time consuming to transcribe audio into a readable transcript.  However, sometimes the time involved is worth the effort in order to bring greater clarity to the Clarkian Scripturalist point of view.   This is most easily demonstrated by showing how Clark’s deprecators misrepresent his position.  It is difficult to discern whether the misrepresentation is deliberate or unintentional but the straw man must be deconstructed either way.  One of the foremost proponents of the apologetics of the late Dr. Cornelius Van Til was one of his students, Dr. John Frame.  In an audio interview with Dr. Frame posted on YouTube under the title, “What Is Presuppositional Apologetics?:  An Interview with John M. Frame, D. D. [2006],”  Dr. Frame says the following:

Student:  Dr. Frame, how would you differ from Gordon H. Clark and for Van Til?

Dr. Frame:  Well, I don’t think I differ from Van Til much at all but uh some people think that I do.  I use different terminology from and uh I think that Van Til was a little bit confused on some points uh….   For example, the way that he uh tried to describe detail uh the opposition between believer and unbeliever.  I think he is right about that opposition but I’m not entirely sure that he described it in the best possible way.  If you get book on Van Til, you’ll notice that there are a few areas where I think that uh his thought can be improved but in general I think it’s pretty good.  Gordon Clark is also … was also a very fine thinker.  Of course both these men are with the Lord now.   Uh but Gordon Clark was uh a very sharp philosopher uh a very logical thinker uh, a very clear writer uh.  I think a clearer writer than Van Til.  But uh I think that Gordon Clark uh… Well what Gordon Clark tries to do is to say that uh Christian faith is kind of like uh uh an axiomatic system of geometry and that the Bible is like an axiom.  And uh from the Bible you can prove other things uh about the Gospel.  But there’s no way to test the Bible.  You see Clark called himself a presuppositionalist as Van Til did.  Uh Clark says there’s no way to prove the Bible uh except by showing that it’s logically consistent and showing that it uh is rich enough to answer the questions which uh we have about God and ourselves and uh our need of salvation.  Now uh I think the problem with Clark is that uh that he uh almost sets up logic as having an authority equal to or greater than the Bible.  Now when I say that I’m not trying to deprecate logic.  Usually Clark’s disciples say I’m disparaging logic or that I’m looking down on logic or that I want to be fideistic or irrational.  There’s nothing like that at all.  Logic is something wonderful.  It’s a great gift that God has given to us.   But uh, uh I think that uh human logic is fallible.  You know.  We make mistakes.  In our logical reasoning just as we make mistakes in our seeing and our hearing and our touching so we make mistakes in logic.  Uh, and uh even people who are professional philosophers who have worked out systems of logic, even they have made mistakes.  So no human logic is absolutely infallible.  And uh only God, heh, has a perfectly, uh perfectly infallible logic.  And I think that Clark and even more his disciples uh, have tended to, uh, to say that, uh, unless you agree that, uh, Clark’s system of logic or Aristotle’s system of logic is absolutely infallible, uh, you, uh, you really despise logic.  And, uh, I don’t think that’s right.  Uh, and uh, I think that only the Bible is infallible, uh, only the Bible is God’s word, uh, to us and we need to, uh, to you know, put logic in its place.  Now of course the Bible needs to be read in a logical way.  The Bible is full of therefores.  Uh, the Bible recommends all kinds of logical arguments to us.  Uh, but, uh, human logic does not have the same authority as God’s revelation does.  

[The question and answer transcribed occurs from the 59:25 minute mark to the 1:03:44 minute mark in the YouTube video.]

It will take some time to unpack the errors in this audio statement by John Frame.  However, it seems to me that despite his superficial laudatory remarks about Clark that Frame persists in saying that Clark elevates logic above Scripture and that Clark thought he himself was infallible in his use of logic.  Frame is wrong on both points and he ought to know better if he indeed has any training in philosophy or logic at all.  At first glance, Frame’s critique of Clark seems on the mark.  But is Frame’s own apologetic method based on mere human logic and fallibility?  If the Bible is not inherently logical, how would anyone read the Bible and understand anything it has to say?

At the outset Frame confuses Clark’s view of the Bible with geometry.  The Christian faith is not like an “axiomatic system of geometry” but rather the Christian faith is a system of propositional truth which is logically deduced from the propositional revelation recorded in the Bible.  Even where direct propositions are not readily seen in Scripture, such as in metaphors and analogies, there are logical propositions embedded in the text.  For knowledge to be possible knowledge must be coherent and systematic where all the parts of the system fit together in harmony.  Language, for example, would be completely meaningless without grammatical rules and standard usage.  Word definitions and syntactical constructions all work together to convey meaningful propositional statements to the human mind.  All knowledge must be propositional in order for thinking to occur.  The fact of the matter is that everyone starts somewhere.  Even Frame, earlier in the lecture said that everyone uses circular arguments.  Unfortunately, this would mean that everyone is using a logical fallacy of circular reasoning or the petitio principii.  But an axiom is not a circular argument or the petitio principii for the simple reason that axioms by definition are not demonstrable or provable.  Even in geometry there is no way to prove the axiom that a straight line extends into infinity in two different directions.  It is an axiom of geometry from which theorems can be made and demonstrated.  But the axiom itself is indemonstrable.

As used in mathematics, the term axiom is used in two related but distinguishable senses: "logical axioms" and "non-logical axioms". Logical axioms are usually statements that are taken to be true within the system of logic they define (e.g., (A and B) implies A), often shown in symbolic form, while non-logical axioms (e.g., a + b = b + a) are actually substantive assertions about the elements of the domain of a specific mathematical theory (such as arithmetic). When used in the latter sense, "axiom", "postulate", and "assumption" may be used interchangeably. In general, a non-logical axiom is not a self-evident truth, but rather a formal logical expression used in deduction to build a mathematical theory. To axiomatize a system of knowledge is to show that its claims can be derived from a small, well-understood set of sentences (the axioms).

From:   Wikipedia:  Axiom:  As Used in Logic and in Mathematics.  [Emphases mine].

John Frame misunderstands Clark when he says that the Bible is “like” an axiom.  I do not see how taking the Bible as a starting point for an epistemological system makes the Bible “like” your usage of the term axiom.  Saying the Bible is like an axiom is something similar to saying the Bible is like a book.  Either the Bible is a book or it is not book but it is not “like” a book at all.  Either the Bible IS an axiom or a logical starting point for your logical epistemological system or it is NOT your axiom.  Using the word “like” in a simile is not a proper use of the literary term simile if you are making a tautological statement like, " A simile is like a simile."  In addition, Clark never tries to prove the Bible from logic.  On the contrary, Clark uses the axiom of Scripture to establish an epistemological system which makes the Christian worldview possible.

Moreover, Clark viewed the Westminster Confession of Faith as a dogmatic system of propositions which is logically deduced from the propositional revelation in the Bible.  Since propositions can be arranged into a logical system it follows that the Westminster Confession is a summary in systematic form of a very limited number of propositions deduced from the Bible by good and necessary consequence.  (See WCF 1:6).  So Frame is wrong again when he says that Clark tries to prove the Bible is true by using logic.  What Clark does is to show how the Bible is logically consistent, coherent and harmonious without violating the law of contradiction.  Clark says that the law of contradiction is basic to logic.  A and non-A cannot both be true at the same time.  One is true and the other is false.  For the Bible to say anything meaningful to us it cannot contain actual contradictions or violate the law of contradiction.  Does the Bible say to commit adultery and not commit adultery and both are true?  Of course not.  It is not true that Clark makes logic equal to Scripture or above Scripture because it is from Scripture that Clark deduces that God is Logic (John 1:1); man thinks logically because God is logic.  Furthermore, the Logos is the light that enlightens every man with the ability to reason and think logically (John 1:9).  Scripture is embedded with logic and propositions because God breathed out the Scriptures and God in His simplicity IS Logic.  (2 Timothy 3:16; John 1:1; John 10:35).  

But can the Bible be “tested”?   Yes.  The Bible can be tested to be logically consistent and without any contradictions by solving apparent contradictions through rational explanations.  This is only possible if one accepts the plenary verbal view of the inspiration of Scripture and the absolute inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.  The students and advocates of Van Til’s theology claim to believe the Bible is primary and that the Bible is infallible and inerrant and fully inspired.  But their theology is inconsistent since they deny that Scripture is propositional revelation and inherently logical.  For Frame the Bible is inspired only in the sense that it is revealed through mere human logic.  Van Til said that all Scripture is apparently contradictory and that human logic is created, not innate in the image of God in man as a creation of God.  Also, Van Til denied that Scripture is univocally the very word of God but is instead only an analogical revelation of God.  Van Til thought he was correcting the theology of Thomas Aquinas but in reality he was adopting Aquinas’s two fold view of truth as analogical, which Aquinas borrowed from Aristotle.  Some of Van Til’s followers, including Scott Oliphant, go so far as to say that the Bible is not propositional revelation because that would make the Reformed view Thomistic.   However, the real debate between Van Til and Clark was over the univocal versus analogical view of truth in Scripture.  Van Til’s view, according to Clark, amounts to irrationalism and neo-orthodoxy.   For Clark, the Bible IS univocally the very word of God.  For Van Til the Bible is not really God’s word but something revealed through mere human logic, a created logic.  Worse, Van Til viewed Scripture as analogical and at best the Westminster Confession of Faith is an analogical system of dogmatic theology, not a system of propositional truth deduced from Scripture.  For Van Til what the Bible says is mere human knowledge and nothing God revealed in the Bible is what God knows because man can know nothing, absolutely nothing, that God knows.  Does God know that Jesus Christ is the savior of all mankind, those elected from all eternity?

It is true that Francis Turretin distinguished between ectypal knowledge and archetypal knowledge, the latter being known only to God.  It is also true that Turretin acknowledged both propositional revelation and analogical statements in Scripture.  But Turretin was influenced by Thomas Aquinas and the Van Tilians are imbibing Thomistic skepticism by way of Turretin.  But this is an aside which I will have to address in future posts.  The real issue here is whether or not God is Logic.  If God is simple and everything predicated of God in Scripture is who God is in His simplicity, without body, parts or passions and that God is eternally immutable (WCF 2:1), then it logically follows that logic is not “human” logic nor is logic created.  Rather logic is God’s very nature.  Just as God is love so God IS logic.  Logic is how God thinks and it is also why man is God’s image and therefore thinks rationally and logically.  This is by no means elevating logic above Scripture.  Instead it is a statement deduced from the Bible that God’s logic is not created because God is Himself Logic.  (John 1:1).

Another error Frame makes here is saying that Clark claimed that his system of logic is infallible or that Aristotle’s system of logic is infallible.  This is an equivocation at best.  If all logic is fallible then logic itself is in error.  Since God IS Logic, it would follow logically that God Himself can err.  That’s obviously false.  What Clark said was not that humans cannot err or that he himself or Aristotle could not err.  On the contrary, Clark openly acknowledged that he had make mistakes in logic before.  Aristotle erred as well when he tried to prove the unmoved mover.  Frame has obviously not read Clark carefully because Clark never claimed infallibility for himself or his system of apologetics.  What Clark did say was that it is possible for humans to produce infallible documents.  That does not mean that a human is himself infallible.  The Apostle Paul was only infallible when he was inspired of God to write Scripture.  In other situations he obviously could and did err.  Suppose for example that someone wrote out the multiplication tables to 100 without making any mistakes.  Would that not be an infallible document?  But can I as a human being make mistakes or commit errors?  Obviously I could mistakenly overlook something in writing out the multiplication tables.  But if I did not make such a mistake the resulting document would be without error and infallibly so.  It follows therefore that much of Aristotle's system of logic is without error even if Aristotle himself was a fallible human being and did make a few mistakes here and there in his philosophy.

The problem with Frame is he thinks the Bible is not logical revelation and he thinks that the Bible is not subject to logical consistency.  That’s also why Frame agrees with Van Til that all Scripture is apparently contradictory.  In other words, all Scripture is apparently in error if we follow Frame’s logic to its conclusion.

In closing I will quote Clark from a question and answer session at the end of his lecture, “A Contemporary Defense of the Bible”:

Questioner: Ok, my problem is that if, it seems to me that if you’re going to be uncertain of something then you’re a skeptic. So unless you’re saying that we all must be skeptics, and if I understand your writings correctly, it is only in the system of faith that has come out of the Reformation, or the Scriptures, that we have any certainty that we can have certainty of knowledge, that we can know truth.

Clark: You said two things. One of which I sorta agree with and the other I don’t. As I just finished saying, certainty doesn’t impress me. Because, as I say, I just used a facetious example, but you can think of all sorts of examples of people being certain of the most ridiculous things. But as a matter of truth, that is quite different. I am interested in truth, I am not interested in certainty. That is just a psychological quirk. And furthermore, as I have said, the problem of apologetics is to present a detailed system of truth. So that it all fits together. I don’t say that a person can achieve this perfectly. I’m quite well aware of that. We all make mistakes. But our aim is to produce an intelligible system. And this requires axiomatization in my opinion. And the axioms themselves are the teachings of Scripture. So I would be interested in truth in the insisting on absolute unchangeable truth. But people have been certain that the moon is made of green cheese.

Audio:  Trinity Foundation:  A Contemporary Defense of the Bible.  (See: MP3 Download Lectures).

As further evidence that Clark did not claim that humans are infallible:

Section 5 even uses the word infallible. [WCF 1:5]. It says that our full assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority of these books is the work of the Holy Spirit. Can there be error in infallible truth? To the same end Section 9 teaches that the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself. Can it now be maintained that the Presbyterian standards admit the existence of error, of mistakes, of false teaching in the Bible? And if not, what can be thought of Presbyterian ministers who do not believe in the full truthfulness of the Scriptures? Though they may believe that the word of God is to be found somewhere in the Bible, and perhaps only in the Bible, yet what can their ordination vows have meant to them, if they reject the very basis on which all the remainder of the Confession rests?

Clark, Gordon H.  Articles on the Westminster Confession of Faith.  (Kindle Locations 100-107). Kindle Edition.

Here Clark affirms the full inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, which Frame cannot do since the Bible is apparently revealed in mere “human” logic.  The Word of God is breathed out by God and cannot therefore err through human logic.  But if the Bible is not mere human logic in the propositional statements written there, what kind of logic did God use in inspiring the biblical writers and what logic did the biblical writers use to write down the infallible and inerrant words?  If the words of Scripture and God’s knowledge do not coincide at any single point then the obvious conclusion is that nothing in the Bible is what God knows.  Does God know that David was the king of Israel?

And Clark acknowledges the noetic effects of sin:

It is the heart that thinks. Sin thus interferes with our thinking. It does not, however, prevent us from thinking. Sin does not eradicate or annihilate the image. It causes a malfunction, but man still remains man. The Bible stresses the malfunctioning of the mind in obviously moral affairs because of their importance. But sin extends its depraving influence into affairs not usually regarded as matters of morality – arithmetic, for example. One need not suppose that Adam and Eve understood calculus; but they surely counted to ten. Whatever arithmetic they did, they did correctly. But sin causes a failure in thinking, with the result that we now make mistakes in simple addition. Such mistakes are pedantically called the “noetic” effects of sin. But moral errors are equally noetic. When men became vain in their imaginations and their foolish hearts were darkened; when they professed to be wise, but became fools; when God gave them over to a reprobate mind – their sin was first of all a noetic, intellectual, mental malfunction. Regeneration and the process of sanctification reverse the sinful direction of the mind’s malfunctioning: The person is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.
Gordon H. Clark.  In Defense of Theology.  (Kindle Locations 1086-1095). Kindle Edition.

For Dr. Clark, epistemological systems are the basis for every worldview and the Christian worldview begins with the Scriptures as the axiomatic starting point for the Christian system of knowledge:

Clark:  . . . As I mentioned last night too, the purpose of apologetics is to produce as detailed a system, detailed a system as possible to meet the systems of logical positivism or mechanism in physics, or other non­-Christian systems. And the only way that you can have any systematic knowledge is to begin with indemonstrable axioms. Even empiricism makes the unproven assumption that experience can give you truth. And that assumption, which cannot be proved, is an assumption that I just reject. And instead of saying sensation connects us with reality I say we are immediately connected with the mind of God. We live and move and have our being in Him. And God illuminates our minds and gives us our ideas.  

In conclusion then I say that not only does Frame misunderstand Clark but he completely misses the whole point of the Bible as our final authority.  Without  the image of God as taught by the Bible it would be impossible for humans to think or understand the Bible at all.  Man is the image of God.  (1 Corinthians 11:7). It is because God is Logic that we can accept the Bible as Scripture and understand what it says.  John Frame’s comments above blatantly contradict the doctrine of biblical infallibility and the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Gordon H. Clark on Libertarianism

"The Libertarian movement has been usually anti-Christian. This folder uses very vague ambiguous language. But some of it is too explicit. It seems to hold that there should be no human governments at all."

"Anarchy is the worst possible form of society."  Dr. Gordon H. Clark

For those who advocate the secular philosophy of libertarianism under the rubric of "Reformed Libertarianism," Dr. Clark was at least on one occasion an outspoken critic:

March 5, 1980 

Dear Dr. Robbins,

Yesterday I received a letter with (1) a copy of the “Trinity Manifesto,” (2) “Christian Libertarianism,” (3) “Galatians Fellowship,” and (4) “Wood, Hay, and Stubble.” I am disturbed by the Libertarian folder. The Libertarian movement has been usually anti-Christian. This folder uses very vague ambiguous language. But some of it is too explicit. It seems to hold that there should be no human governments at all. “According to the Old Testament, God’s will in terms of his people is that He alone (not a government) should rule them. This I made explicit in many passages.” But first, God established Moses’ rule. The N.T. teaches us to honor the king, and be subject to the powers that be. This does not harmonize with the statement, “God not only preferred that we live without a government, he actually saw a government as a curse.” I would agree with Augustine that if man had not fallen, there would have been no civil government. But with sin, government is not just a curse, in so far as it limits freedom, but a blessing in that it restrains crime. Anarchy is the worst possible form of society. The pamphlet “stands behind the abolition of all laws against…drug use, pornography, and prostitution.” If you have any comments or knowledge concerning this movement, I wish you would let me hear what you have to say.
Cordially, Gordon H. Clark

Gordon H. Clark. Clark and His Correspondents: Selected Letters of Gordon H. Clark (Kindle Locations 3640-3655). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

In other places Clark has affirmed his support of the principle of general equity and the responsibility of the civil magistrate to uphold the moral values of the Decalogue.  One such place was the question and answer session after his lecture on Puritan ethics.  Clark referred to the liberal and socialist view as "contemporary impuritans."  The Reformed Libertarian movement is therefore neither Reformed nor puritan.  Worse, it is is "impure".  I once asked Sean Gerety to show me from where in Scripture he could deduce libertarianism.  I never got an answer.

The Westminster Confession of Faith explicitly denies that moral anarchy is freedom whatsoever.  In fact, the WCF upholds the principle that all persons and governments are accountable to God and the moral law revealed in the Decalogue or Ten Commandments:

WCF 19.4  To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.1

WCF 19.5  The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof;1 and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God, the Creator, who gave it.2 Neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.3 (WCF 19:4-5 WCS)
Of course the standard response is that the WCF is not infallible Scripture.  So it is not.  But I have yet to see the biblical statement of faith of any self professed libertarian who claims to be a Christian.  If they could produce one, it would be fallible as well.  I would rather trust the Westminster divines who were all men of great learning and who were familiar with the issues of biblical exegesis, logic, and the Protestant Reformation.

Contemporary Impuritans

. . . The central cause of this widespread moral collapse, so it seems to me, is located in the decline of Puritan religion. This returns us to the main theme of religious rather than civil history. When the seminaries and churches declare that God is dead, or when, less extreme, they substitute for the Puritan God of the Ten Commandments a different concept of god, inconsistent with the Ten Commandments, it logically and factually follows that morality is changed, too. A man’s view of morality depends on his view of God or whatever his first principle may be. Different types of theology produce different types of morality.

And the clincher is that Clark, after delivering this lecture, was asked if he thought the judicial and civil laws of the United States of America should be based on the Ten Commandments.  He said yes.

Questions and Answers

A panel including Gordon H. Clark.

Moderator: Dr. Clark, should the federal and state governments of the U.S. include the ten commandments in their basic body of ordinances?
Moderator: This is in line with your Puritan ethics, I suppose.

Dr. Clark: If you make the franchise dependent on church membership, it results in great hypocrisy in the church. And it has proved deleterious in the case of the Puritans. Now, what was further in that question?

Moderator: Should we, should the federal and state governments of the U.S. include the ten commandments in their basic body of ordinances?

Dr. Clark: Well, yes I rather suppose so. And in fact it has been done done perhaps not completely. But people who say that you cannot legislate morality and people who say they don’t want Christian morality imposed on them, don’t seem to object to laws against theft.  Particularly if they’re the victims. And the law against theft of course comes from the ten commandments. So those who make these objections are inconsistent. They don’t follow the logic of their principles. I don’t see how they could sustain any laws.

The Gordon H. Clark Foundation:  Questions and Answers. A panel including Gordon H. Clark.

Clark was all for separation of church and state but not to protect the moral anarchists from the church but to protect the church from the civil government.  Christians should not take each other to court for this very reason.  He gives the example of a Baptist church where the majority of membership voted to leave the Southern Baptist Convention.  The minority of members of the sued in court and won the church property.  In more recent years Episcopal congregations left the mainline Episcopal Church or The Episcopal Church over the ordination of homosexual priests and the consecration of a homosexual bishop.  But the federal courts in every single case awarded the church property to the mainline denomination even though the local congregations had funded and built the properties in the majority of cases or had been there so long that the congregation had precedence over an over reaching hierarchy of bishops in the general synod.

Those who are promoting moral anarchy under the guise of libertarianism are not even in line with the biblical view in the Old Testament since the view there was not moral anarchy and libertarian or libertine politics but rather a confederacy.  It was only after Saul became king that the confederacy of the Hebrew tribes was united under a central government.  (See: Confederacy in the Bible).  Technically, after the conquest of the land and prior to the anointing of Saul as king the form of government of Israel was a confederation of the twelve tribes.  It was not God's command that the people should have a king until they rebelled against God's own sovereignty over them.  (1 Samuel 8:1-22).

Also, the libertarians forget that it was God's command that the Hebrews should drive out the immoral nations from the land so that their immorality would not become a snare to them to lead them away from God: 

And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee. 32 Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee. (Exodus 23:31-33 KJV)

Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you. (Joshua 23:13 KJV)

But we are not a theocracy they will complain.  Certainly we are not a theocracy since there are no longer prophets who receive direct oracles from God.  But we do have the Bible as our axiom and the moral principles of the Bible still apply today to both nations and individuals. 

VII. Of the Old Testament.

THE Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore there are not to be heard which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.

Does this mean that Dr. Gordon H. Clark was a theonomist or that he called for theocracy?  Hardly.  If you mean theonomy in the general sense of the term, the Reformed view is theonomic.  But this does not mean that theonomy as defined by the Westminster Confession of Faith is in agreement with the views of Van Til's student Greg Bahnsen or Rousas John Rushdoony, Gary North or other extremists who conflated the Old Testament judicial laws with the moral law and general equity.  The Reformed view is clearly against both libertarianism and the extremes of the theonomist and reconstructionist movement.  Theocracy is impossible today since there are no prophets or apostles and no continuation of God breathed revelation.  The canon of Scripture is closed.

Michael Horton's Theological Contradictions and Weak Calvinism

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. (Proverbs 30:5 KJV)

“The notion of analogy begins quite simply and innocently in Aristotle.”   Dr. Gordon H. Clark

"In no case does a prophet put his words forward as his own words. That he is a prophet at all is due not to choice on his own part, but to a call of God, obeyed often with reluctance; and he prophesies or forbears to prophesy, not according to his own will but as the Lord opens and shuts his mouth . . . and creates for him the fruit of the lips . . . In contrast with the false prophets, he strenuously asserts that he does not speak out of his own heart . . ., but all that he proclaims is the pure word of Jehovah."  Benjamin B. Warfield

Michael Horton’s Theological Contradictions and Weak Calvinism

Some years ago when I began listening to The White Horse Inn I will concede that I thought Mike Horton was a sincere Calvinist and that his stand for the doctrine of justification by faith alone was brilliant.  We are constantly told that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is the doctrine by which the true visible churches stand or fall.  I say “visible” churches because from a Calvinist perspective the invisible church is composed of only those elected from before the foundation of world.  (Matthew 25:34; Ephesians 1:4-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Isaiah 53:11; Revelation 13:8).  But when Martin Luther wrote against Disiderus Erasmus of Rotterdam on the issue of libertarian free will, Luther did not say that justification by faith alone was the central issue.  He said that predestination was the central issue.  But I will return to this later in this blog post. 

Unfortunately, those who follow the theology and apologetics of the now deceased professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Cornelius Van Til, see almost everything in the Bible as apparently contradictory.  Because of Van Til’s adherence to idealism as his philosophical starting point, Van Til rejected the doctrine that logic and propositional revelation is how God lowers himself to our human level.  Instead, Van Ti contended that God is totally incomprehensible or beyond understanding to the human person, by which he meant that man can know nothing God knows except by analogy.  From this Van Til contended that the Bible is analogical revelation and not propositional revelation. 

The distinguishing characteristic between very non-Christian theory of knowledge on the one hand, and the Christian concept of knowledge on the other hand, is, therefore, that in all non-Christian theories men reason univocally, while in Christianity men reason analogically. By this distinction we mean that every non-Christian theory of method takes for granted, that time and eternity are aspects of one another, and that God and man must be thought of as being on the same plane. God and man must be thought of as correlative to one another. God and man work under a system of logic that is higher than both, and that exists in independence of both. The law of contradiction is thought of as existing somehow in independence of God and man or at least as operating in both God and man on the same level.

In contrast to this, Christianity holds that God existed alone before any time existence was brought forth. He existed as the self-conscious and self-consistent being. The law of contradiction, therefore, as we know it, is but the expression on a created level of the internal coherence of God’s nature. Christians should therefore never appeal to the law of contradiction as something that, as such, determines what can or cannot be true. . . .

Cornelius Van Til.  An Introduction to Systematic Theology. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1979).  Chapter 2.A.2.  [Logos Bible Software edition.  The page numbers didn’t show when I copied the quote.]

Of course, Van Til is using a propositional statement and the law of contradiction to deny Gordon H. Clark's view of revelation as propositional and subject to the law of contradiction.  Worse, Van Til is essentially and explicitly denying that the Bible is true.  Whether this was his intention or not is not the issue.  The fact remains that Van Til has openly denied the Bible is the direct revelation of God in written form.  Secondly, Van Til misrepresented Clark's view since Clark held that God is in the simplicity of His being Logic itself.  The eternal Logos is the second Person of the Trinity.  The law of contradiction is not something external to God to which God is subject. (John 1:1).

It is often contended by the Van Tilian camp that univocalism is the doctrine of modernists who make logic a magisterial lord over the Scriptures.  While this is somewhat true because the modernists used rationalism to explain away the inspiration of the Bible, biblical inerrancy, and the supernatural miracles of the Bible—including the virgin birth and the deity of Christ in His incarnation as a human being--in regards to the Fundamentals of the faith it is a non sequitur.

If the Bible is not univocally the very words of God, the implication is obviously neo-orthodoxy, not Reformation Christianity.  But liberals do not accept the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration or the doctrine of absolute biblical inerrancy.  For example, the modernists in the early part of the 20th century rejected the virgin birth on the basis that miracles in the Bible do not make logical sense in regards to modern science and empirical observation.  So in the Auburn Affirmation the liberals in the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America denied the fundamental doctrines of the Bible including the supernatural conception of Jesus Christ and his natural birth from the virgin Mary, his physical and bodily resurrection, and the absolute truth of the Bible because of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures.  Later the new modernists or the neo-orthodox liberals who followed the teachings of Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Rudolf Bultmann and other irrationalists adopted a similar view when they said that the Bible only “contained” the word of God but was not the actual words of God.  

Dr. Gordon H. Clark, in contrast to Van Til and his followers, said that the Bible is literally the very words of God in written form and to deny this is to invite equivocation, ambiguity, and sophistry on the part of those who wish to hide their liberal leaning views.  Clark pointed this out in his remarks on the Auburn Affirmation in his book, What Do Presbyterians Believe?

With the introduction of modernism into our churches in the nineteenth century and with the coming of neo-orthodoxy in the twentieth, an appearance of loyalty to the Bible and to the Confession has been attempted by emphasizing certain words in the standards, by failing to mention others, and by misinterpreting the whole.  Thus unbelieving ministers made the double claims that they themselves accepted the Confession as originally intended, while the fundamentalists were inventing theories never before heard of.

Against the fundamentalists, who insisted on the inerrancy of the Bible, the modernists asserted that the Confession does not say the Bible is inerrant.  And today neo-orthodoxy loudly insists that the word of God is found in the Bible, perhaps only in the Bible, but that not everything in the Bible is true.  These modernists could appeal to the Shorter Catechism, Question 2:  “What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify God and enjoy him?  Answer:  The word of God, which contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.”  Does it not say that the word is contained in the Scriptures?  Somewhere, but not everywhere, between Genesis and Revelation, the word of God is to be found.  This is their contention.  But if now we wish to know whether or not this was the view of the Reformers, whether not this is the position of the Presbyterian standards, and whether or not it is the teaching of the Scriptures themselves, which the standards summarize, we need only read other parts of the Confession. . . .

Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  What Do Presbyterians Believe?  (Trinity Foundation:  Unicoi, 1965). Pp. 15-16.

In fairness to Van Til, the doctrine of Scripture as analogical revelation is not exactly the same as the neo-orthodox view that not everything in the Bible is inerrant or inspired by God.  However, the practical result of denying propositional revelation and the law of contradiction is irrationalism.  If all Scripture is paradoxical or apparently contradictory, does it not follow that nothing in the Bible is rationally understandable and therefore cannot be systematically arranged into a dogmatic system that is logically consistent?  

I should also point out that the fundamentalists mentioned by Dr. Clark in the above quote were “B. B. Warfield, William G. Moorehead, E. Y. Mullins, and a score of others” who wrote articles in “twelve booklets called The Funamentals.”  (Clark, ibid.  P. 14).  Yet Dr. Michael Horton disparages “fundamentalists” in his writings, among whom Horton includes Dr. Carl F. H. Henry and Dr. Gordon H. Clark:

. . . We must recall that the Bible was generated in the context of a covenantal drama.  The script includes the speaking parts of unfaithful covenant servants, whose speech is nevertheless judged and corrected by the covenant Lord with the unfolding dialogue.   . . .
Similar to the early Christological heresy of Docetcism, which denied the reality of Christ’s full humanity, is a well-established historical tendency that one may discern in church history to downplay the humanity of Scripture.  Some ancient theologians spoke of the biblical writers as mere “flutes” on which the Spirit played or “secretaries” through whom he dictated his revelation.  Such analogies became literal theories in fundamentalism.  J. I. Packer refers to the comment of J.W. Burgon:  “Every book of it, every chapter of it, every word of it, every syllable of it, every letter of it, is the direct utterance of the Most High.” 16  W.A. Criswell expressed the same view:  “Each sentence was dictated by God’s Holy Spirit. . . .  Everywhere in the Bible we find God speaking.  It is God’s voice, not man’s.”17  Fundamentalism and Protestant orthodoxy are distinct traditions, and nowhere can this be more clearly seen than in their differing emphases concerning biblical inspiration.

Dr. Michael Horton.  The Christian Faith:  A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way.  (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2011).  Pp. 161-162.

The first point to be noticed in Dr. Horton’s comments is on page 161 where in contending that there are erroneous human remarks recorded infallibly and by the inspiration of the Bible he asserts that the Bible is a covenantal “drama”.  This description leaves one wondering if Horton accepts plenary verbal inspiration, propositional revelation and absolute biblical inerrancy.  And in fact in his comments on page 162 he uses the same tactics as the liberals by accusing the “fundamentalists” of thinking that God did not inspire human authors as instrumental means of writing His very words.  In short, Horton is equivocating here since B. B. Warfield himself asserted that the Bible is literally the very words of God.  The doctrine of dictation does not mean that God literally took control of the minds and hearts of the biblical writers as if their personalities had no part in what was written.  Rather the doctrine of dictation means that the biblical writers were so superintended by the Holy Spirit that even though what they wrote was written in their personal style and their words, their words were also the very words of God.

When evaluating the relationship of God’s activity and that of creatures in the production of Scripture, the doctrine of analogy already proves its merits.  If agency is univocal (the same thing) for God and for creatures, then the question is raised:  Who acts more?  Is God the author of Romans or is Paul?  However, if agency is analogical, then God’s activity in producing these texts is qualitatively different from human agency. 
Horton, Ibid. P. 162.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark gave a thorough critique of Thomas Aquinas’s view of Scripture and revelation as analogical.  His examination of the Thomist view shows that the doctrine of analogy makes for a view that truth is two fold, not univocal.  If there is more than one truth or more than one logic, the door is opened wide for the abuses of equivocation, sophistry, and dissimulation because the obvious implication is that there is no such thing as absolute truth and if there is absolute truth God alone can know it.  Neither here on earth nor in heaven will a human being be able to understand or comprehend anything God knows at any single point because  God is the Creator and creatures,  according to the Van Tilian philosophy of idealism, can know nothing God knows at any single point.

The notion of analogy begins quite simply and innocently in Aristotle. He notes that when we call a book a medical book, and when we call an instrument a medical instrument, and when we call a man a medical man, the predicate medical does not bear exactly the same sense in the three instances. The term is not equivocal, as is the case when we call Argos the dog of Ulysses and when we call Sirius the dog in the sky; but on the other hand, the term is not strictly univocal. It is analogical. 

This simple distinction was elaborated by the Scholastics and the Neoscholastics into a complicated theory, in which, it would seem, the original situation no longer serves as a solid basis. The motivation and intricacies of the theory are seen most clearly in the arguments for the existence of God and our knowledge of him. God, according to the Thomists, is an absolutely simple being; but a simple, eternal, and immaterial being cannot constitute an object proportionate to our human understanding. Simplicity and eternity are not factors in our world of experience, and therefore we have no positive concept of them. To say that God is eternal means nothing more than that God is not temporal. What eternity positively means remains unknown to the human mind. What man has in this instance may be called negative knowledge. 

Similarly, when we call God wise and when we call a man wise, the term does not bear the same sense. God’s wisdom is not distinct from his essence or his being; but the wisdom of man is. In general, there is no affirmation whatever that can be made of God and of man in the same sense. The reason for this impossibility is not only that the predicates do not bear the same meaning in both cases, but that, far more radically, the copula is bears two different senses. In God essence and existence are identical: What God is and that God is are the same. In every case other than God this is not so. Accordingly, when we say God exists and when we say man or dog exists, the term exist does not mean the same thing. Therefore, no term, not even the copula, can be used univocally of God and man. 

Now, if the only alternative to univocal predication were equivocal predication, knowledge of God derived by abstraction from experience would be patently impossible. When words are used equivocally there is no definite relationship between the meanings, and knowledge of God would be in a state similar to a knowledge of Sirius that would be based on an experience of Ulysses’ dog. To avoid this fatal difficulty, the Thomists are forced to find some intermediate between univocal and equivocal predication, and they appeal to analogy. Between Argos and Sirius there is no resemblance, but in the case of God, man resembles God, they say, though God does not resemble man.17 This resemblance permits us to attach some meaning to the statement God is, so that we are neither in complete ignorance, nor limited to negative knowledge, but have an analogical if not a univocal knowledge. Thus empiricism in its Thomistic form attempts to escape the limits of experience.

Gordon H. Clark. A Christian View of Men and Things.  (Kindle Locations 4528-4550). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

The problem with Van Tililans is that they not only reject experience but they also reject propostional revelation and the internal logical consistency of the biblical revelation.  Irrationality seems to predeominate and Horton’s refusal to define his terms or rationally harmonize his views with Scripture or define what he means by the term qualitative demonstrates adequately that he has no clear commitment to divine truth or divine revelation. 

Moreover, if there is a difference between God’s providence and the human agency involved in the writing of the Scriptures, would not that difference be an actual difference between the definition of God as an absolute and timeless being and the definition of a human being as limited to the realm of the created universe, created time, and discursive thinking?  Since God is timeless, omniscient and never learns anything new, how would God not know what the biblical writers would write?  Furthermore, since God can indeed control the minds, wills, thoughts and actions of humans without violating their psychological agency, intellect or volition, how does it follow that fundamentalists are advocating “mechanical dictation”?  (Proverbs 21:1).  B. B. Warfield said that the Scriptures are the very words of God but denied that this is mechanical dictation:

The process of revelation through the prophets was a process by which Jehovah put His words in the mouths of the prophets, and the prophets spoke precisely these words and no others. So the prophets themselves ever asserted. “Then Jehovah put forth his hand, and touched my mouth,” explains Jeremiah in his account of how he received his prophecies, “and Jehovah said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth” (Jer. 1:9; cf. 5:14; Isa. 51:16; 59:21; Num. 22:35; 23:5, 12, 16). Accordingly, the words “with which” they spoke were not their own but the Lord’s: “And he said unto me,” records Ezekiel, “Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them” (Ezk. 3:4). It is a process of nothing other than “dictation” which is thus described (2 S. 14:3, 19), though, of course, the question may remain open of the exact processes by which this dictation is accomplished. The fundamental passage which brings the central fact before us in the most vivid manner is, no doubt, the account of the commissioning of Moses and Aaron given in Ex. 4:10–17; 7:1–7. Here, in the most express words, Jehovah declares that He who made the mouth can be with it to teach it what to speak, and announces the precise function of a prophet to be that he is “a mouth of God,” who speaks not his own but God’s words. Accordingly, the Hebrew name for “prophet” (nābhīʾ), whatever may be its etymology, means throughout the Scriptures just “spokesman,” though not “spokesman” in general, but spokesman by way of eminence, that is, God’s spokesman; and the characteristic formula by which a prophetic declaration is announced is: “The word of Jehovah came to me,” or the brief “saith Jehovah” (נאם יהוה, neʾum Yahweh). In no case does a prophet put his words forward as his own words. That he is a prophet at all is due not to choice on his own part, but to a call of God, obeyed often with reluctance; and he prophesies or forbears to prophesy, not according to his own will but as the Lord opens and shuts his mouth (Ezk. 3:26 f.) and creates for him the fruit of the lips (Isa. 57:19; cf. 6:7; 50:4). In contrast with the false prophets, he strenuously asserts that he does not speak out of his own heart (“heart” in Biblical language includes the whole inner man), but all that he proclaims is the pure word of Jehovah.

Warfield, Benjamin B. The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: Revelation and Inspiration. Vol. 1. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008. Print.  Pp. 19-20.  Chapter I, Section  III.

While in other places, Horton speaks approvingly of Warfield, here Horton disparages Warfield as a fundamentalist by implication.  Horton seems to be outright denying that God is in absolute providential control of what was written in the Bible.  Can it not be that God can control human agency through secondary means without violating the human will yet what is spoken or written through the prophets is the very words of God?  Or is the Bible just a covenantal drama or an inspired story as the neo-orthodox theologians contend?  Is God the author of Scripture or is He not the author of Scripture?  

Basically it boils down to this.  Since all knowledge is propositional, it follows that the Bible is propositional revelation.  Propositional revelation, as the late D. Broughton Knox once said, is the only revelation there is.  Even Peter’s great confession that Jesus is the Son of the living God cannot be deduced or adduced from empirical experience.  His confession is divine revelation.  And so the argument is that we do not prove the Bible is true by empirical evidences, historical evidences, or by rationalism.  Rather we accept the Scriptures as the axiom.  Since everyone starts with unproven axioms—whether they admit it or not—we as Christians are on solid ground by basing the Christian worldview on the axiom of Scripture.   The apologetic approach is not demonstrating the truth of the Bible by reason, experience, or history but rather showing the absurdity of the many contradictions in other worldviews based on other axioms which cannot produce an epistemology that is internally logical, consistent, harmonious, and without contradictions.  Christianity is the best worldview precisely because it is divine revelation from God who is Logic.  (John 1:1, 9).  Van Til and his many followers have unwittingly opened the door to compromise, equivocation, and neo-orthodoxy.  

While it is true that some of Clark’s students—including Edward Carnell and Paul Jewett—later went into apostasy, the reasons were not that they continued in what they learned from Dr. Clark.  On the contrary, the reasons for their rejection of biblical authority were that they also rejected Dr. Clark’s rational and logical emphasis on the law of contradiction, propositional and systemic epistemology, and deducing from Scripture by good and necessary consequence all the doctrines of the Christian faith.  They rejected Dr. Clark’s view that all truth is innate in God’s eternal mind.  If we know any propositions that are true, God must know those same truths since He is omniscient.  This does not mean that we know everything God knows.  But if God knows that Jesus is the Son of the living God, we can univocally know that proposition on that single point even if we cannot know every single proposition that can be deduced from that one proposition.  (Matthew 16:15; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20).  Holy Scripture is not an analogical revelation but a univocal revelation from God in propositional form.  Scripture is the Word of God.  (2 Timothy 3:16).

All the truth of the revelation of Scripture existed in God's mind before He ever created.  God predestined the Bible would be the way we could know Him and His will.  Not one word of it fails.

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