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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.]

Daily Bible Verse

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Is Salvation by Belief Alone?


"This judicial pronouncement inevitably, if some people do not care to say automatically, sets in motion the life-long process of sanctification. The purpose of justification, or at least one of the purposes, and the immediate one, is to produce sanctification."  Dr. Gordon H. Clark

Psalm 19:7  The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul . . .

Yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace . . .


I keep reading and hearing things from the Trinity Foundation and from the God's Hammer blog that I wonder about.  For one thing, I keep hearing the repeated proposition that "salvation is by belief alone."  Unfortunately this is just as wrong as the doctrine of final justification.  John Piper teaches a version of final justification which he calls final vindication.  But these folks are making an error just as egregious.  If it is true that our justification is the finished work of the cross, it is equally true that the means of our receiving the benefits of the cross work of Christ for the elect is belief.  We must be regenerated or born again before we can believe the Gospel.  (John 3:3-8; 1 Peter 1:23; John 1:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; 1 Peter 1:3; Titus 3:5; Ezekiel 36:26).

Final justification or final vindication is the Federal Vision doctrine that says that in the final judgment our good works will justify our faith and vindicate us from God's judgment.  But this undermines the fact that Christ eternally decreed to justify the elect from all eternity.  (Revelation 13:8).  He is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the earth.  Abraham Kuyper wrote an entire chapter on eternal justification in his book, The Work of the Holy Spirit.   (Chapter XXXII:  Justification from Eternity).  Not only that but it is not actually our faith that justifies us before God.  Justification was accomplished finally and forever on the cross when Christ died for the sins of all the elect throughout the history of the world from creation to the end of time.  Justification is applied to the elect temporally after they are regenerated, converted and given the gift of believing the Gospel.  (Acts 13:48).

It is right to question the Federal Vision error.  However, I have to challenge the proposition that salvation is by belief alone.  This is actually not true.  If we study the Bible carefully and study the Westminster Standards carefully it is clear that intellectual assent alone is not the totality of the ordo salutis.  It is true that salvation is all of God's sovereign grace.  Salvation is by grace and grace alone.  This is usually referred to as Sola Gratia.   But the doctrine of justification by faith alone is not a stand alone doctrine.  The ordo salutis also includes sanctification and repentance, not just bare belief.  In fact, true belief will produce a change in the believer's thinking and therefore a change in his volitional or willful decisions and the result is a change in the believer's habits.  Good works necessarily result from regeneration.  Dr. Gordon H. Clark put it this way:

2. Conversion and Repentance 

Since the term sanctification commonly refers to the life-long battle against sin, it is not usual to include regeneration in the concept. Regeneration initiates the Christian life, resurrecting the dry bones and clothing them with flesh – something only God can do – but the first conscious human activity in this new life is faith. Faith, human activity as it is, is still a gift from God. This activity, or its first moments, may be called conversion. The previous state of mind is replaced by belief in the atoning death of Christ. The man consciously changes his mind – for repentance is a change of mind – and turns from his old thinking toward the Savior. First Peter 2:25 reports concerning his addressees, who had been previously straying like lost sheep, that they had now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls. Acts 11:21 is less flowery, but more exact: “A great number believed and turned to the Lord.” In theological language this turning is called conversion. The German pastor of the Presbyterian Church at 19th and Susquehanna in Philadelphia, back in the 1920s, in the Schlussversammlung of an evangelistic series, dramatically illustrated it by executing an about face in the pulpit as he said, “Bekehren ist umkehren.” 

If, now, one wishes to examine what is simultaneous, or what the logical relations are, one could say that repentance itself more commonly connected with aversion from sin than with belief in the Trinity, is an act of and a part of faith. Believing is indeed an act of the human self, caused by God to be sure, and totally impossible except for regeneration and God’s gift; but it is nonetheless a human volition. It is the first act in a Christian life. Dead bones cannot believe; but when clothed with flesh they live, and they live a life of faith. By means of this volition God justifies the sinner on the ground of Christ’s merits. This judicial pronouncement inevitably, if some people do not care to say automatically, sets in motion the life-long process of sanctification. The purpose of justification, or at least one of the purposes, and the immediate one, is to produce sanctification. The earliest stage of this is conversion, so early that it might be identified with the first act of faith itself. Consider some of the Scriptural material, both from the Old Testament and from the New Testament.
Psalm 19:7: The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.

Gordon H. Clark. What Is The Christian Life? (Kindle Locations 165-187). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

Another problem that I continually see at the God's Hammer blog is there is little to no discussion of the whole system of propositional and theological truth which is revealed in the Bible.  Instead the focus is on the precise definitions of theological doctrines of certain ministers like John Piper, who, by the way, does go off into the Federal Vision error in my opinion.  The problem is that the errors are so emphasized that Sean Gerety and others ignore other major doctrines in the Bible like sanctification, conversion, repentance, etc.  Dr. Gordon H. Clark did not make justification by faith alone the end all and be all of salvation.  He did give it the proper place in the system, however.  According to Dr. Clark the best summary of the propositions in the Bible are summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith.  I have yet to see Sean Gerety or the Trinity Foundation give any emphasis to the systematic view of truth as espoused by Dr. Clark.  In fact, I once asked Thomas Juodaitis if he would consider producing Dr. Clark's book, What Do Presbyterians Believe? in ebook format because in my work it is difficult to carry hard copies or paperbacks.  He said it was not under consideration.  

The most important doctrines of Calvinism, according to Dr. Clark are listed in descending order of importance in the Westminster Confession of Faith.  The most important doctrine of Calvinism according to the Westminster divines is Sola Scriptura because that is the very first chapter in the Westminster Confession.  But since it has often been said that justification by faith alone is the doctrine by which the true church stands or falls some have taken that doctrine to be the most important doctrine in the Bible.  The Westminster Confession does not even mention the doctrine of justification until chapter XI.  Of Justification.  The doctrine of the atonement is in chapter VIII. Of Christ the Mediator.

I have been reading the Trinity Foundation materials for a long time and I have listened to John Robbins's lectures on apologetics many times over.  But I have also read all of Dr. Clark's books and listened to all of his lectures many times over.  Robbins is mostly on the mark but he goes beyond Clark in some areas.  I do not have time to go into all of that at this point.  However, I will say that Sean Gerety's latest article is a bit misleading on several points.  (The Justification that Doesn't Justify).

Gerety's article in fact contradicts the Westminster Confession of Faith.  The Confession clearly affirms that assurance of salvation requires obedience and the Confession also says that there will be some who have a false assurance of salvation.  Gerety criticizes Piper for saying:

Present justification is based on the substitutionary work of Christ alone, enjoyed in union with him through faith alone. Future justification is the open confirmation and declaration that in Christ Jesus we are perfectly blameless before God. This final judgment accords with our works. That is, the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives will be brought forward as the evidence and confirmation of true faith and union with Christ. Without that validating transformation, there will be no future salvation.

Quoted at The Justification That Doesn't Justify.
It is certainly true that our good works do not justify us now or in the judgment.  But that is not what Piper said.  He said that the "fruit of the Holy Spirit" confirms our faith and union with Christ and that this validates our union with Christ.  Now I have no problem with that definition if we mean our present life and our relationship with each other here in the visible church.  The problem is that God already knows everything.  He does not need any validation of your faith.  He already knows the judgment here and now and for all eternity since He is omnscient and eternally immutable.  The purpose of the final judgment is not to convince God of anything.  It is rather to demonstrate His justice for all humans and angels to see.  What Piper is saying in the quote is that good works are evidence of true faith.  No Reformed Christian should disagree with that.  But to say that good works justify us at all is obviously wrong.  Being generous to Piper he is basically saying that without sanctification you cannot have any assurance of salvation in the final judgment.  But Piper is not always clear.  But neither is Gerety.  Why is the Westminster Confession rarely if ever mentioned in these scathing and condemnatory debates?  I think it is because neither of the two parties wants to admit that their views are out of accord with the whole system of dogmatic truth.

The WCF clearly says that assurance is only attained by obeying the Gospel:

CHAPTER XVIII—Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation

  1.      Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God, and estate of salvation (Job 8:13–14, Micah 3:11, Deut. 29:19, John 8:41) (which hope of theirs shall perish): (Matt. 7:22–23) yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, (1 John 2:3, 1 John 3:14,18–19,21,24, 1 John 5:13) and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed. (Rom. 5:2,5)

  2.      This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; (Heb. 6:11, 19) but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, (Heb. 6:17–18) the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, (2 Pet. 1:4–5, 10–11, 1 John 2:3. 1 John 3:14, 2 Cor. 1:12) the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, (Rom. 8:15–16) which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption. (Eph. 1:13–14, Eph. 4:30, 2 Cor. 1:21–22)


The Westminster Confession of Faith. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996. Print.
Dr. Clark even disagreed with the Confession in section 2.  He said that assurance could not be infallible since only God's absolute truth could be infallible.  We often err in logic and make mistakes.

Good works are a necessary part of the ordo salutis as well.  There is an entire chapter on good works in chapter XVI.  Of Good Works.  That chapter plainly and flatly says that good works are a necessary result of a true and lively faith:

 
CHAPTER XVI—Of Good Works

  1.      Good works are only such as God hath commanded in His holy Word, (Micah 6:8, Rom. 12:2, Heb. 13:21) and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretence of good intention. (Matt. 15:9, Isa. 29:13, 1 Pet. 1:18, Rom. 10:2, John 16:2, 1 Sam. 15:21–23)

  2.      These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: (James 2:18, 22) and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, (Ps. 116:12–13, 1 Pet. 2:9) strengthen their assurance, (1 John 2:3, 5, 2 Pet. 1:5–10) edify their brethren, (2 Cor. 9:2, Matt. 5:16) adorn the profession of the gospel, (Tit. 2:5, 9–12, 1 Tim. 6:1) stop the mouths of the adversaries, (1 Pet. 2:15) and glorify God, (1 Pet. 2:12, Phil. 1:11, John 15:8) whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, (Eph. 2:10) that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life. (Rom. 6:22)

  3.      Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. (John 15:4–6, Ezek. 36:26–27) And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will, and to do, of His good pleasure: (Phil. 2:13, Phil. 4:13, 2 Cor. 3:5) yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them. (Phil. 2:12, Heb. 6:11–12, 2 Pet. 1:3, 5, 10–11, Isa. 64:7, 2 Tim. 1:6, Acts 26:6–7, Jude 20–21)


The Westminster Confession of Faith. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996. Print.

In short, Gerety's article comes across as teaching antinomianism, not the doctrines of sovereign grace.  We are "bound to perform . . ." our "duty" and we "ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God" in our hearts.  I do not consider myself very holy at all.  In fact, the harder I try the more of the corrupt nature I see that needs to be subdued and brought under control.  Only God can cause us to repent and endure to the end but we must obey Jesus if we love Him.  (John 14:15).

Gerety's own words convict him of disagreeing with the Westminster Confession:

It's on the basis of faith plus works by which a believer will attain “final salvation.” We don’t enter into eternal rest and perfect fellowship with God on the basis of Christ’s work alone accomplished outside of ourselves on a cross almost 2000 years ago. It’s the fruit of sanctification that God works in us by faith [sic] is the basis for our admittance into heaven.
If sanctification is unnecessary, why did Dr. Gordon H. Clark place so much emphasis on sanctification in the quote above?  No one believes that sanctication is the basis of our salvation but without it there is no true faith and no union with Christ.  There is only a false assurance of salvation.  Gerety is deliberately creating a false dilemma here to make Piper appear in the worst possible light rather than dealing with what Piper actually says in relationship to Scripture and the doctrinal standards in the Westminster Confession.

While I have greatly profited from the books and articles at the Trinity Foundation, I cannot agree with their points of view when they deviate from the Bible and the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Grace is not a license to sin.  (Romans 6:1-2; Matthew 7:22-23; Galatians 5:16-26).

Gerety makes another conflated statement here:

There is no future judgment of the believer. According to Jesus justification is a present as well as a future reality for all believers. Eternal life is something the believer already possesses.
 The first statement is wrong because believers will be judged in order to determine their rewards:

But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (Rom. 14:10 NKJV)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10 NKJV)
Also, even though it is true that by belief or assent to the Gospel promises we are justified before God now, does it follow that everyone who professes faith is in possession of a true and lively faith?  Not according to the WCF and the chapter on assurance.  There are many who have a false assurance based on the mistaken view that they have done enough good to outweigh their evil deeds.  (Matthew 7:22-23).   Others mistakenly think that grace means they are free to sin all they want.   (1 Peter 2:16; Galatians 5:13; John 8:32; Romans 6:22; John 15:22).  Those who walk in darkness are not in fellowship with Christ.  (1 John 1:5-10).

Is Piper lost?  I do not pretend to know that since I am not omniscient.  But it is true that he seems to have at least some agreement with the Federal Vision error.  Gerety, on the other hand, seems to know that Piper is not elect.

As you can see, my views have slightly changed after studying the issues for several years.  

May the peace of God be with you,

Charlie


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Gordon H. Clark Comments on Propaganda and History



"Though it may be impossible to fool all of the people all of the time, yet the large majority of the populace is so stupid, so forgetful, or so irresponsible that a moderately efficient propaganda machine, run by the government, a party, or a well organized political action group, can easily fool a sufficiently large number of people to keep itself in power for a long time."


"With amazing foresight he [Jacob Burckhardt] predicted that governments would no longer advance business and industry, but would disregard economic law and base their decisions with absolute brutality on political purposes."  


Dr. Gordon H. Clark

At the risk of quoting too much at once, I want to show how communist propaganda is not a new problem but an old one.  I will save the quote for later but Dr. Gordon H. Clark sounds almost prophetic in the passage from which I will quote in his book on historiography.  The fact is that there is no such thing as objective news or objective reporting of historical events.  History is chosen to be represented by the high points selected by those who control the mass media.  History is written as it occurs in the contemporary news but even the news can be fake as we have observed in recent times during the Trump administration.  It seems that postmodernism has taken over the profession of journalism and even historiography.  History has become so malleable as to be almost pure fiction.

Pure capitalism based on an atheistic materialism, however, is no better than communism or socialism.  Without the Bible as our beginning axiom there is nothing morally wrong with making lots of money selling pornography or performing perverse sex acts for huge sums of money.  So that pretty much does Atlas Shrugged and libertarianism in if you are a Christian.  Christianity is not a religion.  It is an entire worldview, a biblical, theological, logical and philosophical way of understanding everything.  

It is not a "theory" of everything but a rational way of interpreting the propositional system of truth revealed in the Bible and applying that logical and systematic way of viewing the world into practical application in the so-called sciences, including political science.  This is why pure capitalism divorced from God is immoral.  The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  (1 Timothy 6:10 NKJV).  Gambling is a sin because God commands man to work for a living and because man is commanded to be a good steward of the resources God provides him through providence.  Gambling is based on chance and the house always wins.  Entire cities and even states have been built on the so-called gaming industry.  The Las Vegas shooting that occurred on October 1, 2017 was perpetrated by a so-called high roller and over 58 victims were killed not including the suicide of the shooter. The man was retired and had a large nest egg saved of several million dollars.  At first the news reported that the man was winning big at the casinos.  But in the end it turns out that he had gambled away all of his savings except $250,000, which he left to his girlfriend.  Yet the news and the casinos and law enforcement could not figure out that the motive was apparently linked to the man's huge losses in the casinos.  Go figure.  This is just another example of the propaganda used in the media to excuse an industry that preys on gambling addicts.  Of course the addict has no excuse but neither do the executives in the gambling industry.  Profit for the sake of profit is evil.  Even Jesus condemned prostitution and greed.  In short, attaching the term "Reformed" or the term "Christian" to libertarianism only creates an oxymoron since the Bible nowhere says that our judicial or political system should be based on principles of greed or covetousness.

This is not to say that it is morally wrong to work to create wealth or to become wealthy.  (Psalm 112:1-3 NKJV). It just means that morality is the basis for honest capitalism, not deception or destroying others for one's own profit.  This is also why child pornography, human trafficking, prostitution, drug dealing and other forms of immorality have traditionally been considered vices and were against the judicial and criminal laws of our nation because vices exploit weaker individuals for pleasure or profit and such vices undermine both individual freedom and the moral fabric of society as a whole.  On the other hand, Christian liberty is guided by the moral law of God and is the result of regeneration.  There is no law against walking in the Holy Spirit.  (Galatians 5:22-25 NKJV).

But equally wrong is the totalitarian power grab by the progressive left in the United States.  Ronald Reagan, our former President, once said that if totalitarianism were to take hold in America it would be through the fascism of the socialist left.  While they do not want to own all private property they want so much government control as to make private enterprise almost obsolete.

The irony is that during World War II both the United States and Great Britain fought together to defeat the national socialism of the Nazi party in Germany.  For a time Winston Churchill did cooperate with Joseph Stalin to defeat Adolf Hitler but that was only for expediency in defeating the Nazis.  Churchill was certainly not naive.

Getting back to the original point of my post, however, I want to show how dishonest the political left and the mainstream media in our nation has become.  I will do that by quoting a lengthy passage from Dr. Gordon H. Clark's book, Historiography:  Secular and Religious:

History for the Sake of Philosophy
There is a third possible justification for studying history, one closely allied to but broader than the second.  The second mainly envisaged the utility of history in its bearing on politics.  But already hints have occurred that history stands in relation to other subjects as well:  Philosophy and religion, for example,.  The utility and justification of history may then be found in the position it holds as a part of an all embracing philosophy.
Dr. Gordon H. Clark, Historiography:  Secular and Religious. 1971.  Second edition.  (Jefferson:  Trinity Foundation,  1994).  P. 15.
Here Clark ties history to philosophy and religion and to an "all embracing philosophy," which I take to mean a worldview.  But his remarks on the propaganda tactics of the left are even more to the point:

History for the Sake of the Present
. . . . Whether such lessons [of history] are heeded is a quite different question.  It lowers us from the level of scholarship to that of common politics, where often enough it is the wrong lesson that is learned.  Though it may be impossible to fool all of the people all of the time, yet the large majority of the populace is so stupid, so forgetful, or so irresponsible that a moderately efficient propaganda machine, run by the government, a party, or a well organized political action group, can easily fool a sufficiently large number of people to keep itself in power for a long time.  During the thirties the British Labor Party and half of the Tories favored disarmament and business with Hitler.  Would anyone have imagined that after World War II the English people would have turned Churchill out of office, have held mass demonstrations against military defense, and have tried to do business with Russian and Chinese communists? 
In the United States the government began to impose controls on agriculture in the twenties.  For forty years now these controls have made the agriculture situation worse.  One might think that the obvious lesson is to remove the controls that have so aggravated the trouble.  But nearly everyone, except the farmers who in 1963 voted overwhelmingly against the Kennedy proposals, thinks that what is needed is more stringent controls.  The lesson that seems to have been learned is that controls always need more bureaucrats and therefore a top-heavy bureaucracy will use its political power to increase itself.  And besides, Lord Acton with his "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely" was only an aristocratic fuddy-duddy. 
Now, admittedly, voters know next to nothing about history, and very few people have even the least notion of a philosophy of history.  Yet the study of history may be justified by its present utility to the few scholars who are thereby enabled to silence their ideals in pessimistic despair and, like Jeremiah, offer their lamentations to a heedless and perverse generation.
Jacob Burckhardt saw clearly the . . . tendencies of democracy.  The masses are irresponsible and materialistic; they distrust the educated man and elect unscrupulous leaders who promise them everything.  Government then depends on managing the news.  The result is the totalitarian welfare state, from which and for which dictators arise.  Now, Jacob Burckhardt was not Senator Goldwater attacking President Kennedy.  He was a history professor who lived in the nineteenth century.  But even then he saw the rise of dictators because he understood that the so-called liberals had lost their sense of moral distinctions and were preparing the way for a criminal seizure of power.  With amazing foresight he predicted that governments would no longer advance business and industry, but would disregard economic law and base their decisions with absolute brutality on political purposes.
Ibid., Clark.  Pp. 13-14.
It is difficult not to be concerned about Clark's insights here when we apply them to today's political situation and the outrageous lies and propaganda being used to try to oust President Donald J. Trump from the executive office of the United States.  Not only is the left using every media outlet to attack Trump with political propaganda but they actually broke the law to spy on his campaign before he won the election and then tried to have him removed from office by using the same tactics by way off the secret FISA courts.  It was my opinion long ago that the FISA courts would be used as a political weapon by the leftists and Marxists in the Democrat party to attack political and religious conservatives, including Evangelical Christians.  My worst fears have come to pass.

The same kinds of fake news tactics are being used to spin the border crisis and to actually break long standing laws that prohibit illegal immigration.  The Marxist Democrat party does not want to close the border or support existing laws because they only care about political power, not the welfare of illegal immigrants or the welfare of America citizens.

I have never been so naive as to support civil religion.  But the fact that there are checks and balances in our political system is because no one individual or political party can be trusted to do the right thing.  All men are equally corrupted by sin.  That is why our founding fathers in this country created three equal branches of government to check the powers of the other two branches.  Unfortunately the founding fathers did not foresee the rise of Marxism and totalitarianism.  It seems to me that the great experiment of a constitutional and republican form of democracy has at last come to a point of collapse.  Unless God grants Americans the gift of the new birth and our country turns back to a political philosophy deduced from biblical principles I fear that chaos and anarchy may be on the way.  If so every citizen has a God given right to fight for freedom by force if necessary.  We ought to obey God rather than men.  (Acts 5:29).  We are to obey the judicial laws of the nation we live in but when the sodomite lobby makes Christianity against the law or when public schools teach communist dogma as the official state religion, it is time for Christians to rise up and to oppose the government by force if necessary.  (Romans 13:1-7). 




Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Revisiting the Clark/Van Til Controversy, Part 3



"I hope to talk about Van Til before the semester is over, let me say this, my impression is, I could mention some differences between the two, but my impression is that in spite of the fact that Van Till denies he is an neo-orthodox apologete, I think he has been very deeply influenced by neo-orthodoxy, and unwittingly supports their position."  Dr. Gordon H. Clark

This is a continuing commentary on the Reformed Forum's attack on the theology, philosophy and apologetics of the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark.   Parts 1 and 2 can be found by clicking here:  Part 1, Part 2.

4. From the conformity of the moral law with the eternal law of God. VI. Fourth, the moral law (which is the pattern of God’s image in man) ought to correspond with the eternal and archetypal law in God, since it is its copy and shadow (aposkimation), in which he has manifested his justice and holiness. Hence we cannot conform ourselves to the image of God (to the imitation of which Scripture so often exhorts us) except by regulating our lives in accordance with the precepts of this law. So when its observation is enjoined, the voice is frequently heard, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” Now this law is immutable and perpetual. Therefore the moral law (its ectype) must necessarily also be immutable.
Turretin, Vol. 2, p. 19.  "Eleventh Topic:  The Law of God." 

Now the first thing I would like to point out that I forgot to mention in the last post is that Turretin does not say that there is a absolute divide between the archetypal law of God in God's mind and the ectypal law as revealed to man the creature in the Holy Scriptures.  Instead, Turretin compares the written Scriptures to the immutability of God as a simple and unchanging being.  He specifically  says that because the archetypal law of God is immutable that it logically follows that the special revelation in Scripture is also the immutable law of God.  By inference then we can conclude that all of the Bible is likewise the immutable and unchanging word of God.  (Psalm 119:89).  Scripture is the very words of God breathed out of His mouth.   (Matthew 4:4).  Not one jot or tittle will pass away from the Scriptures.  (Matthew 5:17).  

I would also like to point out that when Stephen Charnock says that God's understanding is incomprehensible he means without measure, not that we cannot understand anything that God knows at any single point.  (See: Part 2).  If so, then Turretin was wrong when he said that the archetypal law and the ectypal revelation of God's law are both equally immutable.  Charnock clearly meant that God is all knowing, not that we cannot know anything God knows at any single point whatsoever.  Does God know that the letter A stands for the first letter of the English alphabet and that the vowel can be either long or short?

Van Til and his students, on the other hand, say that there is no point of coincidence whatsoever between God's omniscient knowledge or archetypal knowledge and revealed or ectypal knowledge.  However much these men claim to be the "Reformed center" the fact of the matter is that neither Turretin nor Charnock said what these men are saying.  They would have agreed with Clark that special revelation is the word of God, not an analogy of the word of God.  In fact, both Charnock and Turretin predate the Barthian existentialist view that the Bible is experienced as a divine encounter and that the Bible is merely a human book because there is no point of coincidence between a totally transcendent God and a mere creature.

Another area where I take issue with Oliphint's misrepresentation of Clark is on the doctrine of the trinity.  (Minute mark 32:57 and following.

Camden Busey:  A related note, uh, this is germane to the discussion in the, uh, controversy between Clark and Van Til, we should say between the Clarkians and the Van Tilians in the church--it wasn't necessarily a one to one controversy.  It might be cast that way but it got more heated among the followers of the two men in the presbytery.  Um, but this issue is that of trinitarian theology.  Um, what are some of the differences here?  We oftentimes speak of person or hypostasis in our discussions of the trinity.  Uh, what were Clark's views of personality.  How did he go about defining a person and how might that differ, uh, from Cornelius Van Til?
Scott Oliphint:  Yeah, I think toward the end of his life you know he got more and more enamored with the kind of rational, uh, uh, process and, uh, wanted to fine, define persons as kind of a collection of propositions.  And because of that, as I say in my book, Reasons for Faith, uh, in his book on the incarnation he says that we need to just go ahead and admit that Christ is two persons.  Now I think you know you have to look at that and wince because in the history of 2,000 years there's a reason why neither Catholic nor Protestant would ever go there.  That that, that is the definition of heresy when you start to move into nestorianism or eutychianism or any of those kinds of christological -isms you're in trouble.  Clark moved there.  Uh, you know he should've been more careful than that.  Uh, I think the lack of ... I shouldn't .... I think the emphasis on philosophy, the lack of historical understanding of theology at that point did him in. 
Uh,Van Til used the phrase as we all know now, uh, one person three persons, he used it very, very seldom.  It was not a mantra for him.  He wouldn't have gone to the mat for it.  He was making the point that Hodge and Bavinck make, which is that the one essence of God is not an abstract impersonal essence.  And as you said on your program and I think your listeners already know, Tipton has done the job of showing how this is consistent and how you can make this sort of claim.  Van Til was not trying to be crassly contradictory.  . . .
There is much more to be said here but I will cut to the chase.  The next couple of remarks Oliphint makes are in reference to a pamphlet written by the late Dr. John Robbins of the Trinity Foundation, Cornelius Van Til:  The Man and the Myth.   It should be remembered that Dr. Robbins' degrees were in economics, not philosophy or theology.  While he has some very good lectures on apologetics and logic on the Trinity Foundation website, Robbins was not a trained philosopher or theologian.  Dr. Clark, on the other hand, was both.  While it is true that Dr. Clark did not have a formal degree in theology, he grew up as the grandson and the son of two trained theologians and presbyterian ministers and had access to both their personal theological libraries.  Also, despite the disparaging remarks against Clark by Scott Oliphint, Clark was not ignorant.  He earned his doctorate in philosophy from an ivey league school, the University of Pennsylvania.  I can assure you that Clark had an encyclopedic knowledge of theology and church history.  In comparison to Oliphint, Clark's earned degrees were in the category of excellence.

Now in regards to Busey's remarks about personality and hypostasis, Dr. Clark pointed out that these terms are never fully defined by the church creeds or the writings of the church fathers, the scholastics or the Protestant Reformers.   And as Clark liked to point out, if you have not defined your terms you have not said anything meaningful.

It is true that Robbins accused Dr. Van Til of being an heretic.  I do not know if I will go that far.  Dr. Clark did not go that far.  I think Dr. Clark was more charitable but what he did say specifically was that saying that God is both one person and three persons is a direct contradiction and that it is not the orthodox doctrine of the trinity.  I think it is also relevant to point out that in every day conversation we often refer to God by the singular pronoun "He".  But most Christians understand that God is three persons and one God.

Clark's criticism of Van Til is in his lecture on "Irrationalism":

Clark:  Kierkegaard does not mean that the incarnation, and whatever other Christian doctrines he may have in mind, are surprising or psychologically incredible to heathen peasants and German philosophers. It is not as if the common sense of the sinful human race never expected atonement and resurrection. This is not what Kierkegaard means by paradox and absurdity. He means precisely that the doctrines are self-contradictory, therefore meaningless, therefore absurd.

This is why a certain amount of intellectual ability and activity must accompany faith. He (a Christian), he may very well have understanding, indeed he must have it, in order to believe against understanding. [Student Question: how does Van Till’s concept of paradox differ from Kierkegaard here?] I hope to talk about Van Till before the semester is over, let me say this, my impression is, I could mention some differences between the two, but my impression is that in spite of the fact that Van Til denies he is an neo-orthodox apologete, I think he has been very deeply influenced by neo-orthodoxy, and unwittingly supports their position. But let that do for the present and I’ll try to explain it further when we get to sometime…. Later on, maybe after the break, if there some parts of this you want to ask questions about, as to what they mean and so on, further explanation, I’ll be glad to do it. But, uh, I say I want to get over a few pages to make sure that the important parts are not missed.

At any rate, he defends the necessity of having an intellectual understanding, because you can’t believe absurdities unless you know what absurdities are. And hence you must be able to show that the Christian doctrines contradict each other. Now when you understand that the doctrines of Christianity contradict each other, and can’t possibly be true, then you must believe them – and that’s faith. And unless you deliberately believe absurdities, you have no faith.
Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  "Irrationalism".  Audio Lecture Transcript.  The Gordon H. Clark Foundation.  Pp. 4-5. 
And in another lecture Clark says that Van Til's assertion that God is one person and three persons is an outright contradiction:

Since Van Til’s theology is basically that of the Reformed Tradition, Frame will mainly discuss his distinctives. Incidentally, Van Til’s theology, I suppose you could say mainly or basically, that it is Reformed, but not all is quite the same. He has a view of the Trinity that no theologian that I know, no orthodox theologian I know of, has ever come up with at all. He holds that God is not only three persons in one substance to use that horrible Latin word that doesn’t mean anything. He holds that God is both three persons and one person. And he explicitly denounces the usual apologetic defending the doctrine of the Trinity which is that God is three in one sense, and one in another sense, and hence there is no contradiction because there are lots of things that are three in one sense and one in another. You can get all sorts of examples. The easiest one to think of is a business corporation that has three officers. President, Vice­ President, and Secretary Treasurer. And here the corporation is one corporation but three officers. And you can have one godhead and three persons. Or all sorts of combinations where you have three in one, but in different senses. And that is the standard orthodox position all the way back from Athanasius. Van Til denounces this. And says that the Trinity is both one person and three persons. And he calls this a paradox. Which is putting it mildly. 
Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  "John Frame and Cornelius Van Til."  P. 2.   (See also:  Doug Douma.  "A List of Differences Between the Thought of Gordon H. Clark and Cornelius Van Til."  A Place for Thoughts blog.

It is odd that Oliphint goes out of his way to defend Van Til's denial of the orthodox view of the trinity and even points to Lane Tipton's defense of Van Til's apparent monarchian modalism or sabellian modalism.  I left the Assemblies of God after I became a Calvinist because of several reasons, including my rejection of Arminianism and the Word of Faith infiltration into classical Pentecostal circles.  But another major reason I left and became a Calvinist was that I discovered that the trinitarian scholars in the Society for Pentecostal Studies and their theological journal, Pneuma, advocate for a reconciliation between oneness Pentecostals and trinitarian Pentecostals.  The Church of God School of Theology, Cleveland, Tennessee also publishes a theological journal which also advocates for a reconciliation between trinitarian and unitarian Pentecostal denominations.  Their journal is called The Journal of Pentecostal Theology.

At any rate, Oliphint's accusation that Clark's view was that the essence of God is impersonal is patently false and ridiculous.  If Clark's view is that the essence of God is impersonal, why does Clark uphold the orthodox view that God is one God and three Persons?  The doctrine of perichoresis cited by Busey does not help his case since the doctrine of perichoresis nowhere says that God is one person.  The doctrine of perichoresis simply says that all three persons of the Godhead are fully divine and fully God.  It does not teach that each of the three persons is also the same person or even one person.  

Additionally, the idea that Clark was a nestorian is patently false because Clark pointed out that no one in church history or among the Reformers defined what a person is.  As Clark showed conclusively in The Incarnation, the Definition of Chalcedon said specifically that Jesus Christ the man had a genuine human soul and a human mind.  Even Thomas Aquinas said that Jesus must have had both a human mind and a divine mind.  The problem with the Definition of Chalcedon is that it was inconsistent.  If Jesus was a genuine human person and a genuine human soul, then he as a man could not have been omniscient.  Even the Van Tilians tacitly admit this when they say that Christ was ignorant in his human nature but omniscient in his divine nature.  But it is the Van Tilians who are saying that Christ is one Person who is ignorant in his human nature and omniscient his divine nature.  Is the human nature impersonal?

Another difficulty is that the Roman Catholics have gone way beyond denying the nestorian view.  They have made Mary the queen of heaven based on their doctrine that Mary literally gave birth to God.  Now if God was born 2,000 years ago, does that mean that God had a beginning?  Does it mean that one Person of the Trinity began to exist 2,000 years ago?   Obviously not.  Mary did not give birth to God.  She gave birth to a human baby who was also God by way of a spiritual union of God the eternal Logos.  So it is theologically more correct to say that Mary was the Christ bearer, not the God bearer or the "mother of God" as the papists teach.  Oliphint seems to make Catholic tradition and creeds equal to Scripture at this point.  Scripture nowhere teaches that Mary gave birth to God in any literal sense.  She gave birth to the Messiah, who was also God incarnate.  This is completely different from the papist doctrine that Mary is some exalted and immaculate human mother who is to be venerated and prayed to as the Mother of God.

I have written in other blog posts on the issue of the false teaching of kenosis and the subkenosis view of the incarnation so I will not go into that again here.  Basically, Clark's argument is that the Logos or second Person of the Godhead remains unchanged by the incarnation.  The Trinity does not divorce the eternal Son of God for 33.5 years during the incarnation on earth so that the Trinity is somehow temporarily dissolved.  Also, Apollinarianism is rejected because even the creeds say that the human soul of Christ is a reasonable soul that is not replaced by the Logos.  Nor is the human soul mixed with divinity so that it is now a monophysite Person that is mystically combined into a new hypostatic substance that is neither divine nor human but a mixture of the two.

It gets too tedious and lengthy to go into too much detail.  Suffice it to say that Clark's objection to much of the credal statement in the Definition of Chalcedon has to do with a lack of specific definitions.  I recommend that you carefully read Clark's book, The Trinity and his book, The Incarnation.  In the Trinity, Clark endorses both the Nicene and the Athanasian creeds.  In fact, the Athanasian creed is one of the most detailed definitions of the trinity ever produced.  The Athanasian creed makes distinctions between the three Persons but attributes all of the divine definitions to all three persons as one Lord and one God.  Clark does not deny that there is an apparent paradox here between the three Persons and one divine Being.  But he soundly denounces Van Til for saying that God is both one Person and at the same time three Persons.  That has never been the orthodox position and in that regard John Robbins was correct to call out Van Til for teaching heresy.


Another issue I would like to address is the reference that Scott and Jared Oliphint make to Greg Bahnsen's critique of Gordon H. Clark's apologetics where Bahnsen accuses Clark of making the Bible and Christianity merely a "theory" or a possibility.   I have answered this objection in a previous blog post as well:  Dr. Greg Bahnsen's Rejection of Logic.  Clark rejected empiricism because empiricism starts with human experience.  Clark rejects empiricism and Aquinas's assertion that humans are born with a blank slate and that knowledge comes from experience.  But why do babies learn so many languages while dogs and cats and apes know no languages?  (John 1:9).  Clark rejected common grace and empirical science because science is ever learning and never arrives at the truth.  Absolute truth can only come from God and by revelation.  Of course, we are born with the innate image of God and a rational intellect.  No other animal is the image of God.  Clark did not reject the operationalist view of science in that science can invent practical advances in technology.  But science can never provide an ought from what is.  Science can never lead to any absolute truth or any objective knowledge whatsoever.  For the Christian our worldview must be deduced from the special revelation of Holy Scripture, not from natural revelation or general revelation.  How does science prove that murdering babies in the womb or after their birth is morally wrong or that dropping the nuclear bomb is morally wrong?  How does science prove that you existed 5 years ago or even two minutes ago?


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