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

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Clark's Answer to Van Til: On Incomprehensibility: Part Five

Clark's Answer to Van Til: On Incomprehensibility: Part Five

[The following is the continuation of The Answer given by Dr. Gordon H. Clark and his supporters to The Complaint by Dr. Cornelius Van Til and his supporters. The Answer will be given in installments as time permits. To read the pdf image file click on the links. The following is installment one of the chapter on incomprehensibility. See Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.]

Continued from page 18 of the PDF file of The Answer:

This quotation from W. Brenton Greene, Jr., particularly his approval of the two sentences from Henry B. Smith, may seem rationalistic to those who have not been raised in the Presbyterian tradition. The Presbytery does not insist that Greene's position must be accepted. The point is that here is a man whom all ought to recognize as orthodox; he was not only a Presbyterian minister, he was the professor of apologetics in what was at that time the citadel of Presbyterian orthodoxy. And this professor of apologetics gives a wider scope to reason that does Dr. Clark. If, as the Complaint argues, “One cannot expect a sound theology to proceed from a faulty method,” if, that is, a faulty method vitiates a man's doctrine of the atonement and all other doctrines, then according to the argument of the Complaint Greene's theological views must have been thoroughly heretical because his method is even more “rationalistic” than that alleged of Dr. Clark. If the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is ready to require subscription to a particular apologetic, let this change come by an open attempt to amend the Confession of Faith and not by the indirect method of a Complaint against a particular action of one Presbytery.

A. A. Hodge, also, in his Outlines of Theology appeals to reason. On page 19, 8, 2d, he refers to “the light of nature.” Just below he speaks of “the demonstration of the a-priori possibility of a supernatural revelation.” On page 37 he answers Hume by an appeal to “a universal and necessary judgment of reason.” On page 45 he says, “It is certain that the intuitions of necessary truth are the same in all men. They are not generalizations from experience, but are presupposed in all experience.” See in particular his defense of natural theology on page 53, 1, 1st, page 54, 2, 2d; also page 61, 10. On page 62, 14, 1st, he also says, “Reason is the primary revelation God has made to man, necessarily presupposed in every subsequent revelation of whatever kind . . . Hence no subsequent revelation can contradict reason acting legitimately within its own sphere . . . To believe is to assent to a thing as true, but to see that it contradicts reason, is to see that it is not (italics his) true.” Again on page 63, 15, 1st, “The first principles of a true philosophy are presupposed in all theology, natural and revealed. 2d, The Scriptures, although not designed primarily to teach philosophy, yet necessarily presuppose and involve the fundamental principles of a true philosophy.”

If the complainants object to Dr. Clark's method as unsound, they must also repudiate the methods of old Princeton as “out of harmony with orthodox Presbyterianism.” The Presbytery does not assert that the Confession requires adherence to everything in the Princeton apologetic. Other forms of apologetics may also be permitted. But without specifically amending our standards any attempt to exalt one method as alone orthodox and to repudiate all appeal to the a-priori truths of reason is intolerable.

Here some analysis is required of the charges of “humanistic intellectualism” later made against Dr. Clark at two points (P. 7, 3; O. 29; and P. 10, 2; O. 40) and of rationalism in the theological sense (P. 10, 2; O. 40; and P. 10, 3; O. 41; P. 6, 3; O. 25). The Complaint does not charge Dr. Clark with the Sophistic man-measure theory or its modern equivalent, pragmatism. It is therefore admitted on all hands that Dr. Clark does not make the human mind the standard of truth. Intellectualism, as opposed to pragmatism, holds that truth is immutable and independent of man. Dr. Clark holds the usual form of intellectualism, that truth is indeed independent of man, though not independent of God; and this position coupled with Dr. Clark's acceptance of the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and practice disposes of the added charge of rationalism.

While the tenor of the Complainant is anti-intellectualism, it is hard to find in a doctrinally conscious Christianity any reason for opposing intellectualism. The Complaint, however goes further and charges Dr. Clark with “humanistic” intellectualism. In using the notion of humanism, the Complainant obviously does not refer to the Renaissance phenomenon of the study of the classics or to the modern study of the humanities. Humanism in modern philosophical terminology is but a polite term for atheism. Although humanism is predominately pragmatic and anti-intellectualistic, a theory of humanistic intellectualism would hold that immutable truth depends neither upon God nor man, but finally and ultimately upon the spatial, corporeal universe or some other alleged ground. It is questionable whether the Complaint really means what it seems to say in charging Dr. Clark with “humanistic intellectualism,” for this would be to accuse him of atheism. Such a charge would be nothing less than calumny and slander.

Since step two of the argument of this part of the Complaint depends on or repeats step one, not much more in the way of a reply is needed. It ought to be pointed out, however, that step two begins with a false statement. The Complainant says, “Dr. Clark holds that man's knowledge of a proposition, if it is really knowledge, is identical with God's knowledge of the same proposition.” The complainants refer to seven passages in the transcript to support their contention. Not one of the seven references says anything remotely resembling the sentence above, and two of the seven directly contradict it. Page 18, line 23 of the transcript is one of these references. The passage, obviously incorrectly reported in detail, reads, “ I know of two points, often this subject. That is—the method of knowledge—knowing, is, in the case of God not acquisitional, but in our case it is. That is one point of it, and the only other point that has reference to the subject is: The object known, such as two times two equals four. I hold that that is the same as it is for God, but the method of knowing it is entirely different.” On the same page of the transcript (18, 5) Dr. Clark had said, “Briefly I should say that God's knowledge is intuitive and ours indispersive?” (sic). The other of the two references expressing essentially the same thought is 28, 14-22. In other words, Dr. Clark in the transcript says God's knowledge of a given object is not the same as man's knowledge of the same object. And the complainants after reading these passages say that “Dr. Clark holds that man's knowledge of a proposition . . . is identical with God's knowledge of the same proposition.” The Complaint therefore has attempted to put into Dr. Clark's mouth the very position he explicitly denied.

(See page 20 of The Answer).

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