Clark references in John Frame's "A History of Western Philosophy and Theology."

Here are the isolated quotes on Clark in Frame’s “A History of Western Philosophy and Theology.” Frame also has 2 extended sections on Clark which I’ve just made some notes on below. I figured this list could be of help for reference or just for those who don’t wish to purchase Frame’s book but are still interested in these bits.

77, 256, 482, 521-528, 530, 608, 718-725


“Gordon Clark suggests that the Stoics’ matter is more like a field of force than like a hard stuff.”


“So Kant proposed a breathtakingly radical alternative: Our most basic knowledge comes about not by the world’s impressing it on the mind, but by the mind’s impressing it on the world. Experience is the result of the mind’s imposing various concept on the raw data given to it by the noumenal world. Gordon Clark illustrated this idea by a parable: imagine that there is a shelf in the pantry filled with intelligent jelly jars. These jars are philosophers, and they argue among themselves why it is that the jelly inside them always takes a cylindrical shape. They try to answer the question by studying the chemical and physical properties of the jelly, but none of those studies produces an adequate reason why all the jelly in all the jars has a cylindrical shape. But then one exceptionally brilliant jar makes a stunning proposal: What if the shape of the jelly is cause not by anything in the jelly, but by the shape of the jars, our own shape?”


“The Christian philosopher and apologist Gordon H. Clark (1902-85) (chapter 13) appealed to Bridgman’s theory in his quest to show that empirical science gives us no knowledge of the world.”


Frame notes that the term “presuppositionalist” was “likely invented by James Oliver Buswell, Jr., a Christian empiricist to who used the term to disparage Clark and Van Til.” (p. 521) But Buswell explicitly cites Alan MacRae at Faith Seminary as coining the term. Buswell was the first to use it in print.

Frame mentions Clark’s opposition to empiricism and rejection of “bare facts.” (p. 522)

“Clark’s epistemology, therefore, is holistic, based on apprehension of a whole system of truth (Hegel, Duhem, Quine), rather than building up knowledge one fact after another (Lock, Hume, Russell, early Wittgenstein).” (p. 523)

“So knowledge requires certainty.” Clark, however, rejects this. For Clark “certainty” is only a psychological aspect, not an epistemological one.

“The problem here is that our access to Scripture is at least partly empirical. We read with our eyes, hear it with our ears. That would seem to make sense experience equal in authority to Scripture, or even higher in authority. I don’t know where, if anywhere, Clark deals with this question.” (p. 523-524)

This is the real difference between Clark and other Christian philosophers like Frame. For Clark, the Bible ALONE is the source of our knowledge. Frame begs the question in saying that we “read with our eyes, here it with our eyes.” There is a need to explain HOW. That is what Clark constantly hammered his opponents on. As for where Clark deals with the question, his audio lecture “A Christian Construction, Part 2” in talking of Robert Reymond’s similar confusion is the best place.

Frame notes Clark’s two “tests” — logical consistency and “richness” or “breadth of applications.” (p. 524-526)

Frame challenges Clark’s acceptance of Aristotle’s logic over others such as Russell’s. (p. 525) I address this at length in Chapter 10 of the Clark biography.

Frame rejects the idea that Clark is a “rationalist.” (p. 527)

“Clark believes, as Russell and the early Wittgenstein, that all truth is propositional: we can have knowledge of propositions—that is, of facts—but not things.” (p. 527)

Frame points out, as he has previously, that Clark’s view of faith “can be maintained if his view of assent is sufficiently robust.” (p. 528)

Frame speculates that the environment of American evangelicalism, with the Scopes Monkey Trial, influenced Clark’s preference for intellectualism of emotionalism. (p. 528)


“I am told that Van Til and Clark were friends in the early 1930s, when Clark taught at the University of Pennsylvania, and Van Til at Westminster Seminary, then in downtown Philadelphia.”


“Christian apologists have often employed the concept of self-refutation against alternatives to Christian theism. Gordon H. Clark, in A Christian View of Men and Things and other writings, is one of many apologists who emphasize the logical contradictions of non-Christian thinkers, particularly those that entail skepticism.”


Frame has an extended reply to Clark’s lecture “John Frame and Cornelius Van Til.”

Frame critiques the Trinity Foundation for calling him a neo-orthodox. He notes that Clark never made that claim on him. (p. 718)

“I argue that Van Til’s concept of analogy has little or nothing to do with the traditional controversy over literal or figurative theological language.” (p. 721)

“Still, I can agree with Clark that God foreordains evil.” (p. 722)

“I suppose that in Clark’s mind the question of extrabiblical knowledge boils down to the viability of empiricism as a theory of knowledge.” (p. 723)

Frame repeats the charge of accepting Aristotle’s logic over Russell etc. without reason. (p. 724).

“Despite the significant differences between Clark and me, let me emphasize that I have great respect for Clark’s work, for the quality of his thought and for the strong stand that he has always taken for the Reformed faith. I have been his loudest defender, in fact, in Westminster Theological Seminary and Orthodox Presbyterian Church circles, and I will continue to defend him in the many areas where I think he has been misunderstood and wrongly condemned.”