After giving a speech at the Gordon H. Clark Philosophy Symposium held at Covenant College earlier this year I confessed to being somewhat stumped when an audience question came to me about Clark’s view of agnosticism. The exact question was as follows:
“What was his opinion on the rationality or the appropriateness of agnosticism with respect to religious questions; just not taking any position at all. If it [his philosophy] is purely comparative where does that fit?”
While I was ill-prepared to answer the question at that moment, I’ve now come across Clark’s view on agnosticism in some of his books.
First, in A Christian Philosophy of Education (1946), Clark writes:
“A man either lives with fear of God before his eyes, attempting to make his whole life a song of praise to his Creator, or he does not. If he does, he is a theist; if he does not, his life shows that, far from being neutral, his serious belief is that God will not judge him and his actions, that there is no God who rules the universe with him in it.” (p. 48)
Then, in the second revised edition of the same book, he adds:
“As Augustine long ago pointed out, when such a man eats his dinner he believes that it is probably better to eat than starve. He does not know that he will escape starvation, but he believes that he has a better chance of survival if he eats. Neither does he know that survival is better than starvation; but he believes so. More to the point, he may say that he neither asserts nor denies the existence of God. But his actual daily life is lived in conformity with the one postulate or the other.” (p. 34-35)
Also, in A Christian View of Men and Things (1952), Clark writes the following:
“As Christ said, ‘he that is not with me is against me,’ and ‘he that is not against us is on our part.’ One must therefore be either for or against; there is no neutral or immediate position. . . . Everyone lives either with the fear of God before his eyes or not. Our preferences, our standards of morality, our purposes in life accord with a theistic worldview or they do not. And if they do not we are acting on the assumption, whether we admit it or not, that there is no God to hold us responsible. Suspension of judgment, so-called, is but a disguised, if dignified, form of unbelief.” (p. 33)
So, Clark’s view is that agnosticism is practical atheism. Choice is inevitable. Those who do not chose God chose against him.
1 thought on “Clark and Agnosticism”
Well said. Thx Doug.
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