Notes on Ronald H. Nash’s lecture series, “History of Philosophy and Christian Thought”

This is a series of 36 lectures given by Ronald H. Nash at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando. Though lectures of the same title were given in the Fall of 2001 (and released in 2014 on MP3 CDs), this series on iTunes was given in 1991 (and once sold as a set of 24 audio cassettes).

The following is not a summary of these lectures, but just things I found interesting. The whole lecture series takes just under 28 hours to listen to. This is a significant time commitment. One could probably read three or four good books in the same period. They are good lectures; Nash is obviously very knowledgeable on the subject matter, he’s interesting to listen to, and often quite comical. Of particular interest to me are the statements Nash makes relevant to Church history in the 20th century.

1. Early Greek Philosophers

Nash notes that the class will be using Gordon Clark’s textbook Thales to Dewey.

“Philo is not a great philosopher; lets come right out and admit that. His writings are very confused and confusing, but nonetheless built into that confusing set of writings that Philo left behind there’s some very interesting insights that we will have occasion to look at before long.” (min 12)

“Lets begin to talk about the philosophers we call the pre-Socratics. Now keep this in mind: you’re going to hear a lot of strange names. That might not be all that bad. Some of you, I know, are looking around for new names for the children that you expect to have. You know, James and Jeffery, those names are so common. Just think, you may get some new ideas here. Incidentally my wife and I were always disappointed that we didn’t have another boy because we were going to call him Bubba. But, Bubba never came, and the world will never be blessed by the ministry of Bubba Nash.” (min 15)

Quoting Clark, “The history of philosophy began on May 28, 585 B.C. at 6:13 P.M.” (min 16) “This is a great first sentence.”

“One of the nice things about Gordon Clark’s book is the way in which he keeps bringing home to you the reader the fact that these poor people, as esteemed as they are in the history of philosophy, these poor people were incapable of even conceiving of a God such as you find in Judaism and Christianity. Had some Jewish prophet visited this part of the world and told them about Yahweh, it would have been the biggest news they’d ever heard. It was inconceivable to them that the physical world, the visible world, could have been a creation of a sovereign all-powerful immaterial God.” (min 26)

“Heraclitus seems to have been an obnoxious son of a gun. Everybody in Ephesus hated him, and he hated everybody in Ephesus.” (min 56)

“Incidentally the word word is probably one of its [logos‘s] lesser meanings. When the King James translators rendered logos in John 1 to mean word, they weren’t picking the best word to use.” (min 60)

“We get our word logic from logos. Now I don’t want to stress this too much. I think Gordon Clark, some of you may know, tended to place far too much emphasis upon this. But I think what we can at least get out of it here is that whatever else logos means it carries with it the idea of reason.” (min 1:01:00)

For Heraclitus everything changes but the Logos, the law of change itself.

2. Italian Philosophers

“The view of the soul that you’ll be reading about in Plato’s Phaedo is borrowed directly from the Pythagoreans. It wasn’t a Socratic view of the soul. It wasn’t something Plato dreamed up on his own. He learned it from the Pythagoreans.” (min 4)

“Socrates appears in many of Plato’s dialogues, but in only one of them is he beaten, does he lose the argument. And that is in a dialogue called the Parmenides.” (min 22)

“Parmenides believes that there is a correlation of the structure of the world and the structure of the human mind.” (min 26)

“It won’t be too long in this course before you realize that Gordon Clark is something of a rationalist. He believes that the laws of logic are God-given principles which enable us, which help us, in our efforts to discover the truth about the ultimate structure and the nature of the world.” (min 28)

“As a rationalist, and I happen to be one.” (min 43)

3. Corporal Pluralism

4. The Sophists

“Skepticism is self-defeating. This is a true story. As you know, I live in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Bible-belt territory. I don’t know why they call it Bible-belt territory because nobody knows the Bible there in the Bible belt. But anyway, it is a nice town, a nice community. One day one of my students happened to visit one of the large, liberal, mainline churches downtown. And the sermon topic for that morning, and this is the truth, the preacher that morning, his message was centered around the subject that everybody’s religion is equally true. The essence of tolerance. In religion you can believe anything you want and whatever you believe is true. After the sermon, after the service, the preacher was at the front door shaking hands and my student went up to him and said let me get this straight preacher, you believe that every religious opinion is equally true. Preacher said yes. The student said, Fine, I believe you’re going to hell. Now let me tell you what the preacher said. He said, I think I have to modify my position.” (min 19)

“I can say to you that no one has ever encountered the slightest bit of evidence to suggest that Plato had any actual contact with Judaism or the teachings of Moses or anything else. No evidence at all. And I think it is best to say that there was no contact, since there is no evidence of there being any contact.” (min 47)

5. Plato

Nash talks about his book Christianity and the Hellenistic World. “It is false to believe that first century Christianity borrowed any of its essential beliefs or its practices, i.e. Baptism and the Lord’s supper, from either Pagan philosophy (Plato, Stoicism), or the Pagan mystery religions (the religion of Isis), or from ancient Gnosticism.” (min 19)

“I identify seven beliefs that Plato’s philosophy was intending to oppose. There were seven beliefs in Plato’s day that he opposes in his philosophy. I suggest you learn these seven beliefs, alright.” (1. Atheism, 2. Empiricism, 3. Relativism, 4. Hedonism, 5. Materialism, 6. Naturalism, 7. Mechanism.)

“Plato thought atheists should be executed. Now that’s taking it pretty serious. He is going to eliminate them from his republic, from his city-state. I am not a theonomist, I am not a reconstructionist. I don’t believe that a Christian attitude toward atheism implies execution.” (min 24)

Refuting hedonism: “Once you admit that some pleasure can be evil, you are admitting that there is a higher standard than pleasure itself which we use to judge the morality or immorality of pleasure itself.” (min 30)

6. The Essence of Plato’s Philosophy

7. Plato’s World of the Forms

“A proposition is an eternally unchanging assertion or statement.” (min 14)

“Indexical terms.” “If ever you think you are in the presence of a proposition whose truth value changes, recognize that you are not dealing with a well-formed propositions.” (min 21)

“We can only make sense out of Plato if we realize for him there are lower forms and higher forms.” (min 38) “Some of Plato’s forms have a more natural or closer relationship to things in this world. The perfect circle has an obvious affinity, similarity, relationship to all of the circles that you and I are accustomed to seeing. But perfect goodness, perfect truth, perfect justice are not things that lend themselves very naturally to a kind of mental image.” (min 42)

“I’m going to be arguing, I think later in this course, that if what we grasp is the truth, then what we know must correspond to what God knows, for this simple reason: if God knows the truth and you know something else that differs in some way from what God knows then you just don’t have the truth. Now, the world is full of Christians who want to say ‘well, what we have can be called the truth even if it approximates.’ No, I think we have to go back to that point, which is a point for which Gordon Clark is very famous. If God knows what thing and you know something else then, my friend, what you have ain’t knowledge. It is something else.” (min 51-52)

“I believe that if a proposition is true, then God knows it. Therefore, whenever you and I believe a true proposition we are thinking God’s thoughts after him. One thing that means then is we can define truth as correspondence to the mind of God. Our thinking is correct when it corresponds to God’s thinking.” (min 52)

“I once asked a famous Christian theologian if he knew that one plus one equals two. Fortunately he did. I then asked him if God knew that one plus one equals two, and we’ll carry on that conversation next week when we talk about the law of noncontradiction. … Theologians can say some very strange things.” (min 55)

8. Plato and the Demiurge

“Process Theology, which often passes itself off as a version of Christian thought, is really a revival of this branch of Platonism right here. It is also a revival of certain Buddhist theories. The God of process theology is a finite God, He is a limited God. My friend Clark Pinnock, I’m sorry to say has been playing around with certain elements. If Clark is listening to this, Clark I love you brother and I’m praying for you every night, and I wish you’d get straightened out on this particular theory. My friend Clark Pinnock doesn’t believe that God has perfect and complete knowledge of the future. Now, one reason why he has done that is because he has become an Arminian and he’s afraid that if God has perfect knowledge of the future he’s going to have to give up his Arminianism and go back to being a Calvinist. Actually, I think, if any Arminians thought correctly on this issues they’d realize that they’d better not give up on God’s perfect knowledge of the future because they’re going to end up with a God who is awfully impotent about important matters.” (min 14-15)

9. Plato’s Dualism

“You see friends in the middle of the Phaedo there are three of four arguments that are supposed to prove the immortality of the soul. They’re horrible arguments. They’re terrible arguments. I derive enormous comfort from knowing how bad Plato could reason on occasion. I do. If he could make these stupid blunders it sorta makes me feel better.” (min 25)

10. From Plato to Aristotle

“Aristotle’s philosophy had no real influence during the first Christian century. That is, during the century in which the New Testament was written, nobody with the exception of a few isolated scholars in Alexandria Egypt knew much of anything about Aristotle’s philosophy. Platonism was rampant in the first century. … But there is no chance at all of any of the New Testament writers having any personal acquaintance with the work of Aristotle.” (min 33)

“I have a high regard for Fuller Theological Seminary. Fuller is today the second or third largest seminary in the world. The largest one is Southwest Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth. Fuller is either the second or the third. It and Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville Kentucky fluctuate. For too many years now Fuller Theological Seminary has shown a distressing degree of sympathy for a theological system that really disdains logic, that really disdains the law of noncontradiction. When Fuller was founded in 1947, 48, the founding faculty saw one of their missions in life as combatting the neo-orthodox philosophy of Karl Barth and Emil Brunner. Today, regrettably, Fuller Seminary is a place, and it grieves me to say this, but it is a place where the very neo-orthodox philosophy that was condemned by the founding faculty has now found a home.” (min 38)

“One of the ways it manifests itself is through the influence of a Scottish theologian named Thomas Torrance. Former moderator of the Church of Scotland, former professor of theology at the University of Edinburgh. Presbyterian, but a disciple of Karl Barth. … But, when you look at chapter nine again notice the strange things you find Thomas Torrance saying about logic. For example, he says, ‘God’s logic is different from our human logic.’ ‘God reasons according to cannons and standards of thought that are different from ours.’ And I suppose that Thomas Torrance thinks that by distinguishing between the logic of God and human beings he is exalting God. But he isn’t. What he is doing is turning the God who speaks and shows himself, the God who reveals himself, to make a paraphrase on Carl Henry here, he turns the eminently knowable God of Christianity to an unknowable ‘it’.” (min 39)

“This kind of thinking, if it is thinking, is pervasive in Protestant theology today and Roman Catholic theology today. And it is not pervasive only in Arminian, or Pentecostal, or Charismatic centers. And none of this is intended to be the least bit critical of those movements. Its also present in schools that a lot of us still identify as evangelical. In fact, those of who have read chapter nine know by now that I have a complaint with the great Cornelius Van Til over this very issue. That Westminster Theological Seminary and a lot of fine Reformed thinkers who have come out of Westminster Seminary and a lot of fine Reformed thinkers who have enormous respect for a great man, Cornelius Van Til, have I think been misled on the importance, the essential role that logic, that the law of noncontradiction, needs to play in our understanding of the Christian Faith.” (min 41)

11. Law of Noncontradiction

“What I talk about in The Word of God book is the late Van Til, after Van Til in my judgment came under the influence the Amsterdam Philosophy, the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd and some other people. You see these people taught Van Til, I think he learned it there, that between God and Man there is a boundary. What I’m talking about here is the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd, which in my experience with Van Til came to be incorporated in his own understanding of things. Now, in one sense no Christian wants to deny that there is a kind of boundary between God and Man. To deny a boundary between God and Man would seem to deny God’s transcendence, His sovereignty, He is the creator we are the creature. But what the Dooyeweerdians did was expand their understanding of the boundary between God and Man to encompass all of law, all laws. Now, I do not deny that in the case of the laws of nature, like the laws of physics or the laws of biology, they apply only on the lower side of the boundary. The laws of physics do not apply to God on the other side of the boundary because He created the laws of physics. He’s not subject to them the way you and I are. So the laws of physics apply on the lower side of the boundary, they do not apply on the higher side of the boundary. Now, what Dooyeweerd and Van Til did, and I think this is a major mistake, is they said the laws of logic apply only on the lower side of the boundary. The laws of logic apply only to us, they do not apply to God. Now, I’m sure the motive behind all of that was a desire to enhance the power and the glory of God. But the end result of it is to reduce the Christian faith to skepticism and nonsense. Let me set the stage for this lunch that Van Til and I had. And again, he is a godly man. I can still remember a day, you see the pastor of his church was a graduate of my university, Bob Drake. And so one day we went to visit Bob Drake, and Bob Drake and I and Van Til were there. And Bob Drake was just a kid, just a youngster at the time. He was Cornelius Van Til’s pastor and he was just 26, 27 years old. He was just a kid. And I remember Van Til coming up to him and saying ‘Pastor, I’m available to call in the hospital today if you want me to come with you.’ There aren’t many PhDs in Theology that will accompany their pastor on a hospital visit, but that was the kind of man Van Til was. Well anyway, we were having lunch in this Philadelphia restaurant and I decided I would ask Van Til three questions. He probably knew I was going to ask them. Question number one. I said, ‘Dr. Van Til, do you know that one plus one equals two?’ And he smiled and assured me that he did. And so I breathed a sigh of relief. Cornelius Van Til knows that one plus one equals two. Question number two, ‘Does God know that one plus one equals two?’ And he smiled and he said, ‘I don’t know.’ Now get the full flavor of this. Here’s an evangelical Christian theologian who wants to glorify God but who’s way of doing that is telling us that he doesn’t know if God knows that one plus one equals two. Now what could possible lead someone into that kind of trap? The answer: this kind of thinking. You see Van Til had bought the system, he had fallen into the trap of thinking that the laws of logic and the laws of arithmetic only apply below the boundary. They are God-created laws. And if the laws of arithmetic apply only below the boundary, then who knows what one plus one really equals when it comes to the perfect, infinite, infallible knowledge of God. Notice, implicit in this is the distinct possibility that if we really knew what God knows, we might recognize that one plus one doesn’t equal two. In fact, we’d have to say to Van Til that when he answered my first question by saying ‘sure I know that one plus one equals two’ he should have said there too ‘I don’t know’ because according to his own view of things all human knowledge is simply thinking God’s thoughts after God. But of course implicit in all of this is thinking we can’t think God’s thoughts after Him because we don’t know what laws obtain on the other side of the boundary. Well, my third question to Van Til was by now out-of-bounds, but I went ahead and asked it anyways. I said ‘Suppose of the sake of argument that God does know one plus one equals two, and suppose that you and I know that one plus one equals two, is our knowledge identical in this respect with God’s knowledge.’ And Van Til said ‘I don’t know’. Obviously, if he can’t know that God knows that one plus one equals two, there is no possibly way in which any act of human knowledge can be equivalent with any act of divine knowledge.” (min 17-22)

12. Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Categories

Nash defends “personal knowledge” or “experiential knowledge.” He gives the example of playing the piano. “The Bible is calling us to a personal knowledge of Christ that is built upon the foundation of propositional knowledge about Christ.” (min 6) Though he gives examples, he does not give a definition. [This is my biggest concern with Nash’s thought, which I also noted here:]

13. Aristotle and Dualism

“Process Theology is probably the most serious heresy presently existing within Christendom.” (min 3) “Where have all the liberals gone? Well, most of them have gone towards process theology.” (min 3)

“Process theologians don’t care about the Bible. They get their view of God from certain philosophical ideas and presuppositions.” (min 58)

14. Hellenistic Philosophy

“I don’t think we want to associate Christianity with being anti-pleasure. I think what we want to help people realize that God created us for pleasure and because of sin and stupidity most of us seek pleasure in ways that are counterproductive, and what God wants above all to give us is the greatest pleasure of all which is the pleasure of being in his presence for all of eternity. So don’t set up Christianity as the enemy of pleasure, set it up as the best and truest method of achieving pleasure.” (min 25)

“Diogenes was the first hippie, the first beatnik.” (min 38)

“The word cynic comes from the Greek word for dog.” (min 42)

“Gordon Clark takes great pains in his account of Stoicism to distinguish between the fatalism of the Stoics and a kind of theistic determinism. In a kind of theistic determinism that many people associated with Calvinism or Reformed Theology, there is one major difference from the impersonal determinism of the Stoics. That is, we Christians believe that there is one being who isn’t determined by any mechanical forces in nature. Whatever the extent to which determinism might be true in the rest of the world, it doesn’t apply to God. He is free. You and I might not be free, but God is free. … There’s another difference and I’m not so sure Clark makes this as clearly as I would like. In a true fatalism there is nothing that anybody can do to avoid the outcome. Islam is perhaps the best example of a fatalistic religious system in the world today. At least certain kinds of Islam. … A responsible kind of determinism recognizes that you can never separate an end from the means. Clark talks about this. If God determines some end to occur, that end is never going to occur apart from the means that are necessary to produce the end. … The fatalist acts as if the means play no role at all in the outcome in the end.” (min 48-51)

Paul was not the author of the epistle to the Hebrews. (min 1:08)

Nash contends that the author of the epistle to the Hebrews was a Hellenized Jew from Alexandria. And he postulates that this person is Apollos. (min 1:14)

The epistle to the Hebrews is a refutation of Philo. (min 1:22)

15. Plotinus

“The last time we met I indicated my conviction that the best person in the New Testament to be the author of Hebrews is Apollos. Why is there such resistance to anyone other than Paul as the author of Hebrews among some Fundamentalists Christians. I think that’s waning myself. I know that many years ago when I attended a Fundamentalist Bible school, I was taught that anybody who doubted the Pauline authorship of Hebrews was suspect and liberal and someone you should separate yourself from, and so on. I may be mistaken, but I believe even today in most Fundamentalist schools there is a clear recognition that Paul was not the author of Hebrews. Is anyone here a graduate of some Fundamentalist college like Liberty University or Cedarville College. You weren’t taught Paul was the author of Hebrews? See. Cedarville College is General Association of Regular Baptists. Now those are Baptists who don’t mess around, boy. They are your original fighting Baptists. If Cedarville recognizes that Paul was not the author of Hebrews. …” (min 17-18)

“Gordon Clark was more than a good philosopher. He was a committed Christian believer. And more than that, he was thoroughly at home in both theology and philosophy.” (min 32)

“Paul Tillich was a kind of Plotinian.” (min 52)

16. Augustine – 01

17. Augustine – 02

“Whenever human beings know truth, they know something that exists in the mind of God. That is Augustine’s point. Not only is that Augustine’s point, that is Gordon Clark’s point. That is one of the more important features of Gordon Clark’s theory of knowledge.”

18. Augustine – 03

“The Reformed view on salvation is totally on target. We do not in our present fallen condition have the power to choose anything on our own that would bring us to salvation.”

19. Augustine – 04

“You see, Augustine says, prior to Christianity all previous philosophies of history were cyclical in nature.” (min 11)

“Instead of regarding Augustine as the father of the philosophy of history, we ought to treat the author of the book of Hebrews as that.” (min 14)

“Augustine finally talks about the end of human history and in the process he develops one of the major theories in Christian epistemology. … Augustine is the grand architect of a very important way of approaching all Scripture called Amillennialism.” (min 19)

“All of the numbers in the book of Revelation are extremely difficult to take literally. It seems to me that one of the smartest thing we can do when we approach the book of Revelation is to take all of those numbers symbolically.” (min 24)

20. Medieval Philosophy

“Somebody has said that Eriugena’s philosophy was one of the most remarkable phenomena of the ninth century. Well, I don’t know how significant of a compliment that is because frankly I can’t think of much that happened in the ninth century that’s very important.” (min 20)

21. St. Anselm and the Ontological Argument

22. Thomas Aquinas – 01

“The theory of double truth. What Averroes meant here was simply this: a proposition could be true in philosophy, but its contradictory proposition could be true in theology. So when Averroes would be challenged as a heretic he would say well you have to distinguish what I teach as a philosopher and what I believe as a faithful muslim. As a faithful muslim I believe there is personal immortality, as a good philosopher I believe there is no personal immortality, and both of those propositions are true at the same time and in the same sense. How do you like that? He might have had a job at Westminster Theological Seminary, who knows.” (min 17)

“Oh, me. You know, what do you do when you’re forty years old and your daughter comes home from college and says ‘Daddy, I’m going to marry an empiricist.’ You know, what a tragedy. What do you do at a time like that?” (min 42)

“Now, you have in your textbook Thales to Dewey a typical Gordon Clark chapter in which he goes to work on Aquinas. … I think that’s be the most powerful and damaging criticism of Aquinas’s philosophy you will find anywhere.” (min 43)

23. Thomas Aquinas – 02

Nash agrees with Clark against Aquinas’s theory of analogy. (min 36 and following)

24. 17th Century Rationalism

Nash recommends C. Stephen Evans’s book Preserving the Person as a defense of mind-body dualism.

25. 18th Century Imperialism: Locke and Berkeley – 01

Nash believes Locke’s attack on innate ideas is an example of begging the question. (min 8) Locke defines ideas such that they must be thought; they cannot be unconscious. And thus Locke’s definition avoids rather than refutes the theories of innate ideas of Plato and others.

26. 18th Century Imperialism: Locke and Berkeley – 02

“Do you want to know, that in his own system of metaphysics Gordon Clark was an Idealist very much in the Berkeleyian camp. Now Gordon Clark, I once asked Clark why he didn’t write a book telling the world what he really believed about metaphysics. And Dr. Clark just got a kinda cute little smile on his face and he turned around and he walked away. He didn’t want to write that book, because he thought that too many people would ignore everything else he did. Yeah, he thought that if he told the world that he was really an Idealist of that sort that none of you would ever read every page in Thales to Dewey. That’s what he thought, you see. Now, I have to be a little careful here because Gordon Clark was never an empiricist. I’m not sure he would ever said ‘to be is to be perceived’ I think what he would probably say in the case of God, oh is this good, if I were a charismatic I’d have a mystical experience right now. This next sentence has never passed my lips before. But Gordon Clark would say in the case of God ‘to be is to be conceived.’ ‘To be is to be thought in the mind of God.’ Clark believed that everything in God’s creation, that means planets, stars, comets, rivers, mountains, and you are simply an idea or a collection of ideas or a proposition in the mind of God, and if ever God stopped thinking about you, or any of these other ideas, you would simply cease to exist. Now maybe someday we’ll spend some time talking about that. I don’t know whether that view of things is correct or not. I’m just letting you in on what is an interesting theory.” (min 24-26)

27. 18th Century Imperialism: David Hume

“I myself represented the wrong interpretation of Hume for several decades in my teaching. I probably have taught thousands of students the incorrect view of Hume. Which raises the question, when did I finally get straightened out myself, and the answer is when I started reading Hume.” (min 4)

“The reason why the wrong interpretation of Hume got started in the first place is because a couple of Scottish philosophers, primarily Reid and Beattie. Thomas Reid, and I think it is James Beattie. A couple contemporaries of Hume in Scotland who misinterpreted him in Hume’s own day and somehow that erroneous interpretation has come down through the years.” (min 5-6)

The wrong interpretation: “Hume took Berkeley’s principle and applied it mercilessly to the entire universe. What Hume did was to take the phrase ‘to be is to be perceived’ and it he applied it in ways that Berkeley never anticipated.” (min 6) “Hume doubted the existence of a continuing self.” (min 9) “I call this set of beliefs ‘the philosophical package.’ This is a package of three beliefs that Hume is supposed to have held. He didn’t.” (min 16)

The right interpretation: “David Hume made a distinction between what we can know and what we must believe. Now David Hume really taught that these are three things about which human knowledge is impossible. The real nature and existence of the human self is beyond the boundaries of human knowledge. The real nature and existence of God is beyond the boundaries of human knowledge. The real existence of the external world is something about which we cannot attain knowledge. Philosophy is helpless in providing legitimate knowledge about the self, God, and the world. But to say that we cannot know something is not to imply that we cannot or need not believe something.” (min 17-18) “David Hume was not an atheist. He did not deny the existence of God. His view of God was simply this: philosophy is incapable of proving that God exists.” (min 21)

28. Immanuel Kant – 01

Nash grew up in the Lutheran church.

“…Kant’s unfortunate habit of writing in increasing obscure language.” (min 5) “Starts an unfortunate trend in philosophy.” (min 6)

“Kant’s theory of knowledge incorporates elements of both rationalism and empiricism. Even though Kant ends up being in the final analysis an empiricist. He regards his work as a synthesis of both rationalism and empiricism. And here is what he will end up saying: ‘Human experience will be the content of human knowledge, but human reason will provide the form.’ You can’t have knowledge about from the form and the content, but the form and content are going to come from different sources. The content will be provided by the senses, it will be empirical, experiential, but the form in which that content will appear, that form will be supplied by the human reason, by indeed some innate faculties of the human mind.” (min 16-17)

“There are twelve categories of the understanding. … He was wrong, incidentally, in believing that there were twelve. There may be less, there may be more.” (min 28)

“If my daughter ever came home and said she got engaged to a Kantian I don’t know what I’d do.” (min 41)

“What gets interesting … no it isn’t interesting. But what is fascinating … well it isn’t fascinating either. What we’re going to talk about next week!, are Hegel’s categories.” (min 49)

“Leibniz had developed the preformation theory. … I’ll tell you something else, Gordon Clark is the major defender of the preformation theory in the 19th and 20th centuries. He really is. Nobody has articulated and defender the preformation theory in a more powerful or eloquent way in the last 200 years than Gordon Clark. Now let me tell you wha the preformation theory says. It says that there is only one reasonable answer to the question, why does every human being possess the same categories. You can’t account for this by evolution, you really can’t. Darwinism is hopeless in the face of the rationality of the human race. It makes no sense at all to suggest that the survival of the fittest has brought about a condition in which only people with these categories have survived. You know the whole business of Darwinism. Silly. Now the preformation theory says that the only reasonable explanation for this incredible situation in which every human mind possesses the same categorical structure, is that every human mind is created by another mind that possesses the same categorical understanding, categories of understanding.” (min 54-55) [Note, Clark says in Clark Speaks From the Grave that he does NOT hold to preformation and that Nash is wrong for saying he does.]

29. Immanuel Kant – 02

“What Kant’s grand scheme has done is drive us into skepticism.” (min 8)

“I want to show you how a preformation theorist, remember that word? That’s Gordon Clark. That’s me, I’m a preformationist. How a preformationist can avoid Kant’s skepticism. Here’s how. Kant denied any role for God in creating the human mind, in creating the human world, so he kinda trapped himself into this skepticism in which the real world, the noumenal world is always beyond the bounds of human knowledge. A preformationst doesn’t have that problem Here’s why. A good sensible Augustinian, like Clark, or some other people that I know would tell you that first of all, there is a correlation between the mind of God and the mind of man. The God who created us in His own image, creates us with a structure of rationality that is similar to his own. Now what that means then is, and is one of the points I make in the context of the whole book The Word of God and the Mind of Man. This is what that book calls the Logos theory. Because God has created us as creatures who are capable of knowing the mind of God, we’re not left in the dark, we’re not stuck as creatures who can never have knowledge about God. God has created us as creatures who are capable of knowing His mind and His will and His revelation. But moreover, the same God who created us as rational creatures created the universe as a rational cosmos. Consequently a preformationist doesn’t have a wall existing between some phony phenomenal world and some phony noumenal world. The same God who created the world, created us with a mind that is capable of knowing that world. We’re not trapped in this bifurcation between noumenal and phenomenal.” (min 19-21)

Nash says Kant’s wall appears in Schleiermacher, Ritschl, the neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth and Emil Brunner, the neo-liberalism of Paul Tillich and John Hick. “All these so-called big shot liberals of the 20th century, who have one thing in common: a denial of the possibility of cognitive truth about god.” (min 24) “And Kant’s Wall also appears in the thinking of Fundamentalists and Pentecostals who repudiate any role for knowledge or revealed truth and make our relationship with God nothing more than a matter of feeling or blind faith.” (min 24) “Unfortunately, as we show in the book, Kant’s Wall also shows up in the Westminster apologetic of Cornelius Van Til. … When Van Til says that the human mind reaches a wall or a boundary beyond which it cannot go and hence we can never know whether two plus two equals four for God, that is Kant’s Wall appearing at Westminster Theological Seminary. It’s the same principle.” (min 25)

Kant, who was of a Lutheran Pietist upbringing, has a “sort of pietistic irrationalism.” (min 27)

30. Immanuel Kant – 03

Nash rejects Kant because (1) his theory leads to skepticism, (2) he fails to deal with the question of why all humans have the same categories, and (3) Kant’s system is guilty of several major contradictions.

“As you know, the Word of God and the Mind of Man book suggests Cornelius Van Til and his theory of knowledge is a captive to a position that’s very close to Kant’s Wall.” (min 27)

31. Thomas Reid and G. W. F. Hegel

“Reid asked the question Kant refused to ask, ‘why do all human beings have the same belief forming mechanisms?’ And Reid’s answer was ‘because God made us that way.’” (min 6)

“I think this is an extremely interesting view to pursue. In fact it now functions as the foundation of a whole new school of epistemology, called Reformed Epistemology.” (min 7)

“Is Reformed Epistemology a good thing? I’m a Reformed Epistemologist.” (min 11)

“For Hegel the categories have a reality outside of individual human minds. The categories are a feature of objective human reality.” (min 19)

Nash believes that Hegel is often misinterpreted. Speaking on the wrong view Nash says: “Hegel’s dialectic is often taught as though it was a three-step operation. And the three words that are used to indicate these three steps are these: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.” (min 38)

“Hegel gives us all of the reason to reject his own system. Because on his own view of things his own system of philosophy is just one more imperfect stage on the road to the absolute.” (min 54)

“This particular picture of Hegel has been almost an official interpretation of him for 150 years, but there are two problems with it. … There are two reasons why this particular interpretation of Hegel is mistaken. Mistake #1, it leads people to think that Hegel always operated in triads, in groups of three. … Hegel did not always proceed in terms of three steps. … Objection #2: The way I’ve presented Hegel implies that the opposition is some kind of hard fast logical contradiction, black and white, night and day sort of thing. When you look at Hegel’s examples the oppositions are frequently not contradictions at all, they are just different in some minor way on occasion.” (min 55-57) “It seems to be either Marx or certain Marxists who are responsible for this particular (mistaken) view of Hegel.” (min 58)

32. Soren Kierkegaard

“It is a mistaken, I think a serious misreading of Kierkegaard to think of his as an enemy of reason, as an opponent of logic, as an irrationalist, a Christian irrationalist. I guess in saying that I’m disagreeing with Gordon Clark’s handling of Kierkegaard. There are some very good philosophers who have I think done a very bad job of understanding Kierkegaard. To some extent Kierkegaard deserves some of the blame for this because of his style of writing.” (min 4)

“Three thinkers in particular have helped rehabilitate Kierkegaard in our thinking. … C. Stephen Evans … Robert Roberts (his parents ran out of names I guess) … and Merold Westphal.” “Their work has persuaded me that it is really an injustice to think of Kierkegaard as an irrationalist.” (min 6-7)

“We’ve fallen into the mistake of thinking that Barth understood Kierkegaard correctly. Well, Gordon Clark misunderstood him, so did Karl Barth. Kierkegaard, unlike Barth, believed that the Bible contained revealed truth from God. You can’t make sense out of Kierkegaard’s writings without that assumption.” (min 8)

“I’m going to be frank with you, Kierkegaard and his whole family at times were weird.” (min 15)

33. Jean-Paul Sartre

“What Clark leaves you with [in Thales to Dewey] is the idea that philosophy seems to run in a circle. That human beings never learn from the errors of the past. And perhaps the reason why the history of philosophy keeps running in circles, is because human beings keep trying to find the truth while all the time they’re ignoring God’s revelation of the truth.” (min 9)

“There have appeared recently some bright spots in the history of 20th century philosopher. … But those bright spots have occurred in the work of Christian philosophers.” (min 11)

“I definitely do disagree with [Francis] Schaeffer’s analysis of Kierkegaard. I disagree with Gordon Clark’s analysis of Kierkegaard.” (min 15)

Nash notes his Lutheran upbringing was in the Missouri Synod. (min 19)

34. Karl Marx

“We make heroes out of Mahatma Ghandi. This man was a moral vacuum.” (min 3)

Nash recommends Paul Johnson’s Modern Times and his Intellectuals. “This thing [Intellectuals] is dynamite.” (min 4)

35. Friedrich Nietzsche

36. 20th Century Philosophy

Nash speaks highly of Alvin Plantinga’s work.

1 thought on “Notes on Ronald H. Nash’s lecture series, “History of Philosophy and Christian Thought””

Comments are closed.