Why I am a Clarkian

[I’m glad to present this post with the contributions of several individuals each writing on the question “Why I am a Clarkian.” – DJD]

Rev. Doug Douma, M.B.A., M.Div. – Pastor of First Presbyterian Church (BPC), Unionville NY.

While I’m not keen on promoting myself as a “Clarkian” any more than a “Calvinist,” there is no doubt that the life and work of Dr. Gordon H. Clark has had a profound effect on me. I grew up in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and in time developed a strong interest in soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. In my twenties I learned much from my Lutheran pastor Kevin Armbrust and considered attending Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Studying the secular philosophers for some time but being disappointed with their answers, I began a study of Christian intellectuals and their work. As an engineer and academic I desired to understand the Christian faith and to know it as true. I found interest especially in the writings of Martin Luther, Ron Paul, Hugh Ross, William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, and Francis Schaeffer. However, I never felt entirely satisfied with their overall approaches to understanding the world. It was in happening upon the writings of of Gordon Clark that I found something much more satisfying. Through his writings I came not only to reject evidentialism in favor of a presuppositionalism but to in fact change my soteriology to that of Calvinism. This opened up the world of Reformed theology to me. Through much effort I eventually sided with Calvinism over Lutheranism, even attending a Reformed seminary and becoming a Presbyterian minister. Clark’s insights have continued to impact me in many theological areas. I find that he often provides comments that more exactly get to the heart of the matter. His views are sometimes surprising but often produce those “aha” moments where you say “how did I not see this before when it was right in front of me?” While through the years I’ve expanded my readings into the broader Reformed world of Calvin, Hodge, Hoeksema, Hendriksen, Witherspoon, Nash, and Muller, I continue to be most impressed by and intrigued with Gordon Clark and have found great friendships with many who also esteem his writings.

 

Rev. Charles Roberts, M.Div., Th.M., D.Min. – Pastor of Reedy River Presbyterian Church (BPC), Conestee SC.

I enrolled at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1988 primarily to pursue academic studies in apologetics, philosophy, and theology. The reason I chose Westminster was because of one man: Cornelius Van Til. I had begun reading his works prior to entering seminary and having earned a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy in 1977, I was eager to continue philosophical studies, but this time, from a distinctly Reformed, Christian perspective.

Soon after I enrolled, I also joined the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and was received under care of the Philadelphia Presbytery. Through my course of study, I became aware of the “Clark-Van Til Controversy.” My impressions of Dr Gordon H. Clark were largely grounded in the reflections and analysis of seminary faculty and presbytery officials who lived through that controversy as staunch supporters of Van Til. With the exception of Dr Clair Davis, many of those men had negative attitudes toward Dr Clark. My first “encounter” with Dr Clark was his book, The Doctrine of Man, assigned reading in a seminary class by the same name. I recall, as I read it, being aware of how concise and intelligible it was compared to similar writings by Van Til!

The more I read Van Til, the more I became aware of how obscure and confusing some of his writings were. I knew of older men, who had actually studied with Van Til, who likewise confessed to having had difficulty making sense of some his lectures.

Dr Clark’s writings by contrast continued to appeal to me for the simple reason that they were clear and logically coherent. But there was still the legacy of the “controversy” and the bad impression I was given of Dr Clark that made me hesitant to rely too much on his work.

All of that changed for me a few years ago upon reading Rev. Doug Douma’s superb biography of Gordon Clark, The Presbyterian Philosopher. From that book I learned how dishonorably Dr Clark was treated by some of those on the Van Til side of the “controversy.” But even more importantly, I got to know the real Gordon Clark as a man of immense faith and scholarship, and a man completely dedicated to the Bible as the Word of God. For all these reasons, and especially because of Dr Clark’s strident fidelity to the authority of Scripture and to the Westminster Confession of Faith, I unashamedly and by God’s grace, call myself a Clarkian.

 

Sean Gerety (https://godshammer.wordpress.com/)

There are many reasons why I am a “Clarkian” and looking back there is only one other experience in my Christian walk that comes close to discovering Clark. That happened when I was a relatively new Christian and stumbled on Francis Schaeffer debating some long-forgotten atheist on a late-night rerun of the Phil Donahue Show. At that time Schaeffer was the first Christian I had seen who clearly understood what he believed and more importantly why, and he could defend his faith in such a way that he destroyed his opponent’s arguments without destroying the man. From there I devoured everything Schaeffer wrote. At that time, Schaeffer provided an intellectual oasis in an otherwise barren Evangelical wasteland. That is until I came across Gordon Clark.

As a somewhat lax member of the Conservative Book Club in the late 80s and early 90s, and before Al Gore invented the Internet, I would, on occasion, forget to return my postcard indicating my monthly book selection and would end up getting one of the Club’s “mystery” selections. One particular month the “mystery” selection was Gordon Clark’s Thales to Dewey. After having taken virtually every philosophy course available at college, I was intrigued at this one-volume history of philosophy and dove right in. I was immediately impressed by the clarity of Clark’s writing and, at that time, had no idea that he was a widely published Christian philosopher, much less an apologist. The one hint at Clark’s apologetic method came at the concluding paragraph to Thales:

The history of philosophy began with naturalism, and so far as this volume is concerned it ends with naturalism. The Presocratic naturalism dissolved into Sophism, from which a metaphysics arose; and the metaphysics lost itself in a mystic trance. Then under the influence of an alien source, Western Europe appealed to a divine revelation. In the sixteenth century one group put their complete trust in revelation, while another development turned to unaided human reason. This latter movement has now abandoned its metaphysics, it’s rationalism, and even the fixed truths of naturalistic science. It has dissolved into Sophism. Does this mean that philosophers and cultural epochs are nothing but children who pay their fair to take another ride on the merry-go-round? Is this Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence? To answer this question for himself, the student, since he cannot ride very fast into the future and discover what a new age will do, might begin by turning back to the first page and pondering the whole thing again. This will at least stave off suicide for a few days more.

Thales to Dewey was a great introduction to Clark but that might have been as far as things went if God did not intervene. A few years later after moving to Virginia for a job change, I ran into a group of friends hotly debating the doctrine of predestination for which I was decidedly in the “free will” camp. While I did not join the debate, a few of the arguments caused me to seriously think about what it means to “live and move and have our being in God.” Then I remember the back pages of my copy of Thales to Dewey where they had a list of Clark books under the heading; “Intellectual Ammunition.” There I found Clark’s volume, Predestination. I figured anyone who could write such an excellent single-volume history of philosophy could tackle something as sticky and confusing as predestination. Was I right! That book kept me up at nights for weeks searching the Scriptures to see if what this Clark guy was saying was correct. The sheer weight of the biblical material Clark marshaled in favor of God’s sovereign predestination was enough to rip the Arminian blinders from my eyes. However, what finally and forever tipped the balance was Clark’s argument from omniscience. But, rather than go over Clark’s argument here I’ll let readers discover that gem for themselves (here’s a hint, it’s the reason why the only consistent Arminian is an Open Theist who retains free will but loses God).

After reading Predestination I thought of myself as a lone survivor of a plane crash with no idea why my life was spared while everyone scattered around me was dead. Admittedly, at that point, realizing that most of what I was taught about Christianity — and all of what I thought I knew about my own salvation — was false, I was ready to toss my bible into the fireplace, that is, if I couldn’t make sense of how all the pieces fit. Thankfully, Clark provided the solution because he, probably more than anyone I’ve come across since, defends Christianity as a logical, coherent, propositional system of truths and not an aggregate of disjointed and unsolvable paradoxes and “mysteries.” Consequently, and through Clark, I learned that the Bible reveals to the mind of men the architecture of God’s mind which is logic. Or, as Cark put it:

“Logic is fixed, universal, necessary, and irreplaceable. Irrationality contradicts the Biblical teaching from beginning to end. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not insane. God is a rational being, the architecture of whose mind is logic.”

Also, through Clark, I was introduced to (more like, confronted with) the Westminister Confession of Faith which provides a method for reading and understanding the Scriptures right in the first chapter. Through Clark, I was also introduced to the world of Augustine, Calvin, Hodge, Reymond, Hoeksema, and other Reformed and pre-Reformed giants. But, the more I dug into Clark’s volumes I was also introduced to the philosophic system that best represents the structure outlined in the Confession. And, for any philosophic system to begin, much less withstand the world’s onslaught, it must start with epistemology. And, that’s precisely where Clark’s biblical philosophy begins with his groundbreaking, Introduction to Christian Philosophy. However, since this was first published almost thirty years ago, there wasn’t even a name for Clark’s unique biblical epistemology. At the time, Clark referred to his theory, somewhat unsatisfactorily, as “dogmatism.” But, given the word’s negative connotations it wasn’t until Clark’s publisher and best student, John Robbins, coined the phrase “Scripturalism” in 1993 that Clark’s unique theory of knowledge got its name.

There is so much to commend in Clark’s many works. His theology proper is groundbreaking even if it’s not without some controversy (particularly for people who are not willing to do their homework). His biblical commentaries are easy and conversational. His recorded lectures (free to download at the Trinity Foundation website) are often challenging and reveal his dry sense of humor sometimes missed in his written word (although it’s there too and I’ve found myself busting out laughing at times reading his books). These recorded lectures also provide a great sense of what it must have been like to sit as a student in one of Clark’s classrooms.

So, while Francis Schaeffer is an oasis, Gordon Clark is a lush prairie spanning the horizon. To the one who has yet to discover the mind of Gordon Clark . . . happy trails.

 

Charlie J. Ray, M.Div. (http://reasonablechristian.blogspot.com/)

I had been reading about Calvinism even from a young age in every article I could find in the Encyclopedia Britannica which my father bought for our education before the internet. Years later when I became a Christian I joined the Assemblies of God church, a Pentecostal denomination in my hometown because they seemed to meet my emotional needs at the time. Later I received a divine call from God to attend Bible college at the Assemblies of God school in Lakeland, Florida in 1988. It was there that my interest in theology became a lifelong compulsion. I hesitate to use the word passion for obvious reasons. My first hearing about Dr. Gordon H. Clark was in an apologetics class taught by a visiting professor and the textbook used was Classical Apologetics by Dr. R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsey. Although at the time I was convinced that evidentialism was the way to go, I did find it interesting that Cornelius Van Til and Gordon H. Clark were mentioned as presuppositionalists and Clark was accused of being a fideist. As a Pentecostal I had already noticed an indirect support for postmodernism as a way to spread the Pentecostal/Charismatic experiential theology. This was troubling to me because many of the signs, wonders and miracles were not genuine but were easily observable as psychological manipulation and even hypnotism. Unfortunately, classical apologetics emphasized the miracles of the Bible rather than propositional revelation in Scripture.

After becoming a Calvinist just prior to graduating in 1995 from Asbury Seminary, Wilmore, KY, a Wesleyan holiness school, I was called to ministry as a prison chaplain. I became a Calvinist at Asbury after hearing Dr. Jerry Walls attack Calvinism with his best arguments and I found most of them to be fallacious and even contradictory. Anyway when I became a prison chaplain at North Florida Reception Center, Lake Butler, FL, the senior chaplain put me in charge of writing to various churches and parachurch organizations to ask for free books and literature for the inmates. Since I was a new Calvinist in the stage cage I decided to write to the Trinity Foundation, which I had heard of on the new medium of the internet. The Trinity Foundation was generous and sent the chapel one copy of almost all of Dr. Clark’s books, one of which I read voraciously. I didn’t own any copies for myself at the time. But the book that most caught my interest was Clark’s book, The Biblical Doctrine of Man. I don’t know why that one caught my attention but it turned out to be an eye opener because in that book Clark completely dismantles any idea that man is anything other than an intellectual being who is God’s image. That completely contrasted with the irrationalism and emotionalism of the Pentecostal theology of postmodernist and emotional experience.

For a few years Clark did not make an impact on me again until I came across Sean Gerety’s blog, God’s Hammer. After engaging in a few debates in the comments section over the doctrine of the incarnation, I was challenged by Sean to read [Clark’s] God’s Hammer, The Trinity, The Incarnation, A Christian View of Men and Things, A Christian Philosophy, and Thales to Dewey. Eventually I read all of those books and everything else I could get my hands on. Although Clark did not answer all of my questions, his books gave me the ammunition I needed to attack the presuppositions of the Pentecostal movement and the Arminians. Clark’s writings are a must for anyone who is seriously engaged in theology, apologetics, and evangelism as a classical Calvinist. Of all the theologians I have read, Dr. Gordon H. Clark has made the most lasting impact on my Calvinist worldview. May the peace of God be with you!

 

Dr. D. Clair Davis, M.A., Th.D. – Emeritus Professor of History at Westminster Theological Seminary

I’m delighted that Doug Douma is telling our world about Gordon Clark, my beloved GHC. I relish this opportunity to do some catching-up in my gratitude for him. I was a freshman at Wheaton when our New Evangelical leader Carl F. H. Henry came through and encouraged us to be sure to read his newest. I did and decided on a year at Butler with him. This is what he gave me:

#1 The old model for theological education was that you needed grounding in the liberal arts first. That could help you see where your unconscious mind was going, so you could then see what was really there in the gospel, more and different from what you thought. GHC did that so well, pushing you with all his Socratic questions, showing you your taken-for-granted foolishness, and then the beauty of God’s own gospel. One hardly hears about that old model today, as it becomes easier and easier to define what God says in the way that our culture talks. I am still a total Clarkian myself in trying my best to maintain a biblical, not cultural-compatible world view. (Oh, at my mature age I can say that I scored 99 in the philosophy GRE, thank you GHC).

#2 ‘Compare Scripture with Scripture,’ that’s how only the best theology works. What it says about something here needs to be compared with what it says over there. In the world of logic that’s the solid foundation, GHC did that so well, I want to join him always in that. He has gotten flack for imposing Aristotle on the Bible, but do you really want to say Bible words keep changing meaning, so that ‘Christ is risen’ could mean ‘not really?’ Yes, the Bible isn’t a logic book but a story book, but still. I will always regret that conflict with Van Til and the OPC, as I know that he never exalted logic the way he was accused of. I join with him always in desiring a clearer theology, but never at the expense of the Lord himself.

#3 I heard him preach in that tiny church many times, and he was solidly biblical, never throwing in some ’system’ of his. There are too many people who make too much out of their ‘distinctives,’ especially the places where they are smarter than anyone else. That never was GHC, he knew from the Word he carefully understood what is really important and worth talking about. In God’s providence he lived in tiny, isolated ‘movements,’ but that’s not where his head and heart were. To God alone be Glory, Jonathan Edwards gets more credit for that, but that was GHC’s heart too. He was Reformed all right, but just the right leader for all those New Evangelicals! I have always desired that for myself.

Oh, I know Billy Graham found him cold, I’m sorry. I know the story, how he asked his logic class to tell him the logical flaws in the chapel message they just heard, that doesn’t feel right. But Carl F.H. Henry, FatHead, was just right, GHC was and is still the brain of our New Evangelical Gospel.

 

Benjamin Wong (http://culture-in-criticism.blogspot.com/)

I am a Christian who believes that the Bible is the Word of God. I am not a Clarkian in the divisive sense of being a follower of Gordon H. Clark. I am a Clarkian in the sense that I have learned a lot about the Bible, theology, and philosophy from Gordon Clark and agree with his basic positions.

I became a Christian in the mid-1970s in my teens and I was very troubled by certain philosophical questions. I found out that the questions that troubled me were discussed by Christians in the apologetical literature and I sampled many authors then writing in search of answers: Josh McDowell, Stuart Hackett, Norman Geisler, Bernard Ramm, Francis Schaeffer, Edward Carnell, Gordon R. Lewis, Cornelius Van Til, Gordon Clark. … Theologically, I was converted to Calvinism by reading Loraine Boettner’s The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (1932) and I have since been very comfortable with the Reformed faith, being convinced that it is true to the Bible. I came across the writings of Cornelius Van Til before Gordon Clark and at one time, I fancied myself of being a Van Tilian. I do not now recall the exact circumstances, but I received the Trinity Review in the mail from its first issue and I was gradually converted to Clark’s viewpoint through the writing ministry of John W. Robbins.

What intrigued me most about the philosophy of Gordon Clark is that it may be considered as a research program. The starting point of the program is the propositions asserted by God in the Bible. The method is logical deductions. The questions or problems of the research program are anything one poses to the Bible. The fruit consists of what one is able to deduce from the Bible and Reformed theology (i.e. a theological interpretation of the Bible). The law of non-contradiction functions as a control for consistency: what is logically compossible with the Bible is possibly true, what is inconsistent with the Bible is false. In many ways a simple but fascinating program for those who believe the Bible is the Word of God. Gordon Clark has developed a comprehensive philosophy in executing this program and I am thoroughly intrigued.

 

Dr. Bill Higgins, M.A.T.S, Th.M, S.T.M, Ph.D – Field Secretary for Mexico with Westminster Biblical Missions

I studied with Dr. Clark in the late 70’s/early 80’s, as a student at Covenant College. Later, I would produce and direct the “Clark/Hoover Debate,” on behalf of Whitefield Theological Seminary. I must confess that at the time I was studying under Dr. Clark, I was more of a Vantillian in my own personal leanings, so did not have the immediate appreciation for Dr. Clark’s system that I would later grow into.

Dr. Clark’s high view of knowledge and truth always impressed me, with his insistence that competing epistemologies could never achieve knowledge. As a young student, it frustrated me that he would not grant the status of “knowledge” to many of the things I felt I “knew.” In his Socratic way he would simply ask me, “How do you know?” When I asked if I could not know something without knowing how I knew it, he then asked me if I felt there was any difference between knowledge and opinion, and if so, what was the difference.

Even then I had a sense that he was committed to guarding the absolute epistemic certitude of the truth of the Scriptures. But it was not until later that I came to ask myself the important and humbling question – why was it so important to me that I be able to claim the status of “knowledge” for my everyday opinions? Or, put another way, if my “knowledge” of what I ate for breakfast this morning held the same status as my “knowledge” that Jesus Christ raised from the dead on the third day, did that not relegate the truths of Scripture to the realm of probability (albeit perhaps a greater degree of probability)? And the more I was exposed to other people who seemed quite comfortable with a “probable” Savior, the more I became convinced that Dr. Clark was right all along.

Our confidence in the Scripture as the Word of God must be that of epistemic certitude, even if my other everyday pet truth-claims must be relegated to the status of mere opinion. And the more I have read Dr. Clark in the intervening years, the more clearly I have come to understand and appreciate the strength and rigor of his philosophical system as being truly Biblical. I was talking once with Dr. Barker (Dean of Faculty at Covenant College), who told me that Covenant was extremely privileged during the short time of her existence to have been home to two truly genius minds. Most schools of our caliber would be quite fortunate to have one, but we had two. One of those minds was Ira David Halvorsen. The other was Gordon Haddon Clark. I consider myself extremely privileged to have known both of them.

 

Dr. Richard Bacon, M.A.R., M.Div., Th.M., Th.D., Ph.D. – Pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church Reformed, Kemp TX.

When I lived in Memphis, TN we were members of an RPCES church. This was in the early 70s when the PCA was just organizing so I heard of some PCUS churches joining the PCA. However, we did not join a PCA church until we moved to Texas in the 1980s.

Although Gordon Clark was a member of the RPCES at the same time I was, I was only vaguely knowledgeable about him or his teachings. After moving to Texas, however, I believed myself to be called into the ministry and began studying to that end.

Since I was getting a rather “late” start in my studies (I was 40 years old by that time), I looked about for a Seminary that was willing to train me totally or in great measure via correspondence. Though this is a bit more available these days, at the time there were not many options. I contacted the President of the Whitefield Theological Seminary and he informed me that most of their work was done by correspondence.

Before committing to a long term course of studies I visited the seminary and began “testing out” of various courses. By the time I left I had tested out of enough courses to receive a M.A. In Religious Studies. But more importantly, I was introduced to the writings of Gordon Clark and to the ministry of the Trinity Foundation and John Robbins.

Dr. Robbins was kind enough to furnish me with a copy of all Dr. Clark’s books free of charge. Those books became a core part of my studies as I continued toward a M.Div. degree. After I was awarded the M.Div. I continued studying Clark while also accepting a call at the First Presbyterian Church of Rowlett TX (a PCA congregation). I think the two most foundational books by Clark to influence my thinking were Religion, Reason, And Revelation and Three Types of Religious Philosophy.

Over the years, Dr. Robbins and I remained in touch and he taught a seminar for us on the subject of epistemology. Recordings of this seminar were available from the Trinity Foundation as “The Blue Banner Lectures.” We remained friends until his death.

 

Dr. Elihu Carranza, M.A., Ph.D., – Professor Emeritus, San Jose State University

Back in the 1980s, I came across a Trinity Review, “The Virtue of Name-Calling” by John Robbins. I do not recall how it came into my possession. I may have subscribed to the Trinity Foundation’s newsletter and then subsequently began receiving Reviews, this one being the first of many. I do recall sharing it with one of the ministers of a local non-denominational (at that time) congregation where we worshipped for a time. The minister’s reaction upon reading the Review in my presence was one of instant interest and mild surprise. Apparently, he was not familiar with the Trinity Foundation’s John Robbins or the Foundation’s publications.

The reason I mention this much is that this minister’s reaction was very much like my own. My own interest was Robbins’ appeal to logic’s good and necessary consequences on behalf of Truth, and the Christian’s obligation to witness to the Truth. If Truth, not merely the search for Truth, but Revealed Truth requires the good and necessary consequence of a conclusion that names a well-known theologian a liar when he contradicts the plain teaching of the Scriptures, then according to Robbins, it is not wrong or a sin to call such person a liar or a fool. Robbins supports “name-calling” with numerous passages of Scripture that show it to be a sound practice, even a virtue, to label someone with an unpleasant but appropriate name when an examination of that person’s theology contradicts the Scripture’s truths.

Name-calling, accurately done, is not only not a sin, it is a virtue. It is identifying a person for what he is, and this cannot be done except by doing it. Anyone who studies the examples quoted here or any of the many other examples in the Bible will find that the name is used in conjunction with stated reasons for using it. The reasons constitute an argument, and the name is a conclusion. Those who deny that Jesus came in the flesh are antichrists and liars. Those who deny the resurrection are fools, and so on. The reluctance to call names is a type of reluctance to draw valid conclusions from the evidence; it is an attempt to “curb logic,” to use the neo-orthodox phrase. As such, it is but another example of the anti rationalism of our age. (The Trinity Review, The Trinity Foundation, No.8, Oct. 1979, p.1)

In this Review, Robbins provided his readers with the biblical truth (evidence) that fully persuades by the application of logic that name-calling is a virtue.

In that chapter alone [Matthew 23], Christ calls the scribes and Pharisees names 16 times. The names are “hypocrites” (7 times), “son of Hell” (once),”blind guides” (twice), “fools and blind” (3 times), “whited sepulchres” (once), “serpents” (once), and “offspring of vipers” (once). Since Christ was without sin, we may deduce by good and necessary consequence that name-calling as such is not a sin. Since everything Christ did was righteous and virtuous, we may deduce by good and necessary consequence that accurate name-calling is a virtue. (p.1)

The interested reader is encouraged to read Robbins’ Review for a more complete account of believing, speaking, writing, and thereby faithfully witnessing to the truths of Scripture in private or public discourse. Anything less cheapens the Gospel message and Jesus Christ, Our God and Savior.

At the end of this Review, John Robbins introduced me (and other readers) to Gordon H. Clark. In a small box at the end of the original Trinity Review, he wrote in part:

The Trinity Papers. Your contributions are needed now to finance the publication of two Trinity Papers this year, Language and the Bible and The Bible is Truth, both by Dr. Gordon H. Clark. [The Trinity Review, Number 8, The Trinity Foundation, October 1979, p. 2]

This brief note was the occasion for subsequently coming to know the theology of Gordon H. Clark, which Clark described as Dogmatism, and later Robbins labelled Scripturalism.

“Scripturalism is the logically consistent application of Christian – that is, Scriptural – ideas to all fields of thought.” Sola Scriptura means “an uncompromising devotion to Scripture: All our thoughts – there are no exceptions – are to be brought into conformity with Scripture, for all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are contained in Scripture.” (John W. Robbins, An Introduction to Gordon H. Clark, Part I, No. 101, Jul. 93; Part II, No. 241, Mar. 05.)

Gordon Clark’s Christian Dogmatism (Scripturalism) manifests a devotion to Scriptural Truth and logical, valid, sound reasoning deduced from biblical premises.

Christian dogmatism … must be realistic. The real object of knowledge is itself present to the mind. … These objects of knowledge are not trivialities such as blues and sweets. They are truths or propositions. An example, … is the proposition that God justifies sinners on the basis of Christ’s imputed righteousness. … There are of course other thoughts, objects, or realities. Every Biblical proposition is one. These never change nor go out of existence, for they are constituents of God’s mind. Knowing them, we know God. … We know God directly, for in him we live and move and have our being. (Gordon H. Clark, Three Types of Religious Philosophy, The Trinity Foundation, © 1989, Jefferson, Maryland, p. 123)

Scripturalism is epistemological philosophy about God and reality. God reveals knowledge of Himself and His Creation in Jesus Christ and in the Scripture’s true propositions. In Scripture, God’s plan of redemption reveals the way of salvation leading to ultimate glorification. The Bible declares the basis for moral obligations and duty to God, others, and society. The Bible Alone is the axiom of Scripturalism as a world and life view. Jesus witnessed to the truth when he declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me.” (John 14:6)

 

Rev. Greg Poorman M.Div. – Pastor of Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church, Painesville, OH.

It may seem all too easy to associate oneself with a label in the Church of Jesus Christ. However, looking to those who have gone before us and discovered much more than this writer ever will is quite easy. Gordon H. Clark and his ministry to the Church was and is for all of us an ongoing journey.

I am a Calvinist, and to be Clarkian seems an appropriate fit. The doctrines which Dr. Clark espoused and reiterated were all given before him in such detail that he would refer back to them for support. I don’t look to Clark for confirmation that the Bible is clear on the doctrine of predestination, I relish in his clarity and detail of the doctrine. His teachings on this subject, like many are thorough and helpful to any who would read and listen to the man.

His statement defining church government is one all Presbyterians should not forget: “The reference to elders is a reminder that the New Testament not only teaches basic elements of salvation by the blood of Christ, but also gives instructions on how to organize a Church. Christians are not left to their own inventions on matters of Church government.” Clark puts the hammer down and leaves no room for any of us to depart from the Bible Alone when dealing with church government or any doctrines found therein.

Clarks commitment to the Westminster Confession of Faith is another reason for this writer to associate with the man. He writes in his commentary on the WCF 1:1; “Perhaps it would be better to understand the situation in terms of innate or a priori ideas. In the act of creation God implanted in the man knowledge of His existence. Romans 1:32 and 2:15 seem to indicate that God also implanted some knowledge of morality. We are born with this knowledge; it is not manufactured out sensory experience.” It is this type of concise thinking that brings a true believer peace and the ability for further growth in Christ.

Our starting point (our axiom) is always the Word of God. Clark is clear on this and helps us truly develop a Christian mind. I do not claim to be an expert on all of Dr. Clark’s works, but if understanding thus far what I do grasp makes me a Clarkian, put it on a t-shirt and I will wear it.

6 thoughts on “Why I am a Clarkian”

  1. Doug,

    What is the defining element to being a “Clarkian”? Is it his apologetics, supralapsarianism, his views of saving faith and/or his premillennialism or a combination of these. Does one have to be Presbyterian or is it possible for a Lutheran, Reformed Episcopalian or Sovereign Grace Baptist to be one? Does one even need to be Calvinist to be one if he holds to his apologetic system?

    I am asking for meaning not membership!

    1. Well, one defining element of being a Clarkian is asking for definitions! 🙂

      For these essays I just let each answer as they would without specifying the term.

    2. Scott, my short answer would be epistemology. There are several methods of apologetics, there are many supralapsarians, views on faith (although GHC in my view is somewhat unique in his presentation of saving faith and he’s absolutely great!), eschatology, etc., etc., but until one grasps GHC’s epistemology you haven’t really grasped Clark at all. I would add that if one is a professing Christian, of whatever denomination, while he might not become a “Clarkian” he or she certainly will benefit tremendously from reading and understanding GHC. Personally, it took Gordon H. Clark to make a Presbyterian out of me after my conversion. But men like Carl Henry weren’t Presbyterians but were what I would call “Clarkians.”

      Blessings,
      LJ

    1. Great question and you may very likely know the answer better than I! I gave my copies of “God, Revelation, and Authority” away to a young man as kind of a wedding gift recently so I don’t have them handy. But my impression of Henry would be that he was more broadly “evangelical” than as a confessionally reformed Calvinist. I guess I’d call him “Calvinistic” at least. Here’s a quote from the Heidelblog that might help:

      >When the young neo-Evangelicals, Billy Graham, Carl F. H. Henry, & co. established Christianity Today in 1956 they did so to offer an alternative to the more liberal Christian Century magazine. In its early years there was a strong confessionally Reformed presence in the magazine as writers such as Gordon Clark, (Henry’s mentor), Corneilius Van Til, and G. C. Berkouwer appeared regularly. Further, though not confessionally or ecclesiastically Reformed, Henry was influenced by Reformed theology. In the fifty-three years since the relationship between broader evangelicalism and confessional Reformed Christianity has changed markedly.<

      I’m guessing if you could sit down and ask Carl Henry pointed questions on all five of the points of Calvinism you’d come away, exhausted!, but convinced he was a Calvinist.

      Blessings,
      LJ

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