Biblical Epistemology 101

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

I find it strange how many who claim to hold to the biblical epistemology of Gordon Clark fail to understand even the first principles of his theory.  For Clark knowledge requires an account.  That is, for a proposition to rise to the level of knowledge it has to be justified.  Clark is not alone as Greg Bahsen writes:

Beliefs that are arbitrarily adopted or based upon faulty grounds, even when they turn out to be true, do not qualify as instances of ‘knowledge’ … What is the additional ingredient, besides being correct, that a belief must have in order to count as knowledge?  It must be substantiated, supported, or justified by evidence.  Knowledge is true belief held on adequate grounds rather than held fallaciously or haphazardly.  To put it traditionally, knowledge is justified, true belief. [Van Til’s Apologetics, pg. 178]

Where Clark differed from Bahnsen was on the question of evidence as Clark maintained that Scripture alone provides both the content and account for knowledge.  Apart from the axiom of Scripture knowledge is otherwise unobtainable and all secular epistemologies end in skepticism not knowledge. This includes even the widely esteemed claims of science; the crown jewel of empiricism.  Clark is not alone in this either as Karl Popper observed:

First, although in science we do our best to find the truth, we are conscious of the fact that we can never be sure whether we have got it. We have learnt in the past, from many disappointments, that we must not expect finality . . .But this view of scientific method . . . means that in science there is no “knowledge”, in the sense in which Plato and Aristotle understood the word, in the sense which implies finality; in science, we never have sufficient reason for the belief that we have attained the truth. What we usually call ‘scientific knowledge’ is, as a rule, not knowledge in this sense, but rather information regarding the various competing hypotheses and the way in which they have stood up to various tests; it is, using the language of Plato and Aristotle, information concerning the latest, and the best tested, scientific ‘opinion’. This view means, furthermore, that we have no proofs in science (excepting, of course, pure mathematics and logic). In the empirical sciences, which alone can furnish us with information about the world we live in, proofs do not occur, if we mean by ‘proof’ an argument which establishes once and for ever the truth of a theory – The Problem of Induction.

The inability to arrive at final truths is the definition of skepticism, which is why Clark concludes; “Instead of being the sole gateway to all knowledge, science is not a way to any knowledge.”

There are two basic objections to Clark’s theory. The first is that it begs all questions and that the axiom of Scripture is too broad and allows men to account for everything from the laws of logic, ethics, politics, metaphysics, soteriology, the principles of economics (see John Robbin’s excellent lectures “Introduction to Economics” and “Intermediate Economics”), and more.  Clark responds that is exactly what an axiom or a first principle should do:

It is their function to cover all that follows…  Euclidean geometry many have six axioms and a hundred theorems.  The axioms imply the theorems, to be sure; but the theorems are not axioms.  The distinction between axioms and theorems is for the purpose of arranging derivative truths under a basic or comprehensive truth… Thus an all inclusive axiom that swallows everything at one gulp is most desirable.  An Introduction to Christian Philosophy, 63.

Not surprisingly, this is precisely why so many Christians are attracted to Clark’s epistemology since it reflects in philosophic terms Paul’s affirmation concerning the truth of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16,17:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

It also is a theory of knowledge that best conforms with Peter’s affirmation that Scripture is “a light shining in a dark place” and is a principle that we would do well to heed even in epistemology.  Clark does this in spades; much to the chagrin of even many thoughtful Christians.

The second major objection to Clark’s uniquely biblical epistemology is from the opposite direction and that is that the axiom of Scripture from which all knowledge is derived is simply too narrow and cannot provide an account for things we ordinarily believe to be true. Clark’s immediate reply to this objection is:

As has been shown, secular epistemologies cannot provide for any knowledge at all, therefore whatever revelation gives us, however restricted, is to be received with thanksgiving.

However, not being content with Clark’s answer (and evidently not particularly thankful for revelation as the sole source of knowledge either), this is where even those attracted to Clark’s theory chafe.  The reason is simple, and one that was constantly used to attack Clark throughout his career:  if knowledge is limited to Scripture as the axiomatic starting point and its necessary inferences or theorems, where does that leave everyday knowledge even those propositions with eternal consequences?  For example, can I even know that I am a saved man?  Well, the short answer is no.  I realize this is shocking to even many Christians, but assurance in one’s own blessed state is a psychological state of mind derived from the promises of the Gospel.  It is a confidence that as the Westminster Confession rightly observes may be “shaken, diminished, and intermitted.”  If “Sean Gerety is a saved man” could be inferred from the axiom of Scripture it’s hard to see how it may be “shaken, diminished, and intermitted” as it would as fixed and as final as the propositions of Scripture themselves.  Nothing could cause my knowledge that I’m a saved man to cease for even a moment, yet the WCF says my assurance may be “intermitted.”   Clearly assurance, as important as this doctrine is for the Christian life,  isn’t synonymous with knowledge.  So what happens to arguments like:

Whosoever believes in the Son has eternal life

x believes in the Son

x has eternal life.

The above argument is valid, but is it sound?  The major premise is true and is an object of knowledge since it is taken directly from John 3:36.  No argument here.  The problem lies in the minor premise which may or may not be true and is one that I like to think is true of me.  But, even if true, unless it can be accounted for it does not rise to the level of knowledge.  It should be obvious that if I start with Scripture as my axiom, and no matter how much I would like it to be otherwise, I cannot infer the proposition or theorem “Sean Gerety believes in the Son” from Scripture.  Of course, I could tell you that I so believe, but why should you believe me?  Even though my hope is that my name is written in the book of life, my name is nowhere found in Scripture (check your concordance).  Besides, didn’t the Lord say through His prophet Jeremiah; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”  Couldn’t I just be deceiving myself?  This is why Paul implores us to examine and test ourselves to see if we “are in the faith.”  Federal Visionist and other heretics hate this kind of introspection and consider it morbid.  They want to know, objectively, that they and their congregations are saved so the solution they propose is not that of the WCF XVIII, their solution is “Look to your baptism.”  Of course, Paul also warn us to have “no confidence in the flesh” and he certainly had the pedigree to do so if such a thing were possible.   Besides, I’ve known plenty of people over the years who at one time claimed to be Christians, and who I even thought were Christians and suspect were even baptized too, but who turned out to be not what they appeared.

Recent examples would include professor and philosopher and one time winner of the Clark Prize in Apologetics,  Michael Sudduth, who revealed last year that he is now a Hare Krishna.  He fooled a lot of people over the years into believing that he was a Christian and I’m guessing he even fooled himself.  Another good example might be former PCA pastor Jason Stellman who led the prosecution against Federal Vision heretic Peter Leithart.  Not only did I believe that Stellman was a Christian minister dedicated to defending the truth of the Gospel,  I contributed financially to help in his failed prosecution of Leithart.  So you might say I put my money where my mouth is.  Not surprisingly, I was shocked and dismayed when he announced his rejection of sola scriptura and sola fide along with his defection to Rome immediately following the Leithart trial.

I would think all this is an obvious and if it’s admitted that we cannot know who God’s elect are, the same applies to us even when we look in the mirror.  Yet, when George Macleod Coghill made this point on a “Clark” Facebook discussion group, even adding that “all knowledge has to be truth, but it is not the case that all truth has to be knowledge,” a number of self-styled “Scripturalists” went bonkers.  Even people like former Trinity Foundation Worldview Contest winner Ryan Hedrich, a young man who claims to be in “broad agreement” with Clark’s epistemological views, if not much else, took issue with Clark’s theory at this point (so much for any “broad agreement). Hedrich said: “I do have true knowledge about myself. ‘I am regenerate’ is a proposition I can and do know.”  Now, admittedly, this is assertion from a young man who has recently come out of the closet rejecting the Trinity and the doctrine of God.  Needless to say I tend to be considerably more skeptical concerning Hedrich’s claim even if I wish I could be more charitable.  Frankly, I find it hard to think of any Christian church that would find Hedrich’s profession of faith credible for membership. The point is, and despite his bravado, unless a person like Hedrich can provide an account for how he arrived at the knowledge of his own regeneration, it appears to me to remain an opinion, and, in this case, one I have little confidence in as should he.  Besides, how can anyone be so arrogant to ignore Paul’s warning to the Corinthians; “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”  I would think that would be enough to humble even a Trinity Foundation Worldview Contest winner.

Consequently, there are countless everyday propositions which we accept as true but for which we cannot account.   That doesn’t make them untrue, it only means they are not strictly speaking, knowledge.  As Clark explains:

What account shall be given of everyday “knowledge” that common sense thinks is silly to doubt?  Don’t I know when I am hungry?  Can’t I use road maps to drive to Boston to Los Angeles?  Indeed, how can I know what the Bible says without reading its pages with my own eyes? It was one secular philosopher criticizing another, who said that knowledge is a fact and that any theory that did not account for it should be abandoned.  But all such criticisms miss the point.  The status of common opinion is not fixed until a theory has been accepted. One may admit that a number of propositions commonly believed are true; but no one can deny that many such are false.  The problem is to elaborate a method by which the two classes can be distinguished.  Plato too granted a place to opinion as distinct from knowledge; he even admitted that in some circumstances opinion was as useful as knowledge with a capital K.  But to dispose of the whole matter by an appeal to road maps that we can see with our own eyes is to ignore everything said above about Aristotle.  An Introduction to Christian Philosophy, 90.

To repeat; “all knowledge has to be truth, but it is not the case that all truth has to be knowledge.”  Scripturalist epistemology 101.

About these ads
Explore posts in the same categories: Gordon Clark, Theology

112 Comments on “Biblical Epistemology 101”

  1. LJ Says:

    Good and timely post, Sean. I’m sending it around to many, both Clarkian and not.

    LJ

  2. Angelo Demma Says:

    I once was lost, but now I’m found, Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me….
    Yes, I was once unregenerate and lost and now by God’s sweet GRACE I am found (regenerated). Heck, what do I know I’m just a truck driver. The only reason I stand, is because of a resurrected Savior. In whom the Holy Spirit has shown me my sin, a need of righteousness (Christ) and judgement (The Cross). Please don’t BAN me, It’s bad enough their coming after the guns…lol. May the God of all peace be with you Sean.

  3. Denson Dube Says:

    Thanks Sean for the post.
    I still remember my confusion over the meaning of “knowledge” and “truth” in trying to understand Clark’s Scripturalism.
    I hope I have much improved.

    Just one question though, is “Science is useful.”, knowledge?
    Is it true? What is the justification for it?
    Shelton and the Nazi’s probably find their racial theories true and “useful”. How does one determine something is “useful”? What sort of category is “useful”? Is this not an ethical category and perhaps a pragmatic one at that?
    Shouldn’t we just say “Science is false.” and leave it at that?


  4. There is no absolute knowledge of anything, not even Scripture. In that sense, all knowledge is relative. So the idea that assurance can be shaken does not negate the fact that salvation is objectively promised to believers according to Scripture. If, as you say, there is no security of the believer, then what’s the point of faith in the first place?

    I can see your objection to a Federal Visionist view of baptism. But technically speaking, “Look to your baptism,” is not a reference to the sacrament as objectively salvific nor is it a reference to ex opera operato. What Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Luther, and Calvin meant by saying “look to the cross” or “look to your baptism” was in reference to look to the objective work of the cross. Christ fulfilled all the moral law by his active obedience. His active obedience merits salvation for the elect by fulfilling their obligation to absolute perfection in the keeping of God’s moral law. That is no less substitutionary than the doctrine of particular atonement. Baptism is a reference to Calvary no less than the Lord’s supper is a reference to the cross. Christ paid the penalty in the place of His elect.

    Furthermore, Cranmer’s understanding of the sacraments were not that the sacraments were some sort of mystical encounter with God. They were signs or tangible object lessons which in effect preach the Gospel in a visible and tangible way. People were able to identify with Calvary by way of a physical metaphor as a way of building faith, just as by reading the Bible people build faith. Cranmer’s view is thoroughly Zwinglian but not a “mere” memorial because the memorial is itself an act of faith whereby we participate in the one sacrifice of Christ by remembering again what He did for us on Calvary.

    Faith is faith because we believe, not because we have absolute knowledge. Simply because the Confession allows for times of doubt and a loss of assurance there is no reason to throw out the doctrine of justification by faith alone or the doctrine of perseverance. The Confession also acknowledges that the elect do not keep themselves saved. It is God who saves and keeps the elect.

    Your view reminds of the Primitive Baptist who said we can’t know we’re saved until we enter the pearly gates. That’s the Roman Catholic view as well. Eternal insecurity? I think not. Ironically, the Federal Visionists also say that salvation is uncertain. You might lose it.

    The doctrine of apostasy does not disprove eternal security or the doctrine of assurance. What it does prove is that the reprobate are temporary believers who give an appearance before men of being saved but never were (1 John 2:19). Am I to doubt my perseverance simply because others have committed apostasy? I think not!

    Logically speaking the Reformed confessional standards determine who is an orthodox believer in regards to doctrine. Anyone who disagrees with the Reformed confessions and creeds is not a Christian even if he or she claims to be one. Of course, confessions and creeds can and often do err. Whole denominations go apostate. But the Reformed believer can know that as those confessions and creeds draw their most certain warrant from Scripture alone, they can have assurance that the WCF and other Reformed confessions are reliable and have a secondary authority.

    True assurance comes from Scripture alone. But the person who is in open disagreement with Scripture as it is authoritatively and systematically interpreted by the Reformed confessions is a person who is questionable in regards to salvation.

    Besides, the WCF also appeals to the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, something that Clark might not have fully agreed with since it is an appeal to both experience and rational comprehension:

    3. This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong;1 may be often and many ways assailed and weakened, but gets the victory;2 growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ,3 who is both the author and finisher of our faith.4

    ——————————————————————————–

    1 Heb. 5:13,14; Rom. 4:19,20; Matt. 6:30; Matt. 8:10.

    2 Luke 22:31,32; Eph. 6:16; 1 John 5:4,5.

    3 Heb. 6:11,12; Heb. 10:22; Col. 2:2.

    4 Heb. 12:2

    WCF: Of Saving Faith, Ch. 14

    And:
    2. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope;1 but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation,2 the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made,3 the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God:4 which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.5

    ——————————————————————————–

    1 Heb. 6:11,19;

    2 Heb. 6:17,18.

    3 2 Pet. 1:4,5,10,11; 1 John 2:3; 1 John 3:14; 2 Cor. 1:12.

    4 Rom. 8:15,16.

    5 Eph. 1:13,14; Eph. 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:21,22.

    Ch 15 Of Assurance

    Clark pointed out that propositions occur in systematic form. Disjointed propositions mean little to nothing. That’s why the whole teaching of the WCF must be taken in systematic form, rather than in piecemeal.

    Charlie

  5. MikeD Says:

    If all knowledge has to be justified, then what about assent to the axiom itself? Perhaps I’m confusing justification with proof? In any case, doesn’t the unregenerate man that thinks “David was the King of Israel” have knowledge, even though they have no proper justification? (e.g. maybe they accept oral tradition handed down). I prefer Clark’s definition in Faith and Saving Faith: Knowledge is voluntary assent to understood true propositions. Where’s the justification? Maybe we could modify it a bit and say that knowledge is “voluntary assent to understood true justifiable propositions.” Meaning that one could look it up in the Bible. This would make sense of the knowledge of God’s law that a pagan has in virtue of their creation, but could never give an account of. Remember, Romans 1 says they have knowledge, not correct opinion.

    Furthermore, doesn’t this all introduce some type of equivocation on the word knowledge that we Clarkians are always trying to avoid? Namely, God has knowledge, but need not appeal to Scripture as a justification (which I realize sounds absurd!) Would we rather say, though, that knowledge for God is X and for us it’s Y? I think not. Surely how we come to knowledge is different from God, but that’s a different matter than the definition of knowledge (what Van Tilians always seem to confuse). Clark’s definition above avoids this difficulty I think. Thoughts?

  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    Faith is faith because we believe, not because we have absolute knowledge.

    I disagree. Jesus said if we abide in his word we will know the truth. Also, Paul said that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and not just some of those treasures. Further, I don’t know what the word “absolute” is supposed to add to the word knowledge defined as justified true belief?

  7. Sean Gerety Says:

    I prefer Clark’s definition in Faith and Saving Faith: Knowledge is voluntary assent to understood true propositions.

    News to me. How about a citation? I thought the definition was for faith not knowledge. Maybe I missed it.

    BTW, have you read his Intro to Christian Phil?

  8. MikeD Says:

    I’ll look-up the citation when I get home. The definition for faith was “voluntary assent to understood propositions.” My understanding was that what differentiated generic faith from specific knowledge, as a subset, was that the proposition in question was true or not. I have read the other work, sometime ago. Looks like I should revisit it!

    Any thoughts on the other points?

  9. MikeD Says:

    I guess I’m wondering, though, why justification is necessary. I realize there’s a long philosophical tradition that I should trudge through, but definitions for us should fit best with the biblical material. As noted I think “knowledge” in Rom 1 fits better with either “voluntary assent to true propositions” or “voluntary assent to true justifiable propositions” rather than justified true belief.

    As for Clark’s, “As has been shown, secular epistemologies cannot provide for any knowledge at all, therefore whatever revelation gives us, however restricted, is to be received with thanksgiving.” Amen, but this is not to say that those that hold to a secular epistemology have no knowledge at all. In fact, I think that Clark many times over says that unbelievers can believe and know some truth of God, hence they are guilty. Again, perhaps, a small confusion between the act of knowing and the derivation of the object of knowledge.

  10. Sean Gerety Says:

    @MikeD. Clark’s definition of faith as an assent to understood propositions really doesn’t touch on the question of epistemology. Also, in FaSF Clark argues that what differentiates generic faith from saving faith are the propositions believed and not some additional and nebulous quality added to ordinary faith.

    As for your other points so far as I can tell they derive from your misunderstanding of Clark’s arguments in FaSF with perhaps the exception of your appeal to Romans 1.

    Obviously one must decide in what sense unbelievers can be said to “know” God. After all, Paul says in 1 Cor 1:21; “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” Seems to me that on their own and left to their own devices, men did not come to know God. Of course, there are a number of senses that the word “know” can be used and not every use is the epistemic sense. Some biblical uses of the word to know might include:

    Isa 1:3; The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.

    Gen 4:1; And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.

    John 8:32; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

    1 John 4:6; We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

    Again, I don’t think every use of the word “know” is meant in the epistemic sense. We’re told in Romans 1 that unbelievers suppress the truth within them; they certainly do not, nor does it seem they can (apart from the work of the Holy Spirit), account for the truth that is within them either.

    Knowledge in the strict sense is justified true belief or true belief with an account of its truth.

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    ”I guess I’m wondering, though, why justification is necessary.”

    For many it’s not necessary at all, but Peter commands us to always be prepared to “make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” I would hope that the Christian can answer the problem of epistemology when the world in its wisdom has failed so miserably. Clark certainly believed that the Christian has the answer where so many others have failed.

    I realize there’s a long philosophical tradition that I should trudge through, but definitions for us should fit best with the biblical material. As noted I think “knowledge” in Rom 1 fits better with either “voluntary assent to true propositions” or “voluntary assent to true justifiable propositions” rather than justified true belief.

    I don’t agree at all. I would think the definition that would fit with Romans 1 is the “voluntary SUPRESSION of true propositions.”

    As for Clark’s, “As has been shown, secular epistemologies cannot provide for any knowledge at all, therefore whatever revelation gives us, however restricted, is to be received with thanksgiving.” Amen, but this is not to say that those that hold to a secular epistemology have no knowledge at all. In fact, I think that Clark many times over says that unbelievers can believe and know some truth of God, hence they are guilty. Again, perhaps, a small confusion between the act of knowing and the derivation of the object of knowledge.

    I think when you reread Intro to Christian Phil you will see that Clark is utterly without hope of any secular solution to the problem of epistemology. It is all darkness. Another good example of Clark’s view is found in the closing paragraph of Thales to Dewey:

    “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.”

    Not exactly optimistic about promise of secular philosophy ever finding a means by which truth might be discovered much less known.

  12. MikeD Says:

    Looking forward to the re-read. For the record, I’m absolutely not saying that secular epistemologies can account for knowledge. No way… they all reduce to skepticism. But can one with a secular epistemology know something? As of now I say yes because of the reality of the image of God and Christ giving light to all men that come into the world. Thanks

  13. Sean Gerety Says:

    “But can one with a secular epistemology know something?”

    If they could then why do you say they all reduce to skepticism? I don’t see how you can have it both ways.

  14. Hugh Says:

    Thank you, Sean.

  15. Pht Says:

    Well written, even if it took me three tries to understand:

    “all knowledge has to be truth, but it is not the case that all truth has to be knowledge,”

    These kinds of things are the reason why I routinely ask people to define what they mean when they use the phrase “I know.”

    Sure, do you mean, absolutely, beyond any rational doubt, that you know?

    Do you mean, it’s based on a valid exercise of deduction based upon biblical axioms?

    Or do you mean something less?

    I otherwise find it nearly impossible to get started off on the right foot in epistemological discussions…

    What I find even more amazing is that it’s usually followers of the scientific method as a way to get knowledge that mean the first one – beyond any rational doubt.

    I may be wrong, but it seems to me that “beyond any rational doubt” is a state of knowing that only God can have. It seems to me that all created beings are left out of that level of knowing.

    How ironic, because this seems to make many of us re-commit adam and eve’s sin of thinking they could be like God!

  16. MikeD Says:

    Perhaps it would have bee more clear to say that they all “lead” to skepticism. More specifically, when one asserts their non-Christian epistemological views, the Christian can show that those propositions logically lead to contradictions and skepticism, and this is the important part, as a system. But this is no way implies that every proposition assented to by unbelievers or even Christians with unscriptural epistemological views is false or not knowledge. To main point being the knowledge that an unbeliever has cannot be accounted for by their secular epistemology, thus there is inconsistency, systemic skepticism, and judgment follows. But if you are saying that justification (via correct epistemological derivations) is necessary for knowledge, and knowledge is broader than saving faith, then gents like Hodge and Warfield would have no knowledge and be consigned to hell.

    Didn’t Clark in one of the later lectures say that an arithmetic book could be inerrant? Maybe there’s some question begging going on, but wouldn’t this mean that the author, perhaps a non-Christian, has knowledge? Or would your view be that the entire book be correct opinion? I would think that even the demons have some knowledge, and not merely correct opinion, in that they believe that there is one God.

    Take these two propositions:

    (1) Justification is necessary for true belief to be knowledge.
    (2) Unbelievers and non-Scripturalist Christians have some knowledge that is not justifiable on their base convictions about epistemology.

    I think that it takes more explaining away, to put it crudely, of more passages if one denies (2), and hardly any passages that I know of need to be fudged if one denies (1).

    About the citation… I blew it. I guess after having read Clark so much for certain studies at one time on these issues, I must have thought I deduced (a mouthful, indeed) Clark’s nestling of these issues as such:

    Faith: assent to understood propositions (may be true or false, knowledge or error)
    Knowledge: assent to true propositions (these may be implicitly or explicitly Biblical and unbelievers can hold some of these, may be saving or not)
    Saving Faith: assent to the propositions of the gospel.

    This seems to fit the Biblical material, Clark’s repeated statements against a two-fold theory of truth or knowledge, and his assertions that all me are judged in light of the knowledge that they do have.

    Thanks and my apologies for misquoting Clark.

  17. Sean Gerety Says:

    What I have in mind is more in line with this.

    Do you mean, it’s based on a valid exercise of deduction based upon biblical axioms?

    Clark simply put it this way; Scripture is the word of God. Robbins went a little further and said Scripture alone is the word of God.

    To perhaps better understand what Clark had in mind, and I think you’re on the right track, I recommend George Mavordes’ criticism of Clark’s position and Clark’s reply. See:

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/new_article.php?id=2

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/new_article.php?id=1

    In Clark’s reply he explained what he means by the axiom of Scripture:

    In the earlier part of this reply, I argued that Mavrodes treated the Axiom as if the Bible were a mere word without content. Obviously from a word, nothing can be inferred. But such a nominalistic procedure is clearly not intended. Similarly, the Confession, when it ‘says that all things necessary for the glory of God can be deduced from Scripture, does not use Scripture as an empty word. The Confession goes further, as I did not, and defines what it means by Scripture. The canonical list therefore is not a theorem deduced from the Axiom; it is a part of the Axiom itself in that it is the definition of its chief term.

  18. Sean Gerety Says:

    @MikeD.

    But if you are saying that justification (via correct epistemological derivations) is necessary for knowledge, and knowledge is broader than saving faith, then gents like Hodge and Warfield would have no knowledge and be consigned to hell.

    I hardly think this follows as Hodge and Warfield validly inferred many wonderful truths from the axiom of Scripture whether they thought of Scripture in axiomatic or epistemic terms at all (although I’m sure they did even if not quite to the extent as Clark did).

    Didn’t Clark in one of the later lectures say that an arithmetic book could be inerrant?

    Yes. Don’t ask me which one though.

    Maybe there’s some question begging going on, but wouldn’t this mean that the author, perhaps a non-Christian, has knowledge?

    Can the non-Christian account for mathematics? (Lane Keister’s father, J.C. Keister, tried to provide such an account in Math and the Bible published by the Trinity Foundation). Further, a point Clark makes elsewhere (and I don’t recall where) is that the downfall of all secular philosophy is the inability to account for logic. A problem for which Christianity doesn’t suffer.

    Or would your view be that the entire book be correct opinion? I would think that even the demons have some knowledge, and not merely correct opinion, in that they believe that there is one God.

    I really can’t speak to demonic epistemology, but I really have no disagreement either.

    Thanks and my apologies for misquoting Clark.

    Not a problem.

  19. Denson Dube Says:

    Just wondering if the kind of questions I asked are of any interest?
    (Posting again)
    I still remember my confusion over the meaning of “knowledge” and “truth” in trying to understand Clark’s Scripturalism.
    I hope I have much improved.

    Just one question though, is “Science is useful.”, knowledge?
    Is it true? What is the justification for it?
    Shelton and the Nazi’s probably find their racial theories true and “useful”. How does one determine something is “useful”? What sort of category is “useful”? Is this not an ethical category and perhaps a pragmatic one at that?
    Shouldn’t we just say “Science is false.” and leave it at that?


  20. Only God knows intuitively or directly. Our knowledge is derived from logical deductions we make from Scripture as that informs natural revelation. But saying that we cannot know we are saved is a direct contradiction to the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

    Since faith is synonymous with belief and saving faith involves the tautology of assent, knowledge, and trust, it follows that saving faith is based in knowledge. John 17:17 says that truth sanctifies and knowing truth is the means God uses to sanctify.

    These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13 NKJ)


  21. I would argue that men are judged by what they know. But if they do not know and assent to the Gospel they cannot be saved since general revelation is insufficient for saving faith. (Acts 4:10-12; John 14:6; Romans 10:17).

  22. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Denson. Sorry, I thought the questions were rhetorical. Science is useful is a belief I think is true. I think computers and technology are useful, but sometimes not so much. As far as how technology can be used science can tell us absolutely nothing. There is no ethics in science. Even if science could discover what is it cannot tell us what we ought to do.

  23. Sean Gerety Says:

    Only God knows intuitively or directly. Our knowledge is derived from logical deductions we make from Scripture as that informs natural revelation.

    OK, so where is the deduction by which I can arrive at the proposition Sean Gerety is saved?

    But saying that we cannot know we are saved is a direct contradiction to the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

    If I’ve contradicted JBFA why don’t you show me where the contradiction lies instead of merely asserting I’ve done something when I don’t believe I have.

    Besides, the Confession seems to contradict your assertion and instead maintains that “This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it ….” I would hope that a believer wouldn’t have to wait long and conflict with many difficulties before coming to understand — or better know — that they’re justified by faith alone through Jesus Christ alone.

    To put it another way, if assurance properly understood does not belong to the “essence of faith” then I fail to see how what I’ve written contradicts JBFA.

    Further, when you say you can know you are saved I think it depends on what you mean by “know.” If you mean it in the colloquial sense, Clark’s everyday sense above, then I have no problem. Yet, even Calvin said; “I call that knowledge, not what is innate in man, or what is by diligence acquired, but that which is delivered to us by the Law and the Prophets.” My reading of the Confessional doctrine of assurance is that it is a state of mind by diligence acquired.

    Since faith is synonymous with belief and saving faith involves the tautology of assent, knowledge, and trust, it follows that saving faith is based in knowledge. John 17:17 says that truth sanctifies and knowing truth is the means God uses to sanctify.

    These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13 NKJ)

    I have no problem saying we’re saved through knowledge or even that we’re sanctified by it as well, but that doesn’t mean the proposition “Sean Gerety is a saved man” rises to the level of Scripture or is even a necessary inference from it. Actually, some say I’m not saved at all. Besides being called a “son of Satan” by Marc Carpenter, I had an assistant pastor once look me in the eye and tell me I wasn’t saved because I defined saving faith as an assent to the propositions of the Gospel and even had the nerve to point out that faith and belief are just different translations of the same Greek word in Scripture.

    Conversely, I have no confidence at all that those who deny the full deity of Christ, even denying that God is Triune, are saved. So while I can know that all who believe the Gospel are saved, I don’t see how I can know “x is saved” in the strict sense except by additional revelation which won’t occur until the Day of the Lord (I’m not Charismatic after all). I mean, isn’t this something Sessions wrestle with every day when accepting or rejecting people for membership. At least in Presbyterian churches that I’ve attended they look for a “credible profession of faith.” If they could simply deduce from Scripture who is and who isn’t saved Presbyterian churches would be almost as good a Baptist churches (yes, that’s a joke). :)

  24. Ryan Says:

    //Moving on, another tactic Sean uses is the argument that since the name “Sean Gerety” can’t be found in Scripture, self-knowledge is impossible. This is obviously question-begging: Sean assumes his name is “Sean.” I never said one’s own individual name can be found in Scripture. But that doesn’t preclude self-knowledge. Knowing “I am regenerate” does not imply I know “Ryan Hedrich is a regenerate.” Remember Sean’s reference to the difference between knowledge and opinion? Why can’t that distinction be applied here? I know I am regenerate. I opine I am Ryan Hedrich. Therefore, I opine Ryan Hedrich is a regenerate. What’s the problem?//

  25. Sean Gerety Says:

    If you were merely asserting an opinion that you hold concerning yourself there would be no problem, even if yours is an opinion I have a very hard time sharing given your rejection of the Trinity and the doctrine of God.

  26. Ryan Says:

    I think you misunderstand. I am saying I can have self-knowledge without needing to know my name is Ryan.

  27. Pht Says:

    Ryan Says:

    January 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Remember Sean’s reference to the difference between knowledge and opinion? Why can’t that distinction be applied here? I know I am regenerate. I opine I am Ryan Hedrich. Therefore, I opine Ryan Hedrich is a regenerate. What’s the problem?//

    This is all about what one means when they say the word “Know.”

    Sean, correct me if I’m wrong, but when you say “can’t know that you are regenerate” you’re basically saying that you can’t know you are regenerate beyond any rational doubt.

    The *only* being (It seems to me so far) that can know something beyond any rational doubt is God…

    … and the only reason God can know a thing like this and we can’t is because God knows everything that can be known; which requires a non-finite amount of knowledge…

    In other words, God can “know” in the sense that Sean was talking about, but no human can “know” in this same sense. Our knowing is always finite. God’s is non-finite.

    *In this one single and very specific sense, we, I believe, can say that no, we will never know in the same way God knows- we will never know exhaustively – only God can exhaustively know…

    … and this does not leave man in skeptical darkness, or lead to it, at least as far as I can see. It just illustrates the difference between the knowing of a creature and the knowing of the Creator.

    Basically, there’s God’s level of knowing (via his exhaustive knowledge),

    Man’s level of knowing via the use of God’s revelation (the Bible),

    And all the rest is opinion (purely subjective).

    Sean, Please correct me If I have got this wrong or mis-attributed something to you.

  28. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’m not sure but it seems your talking about the mode of God’s knowing vs man’s knowing. Man’s knowledge is always derivative, but for man to know anything he must know at least something of what God knows. For Clark, but evidently not for Ryan, knowledge requires an account. Simply begging the question as Ryan has done is not knowledge; it’s a fallacy. He claims to know he’s regenerate but the evidence would suggest otherwise. The argument might go something like this:

    All those regenerate of God confess Jesus Christ is the one true God.

    Ryan denies that Jesus Christ is the one true God.

    Ryan is not regenerate.

    Now I don’t suppose he will be satisfied with that argument, but at least it doesn’t beg the question.

  29. Paul Riemann Says:

    As I have studied Clark’s writings and listened to all of the Trinity Foundation’s mp3 lectures I have found one or two “inconsistencies” that a critic might raise in objection. And as a proponent of Clark I have wondered how to best answer such criticisms. I ask these questions with the hope of obtaining the proper apologetic response.

    For example: In one of Dr. Robbins lectures (and forgive me, I cannot remember which one) he refers to some author who wrote of a certain ancient people group whom we’ll call x, whom the author claims was a civilized and relatively righteous people. John then refers to another author (#2) who wrote of these same ancient people and denies the claims of author # 1. John agrees with author #2 and says “read (author #2) he’ll set you straight”.

    Dr. Robbins words imply that author #1’s claims are false, and that author#2’s claims are true. But on what argument can he make this claim? He certainly didn’t get it from scripture. And Dr. Robbins once said that he is “skeptical of everything outside of scripture”. But that didn’t come through here. And in another lecture Dr. Robbins said that we cannot know ANYTHING about ancient Chinese history, and that after you go back far enough it collapses into fable and myth anyway.

    My problem isn’t that he may have thought the first author to be a sloppy and careless researcher, and the second to be much more diligent and precise, but if you wholesale reject empiricism then how can you make any such claim at all? The critic may ask why they should accept author #2 rather that author#1. Dr. Robbins would have no argument–given his epistemology–that he could offer. At least as far as I can tell. You have one author’s empirically-based opinion, versus another author’s empirically-based opinion. Why accept one over the other? Indeed, why accept either one at all? Dr. Robbins himself often said that when someone makes a knowledge claim ask them the 64 thousand dollar epistemological question: “how do you know”?

  30. Pht Says:

    Sean Gerety Says:

    January 29, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    I’m not sure but it seems your talking about the mode of God’s knowing vs man’s knowing. Man’s knowledge is always derivative,…

    I’m just pointing out the difference between God’s knowing and man’s knowing…

    It seems you and I are addressing the same thing from slightly different angles.

    God’s exhaustive knowing vs man’s non-exaustive knowing

    God knowing intuitively, man’s knowing derivatively.

    …but for man to know anything he must know at least something of what God knows.

    Totally agreed, even though I believe we can never exhaustively “know” in the same way God does; We can meaningfully say we know non-exhastively because – and only because – God who, who is truth and cannot lie, knows exhaustively has told us an object of true knowledge.

    As clark pointed out, it is possible for a man to know truths, even if he does not know all truths.

  31. Sean Gerety Says:

    And, speaking of Ryan’s spanking, here is Coghill’s reply to Ryan’s proof that he can know his blessed state:

    P1. Knowledge precludes the possibility of error. TRUE
    P2. If you may not be a sheep, you cannot know you’ve heard the voice of the Shepherd. TRUE
    P3. If you cannot know you’ve heard the voice of the Shepherd, you cannot know which propositions are God-breathed. FALSE
    P4. If you cannot know which propositions are God-breathed, you cannot know anything. POSSIBLY TRUE
    P5. You may not be a sheep. TRUE
    C. You don’t know anything. FALSE

    Now, if you can figure out why P3 is false perhaps Ryan will be wiling to turn over some of his TF Worldview Contest prize money.

  32. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hi Paul.

    Dr. Robbins words imply that author #1′s claims are false, and that author#2′s claims are true. But on what argument can he make this claim?

    Maybe he was simply asserting his opinion? I somehow think Dr. Robbins would not disagree with Clark’s historiography, but without any reference I can only guess.

    He certainly didn’t get it from scripture.

    Maybe yes, maybe no. What if the author #2 was making an argument supported by Scripture and author #1 was not?

    And Dr. Robbins once said that he is “skeptical of everything outside of scripture”. But that didn’t come through here.

    So if Dr. Robbins was at one point inconsistent that makes Clark’s theory of knowledge false? I don’t see how that follows?

  33. Paul Riemann Says:

    Hello Sean,

    You wrote:

    “Maybe he was simply asserting his opinion? I somehow think Dr. Robbins would not disagree with Clark’s historiography, but without any reference I can only guess.”

    I’m sure Dr. Robbins was asserting his opinion. But, while it is obvious that you or I cannot now inquire of Dr. Robbins, I want to know WHY he chose one author over the other. How does Gordon Clark’s strongest defender form an opinion on two conclusions that are entirely based on empirical observation and inquiry? Was author #2’s empiricism more robust than author #1? Given that empiricism furnishes no knowledge, that would be irrelevant.

    You wrote:

    “Maybe yes, maybe no. What if the author #2 was making an argument supported by Scripture and author #1 was not?”

    Unfortunately I cannot even remember what message this came from so checking on the broader context and the specific details is difficult. I don’t think it is the case that what he was referring to was supported by scripture, but until I go back and find the specific details of the quote I cannot say with assurance.

    You wrote:

    “So if Dr. Robbins was at one point inconsistent that makes Clark’s theory of knowledge false? I don’t see how that follows?”

    No, that’s not my argument. That would be a logical fallacy. I’m asking the question of how we, as Clarkians, hold views on non-biblical history, or hold as true positions on any variety of topics not found in God’s Word? I have an opinion on the Nazi Holocaust. But there are those who deny it ever happened. Given my epistemology why shouldn’t I join those deniers? Maybe they are right. You may disagree with them, but how do you know they are wrong?

    Sean, we both hold opinions on a variety of things. And those opinions didn’t come from propositional revelation. We arrived at them because we read a book, or heard an account, or witnessed them ourselves. But how do we justify those claims? If my opponent–knowing my theory of knowledge–asks me to justify my claim to knowledge of say…the French Revolution–I can’t do it. I can reduce his empiricism to absurdity and utter skepticism, but I cannot then adopt his empiricism and make knowledge claims based upon it. Except, of course, to use it as an ad hominem and lead him to a logical outcome with which he will disagree.

    Can we actually be consistent Clarkians and hold strong opinions on anything that is not clearly found in, or cannot be deduced from, scripture?

  34. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Pht. No disagreement whatsoever. You’re right and I think we were just starting to talk past each other.

    Peace.

  35. Pht Says:

    … eh … this is odd:

    But in that case, disagreement as to whether self-knowledge is possible or justifiable does not imply either party has a low understanding of [Clark’s] epistemology, a reckless accusation Sean has made elsewhere (link).

    … and here is the “(link)” he references:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/01/everyone-is-crazy-but-me.html

    … and the only comment I see by you, sean, is at the bottom of the comments, here:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/01/everyone-is-crazy-but-me.html?showComment=1359295028670#c5817490393894954922

    Is it just me, or did you fail to say *anything at all* about self knowledge in the comment on the page he linked to?

    If so, I wonder why he’d say you had.

    Facebook *gag* …

  36. LJ Says:

    @ Paul Riemann:

    I think we Clarkians may hold all manner of opinions, like everyone else. The difference is we know they are opinions and not knowledge (capital K?). I think the empirical evidence, eye witness evidence in this case, that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor is strong. I am less convinced that Ampicillin cures pneumonia, yet I’d probably bet my life on it if I had pneumonia and the Dr. said take this or die. Did Washington cross the Delaware? Maybe, even probably. But is there apodictic certainty in any of the above examples? No.

    The propositions of the Bible comprise all knowledge, together with their logical implications as a necessary consequence of systematizing them. That seems to be the point that needs stressing whether we can agree with our unbelieving friends on history, medicine, or any other mundane topic.

    LJ

  37. Ryan Says:

    “And, speaking of Ryan’s spanking, here is Coghill’s reply to Ryan’s proof that he can know his blessed state:”

    What was that about arrogance and humility? You never miss a chance to stick your foot in your mouth.

    You are cherry-picking citations as well, for I replied to George’s disappointing one word dismissal with the following:

    P3. follows from John 8:46-47, John 10:1-27, and 1 John 4:1-6. P4. follows from the contingency of knowledge: we need a self-authenticating, perspicuous revelation from an omniscient person[s]. Only regenerates can know they aren’t suppressing truth, tho.

    George didn’t respond. I made a similar though expanded point in my post as well.

    “All those regenerate of God confess Jesus Christ is the one true God.”

    Speaking of question-begging…

    Finally, I’ve given several accounts of how I know self-knowledge is necessary: the reductio ad absurdem you cite, two explicit Scriptures (Romans 8:16, 1 Corinthians 2:11), and the infinite regress of mere opinion argument. But I suspect that just as in our discussion of the Trinity, you will ignore these arguments and repeat that I haven’t given any account.

  38. LJ Says:

    You might say “I know one thing for sure. Gold closed today at 1663.90!”

    Really? Do I KNOW that for sure? Well, yeah, kinda, if you follow the London spot price and think it’s accurate. But that’s an everyday colloquial usage of the key term KNOW that is different than knowing that IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED …

    One is likely and the other is certain. But I’m LIKELY preaching to the choir, or maybe, likely, beating a dead horse, LOL!

    LJ

  39. Ryan Says:

    Pht said:

    Is it just me, or did you fail to say *anything at all* about self knowledge in the comment on the page he linked to?

    If so, I wonder why he’d say you had.

    I didn’t say he said anything about self-knowledge. I said he said I have a low understanding of epistemology. I was and am simply at a loss as to why Sean said that. I considered that it could have been due to our recent dispute regarding self-knowledge, but I also dismissed that as unlikely. But that still leaves me in the dark.

  40. Tim Harris Says:

    Since exegesis, by which we produce propositions to be believed from the written sentences of the Bible, is an empirical activity, I’m curious how Clarkism avoids the empirical step in giving content to “the axiom” and gaining the propositions of Scripture.

    The only way I can think of is that he is actually claiming that the Holy Spirit directly infuses the propositions in our mind by direct action, using the “means” of the empirical activity of reading, but with the result not resting on that activity as a foundation, but rather, on the direct act of the Holy Spirit. If this is so,

    1. Why doesn’t he ever state this clearly (or does he, and I missed it)?
    2. Why is Scripture per se necessary? That is, how do we know the Holy Spirit could not infuse the propositions immediately, without the empirical activity of reading Scripture?
    3. But if that is so, then how do we resolve contradictions between propositions held by Christians? If each can appeal to direct illumination, where to go at that point?

  41. Sean Gerety Says:

    Very original Tim. I’m sure Clark never encountered your objection before. What a shame.

  42. LJ Says:

    Sean, I have a request. No, really, a serious request. Would you please give us your thoughts regarding the Van Tilian’s, especially the devotees of Dr. Bahnsen, high esteem of the TAG or Transendental Argument for the existence of God? It would help further distinguish the superiority of genuine presuppositionalism from Van Til’s faulty version (I think. I hope!).

    Here’s a sampling, for anyone who might be unfamiliar with the TAG, of the kind of arguments we run into with unbelievers: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/logic.html

    Thanks for your kind consideration of my request.

    LJ

  43. Jeff Cagle Says:

    Posted as per GB discussion. I’m happy to discuss further or to remain,

    Jeff Cagle

  44. LJ Says:

    @ Tim Harris: 1. Why doesn’t he ever state this clearly (or does he, and I missed it)?

    Answer: he does; you missed it.

    Tim, it helps if you read a lot of Clark’s books. I don’t mean to be mean by saying this, but your statement shows you need to read Clark or, maybe like me, read him over and over and over and over and … well you get the point.

    Cheers,
    LJ

  45. Ron Says:

    Hi Tim,

    First off, I hope I don’t drive you or Sean crazy with my thoughts, but here it goes.

    Clark did write that man can know that the Bible is God’s word even though there is no Scriptural proposition citing the 66 books. He likened it to Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ. He went on to say it just “dawns” on the believer. The justification would have to be the Holy Spirit, and the proposition believed is not contained in Scripture. I’m not home so I can’t give you the exact quote but maybe Sean can. Sean might take this as Clark speaking in a colloquial sense but I recall him being technical, not informal. Also, Clark objected to Van Til not believing, so Clark thought, that unbelievers can know things; for Clark did believe that unbelievers know things. Now, he might of been speaking about unbelievers knowing propositions in Scripture but it’s doubtful that Clark assumed that unbelievers held to Scripture as their axiom. Accordingly, since Scripture is the justification for knowledge and unbelievers aren’t going to justify knowledge with Scripture, I take Clark to mean that unsaved men can know propositions of Scripture by way of believing Scripture-truth with the justification of the Spirit, making them more culpable. Also, logic is a revelation to all men as well, so men can know the law of contradiction and apply it yet without being able to justify their knowledge of the law they know. (I am distinguishing JTB from the justification of JTB). In either case, God would be the source of justification of logic in all men, but for men to know that they know logic they’d have to appeal to Scripture – the justification for knowledge – which is not the same thing as the justification of a true belief. Again, man can believe the law of contradiction with the Spirit’s testimony, but not know that they know it. (Now Sean might take Clark as limiting such unbeliever-knowledge to things like David was king of Israel, or think that they don’t know anything at all, but I don’t see logic as any less revelatory than Scripture. Indeed, Scripture is the justification for all knowledge but that deals with knowing that we know.)

    Anyway, Clark’s gripe with Van Til was not merely with the analogical aspect of Van Til’s thought but with what he thought about Van Til’s epistemology as it related to unbelievers. Allowing for what I believe to be the absurdity of analogical knowledge, which can only be described in univocal terms(!), I do think that Van Til did assert that unbelievers know; his issue was that they cannot account for the knowledge they have. But again, given analogy in CVT, can CVT really rightly say that anyone knows? I think Reymond and Nash are correct in siding with Clark on the OPC controversy.

    The conflct between peoples allegations of what they know presents know problem. If the propositions that are alleged to be known are contradictory, then at least someone is mistaken but that one person is mistaken doesn’t mean that the other person cannot know.

    Finally, Clark did not require reading of Scripture to be the occasion by which man comes to know. He allowed for the blind etc. to know. Induction for Clark (and me) can lead one to learn sign language, language etc. but when propositions are known it’s a mind activity that carries with it the witness of the Holy Spirit even though induction may have been used in the process. In this sense all knowledge is revelatory. He was Augustinian in this regard.

    Lastly, I recently read on the Trinity site that Gary Crampton thought that Clark could know he was a land owner because owning land is something derivable from Scripture. Not sure Sean would agree with that.

    Often times when Clark was beating up on people about self-knowledge he was beating up on the silliness of empiricism. With that aside, just like we can know God without knowing all about God, or know things without being omniscient, I do think we can know ourselves without knowing ourselves exhaustively. In other sense, given we can’t know all propositions about ourselves and God, if we define persons and things as all the propositions pertaining to them then we cannot know anybody.

  46. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hi Ron. I was curious where that Crampton reference is found?

  47. Sean Gerety Says:

    Since I was scanning some Crampton articles looking for Ron’s reference, I came across this in answer, at least in part, to Tim:

    Since all knowledge must come through propositions (which are either true or false), since the senses in interacting with creation yield no propositions, knowledge cannot be conveyed by sensation. Rather, as noted above, the senses apparently stimulate the mind of man to intellectual intuition, to recollect the God-given innate ideas that man already possesses. Gordon Clark used the illustration of a piece of paper on which is written a message in invisible ink. The paper (by illustration, the mind) might appear blank, but in actuality it is not. When the heat of experience is applied to the mind (as when heat is applied to the paper), the message becomes visible. Human knowledge, then, is possible only because God has endowed man with certain innate ideas.(14)

    The Christian view of epistemology has its roots in the Logos doctrine.(15) According to the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ is the cosmological Logos (1:1-3), the epistemological Logos (1:9, 14), and the soteriological Logos (1:4, 12-13; 14:6). He is the Creator of the world, the source of all human knowledge, and the giver of salvation. As to the epistemological Logos, which is the focus of the present study, Christ is the “true light which enlightens every man coming into the world” (1:9). Apart from the Logos, the “inward teacher,” knowledge would not be possible. – “Scripturalism: A Christian Worldview”

  48. Sean Gerety Says:

    No, that’s not my argument. That would be a logical fallacy. I’m asking the question of how we, as Clarkians, hold views on non-biblical history, or hold as true positions on any variety of topics not found in God’s Word? I have an opinion on the Nazi Holocaust. But there are those who deny it ever happened. Given my epistemology why shouldn’t I join those deniers? Maybe they are right. You may disagree with them, but how do you know they are wrong?

    I guess the short answer is I don’t. But I don’t have to go that far back either. Recently someone said they thought the Sandy Hook massacre was staged as a pretext to disarm us. He based his claim on a video that documented a number of inconsistencies in the reporting as events unfolded. OTOH, a good friend of my brother, a state cop in CT, was a first responder and told my brother that he saw the carnage firsthand. Needless to say that isn’t going to sway the conspiracy theorists. Now, I believe the massacre really happened and children were slaughtered along with their teachers and administrators. Can I prove it? Well, no. So some will continue to think the whole thing was some sort of psych-op even if my brother’s friend’s testimony would seem to disprove that it was. Regardless, that isn’t going to stop our elected representatives from going after our guns.

    Sean, we both hold opinions on a variety of things. And those opinions didn’t come from propositional revelation. We arrived at them because we read a book, or heard an account, or witnessed them ourselves. But how do we justify those claims?

    I don’t see how you can? It’s been a long time since I’ve read Clark’s book Historiography: Secular and Religious, but I recall that some of the philosophical problems entailed in doing history are enormous. Actually, I think it might be time to reread it. OTOH, I don’t think all opinions are equal either and at some point we have weight the evidence and choose what to believe.

    Can we actually be consistent Clarkians and hold strong opinions on anything that is not clearly found in, or cannot be deduced from, scripture?

    I don’t see why not? Like everyone else I believe a lot of things are true even if I can’t know they are true; that is providing an account to demonstrate their truthfulness. But, at least the Christian starting with Scripture can know some things, and even a good bit of history, for which I am thankful. :)

  49. Hugh Says:

    we can never tell if it’s a truck or a mailbox:
    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=84

  50. Ryan Says:

    So I guess you just delete and moderate comments you find inconvenient to your views, huh?

  51. Pht Says:

    Ryan Says:

    January 29, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    Pht said:

    Is it just me, or did you fail to say *anything at all* about self knowledge in the comment on the page he linked to?

    If so, I wonder why he’d say you had.

    I didn’t say he said anything about self-knowledge. I said he said I have a low understanding of epistemology. I was and am simply at a loss as to why Sean said that. I considered that it could have been due to our recent dispute regarding self-knowledge, but I also dismissed that as unlikely. But that still leaves me in the dark.

    Went back, re-read it – your point is taken, but you might want to clear up the syntax a bit – it’s fairly confusing.


  52. That’s a good point about history. The Obama administration is continually trying to revise history to make it fit their agenda–all in the name of “democracy.” I am reading Thales to Dewey and I came across this quote yesterday:

    A further insuperable hurdle for rationalistic logic is a proposition’s meaning. The meaning of a sentence depends on its context. Logicians recognize this fact, but they identify the context as the totality of knowledge. Hence, as is all too evident with Plato and Hegel, one must be omniscient to grasp the meaning of even a single sentence. This obviously rules out all human knowledge. To avoid this intellectual impasse, we must see that meaning is primarily psychological rather than logical. Questions of meaning are questions concerning what the person who made the assertion actually meant. This in turn is determined by the whole of his concrete personality (Studies in Humanism, p. 86). Or, to refer to another great philosopher: “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean–nothing more or less.” Alice had difficulty in guessing the meaning of some of Humpty Dumpty’s words, for example, “impenetrable,” which means “that we’ve had enough of that subject and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next . . .” The point is that words, as verbal symbols, are always ambiguous. They may mean whatever they can be used to mean. Leaving Humpty Dumpty behind in favor of a twentieth-century illustration, most of us are familiar with the fact that democracy means one thing when an American uses it and means quite another when used by a communist.

    Of course, Clark is critiquing the pragmatism of John Dewey. Dewey decided in favor of psychological meaning rather than logic or intellectual understanding. The USA today is in one huge quagmire because no one can logically or rationally justify their positions. Without a Scriptural basis for truth even democracy can–and obviously does–degenerate into Marxism and irrationalism.


  53. I forgot to give the reference. Clark, Thales to Dewey, reprint, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1980), pp. 514-515.


  54. My understanding of Clark’s view on knowledge is that we can only have a foundation for knowledge in general by beginning with the axiom that Scripture is the Word of God. History, mathematics, philosophy, science, etc., can only be “true” as they are deduced from the first axiom, Scripture. Calculus and algebra could be deduced from Scripture, although not in all the particulars. In other words, deductive logic begins with general principles and is then inductively particularized.

    History only makes sense if Scripture is God’s Word and from that axiom we accept that the God of the Bible exists. Axioms and propositions are the basis of truth and the first axiom is Scripture. That’s the beginning point.

  55. Cliffton Says:

    Re: “Biblical” Epistemology 101,

    “…Yea, hath God said…?”

    Take that along with your one truth that you know is not knowledge.

    How moronic!

  56. Steve M Says:

    Cliffton: “Re: “Biblical” Epistemology 101,
    “…Yea, hath God said…?”
    Take that along with your one truth that you know is not knowledge.
    How moronic!”

    I would agree or disagree with Cliffton if I had the foggiest idea what he was saying.

  57. justbybelief Says:

    “I would agree or disagree with Cliffton if I had the foggiest idea what he was saying.”

    We can’t know what he’s saying…even it were clear. If I can’t know that I’m typing on my keyboard now, I certainly can’t know whether Cliffton typed anything. It seems that there is a post from him, I just can’t be sure.

  58. Hugh Says:

    Now Gentlemen (in my best Barney Fife voice), what we got here is failure to communicate. (Some men, you just can’t reach.)

    You have first of all your known knowns; that is, there are things we know we know.

    You have here also your known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.

    But there are also unknown unknowns – the things we don’t know we don’t know.

  59. Cliffton Says:

    “Not all truth is knowledge.”

    An implication would be:
    – there are some truths that are not knowledge.

    So I ask, name one truth that you know is not knowledge? Anyone??

    If you can’t see the absurdity of the claim (and the following question) then you are a moron.

  60. Cliffton Says:

    As Sean has said,
    “…my hope is that my name is written in the book of life…” which he acknowledges he doesn’t know.

    He first acknowledges that he lacks this knowledge, and then places his hope in what he acknowledges he doesn’t know (How he came to know this, he doesn’t tell). Satan deceived the woman with the question, Hath God said. The unbeliever (and the woman) grounds his thoughts in himself, whether they are thoughts about the weather or thoughts about the gospel. The believer grounds his thoughts in the thoughts of God. Indeed, take heed lest you fall. Lean not on your own understanding. Hope not in yourself.

    Those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth according to his promise.

  61. Steve M Says:

    To repeat; “all knowledge has to be truth, but it is not the case that all truth has to be knowledge.”

    This is the actual quote from the post rather than “Not all truth is knowledge.” I think most would agree that for God all truth is knowledge. So it seems we are talking about what constitutes knowledge for men in contrast to opinion or belief.

    If Sean hopes and even believes that his name is written in the book of life, does this amount to knowledge? At some point in the future he will know. I suspect his name is there, but I don’t know either. God does know. In that sense all truth is knowledge. However, I suspect there is much truth known only to God. What He has revealed to men through Scripture we can know. Everything else we may opine or believe, but not know.

  62. Hugh Says:

    “…all knowledge has to be truth, but it is not the case that all truth has to be knowledge.”

    And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. {End of John 20}

    These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. {1st John 5:13}

  63. Cliffton Says:

    Steve: To repeat; “…it is not the case that all truth has to be knowledge.”

    This is the actual quote from the post rather than “Not all truth is knowledge.”

    Cliffton: That is the actual quote. However the proposition is the same. So I’ll ask you Steve, name one truth that you know is not knowledge? Go ahead. I dare you! Post your answer for the whole World Wide Web to see.

  64. Steve M Says:

    Cliffton

    Youv’e got me there, all the truths I know are knowledge. And yes, I am moronic.

    Are all the truths I believe Knowledge?
    Are all the opinions I hold that happen to be true Knowledge?

  65. Cliffton Says:

    Steve: To repeat; “…it is not the case that all truth has to be knowledge.”

    This is the actual quote from the post rather than “Not all truth is knowledge.”

    Cliffton: That is the actual quote. However the proposition is the same. So I’ll ask you Steve, name one truth that you know is not knowledge? Go ahead. I dare you! Post your answer for the whole World Wide Web to see.

    Steve: Youv’e got me there, all the truths I know are knowledge. And yes, I am moronic.

    Are all the truths I believe Knowledge?

    Cliffton: Name me one truth that you believe that is not knowledge?

    Are all the opinions I hold that happen to be true Knowledge?

    Cliffton: Name me one opinion that you hold that happens to be true that is not knowledge.

    Steve, it’s the same scenario.

  66. Steve M Says:

    Cliffton

    Name me one opinion you have that is knowledge

    Name me one belief you have that is knowledge.

  67. Sean Gerety Says:

    “Cliffton: Name me one truth that you believe that is not knowledge?”

    I had spam and eggs this morning (no kidding, I really bought some spam).

  68. Hugh Says:

    Sean,

    Thank you for raising this thread to the level you now have.

    We needed the culture!

    “Spam, bacon, sausage & Spam” sounds lovely, doesn’t it?.

  69. Sean Gerety Says:

    Ummm, spam…. ;)

  70. Hugh Says:

    Yes, indeed, nice to get real Spam in my inbox today!

  71. Steve M Says:

    Sean
    Are you certain it was genuine Spam and not that counterfeit Spam that has been finding its way onto grocer’s shelves lately?

  72. Sean Gerety Says:

    Good point Steve. Maybe it wasn’t true spam after all. Maybe it wasn’t even spam!! =8-0

    If only there was a method by which I could account for the truth of my breakfast meats then I would know.

  73. Cliffton Says:

    “Cliffton: Name me one truth that you believe that is not knowledge?”

    Sean: I had spam and eggs this morning…

    Cliffton: So this is a truth that you believe. Let me repeat that. This is a truth that you believe…yet do not know to be a truth. Again, Sean tells us a “truth” (yet doesn’t tell us how he’s come to know this to be a “truth”) only to tell us that this “truth” is not knowledge. Sean, at least Steve admitted he was a moron. When are you going to stop clowning around and come to the knowledge that you speak before the face of God, and that in a public way, and as a husband and a father.

  74. Sean Gerety Says:

    Yes, Cliff, that is a truth I believe. I believe I had spam and eggs Sam I am. I don’t say how I come to know this truth because I cannot account for it so I don’t call it knowledge. The rest of your husband, father, and public way stuff just went right by me. I have no idea what you’re talking about or what you’re so seemingly incensed about. Perhaps you can put it in terms even us morons can understand?

  75. Cliffton Says:

    “Cliffton: Name me one truth that you believe that is not knowledge?”

    Sean: I had spam and eggs this morning…

    Cliffton: So this is a truth that you believe. Let me repeat that. This is a truth that you believe…yet do not know to be a truth. Again, Sean tells us a “truth” (yet doesn’t tell us how he’s come to know this to be a “truth”) only to tell us that this “truth” is not knowledge. Sean, at least Steve admitted he was a moron…

    Sean: Yes, Cliff, that is a truth I believe…I don’t say how I come to know this truth because I cannot account for it so I don’t call it knowledge.

    Cliffton: Yet you still identify it as a truth. Let me repeat. You don’t say how you come to know this “truth” because you can’t account for it, yet you still identify it as a truth. How did you come to know it as a “truth” for which you then claim you can’t account. Again, like I told Steve, it’s the same scenario. You are claiming that you are assenting to a truth and yet do not know it to be a truth to which you are assenting. This is irrational.

    Sean: …Perhaps you can put it in terms even us morons can understand?

    Cliffton: Now both Steve and Sean identify themselves as morons…publicly.

    This is my last word.

  76. Steve M Says:

    “This is my last word.”

    Good!! Now that you are finished (even though you asked questions, but refused to answer any), I will start my feeble attempt to defend my moronic idea that believing and opining are not the same as knowing. More to follow……

  77. Sam Says:

    Steve M: “I will start my feeble attempt to defend my moronic idea that believing and opining are not the same as knowing. More to follow……”

    Sam: Is the above statement the idea that is moronic? Or is the moronic idea that “all knowledge has to be truth, but it is not the case that all truth has to be knowledge.”

    Cliffton: “Name me one truth that you believe that is not knowledge?”

    Sean: “Yes, Cliff, that is a truth I believe. I believe I had spam and eggs…”

    Sean, (objectively) is it true that you had spam and eggs for breakfast and you believe this but do not call it knowledge? Or (subjectively) do you believe it to be true that you had spam and eggs for breakfast.

  78. Sam Says:

    Pardon my error of putting a final period rather than a question mark.

  79. Sean Gerety Says:

    Yet you still identify it as a truth. Let me repeat. You don’t say how you come to know this “truth” because you can’t account for it, yet you still identify it as a truth. How did you come to know it as a “truth” for which you then claim you can’t account.

    Yes, Cliff, I do hold “I had spam and eggs for breakfast” as a true belief for which I cannot account. Every proposition is either true or false. Do you deny that? As Clark wrote: “One may admit that a number of propositions commonly believed are true; but no one can deny that many such are false.”

    Again, I’m not exactly sure why has been said that has gotten you so incensed as to justify your rudeness, but I suppose I should be thankful that was your last word.

  80. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sean, (objectively) is it true that you had spam and eggs for breakfast and you believe this but do not call it knowledge? Or (subjectively) do you believe it to be true that you had spam and eggs for breakfast.

    I’m not really sure what the objective/subjective distinction is supposed to suggest, but my eating spam and eggs for breakfast (and that sounds good right now btw) is something I believe is true. I don’t know how to account for it so I don’t call it knowledge in the epistemic sense either objectively or subjectively. I am simply distinguishing between knowledge, opinion and ignorance. Evidently that irritated Cliff for some reason.

  81. Sam Says:

    Sean,

    I haven’t read anything to suggest that Cliffton took umbrage with differentiating knowledge, opinion, and ignorance.

    The question posed was “Name me one truth that you believe that is not knowledge?”

    You answered a different question. Your response answers the question “name something you believe to be true that is not knowledge?”

    Do you see the difference?

  82. Sean Gerety Says:

    Do I see the difference? No, not really.

    Besides being rude Cliff has also changed his question. Originally it was “name one truth that you know is not knowledge?” So, I’m not exactly sure what game he’s playing, although I suspect Cliff may be trying to resurrect “alethic scripturalism” something for which Dr. Robbins and others spent a considerable amount of time trying to persuade others (specifically Clark’s critics and specifically Michael Sudduth who is now a Hare Krishna) that it is not Clark’s Scripturalism. Basically, “alethic scripturalism” equates truth and knowledge and as George Macleod Coghill recently reminded me these folks misrepresented both Clark and Robbins by arguing “that any proposition not derived from scripture is not merely unknowable but actually false.”

  83. Steve M Says:

    I was working on my math this morning and determined that 2+2=5. Obviously then 5-2=2. I then concluded that (2+2)-2=2. Having settled that I sat down to my breakfast of spam and eggs.

  84. LJ Says:

    Math is ok. Spam is ok. But math and spam will kill you.

    LJ

  85. LJ Says:

    In 1972 at 7:00 am my cousin Egbert, on Mom’s side, was found dead at the breakfast table, his face in a plate of spam and eggs; there was a math book in his lap.

    Everyone in my family knows the combination of spam n’ eggs with math will kill you.

    It’s beyond me how anyone doesn’t know that.

    LJ

  86. Sam Says:

    Sean,

    It is an objective teaching of Scripture that God gives subjective knowledge (John 17:3; 20:31; 1 Cor. 2:12). It seems those discussing the topic here do not understand this.

    I have to go to work so, I won’t be commenting anymore today, after I complete this reply.

    To all,

    Silliness is not commendable. Foolishness is to be driven out of children and shameful in growm men.

    Also, I watched the clip you inserted Sean… a man dressed as a woman is supposed to be humorous? Sin is funny?

    Are there any soberminded men here?

    No wonder someone pursuing the truth finds this thread objectionable and then is accused of being rude.

  87. Sean Gerety Says:

    It is an objective teaching of Scripture that God gives subjective knowledge (John 17:3; 20:31; 1 Cor. 2:12). It seems those discussing the topic here do not understand this.

    Nope, still not seeing it. If you’re point is that not every used of the word “to know” in Scripture is in the epistemic sense then I would agree. However, the Corinthians passage would appear to be a reference to knowledge in the strict sense. That is unless you have some sort of mystical or neo-orthodox interpretation of the verse.

    Also, I watched the clip you inserted Sean… a man dressed as a woman is supposed to be humorous?

    I do think Monty Python is funny. I’m sorry if you don’t and my apologizes if I offended you.

  88. Hugh Says:

    Is everyone missing Cliff yet?

    That masterful logician, that acme of clarity, and embodiment of Christian charity spent his final ounce of patience on us moronic, sophomoric bottom-feeders.

    But we can rejoice that such a burning and a shining light was, for a season, willing to condescend to grace us with his wit, charm, and briliance.

    We, alas, were too dull to appreciate the gift we had before us. And now it’s gone… :(

  89. Hugh Says:

    Sam,

    Graham Chapman wasn’t only a man dressed as a woman, he was a homosexual dressed as a woman. Whether that makes it more objectionable or less, I hope that clarifies things a bit.

    As for grown men being silly, some might debate whether all of us are actually “grown.”

  90. Steve M Says:

    I asked: Are all the truths I believe Knowledge?

    Cliffton: Name me one truth that you believe that is not knowledge?

    Me: I can’t name something as true unless I know it to be so. There is a difference between knowledge and belief. This is what you seem to deny, but I can’t say for sure because you only ask questions, Questions are neither true nor false. Even though you are very slippery in that sense, your questions seem to be rhetorical, but you could certainly be less evasive.

    I asked: Are all the opinions I hold that happen to be true Knowledge?

    Cliffton: Name me one opinion that you hold that happens to be true that is not knowledge.

    I do not know which of my opinions happen to be true. If I did they would not be opinions they would be knowledge.

    This doesn’t seem so complex to me. I think this is simple enough for any moron to understand. You should occasionally answer a question with something other than a question.

  91. Sam Says:

    Sean,

    My point is that the word of God teaches us that:

    “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Romans 8: 14-16)

    This stands opposed to your assertion – “For example, can I even know that I am a saved man? Well, the short answer is no.”

    The biblical answer is, Yes. Jesus Christ saves His own, God adopts those in Christ, the Spirit bears witness with their spirit, and they cry Abba, Father. Their cry is not, “I hope I’m one who can cry Abba, Father.” It is, “Abba, Father.” There is a difference between public, objective knowledge (Scripture) and private knowledge (the Spirit bearing witness). The axiom of Scripture gives us both.

    Obviously, there are many more implications but perhaps the discussion will continue and we can discuss them later.

    To address something else, I’m not concerned about you offending me but of offending God. Does not the axiom you confess to hold declare men acting like women and women acting like men to be an abomination? Does it not teach us that to take pleasure in others who do this is sinful as well?

  92. Sean Gerety Says:

    This stands opposed to your assertion – “For example, can I even know that I am a saved man? Well, the short answer is no.”

    You’re certainly entitled to claim “private knowledge,” it seems many people do, but what you call knowledge I call begging the question.

    Further, you equivocate on the word “knowledge.” While I would say we can know we are saved in a colloquial or evidential sense, I disagree that we can deduce our eternal state from the propositions of Scripture. Jeremiah 17 tells us that the mind of man “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Well, you claim to, but why should I believe you? If your own eternal blessed state is a truth deduced from the axiom of Scripture then let’s see the deduction? All I see from you are assertions and not a single necessary inference. OK, I do see a little self-righteous posturing, but that could be taken as evidence either way.

    You write:

    The biblical answer is, Yes. Jesus Christ saves His own, God adopts those in Christ, the Spirit bears witness with their spirit, and they cry Abba, Father.

    All true, but how do you get from Jesus Christ saves His own, to Sam is Jesus Christ’s own? Two different propositions and you haven’t shown how you arrived at the latter or even explained how this might be done. Further, you acknowledge you can’t do it which is why you call this special knowledge “private.” I’m just supposed to take your word for it that you are indeed a child of God? I’m happy to do so, but as Clark notes above concerning colloquial or “everyday knowledge”; “One may admit that a number of propositions commonly believed are true; but no one can deny that many such are false.” Clark also said; “It may be suggested for sober consideration whether or not those who are most easily assured of salvation are least likely to be saved.”

  93. Sam Says:

    Sean: “You’re certainly entitled to claim ‘private knowledge,’ it seems many people do, but what you call knowledge I call begging the question.”

    Sam: I suppose you can call it whatever you wish but I’m not simply claiming private knowledge. I’m saying that Scripture says as much. You would do well to deal with Romans 8:15.

  94. Sam Says:

    Sean: “I’m just supposed to take your word for it that you are indeed a child of God?”

    Sam: No, you are to judge according to that standard by which we judge all things – Scripture.

  95. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’m not simply claiming private knowledge.

    Yes you are. You wrote: “There is a difference between public, objective knowledge (Scripture) and private knowledge (the Spirit bearing witness).”

    Obviously, your “private knowledge” is neither a deliverance of Scripture or a necessary inference from it or your distinction makes no sense. Besides, Romans 8:15 doesn’t tell me anything regarding whether or not you’re saved. Frankly, Scripture doesn’t tell me Sam is a saved man anywhere at all. Maybe you need to go back to the drawing board :)

  96. Sam Says:

    Sean,

    Who said Romans 8:15 tells Sean whether or not Sam is saved?

  97. Sam Says:

    I’ll quote your words again: ““For example, can I even know that I am a saved man? Well, the short answer is no.”

    This is not the same as asking ‘How can I know that someone else is saved.”

    You need to clarify this in your own mind.

  98. Sean Gerety Says:

    Who said Romans 8:15 tells Sean whether or not Sam is saved?

    I thought you said Scripture tells you that you’re saved? On the question of knowledge of ones salvation you said “Scripture says as much.” Of course Scripture doesn’t say any such thing. Seems to me you need to clarify a few things in your own mind.

    Then you went on about private knowledge which I guess is so private that no one else can know but you, but you haven’t explained how you know. Instead of answering the question you just keep repeating Rom 8:15 as if this were an argument. You beg the question. So until you want to step up to the plate and actually furnish an actual argument I think we’re done. Either that or I can post some more Monty Pyton sketches like this one:


  99. I have been reading more of Clark’s books recently, and I want to say that my earlier comment that Scripture does not lead to absolute knowledge is not accurate. I suppose that illogical minds can and do twist the Scriptures to their own destruction, it does not follow that Scripture itself is unclear. The doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture and the doctrine of biblical inerrancy both combine to support Clark’s view that Scripture is a logical revelation with no contradictions or antinomies. Scripture has only one correct meaning and any misunderstanding of the text on our part is due to the noetic effects of sin and not due to any lack of clarity in the text itself.

    I find myself becoming more and more in agreement with Scripturalism.

    Charlie


  100. I don’t always agree with Clark. For example, he says:

    “One subhead under the general title of Sanctification or Holiness is Assurance. Calvin and the first generation of Reformers seem to have held that assurance is inseparable from faith. Whoever is not assured of his salvation is simply not saved. This view may have been encouraged by the severity of Romish persecution, the exuberance of a newly found faith, and the utter impossibility of finding assurance in penance and good works. But as the persecutions diminished and as calmer study could be undertaken, the Westminster divines, a full century later, wrote, “This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he is partaker of it” (XVIII, 3).

    “I must confess I do not like the word infallible in this context. The Pope claims infallibility, but if this is a false claim, it seems strange that it can be asserted of a thousand or a million Protestants. One of the older divines, whose name I have forgotten, illustrated infallibility by the knowledge of a ship captain’s guiding his ship into a harbor. Though the captain was ignorant of many things, and mistaken about many others, he infallibly knew the channel. But is it not possible, as it actually happened in 1983 when a naval vessel struck a sand bar in San Francisco Bay, that a storm could have closed the previous channel? Scripture is infallible; nothing else is. We all can and we all do make mistakes.”

    Gordon H. Clark (2013-03-04T05:00:00+00:00). What Is The Christian Life? (Kindle Locations 712-723). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

    If we can and do make mistakes, could we not be mistaken that we have any assurance whatsoever? If Scripture is infallible, it logically follows that if we believe and assent to the information of the Gospel, then we are eternally secure. Perseverance is relative as even Clark admits. He answers his own question above when he asks how we may know that we know enough or how do we know we have obeyed enough to distinguish true assurance from false assurance? The answer is we can never know unless the promises of God in Scripture are true.

    Sanctification is always relative. Justification is based on the objective revelation of the active and passive obedience of Christ on the cross. Not even church membership is absolutely necessary for salvation. Church membership is normative and even desirable. It is NOT essential to salvation. That’s because many churches these days are apostate–including many denominations that claim to be “Reformed.”


  101. If all efforts toward assurance are essentially ending in skepticism, then Clark’s view of assurance ends in skepticism and no one can know if they are saved to any degree or not. Thus, Clark’s view winds up affirming the Arminian view of eternal insecurity? In reading Clark’s view of perseverance I don’t think that is what he would say but the implications are certainly there. There can indeed be false assurance but could not obedience lead to false assurance since no amount of obedience can be enough to justify anyone?


  102. Dear Charlie:

    1. You wrote in (January 20, 2014 at 9:04 am):

    “If we can and do make mistakes, could we not be mistaken that we have any assurance whatsoever? If Scripture is infallible, it logically follows that if we believe and assent to the information of the Gospel, then we are eternally secure. Perseverance is relative as even Clark admits. He answers his own question above when he asks how we may know that we know enough or how do we know we have obeyed enough to distinguish true assurance from false assurance? The answer is we can never know unless the promises of God in Scripture are true.”

    “Sanctification is always relative. Justification is based on the objective revelation of the active and passive obedience of Christ on the cross. Not even church membership is absolutely necessary for salvation. Church membership is normative and even desirable. It is NOT essential to salvation. That’s because many churches these days are apostate–including many denominations that claim to be ‘Reformed.'”

    2. I do not follow your chain of thoughts.

    By “perseverance” do you mean the perseverance of the saints?

    The Westminster Confession of Faith, 17.1: “They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.”

    In particular, can you give a citation where Gordon Clark admitted perseverance is relative?

    3. Your wrote in (January 20, 2014 at 9:08 am):

    “If all efforts toward assurance are essentially ending in skepticism, then Clark’s view of assurance ends in skepticism and no one can know if they are saved to any degree or not. Thus, Clark’s view winds up affirming the Arminian view of eternal insecurity? In reading Clark’s view of perseverance I don’t think that is what he would say but the implications are certainly there. There can indeed be false assurance but could not obedience lead to false assurance since no amount of obedience can be enough to justify anyone?”

    4. Again, I do not following your chain of thoughts.

    But I will first wait for your clarification on what you mean by “perseverance” before I will attempt to probe the statements further. : – )

    Sincerely

    Benjamin

  103. Jon Says:

    Assurance is a tricky subject. One way to approach it is to say that the moment someone believes they become saved and are forever saved. Another way to approach it is to say that a person may be among the elect. They have to search for signs that determine whether they are saved, but signs remain somewhat insufficient, so that assurance probably never comes to them. Finally, the Arminian view exists, which says one is saved while they believe. Hence they can have assurance at that very moment, but it will be lost the moment they cease to believe.


  104. Dear Jon:

    I totally agree that assurance is a tricky subject and that some search for signs to determine whether they are saved.

    But some need to talk about this subject.

    I am blessed by God in that since becoming a Christian, I have never doubt the existence of God and the Gospel.

    I have ups and downs in my spiritual life, but not in this area.

    At one point (in the past) I refused to pray to God because I was mad at Him for something.

    But even then, I knew in my heart of hearts that eventually I have to bow to Him because He is the Sovereign God.

    My spiritual life deepens because of that experience.

    But I have seen others plague by doubts and lack of assurance in their spiritual life.

    For some, the origin of doubts may be in bad theology and bad philosophy.

    So there is a need to talk about this subject. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  105. Jon Says:

    Dear Benjamin,

    I agree it goes back to theology or philosophy. The question is: which one should we accept? Various paradigms exist that try to make sense of Scripture and to take into account all that it says. Different paradigms appeal to different people. Each one offers a different understanding of ‘assurance.’ Yes, I agree we need to discuss this topic in detail.

    Sincerely,
    Jon


  106. @Benjamin If God is the only one who knows who will persevere and all our knowledge is but assurance of salvation, then as assurance can be shaken, intermitted, and weakened, it logically follows that we cannot know if we are elect, saved, etc., in any final way. Clark disagreed with the WCF when it says that we can reach a point in our persevering life where we can have a “infallible assurance” of salvation:

    A third point concerning assurance is one that is logically implied by what has already been said. Yet it deserves an explicit mention. The Westminster Confession puts the matter very strongly. “This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidences of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God: which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption” (17:2).

    Though the wording is very clear, it may be necessary in this age to point out two places where a misunderstanding may arise. First, the infallibility mentioned is not ours, as if we are infallible. The infallibility belongs to the promises of God. There is no hint here that we rise to the level of the inspired authors of the Bible.

    Gordon H. Clark (2013-03-04T05:00:00+00:00). What Is The Christian Life? (Kindle Locations 3391-3398). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

    It logically follows that saying that Scripture gives infallible promises is not the same thing as saying that we have an infallible assurance of salvation, which Clark so clearly points out. But the WCF says that WE have an infallible assurance of “faith.” The implication is clearly that we as believers have infallible assurance from our faith in the infallible promises of God in the infallible and inerrant Scriptures. Clark’s view could be seen to undermine the doctrine of justification since we can never obey or know enough to have an “infallible” faith. Faith can be intermitted, shaken, and even lost for a time. The elect will always return, though.

    In another place, Clark admits that John Calvin believed in eternal security:

    One subhead under the general title of Sanctification or Holiness is Assurance. Calvin and the first generation of Reformers seem to have held that assurance is inseparable from faith. Whoever is not assured of his salvation is simply not saved. This view may have been encouraged by the severity of Romish persecution, the exuberance of a newly found faith, and the utter impossibility of finding assurance in penance and good works. But as the persecutions diminished and as calmer study could be undertaken, the Westminster divines, a full century later, wrote, “This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he is partaker of it” (XVIII, 3).

    Gordon H. Clark (2013-03-04T05:00:00+00:00). What Is The Christian Life? (Kindle Locations 712-717). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

    Now, I understand that Clark fully affirms the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and rejects Arminianism. The problem for me here is that we as subjective individuals are fallible creatures. As such we may be mistaken about many things, including our own salvation. Clark makes it clear that there are many invalid professions of faith.

    I guess my point is that unless we can have a reasonable, rational, and logical justification for our belief/assent to the promises, then our profession of faith is invalid. On the other hand, the problem remains that we cannot know if we have obeyed enough or that we know enough to attain to assurance. Luther struggled with this. Unless salvation is outside of us and objective, then we can never know if we are saved or not.

    Taking Clark’s view literally, then we cannot have assurance. There seems to be a few logical contradictions hidden away in the Westminster Standards, and I’m not sure if Clark resolved all of them.

    Charlie

  107. Ron Says:

    Charlie,

    I can only wonder whether you think you can know anything, including whether you think you know that you can’t know anything.

  108. Ron Says:

    Charlie – not YOU, sorry about that, but those who think we cannot know we are saved when we are saved.

  109. Ron Says:

    As I note here, Clark…when engaging George Mavrodes on revelation and epistemology referenced Romans 8:16 as a proof-text to defend the Reformed and biblical position that we know the word of God by the persuasive power of the Holy Spirit. The thing I find strange is that Romans 8:16 discloses the means by which we can know we are sons of God in Christ, one of the very things Scripturalists often deny we can know.

  110. Ron Says:

    Charlie,

    Seems to me you are on the fence on this matter, which was the impetus for “not YOU’ in my second post to you.

    The problem for me here is that we as subjective individuals are fallible creatures. As such we may be mistaken about many things, including our own salvation. Clark makes it clear that there are many invalid professions of faith.

    It’s fallacious to conclude, so please consider not doing so, that being mistaken about many things precludes not knowing other things. Such a conclusion precludes the knowledge of anything. It, therefore, precludes the supposed knowledge that being mistaken about many things precludes knowing personal salvation.

    Although Scripturalists deny this, I wouldn’t be as quick to assert that Clark did. The only thing I’d argue is that Scripture doesn’t put forth such skepticism.


  111. Dear Charlie:

    Thank you for your reply. : – )

    1. An administrative request:

    I do not own the Kindle Edition of [What Is the Christian Life?].

    According to the Trinity Foundation Website: ” [What Is the Christian Life?] combines the second editions of [Sanctification] and [Today's Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine?] into one edition on the subject of the Christian Life. Also included are two essays by Dr. Clark – ‘Sanctification’ and ‘the Christian and the Law.’ ”

    The essay “Sanctification” is reprinted in [Essays on Ethics and Politics].

    The essay “The Christian and the Law” is available in [The Trinity Review].

    I own the printed edition of [Sanctification], [Today's Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine?], and [Essays on Ethics and Politics].

    To facilitate discussion and ease my looking up the references you quoted, when you quoted from other than the printed editions, can you provide additional descriptive locator such as individual book title, chapter name and number, and if applicable, section name.

    An example of a descriptive locator:

    “Under: Sanctification, Chapter 2: Aberrant Theories, section: Council of Trent.”

    This will be of much help to me in looking up your references. : – )

    2. Also, the coming Friday (January 31) will be Chinese New Year.

    (It will be the year of the Horse.)

    I will be busy with Chinese New Year and my online activity will be minimal during the immediate before and after of Chinese New Year.

    But I will try to get at least one reply to you in the coming week.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 85 other followers

%d bloggers like this: