R. Scott Clark Goes to School

clarkRecently, R. Scott Clark has  been reviewing John Frame’s new Systematic Theology, which is ironic since Frame’s epistemic method, even prior to his embrace of triperspectivalism, was absolutely hostile to any systematic approach to Scripture.   It’s also ironic, because like  Frame, Clark maintains that the Scriptures present to the mind of man  a morass of insoluble paradoxes and “mysteries” to which man’s mind must submit in the ultimate act of piety.  Think of it as the intellectual equivalent of harikari.  Instead of Christianity being a rational faith where God’s self-revelation is given so that we might believe and understand, for Clark, “Our faith is full of mystery of paradoxes to wit, the holy Trinity, the two natures and one person of Christ, divine sovereignty and human responsibility…., the free offer, the true presence of Christ in the Supper, and means of grace (the Spirit operates through the foolishness of Gospel preaching) and that’s the short list.”

Admittedly, I can’t think of any Reformed confession, much less the Westminster Confession, which makes a similar confession anywhere. Nowhere are we called to confess that  the Christian faith is “full of mystery of paradox.” Instead we confess a method by which the Scriptures might be correctly interpreted and understood.  For example, WCF 1:9 states concerning “The Interpretation of Scripture”:

The infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is the scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture, (which is not manifold, but one,) it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

Notice, nothing about the infallible rule of interpretation ending in the “mystery of paradox” to which we must submit as we embrace nonsense like the so-called “free offer of the Gospel” where confused minds think it a mark of Reformed orthodoxy to confess that God simultaneously desires and does not desire the salvation of all men.  Some, like Van Til,  even maintain that the doctrine of the Trinity is similarly contradictory (what these men call “mystery”) and  confess that God is both one Person and three Persons at the same time and in the same sense.  Thankfully, this was one insoluble Vantillian paradox that Scott Clark refused to swallow.  Small blessings aide, Clark’s belief in Christianity as an irrational faith stems from his belief that God, even in light of His self-revelation of Himself in Scripture, remains completely unknowable.  This is Van Til’s doctrine of incomprehensibility in a nutshell as Clark explains:

As a matter of truth, God’s essence is a dark, unrevealed entity. God, as he is in himself (in se) is hidden from us…We know that God’s hidden essence is but we don’t know what God’s essence is. We’re not capable of knowing or understanding that essence. We know what God has revealed of himself to us. God has given us pictures, illustrations, analogies, but he has not revealed himself as he is in himself…The Reformed want to affirm both the mystery of God’s hiddenness and the utterly reliability of his self-revelation.

Now, in response to this Steve Hays at Triablogue offers this little argument:

If God’s essence is unknowable, then Scripture is not a divine self-revelation. God hasn’t revealed himself to us in Scripture. Rather, God has revealed something other than himself.

Absolutely devastating.  Hays’ argument cuts to heart of Clark’s entire theology and excises the basis for a lot of that “mystery of paradox” nonsense along the way.  Not surprising, it is also an argument that nicely mirrors Gordon Clark’s oft repeated argument against Van Til’s incomprehensible doctrine of incomprehensibility and his insistence that all truth, including all truth about God even as He reveals Himself to us in Scripture, is pure analogy.  Consider this:

If God has the truth and if man has only an analogy, it follows that he does not have the truth. An analogy of the truth is not the truth; even if man’s knowledge is not called an analogy of the truth but an analogical truth, the situation is no better. An analogical truth, except it contain a univocal point of coincident meaning, simply is not the truth at all. In particular (and the most crushing reply of all) if the human mind were limited to analogical truths, it could never know the univocal truth that it was limited to analogies … Such skepticism must be completely repudiated if we wish to safeguard a doctrine of verbal revelation.

For Scott’s Clark response to Hays see here.  For Hays’ biting rejoinder see: Confessional Arians.

About these ads
Explore posts in the same categories: Van Til

16 Comments on “R. Scott Clark Goes to School”

  1. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks, Sean!

    If, as RSC says, Believing in predestination and reprobation does not make one a “hyper-Calvinist.” Denying the free-offer of the gospel does. Then count me as hyper.

    It is interesting that Clark (R.S.) lists no contrasting point to “the free offer”: Our faith is full of mystery of paradoxes to wit, the holy Trinity, the two natures and one person of Christ, divine sovereignty and human responsibility…., the free offer, the true presence of Christ in the Supper, and means of grace….

    No mention of divine sovereignty in reprobation, the decree thereunto, etc.</i? It is sadly missing in much contemporary "Anti-Hyper-Calvinist Calvinism." ;)

    Murray's folly answered here: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=28

    and here: http://www.fpcr.org/blue_banner_articles/murray-free-offer-review.htm

    Clark answered here: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=278

    II Peter 3:9 separates the Calvinists.

    Sean, did RSC respond to your critique of his Janus?

  2. Hugh McCann Says:

    Messed up the second bit there:

    No mention of divine sovereignty in reprobation, the decree thereunto, etc. It is sadly missing in much contemporary “Anti-Hyper-Calvinist Calvinism.”

    Murray’s folly answered here: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=28

    and here: http://www.fpcr.org/blue_banner_articles/murray-free-offer-review.htm

    Clark answered here: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=278

    II Peter 3:9 separates the Calvinists.

    Sean, did RSC respond to your critique of his Janus?

  3. Hugh McCann Says:

    This begs some questions:

    As a matter of truth, God’s essence is a dark, unrevealed entity. God, as he is in himself (in se) is hidden from us…We know that God’s hidden essence is but we don’t know what God’s essence is. We’re not capable of knowing or understanding that essence. We know what God has revealed of himself to us. God has given us pictures, illustrations, analogies, but he has not revealed himself as he is in himself…The Reformed want to affirm both the mystery of God’s hiddenness and the utterly reliability of his self-revelation.

    How does one know this is (as dogmatically asserted by RSC), “a matter of truth”?

    This is blood-curdlingly chilling: “God’s essence is a dark, unrevealed entity.”
    >Think about THAT “good news,” pilgrim!

    “God, as he is in himself (in se) is hidden from us…”
    >That’s right, “hidden,” saint.

    “We know that God’s hidden essence is but we don’t know what God’s essence is.”
    >Again, HOW?!

    “We’re not capable of knowing or understanding that essence.”
    >How do we know we’re so incapable?
    >And is God merely unwilling to make his essence known, or incapable?
    >And how can we know this?

  4. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean et. al.,

    Does Calvin or Beza or Ursinus or à Brakel or Witsius or Turretin or Luther or Cranmer or anyone calling himself “Reformed” before the 20th Century say anything like Scott Clark’s:

    God’s essence is a dark, unrevealed entity.
    God, as he is in himself (in se) is hidden from us…
    we don’t know what God’s essence is.
    We’re not capable of knowing or understanding that essence…
    God has given us pictures, illustrations, analogies, but he has not revealed himself as he is in himself…

    Do Reformed theologians historically “affirm both the mystery of God’s hiddenness” to believers?

    It seems the apostle Paul (in I Cor. 2) says this is true only for those sans la lumière:

    6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

    7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

    8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

    9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

    10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

    11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

    12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

    13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

    14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

    16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.

    Things mysterious and hidden are for the unbveliver, no?

  5. Hugh McCann Says:

    There are known knowns – there are things we know we know.

    There are known unknowns – that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.

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

    The Philosopher Rumsfeld

  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sean, did RSC respond to your critique of his Janus?

    No. I didn’t think he would.


  7. If God’s essence is hidden, then God is hidden, because God is simple. He does not have an essence, he is his essence. Therefore, there is no God. This is at the very least agnosticism. Not only is there no revealed God, but it stands to reason, that if he is not revealed to the mind of man, then there is no revelation of him that is external to him. There is only “analogy”. Analogy to what? He’s hidden, so what can Scripture compare him to? Where is there ANY point of univocity in order to setup an analogy. Huh?! This is the worst kind of nonsense. This is the intellectual abandonment of any grounds for revealed religion. This is the embrace of the worst kind of existentialism. An existentialism grounded in the authenticity of…nothing! Kierkegaard would be astonished. He believed in infinite passion, not infinite nonsense. This is proof that the logical positivists were right after all, metaphysical talk is nonsense.

    From an ecclesiastical perspective, the church at its best would have excommunicated these men. R.S. Clark is on his way to becoming a member of the Eastern Orthodox cult with their emphasis on the via negativa. Shades of R. W. Tozer and the Cloud of Unknowing.

    Gus Gianello

  8. Ron Says:

    It’s interesting that John Frame takes Clark’s position to task on this very thing when he says in Escondido that they believe: “Anything we say about God is at best…analogy…and… at least partly false.”

  9. Hugh McCann Says:

    Nice touch Ron! Amen.

  10. Ron Says:

    For what it’s worth, (i) Frame and Bahnsen believed that man can know things and (ii) they argued that Van Til’s use of analogy did not imply that he himself did not agree that man knows things. In fact, Bahnsen (for instance) took issue with Nash and Reymond on their alleged misrepresentation of Van Til on this matter. I’m not here to defend Van Til . I find his language imprecise and believe that sometimes Bahnsen and Frame have been too charitable to Van Til with respect to his vague language. Notwithstanding, I’m not as quick to conclude that Van til actually believed what so many so-called “Van Tillians” (not Bahnsen or Frame) think he believed and continue to promulgate – blatant skepticism, which apparently has found a home in Escondido as well.

    I can still remember being in the Westminster bookstore in Philadelphia some years ago speaking to a friend, still a prominent professor at the seminary. I remember him saying that not just some but all points of theology will result in paradox when taken to their logical end. He attributed this to the creator-creature distinction. This goes way beyond the simple premise that the mode in which God and man know things is different. It speaks to whether man’s and God’s knowledge ever coincide. Can we know anything that remains contradictory to us?! This person disagreed with Van Tillians Bahnsen and Frame. Whether he disagreed with Van Til doesn’t concern me. The man was delusional on this matter regardless.

    Finally, I think the OPC controversy was mostly if not all the fault of Van Til and his cronies. The fallout has been most unfortunate. Clark is a foul word now, just like theonomy.

  11. Hugh McCann Says:

    I know (I think) of whom you speak, Ron. ;)

    As for words, G.H. Clark = godly, holy;
    Theonomy = bad;
    R.S. Clark = really sketchy.

  12. Hugh McCann Says:

    Frame & Bahnsen prolly just loved CVT and want(ed) to maintain the fawning student/ vaunted master distinction.

  13. Ron Says:

    You know where to find me off line.

  14. Denson Dube Says:

    Hugh,
    .. the fawning student/vaunted master distinction … :-)
    LOL!

  15. Jon Says:

    The very fact that God has spoken to us, that he uses human language, that he likens himself to creation through the use of metaphor, figurative language, symbol and the like, indeed indicates we can and do possess affirmative knowledge, knowledge in the positive sense, of God. Creation and humanity in particular, made in his image, reflect him. His world expresses something of him. We can know some substantial things about GOd, at least what he would have us to.

  16. Jon Says:

    Language is an apparently adequate means for God’s communication to us. His creation is a means for analogous thought. Of course it’s important to remember that creation is not an adequate means for understanding God’s message to us. Natural revelation has severe limitations.


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 86 other followers

%d bloggers like this: