R. Scott Clark Goes to School
Recently, 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.