Categories: Gordon Clark
The following is from a recently discovered lecture Gordon Clark gave in 1974 on Augustine’s City of God. A few years ago I picked up City of God and made it about one quarter of the way through. I found it tedious, although I’m assured the later sections are worth the effort. I can’t say Clark’s lecture has inspired me to take up the tome again, but his review at least was not at all tedious.
One of the most widely known opinions is that space and time are infinite. There are some exceptions. The Stoics and Friedrich Nietzsche held that time was infinite but space is finite. So did Aristotle. Democritus and Plato, however much they contradicted each other in everything else, agreed that space and time are both infinite. This is also the common view of scientists today. But for Augustine, time has no infinite past. Aristotle held time to be infinite because motion can neither begin nor end, and time is a function of motion. But for Augustine time began because it is a function, not of physical bodies to be sure, but of created minds. Hence there was no time before God created. God is eternal, he is not temporal. Therefore, the original question, namely “what was God doing before he did anything” or “why did He not created sooner are inapplicable questions for the simple reason that this is no before or sooner. Augustine also mildly puts the pagans for not asking, “why did God create the here rather than there.” One question is as appropriate as the other. And Augustine’s answer is the same. There was no here or there before creation. Space, like time, is a function of created being. But while Augustine carefully worked out these philosophic, one might even say scientific, analyses of space and time he puts equals on the moral implications on repeated cycles in infinite time.
You can find the full review here.
Categories: Theology, Van Til
The following is taken from Robert Reymond’s excellent volume; A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith which is arguably the one systematic theology no thinking Christian can do without. I post the following in the hope to perhaps shake men like Lane Keister from their Vantillian slumber and as a warning to any young man considering entering seminary not to drink the Kool-Aid.
Bible students should be solicitous to interpret the Scriptures in a noncontadictory way; they should strive to harmonize Scripture with Scripture because the Scriptures reflect the thought of a single divine mind.
But many of our finest modern evangelical scholars are insisting that even after the human interpreter has understood the Bible correctly, it will often represent its truth to the human existent – even the believing human existent [see Lane Keister – SG] – in paradoxical terms, that is, in terms “taught unmistakably in the infallible word of God,” which while not actually contradictory, nevertheless “cannot possibly be reconciled before the bar of human reason.” [R.B. Kuiper] It is commonly declared, for example, that the doctrines of the Trinity, the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, unconditional election and the sincere offer of the gospel, and particular redemption and the universal offer of the gospel are all biblical paradoxes, each respectively advancing antithetical truths unmistakably taught in the Word of God that cannot possibly reconciled by human reason. James I. Packer likewise affirms the presence of such paradoxes in Scripture in his Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, although h prefers the term “antinomy” to “paradox.” He writes:
An antinomy -in theology at any rate-is not a real contradiction, though it looks like one. It is an apparent incompatibility between two apparent truths. An antinomy exists when a pair of principles stand side by side, seemingly irreconcilable, yet both undeniable…. [an antinomy] is insoluble…. What should one do, then, with an antinomy? Accept it for what it is, and learn to live with it. Refuse to regard the apparent contradiction as real.
Cornelius Van Til even declares that, because human knowledge is “only analogical” to God’s knowledge, all Christian truth will finally be paradoxical, that all Christian truth will ultimately appear to be contradictory to the human existent.
[Antinomies] are involved in the fact that human knowledge can never be completely comprehensive knowledge. Every knowledge transaction has in it somewhere a reference point to God. Now since God is not fully comprehensible to us we are bound to come into what seems to be contradictions in all our knowledge. Our knowledge is analogical and therefore must be paradoxical.
While we shun as poison the idea of the really contradictory we embrace with passion the idea of the apparently contradictory.
All teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory.
All the truths of the Christian religion have of necessity the appearance of being contradictory … We do not fear to accept that which has the appearance of being contradictory…. In the case of common grace, as in the case of every other biblical doctrine, we should seek to take all the factors of Scripture teaching and bind them together into systematic relations with one another as far as we can. But we do not expect to have a logically deducible relationship between one doctrine and another. We expect to have only an analogical system.
What should one say respecting this oft-repeated notion that the Bible will often (always, according to Van Til) set forth its truths in irreconcilable terms? To say the least, one must conclude, if such is the case, that it condemns at the outset as futile even the attempt at the systematic (orderly) theology that Van Til calls for in the last source cited, since it is impossible to reduce to a system irreconcilable paradoxes that steadfastly resist all attempts at harmonious systematization. One must be content simply to live theologically with a series of “discontinuities.”
Now if nothing more could or were to be said, this is already problematic enough because of the implications such a construction carries regarding the nature of biblical truth. But more can and must be said. First, the proffered definition of “paradox” (or antinomy) as two truths which are both unmistakably taught in the Word of God but which also cannot possibly be reconciled before the bar of human reason is itself inherently problematical, for the one who so defines the term is suggesting by implication that either he knows by means of an omniscience that is not normally in human possession that no one is capable of reconciling the truths in question or he has somehow universally polled everyone who has ever lived, is living now, and will live in the future and has discovered that not one has been able, is able, or will be able to reconcile the truths. But it goes without saying that neither of these conditions is or can be true. Therefore, the very assertion that there are paradoxes. so defined, in Scripture is seriously flawed by the terms of the definition itself. There is no way to know if such a phenomenon is present in Scripture. Merely because any number of scholars have failed to reconcile to their satisfaction two given truths of Scripture is no proof that the truths cannot be harmonized. And if just one scholar claims to have reconciled the truths to his or her own satisfaction, this ipso facto renders the definition both gratuitous and suspect. Read the rest of this post »
Categories: Heresies, John Robbins, Theology, Van Til
Since Lane Kesiter has so far refused to answer any of my questions and instead complained that I have misrepresented and mangled what he said and in the process distorted the teachings of his mentor and intellectual father, Cornelius Van Til (Keister said I did so it must be true), I hope to delve more into his non answers in a future post. I confess, it was intriguing to read him bemoaning my refusal to take his “no contradictions in the Bible” at face value. I mean, would he take Jeffery Meyers, James Jordan, Peter Leithart, Richard Lusk, Steve Wilkins (remember him), or Doug Wilson at face value when they all say they believe in justification by faith alone? I hope not. Oh, yeah, Keister did take Wilson’s claim at face value before reversing himself after it was too late.
Now, I sympathize with Keister. As I mentioned recently in one of the discussions on this blog, it is not easy for someone like Kesiter to come out publicly against the present irrationalism as it puts him at odds with the mainstream of modern Reformed thought. Could you imagine the fallout if he were to repudiate Scott Clark who thinks the teachings of Scripture presents to the mind of man a morass of “mystery of paradoxes”? Look at what Herman Hoeksema and Gordon Clark, not to mention John Robbins, all went through in opposing men just like Scott Clark. Just look at the amount of garbage being hurled my way for defending something so basic as justification by belief alone against the mystery mongers like Alan Strange, Ron DiGiacom, Reed DePace, Ron Henzel, Kesiter and the others at his blog.
The professional religious class is completely dominated by irrationalists.
For a guy like Keister to reject religious irrationalism parading as Reformed thought would threaten not only his standing among his peers, but his professional standing as well. And, I’m sure he wants to keep his job.
Concerning the Clark/Van Til Controversy Hoeksema observed:
However, even now one begins to wonder whether the real question in this controversy is not whether God, but whether his revelation to to us in the Scriptures, is comprehensible, that is, can be logically understood by the mind of man. Dr. Clark’s position is that all of Scripture is given us that we might understand it, that all of it is adapted to our human mind, so that, even though there be many things in that revelation of God which we cannot fathom, there is nothing in it that is contrary to human intelligence and logic. And the opponents appear to deny this [they do – SG].
And if this should be the real, underlying issue [it is – SG], if the complainants take the stand that Scripture reveals things that are, not above and far beyond, but contrary to, in conflict with the human mind [they do – SG], it is my conviction that the complainants should be indicted of heterodoxy, and of undermining all sound theology.
Either the logic of revelation is our logic, or there is not revelation.
This proposition I am prepared to defend at any time.
Sadly, and as an example of how bad things really are, all you need to do is look back at the Trinity Foundation’s founding document, The Trinity Manifesto: A Program for Our Time. John Robbins wrote about this very problem and fighting it is the reason the Trinity Foundation exists (much to the chagrin of the professional religious class).
Consider this from Robbins:
Contemporary secular intellectuals are anti-intellectual. Contemporary philosophers are anti-philosophy. Contemporary theologians are anti-theology. The irrationalism of the present age is so thoroughgoing pervasive that even the Remnant—the segment of the professing church that remains faithful—has accepted much of it, frequently without even being aware of what it was accepting. In some circles this irrationalism has become synonymous with piety and humility, and those who oppose it are denounced as rationalists—as though to be logical were a sin. Our contemporary anti-theologians make a contradiction and call it a Mystery. The faithful ask for truth and are given absurdity. If any balk at swallowing the absurdities of the antitheologians, they are frequently marked as heretics or schismatics who seek to act independently of God.
There is no greater threat facing the true church of Christ at this moment than the irrationalism that now controls our entire culture. Communism, guilty of tens of millions of murders, including those of millions of Christians, is to be feared, but not nearly so much as the idea that we, as Christian men, do not and cannot know truth. Hedonism, the popular philosophy of America, is not to be feared so much as the belief that logic—that “mere human logic,” to use the religious irrationalists’ own phrase—is futile. The attacks on truth, on revelation, on the intellect, and on logic are renewed daily. But note well: The misologists—the haters of logic—use logic to demonstrate the futility of using logic. The anti-intellectuals construct intricate intellectual arguments to prove the insufficiency of the intellect. The anti-theologians use the revealed Word of God to show that there can be no revealed Word of God—or that if there could, it would remain impenetrable darkness and mystery to our finite minds.
Nonsense Has Come
Is it any wonder that the world is grasping at straws—the straws of mysticism and drugs? After all, if people are told that the Bible contains insoluble mysteries, then is not a flight into mysticism to be expected? On what grounds can it be condemned? Certainly not on logical grounds or Biblical grounds, if logic is futile and the Bible mysterious. Moreover, if it cannot be condemned on logical or Biblical grounds, it cannot be condemned at all. If people are going to have a religion of the mysterious, they will not adopt Christianity: They will have a genuine mystery religion.”Those who call for Nonsense,” C.S. Lewis once wrote,”will find that it comes.” And that is precisely what has happened. The popularity of Eastern mysticism and of drugs is the logical consequences of the irrationalism of the twentieth century. There can and will be no Christian revival—and no reconstruction of society—unless and until the irrationalism of the age is totally repudiated by Christians.
John wrote the above in 1978. I was only a year out of high school and had first professed Christ around that time, but since then very little has change. And, as Keister has demonstrated so convincingly, it has only gotten worse.
Categories: Theology, Van Til
Does such a small man really deserve a response? Probably not. And, for the record, Kesiter gave me the left-foot-of-fellowship for defending justification by belief alone against those like Alan Strange, Ron DiGiacomo, Reed DePace and others on his blog who openly denied this foundational doctrine of the Christian faith. For these men there are people who can be properly classified as “faithless believers” which is impossible. When confronted with the logical impossibility of their position Strange and others appealed to “mystery.” At that time Keister complained:
I wonder sometimes if your faith is in reason and logic too much. In your reaction to Van Til, for instance, you reject any and all kinds of mystery in the Christian faith, as if our minds were as capable of understanding everything as God’s own mind. Is there any limit at all to what human reason and logic can attain? Is there a Creator/creature distinction? I’m not sure there is in your thinking. This makes you so sure of your positions that you look down on people who differ from you in almost any way. There is almost no charity at all when you differ from someone. It is what Scott Clark calls the quest for illegitimate religious certainty.
It is important to keep in mind that for these men the Scriptures teach any number of antinomies and insoluble paradoxes to which all men must bow. This is the modern definition of Reformed piety. This is also what these men mean by “mystery” and it is the belief that the Scriptures themselves defy logical harmonization at the bar of human reason. So, naturally, when Keister says “reason cannot prove the trustworthiness of Scripture” I read it from the epistemological framework he is coming from. Further, in the context of the Berkof quote claiming that the natural man can see only contradictions when he comes to God’s Word, Keister expands this by insisting, “Even the regenerate person still has sin clinging to his reason. How could any untrustworthy instrument prove perfection to be correct?” Needless to say, I’m hard pressed to see what else I should have concluded other than man, regenerate or otherwise, is incapable of discovering the logical consent of Scripture.
So I’ll ask again, if one was to posit a contradictory Bible, even if only to the human existent, would it still be trustworthy? Keister has nowhere addressed this question, and, besides, there is no evidence that he or the others at his blog believe Scripture is their axiom.
For example Reed DePace, who is a PCA TE and one of the moderators at Keister’s blog, argued:
We begin with God. We don’t presume God exists because the Bible is true. We presume the Bible is true because God exists.
God and not the Scriptures is their axiom, either that or DePace does not know what the word “axiom” means. DePace then goes into a discussion about circular reasoning completely oblivious to the fact that he has just begged the question. There can be no knowledge of God and we could know nothing about Him apart from His own self-revelation in Scripture. Read the rest of this post »
Categories: Heresies, Theology
To my horror, I just read Lane Keister’s New Year’s eve blog offering. Here it is in its entirety:
This is from Berkhof’s Introduction to Systematic Theology.
The Word of God presupposes the darkness and error of the natural man, and would therefore contradict itself, if it submitted itself to the judgment of that man. It would thereby acknowledge one as judge whom it had first disqualified (p. 172).
In other words, reason cannot prove the trustworthiness of Scripture. This is because reason only comes packaged in damaged goods. Even the regenerate person still has sin clinging to his reason. How could any untrustworthy instrument prove perfection to be correct? To do that, we would ourselves have to be more foundational than the Bible. No, the Bible is our axiom.
It’s hard to imagine a more vicious attack on the integrity of the Scriptures and the Reformed system of faith than what Keister has written above. While Keister’s post exudes piety and humility, consider the reverse. If the Scriptures were irrational and violated the laws of logic, specifically the law of contradiction, would they still be trustworthy? I don’t see how? Yet, for Keister reason is not a tool by which we can discover the trustworthiness of Scripture and he confuses the laws of logic with errors in logic due to sin. Further, and what Keister seems to forget, while axioms cannot be proven, they can be dis-proven and if the Scriptures violated the rules of right reason then it’s hard to see how they could still be considered God’s Word. The God of Scripture is not a God of confusion, Lane Kesiter and Louis Berkof notwithstanding.
Contra Keister (and Berkof) Gordon Clark argued:
…the law of contradiction cannot be sinful. Quite the contrary, it is our violations of the law of contradiction that are sinful. Yet the strictures which some devotional writers place on “merely human logic” are amazing. Can such pious stupidity really mean that a syllogism which is valid for us is invalid for God? If two plus two is four in our arithmetic, does God have a different arithmetic in which two and two make three, or perhaps five? – An Introduction to Christian Philosophy
Speaking of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Divines’ belief in the logical consistency of all of Scripture, Clark notes:
The consent or logical consistency of the whole is important; for if the Bible contradicted itself, we would know that some of it would be false. – What Do Presbyterians Believe
And, finally, concerning the importance of the logical consistency of Scripture that attest to divine inspiration, Clark writes:
If, nonetheless, it can be shown that the Bible — in spite of having been written by more than thirty-five authors over a period of fifteen hundred years — is logically consistent, then the unbeliever would have to regard it as a most remarkable accident . . . Logical consistency, therefore, is evidence of inspiration. – God’s Hammer
Categories: Heresies, Theology
I recently read Herman Hoeksema: A Theological Biography by Patrick Baskwell (a book I highly recommend), and it was nice to read again various selections from Calvin’s works that completely expose the irrationality of the so-called “well meant offer of the Gospel” and the hopelessly confused and contradictory idea that God desires the salvation of those he has no desire to save. I realize folks on the other side love to trot out Calvin’s commentary on 2 Peter 3:9 that at first glace appears to support their cause, but one small inconsistency in a commentary does not a definitive position make and it fails to take into account his more developed thought. Besides, Calvin is hardly the first or last to stumble on this passage in Peter. That said, the following is the Institutes book III, chapter 22, section 10 in its entirety (even the section’s subtitle is a repudiation of the asinine and un-Reformed WMO):
10. THE UNIVERSALITY OF GOD’S INVITATION AND THE PARTICULARITY OF ELECTION
Some object that God would be contrary to himself if he should universally invite all men to him but admit only a few as elect. Thus, in their view, the universality of the promises removes the distinction of special grace; and some moderate men speak thus, not so much to stifle the truth as to bar thorny questions, and to bridle the curiosity of many. A laudable intention, this, but the design is not to be approved, for evasion is never excusable. But those who insolently revile election offer a quibble too disgusting, an error too shameful.
I have elsewhere explained how Scripture reconciles the two notions that all are called to repentance and faith by outward preaching, yet that the spirit of repentance and faith is not given to all. Soon I shall have to repeat some of this. Now I deny what they claim, since it is false in two ways. For he who threatens that while it will rain upon one city there will be drought in another [Amos 4:7], and who elsewhere announces a famine of teaching [Amos 8:11], does not bind himself by a set law to call all men equally. And he who, forbidding Paul to speak the word in Asia [Acts 16:6], and turning him aside from Bithynia, draws him into Macedonia [Acts 16:7 ff.] thus shows that he has the right to distribute this treasure to whom he pleases. Through Isaiah he still more openly shows how he directs the promises of salvation specifically to the elect: for he proclaims that they alone, not the whole human race without distinction, are to become his disciples [Isaiah 8:16]. Hence it is clear that the doctrine of salvation, which is said to be reserved solely and individually for the sons of the church, is falsely debased when presented as effectually profitable to all. Let this suffice for the present: although the voice of the gospel addresses all in general, yet the gift of faith is rare. Isaiah sets forth the cause: that the arm of the Lord has not been revealed to all [Isaiah 53:1]. If he had said that the gospel is maliciously and wickedly despised because many stubbornly refuse to hear it, perhaps this aspect of universal calling would have force. But it is not the prophet’s intention to extenuate men’s guilt when he teaches that the source of the blindness is that the Lord does not deign to reveal his arm to them [Isaiah 53:1]. He only warns that, because faith is a special gift, the ears are beaten upon in vain with outward teaching. Now I should like to know from these actors whether preaching alone, or faith, makes God’s sons.
Surely, when it is said that in the first chapter of John: “All who believe in the only-begotten Son of God also become sons of God themselves” [John 1:12], no confused mass is placed there, but a special rank is given to believers, “who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” [John 1:13, Vg.].
But, they say, there is a mutual agreement between faith and the Word. This is so wherever there is faith; but for seed to fall among thorns [Matthew 13:7] or on rocky ground [Matthew 13:5] is nothing new, not only because the greater part indeed show themselves obstinately disobedient to God, but because not all have been supplied with eyes and ears. How, then, shall it be consistent that God calls to himself persons who he knows will not come? Let Augustine answer for me: “You wish to argue with me? Marvel with me, and exclaim, ‘O depth!’ Let both of us agree in fear, lest we perish in error.” Besides, if election, as Paul testifies, is the mother of faith, I turn back upon their head the argument that faith is not general because election is special. For from this series of causes and effects we may readily draw this inference: when Paul states that “we have been supplied with every spiritual blessing… even as he chose us from the foundation of the world” [Ephesians 1:3-4 p.], these riches are therefore not common to all, for God has chosen only whom he willed. This is why Paul in another place commends faith to the elect [Titus 1:1]: that no one may think that he acquires faith by his own effort but that this glory rests with God, freely to illumine whom he previously had chosen. For Bernard rightly says: “Friends listen individually when he also says to them, ‘Fear not, little flock’ [Luke 12:32], for ‘to you has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven’ [Matthew 13:11]. Who are they? ‘Those whom he has foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son’ [Romans 8:29 p.], and to whom God’s great and secret plan has become known: ‘The Lord knows those who are his’ [2 Timothy 2:19], but what was known to God has been revealed to men. And, indeed, he does not vouchsafe to others participation in so great a mystery, save to those whom he has foreknown and predestined to become his own.” A little later he concludes: “‘The mercy of God is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him [Psalm 103:17; 102:17, Vg.]. From everlasting because of predestination, to everlasting because of beatification—the one knowing no beginning, the other, no end.” But why do we need to quote Bernard as a witness, when we hear from the Master’s own lips: “Only those see the Father who are from God” [John 6:46]? By these words he means that all those not reborn of God are astonished at the brightness of his countenance. And indeed, faith is fitly joined to election, provided it takes second place.
This order is elsewhere clearly expressed in Christ’s words: “This is the will of my Father, that I should not lose what he has given. This is his will, that everyone who believes in the Son may not perish” [John 6:39-40, freely rendered]. If he willed all to be saved, he would set his Son over them, and would engraft all into his body with the sacred bond of faith. Now it is certain that faith is a singular pledge of the Father’s love, reserved for the sons whom he has adopted. Hence Christ says in another passage: “The sheep follow the shepherd, for they know his voice. But a stranger they will not follow,… for they do not know the voice of strangers” [John 10:4-5, cf. Vg.]. Whence does this distinction arise but from the fact that their ears have been pierced by the Lord? For no man makes himself a sheep but is made one by heavenly grace. Whence also the Lord teaches that our salvation will be forever sure and safe, for it is guarded by God’s unconquerable might [John 10:29]. Accordingly, he concludes that unbelievers are not of his sheep [John 10:26]. That is, they are not of the number of those who, as God promised through Isaiah, were to become disciples [cf. Isaiah 8:16; 54:13]. Now because the testimonies that I have quoted express perseverance, they at the same time attest the unvarying constancy of election.