It’s appears that after 2 rounds of shadow boxing, Paul Manata threw in the towel as he was unable to form any cogent arguments and was reduced to mindless assertions along the lines of, “The senses are a source of knowledge.” Well, of course they are Paul. They must be. After all you said they are. Meanwhile, Manata’s tag-team partner, Steve Hays, keeps punching away practicing his combinations and upper cuts and actually attempted to advance an occasional argument. However, and along the way, Hays slipped on his own sweat and made some colossal blunders exposing how little Clark he has actually read, much less understood.
Here is a sample:
While we’re on the subject of “outright and open heresies,” what about Clark’s pantheistic idealism, when he reduces human beings to nothing more than divine ideas? What about Clark’s modalism, when he collapses the immanent Trinity into the economic Trinity (cf. The Incarnation, p55)?
Pantheistic idealism? Modalism? First, modalism or Sabellianism is the idea that God is a single Person and the designations of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit signify distinct activities of the one divine Person as opposed to three distinct Persons. How modalism can be ascribe to anything Clark has ever written, much less anything found on page 55 of The Incarnation, is a mystery. Since Hays would not extend the courtesy of actually demonstrating his charge, but instead only cites a page number from Clark’s monograph I suppose in the hope that Triabloguer’s would just nod their heads in agreement, I’ll have to just assume he is referring to the following:
Though they [the Persons of the Godhead] are equally omniscient, they do not all know the same truths. Neither the complex of truths we call the Farther nor those we call the Spirit, has the proposition, “I was incarnated.” This proposition occurs only in the Son’s complex. Other examples are implied. The Father cannot say, “I walked from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Nor can the Spirit say, “I begot the Son.” Hence they Godhead consists of three Persons, each omniscient without having precisely the same content. If this is so, no difficulty can arise as to the distinctiveness of human persons. Each one is an individual complex. Each one is his mind or soul. Whether the propositions be true or false, a person is the propositions he thinks. I hope that some think *substance* to be a subterfuge.
Such then is the first conclusion of this study: *substance* and some other terms are meaningless, and very few can be salvaged by definition. The slogan is, Discard or Define! – [54-55]
The above is admittedly only part of a handful of concluding thoughts Clark draws from pages of preceding arguments and observations, however, I find it hard to imagine any view that could be further from modalism. Could this be another example of the dangers of punching oneself silly in a vain attempt to impress the Vantilian readers of Triablogue who are already predisposed against Clark and who seemingly get their information of what Clark taught from the jaundice pen of Van Til, his sycophantic and devoted followers, or even from someone calling himself “Aquascum”?
In spite of Hays’ gross mischaracterization of Clark, you’ll note that Clark clearly differentiates the three divine Persons simply because each Person does not think precisely the same set of thoughts. If Clark were a modalist, as Hays falsely charges, then all three Persons would think exactly the same thoughts simply because God would be numerically one Person. Each of the three “Persons” would be different expressions of one Person.
Another way to express this idea of modalism might be to say that the three Persons are co-extensive of each other to the point that the oneness and threeness of the Godhead would be a distinction without meaning. Or, to put it another way, God could be said to be one and three in precisely the same sense. Perhaps Hays has confused Clark with Van Til who wrote: “We do assert that God, that is, the whole Godhead, is one person”…[W]e must therefore hold that God’s being presents an absolute numerical identity. And even within the ontological Trinity we must maintain that God is numerically one. He is one person.” There is your modalism.
While Van Til can perhaps avoid the charge of modalism simply because he also asserts that the Godhead consists of three Persons, or rather three “personal subsistences,” he can’t avoid the charge of theological irrationalism, which is arguable a more damning charge than modalism. As Clark observed long ago:
Strange to say, a recent theologian has renewed the logical difficulty or perhaps has invented a new one. Cornelius Van Til asserts unity and plurality of the Trinity in exactly the same sense. He rejects the Athanasian doctrine of one substance and three Persons, or one reality and three hypostases. His words are, “We do assert that God, that is, the whole Godhead, is one person” (An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 229. The mimeographed syllabus on its title page says that it is for classroom purposes only and is not to be regarded as a published book. What this means is unclear. The author teaches it in class and so makes it public. There is no reason for not regarding it as his own view).
In the context, Van Til denies that the “paradox” of the three and the one can be resolved by the formula, “one in essence and three in person.”
This departure from the faith of the universal Christian church is indeed a paradox, but it is one of Van Til’s own making. That there are paradoxes in Scripture is undoubtedly true. One reader is puzzled at one point and another exegete is puzzled at another. But when a line of argument results in a recognizable contradiction, such as an object is both three and one in exactly the same sense, it should be a warning that the argument is unsound. The piety that accepts contradictions is not piety, but something else.
Furthermore, when a theologian asserts that a given paradox cannot be solved in this life by any human being, he is making an assertion that requires omniscience. That a scholar has failed to find in Scripture the solution of a difficulty does not prove that none is there. Before such a conclusion could be reasonably drawn, it would be necessary to trace out all the inferences derivable from Scripture. When all are set down, only then could one reasonably assert that the solution is not there.
So much for Hays’ charge that Clark was a modalist.
As far as Hays’ even wilder charge that Clark is guilty of “pantheistic idealism” for defining a person as a congeries of thoughts, I suppose Solomon was also guilty of “pantheistic idealism” when he wrote; “For as a man thinks within himself, so he is.” Of course, since no two people think precisely the same thoughts, no two people are the same person. This would also apply to the Person’s of Trinity. Consequently, and contra the unthinking calumny of Hays, Clark easily solves the problem of individuation, defined precisely what he means by “person” and did so according to the Scriptures, completely avoids meaningless words like “substance,” and clearly maintains God’s oneness and threeness without confusion or contradiction. Obviously this last accomplishment is something intolerable to confused Vantilians like Hays where God is said to be one Person and three Persons at the same time and in the same contradictory sense as they prattle on about the “one and the many.”
Moving on to a few more examples of Hays’ dazed confusion: (more…)