Clark Quick Quote

clark01While watching Vantilians Paul Manata and Steve Hays get punch-drunk as they continue to shadow box over at Triblogue and convince themselves that they have somehow scored some points against the Scripturalism of Gordon Clark, I had the chance this past week to scan again Clark’s excellent one volume history of philosophy, Thales to Dewey.   I was again struck by Clark’s concluding observations and thought I would share them here:

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.

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7 Comments on “Clark Quick Quote”

  1. Roberto G Says:

    Suicide was a recurring issue in Clark’s works. I don’t have a complete list of examples, but it is definitely found in his 3 Types of Religious Philosophy and if memory serves me correctly, an anecdote involving a panel discussion with a representative of another religion and an atheist in which his answer to a question about what he would do if he was convinced that Christianity was not true. He said he would shoot himself. I think it may also be found in his Christian education book as well.

  2. Sean Gerety Says:

    You can add Robbins and his refutation of Objectivism to the list. To be, or not to be I suppose. Although, I don’t remember hearing him on any panel discussion interacting with an atheist. If you can remember where you heard it, I would be interested.

  3. James Vandenberg Says:

    The suicide anecdote is in “The Making and Unmaking of an Evangelical Mind: The Case of Edward Carnell:

    “A friend and former colleague told me that years ago, at a Christian Education Conference sponsored by Park Street Church in Boston, he attended a panel discussion involving a secular Jew, a Roman Catholic, and Clark. After a sharp exchange of views over questions of ultimate concern, the Jew somewhat frustratedly asked Clark: “What would you do if I could prove to you beyond all possible doubt that you were wrong?” Clark answered with not a moment’s hesitation: “I’d shoot myself.” Admittedly, if we had only this anecdotal evidence, we would be well-advised to leave Clark out of the discussion. In the heat of argument he might have said these words for rhetorical effect or with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Written evidence, however, confirms that Clark meant precisely and literally what he said. The theme appears again and again in his books.” (p. 211)

    There’s a slight hint that Clark influenced Carnell, who was struggling with depression and doubt, to kill himself with an overdose of prescription pills.

  4. Roberto G Says:

    To clarify, I read about his answer in a panel discussion he participated in as an anecdote in a book. It may have been an anecdote in the Carnell related book, “The Making and Unmaking of An Evangelical Mind.” (The author somewhat sensationally speculated that Carnell followed Clark’s advice in taking his own life. Of course, the author misses Clark’s point concerning suicide.). Again, my memory is foggy here, but I definitely remember reading about this somewhere. In any case, the above quote doesn’t flesh out the reason for Clark’s mention of suicide. It may be misinterpreted as an attempt at humor. But he was dead serious about challenging the reader, after taking us through many considerations (in this case, the history of philosophy), to confront the choice to view life as meaningful and worthwhile or embrace consistently to the end the futility and despair found outside of Christ and His Word, the “alien source” and “divine revelation”.

  5. qeqesha Says:

    I do not even think one has to go as far as Clark´s quote above in dealing with Manata and Hayes. Let them show how they know themselves or their spouses, their favourite taunt against Scripturalism! They simply have not done their home work!

    Denson

  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    I don’t think you can blame Carnell’s death on Clark’s correct observation that life apart from knowing the one true and living God is darkness and death in this life and in the next. From what I’ve read Carnell’s death was never determined to be a suicide, although he did evidently suffer clinical depression.

    Beyond that, I think you’re right and that the above is no joke and Clark was pressing the antithesis in, I think, a very eloquent and powerful way.

  7. Eric Says:

    The Apostle Paul does basically the same thing as Clark:

    1 Cor. 15:32
    If I have fought with wild animals in Ephesus from merely human motives, what do I get out of it? If the dead are not raised, “Let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” In other words, Live it up. This is the best it will ever be.

    Or, if there is no truth at all (no meaning), this life doesn’t matter, nor the next life, so, why not just end the pain now, and get it over with. It is better to be non-existent than conscientiously suffering.

    These are both logical conclusions from misguided premises and I don’t blame Clark at all for taking something to its logical conclusion as he is pointing out the absurdity of the premises.

    Clark and Paul do the exact same thing by basically saying, “This is the ‘end’ of your thinking.”


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