Benjamin Wong on the Yahoo Scripturalist list asked if I would post his observations concerning the immediate fallout of the Clark/Van Til controversy that he culled from The Presbyterian Guardian. Despite failing in their attempt to defrock Clark, and despite being disciplined by the Philadelphia Presbytery, Van Til and his associates at Westminster Seminary persisted in their attack against Clark’s supporters until they drove them all out of the OPC including Clark himself (John Robbins recalled that Clark regretted not staying in the OPC to continue the fight). Wong’s observations, drawn from a smattering of old reports from the Guardian’s archives are relevant today as the war waged by Van Til and his followers against Gordon Clark is very much alive and well: especially by those associated with Westminster Seminary (both East and West). While I think there can be little doubt that the controversy in the 1940’s centered around Westminster’s independence as a para-church organization which Clark and his associates threatened (documented in John Robbins’ booklet, Can the OPC be Saved?), the underlying irrational philosophy of Van Til continues to pollute the minds of countless young seminary students and church men to the detriment of glory of Christ and His Church. Wong has also provided an index of Clark related material from the Presbyterian Guardian that can be found in the combox of the Valuable Archive post below.
By Benjamin Wong
1. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) has made the entire collection of The Presbyterian Guardian available at its website:
I like to thank the OPC for making them available.
2. By my count, there are at least 45 editorials, articles, communications, news items, letters to editors, etc. in The Presbyterian Guardian that are relevant to the Clark-Van Til Controversy.
They are a fascinating read.
One thing (among many others) that struck me is that after the Van Til faction has taken effective control over the OPC, they did not attempt to unify the denomination.
Rather, the Van Tillians did not stop until they drove their opponents out of the OPC.
3. Although I am a Canadian, I watch my share of American TV.
In a typical American national political convention (Republican or Democrat), after all the campaigning is over there will be a winning candidate.
Typically, in his acceptance speech to the convention, the winning candidate will reach out to the losers to unify the convention.
Losing does not mean the losers have to give up their positions.
But as members of a political party, they are expected to endorse the party platform.
At a minimum, the losers are expected not to work against the party platform.
But this symbolic gesture of reaching out to the losers to unify the convention is very important – it helps to heal the animosities that have developed between the candidates during the
4. But it was not so with the Van Tillians.
The Van Tillians were very good in the tactics of church politics:
(a) They took control of the Editorial of The Presbyterian Guardian (i.e. control the propaganda).
(b) They defeated the attempt to place Westminster Theological Seminary under OPC oversight.
(c) They progressively took over key positions at Presbyteries and the General Assembly of the OPC.
(d) Graduates of Westminster Theological Seminary began to fill the pulpits of the OPC and gained influence at the grassroots level.
But after they took effective control over the OPC, the Van Tillians did not stop.
They continue their church politics until they drove their opponents out of the OPC.
There was to be no “unifying the convention”.