Gordon Clark: The True Presuppositionalist

I just got the latest Trinity Review in the mail today.  In this issue  Dr. W. Gary Crampton reviews Greg Bahnsen’s posthumously published volume, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended.   The review is intentionally limited to just the portion of Bahnsen’s book that deals with the Scripturalism of  Gordon Clark and on every count Bahnsen comes up short.  I have to say after wading through the complete horror show over at Wes White’s blog as people slog through the more than 160 pages of the  Missouri Presbytery report exonerating false teacher Jeff Meyers, it was a singular pleasure to sit back and read this latest review by Dr. Crampton.  It also is an excellent introduction to the presuppositionalism of Gordon Clark and will be an invaluable resource for those interested in understanding and furthering Clark’s Scripturalism.

Here is a small selection of Crampton’s review to whet your appetite:

According to Dr. Clark, this apagogic* methodology, consisting in a series of reductiones ad absurdum, is the principal method available to a Biblical apologist. The reason is that even though there is metaphysical common ground between believers and unbelievers, in that both are created in the image of God, there is no common epistemological ground. That is, there are no common theoretical propositions, no common “notions,” between Christianity and non-Christian philosophies. The ad hominem apagogic arguments are to be used against the unbeliever, who is a covenant-breaker and already in possession of the innate idea of the God against whom he is rebelling. The arguments are to be used in a fashion that will attempt to make him epistemologically self-conscious (and thus God conscious) of his covenant breaking rebellion.

After demonstrating the internal incoherence of the non-Christian views, the Biblical apologete will argue for truth and the logical consistency of the Scriptures and the Christian worldview revealed therein. He will show how Christianity is self-consistent, how it gives us a coherent understanding of the world. It answers questions and solves problems that other worldviews cannot. This method is not to be considered as a proof for the existence of God or the truth of Scripture, but as proof that the non-Christian view is false. It shows that intelligibility can only be maintained by viewing all things as dependent on the God of Scripture, who is truth itself. This is the proper “presuppositional” approach to apologetics.

Dr. Clark used the Augustinian “argument from the nature of truth” to reveal the systematic consistency of Christianity. Truth, he argued, must exist. That is, skepticism is false. Even to deny the existence of truth (that is, to say that it is “true” that there is no truth) is to assert that truth does and must exist. Further, it is not possible for truth to change. That which changes, by definition, cannot be true. To deny truth’s eternality (that is, to say that it is “true” that truth is not eternal or that it will someday perish) affirms its eternal nature. And since truth can exist only in the form of propositions, it must be mental (that is, being propositional, it can exist only in the mind). But seeing that the mind of man is not eternal and unchangeable, there must be a mind superior to the mind of man which is eternal and unchangeable: the mind of God. God, as Scripture testifies, and the Westminster Confession of Faith (1:4) (7) confirms, is “truth itself.” Therefore, if a man knows any truth, he also knows something of God, because God revealed it to him.

According to Dr. Clark, then, the defense of the Christian faith involves two basic steps. First, the Christian apologete must show the unbeliever that the axioms of secular systems result in self-contradiction. Second, the apologete should point out the internal consistency of the Christian system. When these two points have been made clear, the Christian will urge the unbeliever to repudiate the axioms of secularism and accept God’s revelation. This approach neither undermines the presupposition of Biblical revelation as foundational to a Christian worldview in general nor to apologetics in particular. Rather, it argues (ad hominem) from the standpoint of the unbeliever to show him the futility of his worldview and the consistent worldview presented in the Christian system. Dr. Clark’s “come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18) approach, however, is not looked upon with favor by Greg Bahnsen who prefers a more heavy-handed “dogmatic criticism” method (as will be noticeable below).

* Apagogic: proving indirectly, by showing the absurdity, or impossibility of the contrary.

Explore posts in the same categories: Gordon Clark, Theology

73 Comments on “Gordon Clark: The True Presuppositionalist”

  1. Ryan Says:

    I haven’t gotten my copy in the mail yet, but it sounds great. Incidentally, I recently wrote a post on the fact I have yet to see Van Til’s TAG apagogically substantiated. Small world.

  2. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks, Sean, for pointing us to Trinity Foundation, Crampton’s piece, and of course, G.H. Clark.

    So sorry Dr. Bahnsen missed much of the good in Clark!

    I have to believe it was politically-driven blindness, as Greg was no dummy.

  3. Glad to see TF still publishing Dr. Crampton 🙂

  4. Hugh McCann Says:

    BTW: Dr Crampton’s book,

    _From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism: A Critique of the Westminster Standards on the Subjects of Baptism_

    is currently on sale at Reformed Baptist Academic Press for $14.30 (reg $22).

    See http://www.shop.rbap.net/main.sc


  5. Sean Gerety Says:

    For those paying attention, I swapped out the picture of Dr. Crampton for one of Dr. Clark. While I’m certain Dr. Crampton is a true presuppostitionalist, the article was about Clark after all and his pic just seemed to be a better fit. Sorry for any confusion. It was not meant as a slight to Dr. Crampton in any way.

  6. David Taylor Says:

    Just a quick note – you can read all issues of the TR at trinityfoundation.org – including the latest.

    By the way, Sean – just found your blog – very appreciated, new favorite blog.

    If you are interested, I’m involved in a debate over ‘presuppositionalism’ (actually a refutation of empiricism over on the White Horse Inn website (the usual silliness, of course) – anyone who wanted to pitch in would be appreciated…. Check the debate over some remark Bill O’Really made on the Colbert Report…

  7. David Reece Says:

    I have great respect for Dr. Crampton, and the sections from the article which Sean quoted are magnificent.

    I have wondered, however, it seems to me that Dr. Crampton believes in Common Grace, but not the Free Offer of the Gospel. Am I correct that Dr. Crampton holds to some form of unmerited favor from God toward the reprobate?

  8. David Reece Says:


    I just placed an order for that book because of your post.

  9. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hi David R. I don’t know what Dr. Crampton’s position is in regard to common grace. Sorry, I can’t help. The Scripturalism of Gordon Clark is an excellent primer and introduction to Clark. You should also check out Crampton’s, By Scripture Alone, which is not only a stellar defense of this most basic doctrine, but is also a thorough refutation of Robert Sungenis’ Not By Scripture Alone (a book Lane Keister is currently interacting with over at his Green Baggins blog).

  10. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hi David T. Thanks for visiting and your comments. Since you’re already familiar with the TF website, you’ve probably already read John Robbins’ The White Horse horse Inn: Nonsense on Tap. The “two book” theory of knowledge is pretty sad stuff. As for the debate invite, it sounds like you’ve got it under control. 🙂

  11. Hugh McCann Says:

    David R.,
    Great, so did I!

    Thanks for cheery, beaming GHC photo.

    Someone should write a Luther-like polemic against the traitor Sungenis, _Not by Christ Alone_, exposing Rome’s necrolatry. He’s bashed both faith & Scripture in his popish pedantry.

  12. David Reece Says:

    David T.,

    Would you mind posting a link to the debate on the WHI about epistemology?

  13. LJ Says:

    Dr. Crampton, as usual, reveals his gifts as a communicator. Since I am one who has read nearly everthing Clark has ever written, most of it multiple times due to my insufficient education and noetic thickheadedness, I believe I am able to state that Crampton has accurately represented Clark’s apologetics to the extent he intended nt the review of Bahnsen.

    I am a member of an OPC Session that is very friendly with Clark’s work, for that I am very grateful. But I can testify that misunderstandings, even within a friendly church, are frequent and often very frustrating. Many refuse to read the relevant literature and continue to simply repeat the errors, some of which Crampton addresses in this review of Bahsen, and miss the blessing that a thorough reading of Clark bestows. My breathren in the Session love Bahsen and like Clark, but they think Bahsen is the bomb and Clark somewhat fringe. They don’t get it; Bahsen is not even close to Clark in scope and depth and never, ever, laid a glove on him in his criticisms.

  14. David Reece Says:


    Of which church in the OPC are you a session member?

  15. Hugh McCann Says:

    D. Reece (et. al.),

    D. Taylor mixing it up with old seminary pal of mine Shane Rosenthal @ http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2011/01/08/colbert-oreilly-on-the-existence-of-god/#comments


  16. David Taylor Says:

    Hmmmm – so far they have not posted any other of my replies – may not go very far!

    Sean – yes – I was fully aware of the “WHI – Nonsense on tap” TR issue; which is why I sort of jumped at the chance to restate a little truth on the site. Never hurts to reiterate on occasion…

  17. Hugh McCann Says:

    D.T. – Hopefully you’re still alive there. I got ‘offed’ for my calling Horton on his Warren hypocrisy.

    At least Tom J. posted my article on Horton’s folly of last Spring: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/horror_show.php?id=51

    I’m a long-time friend to the WHI, & I love Mike, but nonsense is nonsense.

    He hated it when I sent his stuff to Robbins for the Horror Files, but we have to preach the truth, esp. if we’re setting an example in training ministers!

    Could the shaky apologetics be a cause of the shady compromise in the Warren affair?


  18. David Taylor, may I contact you via email?

  19. redbeetle1 Says:

    Behaviorist Greg Bahnsen:

  20. LJ Says:

    D. Reece:
    I’m not sure you received my response. It’s “Branch of Hope” OPC. Torrance, CA.

  21. drake Says:

    Real quick. Rutherford wrote Due Right of Presbyteries in 1644 and held to the view of the COG that Sean holds but he wrote Covenant of Life Opened in 1654 and demonstrated a great change of mind on the issue.

  22. Sean Gerety Says:

    Drake, can you do me a favor and at least post your comments with the relevant discussion. I don’t think that’s too much to ask even if nothing you’ve quoted so far from Rutherford supports your position. Further posts dealing with your misunderstanding of Rutherford here will be deleted. If you want to continue fighting your losing cause take it here:


  23. David T.: Good luck at WHI. IMO someone who has actually read Clark (like Mr. Houston claims to have done) and decided to embrace Van Til anyway, and continue to rehash the same tired objections to Scripturalism, is simply blinding themselves. They do not wish to see.

  24. David Taylor Says:

    Sure Patrick – petencj AT gmail DOT com

  25. Sean Gerety Says:

    FWIW it’s generally a bad practice (spam) to post your email address. So I hope you don’t mind I modified it a bit.

  26. David Taylor Says:

    Sean – “…FWIW it’s generally a bad practice (spam) to post your email address. So I hope you don’t mind I modified it a bit….”

    Not at all – It bothers me to make my email public, but I didn’t even think about it being mined for spam! Thank you!

    For general information – I’m still alive over at WHI. It’s nice to see Patrick and Drake over there!

  27. MikeD Says:

    I enjoyed the article but I believe there is an inconsistency toward the end. Crampton says, “Clark did not deny that God may use the senses as a “means” for persons to gain knowledge from the Word of God.”. Later in the same paragraph he says, “The knowledge, then, that man has of God and His creation is derived neither by empirical nor rationalistic means. Neither is it in any sense mediated knowledge.”

    Perhaps it would be better to say that sensations may coincide with learning truth, and maybe the same sensation coincides often with a given subject or set of ideas, but there is no necessary connection. Any thoughts?

    Also the notion that Clark owned property, or that it had been stolen is in no way deducible from Scripture. Sure, Clark, granting that he was a man, could have owned property. But IMO, Crampton would have done better to say that any statement regarding Clark’s stolen property is not a truth claim of biblical proportions. It’s an opinion that, if beyond a reasonable doubt, has legal ramifications, etc., but has no bearing on the bible’s sole authority when it comes to infallible truth.

    Overall a great article!

  28. MikeD said,

    “Also the notion that Clark owned property, or that it had been stolen is in no way deducible from Scripture. Sure, Clark, granting that he was a man, could have owned property. But IMO, Crampton would have done better to say that any statement regarding Clark’s stolen property is not a truth claim of biblical proportions. It’s an opinion that, if beyond a reasonable doubt, has legal ramifications, etc., but has no bearing on the bible’s sole authority when it comes to infallible truth.”

    I agree.

  29. David Reece Says:


    I appreciate your consistency. I pray God will use your mind for His glory.

  30. LJ Says:

    I have a question for anyone interested in answering it that subscribes to this blog. The question relates to a friend of mine who says that he is a “inductive scripturalist” while Gordon Clark is a “deductive scripturalist.”

    This is the first time I’ve heard the term “inductive scripturalist.” Does anyone have any insight into exactly what that might be?

    Thanks in advance for your patient response.


  31. Sean Gerety Says:

    An oxymoron? A Scripturalist who reasons fallaciously? I have no idea?

  32. LJ Says:

    Ha, why did I think you might say that? I can’t figure it out either. Guess I’ll just have to ask.

  33. Denson Dube Says:

    LJ, Sean
    My guess is that he might be referring to what is called “inductive bible study” or perhaps Textual criticism?

    In any case, what seems to escape his great mind is that Scripturalist refers primarily to the Axiom, which is not deduced either deductively or inductively, but is chosen. In fact all axioms are chosen and not deduced.
    Further, from axioms one deductively derives theorems. Theorems must necessarily follow from the axiom, otherwise they are not theorems. Conversely, an axiom from which no theorems necessarily follow is no axiom at all.

    On the matter of inductive bible study, John Robbins pointed out that the Bible does not contain an endless amount of text and so one can complete any induction from the Bible.

  34. LJ Says:

    I hope that’s what he means. Thanks for the comment.

  35. David Reece Says:


    Ron Nash calls himself an Inductive Scripturalist on occasion. He says he took the idea from Alvin Plantinga (Spelling?). Check out Ron Nash’s lectures at RTS that are free for more info. It is a bogus in-grafting of empiricism into the Scripturalist epistemology. Also, Nash seems to think that Scripturalism is a form of rationalism in the line of Plato.

  36. LJ Says:

    Thanks for the info. That sounds about right. But I am surprised that either my friend or Nash would go that route. Do you possibly have a link to the Nash section and RTS?


  37. David Reece Says:


    The only way I know how to get the lecture is a free download through iTunes. There are free lectures from Reformed Theological Seminary, and Ron Nash taught some classes that are available for free to listen through the whole course. If you have iTunes the classes are titled “History of Philosophy & Christian Thought”, “Christian Ethics”, “Christian Apologetics”, and “Modern Philosophy”.

    In “History of Philosophy & Christian Thought” Lecture 23 (at minute 18 till minute 43) Nash has some good material that is straight out of Clark. I like Nash, but I think he misses the problem of induction even though he claims to hate empiricism.

    His class “Christian Ethics” is pretty bad when compared to Clark’s or Robbins’ teaching on ethics. It is sloppy and poorly thought out. I have not listened to “Christian Apologetics” or “Modern Philosophy” yet since they were only released about 2 months ago. I plan to listen to them soon.

    I would guess that Nash explains his views in detail in “Christian Apologetics”, but that is a guess. I know he give some brief discussion of his views in the last lecture of “History of Philosophy & Christian Thought”.

    Nash also has some good anti-Van Til and anti-Bavinck material, but I could not find it tonight. I am pretty sure it is in the “History of Philosophy & Christian Thought” series mixed in one of the lectures.

    Nash has a bunch of books that explain most of this stuff too. I can’t help but think that overall Nash is closer to Scripturalism than almost any other school of thought, and his form presuppositionalism does not suffer from the irrationalism of Van Til.

    Don’t get depressed by the sad state of the world. I get tempted to feel the same way. Remember what god has said about his 7,000 whom he has kept. Keep up the good fight. (Spoiler Alert) We win in the end.

    Soli Deo Gloria,


  38. Denson Dube Says:

    David R
    “Ron Nash calls himself an Inductive Scripturalist on occasion. He says he took the idea from Alvin Plantinga (Spelling?). Check out Ron Nash’s lectures at RTS that are free for more info. It is a bogus in-grafting of empiricism into the Scripturalist epistemology. Also, Nash seems to think that Scripturalism is a form of rationalism in the line of Plato.“
    Wow! Some people leave Egypt but retain fondness in their hearts for the cucumbers and licks of that land of slavery.

  39. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’ve been going through and collecting some old JR quotes from a now defunct “Clark” list (which was really an anti-Clark list). I’m hoping to post some here (maybe I’ll call the posts “Robbins Speaks From the Grave). 😉

    Here is one on Plantinga and the entire RE enterprise:



    I want to re-emphasize two points that some seem to have forgotten:

    1. Scripturalism is not just another philosophical system to be developed willy-nilly, but a system that is found in the propositions of Scripture

    2. The attack on “giving an account” of one’s claimed knowledge is a direct attack on epistemology itself, for the epistemological question is “How do you know?” Any attempt to stamp the feet and yell “I just know,” no matter how famous (Plantinga) or how clever (Sudduth) deserves no hearing.


  40. LJ Says:

    Recently I was directed to a website called “Cavman Considers” http://cavman.wordpress.com/about/

    I read a long thread entitled “The Clark-Van Til Controversy” http://cavman.wordpress.com/2006/05/19/the-clark-van-til-controversy/#comments

    Some of you may have already read it. At any rate, for my part, after reading it I posted Sean’s “Thin-skinned” post https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2008/04/28/thin-skinned/#comments – with my own simple question “Comments?” My thinking was Sean’s article quoting J Rob might cause someone to reconsider their Van Tilian idolatry.

    At first Cavman said he didn’t want to participate with me in the argument over at Greenbaggins, a blog I have never visited. I stated I wasn’t a Greenbaggins participant and added that the argument I posted wasn’t mine, I was just posting it. I added that I agreed entirely with Sean’s assessment quoting J Robs original and that there appeared to be a great deal of mythology accompanying Van Til’s memory.

    To make a long story shorter, I got this from someone calling himself “Charlie Ray:”

    “For the record, Sean Gerety at the God’s Hammer blog is himself doctrinally off. He advocates a Nestorian view of the incarnation of Christ based on Gordon H. Clark’s final book, The Incarnation. From what I understand the late John Robbins also held to that view. It’s clearly against the Westminster Confession and the Larger Catechism.

    Basically, Gordon H. Clark said that Jesus Christ was one God-man but two persons. If that’s not Nestorianism, I don’t know what is.”

    (signed) Charlie

    I thought this was an interesting comment and I suspect neither Sean nor J. Rob nor GHC would accept Charlies assessment.


  41. Sean Gerety Says:

    Charlie Ray has been long banned from posting on this blog, although he periodically attempts to post here anyway. Most recently, two days ago in fact, Charlie attempted to post the following ersatz-“apology”:

    I would like to apologize for our little dispute last year over Gordon H. Clark’s view of the incarnation. Since he never completed his book I’m inclined to believe that he would have further clarified his position. He never says that he agreed with the Nestorian position as it is traditionally understood.

    I have to give him the benefit of the doubt on that point.

    Regarding the Federal Vision error, thanks for continuing to write against it. I’ve learned much about John Piper and John MacArthur from the resources at The Trinity Foundation.

    That being said, I think there are at least a couple of folks on the internet that have gone way beyond the Reformed confessions and yet claim to be in agreement with The Trinity Foundation. I’m thinking here of Monty Collier and Shelton.

    I would have e-mailed you but do not have you on FB nor do I have your e-mail.



    When I questioned the sincerity of his “apology,” since his blog remains littered with posts attacking me, Clark and Robbins as “heretics” he again insinuated that Clark was a Christ denying heretic and a Nestorian and I see from your note that he has resumed spreading the same lies.

    Now if Clark “never says that he agreed with the Nestorian position as it is traditionally understood,” then one would think Clark is no Nestorian.

    While there are a number of posts where I discuss Clark’s theory of the Incarnation, I would refer you to these in particular (some of which Charlie makes his objections known in the combox):




  42. LJ Says:

    Dear David Reece,
    Thank you so much for taking time to refer me to Ron Nash material. That will keep me busy for a time!

    I might add since I just thought of it that GHC and Nash had an interesting bit in “Clark and his Critics,” published by Trinity Foundation, cf. the chapter entitled “Gordon Clark’s Theory of Knowledge,” and Clark’s response, pgs. 105-154.

    Thanks again!

  43. LJ Says:

    Thanks for the update. Since I’m new to God’s Hammer I have probably missed lots of good stuff. I’ll catch up!

    Why would he apologize, seemingly with sincerity, and not purge his blog of the very things he’s apologizing for and, then, repeat it all again answering me in my post?

    Poor man. Possibly he’s suffering from schizophrenia?


  44. David Reece Says:


    You are very welcome. I have received a good deal of help from brothers who took the time to be of assistance in the past, and, as we both know, iron sharpens iron.


  45. Sean Gerety Says:

    LJ – My questions entirely. 🙂

    Don’t get me wrong, Clark’s theory of the Incarnation, which dovetails nicely with his theory of the Trinity (I’m a sucker for symmetry), was a bit disconcerting for me when I first seriously considered it. However, when you think that Jesus must have had two minds (that is, if you don’t want to admit that the Incarnation is hopelessly contradictory, and you eliminate kenotic theories as viable options), the question becomes how then do you define a person except in accordance with his mind? After all, Van Tilian James Anderson’s main objection to Thomas Morris’ two-mind or two-centers of consciousness theory of the Incarnation is that a center of conscious or a mind is something that generally characterizes a person. How then can one person have two minds or two-centers of consciousness without also being two persons?

    Dr. Crampton said to me recently, “If one takes GHC’s definition, than one might legitimately say that Christ is one God-man and two persons. John Murray admitted this very thing. The great problem is one of definition.” Obviously the great problem of definition is something Charlie is unable to grasp.

    For myself, I’m inclined to think Jesus was one person with two minds but I still struggle with that “great problem of definition.” I think if you understand and grasp Clark’s definition of “person” it is largely indistinguishable from Morris’ idea of “mind.” The words, at least in Clark’s lexicon, seem to be synonymous. I’m open to argument (I suppose except from Charlie at this point since he’s just a lying, libeling bore), but I still have some unresolved questions in my own thinking.

    In any case, I’m just glad I wasn’t foolish enough to accept his phony apology.

  46. LJ Says:

    I have recently been challenged with the seemingly never-ending objection used to attempt to make Clark’s philosophy skeptical:

    “How (given Clark’s axiomatic system) can you ‘know’ that so-and-so is your wife? Or that what you call your house is yours, etc., etc.” All of this all of us have heard over and over, ad nauseum. The argument is, again, over the reliability of the senses and that they may be used to gain knowledge. It is hard to argue against some “role” of sensation in the comprehension of knowledge. Save yourself the time explaining to me what the term “role” means since I’ve read GHC on that; digestion plays a “role” in, well, just about everything – until you die.

    Now I find out a good friend of mine, someone who has read ALL of GHC and admires him a great deal, a really well-studied and bright guy, who now calls himself an “inductive scripturalist” (you and I chatted briefly about this already). I haven’t been able to get a clarification from him about what he means, so I don’t want to assume anything right now, but THIS FIGHT APPARENTLY NEVER ENDS! If you like Clark there’s no end to the attacks; either educated or (most often) uneducated criticisms on, and on, and on.

    One quick last question unrelated to what I just wrote: is there a “key” or something I may refer to that allows editing of text if I wrote in the blog, e.g., gold, italics, box, indent, etc.?

    Keep up the good work!


  47. David Reece Says:


    Maybe you should let Charlie know the conditions under which you would be willing to believe his apology is sincere. It is good that you were not fooled.

    Regarding the Incarnation, I can’t really avoid Clark’s definitions, and I am currently reading through Morris (Slowly), and so I seem to be forced into a two person position, but I am bothered by this development and worry that one of my premises is wrong or one of my definitions.

    One of the issues I have come to is if Christ is two person’s does that mean that we should worship the divine person only? Obviously, this would be unbiblical.

    I feel pretty overwhelmed, but it is reassuring that God has caused others to be thinking through the same issues at the same time.

  48. Sean Gerety Says:

    @LJ – no magic key that lets you edit your posts after you submit them. I have the key, but I only try and fix my own typos. =8o)

    @David – I would have been inclined to believe Charlie’s apology was sincere if those posts on his blog were removed. However, given his actions subsequent to making his so-called “apology,” I think it’s fair to say that my suspicions were correct. Besides, it sounded like he was apologizing more for our disagreement rather than for anything he did. It’s like the old ploy that goes; “I apologize that you got upset.”

    As for the Incarnation, good questions, but I’ve decided to let the topic rest for awhile.

  49. David Reece Says:


    I meant to be clear that I agreed with you about Charlie, and meant that you might want to tell him the conditions so that he has the opportunity to repent in a proper way. I don’t expect him to, but God can do anything.

    I am sorry I was not more clear. Please believe that I support your rejection of his fake apology and am glad that you were not fooled.

    Regarding your desire to let to Incarnation rest for a while, please let me know if you make any progress. Would it be alright if I think I make any breakthroughs to still post them?

  50. LJ Says:

    Get this from the Puritan Board. It ought to get somebody here riled up, at least it did me. Note that “it does not appear that Clark was sophisticated enough in his understanding of formal axiomatic systems.”

    Here it is in part:

    Hello Rich,

    Clark also presupposed that God thinks using Aristotalean logic. Thus it is not only the single Axiom that the Bible alone is the Word of God but the second axiom that all logical deductions from that axiom must use Aristotalean logic because both God and man univocally reason that way.
    I have a couple of thought regarding this. (1) When Clark says that one can go from the one axiom to a particular proposition of Scripture via deduction he has in mind the syllogistic deductive form that Aristotle expounded on. However, I do not believe that either Clark or other Scripturalists would insist that the deductive argument be via syllogism for it to be considered justified. Their beef is that it must be deductive. So, Reductio Ad Absurdum, Modus Ponens, Modus Tollens, etc…would be considered acceptable forms of deductive argumentation. (2) You are correct in pointing out that there must be more than the one axiom to derive a proposition from Scripture. The deductive apparatus itself must be axiomatic. This is one major flaw in Scripturalism.

    With that said, I really appreciate what Clark was trying to do. In principle, I agree with him. However, it does not appear that Clark was sophisticated enough in his understanding of formal axiomatic systems. These types of systems are very explicit, and Clark was not very explicit. Clark resisted this type of explictness referring to it as “clanking machinery.” The problem with this is that “the devil is in the details.” When one begins to drill down on the axiomatic system, Scripturalism fails to deliver.



  51. Sean Gerety Says:

    Let me guess, it was Brian Bosse? Poser.

    FWIW the PB have systematically purged all Scripturalists from their boards. Rich Lieno(sp?)the dictator has a particular dislike for all things Clark. He even tossed Anthony Coletti and you couldn’t find a more deferential and soft spoken defender of Clark.

  52. LJ Says:

    Wow, that is precisely who was debating. For my part I thought Coletti very clearly and reasonably(!) won the day. Here it is for any that are interested:



  53. LJ Says:

    David Reece,

    Maybe this is what my friend meant by “inductive.” It is within the discussion on the Puritan Board I posted above. It is Brian Bosse writing:

    “The premise is obtained through biblical exegesis, which is primarily an inductive exercise. Deduction plays a part as well, but induction’s role is certainly much larger.”

    If that is what is meant by my friend’s “Inductive Scripturalist” I don’t think, at least for now, that I have a problem with it. But given the history of Scripturalism, GHC Scripturalism, I would not choose to use the term “Induction” since it carries with it so much empirical baggage.


  54. Brian Bosse does not know of what he speaks. To suggest that Clark didn’t understand axiomatic systems, at least not as good as Bosse apparently does, is a joke. The kind of joke that comes in cheap greeting cards that usually produces only a polite smile, for appearance’s sake. For that matter, half the stuff I read on the Puritan Board is a joke. There are a few sane voices, but a ton of stereotypical Reformed arrogance.

  55. Thanks to an anonymous brother for privately pointing out my egregious public mistake. My earlier comment should read, “…at least not as WELL as Bosse apparently does…”


  56. David Scruggs Says:

    Hello Sean,

    First off, thank you for this blog and for listing other Scripturalist sources. I am a newcomer to this blog and am hoping to have fellowship with other Clarkians (I fear I may have bugged Juodaitis a bit much with questions).

    Anyway, despite being a Clarkian, I am still inexperienced and have a question. Clark’s axiom of “The Bible alone is the Word of God” seems like an odd choice of an axiom. I know that each term has a definition and is not just a sound in the air, but Clark mentioned God having the Biblical definition. Shouldn’t there be a prior axiom to know that this is the Biblical definition?

    I ask because it is my dream to create a Euclid’s-Elements-style work on systematic theology using Clark’s philosophy and the Westminster Confession as outlines. However, I am a bit confused on axioms because shouldn’t we use other hermeneutic axioms to interpret Scripture and then figure out what God is like? Since knowledge of God comes from Scripture, isn’t any proposition involving God subsequent? Or am I missing something (knowing me, I probably am)?

    Thank you,

  57. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hi David. Have you read Clark’s reply to Mavrodes?

  58. David Scruggs Says:

    Ah, I see I missed some information here. Thank you so much. This helps point me in the right direction.

  59. David Scruggs Says:

    Hello Sean, it is me again.

    I have a question I was hoping you could answer. One is that the works on Clark have made it clear that he is an infallibilist: if the justification does not 100% guarantee (a.k.a. deduce) the answer, it is not knowledge. Do you know if he ever addressed the fallibilists and their assertions that knowledge need not be certain? If I had to guess what he would say, it’s people being arbitrary in when invalidity is acceptable and when it is isn’t, probably to justify common sense notions.

    Thank you,

  60. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’m not sure where Clark made it “clear that he is an infallibilist.” Do you have a citation or two where he made that clear? Also, not sure what “the fallibilists” say, but Clark did say that many people are certain of many things that turn out to be false. Certainty is a state of mind and, at least as far as I’m concerned, it has little to do with epistemology.

  61. David Scruggs Says:

    I had in mind Crampton’s book The Scripturalism of Gordon H. Clark. On page 46, he quotes The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark (page 470) where it says that Clark defined “fact” as “an arithmetic mean with a variable error of zero.” Unless I misunderstood that, by definition then he is an infallibilist where justification must be valid (no induction).

    Indeed, psychological certainty doesn’t guarantee truth. Yet when some assert that something is invalid but close enough to be knowledge (e.g. natural science), can anything further be said or is that just stubbornness on their part?

  62. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’m not sure because I was operating on the definition that an infallibilist holds to “the position that knowledge is, by definition, a true belief which cannot be rationally doubted. Other beliefs may be rationally justified, but they do not rise to the level of knowledge unless absolutely certain.” There are all sorts of valid deductions that can and probably should be rationally doubted. Validity is not enough. The deduction also has to be sound. Also, I’m quite sure there are infalliblists that would recognize valid deductions from Scripture but reject them as being unsound because they don’t believe the premises and reject the Scripture as the axiomatic source of truth. Anyway, maybe I’m not understanding your question.

    Your original question was; “Do you know if he ever addressed the fallibilists and their assertions that knowledge need not be certain?” And I answered in the affirmative. I’m just not sure where the rest of this is going? As for natural science and a reply, I think Clark covered that pretty well in The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God.

  63. David Scruggs Says:

    Oh I see my mistake. I confused “rationally undoubtable” with “valid.”

    Thank you for your help.

  64. David Scruggs Says:

    Hello again, Sean. Now that I have a bit of down time, I have been going over Clark’s reply to Mavrodes and I am still struggling with some of the content.

    My first question is that Clark argues that empiricism is not a tenable philosophy and cites the problem of knowing whether the book we are holding is the Bible or a cunning substitute or knowing whether we have overlooked a “not” in the sentence. Is he implying that if most manuscripts or even all the Bibles in print at the time claim to be Scripture but are internally inconsistent, then we can safely say that they are not the real Bible? I ask this partly because I do not remember which Van Tillian said it, but a Van Tillian said that if the Bible said that 2+2=5, then he would believe it.

    My second question is that Clark mentions the illumination of the Holy Spirit is how Abraham knew that God rather than Satan was speaking to him. I probably misunderstand it, but the illumination of the Holy Spirit sounds like another term for being convinced of it as axiomatic. Is that correct?

    Third, as we have discussed, validity alone does not guarantee a system to be true; we need a foundation for asserting that the consistent system is true. If I am correct, this extra statement that guarantees the truth of the system is where the debate between rationalism, empiricism, and revelation comes in, right (i.e. we know the system to be true because of self-affirming axioms, the senses, or because He who determines truth has declared it)?

  65. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sorry it’s taken some time to get back to you but to answer your first question I will need to go back and read Clark’s reply to Mavordes since it’s been a few years and I’m not sure you’re restating Clark’s argument correctly. Also, do you have a citation for VT where he says if the Bible said 2+2=5 then he would believe it? It is a ridiculous thing for anyone to say since God cannot lie.

    Second question … I think that’s correct. It also corresponds with the WCF 1.5.

    Third, again, kinda. Axioms are chosen and not proved. Christians can’t prove the Scriptures are true, but they can be disproved. So, if the Scriptures taught 2+2=5 we would know that they are false. Also, remember knowledge, if we’re going to call it that, requires an account. The debate between rationalism, empiricism, and revelation is that only by starting with revelation can any truths be known. I can’t recall where he said it (Thales to Dewey? The Johninne Logos?) but Clark argued that the failure of all secular philosophy is its failure to account for logic.

  66. David Scruggs Says:

    No worries about the late response.

    I just found out that it was pastor Peter LaRuffa who said that he would believe that Bible if it said that 2+2=5, but some secularists (for some reason) quoted him in an article about Van Til’s version of presuppositionalism on Rational wiki (a misnomer truly).

    No rush on the first question. I look forward to your response.

    As for the third question, this is where I am further confused. An axiom, by definition, cannot be proven. But Clark’s defense of the Bible sounds deductive. It sounds like he is saying:

    “Knowledge is either possible or impossible. If impossible, one arrives at a self-contradiction; therefore it is possible. Knowledge occurs either through empiricism, rationalism, or revelation. It is neither empiricism nor rationalism, therefore it is divine revelation. This divine revelation is either in human language or not. If not, then we are back at empiricism or skepticism; therefore it is in human language. This linguistic revelation is either the Protestant Bible, the Catholic Bible, the Quran, the Vedas, etc. It is neither the Catholic Bible, the Quran, the Vedas, etc.; therefore it is the Protestant Bible.

    Also, I am a bit confused by the account for logic. I thought it was axiomatic. Does this mean in addition to the deductive system, we need an explanation (rather than justification) for the system?

  67. Sean Gerety Says:

    Regarding logic, read Clark’s The Johannine Logos now included in the volume What is Saving Faith.

  68. Sean Gerety Says:

    OK, reread the relevant portion of Clark’s reply. You write:

    “My first question is that Clark argues that empiricism is not a tenable philosophy and cites the problem of knowing whether the book we are holding is the Bible or a cunning substitute or knowing whether we have overlooked a “not” in the sentence. Is he implying that if most manuscripts or even all the Bibles in print at the time claim to be Scripture but are internally inconsistent, then we can safely say that they are not the real Bible? I ask this partly because I do not remember which Van Tillian said it, but a Van Tillian said that if the Bible said that 2+2=5, then he would believe it.”

    First, while VT has said many silly and untenable things, thank you for pointing out that LaRuffa made that particularly stupid remark

    Second, I don’t see Clark implying anything regarding the consistency or inconsistency of Scripture and I don’t think he even had VT remotely in mind. In that section, he was simply showing the impossibility of Mavrodes assertion” “Sense experience is required for the derivation of such [Biblical] beliefs,” and “every consistent epistemology which assigns a role to the Bible must assign a role of equal scope and in precisely the same area to sense perception.”

    BTW, and a little off topic, I listened again the other day to Calvin Beisner’s lecture on Clark’s epistemology. I thought it was very clear and helpful. I don’t agree with him on some of his conclusions regarding the Clark/VT controversy in the second half of the lecture. That aside, I think you might appreciate it: https://youtu.be/EL2EE7aMoDY

  69. Sean Gerety Says:

    One other thing re LaRuffa. I wonder if he is a Vantilian since that kind of false piety exhibited in his silly remark is central to Van Til and his followers and their understanding of the Creator/creature distinction.

  70. David Scruggs Says:

    Thank you for the text of the lecture. This certainly helps a lot. I shall also get reading the Johannine Logos.

    Also, you just mentioned that LaRuffa’s false piety is central to Van Til and his followers and their understanding of the Creator/creature distinction. Are you sure “understanding” is an appropriate term considering how unintelligible their ideas are?

  71. Sean Gerety Says:

    I think understanding is correct although a misapplication of the C/c is probably better. I think people like R. Scott Clark are a good example of what I mean. I wrote a piece in response to something he wrote that was later picked up by the Trinity Foundation that you can read here: https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/janus-alive-and-well-dr-r-scott-clark-and-the-well-meant-offer-of-the-gospel/

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