Clark Quick Quote

I travel a lot for work and while I loath the constant violations of my forgotten Constitutional rights at our nation’s airports where rubber gloved blue-shirts are “securing the homeland” by patting down my crotch, the planes themselves provide a great opportunity to catch up on some reading.  On a recent trip I finally decided to wade into Augustine’s tome; City of God.  At first it was interesting how 4th Century Christians needed to defend themselves against those clamoring for a return to idol worship.  I confess after more than 200 pages of this I was ready to quit. I’m told somewhere in the remaining 800 pages it gets better and is even life changing.  However, on my last little hop to Kansas via a quick stop in Memphis, I decided to take with me an old favorite, Religion, Reason and Revelation.  Clark is the first and may be the only Christian scholar that I’ve ever read who views David Hume as an unwitting hero of the faith. On a little side note, while in college I took a course on the history of philosophy. The professor’s opening lecture included the promise that if anyone in the class harbored any belief in God he would rid it from our minds using Hume as his tool. I only wish I had Clark in college:

Therefore, those who defend a cosmological argument without stating what it is must be challenged to answer several objections that would seem to apply to any formulation.  No doubt it is David Hume who, quite apart from his strictures on the principle of causality, has best expressed those objections.  But since Hume was such a vicious antagonist of Christianity, his name is anathema to believers, and they are irrationally inclined to assume the falsity of all he said.  The reverse may be closer to the truth. It may be perfectly correct in arguing that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated on the basis of sensory experience. And if this is so, Christians should thank him for pointing out a procedure that ends only in embarrassment for them.  Hence, Hume’s arguments should be examined without any prejudice that he could not possibly have been right.

. . . The cosmological argument, however, requires that the universe as a whole be an effect.  But no observation of parts of the universe can give this necessary assumption.  To be quite clear about it, no one has ever seen the universe as a whole.

Then next, even if it could be proved that the universe is an effect, there is another extremely serious difficulty, though it is but a particular application of Hume’s first point.  The first point was the principle that no characteristics can be ascribed to the cause beyond those necessary to produce the effects by which alone the cause is known.  Now, the observed effects include many evils, disasters, tragedies  and what the Christian calls sin. These can be listed in terrifying profusion.  They have been so listed and used against Christianity both by Hume and John Stuart Mill, as well as by more cynical writers like Voltaire.  These manifest evils, from congenitally deformed infants to the torture chambers of Nazis and Communists, prevent a conclusion that the cause of the world is good.  The cosmological argument totally fails to prove the existence of a just and merciful God.  To be sure, it allows — though it does not prove — the existence of a good god, but only on the assumption that he is neither omnipotent nor the cause of all that happens.  But the cosmological argument was supposed to deal with the universal cause. As a recourse for Christian theism, therefore, the cosmological argument is worse than useless. In fact, Christians can be pleased at its failure, for if it were valid, it would prove a conclusion inconsistent with Christianity.

It is most unfortunate that a large section of conservative Protestantism is unwilling to discuss the justice of God and its relation to the evils of the world.  There are devout individuals who seem to suppose that a discussion of evil may put wrong ideas into young heads. Any attempt to explain evil, they hold, is unsettling to the faith. In this they are disobedient to their own standard, the Bible; and beyond this, their viewpoint implies that Voltaire, Hume, Mill, and other opponents of Christianity are, and will remain, unknown. These well-meaning individuals do not realize that Hume’s arguments have been public property since 1776; that millions of people have rejected Christianity because of them; and to stop this loss it is a Christian duty to meet them squarely. This, I believe, can be done. The problem of evil is not insoluble. But the solution does not depend on rehabilitating the cosmological argument (39-41).

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14 Comments on “Clark Quick Quote”

  1. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks, Sean. Let’s hope the $5 e-book of Religion, Reason, and Revelation you have linked will be widely read! Paperback version is also part of an extreme 3 for 1 sale:

    I am slowly reading the triumvirate of Three Types of Religious Philosophy, Religion, Reason, and Revelation, & An Introduction to Christian Philosophy, which are available together in Christian Philosophy, The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark, Volume 4.

    These are also available as individual, separate tomes.

  2. Denson Dube Says:

    Isaiah 45:
    I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:

    6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.

    7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

    Glory to the everlasting God who does whatsoever he pleases!
    Let all creation bow before him.

  3. It took me awhile to labor through Christian Philosophy. I’m certainly no expert. But I thought I would give it go over at the YouTube forums. The atheists don’t know how to deal with someone who refuses to play their little evidentialist game. In fact, when you point out to them that language cannot come from dirt or chemistry in microbes they go literally ballistic:)

    I found myself marveling at Clark’s arguments because I had been unable to verbalize what was wrong with science. Clark puts his finger on the problem from the get go: it’s mostly subjective in nature. You cannot observe evolution because it is a deductive presupposition based loosely on a materialistic form of the cosmological argument. If the cosmological argument fails for Christianity, it certainly fails for the materialists. How do you prove an infinitely regressing chain of cause and effect if you cannot observe it??? If there is even one effect without a cause, then the argument fails.

    Correct me if I’m misunderstanding Clark. But the idea that science is always false seems fairly accurate to me. Even applied science involves a lot of guess work. I’m afraid to go to the doctor now. Are they using me for guinea pig?


  4. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Charlie. Just because science cannot arrive at truth does not mean it is not useful. Clark nowhere disparages science per se, just the notion that it is a cognitive enterprise. Long and short, go to the doctor if you need to.

  5. Oh, yes, I understand that. I just meant that if doctors are using inductive logic they might be guessing wrong. How many times have I been to the doctor only to be seen for 10 minutes and some perfunctory prescription was written?

    Doctors, like car mechanics, can be good or bad:)

    I guess what I mean is medical science is imperfect. The example of the milk fever disease in cows comes to mind here.

    I trust medicine more than herbal remedies at least:) Then again, I don’t go to the doctor unless I’m really sick.

  6. Neil Says:

    I look at science as a model of how nature works. I work with many computer simulation models,; some have ad hoc stuff like interpolation from sample data, while others are improvisations on analytical equations.

    Models make possible the operation of all sorts of inventions, even if they at the same time fail to be really descriptive, which is how they can be both false & useful.

  7. justbybelief Says:

    I wonder if the TSA will ever find Al Queda, or Bin Laden, hiding in anyone’s crotch. I suppose that they’ll have to grope the planet’s population in one stroke to prove in truth that he doesn’t inhabit that place between someone’s thighs. But since that’s impossible, and they aren’t interested in truth anyway (even if God were to tell them) I suppose we’ll have to endure the perverts in the airport until we grow a pair. Then again, maybe that’s what they’re really looking for so that they can stamp out the last vestiges of manhood among us.

  8. justbybelief, they already got Bin Laden! At least that’s what they say.

  9. Sean Gerety Says:

    They got Bin Laden, but they got us too.

  10. David Reece Says:

    Thanks for this Sean. Hume was very useful to me in arguing for the importance of scripturalism to some of my more pro-science friends. Religion, Reason, and Revelation is one of the best books ever written by far.

  11. justbybelief Says:

    “…but they got us too.”

    That may have been the plan all along.

    Anyway, funny you should bring this up. I had a chance to discuss something similar with a pentecostal minister this weekend. He was discussing the statistical probability that the universe came into existence apart from ‘a’ creator and had been using this ’embarrassing’ apologetic trying to convert unbelievers.

    I relayed to this pentecostal friend what I learned (and deduced) by reading Clark, that is, that one either starts with the Bible or with his senses, and if the senses take precedence one ‘lords’ it over the Bible.


  12. Pht Says:

    Sean Gerety Says:

    April 27, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    @Charlie. Just because science cannot arrive at truth does not mean it is not useful. Clark nowhere disparages science per se, just the notion that it is a cognitive enterprise. Long and short, go to the doctor if you need to.

    Right off the bat; I agree with the idea of going to your doctor.

    (Charlie J. Ray, you’re not the only one who has noticed this necessary result – doubt of all systems not based (overtly, at least) on God’s word.)

    You are right indeed that not being able to find truth does not mean that science can’t be useful.

    However, doesn’t humes gap/chasm also equally argue that we can’t know if science actually *is* useful?

    Yes, I have listened to Robbin’s discussions on the topic (multiple times) – in fact, I’ve listened to virtually all of the audio (except the last half of what do Presbyterians believe) from the website (an absolute gold-mine in those recordings).

    It strikes me that we are simply assuming that science is useful, and that none of us or anyone else so far has produced a true and valid deduction for this.

    As timothy 3:15-17 says, God’s word equips us for all good works; and God has clearly commanded us to steward the earth; and there are references to man doing this.

    Why are we not seeking to do the good work of establishing a biblical foundation for “how to steward/have dominion over the earth”?

    I suspect a lot might be gotten from anywhere where the bible discusses man’s stewardship/discusses man carrying out said…

  13. Steve M Says:

    It occurs to me that Robbins pointed out that Eve was employing the scientific method when she formed a hypothesis that if she ate the fruit she would not die. She performed the experiment of eating the fruit and she was proven right. She did not die. She, in fact, proved that Satan was correct when he told her she would not die and God was wrong when He said she would die in the day she ate of it. She and Adam lived for several hundred years after eating the fruit.

    So you see that science does discover truth after all.

  14. Hugh McCann Says:

    Brilliant, Steve. Yes, she certainly did!

    This Eve, as you may know, is alternately exalted in neo-pagan/ gnostic/ liberal ‘Christian’ circles for her insight and bravado, as Lilith and Sophia.

    See SPIRIT WARS (1997), PAGANS IN THE PEWS (2011), & THE GNOSTIC EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1992) – all by Dr. Peter Jones for exposes on the “fruit-eating heroine” and her spiritual progeny.

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