Faith is Assent

As mentioned in previous posts, there are those at Whitefield Theological Seminary who are teaching their impressionable students that Gordon Clark held to the traditional threefold definition of saving faith; i.e., the tautological and meaningless combo of notitia, assensus and fiducia.  The argument being advanced by those at Whitefield, and most militantly by its students, is that John Robbins and The Trinity Foundation surreptitiously altered Clark’s book, Faith and Saving Faith.  This calculated and even orchestrated attempt to smear the good name of the late John Robbins and the ongoing work of the Trinity Foundation is scurrilous, sinful and stupid.  While I’ve shared part of a transcript from a lecture Clark gave in 1977 defending his view that faith is assent and that the addition of fiducia or trust to faith’s definition adds precisely zero to any understanding of what faith is, I also thought it would be helpful for some to actually hear Clark in his own words.  While there is considerably more in this question and answer session that is relevant and helpful, and I would recommend people download and listen to the complete lecture, The Defense of Christian Presuppositions in Light of Non-Christian Presuppositions, I just want people to hear how emphatic and insistent Clark is in his defense of faith, all faith, as the combination of understanding and assent.

Perhaps listening to Clark’s answers here will also help confused Van Tillians like Steve Hays who thinks because Clark rightly points out that true assent can never be hypocritical that Michael “Hare Krishna” Sudduth must have been a Christian and sincerely believed the Gospel before his so-called “de-conversion” into abject paganism. As I attempted to explain in my reply to Hays, but probably didn’t do a very good job of it (see Revenge of the Magic Lizard People), Hays’ argument doesn’t follow.  I suspect he knows it too, but his whole mission at Triablogue and as John Frame’s dutiful underling, has been to discredit Gordon Clark at every opportunity. While I have no doubt that Sudduth at one time did assent to many of the truths of Christianity, I have no reason to believe that Sudduth ever assented to the truths of the Gospel specifically justification by belief alone and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.  As John Robbins explains in his piece, Why Heretics Win Battles (which further exposes the false teachers of the Federal Vision like Doug Wilson and Rich Lusk):

Westminster Larger Catechism Question 72 is usually misread by people looking for some esoteric and complicated definition of saving faith as something more than understanding of and assent to the Gospel. What the Catechism actually teaches is that one must not only assent to the truth of the promise of the Gospel, but also to the righteousness of Christ imputed to believers:

“Justifying faith is a saving grace wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assents to the truth of the promise of the Gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.”

The Catechism is concerned to make clear what truths one has to believe in order to be saved. It is not discussing the psychology of the act of believing, still less is it disparaging assent to the truth of the Gospel.

Among other things, this Catechetical and Biblical definition of justifying faith asserts what Wilson et al. deny: that sinners are saved by believing the doctrine of justification by faith alone. That is precisely what the Larger Catechism asserts. If the Catechism is correct, Lusk is lost.

Also important to note is that no Reformed Confession, and certainly not the Westminster Confession, defines “faith” by asserting that it consists of three components, notitia, assensus, and fiducia. When professed Reformed theologians lapse into that misleading Latin model, they sound like they are exegeting the Vulgate, not the Greek New Testament.

Clark too makes a distinction between understanding and assent.  Elsewhere Clark talks of lecturing convincingly on Spinoza for hours while claiming a solid grasp of his system, but, he notes, he didn’t believe a word of it; he didn’t assent to it. I don’t see why Sudduth couldn’t have aped Christianity as to have fooled both Steve Hays and John Robbins and he most assuredly did, but that is hardly a mark against Clark.  Sudduth obviously fooled a lot of people before coming out of the orange closet wearing finger bells growing a topknot (which I guess is quite fashionable now with all those silly “man buns”).

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71 Comments on “Faith is Assent”

  1. justbybelief Says:

    The Clark video on assent is fabulous! Thank you.

  2. Hugh McCann Says:

    Yes, as GHC said, “Belief is the act of assenting to something understood.”

    We understand and assent to the proposition that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3), and hence, have faith in/ believe the gospel, and are thereby saved. 🙂

  3. Steve M Says:

    Sean
    In an earlier post you wrote, “I have tried contacting Talbot asking him to either confirm or deny the claims made by his students, but I have yet to hear back from him.”

    Have you ever received any response? It seems as though Talbot has had ample time to either confirm or deny what his students are alleging he taught.

  4. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Steve – No I never heard from him. It could be due to FB messenger kind of buries messages from non-friends. OTOH, the sources who have told me he’s the guy are very credible.

  5. Jon Volkoff Says:

    The verbiage of WLC Question 72 is similar to what is found in the Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 21.

    Question 21. What is true faith?

    Answer. True faith is not only a certain knowledge, [c] whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured [d] confidence, which the Holy [e] Ghost works by the gospel, [f] in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, [g] remission of sin, everlasting righteousness [h] and salvation, are freely given by God, [i] merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

    Later, the Catechism makes it plain that “holding for truth” (assent) and confidence are not separate acts, but really two facets of the same act of believing.

    Question 59. But what doth is profit thee now that thou believest all this?

    Answer. That I am righteous in Christ, before God, and an heir of eternal life. [a]

    Note the propositional focus of the belief (“all this”). I think Clark and Robbins would have been content with that formulation.

  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    Jon, I’m not sure that either man would have been content with that, for one thing how would you account for WCF 18 which states that assurance does not belong to the “essence of faith” or faith’s definition? I’m pretty sure that both Clark and Robbins would side with the WCF at this point. As I recall Clark also took issue with Calvin in his book on faith for confusing the act of faith with assurance.

  7. Jon Volkoff Says:

    OK, Clark and Robbins would not have been content with every aspect of the Heidelberg’s formulation. I meant specifically the basic propositional aspect of faith is something that they would share.

    Yes, WCF 18 explicitly says assurance does not belong to the essence of faith, but in WCF 14 and WLC Q 72’s language of “receiving and resting” it does seem to implicitly communicate a certain idea of assurance nonetheless. I mean, how can you “rest” if you’re not in some way (at least subconsciously) assured that what you’re resting on can and will support you? How can you as a human being believe that God’s promises to His people are true without also realizing your personal need of these promises and a wish to be “remembered in mercy” by God as one of His people? Was such a wish ever disappointed? All of which leads me to think that somehow the writers of the Westminster Standards had to keep some element of subconscious assurance around. Else they would have been of all men most miserable.

  8. Sean Gerety Says:

    Yes, WCF 18 explicitly says assurance does not belong to the essence of faith, but in WCF 14 and WLC Q 72’s language of “receiving and resting” it does seem to implicitly communicate a certain idea of assurance nonetheless. I mean, how can you “rest” if you’re not in some way (at least subconsciously) assured that what you’re resting on can and will support you?

    I suppose it could be and the Divines contradicted themselves, but then the contrast between assent to the promise of the gospel and the necessity to also believe that Christ’s death alone as sufficient for the pardon of our sins and the imputation of His righteousness as the means by which we are accounted as “righteous in the sight of God for salvation” would be lost.

    It seems to me they’re saying it’s not enough to believe X to be justified, one must also believe Y & Z too. Papists and Federal Visionists believe in the promise of the gospel, but deny the sole sufficiency of Christ’s death for the pardon of sin and imputation of his active righteousness by which we might stand before God.

    But, I agree, receiving and resting could communicate some sort of assurance. After all, believing (assenting) to Christ’s finished work as the basis by which we receive pardon for sin and the imputation of his alien righteousness by belief alone should be very assuring and it is. The problem is it is just assumed that the Divines had the threefold definition in mind, but there is no evidence that they did. Or, if they did that they had it in mind here. It’s just begging the question. Besides, they state elsewhere that assurance is not part of the definition of saving faith so I’ll have to take them at their word. And, even besides that, you would have to show that fiducia means assurance or confidence and that would be a first even for me and I think I’ve heard it all. 🙂

  9. Jon Volkoff Says:

    “It seems to me they’re saying it’s not enough to believe X to be justified, one must also believe Y & Z too. Papists and Federal Visionists believe in the promise of the gospel, but deny the sole sufficiency of Christ’s death for the pardon of sin and imputation of his active righteousness by which we might stand before God.”

    I would look at it a little differently. Note that WLC Q 72 says “Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth” — i.e., held forth in the promise of the gospel. More at, “believe X, but especially believe Y and Z.” And, “without believing Y and Z you really can’t claim to believe X.” Papists and FVs claim to believe in the promise of the gospel, but it is a fundamentally different gospel than “Christ and His righteousness unconditionally imputed to them that believe, i.e. the elect.” To use a Clarkism, it’s not “dead orthodoxy” but “living hypocrisy.” 🙂

    As for fiducia, I’m no expert on Latin, but I find in the Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/fiducia#Latin) that the first definition listed is “trust, confidence, assurance, reliance.” I can’t vouch for the reliability of this definition, but it would not surprise me if it were valid.

  10. Sean Gerety Says:

    Of course you can believe X, the promise of the Gospel, without believing in Christ’s finished work and imputation. People do it every day, some I’m sure most of us might have one time thought were Christians like Doug Wilson or Mike “Hare Krishna” Sudduth. I wouldn’t call either of these guys examples of dead orthodoxy, but rather hypocrisy. But, you do bring up another problem with assuming assurance or confidence is integral or necessary in saving faith rather than a byproduct; and that’s the idea that something must occur in us in order to complete saving faith quite apart from and in addition to what Christ has done for us completely outside of us.

    I’m not going to debate the Latin, but I don’t deny trust is involved in saving faith for it is a species of belief not something in addition to it. Strictly it is belief in the future tense.

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    Also, you equate the promise of the gospel itself. I’m not sure why you would do that, because the promise of the gospel would be things like eternal bliss in heaven, forgiveness of sins, fellowship with God, etc. To take one of those promises some people think they receive forgiveness of sins from a wafer or the mumblings of some priestling.

  12. Hugh McCann Says:

    Of course assurance is of the essence of (true, saving) faith. What are we believing/ “faithing”/ trusting?

    That Christ died for our sins, etc.

    NOT that he died for all the world, as papists, FV-ers, & Arminians believe.

    Doubting the goodness, love, mercy of God, the atoning sacrifice of Christ for one’s sins, etc. is of the world, not of the Father (or Spirit).

    Doubt is a “contribution” of the flesh.

    Heidelberg again proves superior to the WSC.

    Question 59. But what does it profit thee now that thou believest all this?
    Answer: That I am righteous in Christ, before God, and an heir of eternal life. (a)

    (a) Hab.2:4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
    Rom.1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
    John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

  13. Hugh McCann Says:

    Question 60. How are thou righteous before God?
    Answer: Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; (a) so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, (b) and am still inclined to all evil; (c) notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, (d) but only of mere grace, (e) grants and imputes to me, (f) the perfect satisfaction, (g) righteousness and holiness of Christ; (h) even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; (i) inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart. (j)

    (a) Rom.3:21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Rom.3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: Rom.3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Rom.3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Rom.3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; Rom.3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Rom.5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: Rom.5:2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Gal.2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Eph.2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Eph.2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. Philip.3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
    (b) Rom.3:9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
    (c) Rom.7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
    (d) Tit.3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Deut.9:6 Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people. Ezek.36:22 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.
    (e) Rom.3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Eph.2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
    (f) Rom.4:4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. Rom.4:5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 2 Cor.5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
    (g) 1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
    (h) 1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
    (i) 2 Cor.5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
    (j) Rom.3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

  14. Sean Gerety Says:

    So let me ask you Jon, if I grant all that you’ve said would you say that the difference between faith and saving faith is confidence or a sense of assurance? That seems to be what you’re saying, but I don’t want to put words in your mouth. Just trying to distill what you’re saying.

    I will be a bit (a big bit) out of pocket for the next few days so I may not be able to interact with you too much, although I very much appreciate the exchange so far. You make good points.

  15. Hugh McCann Says:

    And, of course, Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?
    Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, (a) am not my own, (b) but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; (c) who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, (d) and delivered me from all the power of the devil; (e) and so preserves me (f) that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; (g) yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, (h) and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, (i) and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him. (j)

    (a) Rom.14:7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. Rom.14:8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
    (b) 1 Cor.6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
    (c) 1 Cor.3:23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s. Tit.2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
    (d) 1 Pet.1:18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 1 Pet.1:19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.
    (e) Heb.2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 1 John 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. John 8:34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. John 8:35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
    (f) John 6:39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. John 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 2 Thess.3:3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. 1 Pet.1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
    (g) Matt.10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. Matt.10:30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matt.10:31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 21:18 But there shall not an hair of your head perish.
    (h) Rom.8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
    (i) 2 Cor.1:20 For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. 2 Cor.1:21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; 2 Cor.1:22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. 2 Cor.5:5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Eph.1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Eph.1:14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Rom.8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
    (j) Rom.8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 1 John 3:3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

    Thank you.

  16. Sean Gerety Says:

    Is there an argument buried somewhere in all that cutting and pasting Hugh?

  17. Hugh McCann Says:

    So far, no. Just the assertion.

  18. Sean Gerety Says:

    Jon, thinking about this some more, I may have come across those who define fiducia as assurance, or something I suspect is like assurance, but I can’t be sure. Ron DiGiacomo argued that the sine qua non of saving faith is a “disposition of commitment” (see https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/filling-the-breach-justification-by-belief-alone-pt-2/ ).

    Generally, fiducia is defined as trust and trust in English is defined as “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.,”

    While even Calvin seemed to include assurance as a part of saving faith (he never defined saving faith using the threefold definition, but that’s OK because he was Calvin and not Clark), the question I have is similar to the one I had for DiGiacomo; How much assurance is needed? Since assurance “can be shaken,” or so the WCF claims, and it may even be a struggle over a lifetime (or a long period of time) to attain it, can someone be justified if they say “Lord I believe, help me thou mine unbelief”? Hugh seems to say no, so how much confidence or assurance is needed and how do you measure it? Will any degree of assurance do?

    Don’t get me wrong, I do agree that once you believe the gospel your life will be transformed and that a person becomes a new creation, but it seems to me that assurance is part of the sanctifying process and is something in addition to an understanding of faith simpliciter, which is really what needs to be settled first. To put it another way, how much assurance do I need to believe 2 + 2 or that ice is cold or any number of things? If saving faith is something categorically different than ordinary faith, which seems to be the case with the addition of fiducia, then why call it faith? Aren’t Protestants then just equivocating when they say justification is by faith alone? They don’t really mean faith alone at all.

  19. Matthew Anderson Says:

    Sean, long time lurker here. I read an article on the Grace Evangelical Society recently about the definition of saving faith (I acknowledge most of their stuff is theologically erroneous but they have published Clark and Robbins a time or two, so I scan their journal archives from time to time.) The article simply defined faith as “being convinced something is true.” Assuming they mean a “a proposition” by the word “something”, what is your opinion on this statement? Do you think it is the same thing as saying faith is assent to an understood proposition?

  20. Jon Volkoff Says:

    “Of course you can believe X, the promise of the Gospel, without believing in Christ’s finished work and imputation.”

    That’s impossible, Sean, because the promise of the gospel is centrally about Christ and His saving work: His righteousness, His finished work and imputation thereof to His people. WLC Q 72 spells this out by using the phrase “therein held forth.” Reformatted, WLC Q 72 would read “Christ and his righteousness, held forth in the promise of the gospel.”

    “I’m not sure why you would do that, because the promise of the gospel would be things like eternal bliss in heaven, forgiveness of sins, fellowship with God, etc.”

    Yes, the gospel does promise these things, but through Christ crucified alone.

    The Heidelberg in Q&A 66 spells out what the promise of the gospel is: “that [God] grants us freely the remission of sin, and life eternal, for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross.”

    The Canons of Dordt say in Head II, Article 5: “Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” Of course they are quoting John 3:16.

    “…would you say that the difference between faith and saving faith is confidence or a sense of assurance?”

    Not exactly. Non-saving faith may have confidence and assurance but in the wrong thing. I’m with Clark that the difference is propositional in nature: saving faith believes the right propositions whereas non-saving faith does not.

    So what are those propositions to be believed? That is one question that I don’t recall Clark answering directly. But this is what the Heidelberg asks in Q&A 22:

    “Question 22. What is then necessary for a christian to believe? Answer. All things promised us in the gospel…”

    I recall John Robbins saying in one of his old articles: “”…if I say I believe some promise you have made, I am indeed saying I trust you. If you promise to give me a job and I believe your promise, I do in fact trust you.”

    So “how much assurance is necessary?” really is not the right question. If I believe the promise of the gospel, i.e. “that [God] grants us freely the remission of sin, and life eternal, for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross”, and identify myself with that “us”, I am ipso facto trusting in Christ. The belief and trust might be weaker or stronger, but the important thing is: it’s there.

    I’m guessing the next question is, “how do we know if we really believe the promise of the gospel?” Well, there must be a way of looking in oneself to see, for Jesus asked the blind man that was healed, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?”, evidently expecting an answer other than “I cannot know for sure.”

  21. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks, Jon. Amen: Non-saving faith may have confidence and assurance but in the wrong thing. I’m with Clark that the difference is propositional in nature: saving faith believes the right propositions whereas non-saving faith does not.

  22. Sean Gerety Says:

    “Of course you can believe X, the promise of the Gospel, without believing in Christ’s finished work and imputation.”
    That’s impossible, Sean, because the promise of the gospel is centrally about Christ and His saving work: His righteousness, His finished work and imputation thereof to His people. WLC Q 72 spells this out by using the phrase “therein held forth.” Reformatted, WLC Q 72 would read “Christ and his righteousness, held forth in the promise of the gospel.”

    Not sure what’s impossible since the structure of the answer is “not only” A, “but” B as well. It seems obvious to me that someone can believe A without B which is why the Divines insisted on believing in both in order in order for faith to be justifying.

  23. Sean Gerety Says:

    @ Matthew – without reading it I really don’t want to hazard a guess as to what they mean. Sorry.

  24. Matthew Anderson Says:

    Fair enough. If you are interested here is the article http://faithalone.org/journal/2005i/wilkin.pdf

  25. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’ll check it out …. thanks.

  26. Steve M Says:

    I called Dr. Kenneth Talbot yesterday to ask him whether it was his position that John Robbins had edited Gordon Clark’s book Faith and Saving Faith to reflect his own views rather than Clark’s. He initially responded that he hadn’t said anything about that and that no one had ever asked him about that. I didn’t call to debate with him. I just called to get his views straight from his own lips. He immediately attempted to move away from the reason for my call by discussing some of his opinions of Clark’s views on various things and I listened. It was a pleasant enough conversation although I must admit he did most of the talking. There was a lot of reminiscing and name dropping. I had trouble getting a word in, but I re-asked the same basic question that I had called about several times and in several ways. I never got what I considered a straight answer. I had called to find out whether he would either a confirm or deny what several of his students were saying about his comments on the book Faith and Saving Faith. I asked him directly whether the book accurately reflected the views of Gordon Clark. He was evasive. He had talked about Clark working on a systematic theology that had been turned down by both Presbyterian and Reformed and Baker. He said the Robbins had decided that it was best to publish it in parts. He claimed to have an original manuscript of this systematic theology. I gathered that he was implying that the books published by the Trinity Foundation differed from what he had. The answers I got to the question that I called about seemed to me to be both “No” and “Yes”.

  27. Sean Gerety Says:

    The answers I got to the question that I called about seemed to me to be both “No” and “Yes”.

    Very Christian of him. Maybe he should run for office.

  28. Jon Volkoff Says:

    ” It seems obvious to me that someone can believe A without B which is why the Divines insisted on believing in both in order in order for faith to be justifying.”

    I cannot imagine the Divines meaning, you can believe the promise of the gospel without trusting in Christ, as if they were two separate things. As noted before, the Divines inserted the phrase “therein held forth” to show that they are intimately connected. Also, the Divines would be going against the express words of Christ: “He that believeth [the gospel] and is baptized shall be saved.” The gospel has been the promise concerning Christ since the protoevangelion in the Garden of Eden.

    If you still can’t see it, then maybe I ought to just drop it. But I would be very sorry if, of all things, we could not agree on what the promise of the gospel is.

  29. Jon Volkoff Says:

    I wrote: “I cannot imagine the Divines meaning, you can believe the promise of the gospel without trusting in Christ, as if they were two separate things.”

    It seems that my imagination was not broad enough. Upon further research, evidently at least some of the Puritans did make this separation. Thomas Manton was among them, for which Clark takes him to task.

    Linkname: The Trinity Foundation – Saving Faith
    URL: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=10

    “Faith [Manton writes] ‘is not only assensus axiomati, an assent to a Gospel maxim or proposition; you are not justified by that, but by being one with Christ. It was the mistake of the former age to make the promise, rather than the person of Christ, to be the formal object of faith.’

    The mention of the person of Christ is pious language. Similar expressions are common today. One slogan is, ‘No creed but Christ.’ Another expression, with variations from person to person, is, ‘Faith is not belief in a proposition, but trust in a person.’

    Though this may sound very pious, it is nonetheless destructive of
    Christianity…

    This is what Manton refers to as ‘the mistake of the former age.’ Thomas Manton was a Puritan of the seventeenth century, and when he speaks of ‘the former age’, he is not referring to apostate Romanism, but to the Reformers themselves. Hence he is a witness that they defined faith as an assent to the promise of the Gospel.”

  30. Sean Gerety Says:

    Yes, the gospel does promise these things, but through Christ crucified alone.

    I realize Jon that Christ’s life and death are the alone basis upon which all the promises of the gospel are secured, but that doesn’t mean that people haven’t sought to secure them by other means, which is why the Divines added that one must also believe in the imputation of Christ’s righteous along with His sacrifice for the remission of sins.

    So, tell me Jon, which of the following 2 propositions couldn’t an FVist assent to:

    1) “that [God] grants us freely the remission of sin, and life eternal, for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross.”

    2) “Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

    I think it’s obvious that they can, along with Rome, fully affirm both 1 & 2. For example, in the FV statement of faith they profess: “We affirm not only that Christ is our full obedience, but also that through our union with Him we partake of the benefits of His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement at the right hand of God the Father.” They believe in the “benefits of his death”; the promise of the gospel yet deny the means by which it is secured; the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer.

    “…would you say that the difference between faith and saving faith is confidence or a sense of assurance?”

    Not exactly. Non-saving faith may have confidence and assurance but in the wrong thing. I’m with Clark that the difference is propositional in nature: saving faith believes the right propositions whereas non-saving faith does not.

    Well, you’re not exactly with Clark. Clark argued that faith was an assent to an understood proposition and saving faith was an assent to the understood propositions of the gospel. You want to include the psychological state of mind of assurance. You hold to a threefold definition and have understanding, assent plus assurance or confidence. I think assurance, while important in the Christian life, is irrelevant to a definition of faith and for the reason you gave; people are assured of a myriad of false propositions. Assurance adds nothing to the definition of faith whether it’s faith in the proposition 2+2=4, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, or 1 Corinthians 15:1–4.

  31. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Jon – Our replies must have crossed on the internet. I posted before seeing your reply above.

  32. Jon Volkoff Says:

    “So, tell me Jon, which of the following 2 propositions couldn’t an FVist assent to:

    1) “that [God] grants us freely the remission of sin, and life eternal, for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross.”

    2) ‘Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.'”

    Neither one, really. In proposition 1, there is that pesky word “freely”, i.e. without conditions/dependencies on the part of the recipient. You know as well as I do that FVers — in fact, all those who believe false gospels — despite their orthodox-sounding talk, always find a way to insert conditions to be fulfilled by man into the mix. So they cannot honestly assent to proposition 1.

    And since they insist on adding conditions to the work of Christ crucified, like the Galatian Judaizers of old, they show that, for them, His cross work is not enough to secure and guarantee their salvation. In other words, they do not believe in Christ crucified, and cannot honestly assent to proposition 2.

    It might not be amiss to note that conditional salvation means conditional justification, which destroys the doctrine of Christ’s righteousness imputed to them that believe (JBFA).

  33. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sorry Jon, I can’t seen any reason why they can’t freely and fully affirm (1). The problem is exactly what I said it is, they don’t affirm Christ’s finished work alone and the imputation of His righteousness by belief alone. They do however believe, and I’ve read more than my fill from these men, that God grants us freely the remission of sin, and life eternal, for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross. It’s the means by which this is appropriated that they deny, which is why the Confession asserts it’s not enough to believe X. One must also believe Y and Z in order to be justified. You’re clutching at straws.

  34. Jon Volkoff Says:

    “Sorry Jon, I can’t seen any reason why they can’t freely and fully affirm (1).”

    The way I read your position then, is that assent to the promise of the gospel does not save, but assent to the gospel does? And if that is true, wherein lies the propositional difference between “the promise of the gospel” and “the gospel”, as you see it?

  35. Sean Gerety Says:

    Jon, I’ve explain the difference a couple of times and it is between benefits Christ’s death secured (eternal life, sins forgiven, union with God, etc.) verse the means or instrument by which they are procured. Let me ask you, can someone deny imputation or justification by belief alone and still be said to believe the gospel message; i.e, the gospel propositions?

  36. Jon Volkoff Says:

    “Let me ask you, can someone deny imputation or justification by belief alone and still be said to believe the gospel message; i.e, the gospel propositions?”

    Not at all. Belief in Christ crucified — in particular, the substitutionary nature of it — at least implies a belief in His imputed righteousness as the only righteousness of His people.

  37. Sean Gerety Says:

    There you go, you’ve identified the difference between “the promise of the gospel” and “the gospel.” 🙂

  38. Jon Volkoff Says:

    OK, now that we’ve gotten past that :-), back to the original point of the thread, which is trust/confidence/resting/assurance as the third element of faith.

    I agree with Clark that adding the third element, while commonly and traditionally done in Reformed thought, is not a helpful part of the definition. OTOH, it would seem to me that someone who believes the gospel can deduce their assurance from the promise of the gospel, viz.:

    Major premise: “He that believes [the gospel] shall be saved.”
    Minor premise: “I believe [the gospel].”
    Conclusion: “Therefore, I shall be saved.”

    Do you think it is possible for someone to believe the gospel, and yet not know they believe the gospel? I can see how that might be true in the early stages of conscious faith, but I don’t see how that situation could be sustained for very long.

  39. Sean Gerety Says:

    OTOH, it would seem to me that someone who believes the gospel can deduce their assurance from the promise of the gospel, viz.:

    Major premise: “He that believes [the gospel] shall be saved.”
    Minor premise: “I believe [the gospel].”
    Conclusion: “Therefore, I shall be saved.”

    The argument is valid, but is it sound? How do you account for your minor premise?

    Do you think it is possible for someone to believe the gospel, and yet not know they believe the gospel? I can see how that might be true in the early stages of conscious faith, but I don’t see how that situation could be sustained for very long.

    How long do you need to be a Christian before Paul’s admonition not have any confidence in the flesh no longer applies?


  40. Dear All:

    Please forgive this off-topic comment.

    I come across the following reference by accident:

    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11153-011-9295-4

    “On arguing for the existence of god as a synthesis between realism and anti-realism” by William J. Mander.

    Abstract: “This article examines a somewhat neglected argument for the existence of God which appeals to the divine perspective as a way of reconciling the conflicting claims of realism and anti-realism. Six representative examples are set out (Berkeley, Ferrier, T. H. Green, Josiah Royce, Gordon Clark and Michael Dummett), reasons are considered why this argument has received less attention than it might, and a brief sketch given of the most promising way in which it might be developed.”

    I wonder if anyone has read this article and can tell us something about it.

    William Mander teaches philosophy at Oxford University and it is always nice to know that Gordon Clark is still read by some academics:

    http://www.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/members/philosophy_panel/william_mander

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  41. Sean Gerety Says:

    Interesting, but not paying $40 to read it.

  42. Sean Gerety Says:

    A reader of this blog, Brad McGill, found the pdf available online without that hefty fee for reading a measly 17 pages 😉

    https://appearedtoblogly.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/mander-w-j-on-arguing-for-the-existence-of-god-as-a-synthesis-between-realism-and-anti-realism.pdf


  43. Dear Sean:

    1. Thank you and thank Brad McGill for the link to the article. : – )

    2. In this article, William Mander group Gordon Clark together with George Berkeley, James F. Ferrier, T. H. Green, Josiah Royce, and Michael Dummett.

    Mander characterize this group as “eminent, but very different, philosophers”.

    After all the heavy-handed put downs by the Van Tillians, it is nice to see someone paying Gordon Clark some compliments.

    I have only read Mander’s article once and however Mander thinks of Clark, I think he has not caricature Clark’s position.

    3. Some background theses for the next section:

    (1) All truths are eternal truths.

    (2) Some eternal truths are necessary truths.

    (3) Some eternal truths are contingent truths.

    (4) All necessary truths are eternal truths.

    (5) All contingent truths are eternal truths.

    (Time vs. Eternity are different conceptual categories from Necessity vs. Contingency.)

    (6) All contingent truths are true because God has decreed them to be true.

    (This is the Calvinist claim that God from eternity has ordained whatsoever comes to pass.)

    (7) All contingent falsehoods are false because God has decreed them to be false.

    (God from eternity has ordained whatsoever will not come to pass.)

    (8) Contingent truths has ontological priority over (actual) contingent states of affairs by virtue of the doctrine of Creation: God brings about (actual) contingent states of affairs from the contingent truths He has determined to be true.

    ((Actual) contingent states of affairs are the “truth markers” for contingent truths.)

    (9) Contingent falsehoods have no corresponding (actual) states of affairs.

    (10) Necessary truths and necessary states of affairs are on a par ontologically.

    (11) Necessary falsehoods have no corresponding (actual) states of affairs.

    4. Some initial thoughts about Mander’s article:

    (1) Contingent created reality are brought about by contingent truths and therefore can be known by contingent truths.

    (W.V. Quine and others find reference to be opaque but in a Christian theistic universe, it is natural that truths refer to reality.)

    (2) Truths or propositions are objects of God’s thoughts and are therefore mental in nature.

    (3) Contra Cornelius Van Til, we know by thinking and believing (i.e. assent to the truth of) the true propositions in God’s mind.

    (4) Created reality is stable because per Gordon Clark, God’s truth is eternal and God’s mind is immutable and so are the actions God intended to do (including creating and conserving).

    (5) Although in Gordon Clark’s view propositions are God’s thoughts, his position is properly characterized as a form of realism because truths are not “constructed” by our minds (contra the anti-realist) and that truths are instantiated in our minds as we think and believe the truths (univocal predication) in God’s mind.

    (6) That we think God’s thoughts in His mind when we know truths also ruled out Gordon Clark as a subjectivist.

    (7) Contra Immanuel Kant, we can know reality as it is because created reality is what God determines it to be and we can think some of the truths in God’s mind.

    (8) Contra T.H. Green and other coherentists, the nature of contingent truths is correspondence with what God determines to create.

    (9) Mander did not mention Alvin Plantinga in the Abstract but I heartily agree when Mander quote Plantinga that “[a]nd the synthesis is that truth is independent of our intellectual activity but not of God’s”.

    This concurrence is probably due to Clark and Plantinga’s sharing the same background in Reformed theology.

    (10) I find one of William Mander’s “new” suggestion to be not new at all: “It may be suggested that we take a modal approach to the problem and identify the adequate perspective which defines reality, not as something that actually exists, but merely as something possible that would exist were the appropriate circumstances to come about.”

    According to Clark, everything exist but not everything is actual: Even the square root of -1 exists.

    If we identity propositions with God’s thoughts, then the modal properties of propositions are just how truth-values will distribute across all possible worlds as God thinks of them.

    Possibility is just the extent of God’s noetic activities.

    I hope to read Mander’s article at least one more time this weekend.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  44. Dear All:

    1. I find William J. Mander’s article “On Arguing for the Existence of God as a Synthesis between Realism and Anti-realism” (2013) to be quite interesting.

    After reading the article a second time, I think Gordon Clark’s theory of knowledge is immune to many of the criticisms Mander raised against other positions.

    If Sean does not object, I like to post some reading notes explaining why that is so.

    2. How should we appraise Mander’s article in relation to Gordon Clark?

    Three preliminary observations:

    (a) Gordon Clark is only tangential to the article by William Mander and there is only one item in the Bibliography on Clark: [A Christian View of Men and Things (1952)].

    I think the standard practice is to evaluate Mander’s article with respect to that 1952 book of Clark alone.

    We cannot expect a scholar to read everything by an author before he cites that author.

    So it is not fair to criticize Mander other than by reference to [A Christian View of Men and Things (1952)].

    But in showing that Clark’s theory of knowledge is immune to many of the criticisms Mander raised against other positions, I am permitted to use any of Clark’s writings.

    In this respect, I surmise many readers of this Blog will know more about Gordon Clark than Mander.

    (b) William Mander takes Clark to be some sort of idealist (“Clark’s argument to his idealist conclusion …” (Mander 2013, 104)).

    If we take epistemological idealism to be the claim that knowing and the object of knowledge are mind dependent, then Clark is an epistemological idealist.

    (In Clark’s view, the object of knowledge is truth and all truths are propositional.

    Empiricism takes the object of knowledge to be the objects in the world which are presented / represented to us through sensations and perceptions.)

    If we take ontological idealism to be the claim all reality is composed of mind or spirit, then Clark is not an ontological idealist.

    We Reformed Christians believe in both the doctrine of Creation and the Eternal Decree.

    Keeping the Creator-creation Distinction in mind, material reality (which is only a part of created reality) became actualized when God created material reality according to His decrees.

    So not all of reality is composed of mind or spirit.

    (c) As the title of Mander’s article suggested, the interest of the article is arguing for the existence of God.

    Personally, I do not see any problems with “arguing” (or giving reasons) for the existence of God as long as we do not tried to “proof” the existence of God as in some form of natural theology.

    In this methodological respect, I follow Clark’s presuppositionalism.

    Reference:

    Mander, William J. 2013. “On arguing for the existence of god as a synthesis between realism and anti-realism”. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 74: 99-115.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  45. Notes on Mander (2013) — Part 1

    1. The purpose of these reading notes is to take (Mander 2013) as is and show that Gordon Clark’s theory of knowledge is immune to many of the criticisms Mander level at other positions.

    “Contrast is the mother of clarity.” (Os Guinness)

    It is assumed that readers of these notes are already familiar with (Mander 2013).

    The first philosopher considered by Mander is George Berkeley (1685-1753), best known for the subjective idealistic slogan “to be is to be perceived”.

    2. (Mander 2013): “The mechanism that allows him to do this is God. If divine agency is the cause of our perceptions of material reality, our passivity towards it (and its externality to us) are preserved, while if the divine is omnipresent and eternal we may rest assured that, even when not in our minds, things continue to exist in the infinite mind of God. We may even suppose that, insofar as God’s ideas are the archetypes of our own, a sense is preserved in which our experiences are all more or less accurate perceptions of a common reality.”

    Berkeley operated with “ideas” while Clark operated with truth.

    Mander uses the Archetype-Ectype Distinction (or Original-Copy Distinction) to describe the objects of Berkeley’s perception while in Clark’s philosophy, we think the truths or propositions (archetype or original) in God’s mind.

    3. (Mander 2013, 100): “It has been widely objected that with respect to continuity of unperceived objects the question has been begged; for while Berkeley is clear that he wishes the argument to be read in the first direction, continuity no more supports the existence of God than does the existence of God support continuity, and it is hard to say, in the abstract, which of these has the greater initial plausibility. The literature contains many possible solutions, and Berkeley is not without resources in this matter but undoubtedly, given his starting point, there is a problem.”

    The starting point of Clark’s philosophy is the whole of the Holy Bible and Clark’s method is to deduce what one can from the Bible.

    Clark does not argue to God and so does not have the problem of Berkeley: “continuity no more supports the existence of God than does the existence of God support continuity”.

    4. (Mander 2013, 100): “Just as troublesome is the fact that even if it is reasonable to suppose things unperceived by us are perceived by some other spirit, or that our ideas are caused by the agency of some other spirit, this in itself is no licence to infer the existence of just one (divine) mind. Possibly a collection of different agencies combine together to produce these effects. There is perhaps room for a solution to this worry which appeals to the harmonious co-ordination of different people’s experiences, but arguably such a move simply re-locates the original problem within the problem of other minds.”

    Clark believes the [Westminster Confession of Faith] is an accurate summary of the teachings of the Bible.

    In so far as the [Westminster Confession of Faith] accurately summarizes the Bible, it can also be used as premises to make deductions in Clark’s philosophy.

    An analogy is if the Bible is the axioms of Clark’s philosophy, then the [Westminster Confession of Faith] are some theorems deduced from the Bible.

    The theorems can itself be used as premises to make further deductions.

    (Westminster Confession of Faith 3.1): “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

    While God ordained whatsoever comes to pass, Clark’s philosophy does not rule out God using second causes or secondary agencies as means to accomplish His ends.

    So Clark’s philosophy does not suffer the problem of “but arguably such a move simply re-locates the original problem within the problem of other minds.”

    5. (Mander 2013, 101): “A third sort of difficulty arises if we shine a critical spotlight on the precise mechanics of the relation between God, material reality and ourselves, and especially on the issue of how to combine the three divine roles of eternal perceiver, cause of human sense perception, and ideal archetype. What is the relation between the experience God has of things when we are not perceiving them and those he causes in us? How can the former come to aid of the latter? And what is the relation between the experiences God gives us and the archetypical ones he himself enjoys? If the latter define things as they really are would that not render reality itself as inaccessible to our experience as Locke’s material substance?”

    There are no analogous problems in Clark’s philosophy as in Berkeley’s philosophy.

    Behind created reality (which includes material reality) laid the plan of God for creation (i.e. His Eternal Decree).

    The plan of God for creation is consisted of the true contingent propositions God has from eternity determined to be true.

    The objects of knowledge about created reality are these true contingent propositions God has determined to be true.

    Human being knows about created reality by thinking and believing these true contingent propositions in God’s mind.

    Reality is accessible to us because we can think some of the thoughts in God’s mind.

    Reference:

    Mander, William J. 2013. “On arguing for the existence of god as a synthesis between realism and anti-realism”. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 74: 99-115.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  46. Notes on Mander (2013) — Part 2

    1. The second philosopher considered by Mander (2013) is James Frederick Ferrier (1808 – 1864).

    William J. Mander described Ferrier views without criticizing them.

    So my task here is to contrast Ferrier with Gordon Clark as described by Mander instead of showing Clark’s theory of knowledge is immune to the criticisms Mander level at Ferrier.

    2. (Mander 2013, 101): “Our next figure, Ferrier, was much inspired by Berkeley, whose reputation he did a great deal to rehabilitate. But for all his high opinion of Berkelean idealism, Ferrier thinks the position in need of considerable restatement. Moving away from the narrow focus on perception to a broader concern with knowledge as a whole –that is, recognising both our concepts and our sensations in the construction of experience — he argues that, shorn of its limiting subjectivism, Berkeley’s true importance turns out to be as a precursor of absolute idealism.”

    To properly contrast Ferrier with Clark, it might be wise to begin with absolute idealism.

    (“Absolute idealism”, Wikipedia): “Absolute idealism is an ontologically monistic philosophy attributed to G. W. F. Hegel. It is Hegel’s account of how being is ultimately comprehensible as an all-inclusive whole. Hegel asserted that in order for the thinking subject (human reason or consciousness) to be able to know its object (the world) at all, there must be in some sense an identity of thought and being. Otherwise, the subject would never have access to the object and we would have no certainty about any of our knowledge of the world.”

    Hegel is not too far wrong in claiming that there must be in some sense an identity of thought and being in order for the thinking subject to be able to know its object.

    The created world is brought about by the contingent truths God has from eternity determined to be true.

    So there is an identity in informational content of the contingent truths and their corresponding actual contingent states of affairs.

    (Thought –> truths; Being –> states of affairs.)

    God created the world according to His Eternal Decree: Actual contingent states of affairs are brought about by God from the contingent truths He has determined to be true.

    But by virtue of the doctrine of Creation, a contingent truth and its corresponding actual contingent state of affairs are ontologically different.

    So I am not at all sympathetic to the mysticism that tries to unify (in an identity) the subject and object in the act of knowing.

    As a Christian who believes in the doctrine of Creation and therefore the Creator-creation Distinction, I am not sympathetic to ontological monism period.

    3. (Mander 2013, 101): “This result Ferrier takes as a vindication of idealism; it tells us that matter in itself, the realm of merely primary qualities, is literally inconceivable.”

    This reminds me of Gordon Clark’s criticism of “substance”, of which he is skeptical.

    In Clark’s philosophy, there is no need to posit substance as an explanation; I gather Ferrier comes to the same conclusion with regards to primary qualities for empirical idealism.

    4. I find Ferrier’s argument from ignorance to God to be quite interesting.

    As described by Mander, there seems to be some gaps in it.

    I wonder if there is a rigorous formulation of this argument.

    5. (Mander 2013, 102): “Ferrier concludes that there exists a God, by whom reality is known, and without whose knowing activity there would be no reality at all.”

    Properly speaking, created reality is not ontologically dependent on God’s knowing activity but on His creating and conserving activities.

    How does God knows about created reality?

    According to Clark, God is not an empiricist and learn about created reality by experiencing it.

    As a matter of fact, God is omniscient and does not learn anything new at all.

    God knows about created reality by knowing what He has decreed to create.

    Reference:

    Mander, William J. 2013. “On arguing for the existence of god as a synthesis between realism and anti-realism”. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 74: 99-115.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  47. Notes on Mander (2013) — Part 3

    1. The third philosopher considered by (Mander 2013) is T.H. Green (1836 – 1882).

    I have in a previous comment taken issue with Green’s coherentism.

    The other issue of Green’s as described by Mander that I like to comment on is “Green’s notion of the eternal consciousness has puzzled many commentators, especially the issue of its relation to our own finite consciousness.” (Mander 2013, 102).

    There is a similar issue in Gordon Clark’s theory of knowledge: Human beings are able to think some of the truths or propositions in God’s mind in a univocal manner.

    I hope those of us who are sympathetic to Clark’s epistemology do not lost sight of the fact that this is a substantial theological / philosophical thesis.

    Besides appealing to the doctrine of the Image of God, Clark also appealed to specific Bible passages such as John 1:8 as the basis of this thesis.

    2. The fourth philosopher considered by (Mander 2013) is Josiah Royce (1855 – 1916).

    The puzzle of Royce that Mander described is the existence of error of judgment.

    I do not find Royce’s puzzle that puzzling because I believe in the doctrines of Sin and Total Depravity: Our cognitive faculties are beset by sin and therefore can malfunction which resulted in errors of judgment.

    There are many other reasons that can lead to errors in judgment such as judging with incomplete or partial information.

    Since Mander’s presentation of Royce does not close off these other possibilities, I find the argument as presented invalid.

    But what Mander really wants to focus on is the same issue as with T. H. Green: “But still it must be wondered what it can really mean to say that I or my ideas are parts of another being or its ideas.” (Mander 2013, 103)

    I think there is a puzzle for these empirical idealists because they work with “ideas” instead of “truths”: Whereas no two persons can share the identical ideas or experiences, two or more persons can think the identical truths.

    Reference:

    Mander, William J. 2013. “On arguing for the existence of god as a synthesis between realism and anti-realism”. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 74: 99-115.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  48. James Says:

    Ben,
    what exactly does ‘contingent’ mean in ‘contingent truth’?
    does it mean ‘can be otherwise’ or ‘true in some (not all) possible worlds’?
    (or maybe they are the same thing?)

    Anyway, is the truth/state of affairs – “God chose to save some” – contingent? What does Clark say on that?

    Thanks,


  49. Notes on Mander (2013) — Part 4

    1. The fifth philosopher considered by (Mander 2013) is Gordon H. Clark (1905 – 1984).

    Since these reading notes are written as a response to (Mander 2013) from the perspective of Clark’s theory of knowledge, I will not take up issues that are better left elsewhere.

    2. (Mander 2013, 104): “It might be thought that the argument that is being illustrated here is a version of Augustine’s celebrated argument from truth, however Augustine’s case focuses solely on necessary or eternal truth, …”.

    Many people equates necessary truth with eternal truth.

    But we Calvinists who subscribe to the [Westminster Confession of Faith] are also committed to the eternity of contingent truth.

    (Westminster Confession of Faith 3.1a): “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; …”

    “Whatsoever comes to pass” refers to the actual contingent states of affairs of creation.

    God ordained whatsoever comes to pass by determining which contingent propositions are to be true and which contingent propositions are to be false.

    If God “from all eternity” unchangeably ordained whatsoever comes to pass, then contingent truths are also eternal truths.

    3. (Mander 2013, 104): “Clark begins by endorsing the idealistic claim that ‘The object of knowledge is a proposition, a meaning, a significance; it is a thought.’ ”

    The philosopher Joseph Agassi wrote ([1975] 1988, 135): “The classic distinction which I was taught in all my undergraduate philosophy courses equates objectivism with realism with materialism, and contrasts the three with subjectivism which is identified with idealism.”

    Yet as I present him in these notes, Gordon Clark is an epistemological idealist who is also a realist and an objectivist.

    That Clark is an epistemological idealist is because:

    (a) He believes the object of knowledge is truth and all truths are propositional.

    (b) He believes we know truths by thinking and believing univocally the truths in God’s mind.

    That Clark is a realist is because when we know, we possess the object of knowledge in our minds and not some presentation or representation of it.

    That Clark is an objectivist is due to his commitment to the doctrine of Creation, which demarcate between thoughts and actual reality.

    By the standard of philosophy textbook, Clark’s epistemology is an unusual combination.

    4. (Mander 2013, 104): “Clark’s argument to his idealist conclusion is not very sophisticated or original while his claim that truth is greater than any individual mind rises little above the intuitive, …”

    I am happy the neglected Gordon H. Clark is read by some academics.

    Since William Mander listed only one book by Gordon Clark in his bibliography and since I do not believe Mander has distort Clark’s view as expressed in that book, I cannot fault Mander in these respects.

    Yet I believe Clark’s theory of knowledge is much more sophisticated than Mander has realized.

    I believe that not only is Clark’s theory of knowledge immune to many of the criticisms Mander leveled at other positions, Clark has anticipated some of Mander positive suggestions and has already answered them.

    I hope to continue to document some of them in these notes.

    5. Noting that William Mander has lived up to scholarly standards, I now want to digress and register my complaint against the unscholarly behaviour of some Van Tillians in responding to Clark’s criticism of Van Til’s theory of analogical knowledge.

    I should have written “not” responding instead of “responding”.

    In all things one must have a sense of proportion.

    In criticisms, there are minor criticisms that does little damage to a position, and there are major and even fatal criticisms.

    I believe Gordon Clark has dealt Cornelius Van Til’s theory of analogical knowledge a fatal blow during the Clark-Van Til Controversy.

    Until Sean Gerety made them available here in this Blog, the two primary documents of the Clark-Van Til Controversy were inaccessible.

    Even so, what I considered to be the fatal blow was also published in Clark’s 1957 article “The Bible as Truth” in [Bibliotheca Sacra].

    (Clark [1957] 1982, 33): “If God has the truth and if man has only an analogy, it follows that he does not have the truth. An analogy of the truth is not the truth; and even if man’s knowledge is not called an analogy of the truth but an analogical truth, the situation is no better. An analogical truth, except it contains a univocal point of coincident meaning, simply is not the truth at all.”

    Van Til’s theory of analogical knowledge leads to skepticism.

    The honest thing for a scholar to do is to acknowledge the criticism and respond to the criticism and if needs be, to modify one’s theory in light of the criticism.

    For nearly 70 years since the Clark-Van Til Controversy, no Van Tillians has acknowledged, let alone addressed, this fatal criticism of Gordon Clark’s to the theory of analogical knowledge, yet they keep on teaching the theory of analogical knowledge as if it is the truth.

    It is not honest and scholarly of them to maintain silence.

    I have my say on this matter in the following blogpost:

    http://notes-on-gordon-h-clark.blogspot.ca/2014/07/notes-when-black-becomes-white-on-some.html

    References:

    Agassi, Joseph. [1975] 1988. “Subjectivism — From Infantile Disease to Chronic Illness: the Red King and the Bayesians”. In The Gentile Art of Philosophical Polemics: Selected Reviews and Comments, 135 – 144. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Company.

    Clark, Gordon H. [1957] 1982. “The Bible As Truth”. In God’s Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics, 24-38. Jefferson, Maryland: The Trinity Foundation.

    Mander, William J. 2013. “On arguing for the existence of god as a synthesis between realism and anti-realism”. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 74: 99-115.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  50. Errata:

    Gordon H. Clark was of course (1902 – 1985).

    I cut and paste from the wrong place.

    Benjamin


  51. Answering James — Part 1

    Dear James:

    1. You asked: “what exactly does ‘contingent’ mean in ‘contingent truth’? does it mean ‘can be otherwise’ or ‘true in some (not all) possible worlds’?”

    You are nearly right with contingent truth is true in some (not all) possible worlds. : – )

    I have looked up the following definitions in a textbook.

    In possible worlds idiom:

    A “contingent truth” is a proposition that is true in the actual world and false in at least one other possible world.

    A “contingent falsehood” is a proposition that is false in the actual world and true in at least one other possible world.

    A proposition is “contingent” if it is either a contingent truth or a contingent falsehood.

    Depending on the context, I do not object to charaterizing “contingent” as that which can be otherwise.

    I prefer to use possible worlds idom in some contexts because it is more precise and there are some elaborate logical and metaphysical theories behind it that one can appeal to as background.

    2. You asked: “Anyway, is the truth/state of affairs – “God chose to save some” – contingent? What does Clark say on that?”

    You asked a very difficult question.

    Gordon Clark is a philosophical necessitarian.

    One way to characterize necessitarianism is that it is the claim that the actual world is the only possible world that could have been actual.

    This is an extremely strong claim and it seems to many people to be obviously false.

    Yet as in nearly all things Clarkian, upon further thinking, what initially seems to be obviously false turns out not to be so after all.

    I will in what follows:

    (a) Make a lengthy quotation from [The Trinity (1985)] which is Clark’s key text on this topic.

    (b) Expound briefly on a theory I have partially developed about the nature of Clark’s necessitarianism and what it amounts to.

    (c) Provide some Bible quotations that at first seems to falsified Clark’s necessitariansim but do not.

    (d) Answer your question directly: Is the truth “God chose to save some” contingent?

    3. (Clark [1985] 1990, 116 – 119):

    “When this is stated in the broadest generality, the problem of ‘philosophical necessity’ comes into view. At this point another reference to William Cunningham is in order, for he was unquestionably a great scholar. In [The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation], (Banner of Truth Trust, 1967) he has an article on ‘Calvinism and the Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity,’ in which he defends the orthodoxy of Thomas Chalmers, leader of the Free Church of Scotland, against charges of fatalism, pantheism, denial that God is the moral governor of the world, and near atheism — charges made by Sir William Hamilton. At this distance such charges against Thomas Chalmers, a preacher of unrivaled reputation, professor of moral philosophy in St. Andrews University, and professor of divinity in Edinburgh University, seem ludicrous.”

    “The philosophical issue, however, was and remain a matter of importance and controversy, since similar charges, now usually summarized under the catch-all of ‘hyper-calvinism,’ continue. William Cunningham in his rather lengthy article argues that Calvinism accords with the doctrine of philosophical necessity, or vice versa, but that Calvinism does not require it. To a necessitarian like Augustus Toplady, or the present writer, Cunningham’s position is more gratifying than one which holds that the Bible completely rules out the doctrine of necessity. And there is a reason why Cunningham holds such a non-committal opinion. In his view the solution depends on extremely intricate psychological analyses, foreign to most theologians and useless in the life of the church. He seems never to suspect that easily deduced inferences from Scripture can settle the matter. Yet such seems the case: At any rate the topic becomes one for exegesis and theology rather than general psychology.”

    “If now, God is rational, as the Bible teaches in many places, if he is omniscient, if he predestinates whatever comes to pass; if consequently the world itself is rationally organized, and if God’s image in man is rationality, then consistency would require that one or the other of these contradictory positions, necessitarianism or indeterminism, must fit. Either the world is necessary and inevitable or it is not. Of course it might be that the Bible is completely silent on this point, or, what is more likely, we may have not yet understood what Scripture implies. Therefore every theologian must either admit ignorance here, or show from Scripture what he believes Scripture teaches. The necessitarian is willing to accept the burden of proof, and that burden is borne by the items mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph: God is truth, he is omniscient, he decrees whatsoever comes to pass.”

    “There is, however, a further phase of this subject that most people ignore. It is rather recondite and is mentioned only for completeness’ sake. It has to do with the definition of ‘philosophical necessitarianism.’ The name can bear two senses, and the one which in all probability Sir William Hamilton used is that of factual inevitability. Events are inevitable in the sense that, given a set of conditions, the event in question must occur. A different set would have necessitated a different result. Such a necessitarianism may be called factual or hypothetical, for the result is inevitable only under the hypothesis of certain conditions, and other conditions might have prevailed.”

    “The second type of necessitarianism may be called logical rather than factual, and absolute rather than hypothetical. On this view of things no other conditions that the actual conditions are possible. This is not ‘the best of all possible worlds,’ as Leibniz claimed: It is the only possible world, as Spinoza claimed. Any other world, on this view, can be imagined only by failing to see that it contains a logical contradictions or impossibility.”

    “Now, Spinoza is in ill repute among orthodox theologians; and even non-christians classify him, if not as an atheist, at least as a pantheist. But it does not follow that every idea he suggests is wrong, for otherwise geometry would be false.”

    “Neither Sir William nor theologian Cunningham makes this distinction clear. But it would seem that Cunningham’s remarks apply to both forms of necessitarianism. We must ask therefore whether or not this world is logically necessitated. The answer must take into consideration that God is truth and truth is rational. Does this mean that the universe is not a voluntary creation? Does it mean that the generation of the Son is not voluntary? Of course not. Both these items are both voluntary and necessary. Naturally they differ in other respects, but not in these two respects.”

    “Given then the immutability of God’s mind and the eternity of truth, so-called philosophical necessitarianism seems to be quite Scriptural and with respect to the creation of the world conflicts in no way with the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son. Since God’s mind is immutable, since his decree is eternal, it follows that no other world than this is possible or imaginable.”

    Reference:

    Clark, Gordon H. [1985] 1990. The Trinity. Jefferson, Maryland: The Trinity Foundation.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  52. Answering James — Part 2

    Dear James:

    1. I have a partially developed theory about the nature of Gordon Clark’s necessitarianism and what it amounts to.

    What is the nature of Gordon Clark’s necessitarianism?

    Gordon Clark’s necessitarianism is a second-order modal claim.

    What does Gordon Clark’s necessitarianism amounts to?

    Gordon Clark’s necessitarianism amounts to the thesis that the modal status of a proposition is a matter of necessity.

    (For those familiar with modal logic, this is the claim that the correct modal system is S5.

    (Loux 1979, 18): “Finally, … (i.e., if we think that the modal status of a proposition, no matter what the status, is a matter of necessity), then we commit ourselves to the view that S-5 provides a correct systematization of legitimate modal inference.”)

    2. The modal properties of a proposition are such properties as necessity, possibility, impossibility, contingency and actuality.

    Let “p” be the proposition that God chose to save some.

    A first-order modal claim has one iteration of a modal operator on p.

    Examples of first-order modal claims are:

    (a) It is possible that God chose to save some.

    (b) It is necessary that God chose to save some.

    A second-order modal claim has two iterations of modal operators on p.

    Examples of second-order modal claims are:

    (c) It is necessary that it is possible that God chose to save some.

    (d) It is possible that it is possible that God chose to save some.

    My reading of Gordon Clark’s necessitarianism is that it is the second-order modal claim that the modal status of a proposition is a matter of necessity.

    Since many philosophers regard S5 to be the correct modal logic on other grounds, that takes a lot of the perplexities out of Clark’s necessitarianism.

    3. (Clark [1985] 1990, 117-118): “If now, God is rational, as the Bible teaches in many places, if he is omniscient, if he predestinates whatever comes to pass; if consequently the world itself is rationally organized, and if God’s image in man is rationality, then consistency would require that one or the other of these contradictory positions, necessitarianism or indeterminism, must fit. Either the world is necessary and inevitable or it is not.”

    The world is necessary in the second-order sense that:

    What is necessary is necessarily necessary.

    What is possible is necessarily possible.

    What is impossible is necessarily impossible.

    What is contingent is necessarily contingent.

    What is actual is necessarily actual.

    Necessitarianism does not deny necessity, possibility, impossibility, contingency or actuality but is a second-order modal claim about them.

    (Clark [1985] 1990, 119): “Since God’s mind is immutable, since his decree is eternal, it follows that no other world than this is possible or imaginable.”

    (What of the “imaginable”?)

    Since the actual world is actual, it is necessary that the actual world is actual.

    God necessarily thinks the thoughts He thinks.

    The intuition behind necessitarianism are the Calvinist’s claims:

    (a) (Westminster Confession of Faith 3.1a): “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; …”

    (b) (Westminster Confession of Faith 3.2): “Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions; yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.”

    4. Now consider the existence status of the possible worlds.

    All possible worlds exist but only the actual world is actual.

    Of all the possible worlds, only the actual world has the ontological property of being actual.

    All possible worlds other than the actual world are ontologically non-actual.

    Another way of putting this is that only the actual world is concrete and all other possible worlds are abstract.

    The actual world is concrete because God has determined to create it.

    All possible worlds other than the actual world are abstract because they exist in the mind of God only.

    The doctrine of creation demarcate between abstract thoughts and actual reality.

    5. A few examples from the Bible:

    (a) (1 Samuel 23:9-13 ESV): “David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, ‘Bring the ephod here.’ Then David said, ‘O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.’ And the Lord said, ‘He will come down.’ Then David said, ‘Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?’ And the Lord said, ‘They will surrender you.’ Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition.”

    Would it be actual that the men of Keilah surrender David into the hand of Saul had David not departed from Keilah?

    According to necessitarianism, not only would it be actual, it would be necessarily actual.

    (b) (Matthew 11:20-24): “Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.’ ”

    Would Tyre and Sidon repent had the mighty works done in Chorazin and Bethsaida been done in them?

    According to necessitarianism, not only would Tyre and Sidon had, they necessarily would had.

    (c) (Matthew 26:51-54 ESV): “And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?’ ”

    Is it possible that Jesus appeals to the Father and He will at once send him more than twelve legions of angels?

    According to necessitarianism, not only is it possible, it is necessarily possible.

    6. You asked: ““Anyway, is the truth/state of affairs – “God chose to save some” – contingent? What does Clark say on that?”

    The proposition “God chose to save some” is true contingently.

    My conjecture is that Clark would have said it is necessary that it is true contingently.

    References:

    Clark, Gordon H. [1985] 1990. The Trinity. Jefferson, Maryland: The Trinity Foundation.

    Loux, Michael J. 1979. “Introduction: Modality and Metaphysics”. In The Possible and the Actual: Readings in the Metaphysics of Modality, ed. Michael J. Loux, 15-64. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  53. James Says:

    Ben
    nice reply-
    But, I’m not so sure (and I’m not very good at this):
    Clark said “it follows that no other world than this is possible.”
    You also said that this world is true contingently – but that means it could have been otherwise(another world is possible). You said it is necessarily contingent – meaning it’s necessary that it could’ve been otherwise (another world is necessarily possible).
    But could God have chosen not to create? could God have chose not to save any? If these are (necessary) contingent props then somewhere out there is a (necessary) possible world where these are true.

    Clark says no that’s impossible. Because there’s an absurdity/contradiction involved: if God could’ve chosen differently, He would be otherwise than what He is. But this is absurd … A God who could choose not to create or not save some is not the God of the Bible. God had to create because He is God. (see Atonement section called Sovereignty of God among others)

    Thanks!


  54. Dear James:

    1. I too have many puzzlements when I began reading this topic.

    The puzzle under consideration is how to reconcile the two propositions:

    p : No other world than this is possible.

    q : Another world is necessarily possible.

    For myself, the puzzlements mostly (but not completely) went away when I realized that Modal Realism is false.

    Modal Realism, most prominently associated with the philosopher David K. Lewis, claims each possible world is concrete and our world is just one among many others like it.

    According to this view, we have a prejudiced for the world we happen to inhabit and call our world the actual world.

    This is bigotry against other possible worlds which are equally concrete.

    Many science fictions are premised on Modal Realism.

    For example, in an episode of [Star Trek: The Original Series] (Season 2 Episode 4) called “Mirror, Mirror”, “a transporter mishap slips Captain Kirk and his companions into a parallel universe, where the Enterprise serves a barbaric Empire instead of the Federation.” (“Star Trek: The Original Series (season 2)”, Wikipedia)

    The parallel universe of the barbaric Empire is another possible world that is as equally concrete as the world we inhabit.

    But this is science fiction only.

    The major alternative to Modal Realism, and the one which I subscribe to, is called Modal Actualism and it is most prominently associated with Alvin Plantinga.

    This is the view that only the actual world is concrete, all other possible worlds are abstract.

    Given our Reformed theology, the actual world in which we inhabit is special, unique, and privileged because it is the world God has chosen to create.

    All other possible worlds are just abstract entities existing as thoughts in God’s mind.

    So when we talk about other possible worlds, we are talking about hypothetical abstract entities.

    As far as I am able to tell, Gordon Clark can also be properly classified as a Modal Actualist.

    I suspect Clark and Plantinga share the same modal intuitions because of their share Calvinism.

    My major disagreement with Plantinga is that he subscribes to libertarian free-will and thinks the debate with Arminianism is just an intramural debate within Calvinism, which I demur.

    2. Let’s consider p and q in turns.

    p : No other world than this is possible.

    meaning:

    It is not possible that any possible worlds other than the actual world obtains.

    or:

    It is necessary that the actual world obtains.

    Under our Calvinist assumptions:

    (a) “The actual world obtains” amounts to God has determined to create the actual world.

    (b) “It is necessary” amounts to God necessarily thinks the thoughts He thinks (including what He has determined to do and not to do).

    3. Next in turn is q.

    q : Another world is necessarily possible.

    meaning:

    It is necessary that it is possible that another possible world (other than the actual world) obtains.

    Under our Calvinistic assumptions:

    (a) “It is possible that another possible world (other than the actual world) obtains” amounts to God has thought of other possible worlds than the actual world which He has determined not to create.

    (b) “It is necessary” amounts to God necessarily thinks the thoughts he thinks (including what He has determined to do and not to do).

    4. James, that is the best I can do for the time being.

    I think the root of the puzzlement is with the claim that “God necessarily thinks the thoughts He thinks (including what He has determined to do and not to do).”

    In these matters, above all else, please do not think of possible worlds other than the actual world as concrete; that will leads to a lot of confusion.

    I have to leave the rest of your questions unanswered.

    To answer them I have to brush up on modal logic and then to learn some more.

    Then there is a host of modal fallacies I must check each inference against.

    (For example, the claim:

    Necessarily, God thinks the thoughts He thinks

    is a different claim from:

    God necessarily thinks the thoughts He thinks.

    The scope of the modal operators are different.)

    I hope to have another discussion with you on this topic when I have made more progress.

    Or any readers who is modal savvy please chime in. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  55. James Says:

    Ben –
    thanks

    Now I’m not arguing which is true or false – but just trying to get what Clark actually said. And I’m not trying to fit Clark into a more reasonable framework to make his view more or less acceptable to whomever – that’s being done all over the place, and is part of the evolution of schools of thought – fine. But I just want to get at what he said -and it doesn’t seem that the Leibnizian model (even if Clark misunderstood it) was one he accepted.
    Clark denies the Leibnizian model with its possible worlds. Clark goes with the Spinozan model: This is the only one in His Mind. It is logically necessitated not hypothetical.

    Thanks again,


  56. Dear James:

    1. You wrote: “Now I’m not arguing which is true or false – but just trying to get what Clark actually said.”

    That is, in part, what I am trying to do too.

    Modal concepts has a long tradition in Western thoughts — at least since the pre-Socratics — but there has been an explosive development in this area since the 1960s due to the invention of semantical theories for modal logics.

    We now have a much better grasp of what the modal properties of propositions means.

    Judging from what I have read of Gordon Clark’s writings, he might not have been conversant with the recent modal developments.

    But Clark has near impeccable intuitions on matters theological / philosophical.

    I think stating Clark’s necessitarianism using contemporary possible worlds idioms will help us understand better what he actually said.

    2. You wrote: “And I’m not trying to fit Clark into a more reasonable framework to make his view more or less acceptable to whomever – that’s being done all over the place, and is part of the evolution of schools of thought – fine.”

    As I have quoted Os Guinness: “Contrast is the mother of clarity.”

    The purpose in stating Clark in possible worlds idiom is not to make Clark’s view more acceptable to others, but more understandable.

    That is why, in a previous comment, I contrasted Clark’s epistemological idealism, realism and objectivism with standard textbook view on this topic.

    I think Gordon Clark is a philosopher / theologian of amazing depths.

    I hope there will be a Clarkian school of thought, but not as yet.

    But I am glad there is a younger generation that reads Clark and as Sean has written, “the more the merrier.”

    3. You wrote: “But I just want to get at what he said -and it doesn’t seem that the Leibnizian model (even if Clark misunderstood it) was one he accepted.”

    I have read some Leibniz’s and Robert M. Adams’ [Leibniz: Determinist, Theist, Idealist (1998)] (by the way, a very densely written book) and it does not seem Clark has misunderstood Leibniz.

    4. You wrote: “Clark denies the Leibnizian model with its possible worlds. Clark goes with the Spinozan model: This is the only one in His Mind. It is logically necessitated not hypothetical.”

    Clark does not deny that there are other possible worlds.

    He denied other possible worlds could have been actual.

    The Bible clearly affirms that God knows other possible worlds: such contrary-to-fact states of affairs as in (1 Samuel 23:9-13), (Matthew 11:20-24), and (Matthew 26:51-54).

    Modal Actualism says these other possible worlds are abstract entities and we Calvinists think they are just thoughts in God’s mind that He has determined not to actualized, per (Westminster Confession of Faith 3.2).

    We all know that by logic Clark meant the ways God thinks.

    Logic, in Clark’s philosophy, is a property of God’s thoughts.

    So it still seems that a central thesis in this area is: “God necessarily thinks the thoughts He thinks”.

    But this thesis is not as puzzling as it seems, for there is an attribute of God that is in this neighbourhood: God is omniscient, moreover He is essentially omniscient.

    Omniscient: God knows all truths.

    Essentially omniscient: God could not have been God without knowing all truths.

    Like your comments. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  57. James Says:

    Ben
    let me try this:
    does Spinoza admit of possible worlds?
    If not then when Clark says he favors Spinoza over Leibniz, am I not at least reasonable in thinking that Clark denied the possible worlds model?


  58. Dear James:

    1. You asked: “let me try this: does Spinoza admit of possible worlds?”

    I cannot give you a firm answer because my knowledge of Spinoza is very meager.

    I am just an amateur who reads what interest me. : – )

    2. You asked: “If not then when Clark says he favors Spinoza over Leibniz, am I not at least reasonable in thinking that Clark denied the possible worlds model?”

    It is not reasonable to think that Clark denied the possible worlds model.

    Clark was making a claim within / using the possible worlds framework.

    He has not denied the possible worlds framework itself.

    3. When I started reading this topic, my main puzzlement was caused by modal realism.

    I suppose I have watched too many [Star Treks] and thought “parallel universes” and “alternate realities” are just as real as our world.

    Apparently that is not what is puzzling you.

    Let me try coming at it from another angle.

    Some basic ontological concepts are “existence”, “being”, “real”, “actual”, “illusory”, etc.

    In Gordon Clark’s view, as in modal actualism, everything exists but not everything is actual.

    The actual world exists as a concrete entity.

    All other possible worlds exist as abstract entities.

    But they all exists.

    4. Why does it means to claim that a possible world exist?

    According to a Clarkian ontology, to claim that a possible world exists is to claim that it is thought of by God: it exists in the mind of God as an object of God’s thought.

    What are these objects that exists in the mind of God?

    Propositions!

    A possible world is just a maximally consistent set of propositions.

    5. Take for example the proposition “p”.

    p : David stayed in Keilah and the men of Keilah surrendered David into the hand of Saul.

    The proposition “p” is false and it is contingently false.

    Does the proposition “p” exists?

    Yes, it does.

    Wherein “p” exists?

    “p” exists in the mind of God as an object of God’s thought.

    Is the state of affairs corresponding to “p” actual or obtains?

    No, the state of affairs corresponding to “p” is not actual or fails to obtain.

    In general, non-actual states of affairs are identical to their corresponding false propositions.

    Non-actual states of affairs are just false propositions.

    They exists and they exists in the mind of God as objects of God’s thoughts only

    That is why non-actual states of affairs or false propositions are abstract entities.

    6. (Note: This example is about contingently true propositions only.

    Necessarily true propositions require a different treatment.)

    Take another example the proposition “q”.

    q : David departed from Keilah and Saul gave up the expedition to capture David.

    The proposition “q” is true and it is contingently true.

    Does the proposition “q” exists?

    Yes, it does.

    Wherein “q” exists?

    “q” exists in the mind of God as an object of God’s thought.

    Is the state of affairs corresponding to “q” actual or obtains?

    Yes, the state of affairs corresponding to “q” is actual or obtains.

    Is the contingent actual state of affairs corresponding to “q” exists in the mind of God only?

    No, the contingent actual state of affairs corresponding to “q” exists outside the mind of God.

    How does it exists outside the mind of God?

    It exists outside the mind of God by God creating or bringing about that state of affairs from the information embedded in proposition “q”.

    While the proposition “q” exists in the mind of God and is abstract, the corresponding state of affairs exists outside the mind of God and is concrete.

    The actual world is what God has determined to create and that is why it is concrete.

    According to a Clarkian ontology, to claim that a possible world is actual is to claim that it is created or has been brought out by God: it exists outside the mind of God.

    Everything exists but not everything is actual.

    The actual world exists concretely while other possible worlds exist abstractly.

    The doctrine of Creation demarcate being abstract thoughts and concrete reality.

    This is the possible worlds framework I believe Clark uses.

    James, I am not sure I have answered you because I am not sure what is puzzling you.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  59. James Says:

    Ben –
    I am sorry you cast off my question concerning Spinoza with not so much of a thought – yet Clark said he follows Spinoza not Leibniz here. Clark certainly thinks there is a difference between the two on this issue – now whether he’s right or wrong on that difference – he sides with Spinoza. Clark said “it follows that no other world than this is possible.” He did not say ““it follows that no other world than this is actual”.

    anyway, let me ask you –
    Could God have chosen otherwise? Could He have chosen not to create? Could He have chosen to actualize a different possibility?
    Thanks,


  60. Dear James:

    1. You wrote: “I am sorry you cast off my question concerning Spinoza with not so much of a thought – …”

    I did not cast off your question.

    When you asked “does Spinoza admit of possible worlds?”, you are asking what Spinoza said or wrote, not what some other persons think Spinoza said or wrote.

    To answer your question, one must have read the primary writings of Spinoza and not just some secondary sources only.

    I simply have not read enough Spinoza to answer you and have said so.

    When you wrote that Clark might have misinterpreted Leibniz, I ventured an opinion that Clark has not.

    That opinion is based on my own reading of some English translations of Leibniz’s, and is corroborated by Robert M. Adams’ [Leibniz: Determinist, Theist, Idealist (1998)].

    Robert M. Adams is a scholarly authority on Leibniz.

    2. You wrote: “… yet Clark said he follows Spinoza not Leibniz here.”

    Agree.

    And I have ventured a thesis of what Clark’s necessitarianism among to: that it is the second-order modal claim that the modal status of a proposition is a matter of necessity.

    3. You wrote: “Clark said ‘it follows that no other world than this is possible.’ He did not say ‘it follows that no other world than this is actual’.”

    I think I have an idea what puzzles you.

    A : No other world than this is possibly possible.

    B : No other world than this is possibly actual.

    You read Clark as A while I read Clark as B.

    The reason I did not read Clark as A is because other worlds are possibly possible, as the Bible indicated.

    An example are possible worlds that contain the conjunctive state of affairs that “David stayed in Keilah and the men of Keilah surrendered David into the hand of Saul.”

    Since A is contradicted by the Bible, I interpret Clark as B.

    4. You asked: “anyway, let me ask you – Could God have chosen otherwise? Could He have chosen not to create? Could He have chosen to actualize a different possibility?”

    Initially, it seems:

    (a) God could not have chosen otherwise.

    (b) God could not have chosen not to create.

    (c) God could not have chosen to actualize a different possibility.

    That is, so it seems according to Clark’s necessitarianism.

    I am not saying the above are wrong, but at this time I like to withhold judgment.

    The last time you asked similar questions, I begged off with “that is the best I can do for the time being.”

    The reason I begged off is because I do not want to give you a flippant answer.

    In my opinion, to properly answer your questions require someone devoting 2 – 5 years of their life, full-time, to master the relevant literature in modal logic, philosophy, and theology.

    That is equivalent to a PhD thesis.

    I favour a Clarkian school of thought not to repeat what Clark has said, but to investigate open-problems within a Clarkian philosophy / theology and to extend it.

    Just to give one example, among many, of the difficulties:

    In the modal logic S5, there are two replacement rules such that “[t]hey allow us to take a formula prefaced by a string of two or more modal operators, whether the same or different …, and replace it by the same formula preface by the last operator in the string …”. (Loux 1979, 17)

    This greatly simplifies the modal formulae so that we can reasonably understand them.

    What if the correct modal logic is not S5 but a logic that allows iteration of modalities?

    p : David stayed in Keilah and the men of Keilah surrendered David into the hand of Saul.

    What does the following means and amounts to in a Clarkian philosophy?

    possible p

    necessary-possible p

    possible-necessary-possible p

    possible-necessary-possible-possible p

    necessary-necessary-possible-possible-necessary p

    and on and on without ends.

    I have no idea.

    Reference:

    Loux, Michael J. 1979. “Introduction: Modality and Metaphysics”. In The Possible and the Actual: Readings in the Metaphysics of Modality, ed. Michael J. Loux, 15-64. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  61. James Says:

    Ben

    But surely what Clark says has to do something with a Clarkian philosophy correct? So if Clark says Spinoza not Leibniz – how is it an ‘extension’ of Clarkian philosophy when you impose Leibniz back onto Clark? How can there be a ‘Clarkian’ philosophy that rejects Spinoza for Leibniz when Clark says the opposite?

    Thanks


  62. Dear James:

    1. I recognize that your questions are not frivolous and that you are genuinely puzzle.

    You asked: “But surely what Clark says has to do something with a Clarkian philosophy correct?”

    Correct.

    2. You wrote: “So if Clark says Spinoza not Leibniz – how is it an ‘extension’ of Clarkian philosophy when you impose Leibniz back onto Clark?”

    I do not believe I have imposed Leibniz back onto Clark.

    Clark’s methodology is to start with the truths assert by the Bible and deduce what one can.

    The Bible clearly asserts that there are other possible worlds (taken in a modal actualistic way).

    If the Bible asserts there are other possible worlds, then a Clarkian philosophy must accommodate that fact.

    I believe the following two claims are neither contrary nor contradictory:

    (a) There are possible worlds other than the actual world.

    (b) The actual world is the only possible world that could have been actual.

    I suggested that Clark’s necessitarianism is a second-order thesis.

    One consideration in favor of my suggestion is that if interpreted as a second-order thesis, one can harmonize the two claims quite nicely.

    3. You asked: “How can there be a ‘Clarkian’ philosophy that rejects Spinoza for Leibniz when Clark says the opposite?”

    I do not believe I have rejected Spinoza at all.

    Please remember only the actual world is concrete, all other possible worlds are abstract entities existing in the mind of God as the objects of God’s thoughts.

    To claim that other possible worlds exist does not imply that they are either:

    (a) actual;

    (b) can be actual; or

    (c) could have been actual.

    That is why it does not contradict the Clarkian claim that the actual world is the only possible world that could have been actual.

    There is a problem only if one takes the other possible worlds also as concrete entities as in modal realism.

    In my opinion, modal realism is the source of a lot of confusions.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  63. Dear James:

    Further clarifications:

    1. Consider the two propositions:

    A : Other possible worlds (than the actual world) are possibly possible.

    B : Other possible worlds (than the actual world) can be actual.

    A and B can be used to make the same claim.

    But in our discussions during the last few comments:

    “A” is meant to claim that other possible worlds (maximally consistent sets of propositions) are internally consistent and therefore logically possible.

    “B” is meant to make the different claim that other possible worlds can be create or actualizes by God.

    (Our discussion is fluid and I trust we will cut each other as much slack as possible for the purpose of discussion.)

    2. When I wrote:

    “To claim that other possible worlds exist does not imply that they are either: (a) actual; (b) can be actual; or (c) could have been actual.”

    It is meant to be interpreted under the theological assumption that a possible world is the actual world when (taken atemporally) God determines to actualizes it.

    The deeper question is whether God can create or actualizes other possible worlds.

    If God can create other possible worlds, then other possible worlds can be actual.

    If God cannot create other possible worlds, then other possible worlds cannot be actual.

    As I have indicated, whether God can create other possible worlds is a claim I am presently withholding judgement.

    But by itself and under the assumption that it is God who actualizes a possible world, to claim that other possible worlds exist does not imply that they are either: (a) actual; (b) can be actual; or (c) could have been actual.

    I hope this help.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  64. James Says:

    I do not believe I have imposed Leibniz back onto Clark.
    I do not believe I have rejected Spinoza at all.

    Clark insists on a significant difference between Leibniz and Spinoza. Clark – claiming to follow Spinoza not Leibniz – denied that any other world than this is *possible* (Clark claims Leibniz teaches there are such possibilities with the further condition – external to God – that this is the “Best” of all those possible worlds and that’s why this one out of all the others was actualized). All other alleged worlds are not really possibilities (they may appear to us that way given our ignorance) precisely because they involve a logical contradiction.

    “On this view of things no other conditions that the actual conditions are possible. This is not ‘the best of all possible worlds,’ as Leibniz claimed: It is the only possible world, as Spinoza claimed. Any other world, on this view, can be imagined only by failing to see that it contains a logical contradiction or impossibility…
    it follows that no other world than this is possible”

    Look, you may find him to be in error here – fine. Just say that Clark was in error here and we need to reject this and go in a different direction (for example the one you propose above).

    Thanks, I will cease now allowing you the final reply,


  65. Dear James:

    Where have I said or implied that Clark was error?

    There are three basic critical positions:

    (a) Agreeing.

    (b) Disagreeing.

    (c) Withholding judgment.

    I was taught that one must be able to say “I understand” before one can say either “I agree” or “I disagree”.

    Towards certain theses I am withholding judgment because I do not understand them well enough.

    And withholding judgment is neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  66. douglasdouma Says:

    From Clark’s unpublished systematic theology, circa 1974:

    “The crux of the difficulty with the popular analysis of faith into notitia (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. Something better than this tautology must be found.”

    And concludes:

    “So much then for defining faith as volitional assent to an understood proposition.”

  67. Steve M Says:

    Doug
    Are you sure John Robbins didn’t edit that?

  68. douglasdouma Says:

    These quotes are from the original unedited copy of Chapter 7 “Salvation” of Clark’s systematic theology found at Sangre de Cristo Seminary. It is typed on Clark’s typewriter with additional notes in the margin in his own handwriting. The second of the two quotes is even on the backside of paper with a “Butler University” header.

    This should put to rest any theory that Clark held to the traditional three-fold definition of faith.

  69. Sean Gerety Says:

    It’s amazing that this was ever debatable.


  70. Dear All:

    An apology to Sean for this plug.

    I have written some detail notes criticizing John Frame’s theory of knowledge as expressed in his comments on the Clark-Van Til Controversy in [The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (1987)]:

    http://notes-on-gordon-h-clark.blogspot.ca/2016/07/notes-gordon-clark-john-frame-and.html

    Please take a look if you are interested. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin Wong


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