David Engelsma reviews “The Presbyterian Philosopher”

cigar-c-cExcellent review by David Engelsma of Doug Douma’s biography of Gordon Clark. Strong stuff. Here’s a sample:

In 2017 one can discern the further adverse consequences of the OPC’s decisions and actions in the matter of Gordon Clark. The OPC committed itself to “paradoxical” theology, abandoning, if not condemning, logical thinking (in fact, this is an abandonment of thinking; illogical thinking is an oxymoron; if it is still thinking at all, it is thinking that is unintelligible). A leading instance was the OPC’s virtual adoption of the theology of a common grace of God, consisting of a desire of God for the salvation of all humans, at least all who hear the gospel (cf. Murray and Stonehouse, “The Free Offer of the Gospel”). The contradiction of this universal grace by the doctrine of predestination, reprobation as well as election, which is creedal for Presbyterians in the Westminster Confession, is not for the OPC an argument against universal grace. Rather, the contradiction is accepted and defended as an aspect of the “paradoxical” nature of doctrinal truth. Over the years, since the 1940s, this honoring of universal (saving) grace as a glory of its “paradoxical” theology has weakened the OPC’s testimony to all the doctrines of (particular) grace. Invariably, indeed necessarily, the truth being, in fact, rigorously logical, the doctrine of universal, ineffectual grace in the “paradox” drives out the doctrine of particular, sovereign grace.

Recently, its “paradoxical” theology has opened up the OPC to the covenant theology of the federal vision. In the just judgment of God, this grievous departure from the gospel of (covenant) grace has had its origin at Westminster Seminary, with Prof. Norman Shepherd, vigorously supported by Prof. Richard Gaffin. Expelling Gordon Clark largely by the efforts of Westminster Seminary, at Westminster Seminary the OPC received Norman Shepherd. Under the influence of Westminster Seminary, the OPC has approved a covenant theology that expressly denies all the doctrines of grace of the Westminster Standards, including justification by faith alone, with special reference to the children of believers. Such is the theology of the federal vision.

When confronted by this theology’s contradiction of the doctrines of the Reformed faith in the Westminster Standards, the Westminster professors and their supporters in the OPC argue that truth is “paradoxical.” The logic of biblical revelation finds no favor in the OPC. Therefore, the illogic of heresy gains entrance.

The Gordon Clark case is unfinished business in the OPC.

A Place for Thoughts

[To appear in the Spring 2017 issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal. Reproduced here by permission.]

The Presbyterian Philosopher: The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark, by Douglas J. Douma. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2016. Pp. xxv + 292. $37.00 soft. Reviewed by David J. Engelsma

“Oh, the damnable politics in the church of Jesus Christ,” someone has exclaimed, and rightly. No church is free of the evil. Ministers cripple or destroy their fellow ministers out of jealousy, or out of fear for their own prominent position in the church. The sin of the politics is not only the injury that is invariably done to one’s brother and colleague. But it is also the damage that is done to Christ’s church. The politics deprives the church of the gifts of the minister who is marginalized, or even driven out of the church. It is not…

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3 Comments on “David Engelsma reviews “The Presbyterian Philosopher””


  1. Dear Sean:

    I have read your review of Doug’s [The Presbyterian Philosopher: The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark (2017)].

    I have also read Thomas W. Juodaitis’ review in [The Trinity Review (March, 2017)].

    And now David Engelsma’s review.

    If there will be one, I most look forward to a review in either the OPC’s [New Horizons] or [Ordained Servant].

    I think the OPC owe it to themselves to do a review.

    As Engelsma has written: “The Gordon Clark case is unfinished business in the OPC.”

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  2. Sean Gerety Says:

    Shall we take bets on 1) whether New Horizons will review, and, 2) whether it will be a fair review? After all, Doug overturns the account of the Clark/VT controversy according to the OPC’s official historian, John Muether. But, if they do review it, I just hope Allan Strange isn’t the reviewer. He’s already butchered at least one Clark book already.


  3. Dear Sean:

    The OPC’s [Ordained Servant] does a review of Doug’s Biography of Gordon Clark and it is a positive review. : – )

    https://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=636&cur_iss=Y

    https://douglasdouma.wordpress.com/2017/05/31/now-then-a-review-of-the-presbyterian-philosopher-by-opc-minister-gregory-e-reynolds-in-the-ordained-servant/

    I gather from the review that the reviewer, Gregory E. Reynolds, is a “Clark’s Boys” from Covenant College.

    The Orthodox Presbyterian Church has an official Historian:

    http://www.opc.org/historian.html

    “The historian, elected by the General Assembly, oversees the denomination’s efforts to preserve her history through the collection and organization of historical documents and records. He is responsible for the organization of the denomination’s archives, the production of materials that promote a greater understanding of OPC history, and the organization of conferences to observe the denomination’s anniversaries. The Committee for the Historian, also elected by the General Assembly, provides assistance and oversight to the historian in carrying out his responsibilities.”

    It is now incumbent on the Historian of the OPC, John R. Muether, to state his view.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


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