Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Do not write off or ignore this guy.

I was reading a post today from Dr James White's site regarding the subject of presuppositionalism, and specifically the post is called a "concise history" of presuppositionalism, and yet Dr Clark gets not a hint of a mention, so I am just trying to give a more balanced and fair approach to the subject by putting Clark's name a well deserved mention in the history of this field of apologetics. I note again that it amazes me that Dr White does not mention this man and yet from everything I know about James White's views upon theology, he would side more with Clark than Van Til, so it leads me to conclude that Dr White has either not read Clark or he has been put off Clark for other reasons.

Clarkian presuppositionalism

Gordon Clark
Gordon Clark and his followers treat the truth of the Scriptures as the axiom of their system. The axiom cannot be proven or disproven; rather, the worldview that results from the axiom may be tested for consistency and comprehensiveness.[24] Testing for internal contradiction exemplifies Clark's strict reliance on the laws of logic (He famously translates the first verse of the Gospel of John as "In the beginning was the Logic, and the Logic was with God, and the Logic was God.")[25] Thus, in order to invalidate non-Christian worldviews, one must simply show how a different presupposition results in necessary logical contradictions, while showing that presupposing the Bible leads to no logical contradiction. By contrast, some Van Tillians have suggested that God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture reveals apparent paradoxes.[26]
However, Clark allowed that presupposing axioms (or "first principles") themselves do not make a philosophical system true, including his own; the fact that all worldviews he examined other than Christianity had internal contradictions only made Christianity highly more probable as truth, but not necessarily so.[citation needed] Nonetheless, he believed that this method was effective in many practical cases (when arguing against, for instance, secular humanism or dialectical materialism) and that, in the end, each of us must simply choose (that is, make an informed selection) from among seemingly consistent worldviews the one that most adequately answers life's questions and seems the most internally coherent. (Some Van Tillian critics suggest that the concept of coherence itself must be defined in terms of Christian presuppositions but is instead being used by Clark as a "neutral" principle for discerning the truth of any proposition.[citation needed])
Using this approach, Clark labored to expose the contradictions of many worldviews that were in vogue in his day and to defend the Christian worldview by proving its consistency over and against those who attacked it. His unflagging use of logic sometimes led him to what most Reformed theologians consider rather unorthodox ideas on such topics as the problem of evil — topics which are most often treated by theologians as paradoxes or apparent contradictions not resolvable by human logic. But Clark famously rejected the idea that Scripture teaches paradoxes and notion of "apparent contradiction", asking "apparent to whom?". He described an alleged biblical paradox as nothing more than "a charley-horse between the ears that can be eliminated by rational massage."[27]
With regard to other schools of apologetics, Clark suggested that the cosmological argument was not just unpersuasive but also logically invalid (because it begged the question), and he similarly dismissed the other Thomistic arguments.[citation needed] As a staunch critic of all varieties of empiricism, he did not tend to make much use of evidential arguments, which yield likelihoods and probabilities rather than logical certainties (that is, either coherence or incoherence).
Taken from Wikipedia -- Note, if they can get it right to give Clark a mention, I am sure us reformed believers can at least do what Wikipedia has got right regarding the subject of presuppositionalism.


Tom Chantry said...

Jamin Hubner wrote that post. Not James White. Hubner's posts often show up under White's name because of a compatibility problem with Hubner's system.

godshammer said...

I suspect the reason White has avoided Clark all these years is because he continues to harbor a grudge against John Robbins and has a general dislike for Scripturalists in general.

I've documented some of the background story in a three part series here.

Also, just be aware there are some problems with the Wiki piece, but by and large it's still pretty good.

Mark Farnon (Tartanarmy) said...

I just noticed today the post is not there anymore.
There was a Post there under James name but perhaps it has been removed for the reason Tom has stated.
I just hope if it goes back up, perhaps Clark can get a mention.

I am also aware of the run in/s with John Robbins/White (regarding how one ought to debate Roman Catholics or something like it), but I really do not want to believe Dr White would be put off Clark because of that, as I think much better of White than that he would fall victim to such unfair reasoning.

Thanks for the comments men.


godshammer said...

You may not want to believe that White could be so small minded and petty, but here is an exchange that Brandon Adams had with White that he posted on my combox:

August 13, 2008 at 9:24 pm

I want to preface this comment by saying that I have benefitted greatly from Dr. White’s ministry. I appreciate his work very much. That said, his attitude can be very frustrating at times, as I’m sure mine can.

A few weeks ago, Dr. White began analyzing apologetic methodolgy on his webcast/podcast. He describes himself as a presuppositionalist, but I had never heard him mention Gordon Clark, so I (yes, lowly me) wanted to either recommend Clark, or ask White’s opinion of him, so I went to the infamous #prosapologian on IRC (James White’s nick is DrOakley). Here is the transcript:

(brandona): DrOakley I was just listening to your podcast on apologetic methodology and was wondering if you have read any of Gordon Clark’s work on the topic? I would love to have you discuss him on an episode of the dividing line some day

(DrOakley): No, I have little use for Clark.

(DrOakley): Clark’s “logos = logic” and his very poor understanding of faith, biblically, do not give me any reason to invest time with his writings.

(brandona): you read his book on saving faith?

(DrOakley): As I said, I have no reason to invest my time in reading entire books by someone. The citations I have seen from his works do not give me any reason to do so.

You can read Bradon's entire exchange with White <a href=">here.</a>

Mark Farnon (Tartanarmy) said...

Wow. I am so sad to read that, as I am so fond of Dr White and his ministry. I do hope he shall change his mind on Dr Clark.