Robert L. Reymond discusses Gordon H. Clark’s philosophy in his book “The Justification of Knowledge.” (Reformed and Presbyterian Publishing Co., 1979) There are two areas which Reymond says he is in disagreement with Clark:
“first, his limitation of ‘knowledge’ only to his basic axiom and to what by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from it; and second, his rejection of the role of sensory experience in the human acquisition of knowledge.”
Comically, this constitutes almost the entirety of Clark’s philosophy!
Reymond then makes the following argument: If we use Clark’s definition of a person as “the sum total of all such propositions that make up the total life history of a person” and since “everyone and everything is in the process of becoming the sum total of propositions which define them” we can never know anyone (or even ourselves) because they are never completed; they are always changing thus there is no identity.
Reymond does not, however, present his own definition of person. The argument is prima facie convincing, but I have some doubts. This is reminiscent of the Heraclitean Flux, the principle of change of the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus. To avoid concluding against existence due to the changing nature of the world, Heraclitus posited an unchanging Logos – an agent who’s activity appears as the order of nature. In Clark’s thought this Logos is the mind of God. God then illuminates our minds with knowledge. So, the answer to Reymond’s first query may lie in the fact that God’s knowledge is eternal and thus he does know each person fully. I shall have to return to this issue at a later time.
Given the power of this argument, I was very much looking forward to Reymond’s other arguments, especially when it comes to sensory experience.
“The Christian faith affirms, as we have seen, that man is the crowning creation of God. As such, all of man’s senses are of divine origination and are represented in Scripture as playing a regular and vital role in the acquisition of knowledge.”
“I affirm that sensory experience does perform a God-designed task in the human acquisition of knowledge.”
Boy, was I excited when I read this. Here is a profound thinker, who has obviously read Clark and other epistemologists. He, finally he, is going to explain how we can acquire knowledge through sensory experience! Or so I thought. Nowhere in the book does Reymond explain how sensory experience produces knowledge! I was devastated, but firmly back on a Clarkian footing.
To make matter’s worse, Reymond then produces the “petitio principii” Clark has heard so many times “Man cannot know the Bible but through his senses.” But, again Reymond doesn’t explain how the senses get knowledge from the Bible. He admits that there must be a priori structure in the mind and thus avoids one of the pitfalls of pure empiricism, but the remainder of the pitfalls remain. Reymond at least does quote Clark’s reponse to this petitio principii – “all such efforts depend upon a view of epistemology that I reject.”
I will gladly give up the Clarkian epistemology if I find something more promising. I thought Reymond may have had the answer as he introduced the problems of knowledge so well in his first chapters and elucidates the thought of Van Til and Clark so well. Perhaps he elsewhere can elucidate his own thought because in “The Justification of Knowledge” it is lacking.