Clark on Van Til’s “solution” to the Problem of the One and the Many

While teaching at Wheaton College (1937-1943) Dr. Clark actually used Dr. Van Til’s syllabi for some of his philosophy classes.

One syllabus on Christian Apologetics in the Sangre de Cristo Seminary library has Dr. Clark’s handwritten note that it was given to him as a gift from Van Til in 1940. A typed note in this syllabus shows a critique of Clark’s on Van Til’s solution to the problem of the one and the many.

Clark writes, “Note that the ontological equality of the Son with the Father is used an argument to show that the One and the Many are equally ultimate in God. This would be a good argument only if the Son represented the diversity in the Godhead and the Father was the unity. But as a matter of fact the Father represents the diversity as much as the Son. The orthodox doctrine asserts that it is the substance that is the factor of unity in the Godhead. The Father is one of the three persons. In other words Van Til has confused the substance with the Godhead.”

One and Many

In another place, Clark writes directly to Van Til in a letter of August 28, 1937 providing a critique of the doctrine:

“Perhaps you will admit this criticism so far as it goes, and reply that you rest your proposition on the necessity of solving the one and many problem. To this I would suggest that Christianity does not face the same difficulties here as does a pagan system. A pagan monism cannot logically derive its multiplicity. But Christianity does not have to derive multiplicity from logic. The creation is not a syllogism, but a voluntary choice. In paganism the supreme principle is deprived of volition to ensure continuity to the universe. Volition savors of anthropomorphism. Hence they have manufactured their one and many problem by insisting on logical derivation as opposed to volitional creation. Conversely, we do not have to solve a problem that is peculiarly theirs.”


About douglasdouma

I am a husband to beautiful wife, an ordained minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church - Hanover Presbytery, and founder of Sola - Appalachian Christian Retreat ( In addition to blogging at this site I am the author of The Presbyterian Philosopher - The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark (Wipf&Stock, 2017) and compiling editor of Clark and His Correspondents: Selected Letters of Gordon H. Clark (Trinity Foundation, 2017). I have a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering (University of Michigan), a master's in business administration (Wake Forest University) and a master of divinity (Sangre de Cristo Seminary). I'm an avid hiker, having completed a northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian trail in 2013 and the first 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016.
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One Response to Clark on Van Til’s “solution” to the Problem of the One and the Many

  1. Steve M says:

    Clark wrote, “In other words Van Til has confused the Father with the substance” not “Van Til has confused the substance with the Godhead”. I just noticed the discrepancy.

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