GHC Review 26: The Concept of Biblical Authority

ghc review 26; the concept of biblical authority 1

The Concept of Biblical Authority, by Gordon H. Clark, Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1979, 24 pp.

Note: This pamphlet was later included in God’s Hammer.

Clark was disappointed in the appearance of the pamphlet. He wrote,

“I too was disappointed with the appearance of The Concept of Biblical Authority. Craig half apologized, saying that he wanted to keep the price down. But it would have been worth an extra twenty-five cents to put on a better cover.” – GHC to Garrett P. Johnson, March 30, 1979.

But he was not disappointed in the text of it, saying to John Robbins,

“I hope you have distributed The Concept of Biblical Authority through the mid-west. This summer again I was in Colorado, with students + campers from the Mississippi to the Rockies, and their ignorance of the status quo is immense. Even the ministers are incredibly ignorant.” – GHC to John Robbins, Sept. 1, 1981.

The Concept of Biblical Authority is a rebuttal to Biblical Authority (ed. Jack Roger with Paul Rees, Clark Pinnok, Berkeley Mickseln, Bernard Ramm, and David Hubbard) who wrote “with the purpose of defending an erroneous Bible. Clark writes, “Obviously there concept of ‘authority’ differs from that of historical evangelicalism, for it is hard to see how falsehood can be authoritative.” (p. 1) “What precisely their concept of authority is, an authority that comports with falsehood, is hard to determine.” (p. 1) The “fundamental defect of the volume as a whole” is that “they never show how falsehoods can be authoritative.” (p. 2)

Clark then gives an historical overview of the term “evangelical” and the doctrine of innerancy. The Belgic Confession—one of many confessions Clark’s cites—reads, “We receive all these books … believing without any doubt all things contained in them. …”

The volume by Rogers et. Al “nowhere states how much of the Bible they believe, or on what grounds or by what authority they reject one doctrine or another.” (p. 4) While they contend that “the deceased B.B. Warfield and the living G. C. Berkouwer … both are committed to the infallibility with which Holy Scripture reflects and reveals God’s living purpose” (p. 4-5), Clark argues that “the difference between Warfield and Berkouwer is that the former believes the Bible to be true and the latter does not.” (p. 5)

Clark goes on to show that their references to Luther and Calvin as advocates of something less than inerrancy is preposterous. Ramm asks “is sola Scriptura the essence of Christianity?” which Clark believes is the wrong question. Properly, it should be asked, “is sola Scriptura essential to Christianity?” Responding also to Ramm, who found it odd that a person with a “mediocre mind and education” can be trusted but not a “man with a brilliant and evangelical faith like Thomas Torrance” because he is Barthian, Clark wrote, “Thomas Torrance is not an evangelical and is not to be trusted.”

Clark then writes, “We therefore press the question: if the Bible is not revelation, but only a fallible witness, how does one discover what in the Bible is true and what is false?” (p. 17)

Hubbard is seen to oppose inerrancy (and be Barthian) in his question “How do we read the Bible so as to hear God’s Word through it.” (p. 17) Clark comments, “Thus God’s Word is identified with something other than the Bible.” (p. 17) And, Clark notes, “With regard to Biblical consistency, it seems that Dr. Hubbard wants some, but not complete, harmony in the Bible.” (p. 19) But “There is no room for falsity in God’s speech.” (p. 19)

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For the previous review in this series see here.

For the next review in this series see here.

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GHC Review 25: Colossians

ghc review 25; colossians

Colossians, Another Commentary on an Inexhaustible Message, by Gordon H. Clark, Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1979, 136 pp.

In this commentary on Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, Gordon Clark seems to use his own translation of the text (p. 68) and gives considerable emphasis to the Greek grammar.

It also seems to me that, above all other of Clark’s writings, here he is particularly Presbyterian-sounding, or even Covenanter-sounding. In fact, these views are so pronounced in a couple of places that they seem to overturn his positions elsewhere given. For example, on Colossians 2:16 Clark concludes, “Paul does not abrogate the Lord’s Day, but he forbids the celebration of saint’s days, Easter, and Christmas.” (p. 96) But from Clark’s personal papers it is seen that he himself gave sermons on Easter and Christmas specifically themed to those days. This might be reconciled by thinking that Clark is only opposed to an official church calendar, but the statement above seems even stronger than that forbidding the celebration of holidays entirely. There seems to be <gasp> an inconsistency here in Clark.

Then, an even bigger shock to me is to see Clark’s reversal of position on images of Christ. Back in 1944 (July 7 to be precise) in Clark’s “Examination in Theology” during his ordination process there was the following dialogue between him and a Rev. Clelland in which Clark did not take objection to images of Christ:

Question (from Rev. Clelland): “In the 109th question of the Larger Catechism, under: “Sins Forbidden”, in the Second Commandment, there is forbidden making any representation of God, of all, or of any of Three Persons, either inwardly in our minds, or outwardly of any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever” Do you subscribe to that particular statement of the Larger Catechism?”

Answer: Very easily, there is no possible imagining of God.

Question (from Rev. Clelland): Would you interpret that to forbid pictures of Jesus?

Answer: No sir, that is his human nature, he had a body like anyone else and there is no reason that a likeness cannot be made of Christ, not to kneel before them, not to worship, but there is no objection to painting a scene of the Crucifixion or Christ before Pilate.

But here in his commentary on Colossians, Clark’s position appears to have changed, putting the burden of proof on the one who wants images of Christ rather than on the objector to such images. Clark now writes,

“God is spirit, not body; he is neither visible nor tangible; and that is why it is idolatry to make graven images of him. Not only graven images: Numbers 33:52 forbids pictures as well. It is hard to see any Christian principle that allows us to put a picture of Christ in our wallet and carry it around in our hip pocket with our driver’s license.” (p. 33.)

These Covenanter views were then widely distributed to 2000 donors of Covenant (probably the college where he worked, and not the seminary) who each received a copy courtesy of the institution. (GHC to John Robbins, 3/7/1981)

While there might be some strengthening of Covenanter convictions in this volume even to the point of reversing previously held positions, there are other topics in this volume on which Clark never wavered. For example—and it is even an anti-Covenanter example—Clark opposes, as he does elsewhere, “restricting congregational singing to the Psalms of David.” (p. 121) And he continued his opposition to the ordination of women. On this he provides a valuable argument:

“Finally Paul concludes, ‘of which I Paul became a deacon.’ The Greek word is deacon. In the present social and ecclesiastical situation it is worthwhile to note that Paul applies this word to himself. The word originally had a very wide sense. Anyone who served was a deacon (servant). Hence Phoebe in Romans 16:1 was a ‘deacon.’ But it does not follow that she was ordained to any office.” (p. 58)

Two other interesting quotes from this volume should be noted. Clark almost certainly has Van Til in mind when writing,

“Some who think a little more and have just a smattering of philosophic terms consider the Father as the unity, and the Son and Spirit as the diversity. Thus they attempt to solve “the One-and-the-Many problem” which Parmenides discovered and removed by denying plurality, which Democritus hardly considered at all, which embarrassed Plato, in which Plotinus failed horribly, and in which also William James turned Parmenides upside down by denying unity. The contemporary theologians may go further and constructively propose that unity and plurality are “equally ultimate” in the Godhead. They are not apt to have a very clear idea of what “equally ultimate” means. (p. 82)

On this see also here.

And finally, in what has bearing on understanding his views of the Trinity (See also: 1, 2) Clark writes,

“The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity certainly teaches that the Father and the Son are equal in power and glory, and, as equally eternal, they may be called equally ultimate. But the Father is not to be equated with unity and the Son with plurality. The Three persons are the plurality and the Godhead is the unity. The Godhead is not one of the persons as distinct from another, but rather the common reality shared by the three. Such is our partial answer to the objections of Islam, and also to some confused American theologians. But whether the group of common qualities, the Godhead, is more ultimate than any one of the three persons who share these attributes, and whether “ultimate” means “generic,” for certainly there is no chronological precedence in this argument, are questions more properly discussed in a systematic theology than in an exegesis of Colossians.” (p. 82-83)

For the previous review in this series see here.

For the next review in this series see here.

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From Paradox to Contradiction in the Theology of John Murray

Followers of the theology of Cornelius Van Til have long argued that while there are “apparent paradoxes” in Scripture these are not contradictions in the ultimate sense. For example, in The Trinity and the Vindication of Christian Paradox, B. A. Bosserman explains,

“When it comes to evaluating apparent contradictions, the believer has every right to expect that these can be resolved in some fashion, if all of the relevant information were available to him, since God’s revelation cannot contradict itself (Deut 13:1–5; 1 Cor 14:29–33).”

But when we come to Van Til’s colleague John Murray we find quite a different view in his book Calvin on Scripture and Divine Sovereignty (London: Evangelical Press, 1960, 1979). While the book up until the last few pages is quite excellent (well defending the thesis that Calvin held to inerrancy, and defending with Calvin the position that God is the supreme and first cause of all things), the train running so smoothly till that point then comes off its rails. In the last pages Murray argues for a “disparity” within God between His decretive will and His preceptive will. (p. 68) There is, Murray contends, a “discrepancy between God’s will to salvation of all and the election of God by which he predestinates only a fixed number to salvation.” (p. 69)

Though he first downplays this as an “apparent contradiction” (p. 69) of which “it is not the mark of intelligence to allege or a claim a ready resolution” he soon goes on to refer to it again as “a discrepancy” and then simply as a “contradiction” without anything about it being only “apparent.” Murray writes,

“There is, after all, the contradiction that we by sin offer to God’s sovereignty. It is the contradiction of the claim which his sovereignty demands of us and the contradiction of what is God’s good pleasure.” (p. 70)

and,

“We must boldly maintain and profess the only alternative which Calvin so insistently asserted. In the realm of sin we have the contradiction of God’s revealed will and prescriptive good pleasure. But that very contradiction is embraced in the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” (p. 70)

It is important to explain that the supposed contradiction Murray sees in God’s will is in fact easily resolved (without even extreme intelligence) by understanding that God’s “preceptive will” is more accurately called His commands, and that these commands are made not because God wills that man will (or can) follow them, but, as Romans 3:20 says, so that man might have knowledge of his sin.

We can (and should) embrace both the Scriptural teaching that God commands men not to sin (not that He desires the salvation of all men, as Arminians and John Murray hold) and the teaching that all things work out according to God’s will. But we embrace these not as a contradiction—for contradictions simply cannot be embraced—but as fully consistent Scriptural teachings.

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Bibliographies of a few reformed authors.

I’ve put together the following bibliographies of some reformed authors whose books I’m particularly interested it. Please let me know if you have additional information and I’d be glad to update this post.

J. Oliver Buswell Jr. (January 16, 1895 – February 4, 1977)

A. B. from the University of Minnesota, B. D. from McCormick Theological Seminary, M. A. from the University of Chicago and Ph. D. from New York University. President of Wheaton College.

1928. Problems in the Prayer Life. Bible Institute Colportage Association.
1937. What is God?: the Lamb of God, volume 2. Zondervan.
1937. Sin and Atonement. Zondervan.
1949. The Philosophies of F. R. Tennant and John Dewey.
1959. Ten reasons why a Christian does not live a wicked life. Moody Press.
1960. A Christian View of Being and Knowing. Zondervan.
1962. A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion. Zondervan.

Robert Lewis Reymond (October 30, 1932 – September 20, 2013)

B. A., M. A., and Ph. D. degrees from Bob Jones University. Ordained into the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod in 1967. Taught at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri (1968-1990). Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (1990-2008). Pastored an RPCES congregation in Hazelwood, MO between 1968 and 1973. Interim pastor at another RPCES congregation in Waterloo, IL, between 1981 and 1985. After resigning from Knox in January 2008, he accepted a call as regular pulpit supply of Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church, a Ft. Lauderdale congregation in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

1964. A Christian View of Modern Science. Presbyterian and Reformed.
1967. Brunner’s Dialectal Encounter.
1967. Barth’s Soteriology. Presbyterian and Reformed.
1967. Bultmann’s Demythologized Kerygma. Presbyterian and Reformed.
1968. Introductory Studies in Contemporary Theology.
1976. The Justification of Knowledge. Presbyterian and Reformed.
1977. What about Continuing Revelations and Miracles in the Presbyterian Church Today? Presbyterian and Reformed.
1988. Preach the Word!: A Teaching Ministry Approved by God. Rutherford House.
1998. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. Thomas Nelson.
2001. Jesus Divine Messiah: The New and Old Testament Witness. Mentor.
2001. The Reformations Conflict with Rome: Why it Must Continue. Mentor.
2001. John – Beloved Disciple: A Survey of his Theology. Mentor.
2003. The God-Centered Preacher: Developing a Pulpit Ministry Approved by God. Mentor.
2004. John Calvin, His Life and Influence. Christian Focus Publications.
2005. Contending for the Faith: Lines in the Sand that Strengthen the Church. Mentor.
2006. Paul, Missionary Theologian: A Survey of his Missionary Labours and Theology. Mentor.
2006. The Lamb of God: The Bible’s Unfolding Revelation of Sacrifice. Mentor.
2006. Perspective on Election. Contributor. B&H Academic.
2007. What is God? Mentor.
2008. Faith’s Reasons for Believing, An Apologetic Antidote to Mindless Christianity (And Thoughtless Atheism). Mentor.

Ronald H. Nash (May 27, 1936 – March 10, 2006)

B. A. from Barrington College. M. A. from Brown University. Ph. D. from Syracuse University. Taught at Western Kentucky University, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

1962. Dooyeweerd and the Amsterdam Philosophy. Zondervan.
1963. The New Evangelicalism. Zondervan.
1968. The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark, ed. Presbyterian and Reformed.
1969. Ideas of History, ed. E. P. Dutton.
1980. Freedom Justice and the State. University Press of America.
1983. The Concept of God. Zondervan.
1984. Christian Faith and Historical Understanding. Zondervan.
1984. Christianity and the Hellenistic World. Zondervan.
1986. Poverty and Wealth: Why Socialism Doesn’t Work. W. Pub. Group.
1986. Economic Justice and the State: A Debate. Baker Pub Group.
1987. Evangelical in America: Who They Are, What They Believe. Abingdon Press.
1987. Process Theology, ed. Baker Pub. Group.
1987. Evangelical Renewal in Mainline Churches. Crossway.
1990. The Closing of the American Heart: What’s Really Wrong with America’s Schools. Probe Ministries International.
1992. Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas. Zondervan.
1992. The Word of God and the Mind of Man. P&R.
1992. Beyond Liberation Theology. Baker Pub. Group.
1993. Great Divides: Understanding the Controversies That Come Between Christians. Navpress.
1994. Is Jesus the Only Savior? Zondervan.
1994. Faith and Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith. Zondervan.
1996. Why the Left is Not Right. Zondervan.
1998. The Meaning of History. B&H Academic.
1999. Life’s Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. Zondervan.
1999. When a Baby Dies. Zondervan.
2002. Social Justice and the Christian Church. CSS Publishing.
2003. The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thoughts? P&R.
2003. The Light of the Mind. B&H Academic.

John William Robbins (1949 – August 14, 2008)

B. A. from Grove City College. M. A. and Ph. D. from Johns Hopkins University. Founder of the Trinity Foundation. Taught at College of the Southwest, Chesapeake Theological Seminary, Kings College, Sangre de Cristo Seminary.

1973. The Political Thought of Sir Robert Filmer. Dissertation.
1974. Answer to Ayn Rand: A Critique of the Philosophy of Objectivism. Robbins.
1985. Scripture Twisting in The Seminaries: Part 1, Feminism. Trinity Foundation.
1986. Cornelius Van Til: The Man and the Myth. Trinity Foundation.
1988. Pat Robertson: A Warning to America. Trinity Foundation.
1992. A Man of Principle: Essays in Honor of Hans F. Sennholz. Grove City College.
1997. Without a Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Close of Her System. Trinity Foundation.
1999. Ecclesiastical Megalomania: The Economic and Political Thought of the Roman Catholic Church. Trinity Foundation.
2001. The Church Effeminate. Trinity Foundation.
2003. Christ and Civilization. Trinity Foundation.
2004. Can the Orthodox Presbyterian Church Be Saved? Trinity Foundation.
2004. A Companion to the Current Justification Controversy. Trinity Foundation.
2004. Not Reformed At All. Trinity Foundation.
2006. Freedom and Capitalism: Essays on Christian Politics and Economics. Trinity Foundation.
2007. Slavery & Christianity: Paul’s Letter to Philemon. Trinity Foundation.

Maybe I’ll add some others here later including:

Carl F. H. Henry. See here.
William Young

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Review of Biblical Hermeneutics by Milton S. Terry

Biblical Hermeneutics by Milton S. Terry, 1883, Reprint by Zondervan Publishing House, n.d., 782 pp.

Though I’ve titled this post a “review” it is more accurately just some notes on Milton Terry’s rather lengthy book Biblical Hermeneutics.

While Biblical Hermeneutics has been recommended to me by some Reformed persons, whether Milton Spenser Terry (1840 – 1914) was himself Reformed seems not to be the case. He was an ordained Methodist Episcopal minister and a professor at a Biblical Institute in Illinois. Methodists generally are not Reformed, and neither are Methodist Episcopalians. It is some wonder then that Reformed persons would recommend Terry. Perhaps that attests to the quality of the volume that it is embraced across denominational lines. Or it might be that some have promoted Terry as he supports their preterist views. (pp. 237-242, 492)

It is a thorough book but contains many discussions that could be omitted if the volume were merely to enumerate and prove various principles of hermeneutics. It was my goal to pull out of the volume the various principles so that I might consider them individually. In my own thoughts on hermeneutics I’d like to consider which hermeneutical principles are explicit in Scripture or might be deduced from Scripture. Principles not meeting that criteria are, in my mind, quite suspect.

So what are Terry’s principles? The following is a list of some principles of hermeneutics given in this volume:

1. “A thorough acquaintance with the genius and grammatical structure of the original languages of the Bible is essentially the basis of all sound interpretation.” (p. 69)

2. As for textual criticism Terry supports the eclectic approach over the majority text. “The authority and value of manuscript readings consist not in the number of manuscripts in which a given reading is found, but, in the age, character, and country of the manuscript.” (p. 132)

3. For “internal evidence” on textual criticism he provides some principles that seem more rationalistic than Biblically chosen. They include: “The shorter reading is to be preferred to the longer.” (p. 184) And, “The more difficult and obscure reading is to be preferred to the plainer and easier one.” (p. 184)

4. “The use of reason in the interpretation of Scripture is everywhere to be assumed.” (p. 153) It is to be “sound and self-consistent.” (p. 153)

5. The interpreter “needs stores of information in the broad and varied fields of history, science, and philosophy.” (p. 154)

6. “In determining the sense of such hapax legomena, or words occurring only one, we have to be guided by the context, by the analogy of kindred roots, if any appear in the language, by ancient versions of the word in other languages, and by whatever traces of the word may be found in cognate languages.” (p. 179)

7. Scriptural interpretation is aided by understanding “the facts of history.” (p. 203) Similarly, he states, “A knowledge of geography, history, chronology, and antiquities is an essential qualification of the biblical interpreter.” (p. 231)

8. “A fundamental principles in grammatico-historical exposition is that words and sentences can have but one signification in one and the same connection.” (p. 205)

9. “The meaning of particular parts of a book may be fully apprehended only when we have mastered the general purposes and design of the whole.” (p. 210)

10. “It is scarcely necessary, and, indeed, quite impracticable, to lay down specific rules for determining when language is used figuratively and when literally. It is an old and oft-repeated hermeneutical principle that words should be understood in their literal sense unless such literal interpretation involves a manifest contradiction or absurdity. It should be observed, however, that this principle, when reduced to practice, becomes simply an appeal to every man’s rational judgment. And what seems to one very absurd and improbable may be to another altogether simple and self-consistent.” (p. 247)

11. “If we would know how to interpret all parables, we should notice what our Lord omitted as well as what he emphasized in those expositions which are given us as models; and we should not be anxious to find a hidden meaning in every word and allusion.” (p 284)

12. “There must be evidence that the type was designed and appointed by God to represent the thing typified.” (p. 337) Yet, “we should guard against the extreme position of some writers who declare that nothing in the Old Testament is to be regarded as typical but what the New Testament affirms to be so. We admit a divine purpose in every real type, but it does not therefore follow that every purpose must be formally affirmed in the Scriptures.” (p. 338) I’m left wondering how the type would be identified if not explicitly done so by the New Testament itself. Terry later writes, “The persons and events which are expressly declared by the sacred writers to be typical are rather to be taken as specimens and examples for the interpretation of all types.” (p. 345-346) But it seems to me that expressed examples do not imply others. That is, this does not give one a principle by which to distinguish valid from invalid typologies. That types are to be discerned “by the good sense and sound judgment of the interpreter” (p. 346) is begging the question.

Does Terry find his principles explicit in Scripture or might he deduce them from Scripture? While he provides many Scriptural examples to apply his principles I can’t say that in most cases he finds the principles explicitly stated in scripture nor does he provide strict deductions of the principles. As such, his Biblical hermeneutics is not all that distinguishable from general hermeneutics, informed as much by rational or empirical (p. 17, p. 244) considerations as by the Bible. Terry does know better for he states in one place, “How may we determine what is true and what is false in the various methods of exposition? We must got to the Scriptures themselves, and search them in all their parts and forms. We must seek to ascertain the principles which the sacred writers followed.” (p. 162)

Biblical Hermeneutics is not a book I’d recommend reading to help clarify and defend principles of hermeneutics, but in Terry’s thoroughness in interpreting example passages it might be of some value as an occasional reference volume.

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Review of By Scripture Alone by W. Gary Crampton

By Scripture Alone, The Sufficiency of Scripture, by W. Gary Crampton, Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2002, 245 pp.

Though the subtitle of By Scripture Alone is “the sufficiency of Scripture,” the book does cover quite a lot more than that. The first part of the book is framed as a commentary on chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The second part of the book is a defense of Sola Scriptura against the Roman Catholic view of Sola Ekklesia.

By Scripture Alone has a high content-to-syllable ratio. That is a good thing. There is no wasted space. It is not a book that makes any groundbreaking statements, but is an excellent summary of Protestant views. It reads in many ways as a summary of the views published by the Trinity Foundation in books by Gordon H. Clark and John Robbins with some references also to the works of Robert Reymond and Ronald H. Nash.

Some items of note in the volume include:

1. Crampton’s view of the status of Romans Catholics seems to be inconsistent. In the introduction he refers to Roman Catholics (and modernists, Pentecostals-Charismatics, and the Greek Orthodox) as “opponents of Christianity” (p. 16) but later refers to them as a “nominally Christian group.” (p. 41) Crampton points out inconsistency in the Roman Catholics anathematizing Protestants for their views while also referring to Protestants as “our brethren.” (p. 151) Probably Crampton’s view could be ironed out along the lines of Gordon Clark’s excellent Faith and Saving Faith by saying that there can be saving faith among Arminians and Catholics who don’t fall for the damning errors taught in their churches.

2. He defines Sola Scriptura as “Scripture alone has a systematic monopoly on truth; it is the sole criterion for truth.” (p. 15) This seems to me to go beyond the historical definition and usage.

3. There is an excellent quote on correspondence and coherence theories of knowledge: “A biblical epistemology denies a correspondence theory of truth, that is, that the mind of man has only a representation of the truth, and not the truth itself. Rather, a Biblical epistemology hold to a coherence theory of truth, which maintains that what man has is the truth: the same truth that exists in the mind of God.” (p. 30)

4. Crampton well writes, “The central problem with the dictation theory is not that it accords too much control to God, but too little. Unlike a businessman and his stenographer, God created and prepared His stenographers in every detail of their lives (Psalm 139:13-16) so that their personalities and education was exactly what God required to write His word.” (p. 70-71)

5. Crampton nicely summarizes the practice of apologetics in saying, “After or while demonstrating the internal incoherence of the non-Christian views, the Biblical apologete will present the truth and the internal, logical consistency of the Scripture and the Christian philosophy revealed therein. He will show how Christianity is self-consistent, how it gives us a coherent understanding of the world, how it answers questions and solves problems that other worldviews cannot. This method is not to be considered as proof that the Christian view is true. It is a presentation of the propositions of Scripture with the prayer that the Holy Spirit will cause the hearer to believe them. It shows that intelligibility can be maintained only by viewing all things as dependent on the God of Scripture, Who is truth itself.” (p. 87)

6. Crampton cites Van Til as saying that man’s knowledge is “at no point identical with the content of God’s mind.” His footnote references Van Til’s “Introduction” to B. B. Warfield The Inspiration and Authority the Bible, p. 33. This is interesting because while The Complaint certainly had this similar phraseology, Van Til was only one of its authors. The reference to the introduction written solely by Van Til confirms his holding to that statement. It should be pointed out though that Van Til seems to have meant something else by “content” than the common definition or understanding. But it is difficult if not impossible to know how he understood the term since he refused to define it. See The Presbyterian Philosopher, pp. 112, 128, 136-137, 158-160.

7. Crampton defends the Majority Text. (p. 120 ff.)

8. An interesting way of considering the relationship of exegesis and hermeneutics is presented. Crampton writes, “Exegesis is the practice of hermeneutics, whereas hermeneutics is the theory of exegesis.” (p. 127)

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Did John Robbins modify Gordon Clark’s writings?

A question not uncommonly asked is whether John Robbins, the first editor of the Trinity Foundation, modified Gordon Clark’s writings in some substantial way when revising and/or reprinting them.

To answer this question I’ve made a quick look over the original published versions of Clark’s books and then compared with them the Trinity Foundation revisions to note modifications made. The results are shown at the bottom of this post. Naturally, I did not compare everything word-for-word, so if you know of other changes please inform me and I will update this post.

My general conclusion from this study (along with the benefit of a number of years of reading Dr. Clark’s books and looking at some of the original manuscripts) is that John Robbins did an honest job with Clark’s writings generally making only minimal edits.

The primary change in the Trinity Foundation revisions of Clark’s books is the addition of forewords, all written by John Robbins except in one case written by Harold Lindsell. These forewords are appropriate considering that Clark wrote to Robbins on 12/5/1984 saying about Trinity Foundation revisions, “So, put in all the Forewords you want.”

Two books—Clark Speaks From the Grave and The Incarnation—have been most frequently under the spotlight.

Though Clark Speaks From the Grave is written in the third person, one should not assume that it is Robbins writing for Clark. In fact, in one of Gordon Clark’s audio lectures he jokes about lectures to be published posthumously. And, settling the issue, it is clear from a letter (GHC to John Robbins, 1/11/1985) in which Clark references having sent the manuscript of Clark Speaks From the Grave to John Robbins, that Clark had finished the volume while yet living and even had known of and approved the title.

Regarding The Incarnation, on 1/13/1985 Clark wrote to John Robbins saying “Another extremely difficult problem is the doctrine of the Incarnation. I have been working on it constantly since moving here, and have some 150 hand written pages.” On 1/25/1985 Clark wrote again to John Robbins saying “My MS on the Incarnation may have 230 handwritten pages. It needs perhaps 25 more as a good conclusion.” Clark would then have had a little more than two months to work on the manuscript before his final illness and death on April 9, 1985. The status of the manuscript as evidenced by these letters correlates well with Robbins’s statement in the preface of the volume that “He [Clark] did not quite finish the book, intending to add a few more paragraphs summarizing his hundred pages of analysis and argumentation, so he asked this writer to complete it for him.” (p. ix)

There is simply no evidence (that I know of) that Robbins modified Clark’s writings in any substantial way.

The only gripe I might have is that Robbins added an editor’s note attempting to correct Clark on one point in the 2nd edition of Predestination. (pp. 85-86) But, even here, this is an editor’s note. It is not a modification of Clark’s writing. The Collected Works editions also contain numerous editor’s notes, but they are clearly labeled as such.

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