On Gordon H. Clark’s apologetic methodology
(In response to …)
There is no reason to see Clark’s thought on apologetics as ‘skeptical’ (the view that all epistemologies fail, and so no truth can be known). Central to his thought was the rejection and refutation of any epistemological position that when thought through carefully, ended in skepticism.
Skepticism to Clark, was an ultimate offense. Another reason that Clark rejected many traditional epistemological programs (“epistemology” meaning the way someone claims to know the truth, or the definition of truth itself) is because of his insistence on the Bible being the source of truth.
This of course implies that truth can really be known and that, negates skepticism.
To explain, Clark took “axioms” very seriously. At the root of every statement about truth, is some thing which one must “choose” to believe, but that cannot be proven from within that statement’s system of thought. Clark often used the axiom that a line is the shortest distance between two points, an axiom of geometry which cannot be proven, but must be believed in order to begin doing geometry, as an example of this kind of thing.
Every system has axioms, even atheistic systems, and none of them can be proven, because the axioms are the basis of proving everything else. This seems to be true by definition. An infinite regress of circular definitions doesn’t seem to end up anywhere very helpful (Coherentism). If we are going to know, we need to start somewhere. And where you start, is a choice. Something you cannot prove. Like the laws of logic, which must be used in order to try to prove them.
This didn’t mean that Clark held that systems of thought could not be falsified. He said that because God himself has shown through the revelation of Himself in Holy Scripture that He is eternally logical, and thus logic was an attribute of God, who always knows the difference between truth and falsehood, if anything is irrational, or illogical, or self contradictory, and this could be demonstrated, it has been shown to be false. Thus contradictory systems could be tested for veracity on the basis of coherence, or rationality. Thus axioms, though they cannot be proven true, could be proven false, by the fact that they don’t make any sense.
Thus all axioms are not created equal. And some axioms, while they cannot be proven true, can be shown to be obviously false.
So there is in Gordon H. Clark’s thought not only an axiomatic epistemological basis, being the special revelation of Scripture and those things deduced from Scripture (A view sometimes called Clarkian Scripturalism) but also a test for the veracity of Christianity, being “reason”, or the laws of logic, or deductive certainty, as applied to the contents of any system.
All the best,
More on Clark and Van Til
Neiswonger, Neiswonger, Neiswonger, Neiswonger, Gordon h. Clark, Gordon h. Clark, Gordon Clark, Gordon Clark