Gordon Clark. In Defense of Theology.
Milford, MI: Mott Media Inc, 1984. 119 pp.
Most Christians if they know anything about Gordon Clark probably know of him as a critic of Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til. It is a shame that few Christians even among those interested in Christian philosophy, apologetics and Reformed theology know who Gordon Clark is. In contrast to Van Til, Gordon Clark seems to have written more works at the popular level than Van Til did while remaining less known than Van Til. This work is one of them. In this review I want to look at Clark’s work as a full blooded Van Tillian who disagree with Gordon Clark but have found him beneficial to read and interact with.
I appreciated this book because while Clark is capable of writing more technical and difficult work this seems to be the one book that is accessible for lay people that pretty much summarize Gordon Clark’s apologetics. The book presents a defense of the endeavor of theology while embracing the Biblical worldview and subjecting opposing worldviews to logical scrutiny and refutations. The flow of the book critiques three groups of people with the first being those who subscribe to atheism, secondly those who are disinterested and the third group being Neo-Orthodox.
I really like his chapter on atheism. Even if one disagrees with his apologetic methodology it is succinctly stated. Clark notes briefly that he has problems with the Classical arguments for the existence of God which puts Clark in a different trajectory with his approach towards the question of God’s existence and atheism. I think Clark persuasively argued contrary to the Existentalists that it is important to first discuss about essence over existence; practically for the topic at hand Clark note that it is important to define what God is and which God we are believing before we ask whether or not it exists because after all the Christian is not engage in prove some kind of bare theism or some other gods that is not the Christian God. I think Clark’s discussion about axioms and ultimate authority being axiomatic is excellent. While I don’t necessarily fault the book for fleshing it out given its limited space nevertheless it is important for readers to know that my general criticism of Clark’s apologetics is applicable to the methodology of the book here: I often wish Clark developed more of the implications of Romans 1 for apologetics and shaping how he understands the unbeliever and approaches towards their unbelief. In particular, I wished he could have seen the apologetic value of the phenomenon in which people suppressed the truth they do know and perhaps lead him to see a role of some kind of transcendental argumentation to make that point.
Clark’s chapter on the disinterested is rather short but he does give more space to critique the Neo-Orthodox. His survey of the Neo-Orthodox works chronologically backwards since he wishes to begin the readers with better known contemporary writers and then tracing it back their influences. I think his critique of the irrational claims and methodology of Liberals and Neo-Orthodox is excellent. Clark is really out to defend the propositional nature of Scripture.
This leads to a chapter length discussion about the role of logic in the Bible. This discussion is indeed a key component in Clark’s defense of theology, given that the task itself involve the use of logic. The book ends with a fourth group that is contrast to the first three group in that these are believers of Jesus Christ who loves the Word from the Lord. He also add in this chapter a discussion about grounding the laws of logic in the Imago Dei that I think should have been better organized to have been part of the chapter on logic.
Overall good book. If you had to read a book that’s an introduction to Gordon Clark and also get a flavor of his method (and his highbrow sarcasm) then this is the book.