Knowledge, Faith, and the Marks of a “True” Clarkian

What makes a true Clarkian? How much and what do you have to agree with Clark on? Which of Clark’s protégés carries the truest banner of his legacy? These questions have stirred much controversy and division amongst those who follow the teachings of Reformed philosopher-theologian Gordon Haddon Clark.

But such questions are distractions. What’s far more important than identifying “true” Clarkians is to understand what Clark himself taught, know how to evaluate secondary sources, and develop the maturity to disagree biblically, whether it’s with Clark, Clarkians, or other Christians, without unnecessary denouncements. It’s foolish to judge who is or isn’t a “true” Clarkian; it only damages Clark’s legacy and breeds unnecessary infighting, and the history of some of Clark’s followers sadly attests to this even now. All of us who value Clark—especially the coming generation of pastors, preachers, teachers—would do well to get along. There’s already too much internal strife as it is, and while Clark’s influence is slowly growing, we’re still a small piece of the Reformed pie.

This isn’t the worst-case scenario we’ve witnessed, but Jason Petersen, a student at Whitefield Theological Seminary, recently denounced Luke Miner, a Scripturalism.com contributor (Jason is also a contributor), as a self-deceived Clarkian. Jason recounts in his blog:

While I have no doubt that Luke believes he is a Clarkian, he is not a Clarkian. Clark never defined knowledge as justified-true belief, yet Luke attempted to articulate (in a different thread) that notion in the Clarkian Apologetics [Facebook] Group (or at the very least, that “true belief” is not enough and that a qualifier is needed. Clark would never agree with this).  Clark instead defined knowledge as true belief, or more specifically, possession of the truth by a mind. This, and my conversation with Luke, is exactly why I proclaimed that he is not a Clarkian. Perhaps he respects Clark and agrees with him on many aspects (such as Clark’s rejection of metaphysics), but he should not call himself a Clarkian.[1]

According to Jason, a “true” Clarkian must at least agree with Clark’s epistemology and maintain key terms as Clark defined them, that is, according to Jason’s interpretation. Jason is making amends with Luke and others involved, though Luke “and Cjay will remain out of the [Clarkian Apologetics Facebook] group.”[2]

We don’t care for petty conflicts, but this illustrates a growing tendency in some Clarkians. If these little foxes are left unchecked, they will ruin their vineyard. The biblical and productive approach is to simply correct misunderstandings or misrepresentations of Clark—without pronouncements as to who the “real” Clarkian is. Especially because the accuser could be wrong. Those who denounce fellow Clarkians this way resemble Diotrephes,

who likes to put himself first, [and] does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.  (3 John 9-10)

Does Jason “like to put himself first”? Judge for yourselves:

Imagine being a professor and then having a student try to take over the class. Anyone who knows me is aware that I have little tolerance for such antics. It is also worthy to note that the Clarkian Apologetics Group is a direct product of the Gordon Clark Foundation, which, by the way, endorses this [Jason’s] website.[3]

Isn’t this the carnal sectarianism that Paul warned against in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, 3:1-4? For when one says, “I am of Clark and you are not,” are you not carnal? Is Christ divided? It is a sad but common practice in our day for immature believers to seek online platforms and tout spiritual influence and authority when they’re neither ready nor qualified nor called by God to do so. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

 

A Justified True Clarkian

In any case, is Jason’s claim true, that Clark rejected justified true belief (JTB) and “instead defined knowledge as true belief, or more specifically, possession of the truth by a mind”? Not according to Clark himself:

A systematic philosophy must take care of epistemology. Knowledge must be accounted for. It may be that the a priori forms cannot be listed; it may be that botany or some other subject remains obscure; but knowledge of some sort must be provided.[4] …………………………………………..

What account shall be given of everyday “knowledge” that common sense thinks it silly to doubt? Don’t I know when I am hungry? Can’t I use road maps to drive to Boston to Los Angeles? Indeed, how can I know what the Bible says without reading its pages with my own eyes? It was one secular philosopher criticizing another, who said that knowledge is a fact and that any theory that did not account for it should be abandoned. But all such criticisms miss the point. The status of common opinion is not fixed until a theory has been accepted. One may admit that a number of propositions commonly believed are true; but no one can deny that many such are false. The problem is to elaborate a method by which the two classes can be distinguished. Plato, too, granted a place to opinion as distinct from knowledge; he even admitted that in some circumstances opinion was as useful as knowledge with a capital K. But to dispose of the whole matter by an appeal to road maps that we can see with our own eyes is to ignore everything said above about Aristotle.[5]

Clark then proceeds by arguing that there is no account of this common sense “knowledge,” and is thus not knowledge but opinion. For an opinion to be knowledge it must be both true and accounted for. Clark’s unpublished paper on Plato’s theory of knowledge from the Gordon H. Clark Foundation website runs along the same line:

The term “knowledge” is very ambiguous, and, until all its meanings have been revealed, false judgment cannot really be explained. Socrates’ discussion has pointed out some of its meaning. Plato’s analysis of false judgment is included in the Sophist when the Forms have been introduced.

The “pieces of knowledge” stored in the mind are no more than true beliefs. Our attitude toward a false belief is the same as it is toward a true one. Our confidence in belief is not based on reason. Socrates contrasts a jury’s second-hand belief when convinced of the facts to the direct knowledge of the eye-witness who has seen the fact. Even if the jury finds the right verdict, they are still judging without knowledge, only belief. If true belief and knowledge were the same, a juryman could never have a correct belief without knowledge. Therefore, knowledge cannot be defined as true belief.

True belief lacked something which was necessary in order to call it knowledge. So Theaetetus suggests that knowledge is true belief accompanied by an account or explanation. Plato considers the various possible meanings of “account” and finally rejects the suggestion. The account is not enough to raise correct opinion to the level of knowledge.[6]

In Lord God of Truth Clark again concurs with Plato:

Accordingly the knowledge possible for human beings consists of the axioms of and the deductions from Scripture. We can indeed entertain opinions about Columbus, and by accident or good luck they may be true; but we could not know it. Our dear pagan Plato, at the end of his Meno (98b) declared, “That there is a difference between right opinion and knowledge (ōrtheme) is not at all a conjecture with me, but something I would particularly assert that I knew.”[7]

While Clark doesn’t necessarily use the term justified true belief—likely because it didn’t gain traction til the late 1970’s,[8] and he died in 1985—he clearly affirms the concept. He agrees with Plato on the distinction between belief/opinion and knowledge, as do many of his pupils. So according to his standard of “true” Clarkianism, Jason would also have to denounce Clark himself, as well as Clarkians who are more knowledgeable such as Sean Gerety, Robert Reymond, John Robbins, Gary Crampton, and even his mentor Kenneth Talbot. While Jason claims that “Clark never defined knowledge as justified-true belief,” Sean Gerety

find[s] it strange how many who claim to hold to the biblical epistemology of Gordon Clark fail to understand even the first principles of his theory. For Clark knowledge requires an account. That is, for a proposition to rise to the level of knowledge it has to be justified.[9]

Gerety explains that “knowledge, which is true belief with an account of its truth, or, simply, justified true belief (belief being the operative word), is the gift of God.”[10]  In The Justification of Knowledge—the title itself is a dead giveaway—Robert Reymond argues that

Clark is a brilliant Reformed philosopher–theologian. I deeply appreciate the reflection of the Reformed view of Scripture in his assumption, on dogmatic grounds, of the self–authenticating Word of God as his axiom for knowing God or anything else as it ought to be known. I concur with him that unless one begins with God he will not arrive at a knowledge of God, nor will he be able to justify any knowledge claim.[11]

Reymond moreover “would agree that, without innate self–evident truths and without a revelational pou sto as a given, the justification of knowledge is impossible.”[12] He thus concludes:

The Church cannot expect to know the fullest blessing of God upon its evangelistic endeavors until it sets aside all accommodations to the autonomy of unbelieving man and insists, in conjunction with the proclamation of the Reformed gospel, that the authority of the word of the self–attesting Christ of Scripture is the only ground sufficiently ultimate to justify human truth claims, and that until His word is acknowledged as authoritative and placed at the basis of a given human knowledge system, that system remains unjustified and no truth assertion within it can be shown to have any meaning at all.[13]

John Robbins also makes important distinctions regarding knowledge:

There are three sorts of cognitive states: knowledge, opinion, and ignorance. Ignorance is simply the lack of ideas. Complete ignorance is the state of mind that empiricists say we are born with: We are all born with blank minds, tabula rasa, to use John Locke’s phrase. (Incidentally, a tabula rasa mind – a blank mind – is an impossibility. A consciousness conscious of nothing is a contradiction in terms. Empiricism rests on a contradiction.) At the other extreme from ignorance is knowledge. Knowledge is not simply possessing thoughts or ideas, as some think. Knowledge is possessing true ideas and knowing them to be true. Knowledge is, by definition, knowledge of the truth. We do not say that a person “knows” that 2 plus 2 is 5. We may say he thinks it, but he does not know it. It would be better to say that he opines it.

Now, most of what we colloquially call knowledge is actually opinion: We “know” that we are in Pennsylvania; we “know” that Clinton – either Bill or Hillary – is President of the United States, and so forth. Opinions can be true or false; we just don’t know which. History, except for revealed history, is opinion. Science is opinion. Archaeology is opinion. John Calvin said, “I call that knowledge, not what is innate in man, nor what is by diligence acquired, but what is revealed to us in the Law and the Prophets.” Knowledge is true opinion with an account of its truth.[14]

In order to possess the truth, you have to know that your belief is true. That is Justified True Belief, and that is why Gary Crampton, a professor at Whitefield Theological Seminary, argues that

An important part of the Scripturalist worldview is the epistemological distinction between knowledge and opinion. Throughout the history of Western thought, philosophers such as Parmenides, Plato, and Aristotle, have correctly differentiated between these two. Augustine and Gordon Clark are just two examples of Christian philosophers who have done the same. There is a difference between that which we “know” and that about which we may have opinions.

In the Scripturalist worldview, knowledge is not only possessing ideas or thoughts; it is possessing true ideas or thoughts. Knowledge is knowledge of the truth. It is justified true belief. Only the Word of God (that which, as the Westminster Confession [1:6] says, “is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture”) gives us such knowledge.

Opinions, on the other hand, may be true or false. Natural science is opinion; archaeology is opinion; history (with the exception of Biblical history) is opinion. In these disciplines we are not dealing with “facts.” In them there is no justified true belief. To “opine” something is not to “know” it. Justified truth is found only in the Word of God.[15]

Crampton also highlights what Jason misconstrues: that Clark’s definition of knowledge as a mind’s possession of truth is JTB, because possessing the truth requires not just a true belief/opinion, as Jason claims, but also an account of its truth from Scripture. Otherwise it’s just an opinion that happens to be true.

Jason claims that Clark defined knowledge as only true belief because he equates “true belief” with “possession of truth by a mind”—which Clark never did. Jason fails to cite where Clark rejected JTB or defined knowledge as true belief; the only source he gives is one of Clark’s obscure encyclopedic articles on knowledge[16] whom hardly anyone knows about, much less read, and the article itself makes no such claim. And from this foundation built on sand he denounces those who disagree, but not without sinking himself. Clark and many of his most prominent followers clearly affirm JTB, so is he ready to denounce Sean Gerety, Robert Reymond, John Robbins, Gary Crampton, and Clark himself as self-deceived Clarkians?

 

Notitia, Assensus…and Faith?

There’s yet another issue, more theological than philosophical. Throughout many of his writings, Clark emphasizes faith as an important doctrine, biblically clarifies what it means, and refutes deficient views. That’s why he wrote two treatises on it, Fa­­ith and Saving Faith and The Johannine Logos. In Faith and Saving Faith, Clark writes: “Faith and belief have been emphasized. Even apart from these introductory inducements the nature of saving faith is an important division of theology.”[17] Clark’s treatment of faith is one of his major theological contributions. To disagree with his view of faith is significant, so much so that, if we follow Jason’s logic, it surely would not make you a “true” Clarkian.

Clark’s definition of faith is simple and biblical. In What Is Saving Faith? he explains that

Faith, by definition, is assent to understood propositions. Not all cases of assent, even assent to Biblical propositions, are saving faith, but all saving faith is assent to one or more Biblical propositions.[18]

Clark consistently defines faith as understanding (notitia) with assent (assensus) throughout his writings, both published and unpublished. Note the complete absence of “trust” (fiducia). Some groundlessly accuse John Robbins of dishonestly altering Clark’s books—including Jason himself, who unfortunately parrots the views of his mentors from Whitefield Seminary, the president of which is Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, and they have poisoned the well in Facebook groups to dissuade people from trusting Robbins and The Trinity Foundation,[19] which is by far the best and most reliable source of Gordon Clark’s thought and work. But in one of his unpublished papers on faith from the Gordon H. Clark Foundation website—“a ministry of Whitefield College & Theological Seminary”—Clark quotes Augustine’s definition of faith:

Augustine was probably the first to define faith. In his treatise Concerning the Predestination of the Saints he said, “Thinking is prior to believing… To believe is nothing other than to think with assent. For not all who think believe… but all who believe think; and they think believing and believe thinking.”[20]

And then agrees with him:

“A person may know or understand a proposition and yet not believe it. To believe is to think with assent. Assent is an act of will: it is the voluntary acceptance of the proposition as true.”[21]

Even so, both Drs. Kenneth G. Talbot and W. Gary Crampton diverge from Clark’s view of faith. Not only that, but in their book Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism they claim that the “historical” view of faith which Clark believed and taught cannot justify:

First, not all faith is justifying faith. The Bible speaks of several kinds of faith, only one of which is genuine, justifying faith. Historical faith is one kind of non-justifying faith. All that is involved here is an historical assent to the truth claims of the gospel. As taught in James 2:19, even the demons have this kind of faith: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble![22]

But how is it that demons “assenting to the truth claims of the gospel” invalidates saving faith as believing—understanding and agreeing with—the gospel? Whether demons believe the gospel or not (they don’t) is irrelevant, because Christ died only for fallen man, not demons. Or is it because Talbot and Crampton debase it as a “non-justifying,” “historical” faith? The verse only says that the demons believe in one God, not that they believe the gospel. Clark refutes this misapplication of James 2:19 repeatedly:

[The] argument here is that since the devils assent and true believers also assent, something other than assent is needed for saving faith [e.g. trust or fiducia]. This is a logical blunder. The text says the devils believe in monotheism. Why cannot the difference between the devils and Christians be the different propositions believed, rather than a psychological element in belief? [This] assumes a different psychology is needed. It is better to say a different object of belief is needed….[23]

It is illogical to conclude that belief is not assent just because belief in monotheism does not save. The clearer inference is that if belief in monotheism does not save, then one ought to believe something else in addition. Not assent, but monotheism is inadequate.[24]

And if Talbot’s and Crampton’s “historical” faith and “gospel-assenting” demons weren’t bad enough, they stray further still:

In justifying faith the believer appropriates and rests on Christ alone as Mediator in all his offices, based upon the divine testimony of God’s Word. Therefore, orthodox Christianity teaches that justifying faith involves three elements: knowledge (notitia), assent (assensus), and trust (fiducia). It is not enough to know the truth about Jesus Christ; nor is it sufficient merely to assent to the truth claims of the gospel (as in historical faith), as essential as these are. Saving faith is that which also whole-heartedly acquiesces to the Christ revealed in Scripture. Biblical conversion entails a whole-souled commitment. Justifying faith is a faith that makes a fiducial (i.e., a trusting) response to the gospel promises.[25]

But does not “whole-heartedly acquiesce” mean to “whole-heartedly” accept as true? How is this any different from assent? Merriam-Webster defines acquiesce as “to accept, comply, or submit tacitly or passively.” This is why Clark stressed that adding fiducia to faith is a tautology:

The crux of the difficulty with the popular analysis of faith into notitia (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. Something better than this tautology must be found.[26]

Fiducia is the extra “psychological” element that many Protestants add to faith which Clark tirelessly refuted as confused, meaningless, or redundant. Yet Crampton has another article called “Justification by Faith Alone” where he makes the same arguments listed above and heartily approves Jonathan Edwards’ discussion of trust (fiducia):

And clearly for Edwards, saving faith is one that involves trust (fiducia). Saving faith, he wrote, “is the whole soul’s active agreeing, according, and symphonizing with this truth [of the gospel].” It is an “adhering to the truth, and acquiescing in it.” It is an “embracing the promises of God, and fiducial relying on them, through Christ for salvation.” “There is a difference,” preached Edwards, in a sermon on Matthew 16:17, “between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense [taste] of its sweetness.” The same is true regarding saving faith: There is “a true sense of the divine and superlative excellency of God and Jesus Christ, and of the work of redemption, and the ways and works of God.” There is “a true sense of the divine excellency of the things of God’s Word [which] does more directly and immediately convince us of their truth.” When one has this “sense,” he acquiesces to the “light of the glorious gospel of Christ.”[27]

Clark chided those who use analogies involving physical actions to represent “trust,” because faith is a purely mental act of understanding and assenting to propositions. If it were a physical or external act, it would be a work. Here are more examples from Clark’s articles on faith, reason, and knowledge posted on the Gordon H. Clark Foundation website:

The element of trust [fiducia], which Protestants emphasize, defies all explanation and remains in utter confusion. Illustrations, such as actually depositing money in a bank rather than merely believing that the bank is sound, depend on a physical action, in addition to the mental act of believing. Such additional external action is inappropriate to represent the thoroughly inner mental act of faith. Knowledge is an integral part of faith, and not its antithesis.[28]

………………………………………………………..

In describing the nature of faith, fundamentalists, evangelicals and even modernists in a certain way stress the element of trust [fiducia]. A preacher may draw a parallel between trusting in Christ and trusting in a chair. Belief that the chair is solid and comfortable, mere intellectual assent to such a proposition, will not rest your weary bones. You must, the preacher insists, actually sit in the chair. Similarly, so goes the argument, you can believe all that the Bible says about Christ and it will do you no good. Such illustrations as these are constantly used, in spite of the fact that the Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”[29]

………………………………………………………..

Is there such a thing as “mere belief,” or “mere intellectual assent?” Indeed, is there such a distinguishable phenomenon as a “mere” act of will? Intellectual assent is itself an act of will; and conversely, no volitional action could possibly take place without belief. If you will to eat ice cream, you must believe at least that there is some ice cream to be eaten. Intellect and will are not two separate “faculties”; rather they so interpenetrate in a single mental state that it is difficult and perhaps impossible not only to separate them in time but even in definition.[30]

Keep in mind that Clark’s published writings are more authoritative than his unpublished papers; there could be many reasons as to why he didn’t publish them. Nevertheless, Clark’s published material from The Trinity Foundation and unpublished papers from The Gordon H. Clark Foundation reveal the same mind at work—the exact same view of faith as understanding with assent and rejection of tautological trust. Talbot and Crampton have almost completely disregarded their mentor here. So if Jason will denounce Clarkians who affirm JTB and who attribute it to Clark, what’s to stop him from denouncing Drs. Talbot and Crampton who disregard Clark on such a vital issue as faith, and go as far as degrading Clark’s view to a “historical” faith that cannot justify?

 

Can the Blind Lead the Blind?

Our point is not to denounce Talbot, Crampton, and Jason as pseudo-Clarkians; our point is that Jason’s Diotrephesian demeaner betrays him. Not only did he denounce someone who didn’t accord with his own misrepresentations of Clark—exposing his own ignorance in the process—he has shown himself to be an unreliable source who’s not nearly as familiar with Clark as he claims to be. Jason evidently hasn’t read much of Clark because he seems unfamiliar with a basic catalog of his publications. In his response to Luke Miner, for example, he claims that

there is a nature of man, and Clark wrote about this at length in many books, but perhaps most in depth, in his book, “What do Presbyterians Believe?” If one makes ontological statements, one cannot dismiss the term, “ontology.”[31]

Jason refers to a 13-page chapter as “perhaps [Clark’s] most in depth” discussion on man, even though Clark also wrote a 130-page treatise called The Biblical Doctrine of Man.[32] He rarely quotes Clark directly and misleadingly presents his own views as Clark’s. It’s hard to find primary source treatment of Clark’s works on his website or Facebook posts other than excuses as to why he can’t furnish citations. Jason has much to learn from men like John Robbins, whom he would do well to read rather than malign:

One of the characteristics of a competent historian [and teacher, scholar, etc.] is his practice of citing primary sources for his statements. If he makes an assertion about a person’s views, for example, he quotes the words of that person. He does not merely quote or cite someone else, especially an opponent or critic of that person.[33]

Instead of self-aggrandizing our platforms to lord it over others, and making false, unjustified (pun intended) assertions without substantial references to push self-promoting agendas and those of schismatic seminary faculties—we need humility to sharpen and be sharpened by our peers.

There’s more to this than a petty Facebook scuffle. It’s about the damage being done to Clark and his followers by self-proclaimed Clark experts who misrepresent him and promote factious agendas that slander, defame, and undermine the valuable, edifying work of other Clarkians and their ministries. We can and should seek to be of one mind as Christians, especially if we share similar Reformed convictions and appreciation for one of the greatest Christian philosophers and theologians of all time. But it will not happen until Jason and those like him take heed and repent.

Imperious Presbyterians [and Christians from any denomination] seriously err in their emphasis by behaving as if authority is the essence of ecclesiastical office, rather than service.

Sadly, there is a Scriptural example pertaining to the distorted outlook of the Imperious Presbyterians. It is Diotrephes, who loved “to have the preeminence” (3 John 9) and abused his position to thwart the Apostle John. It is a tragic case when men in our day, professing to be Presbyterian pastors, exhibit more of the spirit of Diotrephes than of the Spirit of Christ and Paul.[34]

Semper Reformanda,

Carlos Montijo and Tim Shaughnessy

Postscript

1/10/2016 – Last night, Jason posted the following on the Clarkian Apologetics Facebook group:

Jason L. Petersen 10 hrs · Pensacola, FL

Thank you all for your support in this group. We are very, very, appreciative of your participation and understanding concerning the rules that we have laid out. At some parts of this post, I will be repeating what has been told to me by the Foundation, and at other parts, I will be speaking for myself.

Unfortunately, the Gordon Clark Foundation has concluded that the format we have chosen for this group will not work either. At first, we allowed for a discussion group that also would allow the admins to post content that we think is informative and edifying for the group. Unfortunately, there were some who just wanted to pick a fight.

After having issues with people who wanted to pick a fight on social media, we decided to change the format so that some discussion would be had. We laid out a very specific and strict set of rules. Unfortunately, some did not wish to adhere to the rules, and instead of respecting the intentions and rules of the group, they sought to teach everyone that the information we provided was not trustworthy. This was set to be a sort of classroom-like setting, but the tools given to us on Facebook is not enough to support such a format.

Now, I personally have made some mistakes in this group. First, I blocked two people that I still maintain respect for when it was not necessary. Second, I publicly stated that John Robbins edited Dr. Clark’s work on faith without having the resources immediately at the ready. I personally apologize and repent for both of these things.

I’d also like to say that I am not one that is officially a part of the Gordon Clark foundation. I am endorsed by the foundation, but I simply help out. With all of the feuds that has started with some individuals from the Gordon Clark Discussion Group, it has been determined that a format such as this is not appropriate for the foundation.

At this time, we plan to start a new group. There will be no members (except for admins) allowed in this group. The group will be open to the public. The public may choose to read the content that we post or ignore it. The goal of the Gordon Clark Foundation is to get Clark’s writings, published and unpublished out into the open. One issue that surfaces when one is trying to achieve this goal is that there may be some who may add a thought (be it in an apparent agreement or disagreement) that is not exactly what Dr. Clark believed. The main goal of the foundation in starting a group like this was to get the content from the Foundation out there. Ricky W. Roldan and I were the main participants, but the actual members of the Foundation did not participate very much because they did not like the way the format was working out. There are a few very qualified individuals that have expressed a willingness to help out in producing content for the Foundation, but some have held back because they do not want to risk getting involved in a time-wasting social media debate.

Therefore, we will start a new group where people can either choose to read Dr. Clark’s articles and our own musings, or ignore us entirely.

As for this group, I will either take it over myself from the Foundation, or I will remove it from Facebook. I am not entirely sure of what I wish to do with it yet (I would appreciate some feedback on it).

Although there have been a lot of people who have speculated that our intention is to censor the ideas of others, and that we are “not teachable,” and other bad things, many of you have been very supportive and expressed a desire for the type of format that we have now. I am very sorry that it did not work out. The choice we faced was either to let the group spin out of control and undermine the intentions that we had when we started the group, or to remove people (as we did) for violating the rules, and then allow them to speculate about and misconstrue our intent for removing them. For us, this is truly a no-win situation. The only thing to do is to create a new group and go from there.

I thank you all again. You have been a great encouragement. I will post more information in this group when I have it. Blessings.

Jason’s prompt response appears to be a step in the right direction; we look forward to working things out with him.

4/1/2017 – Jason has reached out to us and made amends, and we’re discussing these matters with him in a spirit of brotherly love and hope to interview him on Semper Reformanda Radio soon. He no longer believes that John Robbins altered Gordon Clark’s books and appears to lean more towards knowledge as Justified True Belief as well (see http://answersforhope.org/39-distinguish-knowledge-opinion/).


Notes

[1] Jason Petersen, “A Conversation with Luke Miner,” Answers for Hope, 30 Dec 2015, accessed 1 Jan 2016, http://answersforhope.org/a-conversation-with-luke-miner/

[2] Petersen, http://answersforhope.org/a-conversation-with-luke-miner/. Jason eventually kicked out Tim Shaughnessy from the Facebook group for questioning his unfounded claim that Robbins allegedly altered Clark’s books.

[3] Petersen, http://answersforhope.org/a-conversation-with-luke-miner/.

[4] Gordon H. Clark, An Introduction to Christian Philosophy, in The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark, Volume 4 (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2004), p. 300-301. Bold emphasis ours. Quoted in Sean Gerety’s comment on 26 April 2007, “Must Clarkians use some Emperical Analysis & Inductive Reasoning?”, Puritan Board, http://www.puritanboard.com/showthread.php/20726-Must-Clarkians-use-some-Emperical-Analysis-amp-Inductive-Reasoning/page2

[5] Clark, An Introduction to Christian Philosophy, p. 322. Bold emphasis ours. Quoted in Sean Gerety, “Biblical Epistemology 101,” God’s Hammer, 27 Jan 2013, https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2009/01/24/ink-marks-on-a-page/

[6] Gordon H. Clark, “Plato’s Theory of Knowledge,” The Gordon H. Clark Foundation, accessed 1 Jan 2016, http://thegordonhclarkfoundation.com/platos-theory-of-knowledge-by-gordon-h-clark/

[7] Gordon H. Clark, Lord God of Truth (Hobbs, NM: The Trinity Foundation, 1994), p. 40. Bold emphasis ours. Thanks to CJay Engel for finding this quote. For “a reasonably complete proof that Gordon Clark did, indeed, consistently use the term “knowledge” distinctly from true belief (or true opinion),” see his and Luke’s article, “Gordon Clark and Knowledge: On Justification,” http://scripturalism.com/gordon-clark-and-knowledge-on-justification/

[8] See a Google Books Ngram Viewer analysis of “justified true belief” from 1500 to 1985 at https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=justified+true+belief&case_insensitive=on&year_start=0&year_end=1985&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t4%3B%2Cjustified%20true%20belief%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bjustified%20true%20belief%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BJustified%20True%20Belief%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BJustified%20true%20belief%3B%2Cc0

[9] Sean Gerety, “Biblical Epistemology 101,” God’s Hammer, 27 Jan 2013, accessed 3 Jan 2016, https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/biblical-epistemology-101/

[10] Sean Gerety, “Ink Marks on a Page,” God’s Hammer, 24 Jan 2009, accessed 3 Jan 2016, https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2009/01/24/ink-marks-on-a-page/

[11] Robert L. Reymond, The Justification of Knowledge: An Introductory Study in Christian Apologetic Methodology (San Jose, CA: Pacific Institute of Religious Studies, 1998), p. 68, http://www.sgbcsv.org/literature/JustificationOfKnowledge.pdf.

[12] Reymond, Justification of Knowledge, p. 70.

[13] Reymond, Justification of Knowledge, p. 100.

[14] John W. Robbins, “An Introduction to Gordon H. Clark,” The Trinity Review (July/Aug 1993), http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=192. Emphasis ours.

[15] W. Gary Crampton, “Scripturalism: A Christian Worldview,” The Trinity Review 299 (March/May 2011), http://trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=276. Bold emphasis ours. See also Crampton’s The Scripturalism of Gordon H. Clark (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1999), p. 46:

An important part of Gordon Clark’s epistemology is his distinction between knowledge and opinion. There is a difference between that which we know and that which we opine. Knowledge is not only possessing ideas or thoughts; it is possessing true ideas or thoughts. Knowledge is knowledge of the truth; it is justified true belief. Only the Word of God (that which “is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture”) gives such knowledge.

[16] Gordon H. Clark, “Know, Knowledge,” The Gordon H. Clark Foundation, accessed 6 Jan 2016, http://thegordonhclarkfoundation.com/know-knowledge-by-gordon-h-clark/

[17] Gordon H. Clark, “What Is Saving Faith?”, The Trinity Review 206 (Jan/Feb 2004), http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=102

[18] Gordon H. Clark, What Is Saving Faith? (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2004), p. 88, http://www.trinitylectures.org/what-is-saving-faith-p-60.html. Emphasis ours. This book combines Faith and Saving Faith and The Johannine Logos into one volume.

[19] On 26 September 2015, we messaged Dr. Kenneth Talbot privately to inquire about his attacks on John Robbins. He thanked us for expressing our concern but declined to comment. Here’s what Tim asked:

My friend Carlos and I have strongly considered attending your school in the future and I am grateful for your presence in the ministry of Christ. I count you as a brother in the Lord and have benefitted from you personally. That’s why I find this difficult now.

I want to approach this carefully and respectfully, but I feel that I need to say something. I have recently found myself discouraged and even troubled to some extent by the way you speak about John Robbins and the Trinity Foundation. I have heard you speak negatively of Robbins and the TF in the past and have ignored it. Recently on Jason Petersen’s wall you said the following:

This is not the first time I have heard you say something like this and I am disturbed by it. I don’t know anything really about Cheung but I find it surprising that you would say such things about Robbins.

I have benefited greatly from Dr. Robbins’ writings and the Trinity Foundation which has been committed to keeping and defending the legacy of Dr. Clark. I have used Dr. Robbins’ work in my own writings and have a high regard for the man. I don’t share in your assessment of Robbins or the TF and I wanted to know if this is the impression you give your students. I should also tell you that when I first heard of your school I asked Tom Juodaitis about it and he affirmed that it was the only school that was favorable to Clark and he had nothing negative to say about you or your school. I will not have time to reply back to you right now but I look forward to hearing from you.

You can also check out my writing and see if it reflects the type of attitude you have a problem with.

God Bless, Tim

Here’s what I (Carlos) asked:

Dr. Talbot you criticized Robbins publicly so we didn’t think you’d have a problem giving details. Isn’t the attitude you express against him the same attitude you’re accusing Robbins of? Why would you defame a man who loved Clark and dedicated his life to promoting and preserving his legacy? Clark obviously held Robbins in high regard if he asked him to finish his book [The Incarnation] on his deathbed. It sounds like you’re slandering him. I don’t understand why you defame Robbins and the Trinity Foundation—who defend and promote Clark—while you also affiliate with people who criticize Clark and have no regard for him like Joel McDurmon [listen to “An interview of Joel McDurmon: Researcher and Writer for American Vision”] and Jeff Durban, who had Oliphint recklessly misrepresent Clark and falsely accuse him of heresy on his show (https://www.facebook.com/ApologiaRadio/posts/324063354406639).

These are some of the reasons Tim and I are no longer considering Whitefield Seminary, and no longer recommend it even though they’re one of the few seminaries that incorporate Gordon Clark into their curriculum. For more information see Sean Gerety’s “Faith Is Understanding With Assent” and “Whitefield Follies,” as well as Luke Miner’s “Clark on Saving Faith in 1961.” There are still very strong misrepresentations–even slanders–of Clark today, particularly from Van Tilians. Here are a few examples from Scott Oliphint, Apologia Radio, and Reformed Forum:

 

[20] Gordon H. Clark, “Faith,” The Gordon H. Clark Foundation, accessed 3 Jan 2016, http://thegordonhclarkfoundation.com/faith-by-gordon-h-clark/

[21] Clark, “Faith,” http://thegordonhclarkfoundation.com/faith-by-gordon-h-clark/

[22] Kenneth G. Talbot and W. Gary Crampton, Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism: A Theological Primer, 3rd ed. (1990), p. 112. To request the free ebook version, see http://whitefieldmedia.us4.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=2209ac66c06c8383a9ce36dfd&id=f5a1e983ce

[23] Clark, What Is Saving Faith?, p. 152.

[24] Clark, What Is Saving Faith?, p. 153.

[25] Talbot and Crampton, Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism, p. 114. See also John Robbins’ “R. C. Sproul on Saving Faith,” http://trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=238. Talbot and Crampton’s view of faith is like Sproul’s.

[26] Gordon H. Clark, “Saving Faith”, The Trinity Review (Dec 1979), http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=10

[27] W. Gary Crampton, “Justification by Faith Alone,” A Puritan’s Mind, accessed 31 Dec 2015, http://www.apuritansmind.com/justification/justification-by-faith-alone-by-w-gary-crampton-th-d/

[28] Clark, “Know, Knowledge,” http://thegordonhclarkfoundation.com/know-knowledge-by-gordon-h-clark/

[29] Clark, “Faith and Reason,” http://thegordonhclarkfoundation.com/faith-and-reason-by-gordon-h-clark/. Emphasis ours.

[30] Gordon H. Clark, “Faith and Reason,” The Gordon H. Clark Foundation, accessed 6 Jan 2016, http://thegordonhclarkfoundation.com/faith-and-reason-by-gordon-h-clark/. Emphasis ours.

[31] Petersen, http://answersforhope.org/a-conversation-with-luke-miner/

[32] Gordon H. Clark, The Biblical Doctrine of Man, 2nd ed. (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1992), http://www.trinitylectures.org/biblical-doctrine-of-man-the-p-50.html

[33] John W. Robbins, Can the Orthodox Presbyterian Church Be Saved? (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2004), p. 13, http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=232

[34] Kevin Reed, “Imperious Presbyterianism,” The Trinity Review (June/Aug 2008), http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=254v

4 Comments
  1. John Bradshaw 6 months ago

    A very helpful and well written article. Thankyou so much.

  2. Charlie J. Ray 6 months ago

    Odd that you never once mentioned logic in this discussion or the system of logical propositions advocated by Clark. It seems to me that you missed the mark as much as those you are criticizing.

    • Author
      Carlos Montijo 6 months ago

      Thanks for your feedback, Mr. Ray, but it seems you completely missed the point of the article. The point is not to answer what makes a true Clarkian; it’s to respond to alleged claims to “true” Clarkianism that are both fruitless and false.

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