The Evil of Gordon Clark
Recently I was skimming a couple
books by Gordon Clark. The more I read of Clark, the more I see how evil he
really was. Check out what Clark thinks of the atonement:
"The thief on the cross said, 'Lord, remember me;' and Jesus replied, 'Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.' After a life of crime one of the three worst criminals in the nation -- Barabbas had been released -- this thief received assurance of heaven. He could hardly have known much about Jesus. He certainly had no notion of saving faith, let alone of the Trinity, the Atonement, or the second advent. Yet, on the authority of Jesus, we know that he was saved" (Faith and Saving Faith, p. 1). Clark goes on to say that "the thief knew more than most people think he did," but, according to Clark, the thief did not know about the Atonement. Thus, if we assume that Clark believed that every saved person believes the gospel, we must conclude that Clark believed that the gospel does not include the Atonement.
And speaking of that book (Faith and Saving Faith), one would think that, since Clark believed that saving faith is assent to certain propositions, his book on saving faith would include what specific propositions are assented to in saving faith. Or else, what good is the book? Well, does Clark give the essential propositions to which all with saving faith assent? No. He asks the question, but he never answers it. For example, he says, "Still a most embarrassing question has not yet been answered, or even asked. It is this: If the object of saving faith is a proposition, what is that proposition? ... Surely no one is justified by believing that Abraham lived about 2000 B.C., or that Saul was the first King of Israel, though bot h of these propositions are completely Scriptural. Nor can we as Protestants believe implicitly whatever the Bible says. Calvin put it tersely: implicit faith is ignorance, not knowledge. What one has never heard or read cannot be believed, for faith cometh by hearing. Hearing what? We do not hear or read the whole Bible every day; we cannot remember it, if we read it through once a year. And a recent convert has probably never read it all. Then which verse, of the several an evangelist might quote, is the one which, believed, justifies the sinner? Has any reader of this study ever heard a minister answer or even ask this question? When this subject was touched on many pages back, it was said that repentance was necessary. 'Repent and be baptized' is a well-known command. But it does not answer the present question. To repent is to change one's mind. But in what respect? Beliefs, resolutions, ideas come and go. We are always changing our minds, and obviously there are many changes of mind that have nothing to do with justification. The question presses upon us: which change of mind?" (pp. 107-108)
The reader would then expect Clark to answer the question. What propositions make up justifying faith? What is that change of mind that is true evangelical repentance? But look at what Clark says next:
"Any attentive reader -- there are many inattentive -- must face the problem. But though the question is so obvious, the answer is not. Indeed, the question has no answer; that is, no single answer" (p. 108).
Oh? So Clark will not give us the answer to the life or death question -- what is to be believed? When Clark commanded people to repent and believe, what did he mean? Clark goes on to give the examples of Justin Martyr, whose "view of the atonement was abysmal," according to Clark (p.109), and the people in Corinth who denied the resurrection, and asks this question: "But to what justifying propositions did he [Justin Martyr] or they [those in Corinth who denied the resurrection] assent?" (p. 109) He is assuming that Justin Martyr, whose "view of the atonement was abysmal" and those in Corinth who denied the resurrection assented to justifying propositions! He goes on:
"Now, Justin Martyr was not a moron. Morons have doubtless been regenerated and justified. Some members of extremely primitive tribes also, with their minds incredibly confused. What propositions did they believe?" (p. 109)
So is he going to answer the question or not? What "justifying propositions" did Justin Martyr believe? What "justifying propositions" did the people in Corinth who denied the resurrection believe? (Clark's questions, not mine. The truth is that Justin Martyr and the people in Corinth who denied the resurrection were NOT believers.) What "justifying propositions" did the thief on the cross believe? Is Clark going to tell us? No! What does Clark conclude?
"There seems to be no other conclusion but that God justifies sinners by means of many combinations of propositions believed" (p. 110) And can some of these combinations NOT include the proposition of the atonement? YES, according to Clark. Right at the beginning of the book, in the first two paragraphs of the introduction to a book on saving faith, Clark used the example of the thief on the cross to show that saving faith does NOT NECESSARILY INCLUDE BELIEF IN THE ATONEMENT!!
And how does Clark end the book? The last paragraph is this: "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" (p. 118). No mention of what these Biblical propositions are -- just a statement that all saving faith is assent to one or more Biblical propositions. This is how a book on Faith and Saving Faith ends? That we don't know specifically what saving faith believes?
Now, according to Clark, is one of the Biblical propositions that is part of all saving faith a proposition about the atonement? NO!!! According to Gordon Clark, on page ONE of this book, the thief on the cross, who HAD SAVING FAITH, HAD NO NOTION OF THE ATONEMENT.
And check out what Clark says about Arminianism in God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics.
He first says that it is belief in the Bible as God's Word that separates true Christianity from all other false religions:
"Metaphorically the first chapter of the Westminster Confession is a continental divide. Although the written Word of God has been the touchstone of pure doctrine in all ages, the twentieth century shows still more clearly that this chapter forms the great divide between two types of religion, or to make it of broader application, two types of philosophy. Perhaps it would be plainer to say that the acceptance of the Bible as God's written revelation separates true Christianity from all other types of thought" (p. 189).
So what is the non-Christian side of this "continental divide," according to Clark? He goes on to "select two contemporary schools of philosophy" that are on the non-Christian side: Atheism (naturalism, secularism, humanism), and neo-orthodoxy (pp. 189-197). So what is on the truly Christian side of this "continental divide," according to Clark? Well, I'm sure you guys know what's coming. This is under the heading "Arminianism and Calvinism":
"On the other side of the continental divide, the water flows in the opposite direction. Instead of the stifling deserts of Arizona, the Mississippi Valley with its wheat and corn come into view. Here we have life and the fruits of the soil. However, not all the soil, not all the rivers on the east of the divide are equally fruitful. ... There is one stream which, accepting the Scripture as the only infallible rule of faith and practice, does not accept all the other thirty-two chapters of the Confession. Though it may accept several, and be called broadly evangelical, it rejects chapter three and other chapters which are definitely Calvinistic. The waters of this stream flow in the same general direction, and we rejoice that they eventually reach the same heavenly ocean; but they flow through stony ground with sparse vegetation, or sometimes they ooze through swamps where the vegetation is dense enough but unhealthful and useless. This stream in its rocky course babbles about faith and repentance being the cause instead of the result of regeneration; and it claims that its swampy 'free-will' can either block or render effective the almighty power of God. All there is time to say of this stream of thought is that its inconsistencies make it an easy prey to the attacks of humanism. It cannot defend the principle of revelation because it has misunderstood the contents of revelation. On the other hand, that blest river of salvation, flowing through the land of tall corn and sturdy cattle is to be identified with the great Reformers. ... [blah blah blah]" (p. 198).
Clark believed that the waters of the Arminian stream, although tangled with heresy, eventually reach the heavenly ocean. Clark obviously did not believe that Arminians, even though they believe that faith and repentance are the cause of regeneration, believe a false gospel. In fact, he believed that ALL true Arminians MUST be regenerate persons, as I showed in www.outsidethecamp.org/notf.htm !
"Now it was a bit strange that this gentleman should have requested this hymn and should have sung it with such praise and devotion. For he did not like Calvinism; all his life he had been an Arminian; he did not believe in 'eternal security,' as he called it; and he had been telling his friends so for years. Even now he would have disowned the name of Calvinism. But could it be that without realizing it he had now come to believe, and that his earlier Arminian views had changed with the color of his hair?
"If it is strange that this lovely Arminian saint could become at least somewhat of a Calvinist without knowing it ...
"What should be particularly noted in this section is how the doctrine of perseverance fits in with all the other doctrines. God is not irrational or insane. What he says hangs together; it forms a logical system. Election, total depravity, effectual calling, sovereign grace, and perseverance are mutually consistent. God does not contradict himself. But Arminian saints do" (What Do Presbyterians Believe?, pp. 61-62, 169-171).
"Note, however, that Nicodemus, a ruler in Israel, did not
easily understand. The early Gentile Christians could hardly understand. Even
the Church Fathers were seriously deficient. For three hundred years or more
they could not understand the Person of Christ; they learned the Trinity a
little faster; but their soteriology, the significance of Christ's death,
escaped them for centuries. Justin Martyr, for example, was of course a martyr;
he probably was a Christian; but with his view of the Atonement I would not
have voted to receive him as a communicant member of our congregation" (Today's Evangelism: Counterfeit or
Genuine?, The Trinity Foundation, 1990, p. 100).
In What Do Presbyterians Believe?, Gordon Clark wrote the following:
"An Arminian may be a truly regenerate Christian; in fact, if he is truly an Arminian and not a Pelagian who happens to belong to an Arminian church, he must be a saved man. But he is not usually, and cannot consistently be assured of his salvation. The places in which his creed differs from our Confession confuse the mind, dilute the Gospel, and impair its proclamation. The Arminian system holds (1) that God elects persons to eternal life on the condition of their reception of grace and their perseverance as foreseen; (2) that Christ died, not as the substitute for certain men, definitely to assume their penalty, but to render a chance of salvation indifferently possible to all men; (3) that all men have the same influence of the Holy Ghost operating on them, so that some are saved because they cooperate, and others are lost because they resist, thus in effect making salvation depend on the will of man; and (4) that since salvation is not made certain by God's decree nor by Christ's sacrifice, and since man's will is free or independent of God's control, a regenerate man can unregenerate himself and ultimately be lost" (pp. 174-175).
In The Atonement, Clark wrote this: "At any rate, according to Arminians [all of whom must be saved, according to Clark], Christ never actually procured the reconciliation of anyone: He merely removed the obstacle of divine justice so as to make all mankind salvable. The Atonement has no efficacy in itself so far as application goes. For that matter, on their [the Arminians, all of whom must be saved, according to Clark] theory, the ransom might not have released anyone. In other words, Christ did not intend to save anybody, nor did his death insure [sic] the salvation of anybody. Salvation is an additional work of man's free will" (p. 139).
From these quotes, we can conclude that Gordon Clark believed that all true Arminians, all of whom believe that (a) Christ did not die as the substitute for certain men, definitely to assume their penalty, (b) salvation is not made certain by Christ's sacrifice, (c) Christ never actually procured the reconciliation of anyone, (d) the Atonement has no efficacy in itself, and (e) Christ's death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, MUST be regenerate people. Or, put another way, Gordon Clark believed that there are people who believe that (a) Christ did not die as the substitute for certain men, definitely to assume their penalty, (b) salvation is not made certain by Christ's sacrifice, (c) Christ never actually procured the reconciliation of anyone, (d) the Atonement has no efficacy in itself, and (e) Christ's death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, who are saved. Thus, Gordon Clark did not believe that the gospel includes the doctrines that (a) Christ died as a substitute for certain men, definitely to assume their penalty, (b) that salvation is made certain by Christ's sacrifice, (c) that Christ actually procured the reconciliation of all whom He represented, (d) that the atonement has efficacy in itself, (e) that Christ's death ensured the salvation of all whom He represented. If Gordon Clark was not unregenerate, then there has never been an unregenerate man on the face of this earth.
The tolerant Calvinists are as disgusting and vile as the worst homosexual perverts. They cast shame and reproach on our Lord Jesus Christ. My brothers, let us stand firm against such vile wickedness and expose it as damnable heresy wherever we encounter it.