This is the third and last of Dr. Clark’s replies to Buswell’s review and critique of Clark’s work, A CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION. Buswell had begun with a review of that work, to which Clark replied, Buswell commented, and so on. As with the Buswell-Van Til exchange, in this exchange Buswell gives his opponent the last word (though in Van Til’s case, Buswell peppered CVT’s final reply with editorial comments. Clark at least faired better, in that regard.
System and Induction
By GORDON H. CLARK
This is the third in a series of short articles by Dr. Clark. The others, accompanied by argumentative editorial comments of my own, are found in the December 1947 and January 1948, issues of The Bible Today. The series was started off by my review of his recent book, A Christian Philosophy of Education, in The Bible Today for October, 1947.
I must confess that, as I see it, Dr. Clark fails in the present article to meet the issues. Rather than repeating, I suggest that the reader who wishes answers to what Dr. Clark says and to the questions he asks here, will find the answers in my editorials in the December and January issues. My arguments have not been answered.
(While searching, the reader might look for the alleged place where I have “admitted that the cosmological argument is a formal logical fallacy.” I haven’t found that place!) For the present then, I shall let Dr. Clark have the last word. I think you are making a great mistake, good brother. — Ed.
A sound rule of Biblical exegesis is that the meaning of a crucial word should be determined by the context, the author’s usage, and his intent. For example, the meaning of the words faith, flesh, redeem, sin, life, death, are neither necessarily nor usually just the same in the New Testament as they are in pagan writers. To assume that the meanings are the same would reduce parts of the New Testament to absurdity. Similarly it is a sound rule for criticizing contemporary books to determine the meaning of the author. If one of his words interpreted in one way makes nonsense of some of his paragraphs, it would be wiser to seek another meaning than to jump to the conclusion that the author makes no sense. Furthermore, an author may use the same word in several senses. A critic cannot legitimately require a writer to confine himself to just one strict meaning.
It seems to me that Dr. Buswell in his book review of A Christian Philosophy of Education and in his two Editorial Comments violates this principle of interpretation. He seems to insist, even in his January Editorial Comment, that system can mean only “a more or less consistent or inconsistent complex of thoughts.”
I defended the legitimacy of my usage of the word system by two citations. The first was from Brand Blanshard: The Nature of Thought. Dr. Buswell, it seems to me, confuses the isuue by first objecting to elements of Professor Blanshard’s philosophy. I too am in fundamental disagreement with that philosophy; but the point at issue was not certain phases of rationalistic idealism, but whether the word system can be used in the sense of a perfectly consistent series of propositions. Having thus confused the issue, Dr. Buswell continues by arguing that Professor Blanshard did not so use the word system. His reason is that Professor Blanshard uses the word system in the other sense also. If by “fragmentary systems, whose parts are connected by the most diverse relations” Professor Blanshard indeed means “more or less inconsistent complex of thoughts,” still it does not follow that he has not also used the word in the sense of a perfectly consistent series of truths. An author cannot legitimately be required to use a word in only one sense.
Webster’s Dictionary also, to which Dr. Buswell appeals, allows of several meanings. There is nothing in Webster that requires Dr. Buswell’s preferred meaning. In fact neither Webster nor Funk and Wagnalls even mention Dr. Buswell’s inconsistent complex. Read the rest of this entry »