Primary Sources for the Presbyterian Masses

Buswell Reviews Clark (1947)

In J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. on 23/07/2011 at 13:03

Prior to the series of articles on presuppositionalism that appeared in THE BIBLE TODAY, there was about a year earlier another series begun by Dr. Buswell when he reviewed A CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY, by Dr. Gordon H. Clark. This series of exchanges between Buswell and Clark will include the following:

Articles in the Buswell-Clark Series :
1. “A Christian Philosophy of History: A Book Review,” by J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., The Bible Today 41.1 (October 1947): 3-15.
2. “Dr. Clark Comments,” by Gordon H. Clark, The Bible Today 41.3 (December 1947): 67-70.
3.  ”Dr. Clark’s Comments—Editorial Note,” by J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., The Bible Today 41.3 (December 1947): 70-74.
4. “Does the Bible Sanction Apologetic?,” by Vernon Grounds, The Bible Today 41.3 (December 1947): 84-89.
4. “Concerning System and Demonstration,” by Gordon H. Clark, The Bible Today 41.4 (January 1948): 109-114.
5.  ”Editorial Comment,” by J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., The Bible Today 41.4 (January 1948): 114-118.
6. “System and Induction,” by Gordon H. Clark, The Bible Today 41.6 (March 1948): 173-177.

On a related note, see also these articles by the Rev. David S. Clark, father of Gordon H. Clark :
1. The Philosophical Basis of Christianity, by Rev. David S. Clark, The Presbyterian 94.50 (11 December 1924): 6-7.
2. Modernism and the Higher Criticism, by Rev. David S. Clark, D.D., The Presbyterian 95.1 (1 January 1925): 8-9.

“A Christian Philosophy of History”[1]

Dr. Clark is a competent scholar of outstanding achievements, and a well informed, devout Bible-believing Christian. His B.A. and Ph.D. degrees were taken at the University of Pennsylvania. Of unquestioned loyalty to Christ and the Bible, his teaching and his writings have exemplified a high order of learning which does honor to his Phi Beta Kappa key.

It has been remarked by prominent teachers of philosophy, and Dr. Clark calls attention to the fact (p. 6), that whereas the Roman Catholics have presented their philosophy in a fairly well integrated form, based upon the teachings of Thomas Aquinas,[2] the Protestant philosophy has not been presented (at least not as a technical system of metaphysics) in any compact body of philosophical writings.

To meet this need in part Dr. Clark has undertaken to write not a Protestant philosophy in general, but a philosophy of education which, as he says, is one of the important branches of the field.

Dr. Clark has indeed made a noteworthy contribution. Whereas, so far as bulk is concerned, this review may seem critical, I should like to urge that the excellencies of his work so far outweigh the points which I criticize, that there is no comparison. It is hoped that the book will be widely read and circulated not only by school teachers but especially by parents who seriously care to fulfill their obligations in bringing up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” I have heard that someone in conversation once criticized Charles Hodge for the bulk of negative material in a certain portion of his writings. Thereupon Hodge produced a marine map and showed that by far the larger number of notations were to be found in the shallow waters near shore. The great open stretches of the ocean where the sailing is clear were generally characterized by absence of comment. So it is with my review of this product of the workmanship of my good friend and former colleague.


My most basic criticism has to do with Dr. Clark’s theory of evidences. He is one of a group of earnest Bible-believing younger professors who do not regard the traditional arguments for the existence of God as valid, and who give entirely inadequate logical place to the historical data of the Christian message. He denies that we have any common ground, in facts and rationality, with unbelievers. His constructive view is given in the following words:

Persuasion therefore is not an appeal to a common ground or [should read of (?)] non-Christian experience. Persuasion must be regarded as a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. The faithful Christian presents the Christian faith to an unbeliever, he explains it and shows it in all its fulness. Then the Christian prays that the Holy Spirit regenerate his auditor, renew his mind, open his eyes, and enable him to see the truth of what was said. This is not an appeal to a common ground ; it is an appeal to God. (p. 164)

I thoroughly agree with the affirmations in the above quotation. It is the denial of a common ground in factual and reasonable material to which I strongly object. Indeed in our proclamation of the Gospel we are utterly dependent upon the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. No word of ours would have the slightest effect were it not for the fact, promised by the Lord, that the Holy Spirit “will convict the world.” (John 16:8)  In this, however, we have a constant principle of all Christian activity. In explaining our dependence upon the Holy Spirit in evangelistic activities, Paul used the obvious illustration of agriculture. “I planted, Apollos waters ; but God gave the increase.” (I Cor. 3:6)  Is the farmer not on some common ground with his crops, because he trusts God for the increase? The Apostle Paul in his own ministry constantly assumed a direct transitive interaction between his proclamation of the Gospel and the mind of the unbeliever. “Knowing . . . the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.” (II Cor. 5:11)

Charles Hodge (Systematic Theology, Volume III, p. 79f.) points out that the denial of a common rational factual ground between believers and unbelievers is found in certain historical Lutheran writings, but is contrary to the Calvinistic position. Dr. Clark is a “High Calvinist.” It is strange that in our generation several prominent “High Calvinists” have take a distinctly non-Calvinistic position in denying common intellectual ground between believers and unbelievers.

Calvin and Luther are not our infallible authorities, important as they are as guides and helpers to the understanding of the Scriptures. The Bible itself from beginning to end assumes a common ground of rational understanding and factual data between the inspired writers and unbelievers. Isaiah cries, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.” (Isaiah 1:18)  Psalm 82, verses 6 and 7, gives a positive statement that wicked men are in some genuine sense related to the living God. Christ (John 10:35) explains this text as meaning that these were men “unto whom the Word of God came.” And He adds “the Scripture cannot be broken.” It is precisely because there is a common ground in fact and reason between the Word of God and sinful men, that Christ could come “in [not sinful flesh but] the likeness of sinful flesh.” (Romans 8:3)

In summarizing anti-Christian arguments to the effect that miracles are not valid evidences of Christianity, Dr. Clark further expounds his negative attitude.

Suppose Jesus did rise from the grave. This only proves that His body resumed its activities for a while after His crucifixion ; it does not prove that he died for our sin or that He was the Son of God.[3]  While this line of anti-Christian argument contains certain misstatements, none the less the inference in the last statement is valid. (p. 35)

Dr. Clark continues “The resurrection, viewly purely as an isolated historical event, does not prove that Christ died for our sin . . . ” But I insist that the phrase “viewed purely as an isolated historical event” is an unreasonable qualification, contrary to all the presuppositions in traditional presentation of Christian evidences. Dr. Clark does not believe that any historical event is “isolated” and neither do the atheistic naturalists.

Of modern non-rationalism which Dr. Clark erroneously calls irrationalism, he says

. . . even the rationality of the universe is brought into question, and it requires little insight to realize that historical events are no defense against such an attack. (p. 37)

On the same page he argues that historical events “do not constitute theism.” He uses the word constitute twice in this paragraph in the same unreasonable manner. No theist has ever argued that historical events constitute theism. Historical Christian evangelism has held that events constitute evidence for theism.

It is Dr. Clark’s opinion that

. . . instead of beginning with facts and later discovering God, unless a thinker begins with God, he can never end with God or get the facts either, (p. 38)

Paul, on the contrary, taught that the very physical environment of men is intended by divine Providence to prompt them to seek and find God:

And He made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek God, if haply they might feel after Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26,27)


Dr. Clark continues

Traditionally, three types of argument have been used to prove the existence of God; if any one of them should prove validly the existence of the God of the Holy Scriptures, the battle would be over and archeology would be merely the subsequent operation of mopping up. But is any one of these three arguments valid? (p. 38)

The three arguments referred to, the ontological, cosmological, and teleological, were rejected by Kant on the grounds of his own erroneous assumptions, as Robert Flint[4] and James Orr have clearly shown. I sought to set before the readers of The Bible Today the fallacies of Kant’s position in an article entitled Pauline Theism and Kant on the Theistic Arguments, March, 1947.

The ontological argument, not in its Anselmic form, but in the Cartesian form which Dr. Clark ignores, holds that the idea of the God of the Bible is of such a nature that this idea could never be derived from mere humanistic experience. God Himself must be the cause of the idea. “The world by its wisdom knew not God.” (I Cor. 1:21) Just as the dwellers on a low tropical island could never from their own limited data form a notion of a snow-capped mountain, without information from the outside world, so the idea of the God of the Bible can only be accounted for by revelation from God Himself. Paul at least considered this valid reasoning and developed the thought at considerable length in the early chapters of First Corinthians.

The so-called cosmological argument is precisely the teaching of Paul in Romans 1:20. The visible created cosmos is such clear evidence for the invisible attributes of God, His eternal power and deity, that unbelievers are “without excuse.” If we hold that the Bible is “the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice,” the cosmological argument cannot be rejected, for the Bible constantly teaches us that the created material universe is a revelation of God.

The teleological argument is used by Christ in His frequent references to nature, which, He declares, ought to be regarded as a revelation of God’s character. (See Matthew 6:30, Luke 12:28.) Probably the most familiar case of the teleological argument is the Nineteenth Psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” This is quoted by Paul, with powerful effect, in the tenth chapter of Romans.

It is a disappointment to find Dr. Clark agreeing with Kant against the traditional arguments for the existence of God. He says that they should be likened to “perjurers” on the witness stand and he concludes

These arguments cannot be merely half correct ; there is no such thing as semi-validity. An alleged demonstration is either valid or invalid. If it be valid, the conclusion is established, and that is the end of it; if it is invalid, that is the end of it too. Those who think that each argument has some value should learn from plane geometry what is meant by demonstration, (p. 39)

It is, unfortunately, Dr. Clark who should review his plane geometry and discover what is meant by geometrical demonstration. Geometry does not claim to demonstrate the factual existence of anything! All that a competent engineer will say is that, given certain materials in certain relationships in motion, geometry may indicate with a very high degree of probability a close approximation to the actual material results. Geometry is good and useful in engineering, but Dr. Clark and others set up an artificial standard which would rule out the possibility of any valid logical evidence for any actual existence.

By the traditional arguments for the existence of God I am more sure, on more abundant grounds of reasonable demonstration, — yes a thousand times more sure, of the existence of the God of the Bible, than I am of the sunrise of tomorrow morning!

Dr. Clark is not unfamiliar with the nature of probability arguments. He knows that if a player at dice throws double sevens three times in succession “. . . that is suspicious. Upon philosophical reflection the other players come to theological conclusion that such a uniformity of results demands a uniformity of causality. And . . . the probabilities are . . . etc.” (p. 70)

If this argument in regard to the throwing of dice is “logical,” as Dr. Clark says it is, then it is not illogical for a “traditional” Christian to say that the existence of the idea of the God of the Bible in the world, — so contrary to all humanistic data if it were not true, — the existence of the created universe, and the purposive aspect observable in the universe, — all of these data make it “logical” to believe in God, and extremely illogical to deny Him. Dr. Clark indeed (p. 49f) gives a clear and illuminating statement of the place of the criterion of consistency.[5] He accurately sets forth the reasonableness of a “practical postulate or … ideal” and he says “Unless the word know is taken in the impossibly strict sense of deductive demonstration or complete induction, the teaching [that we cannot know God but ought to act as though there were one] is nonsense.”

Dr. Clark quotes from the Nineteenth Psalm and from Romans 1:20 (p. 84) with partially adequate appreciation, when he gets away from his denial of the traditional theistic arguments. His unnecessary limitation, “It may well be that the revelation of God in nature is not sufficient to give a sinful man a knowledge of God’s provision for salvation through the expiatory sacrifice of Christ . . .” shows that he forgets that tho “nature,” without the Gospel, is inadequate, yet from the broad philosophical view Christianity must insist that nature includes history and history includes the incarnate Christ and the Bible. The most effective answer to naturalism is a challenge to study the historical evidence of revelation. The naturalist is confused, self-contradicting, and bewildered when he tries to explain what category can contain the Jesus of history. We should press our advantage here. The Jesus of history is God manifested in the flesh, as evidenced by facts open to public investigation.

But what Dr. Clark has done is precisely what he condemns. In dealing with the traditional arguments for the existence of God he has taken the definition of “validity” in an utterly impossible sense. The fallacy is that Dr. Clark on page 39 and elsewhere in rejecting the theistic arguments of traditional Christian evidences uses such words as “validity” in a sense applicable only to abstractions; but on page 70 and elsewhere in dealing with other matters he thinks it perfectly “logical” to pursue the ordinary processes of inductive reasoning.

It is quite wrong to say (p. 107) “Scripture . . . says that no one, apart from the i ;generating power of the Holy Spirit, seeks after God . . .” If Dr. Clark had substituted the word “convicting” instead of “regenerating” his statement would have been soundly Scriptural. It is an important truth that no man seeks the Lord without the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Unaided human flesh does not turn to God. But the idea that no one seeks the Lord until after he has been born again is flatly contradicted in many passages of Scripture, and in many missionary and evangelistic experiences. It is not at all uncommon on the foreign mission field for heathen, convicted by the Holy Spirit, but certainly not regenerated as yet, to go on long journeys seeking for the God of the Bible of whom they have heard, and to implore missionaries to come to teach them about the Lord.

The idea that no unregenerate person ever seeks the Lord is a good example of the modern wave of distorted misconstrued Calvinism which imposes a non-Scriptural pseudo-Calvinistic doctrine upon the Bible. Calvin’s own view, on the contrary, is the opposite of Dr. Clark’s view on this point. He held that a human testimony for the Gospel may definitely induce unregenerate men to seek the Lord. Calvin discusses the much quoted chapter five of Augustine’s work, Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental, in which Augustine had referred to the influence of the Church in inducing him to accept the Gospels. Calvin points out that Augustine

. . . inquires what they [the Manichaeans] would do if they met with a man who did not believe the Gospel; with what kind of persuasion they would convert him to their opinions. . . . And is it surprising that anyone, yet destitute of the knowledge of Christ, should pay a respect to men? Augustine, therefore, does not there maintain that the faith of the pious is founded on the authority of the Church, nor does he mean that the certainty of the Gospel depends on it; but simply that unbelievers would have no assurance of the truth of the Gospel, that would win them lo Christ, unless they were influenced by the consent of the Church. . . . I Calvin continues! this holy man did not design to suspend our faith in the Scriptures on the arbitrary decision of the Church, but only to show (what we all confess to be true) that they who are yet unilluminated by the Spirit of God, are, by a reverence for the Church, brought to such a docility as to submit to learn the faith of Christ from the Gospel; and that thus the authority of the Church is an introduction to prepare us for the faith of the Gospel. (Calvin’s Institutes, Book I, Chapter 7, Section 3)

The reader who wishes to study further Calvin’s opinion on the presentation of testimony and evidence to the mind of unbelievers will be aided by the study of Warfield’s valuable work Calvin and Calvinism. The above quotation, however, is sufficient to show that Dr. Clark and that group of devout and earnest scholars who hold with him on these questions, (a group very proud to call themselves true Calvinists), have made a serious error in their interpretation of the Scripture, an error quite contrary to the opinions of John Calvin!


It is characteristic of John Dewey to set up “men of straw” and then knock them down, as though substantial argument had been answered. The process is to state a position so that it will be recognized, but to add grotesque qualifications, so that its own friends could not defend it. Dr. Clark keenly and ably exposes this characteristic of Dewey and others in his excellent chapter “Is Neutrality Actual?” (See especially p. 98.) However, Dr. Clark himself sometimes distorts the position he is opposing, and thus fails to meet the real issue which he presents to the reader. He says (p. 106)

A true Christian, if asked how he has learned of God, will answer immediately, “through the Bible, God’s Word.” When a person replies, “by experience and reflection,” it is instantly clear that that person is not a Christian.

This is a false antithesis. Calvin, Augustine, Paul and David, all believed that one might learn of God by empirical data outside the Scripture before being convinced that the Scripture is God’s word. An emphasis on empiricism is not incompatible with full recognition of the rightful place of the Bible. Dr. Clark teaches (p. 107) that the idea of obedience to God without special reference to the Scripture is contrary to Christian doctrine. Paul, however, teaches in the second chapter of Romans that there may be a time of true obedience to the Lord prior to a competent understanding of the rightful place of God’s revealed word.

The reference to “the method of discovery . . . based on experience and reflection as opposed to the authority of God” (p. 142) is another clear illustration of the false antithesis between empirical data and supernatural revelation. The Bible clearly teaches, and our own experience exemplifies the fact, that many men have, through “experience and reflection” been led to a position in which they finally accept “the authority of God.”

The reference to John Dewey’s “truthless instrumentalism” (p. 192) shows, I think, a keen and accurate understanding of John Dewey’s position on this point, though of course the phrase is epigrammatical and not analytical or exhaustive. However, on the same page Dr. Clark’s discussion of empiricism, that is, of conclusions based on experience, is another clear illustration of the false antithesis. He says

An appeal to experience . . . implies that the individual is a better analyst than the Bible is. But empirical philosophy is normless, subjective, skeptical. … It is a mystery how any clear thinker can consciously base his views on experience and continue to call his views Christian. . . . any attempt to discover Christian principles in experience as opposed to revelation empties the word of all definite meaning.

The phrase “experience as opposed to revelation” is a distortion of the empirical approach. Any experienced personal worker engaged in evangelistic effort knows that many inquirers can be led to accept Christ before they accept the infallibility of the Bible. Many a poor wanderer having accepted Christ first of all, discovers that his doubts about the Bible are melted away. He has had enough evidence to commit himself to the Lord; then he goes straightforward to the accepting of the revealed Word of God.

Certainly Christian philosophy must be based upon the Bible. But if the Bible is true, then the universe belongs to God and it is filled with evidence which may be used effectively upon the minds of those ho have not yet learned that the Bible is the infallible Word of God.


Dr. Clark unfortunately takes the position that the ultimate ground of right and wrong, of good and evil, is the arbitrary will of God rather than the character of God. He holds (p. 122) that “. . . the good is good because God said so . . .” Certainly every Bible-believing Christian will agree that whatever God says is good. Charles Hodge, however, makes an essential distinction. (1) Some moral matters, such as the outward forms of the sacraments, are good because of the arbitrary command of God. These are subject to change in accordance with the divine will under changing circumstances. (2) Some moral matters are as they are because of the nature of the creation which God has made. If God had created us as internal combustion engines, beverage alcohol might not be wrong. Since He has made us as we are, the beverage use of alcohol is morally reprehensible. (3) Ultimate unchanging moral principles such as truthfulness, are grounded in the very character of God Himself. Thus instead of the statement from Dr. Clark quoted above, we should say, not, “the good is good because God said so,” but “the good is good because God is so.”

The character of God is the ultimate appeal of moral standards throughout the Scriptures. The phrase “I am holy” constantly recurring, is the ultimate basis of the revealed will of God. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews positively states (Hebrews 6:18) that it is impossible for God to lie. It is not that truth is a standard outside of God to which He is subject, but it is that His very character is the truth.

If the right and the good are not ultimately grounded in God’s immutable character, then we have no necessity for the death of Christ. If God chose to save sinners, He could just as well have accepted any other arbitrary action, as Thomas Aquinas argued. On the other hand, Anselm showed from the Scriptures that God of His own character is and must be holy. Therefore, there must be a sacrifice of infinite value, if He is to be what He is, and if any sinner is to be saved. This is clearly the position which Paul takes in the Epistle to the Romans. The atonement is necessary, “that He might be just and the justifier of him that believeth.” (Romans 3:26)


It is easy to pick flaws with an important work in the field of philosophy. My purpose in the following detailed criticism is not petty faultfinding. I seriously believe that the ablest group of Bible-believing philosophers among the younger teachers today, have seriously misunderstood our subtlest, deadliest enemy, the naturalistic instrumentalism (formerly called pragmatism) which centers in the writings and influence of John Dewey. Dewey and the naturalists are anti-rationalists or non-rationalists, but not necessarily irrationalists. Dr. Clark and a few others do not recognize the non-rationalist view, as distinct from irrationalism.

Dr. Clark refers (pp. 36,37 and elsewhere) to the philosophy of the twentieth century as denying that the world is rational. He quotes Bertrand Russell as saying that the rationality of the universe “. . . is rubbish.” Says Russell, “I think the universe is all spots and jumps, without coherence or orderliness . . .”

Now, Russell is not by any means a disciple of John Dewey’s, or an instrumentalist. He is primarily a logician and mathematician, secondarily a physicist, thirdly, he is a conspicuous advocate of anti-Christian atheistic immorality. Russell differs from Dewey in placing far greater emphasis upon logic. Dewey holds that the laws of logic are developed in and by the social process of inquiry. Russell holds that the laws of logic have an essential priority. As to the material world, there is a radical difference again. Dewey will not recognize the existence of matter prior to human thought, while Russell is more of a materialist. These two prominent anti-Christian philosophers agree, however, in their non-rationalism or anti-rationalism. Neither one could correctly be called an irrationalist. In criticizing the work of such important enemies of Christian faith it is important to analyze their position accurately.

Dr. Clark is only one of an important group of Christian philosophers who fail to make the necessary distinction between non-rationalism and irrationalism. In the process of preparing my review of Prof. Cornelius Van Til’s recent book on Barthianism[6] I wrote to the author, whose scholarship and Christian testimony I much admire, asking whether I was correct in thinking that he recognizes no distinction between non-rationalism and irrationalism. He replied stating definitely that he does not recognize any such distinction.

Now to me the difference is very important, in fact it is strategic in our present-day “defense and confirmation of the Gospel.”

(1) Rationalism, roughly speaking, holds that the universe including the physical world is produced by reason in the sense that the laws of logic are a sufficient ground of prediction of the nature of physical phenomena. There are, of course, Christian rationalists, Jonathan Edwards, for example, argued that God has no freedom of will but is absolutely bound by rational necessity in all that He does. For unbelievers, rationalism has been a vehicle of attack upon the Bible.

(2) Non-rationalism holds that there are elements in the universe which are not the product of the necessary and inevitable laws of logic. There are “brute facts” whose ground and explanation is not to be found entirely in the realm of pure reason, but in the realm of will and power also. A non-Christian non-rationalist usually regards brute facts as arbitrary. A Christian non-rationalist regards brute facts as existing by the will of God in harmony with the plan of God. This, it seems to me, is the philosophy of the Bible. There is no logical necessity compelling God to create the universe. Of His own free will He created it. It is not the conclusion of a syllogism, but the product of a free creative act.

Further, there is no logical reason why God was compelled to save a people out of corrupt and fallen humanity. Of His own free will, of His own amazing inexplicable grace, He chose to save us.

Non-rationalists do not mean to imply that the brute facts are unreasonable or unintelligible or in any way irrational or contrary to logic. They merely mean to say that there are some facts in the world which require more than mere logic for their explanation. A straight line in pure geometrical conception is still the shortest distance between two points, and, for most practical purposes, it may be assumed that a ray of light will follow the path of a straight line. However, the latter is not quite precisely true. There are brute facts about the path of a ray of light which cannot be logically deduced from geometry but may be known only by experimentation and observation. This is what Bertrand Russell is talking about in the quotation given above. He holds that the material universe is not a product of geometrical abstractions, and in this every believer in the Biblical doctrine of creation ought to agree.

Bertrand Russell’s atheistic immorality is such a sinister influence in the modern scholarly world, it seems too bad that Dr. Clark should attack a point in which Russell is not clearly wrong.

(3) Irrationalism is the doctrine that logic itself need not be consistent but may be internally contradictory. The truth may contradict itself, both sides of the contradiction remaining true. Ritschlianism, holding that religious truth and scientific truth need not be consistent, is a philosophy of irrationalism. William James occasionally took the irrationalistic position though in general he was a non-rationalist. In a rather extensive study of the writings of John Dewey I have not found any clear indication that Dewey is an irrationalist, though he gives a much lower place to the formal laws of logic than most non-rationalists would give. Sidney Hook, a prominent disciple of John Dewey, from his atheistic point of view criticizing Reinhold Niebuhr and Niebuhr’s neo-Barthian mysticism, said in substance in a lecture not long ago, “Niebuhr’s theology is an attempt to break logic; and whoever has attempted to break logic, logic has eventually broken him!” With this position in opposition to irrationalism most non-rationalists would agree.

The progressive education movement in its actual outworking in American education has been a vehicle of serious evils, evils so important that one who attacks progressive education ought to understand the movement “at its best.” Dr. Clark’s sentence “The child chooses the project, and the teacher is there only to amuse him,” (p. 74) would only cause those who understand progressive education to smile and sigh wearily. The genius of “progressive education” is to build on the interests of the students. Paul was not wrong in taking his starting point from the interest of the Athenians (Acts 17:22 ff.) when he addressed them in the Areopagus. When Sidney Hook, (See his article in the Saturday Evening Post, June 30, 1945.) teaches arithmetic to a class of delinquent boys by interesting them in figuring baseball averages, we should not criticize him for the use of progressive education methods.

Progressive education is indeed to be criticized for the uses to which it has been put, and for the inconsistent and insincere advocacy of non-indoctrination, in the very process of carrying on an anti-Christian propaganda.

Dr.Clark has erred unfortunately in classing John Dewey’s psychology as behaviouristic (p. 102). Dewey’s psychological sins are many, but behaviourism has not been one of them. Ever since his famous article on the Reflex Arc in 1896, Dewey has taken a position definitely inconsistent with behaviourism.

The scientific results of experimental psychology are inadequately estimated by Dr. Clark (p. 165) The term “humanism” is used (p. 62) in a manner inconsistent with the superficial optimistic humanism of the John Dewey school. Kant (p. 132) is seriously misrepresented in the statement that he makes the hope of reward immoral. Kant teaches that if reward is the motive, the action is non-moral, but it is certainly not for that reason immoral.

Dr. Clark’s discussion of self-interest, and his teaching that “each individual ought always to seek his own personal good” (p. 132 ff) is definitely non-Christian. Christ taught that if anyone would follow Him he must not only “deny”, but, the Greek word says literally “renounce himself.” (Luke 9:23) Self-love is never sanctioned in the Scripture. The Christian indeed looks after himself in a normal way, but his motive is to glorify God. God is glorified through his body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and through his entire course of life, because God has commanded that he shall live “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” Complete self-forgetfulness for Jesus’ sake is promised the richest of rewards. Self-love itself is always condemned in the Bible.

Dr. Clark has extreme ideas on the dis-utility of vocational subjects in college. He thinks home economics and secretarial science should not be included in a liberal arts curriculum (p. 168). One of his most peculiar views has to do with the interesting subject of emotion which he defines as “confused thinking”! (p. 172)


Dr. Clark makes a great contribution to Christian thought in his emphasis on the necessity for Christian education from “kindergarten to university.” All that he says is worthy of careful study.


[1] A Christian Philosophy of Education, by Gordon H. Clark. Eerdmans, 1946, 217 pages, $3.00

[2] See for example a Catholic Philosophy of Education, by Redden and Ryan, Bruce Publishing Co., Milwaukee, 1942.

[3] But see Romans 1:4 “declared to be the Son of God with power . . . by the resurrection from the dead.”

[4] Theism. See Chapters on Kant. The Christian View of God and the World. See appendix notes on Kant.

[5] I prefer the word “integration” rather than “consistency”.

[6] See The Sunday School Times for October 5, 1946, and The Bible Today, October, 1946.

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