Here are Buswell’s comments following Clark’s entry “Concerning System and Demonstration”. For the moment we’ve skipped over the article by Vernon Grounds that appeared in the midst of this series of exchanges between Buswell and Clark. That article will post later. And as is our habit, links to the entire series of articles can be found at the bottom of this post.
I DO feel that there is definite progress in Dr. Clark’s thought, or at least in his expression, from the book, through his article in the December issue of The Bible Today, to his present article. The discussion of the word “system’’ grew out of material found on page 163 and following in his book quoted on page 71 in the December Bible Today. Dr. Clark’s statements there “. . . there is no such thing as a common ground between Christianity and a non-Christian system,” led straight forward to his remarks on the way in which a “faithful Christian presents the Christian faith to an unbeliever.” Then followed his statement, “This is not an appeal to a common ground . . .” The word “this” refers directly to the presentation of the Christian faith “to an unbeliever.” It is the idea that we have no common ground when we present the Gospel to an unbeliever, which gave me such great concern.
Now, in this article on System and Demonstration, as well as in his article of last December, I feel that Dr. Clark has removed the “system” of unbelief so far into the abstract that it cannot interfere with evangelism. Thus my purpose is partly accomplished
The readers who are not interested in logic will please doze off while I go on with the next few paragraphs. Those who are concerned about the basic logic of evangelism, the epistemology of Christian evidences, may do well to read carefully, whether they wholly agree or not.
Our discussion of the word “system,” as I have said, starts from Dr. Clark’s words “a non-Christian system.” Naturalism, or anti-super-naturalism, which practically amounts to atheism, is the “system” which most conspicuously confronts us. In discussing such a system of thought, I should define the word “system” as I did in my editorial note in the December Bible Today, as “a more or less consistent or inconsistent complex of thought to which people adhere.” Thus Webster’s Dictionary gives the following to illustrate usage, “the theological system of Augustine; the American system of government; hence, a particular philosophy, religion, etc. ‘Our little systems have their day.’ “
In Robert Flint’s great worksAnti-Theistic Theories, and Agnosticism, he treats of such systems as materialism, pantheism, secularism, etc., showing inconsistencies in each. In a course in history of philosophy we take up such systems as idealism and realism; in history of Christian doctrine we take up scholasticism, Calvinism, Arminianism, etc. All of these “systems” are “more or less consistent or inconsistent complexes of thought.”
Of course my definition (and Webster’s) supported by usage as it is, does not exclude the perfect system of truth as God sees it; nor does it exclude the system of revealed truth. Dr. Clark’s error in citing Presbyterian usage is in his failing to mention that before the statement accepting the Westminster standards “as containing the system of doctrine taught inthe Holy Scriptures,” every Presbyterian minister was required to declare that he believed the Scriptures to be “the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” A “system” may be “more or less consistent or inconsistent”; a “system” taught in an “infallible rule” must be perfectly consistent
I am interested in Dr. Clark’s reference to Prof. Brand Blanshard’s views on “system.” I had said I doubted if any writers in this field ever use the word “system” as meaning “the definitive element as such in a complex of thought. ‘
But this is not Prof. Blanshard’s view at all. He would agree with Dr. Clark and me that the truth is a perfectly consistent system. In the passage to which Dr. Clark refers, he says:
If the end of thought is truth, what is truth? It lies, we shall hold, in system, and above all in that perfect type of system in which each component implies and is implied by every other.
Blanshard is a rationalistic idealist. Dr. Clark is not. I should accept the proposition that the truth is a perfect system, but I deny that the truth “lies [or consists] in system.” Rather, it may be checked by its integration as a criterion. It is true because it is there and because it is so. (Dasein und Sosein). Read the rest of this entry »