Primary Sources for the Presbyterian Masses

Posts Tagged ‘Rev. David S. Clark’

Barthian Fog

In The Presbyterian on 12/09/2011 at 14:04

Another article, albeit a brief one, by the father of Gordon H. Clark. 

by the Rev. David S. Clark, D.D.
[The Presbyterian 107.48 (2 December 1937): 11.]

THE PRESBYTERIAN has been honored with three splendid articles by Dr. John W. Bowman, on Barthianism. [to be posted soon] The Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., is fortunate in having Dr. Bowman, and the Presbyterian Church, U.S., is fortunate in having Rev. Holmes Rolston as experts on Barthianism. We do not know Dr. Bowman, but we assign him a place in the galaxy of scholars.

The Achilles heel of Barthian Theology is his doctrine of Scripture, especially of Inspiration. The formation of the written word is a “paradox” in Barthian language. A paradox is a contradiction. The written word has a human and a divine element, which, according to Barth, are in contradiction. The human letter or writing is the human element, and as it is wholly human, and contradicts the divine, it is imperfect, and therefore an infallible word is impossible.

Barth is willing to admit that the influx of the divine revelation to the prophet’s mind is of God, and is infallible. But the efflux, resulting in the writing of the Word, is only human and faulty. All this is due to an inadequate view of Inspiration, and a neglect of the testimony of the Scriptures, which are our only source of information.

One error of Barth in this is an inheritance from the philosophy of Hegel. We observed in studying Hegel’s philosophy that he called a difference a contradiction. A human element and a divine element are different, but not a contradiction. If you are a semi-Pantheist, you will identify the human and divine. If you are a normal Theist, you will recognize an almighty immanence, and a supernatural providence, that can guarantee an infallible efflux and produce an infallible Word.

Barth’s conception of the Word of God is subjected to a tenuous refinement like Kant’s “Ding an sich,” till it is difficult to get one’s fingers on it. The written word is not the word of God, according to Barth. The spoken word is not the word. It is something in and through and behind all this.

Here is the German tendency to go back of the thing to the thing behind the thing, which always results in vagueness. A good example is the recent Form Criticism. It all has an unsettling tendency. Read the rest of this entry »

Pantheistic Modernism

In Modernism, The Presbyterian on 09/09/2011 at 20:43

In my recent expedition to copy off some more articles from THE PRESBYTERIAN, there was among the lot another one or two articles by the the Rev. David S. Clark, father of Gordon H. Clark. The following is from the 5 September 1929 issue.

Pantheistic Modernism

It had become conspicuously evident that the Modernism of the present-day is shot through and through with the philosophy of Pantheism. This was inevitable since most of the modern liberalism can be traced back through Ritschl to the theology of Schliermacher, and increasingly inevitable because the evolutionary philosophy, which characterizes Modernism and which gives less and less recognition to a theistic conception of the universe, naturally runs to Pantheism. If Spinoza were living to-day, he would be highly pleased to see how his philosophy has penetrated the church and influenced the highbrows of both secular and religious education.

Some years ago we sat in the class rooms of Princeton Theological Seminary. By our side sat a brilliant young man from the South. He was scholarly, forceful and enthusiastic. No one went out from the class better fitted to preach the saving power of Christ to a lost world than our dear old friend, John H. Boyd. His ability soon won him recognition and he became pastor of a large and influential church, the First Church of Portland, Oregon. From this field he was called to a professorship in McCormick Theological Seminary. In his farewell sermon to his Portland congregation, he said : “I have not pleaded with you to believe in God. I have not asked to bring your sins to be forgiven primarily. I have not asked you to believe in the realities of the spiritual world. I have asked you to believe in yourselves, in the divinity of men, in the greatness of the human soul. Men are what they are because of a fatal disbelief in their own divinity.”

We were dumbfounded when we read such words. What had happened to our dear friend, John Boyd? We remembered his manliness, his ready tongue, his broken ankle in the gymnasium, his courageous spirit in the face of misfortune, and all our admiration. But what had come over him since we  sat in the class rooms of Princeton? That is all explicable enough. He had drunk in the modern poison. He had simply changed his conception of God and man with all the logical implications. He had just dropped out the distinction between Creator and creature, and identified God and man. To him, man was a spark of God. Sin had little significance. It did not need to be forgiven in any serious way, it was just a failure, as yet, to arrive. Man must remember his own divinity and, remembering that, will be inspired to act accordingly. That, I take it, is the solution of our old friend’s theological somersault. And the Pantheism of it is not hard to discover, and the same streak of Pantheism runs through all Modernism. Read the rest of this entry »

Before Clark there was Clark

In The Presbyterian on 27/06/2011 at 10:39

Getting back to our exploration of some of the articles in THE PRESBYTERIAN, there is this by the Rev. David Scott Clark [1859-1939], father of Gordon Haddon Clark.  It would seem the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. There are several other articles by D.S. Clark that appeared in The PRESBYTERIAN, and I will try to post some others in the near future.

The Philosophical Basis of Christianity

By Rev. David S. Clark, D.D.
[The Presbyterian, 94.50 (11 December 1924): 6-7.]

MUCH has been said and written about the philosophical basis of Christianity. It is doubtful if such terms should be used in accurate speech. It is chiefly when Christianity is conceived as a purely subjective phenomenon, or where the subjective elements prevail, that the term finds largest use.

There is indeed a philosophical basis for many men’s conceptions or representations of Christianity. Christianity has often been tinged and warped by philosophical approach. From the Gnosticism and Neo-Platonism of the early centuries to the present-day evolutionary approach, Christianity has suffered from philosophical viewpoints. But the objective facts of Christianity are to be considered historically rather than philosophically. The factual basis of Christianity, to use Professor Machen’s terms, is not to be evaporated in the cauldron of philosophical ebullition. It is true that men often minimize or distort the facts by reason of philosophical preconceptions, and thus produce a mongrel Christianity; but the facts of Christianity constitute the true basis rather than the philosophical accretions or interpretations.

It may be said that, in looking at and evaluating the facts of Christianity, we only substitute one philosophy for another with which we disagree. It is perhaps inevitable that a man will be influenced by whatever philosophy he holds, even in so important a matter as his estimate of Christianity and his presentation of the same. Still it is true, aside from every philosophical bias, that the true basis lies in the facts, and we may say, the historical facts; because Christianity is a historical religion.

This philosophical bias is what is meant by the term “approach,” so glibly used to-day. We are told that the “approach” to the Scriptures and the “approach” to Christianity is entirely different in these modern days, giving us an entirely new view, and requiring a new statement of Christian doctrine, and a reconstruction of religion. These terms are familiar enough and are sure symptoms of an infectious modernism.

Many have been the attempts to re-state Christianity in the terms of philosophical postulates. Schleiermacher’s approach to the Scriptures and to Christianity was from the standpoint of Pantheism. Hence he left the doctrine of a personal God as an open question; repudiated the Old Testament, and dealt in a perfectly arbitrary way with the New Testament. Religious authority was entirely subjective; the effect of the atonement was a moral influence; Christ bore the sins of men only in his fellow feeling and sympathy for them in their struggles and suffering on account of sin. This sympathy draws us into fellowship with Christ to our greater good and blessedness—thus Christ becomes a Saviour and substitute. Christ was divine only in a purely pantheistic sense, being the man who most of all realized his oneness with the Eternal, or possessed, what was called a God-consciousness. Thus philosophy was the basis of Schleiermacher’s perversion of Christianity. Read the rest of this entry »