The Evil of Gordon Clark (1)

[Because Gordon H. Clark seems doctrinally-sound in many areas (depending on how much one has read of him) I thought it would be important to strip off his veneer of orthodoxy by showing how evil Clark really was. I have written about Clark already, but this time I post something a brother in Christ wrote several years ago about 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 both 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, it has 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.