Dialogue With Gordon Clark

The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark, by Ronald H. Nash (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1968, 516 pp., $9.95), is reviewed by Alvin Plantinga, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California.

This Festschrift in honor of Professor Gordon H. Clark contains an expanded version of his 1965 Wheaton Lectures, some twelve essays in comment and criticism by “evangelical” philosophers and theologians, and Clark’s “Reply to Critics.” Although nearly all the contributors react with appreciation to Clark’s work, nearly all of them also find important areas of disagreement. Among the most interesting I found Merold Westphal’s “Theism and the Problem of Evil” (which defends Clark against the charge of committing the “naturalistic fallacy” and makes some enlightening distinctions along the way), Arthur Holmes’s “The Philosophical Methodology of Gordon Clark,” and George Mavrodes’ “Revelation and Epistemology.”

Clark’s lectures are written in a breezy, insouciant style, punctuated here and there with memorable wit. Archbishop Temple, says Clark, claims that “the possibility of misunderstanding the Scripture ‘destroys the whole value of this form of revelation’ Clark retorts that “apparently the possibility of misunderstanding the writings of Archbishop Temple did not in his opinion destroy the whole value of his writing his book.” He adds later that the archbishop “has no excuse for personally illustrating his theory that the Scriptures can be misunderstood.”

Clark’s first lecture is a rapid and necessarily cursory examination of “secular theories of epistemology, science, ethics, and religion”; he concludes that none are successful. Here he tries, I think, to cover far too much ground in far ...

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