Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Quick Note on Scripturalist Context

Clarkians (like Turretin Fan) or sympathizers (like Tim Harris) have made some claims lately.

Tim, for example, says Clarkians don't believe that justified belief in logic must be due to its ability to be deduced from the Bible, rather, it's innate. However, John Robbins, putative Clark expert, demurs. Thus, Robbins:

"Logic -- reasoning by good and necessary consequence -- is not a secular principle not found in Scripture and added to the Scriptural axiom; it is contained in the axiom itself."
TF has claimed that we have "innate knowledge." However, this is at odds with what putative Scripturalist experts have taught us. For Robbins says,

"Now, most of what we colloquially call knowledge is actually opinion: We “know” that we are in Pennsylvania; we “know” that Clinton - either Bill or Hillary - is President of the United States, and so forth. Opinions can be true or false; we just don’t know which. History, except for revealed history, is opinion. Science is opinion. Archaeology is opinion. John Calvin said, “I call that knowledge, not what is innate in man, nor what is by diligence acquired, but what is revealed to us in the Law and the Prophets.” Knowledge is true opinion with an account of its truth."
So it seems that these men are tearing down the Scripturalist house in order to defend it. That's fine. It needs tearing down. But T-bloggers shouldn't be criticized for our criticisms of Scripturalism. You can't very well expect us to critique a hitherto unknown statement of Scripturalism.


  1. Well, one way or the other, Scripturalists or Calvin are wrong if they are saying that men have NO innate knowledge because of Romans 1, right? (I am hesitant to say this is what Calvin meant. I am assuming he understood the word innate the same way I do.) God has revealed himself to each and every human being that has ever existed, and this is through general revelation, not special revelation.

    Romans 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    One way or another, God revealed to every single person, whether they were exposed to Scripture, or prophecy or not, His existence, eternal power and divine nature. If this is not innate I do not know what is.

  2. tbxi,

    you are correct to be hesitant on Robbins interpretation of Calvin. Calvin is making a distinction between true and false worship. True worship of God does not come through innate knowledge, reason, or some other means, but through the law and the prophets. He says in the Institutes, "It will always be evident to persons of correct judgment, that the idea of a Deity impressed on the mind of man is indelible. That all have by nature an innate persuasion of the Divine existence, a persuasion inseparable from their very constitution..." And, "The first book is on the knowledge of God, considered as the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of the universe at large, and of every thing contained in it. It shows both the nature and tendency of the true knowledge of the Creator, that this is not learned in the schools, but that every man from his birth is self taught it. Yet that the depravity of men is so great as to corrupt and extinguish this knowledge partly by ignorance partly by wickedness, so that it neither leads him to glorify God as he ought nor conducts him to the attainment of happiness. And though this internal knowledge is assisted by all the creatures around which serve as a mirror to display the Divine perfections-yet that man does not profit by it Therefore, that to those whom it is God's will to bring to an intimate and saving knowledge of himself, he gives his written word which introduces observations on the sacred Scripture..."

  3. "Innate knowledge" is a bit too specific to characterize Rom 1. Rom 1 is broadly describing natural knowledge. A source of knowledge apart from Biblical revelation.

    Innate (i.e. inborn) knowledge would be a subset of natural knowledge, but natural (i.e. extrascriptural) knowledge can have several different modes. Rom 1 could well be describing an intuitive knowledge of God's existence which normal humans at a certain level of cognitive development infer from the creation.

    The problem in Rom 1 is not the mode of knowledge, but subject of knowledge. There's nothing inherently idolatrous about worshipping God according to the natural knowledge of God–as far as that goes.

    Where idolatry creeps in is not due to the mode of knowledge–be it general or special revelation–but the fact that the worshipper is a fallen human being. That's Paul's point in Rom 1.

  4. I didn't go that way with this post.

    I meant it to answer those who said that I was taking Scripturalists out of context.

    I clearly wasn't.

  5. It's not so much that I am a sympathizer as that if I reject it, I want the thing rejected to be the strongest form. It seems clear to me that there are big gaps in the Clarkist system, probably intentionally so. How those gaps are filled in gives the range of different positions that all claim to be Clarkist. I find T-fan's the most satisfactory -- since he grants general revelation and seems to concede the transcendental nature of logic. Indeed, it seems to me that T-fan's version comes "dangerously" close to van Tilism.

    I can't imagine what it means to "deduce" logic from the Bible, if logic would be held in abeyance until deduced. I saw that fellow's attempt to do so, but he simply asserted theorems (such as deMorgan) other than Law of Contradiction to "prove" the law of contradiction. What a waste of time! As if deMorgan is more certain than the law of contradiction!

    I suppose one would have to say that logic is a "working hypothesis" that is later confirmed by its apparent use in Scripture.

    In short, I wish each Clarkist would explain how he fills in the gaps in the system, so that each flavor of Clarkism could be debated concretely.

  6. Tim,

    Obviously, we want to reject it's strongest form too. But you can see, after quote after quote, there's a time to stop being charitable and just admitting that all the explications of Clark's system, by putative Clark "experts," are just silly. I can only go with what they give me.