The Presbyterian Philosopher: Gordon H. Clark (3)

presby-philosoper-clark-douma-2017Today we take another look at the new biography by Douglas J. Douma on Gordon H. Clark, titled The Presbyterian Philosopher: The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark (Wipf & Stock, 2017. 292 pp.).

Last time we considered some of the material in chapter 1 (“The Presbyterian Heritage of Gordon Clark”); today let’s consider part of chapter 2 – “Gordon Clark’s Intellectual Influences.”

Here Douma addresses first of all Clark’s philosophical influences, showing that as both a student and a professor (at the University of Pennsylvania) Clark read the classic Greek philosophers, and was influenced especially by Plato and Plotinus. Concerning that latter, Douma writes that Clark rejected Plotinus’ view of God and taught a proper biblical view of “divine simplicity.”

But then Douma asserts that Clark’s largest influence came from the classic Christian and Reformed thinkers – Augustine, Calvin, and the Westminster standards. This is part of what he says in that connection:

Far above Plato or Plotinus, it was thinkers in the tradition of Reformed Christianity that influenced Clark’s life and thought. Like many theologians of the Reformation, Clark was in large part an Augustinian – a follower of St. Augustine (AD 354-430) – and as such, took many of his ideas directly from the ancient church father. Clark was reading Augustine in depth soon after he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1932, he sought the advice of Ned Stonehouse, professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, on a question regarding Augustine, and in 1934, he wrote again to Stonehouse, mentioning that he was ‘slowly ploughing through 511 pages of double columns’ of Augustine’s City of God. According to Clark’s former student Dr. Kenneth Talbot, ‘Dr. Clark always spoke to me about his earliest influences of St. Augustine. He believed any theological or philosophical student needed to read Augustine’s writings.’ [pp.19-20]

Later in the chapter, Douma points to Calvin as a major influence on the thought of Clark:

…Yet among Reformation thinkers, it was not Martin Luther but John Calvin (1509-1564) who most influenced Clark. Clark praised Calvin as ‘Paul’s’ best interpreter.’ In Calvin, as exemplified in The Institutes, Clark found a thoroughly systematic and consistent Christianity which he embraced. Furthermore, Clark saw Calvin’s epistemology as akin to his own in that Calvin looked to Scripture as the sole source of knowledge [p.21].

Next time we will explore Clark’s association with J. Gresham Machen and his involvement in the Presbyterian conflict that led to the formation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC).

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://cjts3rs.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/the-presbyterian-philosopher-gordon-h-clark-3/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: