One of the key points of Gordon Clark’s Scripturalism is that we are just as dependent on God for knowledge as we are for salvation.
Those in the Reformed community, at least those who are actually Christians, will readily admit that salvation is by grace alone, through belief alone, in Christ alone.
But oddly, many of the same people are sound on the doctrine of salvation at the same time hold to a theory of knowledge (epistemology) that is at odds with their view of salvation.
It is not uncommon to hear some Christians talk as though there are two sources of knowledge, revelation in the 66 books of the Bible and sense experience (empiricism).
This admixture of revelation and sense experience in Christian thought can be traced back to Thomas Aquinas. John Robbins explains,
Thomas Aquinas, the great thirteenth-century Roman Catholic theologian, tried to combine two axioms in his system: the secular axiom of sense experience, which he obtained from Aristotle, and the Christian axiom of revelation, which he obtained from the Bible. His synthesis was unsuccessful. The subsequent career of western philosophy is the story of the collapse of Thomas’ unstable Aristotelian-Christian condominium (An Introduction to Gordon H. Clark)
One of the problems with Protestantism over the centuries is that it never produced a philosopher who challenged Aquinas’ theory of knowledge. As a result, Aquinas’ erroneous synthesis of “the secular axiom of sense experience…and the Christian axiom of revelation” was accepted by large segments of the Christian church.
Among the besetting sins of Old Testament Israel was an unfortunate tendency do what seemed right in their own eyes. When faced with a difficult situation, many times the Israelites, both the common people and the leadership, chose to wing it rather than to seek God’s face.
Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God condemned this way of thinking in no uncertain terms.
“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD,
“Who take counsel, but not of Me,
And who devise plans, but not of My Spirit,
That they may add sin to sin;
Who walk to go down to Egypt,
And have not asked My advice,
To strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh,
And to trust in the shadow of Egypt!” (Isaiah 30:1, 2)
Some commentators believe that the likely targets of these words originally were King Hezekiah’s counselors. Assuming that is the case, how can we apply these words to what is going on in our own day? To do this, a little history is in order.
Elisha Prophesies the End of Samaria’s Siege by Nicolas Fontaine, 1625-1709.
When beginning the Siege of Samaria series on Biblical economics, I never intended it to go on for more than two or perhaps three posts. Due to an embarrassment of material and positive response from the readers of this blog, the series stretched into five posts. In no small part the success of this series has been due to the generous support of Sean Gerety over at the God’s Hammer blog, who has been kind enough to republish my posts.
It’s certainly been an encouragement to me to see so many people interested in what the Bible has to teach us about economics. Most of the economic talk one hears in the mainstream media is misleading, and, I suspect, it’s designed to be that way. After all, if too many folks were to get wise to the economic evil troika of central banking, fiat currency and demand-side Keynesian economics, it would be a lot harder for the financial masters of the universe to loot the poor and middle class of the world for their benefit.
The lies of the statists enslave, but the truth of God’s Word makes men free. And it is to the end of furthering this truth that I have presented the series on Biblical economics.
And because Biblical economics is both a fascinating and worthwhile study, it seemed good to me to take this opportunity to share with others the intellectual ammunition I’ve found helpful in developing my understanding of the subject. Below is a list of resources along with my comments.
So what is an evangelical anyway? It’s common term, and not just in church circles either. Now that the US presidential elections are well underway, one often hears the word evangelical in connection with politics, as in such and such a candidate is attempting to garner the evangelical vote. But who are these people whose votes the politicians want?
From stories that appear in the media, one gets the distinct sense that evangelical has come to anyone who’s a non-Roman Catholic, non- mainline liberal Protestant church goer. The popular image of which could be described as a mega-church attending, TBN watching, pre-trib rapture awaiting Christian Zionist.
In his 2007 study concerning who qualifies as an Evangelical, George Barna found that 38% of the US population described themselves as such.
As part of the same survey, Barna used a nine-point definition of Evangelical to identify individuals who belonged to this group. Judged by Barna’s criteria, only about 8% of the US population can be described as Evangelical.
Historically speaking, the definition of Evangelical has encompassed two criteria: justification by faith alone (JBFA) and the authority of Scripture alone. Gordon Clark makes this point in Chapter 4 of God’s Hammer, writing, “The term evangelical, an inheritance from the Reformation, reminds us of the so-called material principle of the origin of Protestantism. Justification by faith alone was the material principle…”
Clark continues, “[T]he so-called formal principle of the Reformation [is] the Scripture itself. No one can rightly appropriate the term evangelical who rejects the one or the other.”
Belief in the twin towers of the Reformation, Scripture alone and Justification by Faith alone, is required of anyone who wishes to be considered an evangelical, at least in the historical sense of the term.
President Barak Obama addresses the Young Leaders of the Americas Town Hall in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 23, 2016.
“So often in the past,” said president Barak Obama to a group of Argentinian youth, “there has been a division between left and right, between capitalists and communists or socialists, and especially in the Americas, that’s been a big debate.” The president continued, “Those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works. You don’t have to worry about whether it really fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory. You should just decide what works.”
Obama’s remarks have drawn a good deal of fire from conservatives, and rightly so. To downplay the division between communism and capitalism betrays a profound ignorance of economics and of history. Capitalism, the economic system of the Bible with its emphasis on private property, has lifted millions out of poverty and produced relatively free and just societies in the nations where it has been practiced; communism, the collectivist economic system of Karl Marx that places ownership of the means production with the state, has produced untold suffering and death for millions.
The Atonement by Gordon H. Clark (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1987, 163 pages), $8.95.
Chapters Include: Introduction on Method; The Doctrine in its Simplicity; The Covenant of Redemption; The Covenant of Grace; The Incarnation; The Virgin Birth; The Human Nature of Christ; The Purpose of the Incarnation; Active Obedience; The Covenant of Works; The Vicarious Sacrifice; Expiation; Propitiation; Satisfaction; Federal Headship; Absolute Necessity; Traducianism; The Sovereignty of God; The Extent of the Atonement.
A few years back, American Express ran a television advertisement that featured the story of a man who visited Norway thinking he was going to see the land of his ancestors only to find upon arrival that he actually was of Swedish descent. Or perhaps it was the other way around. At any rate, he wasn’t who he thought he was.
I had a similar experience when I first began to study theology. As I worked through a book on systematic theology with a very generous and learned reformed Baptist pastor, I found, much to my surprise, I was an Arminian. This was particularly shocking to me, as I had never so much as heard the word before, let alone realized I was one. In truth, my experience wasn’t so unusual. Such is the dominance of Arminian theology in American Evangelical churches that Arminians generally are unaware of their Arminianism. It’s taken for granted that Christ died for all men, and little or no serious thought is given to an alternative. When the doctrines of grace, what we would call Calvinism, are discussed, many folks raised in the broad evangelical church are shocked and offended that someone actually could believe that God does not love all men, that some are in fact reprobate and fitted for destruction, and that this is the historic teaching of the Reformation.