But given the stated differences on this blog between my epistemological views and those of Gordon Clark, some might question whether those differences color whether I'm confusing what I think a "consistent Scripturalist" or "strict adherent" to Gordon Clark's epistemology would believe vs. what I think a consistent Christian would believe. In other words, am I fairly representing what Gordon Clark would have defended?
While that is not my primary concern in developing my own epistemological views, it is a fair question and, in part, a reason why I've decided to argue, in this post, what position I think Gordon Clark himself would have had to say. Another reason is that a few self-identifying Scripturalists who have used my thoughts in the past as their own have taken the opposite position, stating they think Clark was an externalist (link).
Now, I would preface any discussion about Clark's views regarding internalism and externalism with my opinion that Clark didn't seem to be aware that this was a much debated subject. To some extent, that would make sense, as I don't think externalism was much developed until the 1960s or 70s.
In any case, the idea that our epistemic justification comprises things of which we could be unaware or fail to be able to reflect on is something which, in my mind, is completely foreign to Clark's view on which Scripture is our source of knowledge, our sole epistemic foundation. Admittedly, the Holy Spirit's function in the production of our knowledge is indeed important because He does, indeed, cause it:
How then may we know that the Bible is true? The Confession answers, “Our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority [of the Scripture] is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit.” Faith is a gift or work of God. It is God who causes us to believe: “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest and causest to approach unto thee” (Psa. 65:4). (GHC What Do Presbyterians Believe?, 1985, pg. 18)So, does this give us reason to think Clark believed that one's epistemic justification for believing God's word just is the causation of the Spirit, as some Scripturalists think? Not at all. It's fallacious to infer from "God causes knowledge" or "God causes us to believe" that our epistemic justification just is the causation itself. Rather, the "how" here is a metaphysical question yielding a metaphysical answer. I might as well ask, "how do we desire God?" or "from where does our desire for God come?" God ultimately - if not immediately - causes our desires. Of course, God causes knowledge, and blessed by God is he who receives it over against one who doesn't. But how we even know and justify the work of the Spirit which took place logically prior to accepting our axiom must be via deduction made from and justified by our axiom:
Any axiom eliminates its opposite. The Christian system is no more indefensible on this point than any other system.
Therefore, the more serious reply to the charge that the axiom of revelation begs all questions is that the objection fails to distinguish the status of axioms and the status of theorems. Obviously a first principle or a set of axioms covers all that follows. Indeed, that is why first principles are asserted. It is their function to cover all that follows. But this is not to identify the axioms with the theorems. Euclidean geometry may have six axioms and a hundred theorems. The axioms imply the theorems, to be sure; but the theorems are not axioms. The distinction between axioms and theorems is for the purpose of arranging derivative truths under a basic or comprehensive truth. Were a geometer to assume one of the Euclidean theorems as his axioms, he would, except in very special cases, deprive geometry of many of its propositions. Thus an all-inclusive axiom that swallows everything at one gulp is most desirable. (Clark and His Critics, 2007, pg. 55)The point is that it seems to me that the justification for our philosophical knowledge is never, for Clark, grounded in the mere causative process itself but rather his faith in the axiom of revelation. For Clark, the axiom of revelation is not that the Holy Spirit must cause our beliefs in order for them to qualify as knowledge, it is that "the Bible is the word of God." Anything about what the Holy Spirit does must be deducible from this axiom.
But before I express my reasons why I believed Clark would have identified with internalism, there is a problem with a purely Scripturalist externalist position that I have never received an answer to, and it is this:
If Scripturalism is true, then all that we can "know" are the propositions of Scripture or those deducible from it. But does the Holy Spirit - the epistemically justifying cause Scripturalist externalists I have encountered constantly appeal to - only [immediately] cause true beliefs of believers in regards to that which may by good and necessary consequence be deduced from Scripture? That is, does the Holy Spirit not [immediately] cause us to believe truths which cannot be deduced from Scripture? Nowhere do I find this to be a deducible proposition from Scripture, and yet it is needed in order to say that we can only know what Scripture reveals, i.e. to be a Scripturalist. Where does Scripture say the Holy Spirit [immediately] causes only beliefs which are deducible from Scripture?
There are other problems I find with a Scripturalist externalist framework, such as the question of whether or not I am more justified in actually having deduced propositions from Scripture than a person who believes - without reason - in a deducible proposition as a result of the causation of the Holy Spirit. But for the sake of the topic of this post and due to the fact that I have lodged other arguments elsewhere on this blog, I will move on. The following constitute my reasoning for believing Gordon Clark himself would have identified as an internalist:
To start with the obvious, something all Scripturalists can agree with is that Clark believed that the axiom of revelation is that alone by which we know anything:
It is incorrect, therefore, to complain that the axiom of revelation deprives us of knowledge otherwise obtainable. There is no knowledge otherwise obtainable. (Clark and His Critics, 2009, pg. 76).The axiom of revelation, "the Bible is the word of God," was, for Clark, the foundation for philosophical knowledge. Of course, Clark was aware that knowledge could bear different meanings (The Pastoral Epistles, 1983, pg. 166), but for "knowledge with a capital K":
Granted, it is unlikely that anyone should go to such extremes to substitute another woman for the wife of an unimportant theologian or philosopher. But how do you know? So long as substitution is possible, certainty is impossible...
The status of common opinion is not fixed until a theory has been accepted. One may admit that a number of propositions commonly believed are true; but no one can deny that many such are false. The problem is to elaborate a method by which the two classes can be distinguished. Plato too granted a place to opinion as distinct from knowledge; he even admitted that in some circumstances opinion was as useful as knowledge with a capital K. (Clark and His Critics, 2009, pgs. 75-76)Here already we see several reasons why Clark would not have been an externalist. For him, knowledge at least entailed the possibility of certainty. For externalists who believe one's justification for knowledge is located in a causal process, a person experiencing this process need not be aware of it, let alone certain of the resultant belief.
Further, Clark is obviously interested in a "method" by which classes of beliefs like opinion and knowledge can be distinguished in practice. Two externalists with contradictory beliefs could both appeal to a causal process (like that the Holy Spirit caused their belief) to justify their beliefs without a method for distinguishing who to believe. Right or wrong, then, it looks like Clark believed that such a situation would amount to ignoring the problem rather than confronting it. Any time a so-called Scripturalist externalist attempts to defend his "case" exegetically as if it contributes one iota towards one's epistemic justification, he is ironically probably presupposing an internalist framework. For it is not the work of the Holy Spirit that he considers his epistemic justification, it is the actual content of or reasoning from one's first principle, both of which he is aware.
Finally, Clark believed that not only is the axiom of revelation self-authenticating but also that all first principles must be:
The first principle of Logical Positivism is that a sentence has no meaning unless it can be verified (in principle at least) by sensory experience. Yet no sensory experience can ever verify this principle. Anyone who wishes to adopt it must regard it as self-authenticating. So it is with all first principles. (Christian Philosophy, 2004, pgs. 46-47)I once discussed with someone who thought that Clark meant that the axiom of revelation is self-authenticating merely in that the Holy Spirit caused our beliefs. I pointed out that this quote shows that Clark's understanding of self-authentication can't be meant in that way. The Holy Spirit does not bear witness to logical positivism! Instead, Clark means that for a first principle to be "self" authenticating (e.g. the Bible) means that it shouldn't require verification by something else (e.g. the Spirit) for its epistemic justification. So too with any other alleged first principle, including that of the logical positivist - although they are wrong to think so. For Clark, self-authentication as such has nothing to do with causation.
So while debate can continue about whether or not Scripturalism should be developed along externalist or internalist lines (or both), the preceding indicates that Clark himself would probably have given primacy to epistemic internalism.