Thursday, November 3, 2011

Clark's Lectures 3

Here are a few quotes I found to be interesting from Clark's Today’s Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine? Though some of the points are particularly well argued, because I don't necessarily agree with everything written, so I've refrained from commenting on anything.
Commands, Emotions, Faith, and Volition
Pages 20-21: “Does the Bible indicate that God is subject to sudden, involuntary, non-intellectual upheavals in his usually calm state of mind? Well, hardly. The Westminster Confession, the best summary of the contents of the Bible, says that God is without parts or passions. Parts refers to bodily organs. Bodies have parts, minds do not. But God is also without passions. The word passion, in more modern terminology affection, is wider than the term emotion but includes the latter. A passion or affection is the result of being affected by some external force. A dog is affected by a whipping; a student is affected, sometimes, by the possibility of a good grade. There are modern psychology books written about “the affective consciousness.” But God is not affected by anything. Of, in another translation of the Greek term, God does not “suffer” anything.
On the contrary, not only the Westminster Confession, but all or nearly all the historic creeds says that God is immutable. He does not change. Emotion, however, is a sudden, involuntary change. To have emotions would be inconsistent with God’s eternal state of blessedness.
Now, someone may say that God loves and that love is an emotion. But with respect to love, two points must be made. First, God’s love is eternal, therefore not a sudden change, therefore not an emotion. Second, God commands us to love him. A command requires voluntary obedience. Therefore the love God commands is volitional, not emotional. Doubtless God commands the impossible. He commands us to keep his law perfectly. This we cannot do because of sin. The impossibility arises from us; it does not arise from any irrationality in the commands. God commands the impossible, but he does not command the absurd.”
The Trinity and Absolute Divine Simplicity
Page 28: “The doctrine of the Trinity is found only in the Biblical revelation. No one would ever have thought of it, no one ever did think of it, apart from the Bible. True, some philosophers had three-fold sets of principles. Plato had the world of Ideas, the Demiurge, and chaotic Space. But this is not a tri-personal divine being. Plotinus has something similar. He spoke of the One, the Ideas, and the Soul. But he also had a Logos and a lower world. The whole was continuous. There is no tri-personal supreme being. Plotinus’s One does not think and cannot know. Neo-Platonism is not at all similar to Trinitarian Christianity.”
Pages 49-50: “Even the covenant with Noah, which the dispensationalists try to reduce to politics, and in which they see no reference to the Atonement, speaks of placating an angry God. This idea is obscured in the King James version, and the American version as well. These translations say that God smelled a sweet odor. But the Koehler-Baumgartner lexicon (the latest lexicon at this writing) gives just one meaning to the Hebrew word transliterated niychoach: appeasement (Beschwichtigung). The “smell of appeasement” then means the placating odor. See also the verbal usage in Ezekiel 5:13, “I will appease my anger.” Hence the correct translation of Genesis 8:20-21 is, “And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord… and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled the placating odor.” Thus anticipations of Christ’s sacrifice in the Old Testament and explanations of his sacrifice in the New agree that he was the propitiation for our sins. He turned aside God’s wrath and anger which we deserved.”
Scripture and Inerrancy, Science and Operationalism
Pages 57-58: “It seems to me that a misunderstanding of science at this point has led the author into a misunderstanding of the Bible. If the Bible contradicts itself, as clearly as the wave theory contradicts the corpuscular theory, we will be forced to abandon the Bible. No one in his right mind can believe contradictions. In fact, if the antinomy is as he says it is, God himself is faced with an insoluble puzzle. And if something is insoluble for God, then God cannot be trusted. Packer tells us that God has given us this antinomy and if he has given it to us, is that not enough? Cannot we trust God? The answer is that we cannot trust contradictions and insoluble antinomies, no matter who gives them to us. If someone told me to believe that the number two was both even and odd, I would conclude that this someone was not God. God, anyone I could not think of as God, does not talk nonsense, and insoluble antinomies are nonsense. They are just as much nonsense as it would be to say that the path of a point equidistant from a given point has three right angles along it.
But if we see what modern science can do with its two theories of light, and if we pay just a little attention to sovereignty and responsibility, these unfortunate consequences never arise. The laws of science should not be considered as intended descriptions of natural motions. They should not be considered as directions for operating in a physics laboratory. They are methods for producing desired results. This in brief is The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God. It is always possible to use either of two mutually exclusive methods for producing the same desired result. To cure milk fever in cows, one may use the antiseptic lugol, or one may use compressed air. Both work satisfactorily. Hence, in manipulating light, a physicist may use either one; or if for a particular purpose the two are not equally satisfactory, for lugol cannot do everything compressed air can do and vice versa, the physicist can use for one purpose and the other for another.”
Language and Internal Relations
Page 66: “There are many who in that day will say to Christ, Lord, Lord. And he will profess, I never knew you. Thus, clearly, a verbal profession of Lord is not saving faith. One must understand what the term Lord means. Further, as has already been pointed out, the name Jesus must be correctly apprehended. Confess that the Jesus of Strauss, Renan, or Schweitzer is Lord, and you will go to hell.”
The Cause of Faith
Page 77: “How God gives a man faith is very easily explained. God gives a dead sinner faith just the way Jesus made dead Lazarus come out of the tomb. Just as God said, Let there be light, and there was light. That is all the how there is. It is an act of omnipotence: the exceeding greatness of his might power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead.”
The Nature of Faith:
Choice and Assent; Volitional, Decisional, Obedient
Page 76: “Faith certainly involves an act of will. It is the decision to believe what one understands.”
Page 79:”But often evidence, witnesses, and historical documents are mistaken. Shall I believe them in this case? The evidence does not compel belief, but I may choose to believe, or I may choose not to believe.”
Page 81: “What is needed for saving faith is God’s gracious act of giving him the power to will. When God gives him this power, he will assent, believe, and exercise faith. Faith indubitably is the gift of God. It is the gift of voluntary assent. That an unregenerate man cannot believe does not contradict any of this.”
Page 83: “I regret Calvin, a giant among pygmies, said that assent comes from the heart and not the head. This distinction is unscriptural; the Bible nowhere opposes heart to head, for it does not mention this “head.” Naturally assent comes from the heart because all psychological actions of a person come from the heart. There is nothing else for them to come from.
Aside from this unfortunate slip, Calvin proceeds to say that assent is the obedience of faith. Clearly obedience is a matter of volition. Assent then is an act of will. No pious additions are necessary, for the assent itself is already pious.”
Page 85: “Even the intellectual work of coming to understand a sentence requires assent and volition. It does not require assent to the truth of the sentence in question; but it requires a voluntary act of attention, and assent to the truth of other propositions by which its meaning is uncovered. One of the important points to keep in mind is the object of assent in different contexts. The person who does not assent to the Gospel, the persecutor Saul for example, must assent to propositions regarding the Hebrew or Greek usage of the word Lord, if he is to understand “Jesus is Lord,” and react with a persecutor’s zeal.”
Page 86: “Hodge, however, continues, “But if the question be, What is the act or state of mind which is required in the Gospel, when we are commanded to believe, the answer is very difficult.”
How can it be very different? If faith generically is intelligent assent, every species of faith must be also.”
Page 91: “Just because a person believes that he is saved is an insufficient reason for thinking that he is saved. It may be suggested for sober consideration whether or not those who are most easily assured of salvation are least likely to be saved.
Nevertheless, in spite of all hypocrisy and self-deception, it is possible to have assurance.”
Page 94: “Without minimizing the other items in this list, it is well to emphasize knowledge. If one wishes assurance, he will try to increase his knowledge. Knowledge is mentioned trice in the section. Therefore, if one wishes assurance that he is regenerated, let him ask himself, Do I study the Scripture? How much of it do I know? Some people know so very little; some people believe so very little; some evangelists must have so very little assurance.”
The Mode of Baptism
Page 106: “In Daniel 4:33, i.e, LXX 4:30, one of the Greek words used to say that Nebuchadnezzar was wet with dew is baptizo. I can hardly think that this was immersion. Mark 7:4 says that couches were baptized. It seems to me that this means they were washed. In Hebrews 9:10, 13, 19, 21, the several baptisms (King James, washings) were done by sprinkling. In I Corinthians 10:2 the Israelites were baptized, but the Egyptians were immersed. Similarly in I Peter 3:21, Noah was baptized, but the wicked were immersed.”
Page 108: “A scribe might make a few mistakes in copying the Word of God, but we would still have substantially the Word of God. The difference is between a correct copy of error and a slightly incorrect copy of truth. I cannot agree that the latter is useless.”
The Theological Necessity of A Priori Divine Revelation
Page 108: “I begin with a question, the basic question. Is there a God? If there is, can I know Him? My answer to this question, If there is a God, I cannot know it unless He tells me about Himself. I can study His doing, Nature; but what shall my conclusion about God be? That He is kind and benevolent? Or that Nature is vicious and careless? I think it is obvious that whatever I see in Nature, and whichever I emphasize, will be for reasons of personal experience and inclination.”
Pages 111-112: “It would seem from several things you say that there are a number of statements in the Bible that contradict your world-view. In fact, you immediately suggest that you would not accept this or that if it contradicted your total experience. Hence, in answer to my question in my last letter, How do you decide to accept some of the Bible’s statements and reject others? You answer that you test the Bible by your experience; you do not accept something as true, just because the Bible says it. But you develop a criterion from experience and measure the Bible by that criterion.
In your total experience you are reading the Bible. You say, “It tells me there is a God… It tells me God revealed himself… It tells me of a Resurrection.” But if you do not accept the truth of propositions on the basis of the Bible’s assertion, you cannot accept these points without confirmation from experience.”
Recognition of the Scope of the Canon
Page 113: “But if there is a revelation, there can be no criterion for it. God cannot swear by a greater; therefore he has sworn by himself. One cannot ask one’s own experience to judge God and determine whether God tells the truth or not. Consider Abraham. How could Abraham be sure that God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac? Maybe this suggestion was of the devil; maybe it was a queer auto-suggestion. There is no higher answer to this question than God himself. The final criterion is merely God’s statement. It cannot be tested by any superior truth.”

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