Thursday, November 3, 2011

Clark's Lectures 4

Continuing with select citations from Clark's lectures and works, here are a few interesting quotes from his book Karl Barth’s Theological Method:


Page 66: “Let us not claim unanimity for the new outlook, but a fair number of philosophers and scientists have adopted the theory of operationalism. This type of thought denies that the laws of science describe the processes of the real world. Scientific concepts, instead of being transcripts of “antecedent being,” are merely plans for future laboratory procedure. They are directions for the use of apparatus in the production of some desired result.”

Axioms and Apologetics

Page 92: “…a Christian presupposition, first principle, or axiom produces logical consistency, while a secular presupposition can apagogically be shown to result in inconsistency.”

Page 95: “Axiomatization is simply the perfecting and exhibiting of the logical consistency of a system of thought. In view of Calvinism’s well known reputation for consistency, axiomatization and Calvinism should get along well together. The many theorems derived from the smallest possible number of axioms… And since the axioms, if there be several, depend for their meaning on their interrelationships, axiomatization would rule out the possibility of even a single axiom in common.”

Page 96: “There are two parts to the process [of the reductio]. First the apologete must show that the axioms of secularism result in self-contradiction… Then, second, the apologete must exhibit the internal consistency of the Christian system. When these two points have been made clear, the Christian will urge the unbeliever to repudiate the axioms of secularism and accept God’s revelation. That is, the unbeliever will be asked to change his mind completely, to repent.”

Page 97:“The initial implausibility of a thorough-going, all comprehensive system of axioms and theorems does not lie in the fact that it is a hitherto unrealized ideal. The implausibility rests on the contrast between the common opinion that the secular sciences are true, at least largely true, and the implication of Christian axiomatization that they are all completely false… the present point is simply that God is the origin of all truth. Then all truth is one and self-consistent. But if so, non-Christian systems of thought must be false...”

The Image of God and Apologetics

Page 100: “…Reformed theology, while denying a common epistemological ground, has always asserted a common psychological or ontological ground. Believer and unbeliever alike, though their philosophic axioms and theorems are totally incompatible, bear in their persons the image of God from creation. This image consists of or at least includes their ordinary rational ability as human beings and as an exercise of this rationality certain minimal theological and moral principles. These beliefs, dimly and inconsistently held, often submerged and repressed, can be thought of as a point of contact for the Gospel.”

Pages 102-103“In Reformed theology the defaced but not annihilated image of God is sinful man was never conceived as being an axiom common to two systems of thought. The image is a psychological, mental, ontological reality. It is an existing part of human nature…Faith is a mental activity and by definition presupposes a rational subject. Reason therefore can be considered to be an element common to believer and unbeliever; and if “apprehension” of the Word of God is the understanding of a divine message, then the image of God preserved from creation and the fall is a prerequisite thereto.

Man’s logical capacity is not the only constituent of God’s image. In addition there are a few simple theological and moral beliefs… we must admit the existence of unbelievers who actually even if inconsistently believe a few divine truths. Two systems of thought as such cannot contain common knowledge. Based as they are on separate sets of axioms, they can have no proposition in common; and if one system is truth, the other must be false. However, living people are not so thoroughly consistent as ideal systems. People are inconsistent; they believe contradictories without noticing the fact. Hence it is psychologically possible for an unbeliever and a believer to agree on a given proposition. And this point of agreement may be used as a point of contact for the Gospel. What is thus theoretically possible, the majority of exegetes have supposed to be declared actual in the first chapter of Romans. Does not Paul assert that the heathen have a knowledge of God? This knowledge may not be extensive, but its importance depends on its being the basis of heathen responsibility.

Now, because such beliefs held inconsistently, the Gospel has a point of contact, and apagogic argumentation can be extended. Not only may the apologete show the self-contradiction inherent in secular axioms, as we said above; he may now stress the inconsistency of accepting both a secular axiom and a divine truth; and he may draw out the inferences of the divine truth and show its consistency with the additional truths of revelation.”

Innate Knowledge

Pages 104-105: “…the Gentiles in the first chapter of Romans were unbelievers. Even if they had heard Paul preach, they were still unbelievers, idolaters, and gross sinners. Yet it is of such people that Paul says, “Knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but have pleasure in them that do them.” Therefore even on Barth’s exegesis the Pauline unbeliever has a belief in common with the man of faith… Now Paul indeed bases responsibility on knowledge, but he asserts that the heathen had knowledge, some knowledge at any rate; they tried to suppress it, but could not quite succeed. And even if it were Paul who “awakened” this knowledge in them, the implication would be that some remnant or potential knowledge had been lying dormant in their minds to be awakened. And, finally, to repeat, it is indubitable that the heathen and the unbeliever have this knowledge in common.”

People and Truth

Page 113: “If we can contradict ourselves at one point, cannot we do so at any and all points?”

Page 127: “Although not usually recognized as such, a certain claim to infallibility meets us in our everyday affairs. When an accountant balances his books, does he not assume that his figures are correct? When a college professor hurries to class for fear that his students will disappear if he is late, does he not make judgments as to the time of day and the proclivities of students? … Must not all people act on the assumption that their beliefs are true? ”

Knowledge as Propositional

Page 130: “Knowledge and meaning always have the form of a proposition – or if significance is sometimes conveyed in an exclamation or a gesture, like shorthand, it may with little trouble be put into the ordinary sentence structure of a proposition. To prove that he knows botany, a student must make certain statements, often on an examination sheet, such as, “apples grow on trees and belong to the Rosaceae.” If he cannot make any such statements, he flunks and everyone concludes that he knows nothing about botany. It is no different when persons are the objects of knowledge… the distinction between a man and his work is an impossible abstraction; when one praises or condemns a work, he praises or condemns a man at the same time. This knowledge is obviously propositional… Knowledge consists of propositions, of predicates related to subjects, i.e., of truths. The meaning which the words designate is the object of knowledge. To talk of a different inner meaning, not itself a proposition, never proclaimed or thought, is a trait of irrationalism.”

Page 150: “In opposition to subjective idealism Plato made the point, a good point too, that if we think, we must think something, and something that exists. But when this existing object of thought is imagined to be like a physical object, instead of being a truth or proposition, the theory becomes impossible.”

Christianity and Rationality

Page 115: “…Christianity rightly so-called is a rational and intelligible religion. Whatever of zeal, devotion, volition, or even emotion it may have, it is fundamentally intellectual. It brings information. Otherwise it would not meet human need, human need of salvation from sin. Irrationalism is a travesty on human nature, on communion between God and man, and on God himself.”

Pages 174-175: “Two things are equally essential to Christianity: certain historical events and their correct theological explanation. If Jesus did not visibly die on the cross at a definite time and place, Christianity is false; but also Christianity is equally false if that event is not to be interpreted as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice. Historical event and theological explanation are equally essential.”

Page 224: “Christianity is rational because the God who made the Bible his revelation declares that he is a rational Being of wisdom and understanding. He created man in his own rational image; and these two rationalities, if they are to communicate at all, must because of their nature communicate intelligible. Undoubtedly there exist religions of emotion and mysticism, non-Christian religions they are; but let them remain silent, for they have nothing to say, and any noise they make conveys no message. There are also devout but confused minds who, combining elements of different sorts, are inconsistent in their beliefs. Such minds, however refined and agreeable they may be personally, should either hate the one and love the other, or else hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and unintelligibility.

Christianity is rational and rationality requires verbal inspiration. When God, the rational God, speaks to his rational creatures, he must, we insist, speak the truth. His word cannot be false… To insist that God’s words cannot be false, even to the jot and tittle, gives man no control over God; it is merely the expression of God’s nature and man’s need. No rational ground whatever can support the proposition that God speaks falsities. Of course, a man of the Enlightenment, denying that God spoke the Bible, might construct a religion of human invention; but the Bible claims that its words are God’s truth words, so that no theologian can be both Biblical and rational if he rejects verbal inspiration.”

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