Gordon Clark

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Puritan Board Sophomore
Is anyone here a reader of Gordon Clark? Are his works worth studying? Can someone give me a brief summary of the controversy between Clark and Van Til and how they differed theologically? From the little bit that I've read on the subject (not much) I think I'd lean toward Clark as far as the "well meant offer" of the gospel. Any info. is appreciated. I haven't really read anything by either man.


Staff member
Here's a thread with information on Clark's works. The Hoeksema book cited gives one man's understanding of the conflict.


Personally, I'd just read the Clark works and Van Til works and try to put the conflict to the side. It is really a distraction.

BTW, I have several Clark volumes published by Trinity Foundation and got them inexpensively. They run specials from time to time. If you are going to buy just one, I'd suggest Volume 4. Otherwise, many of the works are available in paperback and are inexpensive.


Puritanboard Clerk
The CT/Clark controversy is a good example of how nitpicking over imprecise language causes trouble. John Frame has a good discussion on it and he actually makes Clark look really good.


Puritan Board Junior
John Frame in his book, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, says that Van Til and Gordon Clark had disagreements with each other concerning the concept of God's incomprehensibility. Frame says on pages 21 and 22 of the above book, "Neither man was at his best in this discussion; each seriously misunderstood each other, as we will see. Both, however had valid concerns. Van Til wished to preserve the Creator-creature distinction in the realm of knowledge, and Clark wished to prevent any skeptical deductions from the doctrine of incomprehensibility, to insist that we really do know God on the basis of revelation. Van Til, therefore, insisted that even when God and man were thinking of the same thing (a particular rose, for example), their thoughts about it were never identical- God's were the thoughts of the Creator, man's of the creature. Such language made Clark fear skepticism. It seemed to him that if there was some discrepancy between man's "This is a rose" and God's (concerning the same rose), then the human assertion must somehow fall short of the truth, since the very nature of truth is identical with God's mind. Thus if there is a necessary discrepancy between God's mind and man's at every point, it would seem that man could know nothing truly; skepticism would result. Thus the discussion of incomprehensibility- essentially a doctrine about the relation of man's thoughts to God's being- turned in this debate more narrowly into a discussion of the relation between man's thoughts and God's thoughts. To say that God is incomprehensible came to mean that there is some discontinuity (much deeper in Van Til's view than in Clark's) between our thoughts of God (and hence creation) and God's own thoughts of himself (and of creation)."

Frame goes on to point out that there are some continuities and discontinuities between God's thoughts and ours.

There is a footnote on the bottom of page 23 of that book that says that Clark failed to distinguish adequately between incomprehensibility and inapprehensibility or he had an inadequate concept of incomprehensibility. Van Til assumed that Clark was willing to make that distinction. He thought that Clark had said that God is incomprehensible, but not inapprehensible apart from revelation. Hence, Van Til thought that Clark believed that God is knowable apart from revelation. This was an example of how Van Til misunderstood Clark.
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