Ok, we’ve seen some back and forth about Clarkianism within Preterist/Hyper-Preterist circles. As we stated other places, Clarkianism has as an axiom, “The Bible is the Word of God written”. Now, all Christians would amen this statement, however it is not really an axiom, as an axiom is a presupposition WITHOUT any deduction — it is an “a priori” starting point. (see definition) Christians agree that the Bible is the Word of God written, however we first affirm God. God is REALLY our axiom, our starting point. There is no denial that the Bible is the Word of God written, nor do we attempt to “divorce” God from His Word. But before the Word, is God, whether we could ascertain what God is or not, we had an innate awareness of God. We’ll see more about this as we go.
I want to at this time address an audio recently done by Clarkian/Frostian/Talbot devotee, Jason Bradfield. (see link). To make it easier to interact with, I’ve transcribed the audio into text.
I’ll post the entire text and then break it down into smaller segments so that we may interact with it.
Transcription of “God As Axiom” by Jason Bradfield/kingneb, May 17, 2010
“You know Sam has recently been throwing around some thoughts, ideas, questions. Uh, he has been challenged about this idea of infinity and how it relates to preterism and the atonement, and procreation and so forth. Anyways, I not, I don’t want to get into all that because he’s uh working on an article and he’ll be posting that soon I think and can’t wait to read it when it’s finished and wrestle through that with him. But he was sharing with me that he uh one the places that he’s posed this issue was over at Pretcosmos, so I went over there to uh read about it; to read the responses. I haven’t been over there in a while, so uh thought I’d hang out over there the past couple of days and read through it. Uh, unfortunately there’s been a lot of crap said, um, you know just-just childish stuff about his-Sam’s relationship with Dr. Talbot and some other things. Just goofy stuff. It’s unfortunate. But anyways, in the process um, today I noticed uh, Roderick has rejoined the group <snicker> , which doesn’t really surprise me. I think he fits right in. Uh, but any ways, uh he said something today that I wanted to talk-bring up because uh it relates directly to the past two audios I’ve done.
Uh, he recently criticized-criticizes Clarkianism. And he says, ‘The basis of Clarkianism found in its main axiom; quote ‘The Bible is the Word of God written’. He says, ‘This at first sounds like a noble and biblical quote, one that caused me at some point to even begin to identify myself as Clarkian. Let’s unpack it a bit’. And just let me make a note here, uh folks, don’t-don’t buy too much into him saying that he identified himself as a Clarkian at some point or began to. Uh, I remember when Roderick first started throwing around the words presuppositional, uh logic and stuff and so forth – empiricism as his podcasts. And I told Sam from day one that Roderick, you can just tell he clearly he has not grasped what these things meant. Um, that-that was obvious to me years ago, so this isn’t a thing about me being bitter; about him not being a preterist and that’s the only reason I’m saying this now. I’ve been saying it for awhile. But anyways, folks don’t-don’t be fooled by him claiming that he understood Clark.
Um, but anyways, he goes on to say, ‘There’s an axiom within this axiom; God’. He says, ‘A person must first acknowledge the existence of God and God as something that matters. I mean without God who cares what a Bible is. And if God is nothing but some mysterious entity who could possibly be one among many gods instead of the One and Only God, then who cares about His Word? Thus, the historic Christian axiom has been God is the One and only God. This is what the Hebrew Shema says. This is what much of the O.T. was about; having no other gods before the One and only God’. Yadya, yada, yada.
Well, Clark uh, Clark comments on why such a position, such as what Roderick is taking is absurd. Um, Clark goes on to explain on his book logic, that –that even though logic is embedded in Scripture, uh there is a reason why Scripture is chosen as the axiom and not the law of contradiction or contradiction of logic. Because if merely assume a law of contradiction we’d be no better off than Emmanuel Kant was. His notion that knowledge requires a priori categories deserves great respect. However, it’s not sufficient to produce knowledge; that is logic does not produce knowledge. It’s a-a, I think Sam told me one time it’s like skeleton. Um, it-it-it holds things together. Uh, the skeleton’s useless without meat, muscle, tendons, so forth. Um, logic does not produce knowledge. It does not produce, uh truth. You can’t get Jesus is Lord out of the law of contradiction. Uh, so therefore the law of contradiction in of itself is not made the axiom of Clark’s argument. But he goes on to say, ‘For similar reasons God is distinct from Scripture is not made to be the axiom of this argument’. He said. ‘This may seem strange to many theologians…’ Uh, he points out uh-uh you know how some confessions; Ausburg, Belgic, Scots, 39-articles start with something other than Scripture. And he says, ‘If God is sovereign it seems very reasonable to put Him first in the system. But several other creeds, especially the Westminster Confession’, which is about as Reformed as you can get; ‘state the doctrine of Scripture at the very start.’ And he says, ‘The explanation is quite simple. Our knowledge of God comes from the Bible’. Okay, ‘We may assert that every proposition is true because God thinks it so and we may follow Charnock in all his great detail, but the whole is based on Scripture. Suppose this were not so, then God’ quote unquote ‘as an axiom’, which is Roderick’s position, ‘a part from Scripture is just a name. We must specify which God. The best known system in which “God” was made the axiom is Spinoza’s. For him all theorems are deduced from God or Nature. But it is the Nature that identifies Spinoza’s God. Different gods might be made axioms of other systems. Hence the important thing is not to presuppose God, but to define the mind of the God presupposed. Therefore the Scripture is offered here as the axiom. This gives definiteness [uh] and content, without which axioms are useless.’ So, again what we have here is-is we have an individual, Roderick who thinks he can divorce God from His Word, or from His thoughts. I mean, let’s read this again. Remember the Word of God as we’ve already defined by the articles is the mind of-of God, it’s His thoughts. Now, let’s-let’s read this. Let’s keep this in mind as we read Roderick’s uh, quote again. ‘I mean…’ quote, ‘I mean, without God, who cares about what God’s thoughts are. And if God is nothing but some mysterious entity, possibly one among other gods, rather than the One and only God, who cares about His thoughts, or His words.’ Now, does that make any sense at all folks? What good does it do to somebody to affirm the existence of a god, a part from the Bible? Because how do we become to know who the One and true God is? Through the Scriptures. Even Roderick, supposedly uh, arguing for his-his historic Christian axiom quote unquote, where does he get that axiom from? Where does he quote it from? The O.T. The Scriptures <snicker>. You can’t divorce the two. You can’t have the One true God a part from what the One true God says about Himself, aka The Word. The Bible. A person who affirms the existence of a quote unquote god is no better off than a person who denies God. Because unless you affirm the existence, and you believe in the existence of God as he truly is, that is how He has revealed Himself. Then you are not affirming the existence of the One true God. It’s that simple folks. You can’t divorce his-the two. Roderick’s axiom is pure nonsense. You cannot have a god divorced from the Scripture. And what Clark’s whole point is, his axiom, it not only includes God, the word god, quote unquote, but it leaves it defined. Whereas Roderick’s axiom leaves it undefined. The very problem that Roderick thinks he’s getting around, is the very problem that his axiom creates; and that is, you cannot deduce who God is from the mere axiom; quote unquote god. It’s nonsense.”
Jason specifically is addressing his and the Pretcomos audience (both audiences are hyperpreterists)
The Pretcosmos reader should first note the slam Jason directs toward the Pretcosmos members. Jason says, “Roderick has rejoined the group <snicker> , which doesn’t really surprise me. I think he fits right in. ” How and why do I “fit in”??? Another thing that I noticed after actually taking the time to transcribe one of Jason’s audio is that you can tell when he is saying something he knows is not really accurate. He stutters and uses the words, “uh” and “um” a lot right before the nonfactual comment. I noticed something like this in another person I know who when speaking with them, would take a deep breath right before making nonfactual comments.
Further, Jason makes it sound like the connection to Talbot is irrelevant. Well, since the content of Jason’s audio is the EXACT content over which I and Talbot split (I’m not a Clarkian and think it is a very, very un-Christian system), it is certainly VERY relevant but Jason simply dismisses all the talk about Sam’s association with Talbot and Talbot’s influence on Sam.
Next, Jason acts like he has no bitterness toward me but that he is only pointing out things he has supposed always considered about me. In reality, anyone who has been in the movement long enough can remember when I had my first run in with “pastor” M.A.R. Samuel Frost extraordinaire. It was while I was still within the movement. I was advocating that a consistent conclusion of “hyperpreterism” is that the five-fold ministry as it was in the pre-Parousia church is no longer the condition of the post-Parousia church. That we have been built up into the complete new man. Sam at first vehemently opposed this but later in an article (and to me on the phone personally) Sam conceded the point. From the day I engaged Sam, Jason, ever the attack-dog apologist for his hero and mentor, has always had it in for me.
Now, to the crux of Jason’s audio. He quotes and argues from Clark (sometimes not clear as to when he is speaking and when he is quoting Clark, see Clark’s comments from Against The World. The Trinity Review, 1978-1988. [God And Logic, Gordon H. Clark, pg. 52-56] — ref ).
When Jason begins his crux, see how he speaks of “the law of contradiction “. Here, Jason ISN’T addressing what I presented but rather he is doing what he said he wasn’t going to get into — the idea of infinity and how it relates to doctrines, especially how it relates to doctrines Sam has been throwing around here on Pretcosmos. This has very little to do with the issue of Clark’s wrong axiom, but is just another “but anyway” potshot at PretCosmos members before he gets to me.
Now, it is Jason’s goal to make it look like the axiom of “God” is “nonsense” and “absurd” and as if it is just the ravings of that meanie “hyperpret-hater” Roderick Edwards. However, Jason can’t seem to blackwash it enough as we see even as Jason quotes Clark on the issue, Clark’s unwitting admission that Clark’s axiom “may seem strange to many theologians…”. Really??? So Clark is admitting that his axiom is strange? But watch how Jason craftily shifts from comparing Clark’s axiom to the “law of contradiction” to comparing Clark’s axiom to the axiom of “God”.
Clark even ADMITS that it is reasonable and that many of the earlier confessions actually started out with God as their axiom. Hmmm, not such a nonsensical absurdity eh?
Jason accurately quotes me in an initial quote but notice how though he claims to be re-quoting me, he completely changes the words, thus NOT quoting me.
Initial, accurate quote:
“I mean without God who cares what a Bible is. And if God is nothing but some mysterious entity who could possibly be one among many gods instead of the One and Only God, then who cares about His Word?”
Re-quote fabrication by Jason:
‘I mean, without God, who cares about what God’s thoughts are. And if God is nothing but some mysterious entity, possibly one among other gods, rather than the One and only God, who cares about His thoughts, or His words.’
Jason out and out fabricated the second quote. It was not like the first. Real trust worthy fellow there.
Now let’s look at what some other theologians have said about this axiom of “God”
Commenting on Romans 1:20, “…he [Paul] seems here to have intended to indicate a manifestation, by which they might be so closely pressed, that they could not evade; for every one of us undoubtedly finds it to be engraven on his own heart, By saying, that God has made it manifest, he means, that man was created to be a spectator of this formed world, and that eyes were given him, that he might, by looking on so beautiful a picture, be led up to the Author himself…God is in himself invisible; but as his majesty shines forth in his works and in his creatures everywhere, men ought in these to acknowledge him, for they clearly set forth their Maker: and for this reason the Apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews says, that this world is a mirror, or the representation of invisible things. He does not mention all the particulars which may be thought to belong to God; but he states, that we can arrive at the knowledge of his eternal power and divinity…He plainly testifies here, that God has presented to the minds of all the means of knowing him, having so manifested himself by his works, that they must necessarily see what of themselves they seek not to know — that there is some God; for the world does not by chance exist, nor could it have proceeded from itself.”
Calvin further says, “We conceive that there is a Deity; and then we conclude, that whoever he may be, he ought to be worshipped: but our reason here fails, because it cannot ascertain who or what sort of being God is.”
Calvin continues: “But this knowledge of God, which avails only to take away excuse, differs greatly from that which brings salvation”.
Calvin follows: “He plainly testifies here, that God has presented to the minds of all the means of knowing him, having so manifested himself by his works, that they must necessarily see what of themselves they seek not to know — that there is some God; for the world does not by chance exist, nor could it have proceeded from itself.” — source
As you can see, this is completely OPPOSITE of what the devoted Clarkian Jason is saying. Calvin says specifically that “we can arrive at the knowledge…”, the KNOWLEDGE of God’s eternal power and divinity simply by His works, nature. Of course we can’t know God’s thoughts or His will EXCEPT as revealed by Scripture. There is no contradiction here, simply a correction of Clark’s starting point/axiom, which should AFFIRM that humanity has an innate awareness/”knowledge” of God.
B.B. Warfield, commenting on this subject and on Calvin’s conclusions said this:
“The knowledge of God with which we are natively endowed is therefore more than a bare conviction that God is: it involves, more or less explicated, some understanding of what God is. Such a knowledge of God can never be otiose and inert; but must produce an effect in human souls, in the way of thinking, feeling, willing. In other words, our native endowment is not merely a sensus deitatis, but also a semen religionis. For what we call religion is just the reaction of the human soul to what it perceives God to be. Calvin is, therefore, just as insistent that religion is universal as that the knowledge of God is universal. ‘The seeds of religion,’ he insists, ‘are sown in every heart’; men are propense to religion; and always and everywhere frame to themselves a religion, consonant with their conceptions of God.” — source
Where then does this leave the Clarkians and their secondary axiom??? At least we could see how Clark sort of admitted that his axiom was “strange” to many theologians — so strange that it is NOT the axiom of most of historic Christian theologians.
Jason and Clark make it seem like the WCF departs from the axiom of starting with an affirmation of God’s existence and instead somehow supports the Clarkian’s axiom. This too, like Jason’s quotes is a fabrication:
The first chapter of the WCF begins:
“Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation;” (WCF)
This is EXACTLY what Calvin was saying, that nature, the works of creation manifest the power of God, but of course to know God’s Will and for necessity for salvation, we MUST get into the Word. See, Jason and his fellow Clarkians are fabricating left and right. They are arguing “philosophical ‘logic'” rather than biblical, Christian logic — otherwise Clarkianism axiom wouldn’t be so “strange” to theologians.
Further, even when we go to Scripture, Scripture points us back to the axiom of “God”.
Paul further displays this presupposition in action during his interaction with the Athenians on Mars Hill in Acts 17:22-24:
Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it…
Paul’s starting point was the fact that these people had an innate awareness of God, but that they didn’t know who/what God is. Now, what would have happened had Paul just said, “the Bible is the Word of God written”? It still did not answer the first question: Who is God? Paul begins by declaring God as SOVEREIGN, as the Creator of ALL things. This bold yet comprehensive claim would quickly counter the notion of lesser gods with lesser “sovereignty”. This immediately causes tension between multiple claims of deity and forces the audience to either acknowledge THE God or reject Him. They cannot simply allow Him to be one among many. This is the reason that during much of the Old Testament, the God of the Bible was constantly declaring Himself as the One God & that all others are merely idols — fake gods.
This is the “classic” apologetic that Jews have used & Christians have used to declare God…presuppositionally. (see Shema)
So, in conclusion it was EXTREMELY relevant that Talbot and his Clarkian influence is considered when we consider why Sam and his proteges argue the way they argue. And now it is also relevant to consider Talbot’s Clarkian influence on all his proxies. They begin with an axiom that while not wrong is actually secondary to the FACT of humanity’s “natively endowed” knowledge/awareness of God. Clarkianism, by Clark’s own admission is “strange”.