Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gordon Clark: The Atonement

I am currently about to finish Gordon H. Clark's The Atonement. The book is basically set up as one long chapter broken down into sections. Each section leads into the next section. The doctrine of Redemption leads to the doctrine of grace which leads to a discussion on the doctrine of the incarnation and so on.

One of the lengthiest chapters is on the subject of Traducianism. It is great to know that I stand in the company of brilliant men for he defends Traducianism with sound argumentation. I only wish I had this book at the time I wrote my paper in 2008.

In the second to last chapter, Clark deals with God's sovereignty, especially as it deals with God's justice. Clark raises the issue which reminds me of David Ellis' question in one of the comments section.
And, again, I ask: would you judge God, if he made the claim that sadism is good, to be evil?
Clark interacts with Grotius and the Hodges on this very point. He states on page 128,
Hodge, who rejects Grotius' view of the atonement, is perhaps a little, but not much, better. God, he says, "wills the precept because it is intrinsically right.... There must be an absolute standard of righteousness." Such a statement places a standard of justice outside of God.
To which he notes,
It raises the question as to the difference between will and nature.
He then discusses in some sense that God's will is not the same as human will.
If we speak of the human will, we refer to a somewhat momentary act of choice. After having considered the relative desirability of this versus that line of action, or (what is the same thing) between an action and doing nothing...We decide and do it. Then when we start to study theology and to consider the will of God, we are apt to think or subconsciously suppose that God makes decisions.
Clark then argues sufficiently that we may not divorce God's nature from God will. Then argues,
From the immutability and omniscience of God it follows necessarily that there is indeed no other possible method of salvation--not however, for the reason Hodge gives, but simply because of this immutability.
This relates to Ellis' question simply because there is nothing higher than God to which one may appeal. On page 133, Clark "settles the question",
As previously asserted by the present writer, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross satisfied the justice of the Father. But now it should be clear that justice is one facet of sovereignty. There is no moral principle superior to God. I can say that there is no moral principle superior to the will of God. God's will and God's intellect are identical. Justice is what God thinks. To suppose that anything could have been otherwise is to suppose that God could have been otherwise than He is. [emphasis mine]
Perhaps this may in part answer Ellis' question, although based upon the repeated assertions and questions, I doubt his presuppositions will allow him to see that.


RichardS said...

If we think of God as choosing good because it is intrinsically good rather than because He Himself is the only true standard of good, we have a higher good than of God Himself and a standard by which God must go by. This would also set up a standard by which men would think they could judge the goodness of God by. Clark is almost Edwardsean on this one.

Howard Fisher said...

What impressed me about Clark's arguments is how he tied all of this into God's will. God's will is ultimate.

RichardS said...

Howard Fisher said...
God's will is ultimate.

Thus one of the great differences between a man-centered God and a God-centered God. Many among the religious world like to think of a God that is man-centered, but that is just another form of man-centeredness. But a God whose own will is ultimate and who is the only true standard of goodness because He is goodness Himself, now that is a God who is God-centered and is one that we should pray as Jesus prayed, "yet not as I will, but as You will." He practiced what He preached because He also taught for us to pray for His (the Father) will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. We know that we have what we pray for when we pray according to His will. His ultimate will. Man is only truly man when he is in line with the will of God and the will of God is his love and desire.