Review: The Biblical Doctrine of Man (Gordon Clark)

Thesis: Gordon Clark identifies the “man” with the “soul, spirit, or mind” (Clark 88). Man is the image (9). Clark doesn’t want to include the body in the definition of the image, but not because he is a rationalist.  He notes that Paul had an out-of-body experience but he was still the image of God (10). Quoting Col. 3:10 and Eph. 4:24, Clark argues that the image is knowledge and righteousness (14).Gordon H Clark

The Image of God

Clark has a fine section rejecting the Roman doctrine of donum superadditum (8). God pronounced man “very good,” which means he wasn’t created in a state of neutrality.  If Adam’s fall was merely the loss of original righteousness, then he only fell to a neutral level (13).

On the heart

Clark gives an interesting survey of how the term “heart” is used in the Bible, noting that it is normally used in an intellectual of voluntaristic sense and rarely in a touchy-feely sense (81-88). The heart has a noetic function.  Without realizing it, Clark has come very close to a key epistemological insight that many of the church fathers knew.

Clark defends a dichotomous view of the human subject (33-44).

Traducianism

His discussion isn’t as long or analytic as William GT Shedd’s, but it contains a number of penetrating insights.  For example:

(1) It is a fallacy to say that all angels’ souls are immediately created by God, and humans have souls, therefore each soul is immediately created (this seems to be John Gill’s argument).

(2) Souls don’t have to be fissile (Clark doesn’t use that term) since our soul isn’t produced or created by our parents’.  Nor do souls have spatial characteristics. Rather, we should see souls in terms of “functions” (47). If souls are active, and no one doubts they are, then there is no prima facie reason why a soul can’t transmit another soul.

Does traducianism depends on realism?  Maybe, but no one is saying that it depends on Plato’s realism?  But even if it does have similarities, there is no reason why this threatens imputation.  There is no logical “incongruity between the proposition, ‘the souls of descendants are propogated through their parents’ and, the proposition, ‘Adam acted as the legal representative for all men’” (49).

Does Realism necessitate that we hold there is an Idea of x in which one participates?  It can mean that but it doesn’t have to. All that Realism in Clark’s case requires is that there is an Idea in God’s mind and it is a real object of knowledge. Nor is one saying that all men participated in the Idea of Man, which also happened to be the individual Adam.  

Mind-Body Problem

Whatever problems the Christian dualist may have in explaining the relationship between the mind and body, the materialist has more.  How does a causal relationship arise from sensory experience (91)?

Gold Nuggets

Clark was ahead of his time.  He anticipated and exposed many of the dead-ends that philosophers, educators, and scientists face today.  For example:

(1) How do empiricists explain the production of abstract ideas from memory images (19)?

(2) If naturalism is true, then how can one say that the naturalistic process of the brain is “more true” than the process of flexing my muscle?  If naturalism produces both behaviorism in one case and Christianity in the other, and both are merely naturalistic reflexes, why is Behaviorism more true than Christianity (29)?

(3) “The Romish theory therefore locates the source of sin in Adam’s unfallen nature” (58).

(4) Depravity is part of the penalty of sin; therefore, the guilt logically precedes it (67).  As Westminster says, “the guilt is imputed, the corruption conveyed” (68; VI:3).

Analysis

The book kind of “ends” suddenly.  Granted, the last page is part of an appendix, but Clark never actually says his conclusion.  He has a long quote by Malebranche, but we don’t know if Clark is affirming or rejecting Occasionalism.

I’m also none too keen on defining the image as the soul.  Does image = soul mean the same thing as soul = person? The latter leads to Nestorianism if applied to Christology.  To be fair, though, Clark never affirms Descartes’s substance dualism. The book is short and very clearly-written.  There are some underdeveloped areas but on a whole it is outstanding.

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About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
This entry was posted in American Theology, Book Review, theology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Review: The Biblical Doctrine of Man (Gordon Clark)

  1. redoves says:

    Paul says concerning his being caught up to the third heaven and paradise: “whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know, God knows” (2 Cor 12:2-3). A bit hasty, then, to label it an OBE.

    The body is a person’s/agent’s locus of action and ability. Think of the body as comprising active modes of the person, e.g., he/she-as-seeing or -touching, he/she-as-visible or – touchable (these latter being ‘receptive’ activities, if you will). Restoration of a person will include his/her modes, both capable/potent (i.e., soul/essence) and able/active (i.e., body/energies). Berkeley somewhat has the right idea when he says that dead Newtonian matter isn’t real: the actions and interactions of spirits (i.e., persons/agents) compose all physical reality.

    Plus, if the body isn’t intrinsic to the image, why the Resurrection? (Also, Gen 9:6 suggests a connection, if not equivalence, between image and body.)

    Liked by 1 person

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