Gordon Clark Apologetics

This page is about Gordon Clark and his apologetic methodology.

Epistemology Is the Starting Point

Clark’s apologetic methodology begins with epistemology, which seeks to answer the question, “How is knowledge possible?”

In the popular mind, philosophy is often considered as a general theory of the universe. It is expected to say whether the world is material or spiritual or both. Hence the terms materialism, idealism, and dualism come to mind. Discussions of these topics are called metaphysics, and for many philosophers metaphysics has been the fundamental subject. Metaphysics and philosophy have been virtually identified. But before any type of metaphysics can be accepted, another and far more crucial question must be asked and answered. After someone asserts that the universe is nothing but atoms in motion, or that the universe is an Absolute Mind, or even that planets revolve around the Sun, we may properly ask, How do you know? A theory that tries to explain how knowledge is possible is called an epistemological theory. This is where we must begin.

Gordon H. Clark. “Clark and His Critics.” Apple Books. 47.

Secular Epistemological Theories: Rationalism and Empiricism

Clark categorizes the main secular epistemological theories into two categories: rationalism and empiricism.

Rationalism, Plato, and “Ideas”

Plato’s “Ideas” are similarities and classifications, or concepts and groups of things. They are necessary for knowledge and intelligibility.

On one major base some sort of theory of Ideas stands impregnable. It is the necessity of similarities and classifications. Unless we can use concepts and talk of groups of things, philosophy would be impossible. If only individual things existed, and every noun were a proper name, conversation and even thinking itself could not be carried on… All thought and speech depend on classification, and no epistemology can succeed without something like the Platonic Ideas.

Gordon H. Clark. “Clark and His Critics.” Apple Books. 50-51.

Rationalism Fails

Clark argues that rationalism fails to provide a valid epistemology.

The difficulty is that, after one grants the existence of suprasensible Ideas, sensation stimulates different notions in different people. Whether the subject be justice or piety or the planetary spheres, Plato had to rely on procedures of ethics and science which cannot be completed.

Gordon H. Clark. “Clark and His Critics.” Apple Books. 52.

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