Is Sensation Necessary to Read the Bible? (Gordon Clark Quotes)

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This is a list of Gordon Clark quotes about mathematics.

The books from which these quotes came are published by the Trinity Foundation. You can purchase the books at these links:

Response to Ronald Nash

If, now, the argument that I cannot guarantee some desirable item of information be withdrawn as unsupported and irrelevant, it may still be said, and Nash says it, that I cannot have revealed information because this too depends on the sensations of black ink on the pages of a physical Bible.

Nevertheless, I apprehend that this form of the objection is subject to the same strictures. It presupposes that sensations occur. Just above it was pointed out that Hegel and Augustine — and in effect Brand Blanshard, too, in his The Nature of Thought — are unable to agree. But perhaps Professor Nash does not really mean sensation; maybe he means perception. I doubt that he does; but this is just the trouble: it is hard to know what he means. There are many definitions of these terms, each reflecting a different theory of psychology. It would not occur to me that Nash intends behavioristic sensation; nor do I suppose that he accepts Spinoza’s sensation in “parallel”: parallelism or occasionalism might salvage my view and would at any rate leave his objection without foundation. Could he then mean those Platonic sensations that stimulate reminiscence?

At this point someone might suggest that I am indulging in obfuscation. Why do I not answer the objection straightforwardly? Well, for one thing, an objection is satisfactorily answered, if it can be shown to have no definite meaning. If it has no meaning, further answer can be required. Perhaps I should put this reply in slightly different words. This objection in the many forms it has been brought depends on a view of epistemology that I reject. Or it may depend on several views, a different one for each critic. But none of the critics expound or defend their views. Until they do so, I can only challenge them to define sensation and justify the assertion of universal propositions on that basis. I can only challenge them to show that they are not dreaming or otherwise deceived. I can only insist that normative principles cannot be deduced from “facts.” I can only chide them for taking refuge in some unknowable Ding-an-Sich. In the situation this is not obfuscation. It is a demand to face the problem of epistemology.

Beyond this appeal to fundamental problems, and in direct reference to Professor Nash’s immediate criticism, I may mention that once Augustine faced a similar difficulty. To be sure, he dealt rather with individual terms, whereas my interest centers on propositions; but there is an instructive parallel. Augustine asked whether sensations such as spoken or written words could communicate truth. The negative is supported by several considerations. (1) The word caput is a sign. If I do not know its meaning to begin with, the word will not explain itself; and if I know, the word has not taught me. (2) The same sentence changes its truth-value from one mind to another; as, for an example, when an Epicurean discusses the immortality of the soul, he may convince his listener that the soul is indeed immortal. (3) There are innumerable instances of ambiguity.

Augustine is so little enthusiastic about written or spoken words that he can say, “To give them as much credit as possible, words possess only sufficient efficacy to remind us in order that we may seek things, but not to exhibit the things so that we may know them.”185 No doubt someone will immediately point out the context of this quotation and remark that Augustine attributed a greater role to sensation than I do. Quite possibly that is the case. But if I have gone further than the great bishop, it only adds emphasis to his concessions. Maybe, too, he might have gone further, had he lived longer, for the changes from his earlier to his later writings are considerable.

However this may be, note in addition that he did not learn the story of the three young Hebrews who were cast into the fiery furnace from inked lines on a manuscript. “Has this story been transmitted to us otherwise than by means of words?” he asks. “I answer that everything signified by these words was already in our knowledge.”

Passing on from sensible to intelligible objects, Augustine gives us his solution to the problem of knowledge. “When things are discussed which we perceive through the mind, that is, by means of intellect and reason, these things are said to be things which we see immediately in the interior light of truth by virtue of which he himself who is called the interior man is illumined…. Even though I speak about true things {even though Clark states true propositions] I still do not teach him who beholds the true things, for he is taught not through my words but by means of the things themselves which God reveals within the soul.”

That this explanation still leaves some questions unanswered, no one is more aware of than I unless it be Augustine himself, whose concluding section says, “We shall, God willing, inquire at some other time about the utility of words.” To our present disappointment, God was not willing; yet even “now we may not only believe but also begin to understand that it has been truly written on divine authority that we are not to call anyone on earth our master because there is only one Master of all, who is in Heaven.

Gordon H. Clark. “Clark and His Critics.” Apple Books. 404-409.

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