Van Til Tool

Using the Van Til Perspective as the tool to discover what life means and how it ought to be lived.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

EXCELLENT BIOGRAPHY OF GORDON CLARK PUBLISHED -- Review of Douglas Douma's "The Presbyterian Philosopher: Bio of Gordon Clark"


A review of

Douglas J. Douma  The Presbyterian Philosopher:
                                 The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark (Wipf, 2017)
                                 292 pp   $37.00   ISBN: 978-1-4326-0724-0

Foreward By Clark’s Daughters:   Lois Zeller and Betsy Clark George

Reviewer:  Forrest W. Schultz

     This biography is so well written and carefully documented that it has received three pages (i, ii, iii) of highly laudatory plaudits from some of the most prominent leaders in the contemporary Reformed community.  Perhaps the most noteworthy and impressive of these plaudits is the one by John Frame, who for the past five decades has been regarded as the leading authority on the thought of Cornelius Van Til, which has usually been deemed to be antithetical to the philosophy of Gordon Clark.  And, I am pleased to say that Doug Douma has dealt with the Clark vs. Van Til controversy in a professional and irenic fashion.

     Douma has also refrained from expressions of wrath in his portrayal of the very sad defections (from Clark’s high view of Scripture) by his former students (at Wheaton College) Drs. Edward J. Carnell and Paul K. Jewett into the false notion that errors are present in Scripture – a belief for which they became notorious while they were professors at Fuller Seminary.

     On the lighter side, Douma had a lot of fun reporting the reactions of two of Clark’s  other students at Wheaton:  Ruth Bell and Billy Graham.  Ruth said she welcomed the hard facts; but Billy rebuked Clark for being “cold”.  Douma’s portrayal of Billy’s rebuke of Clark is reminiscent to that of Dr. McCoy’s reaction to the cold logic of Mr. Spock on Star Trek!


     It is not surprising that a large portion of Douma’s book is devoted to the well-known, but poorly understood, “Clark case” in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which never conducted a Clark vs. Van Til debate, but instead handled the matter in a very bureaucratic way, which many sarcastically regard as typical of Presbyterianism!  Douma discusses, at different places in his book, the various elements in the Clark vs. Van Til dispute, which discussions are too lengthy and complex to summarize here.  I encourage you to read and ponder them and also to consult the extensive bibliography provided in the back of the book.  One of these books which I highly recommend (which is not discussed by Douma) is the late Robert L. Reymond’s The Justification of Knowledge, which sets forth my own view – I am a Reymondite Van Tillian.

     Douma concludes his story with a happy ending, relating how in their old age Clark and Van Til not only were reconciled but became friends.  Such a reconciliation is rare, BUT it is not to be unexpected because of a little known fact about Westminster Theological Seminary:  its campus is located on a former estate populated by rare trees, thus serving as a fitting environment for a rare reconciliation.  This is very meaningful to me because those rare trees also served as a fitting environment for me many moons ago when I was a Th.M. student at WTS writing my thesis on what then was a rare topic, the Biblical view of ecology.

     Information on the author is available at

     Posts by the reviewer are found at

February 21, 2017



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