Monday, July 22, 2013

Creation, QIRC, and QUACK

Dr Scott Clark (Associate Minister at Escondido United Reformed Church, and Professor at Westminster Seminary California) does not believe that God created the world in 6 literal historical days (he favors the Framework Hypothesis or Analogical Days). Nevertheless, he still considers himself to be solidly Reformed. He is thus strongly opposed to those who affirm creation in 6 historical days as the only valid Reformed interpretation of Genesis 1 (I shall call this notion "6 historical days only" or 6HDO for short).

To combat 6HDO (and other perceived dangers, such as theonomy) Dr Clark has invented a special term, QIRC, of which 6HDO is his prime example (see his book Recovering the Reformed Confession, pp.47-61)

What is QIRC? In a recent post Dr Clark explains: 

QIRC is an acronym: Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty. It has at least two aspects. The first is the ancient, sinful desire to know what God knows, the way he knows it. That is what the Evil One offered to us in the garden (Gen 3)...

The first aspect of the QIRC is that it is not satisfied with being a mere image-bearer, an analogue of God. It wants more. It wants to know what God knows, the way he knows it. It seeks to bend the line of analogy into a line of intersection with God’s intellect. It effectively denies Isaiah 55:8-9:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
If we know what God knows, the way he knows it, then his thoughts are our thoughts and his ways are no longer higher than ours, at least not always. Intersection is not analogy. 

A second aspect of the QIRC is the desire to be “right.” This is to be distinguished from the desire to “get it right.” ...The QIRC-er must be right because his faith and confidence do not really rest in another (Christ) outside himself. Rather, his confidence is in himself, that he is right. Because the locus of authority is within (intrinsic) he can move about from one confession to another and at every point be cocksure the he is right, because he is the definition of right. He’s a Narcissist: I am right; I think x; Ergo x is right...

Without fail, the QIRC-er “knows” esoteric truths that are not obviously taught in Scripture, that are not “good and necessary inferences” from Scripture, and that are not confessed in the catholic creeds or Reformed confessions...

Thus far Dr Clark. His message is clear: QIRC-ers, including 6HDO-ers like myself, are very, very bad. They are sinful, unbiblical, irrational, and egomaniacs. 

QIRC and Genesis

Dr Clark's depiction of 6HDO as QIRC is a very convenient tactic. According to Dr. Clark, QIRC-ers always think they are right no matter what. Hence dialogue is pointless, and we can simply ignore 6HDO-ers, thereby marginalizing 6HD.

Are Dr Clark's charges justified?

Well, self-examination is always good for the soul. Yet, in my experience, 6HDO-ers invariably place the locus of authority not in themselves but, rather, in God and His revealed word. On that basis, they are convinced that 6HDO is not an "esoteric truth", but the clear teaching of Scripture. Moreover, the Westminster Confession specifies that God created the world "in the space of six days" (IV-1). Measured by that Reformed standard, it is Dr Clark who falls short.

Perhaps Dr Clark's negative assessment of the character of 6HDO-ers is due to frustration in being unable to convince them of the Biblical plausibility of alternative, non-literal views of Genesis 1. If so, Dr Clark would do well to pause, and to consider if this might not be due to the weakness of those views (see my post Refuting a Figurative Genesis).   


God's Knowledge and Human Knowledge

According to Dr Clark, it is sinful to desire "to know what God knows, the way he knows it". Where does he get that from? Not from Gen.3. The real sin there was to question and twist God's word ("did God really say?"), followed by Adam willfully disobeying God's explicit command.

Dr Clark infers from Isaiah 55:8-9 that God's thoughts are necessarily higher than man's thoughts. From this he concludes that man's knowledge can thus be only analogical to God's knowledge, having no truths in common.

The opposite notion-- that our knowledge is at some points the same as God's knowledge--is known as the univocal (i.e., one voice or sense) view of knowledge. It was defended by Gordon Clark, among others. In his post (see the comments), Dr (Scott) Clark denigrates Gordon Clark's univocal view as simply another example of QIRC.

But, in citing Isaiah, Dr Clark omits the previous verse (Is.55:7), which greatly alters the meaning:
Let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord...

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Is. 55:7-9)
Read in proper context, Isaiah 55 tells us that we should forsake our unrighteous thoughts, and make God's thoughts our thoughts. Thus our knowledge can and should intersect with God's knowledge. This is line with Gordon Clark's univocal view, and contra Dr Scott Clark.

Indeed, God specifically tells us that His word is truth (John 17:17), and that we can learn His truth (Ps.86:11). How and what we know certainly differ from God. Yet we surely can truly know some things, particularly those truths that God has revealed to us. 

Sins of Adding and Subtracting

I concur with Dr Clark's caution not to go beyond the clear teaching of Scripture. Why, however, does Dr Clark not express equal concern about the opposite sin, of watering down Biblical truth?

A pertinent text is Deut.29:29:
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
This teaches us not to pry into God's hidden knowledge but, at the same time, urges us to hold on to what God has revealed to us. Note, by the way, that those revealed truths include God's reason for the sabbath:
It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed. (Ex.31:17).
Introducing QUACK

Dr Clark is so busy avoiding the Scylla of the perceived dangers of QIRC that he risks shipwreck on the Charybdis of QUACK.

What is QUACK?

QUACK is an acronym: Quest to Undermine Authentic Christian Knowledge. It has at least two aspects. The first is the ancient, sinful denial that our knowledge can ever intersect with God's knowledge . A second aspect of  QUACK is the desire to be “right,” in the eyes of the world.... Without fail, the QUACK-er “knows” that the obvious sense of a pertinent Biblical text is not the intended meaning...

More specifically, QUACK-ers are long on common grace, and short on antithesis. They believe that, in matters of history, reality and culture, God reveals truth most clearly through worldly scholarship, to which the Bible must therefore conform. Biblical texts to the contrary must thus be suitably deconstructed.

QUACK-ers may affirm Biblical inerrancy, but this is rendered meaningless by their insistence that our interpretation of the Bible is always fallible, so that we can never be certain about what any text really says. Honest exegesis of troublesome texts gives way to devising a range of alternative, less embarrassing, interpretations. A preferred exegetical tool is Scripture muddies Scripture, where clear texts are compared to less clear, so that they become uncertain. Or, even better, one passage (e.g., Gen.1) is read in such a way as to contradict a parallel passage (e.g., Gen.2), showing that neither are intended to be taken literally. Another frequent ploy is to circumvent the obvious sense of the text by superimposing  a hypothetical authorial intent to the contrary...

With all due respect, it seems to me that non-literal views of the creation days, as promoted by Dr Clark and his Westminster Seminary colleagues, is a prime example of QUACK (see my post Genesis and Dr Scott Clark).

Happily, Westminster Sem. draws the line at human evolution.

Unhappily, Westminster Sem. graduates such as Dr Tim Keller, Dr Tremper Longman, and Dr Peter Enns, have taken the QUACK agenda of their professors one inevitable logical step further by embracing human evolution and deconstructing the Biblical account of Adam. This in turn subverts such essentials as the doctrines of original sin and Christ's atonement (see my posts The cost of an old earth and The Demolition of Adam), providing yet more Biblical grist for the QUACK mill.

In conclusion, if Dr Clark is so convinced that non-literal creation days is Biblically warranted, let him demonstrate this with honest Biblical exegesis, rather than merely QUACK-ing and crying QIRC.

*****



22 comments:

  1. He is thus strongly opposed to those who affirm creation in 6 historical days as the only valid Reformed interpretation of Genesis

    That seems an oddly-constructed sentence to me; I just want to properly locate the emphasis; it is insisting on the "only valid Reformed interpretation of Genesis" part that is QIRC, not necessarily 6/24 itself.

    QUACK is an acronym: Quest to Undermine Authentic Christian Knowledge.
    Very, very clever. That might just go viral.

    More specifically, QUACK-ers are long on common grace, and short on antithesis.

    Yes, and contrariwise, hyper-vanTillian QIRC-ers are short on common grace and long on antithesis, to the point of skirting gnosticism. For a more on this, see another recent post.

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    1. Whatever John Byl is, he isn't hyper-vanTillian. You've got it wrong on this, Rube.

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    2. I have a hard time respecting individuals who bring up the bugaboo of Gnosticism. It is dishonest pure and simple to accuse individuals who place scripture as the final epistemological court of appeal of Gnosticism. What is that even supposed to mean? No one in the Van Tillian tradition ever ignores the body or the material world. Rather general revelation does not come along with its own interpretation (Calvin made a similar point). Rather, scripture must interpret general revelation for us because we are fallen sinful individuals. It is a matter of authority and not whether or not one is Gnostic. The claim of Gnosticism is just an attempt to obfuscate the real issues.

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    5. The way hyper-vanTillianism verges on Gnosticism is denying the trueness and legitimacy of any knowledge but Christian knowledge; thus Christianity becomes a secret society that owns all true knowledge, and nobody can unlock the secret unless they join the club.

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    6. I completely misunderstood this thread when I published. I should take more time to read. My comment is completely irrelevant; we're talking about different things entirely. Oh dear. Engage brain before opening mouth!

      David

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  2. Dr (Scott) Clark denigrates Gordon Clark's univocal view as simply another example of QIRC. Read in proper context, Isaiah 55 tells us that we should forsake our unrighteous thoughts, and make God's thoughts our thoughts. Thus our knowledge can and should intersect with God's knowledge. This is line with Gordon Clark's univocal view, and contra Dr Scott Clark.

    I'm confused; are you (Gordon) Clarkian, or Van Tillian? I didn't think it was possible to be both.

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  3. Neither. However, I consider both Gordon Clark and Cornelius van Til to be great Reformed scholars, from whom I have learned much. My own views have much in common with their's. But both also have their flaws. On this issue I side with Gordon Clark's univocal view.

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  4. Dr. Byl:

    On this particular point, the univocal meaning of what Scripture says, I am also in agreement.

    As to Dr. Clark's view I've got a series of questions: (If I may respectfully borrow from your profession, Dr. Byl) if I learn, as well as I am able, to add one plus one, so that it comes out to two every time, does that mean that I claim to be a professor of Mathematics just like, say, Dr. Byl? After all, I know what he knows. Dr. Byl knows a lot more, a whole lot more, than I do, but I do know something the same way that he knows it: but do I thereby claim that our knowledge is equal?

    I think this is a good parallel, because I think it demonstrates very well that the presumption of knowing something better than others is really on the other view, on Dr. Clark's view. Knowing something because God said it would be to assume God meant it to be understood that way, and that would be arrogant and wrong, in Dr. Clark's estimation.

    If I know that God sent His Son to reconcile us to Himself because that's what God says in His Word, then, in Clark's estimation, am I unfaithful because I am taking God at His word, on a word for word basis, on a meaning for meaning basis? If I take anything God says as didactic teaching would I be knowing something the way God knows it; and would that be contrary to a true faith?

    What about the question of whether the God's Word is God's very Word? By very definition, Clark's that is, taking God's Word as God's very Word would be disrespectful to God. Based upon the Heidelberg Catechism's summary of God's Word, then, using Clark's view, taking God at His Word would be equal to idolatry (LD 34.)

    Knowing something the way God meant it, as He knows things, though not with the same fullness, unlimitedness and unchangeableness as God Himself, is the very thing that God calls us to: as in Col. 3:2 and Philippians 4:8. If these values were earthly values why would He call us to them when He calls us to be spiritual in all things and to seek these as things that are above?

    It seems to me, Dr. Byl, that Dr. Clark's type of argumentation shows us what kind of discreditable lengths such beliefs need to go to in order to accepted. That, all by itself, is enough to dismiss it, in my opinion.

    JohnV

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    1. WCF I.7 All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

      The Reformed doctrine of perspicuity only guarantees that doctrines necessary "for salvation" will be "clearly propounded". But I've run around that tree enough times at this blog already that I don't want to dig the rut deeper here.

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    2. Hi RubeRad:

      I appreciate that you see the difference between using the clarity of Scripture to determine doctrine and using the those things that are not clear to all as a grounding for "filling in the blanks" with men's theorizings.

      Even the theistic evolutionists say that they are not declaring evolutionary theory to be true. Rather, they say, we should take the evidences seriously, and not write them off. I'm all for that, but these theories are hardly equal to General Revelation. And we find no grounds for interpreting Scripture according to unproven theories, no matter how universally they are accepted. Not even secular evolutions dare make the claim that evolution is absolutely true; it is still a theory to them too. They just redefine 'theory' so that it doesn't sound like theory but sounds more like 'fact' without saying its fact.

      I am also happy to see you acknowledge that "for salvation" is covered within the things in Scripture which are clear. We do not find in this article of faith that this perspicuity is confined to that which is needed for salvation, but rather is included within that field of clarity.

      We can say, for example, that all the cows are in the field, That would not necessarily mean that cows are all that are in the field. Maybe the farmer has some horses in there as well; but it is sure that all the cows are in the field. Similarly, all that is needed for salvation is in that area of Scripture which is clear. That might not be all that is clear, but that which is needed for salvation from the beginning convert to the Christian scholar is clearly revealed.

      We also do not find in this article that anything that is not about salvation is wide open to different interpretations. Nor do we find that anyone can fill in whatever suits his particular and personal beliefs. The view Dr. Byl has named 6HDO follows the rule carefully, as a view which does not fill in blanks but takes God's Word for what it says. It is still called the literal view, simply because it says what it says, and is not the product of men thrusting their imaginations and their arbitrary definitions upon the text.

      The logical conclusion of Dr. Scott Clark's idea is that we are left without Sola Scriptura altogether. He colours the picture the colour he wants, and then finds fault with the colour it is painted, not seeing the ramifications of an argument stretched too far. What the Bible says are God's thoughts, and to think that we can think them is nothing less than arrogance, according to him. Any and all literal interpretation, then, is gone, and not just the six-day creation.

      But I would like to read a critique of the Christian faith that critiques the Christian faith, not someone's disputable version of it. Let the theistic evolutionists introduce a legitimate ground for their reinterpretations, and we'll have something to talk about. I am all in favour of finding true faults with what we believe, so that all our faith may be strengthened. But setting up straw men only to knock them down doesn't build anyone up.

      JohnV

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    3. To John V

      Thanks for your comments, with which I concur. But I was initially puzzled by your first comment, since it seemed that the Dr Clark you referred to was Dr Gordon Clark. Your second post clarifies that it is Dr Scott Clark.

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    4. Dr. Byl:

      Yes, I realized my mistake after I had posted. I assumed that the point at issue was Dr. Scott Clark's ideas, so I made too little an effort to distinguish. I'm sorry if I confused some readers. Thanks for making it clearer by pointing it out, sir.

      JohnV

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    5. RubeRad:

      The points you have raised concerning the perspicuity of Scripture are these:

      1. All that is necessary unto salvation is perspicuous
      2. Is Genesis 1 perspicuous?
      3. Is the literal view of creation the correct, or are there other, partly extra-Biblical, reasons to doubt it?
      4. Things beyond that which are necessary for salvation may be felt by some to be perspicuous, but not by others: each may claim his own, it seems. The Reformed doctrine only guarantees perspicuity on matters of salvation.

      The points that have been raised in answer so far have stated in one form or another; all I did was summarize them, and in some cases stated them either more succinctly or more plainly so as to be in relation to your points:

      1. The doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture attests: a) the clarity and univocal meaning of Scripture; and b) the sufficiency of Scripture for salvation and worship in an acceptable manner.
      2. ‘Clear’ and ‘plain’ does not mean ‘simple’. Some things can be difficult and also perspicuous, given the effort to learn them.
      3. All that is necessary for salvation and for worship is perspicuous, but not all that is perspicuous is necessary for salvation.
      4. Perspicuity implies assurance of knowledge, and therefore objective authority from God.
      (Dr. S. Clark implies that whatever man may think must, by Biblical definition, not be God’s thoughts; in direct opposition to the perspicuity of Scripture.)
      5. The distinction between perspicuity and perspicacity: a claim of non-perspicuity of any Scripture is really a confession of non-perspicacity: it is a dangerous thing to find fault with Scripture instead of with man.
      6. One runs the danger of violating God’s Word by ruling out the literal meaning if it seems to not be perspicuous. We are to believe all the Word (BC, v), not only those things we believe to be perspicuous.

      In addition to these points, we should reiterate that BC art. v calls us to believe all the Scriptures, not just the parts that we declare to be perspicuous. We might also reiterate that, just because something isn’t clear to me, that does not mean that it is not perspicuous.

      We should also add that it is a dangerous thing to declare some text to be non-perspicuous, simply because it is not necessary for salvation. Let me explain, briefly:

      If perspicuity applied only to those things which are necessary for salvation, so “that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them” then we would only have Scripture for the immature, to the level of the unlearned. In fact, though, Scripture is also sufficient for growing in the faith, so that the unlearned may grow into the learned. And this growth is not on speculative conclusions but on the sure and objective knowledge of God and Christ Jesus. And this knowledge comes from the perspicuity of God’s Word. One may conclude from this that all of Scripture is perspicuous, but in degrees from the unlearned to the learned. To declare that God has a purpose for every word in the Bible is to say that all of Scripture is perspicuous. The problem is not the Bible’s perspicuity, it is rather man’s perscpicacity.

      To declare as non-perspicuous that which the learned have learned, simply because one is not yet learned, is to declare someone’s maturity in the faith as invalid. By positioning the literal (note that it is “Literal” interpretation, not a man-imposed interpretation) interpretation on par with men’s theories or conclusions, is a denial of the perspicuity of Scripture. It charges the Scripture with fault for man’s lack of perspicacity or lack of certainty.

      Whether Dr. S. Clark is right or wrong, he ought not to have found fault with the Bible’s perspicuity. Neither should theistic evolutionists find fault with any Scripture’s perspicuity on the basis of their lack of perspicacity.

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  5. Dr. Byl,

    Thanks so very much for posting this. Very helpful. Your pointing out Scott Clark's changing the nature of the serpent's LIE in the garden from questioning what God has said to analogical vs univocal knowledge is well made and taken. It gives one pause to wonder at Dr. Scott Clark's contempt for 6HDO that he would be willing to overstate if not misrepresent the nature of the the LIE simply to add gravitas to his quest to marginalize those who do believe what God has said in Exodus 20:11, Exodus 31:17 and Genesis 1.

    Also your point with respect to Deut 29:29 is also very important. Matt 28:19,20 says we are to make disciples and teach them everything that Christ has commanded. We can't stop teaching the biblical truth of 6HDO because it makes us look foolish to unbelievers.

    While as you point at Scott Clark and WSC draw the line at human evolution, their continual undermining of the authority of Scripture as it relates to creation has the affect of making the church safe for those who are more consistent and hold to evolution. What is astounding to me, that Dr. Clark as a professor of historical theology cannot see that Modernism originally only attacked the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures, especially the teaching of 6HDO and the global flood. Only after those successes did they move on to deny the teaching of the New Testament at the turn of (and early part of) the 20th century as evidenced by the Auburn Affirmation. Dr. Clark seemingly thinks that because those who defended against the NT Modernists (Warfield and Machen) that they were completely uninfluenced by OT Modernism. While God used both men to His Glory and the good of His church, the church is not well served by Scott Clark's position that Warfield and Machen must be orthodox with respect to the days of Creation because they were orthodox with respect to the Virgin Birth and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Thanks Dr. Byl it was refreshing to see such a great answer to Scott Clark and WSC.


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    1. Hi Andrew

      Thanks for your comment. I completely agree with you that Scott Clark and WSC are undermining Scriptural authority and enabling theistic evolutionists. As to Warfield and Machen, see my post Were Machen and Warfield Reformed? ( http://bylogos.blogspot.ca/2010/08/were-warfield-and-machen-reformed.html)

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  6. Sharp. Cutting. But necessary. Brother Clark (how can someone call themselves reverend!?!?!) is definitely wrong on the chronology of creation. And his attitude towards 6-dayers is wrong too. Yet he's a brother and has forgotten more about the glories of Christ, than I would ever learn in this life. Such is the God-given gifts in this brother, so praise God for all his service to the kingdom.

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  7. Dr. Byl:

    The second part of Dr. S Clark's comment has me befuddled:

    A second aspect of the QIRC is the desire to be “right.” This is to be distinguished from the desire to “get it right.” ...The QIRC-er must be right because his faith and confidence do not really rest in another (Christ) outside himself. Rather, his confidence is in himself, that he is right. (end quote)

    I think he means that people like myself will not listen to other convictions of what is true, to evaluate them as to whether they might be true. But isn't that his stance for his own convictions? If one can't appeal to God's thoughts on any question of truth, isn't one left only with his own thoughts?

    What can this mean?

    I've heard it put this way: "You always think you're right!" One can think up all kinds of rejoinders to that one:

    What am I supposed to do? Believe something that is not true? or
    And you don't? What do you believe then? or
    If you don't think you're right, then why are you arguing, and what are you arguing for?

    It seems to me that this kind of statement is meant to distract, not to inform. He's not criticizing what I believe; he's criticizing what he thinks I believe. But why does he think that I believe only myself? It tends to turn the attention to a sensitive sin of the other, so that one's own sin of that very thing is out of the focus. If he does not believe God's thoughts (because he can't know what they are) then he can't be appealing to a higher authority: is he then appealing to his own insights?

    But more importantly, whatever can a man believe to be a true revelation from God that will not fall into this kind of critical response?

    How can I take this admonishment to heart, as an observation that does not turn on itself? What then am I supposed to believe?

    JohnV

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  8. Coming to this a bit late, been busy, but I can't help but think the comment by RubeRad on July 23, 7:53AM, is not the complete Reformed tradition on perspicuity. To quote RubeRad:

    "The Reformed doctrine of perspicuity only guarantees that doctrines necessary "for salvation" will be "clearly propounded."

    Nice twist for theistic evolutionary purposes, but inaccurate.

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