Chapter Summaries: Three Types of Religious Philosophy by Clark, Chapter 1

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1 Chapter Summaries: Three Types of Religious Philosophy by Clark, Chapter 1 In chapter 1, Clark begins by stating that this book will really not provide a definition of religion as such, except that it has something to do with God. He is not going to divide his book into methods, such as atheism, theism, or similar categories. The three types of religious philosophy included are dogmatism, rationalism, and empiricism. However, he also spends a chapter on irrationalism. Dogmatism is and has been a widely held form of religious philosophy, but lately it has gotten bad name. No one apparently wants to be dogmatic. However, Clark defines dogmatism as the method of procedure that tries to systematize beliefs concerning God, science, immortality, etc. on the basis of information divinely revealed in the sacred writings. Dogmatism is therefore forced to deny truth from other sources. Since dogmatism runs counter to common opinion, he discusses this topic last. Rationalism is the theory that all knowledge and therefore all religious knowledge can be deduced from logic alone, logic apart from revelation and sensory experience. Anselm and Spinoza are two examples. Both dogmatism and rationalism are similar in their use of logic, but where the dogmatist takes his premises from Scriptures and deduces conclusions from them, the rationalist begins with the human being. Empiricism bases all knowledge on sensation alone, but not just through experience. There are combinations and variations of empiricism. Kant combined logic and sensation. The defense of empiricism in all forms depends on the fact that religious experience, aesthetic response, and mystic trances, are not amenable to the public 1

2 verification that modern minds so insistently demand. Only sensation provides verification. 2

3 Chapter Summaries: Three Types of Religious Philosophy by Clark, Chapter 2 Chapter Two is an examination rationalism. Clark begins with a review of the thought of Augustine. He was not a pure rationalist, and used combinations of systems since he was a Christian. Augustine began by showing that knowledge was possible. He starts with logic. There is nothing more basic on which the axioms of logic depend. Logic cannot be explained or deduced from anything else because it is absolutely and without exception basic. Augustine also held that forms of morality were also certain and known. Logic never began and will never end. Mathematics and morality likewise. Theya re not products of the subjective reasons in any individual. The truths must be of an eternal and immutable reason in which these truths have their origin. Either the truths themselves are God and God is truth, or if there be something superior to truth, then this higher being is God. Either way, argued Augustine, the case is proved that God exists. Anselm alluded to and tried to improve on Augustine. He adopted Augustine s motto: I believe in order to understand. Anselm wanted to understand better the existence of God. He developed the ontological argument. God, by definition, is a being who possesses all perfections; existence is a perfection; therefore God exists. Clark reviews Kant s critique. Kant accuses the rationalists in their talk about a necessary being, of never stopping to inquire how it is possible even to think about such a being. Not to mention proving its existence. What condition would prevent one from thinking that God does not exist? Kant s critique depends on a theory of knowledge in which the data of sensation are crucial. 3

4 Clark also examines the writings of Frederick Ferre and Edwin Burtt in terms of their religious philosophy. Burtt s argument, complementing Ferre s, states that if the mind of man is ny its structure inherently incapable of deducing all that he needs for his own ultimate good, then man could not even prove the existence of God and hence could not prove that there is revelation. If he could, then revelation is unnecessary as time and experience will solve all problems. However, Clark refutes this argument. Dogmatism does not assert man s inability to construct valid syllogisms. It most assuredly asserts man s inability to deduce theological content from non-revelational material. 4

5 Chapter Summaries: Three Types of Religious Philosophy by Clark, Chapter 3 Chapter three is Clark s examination of empiricism. There are two types of philosophy of religion based on experience. One is empiricism, which claims to prove the existence of God on the basis of sensory data. The other is either satisfied with an inarticulate mysticism or tries to analyze a minimum of theology out of its emotions. Sensation, however, gives the appearance of being more public and less subjective. Clark examines empiricism and shows that it, too, cannot prove the existence of God nor can it provide any certain knowledge. Clark begins his review of empiricism with Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas developed the cosmological argument, which begins with certainty and evidence from our senses, and ends with what everyone understands to be God. All knowledge of God must be extracted from our sensations. Aquinas postulates an infinite regress of motion to the end, which is the First Mover. Clark mounts several criticisms on Aquinas to show that his methods and logic are unsound, and that sensations cannot produce the knowledge of God s existence. Clark then briefly reviews William Paley s designer argument, and Hume s objections to all arguments based on experience, even though Hume was an empiricist. Hume stated that religion should also be based on evidence, just as science is. Sensation is the sole source of scientific knowledge and religious belief. Nothing comes from logic alone, and there cannot be divine revelation. Both Thomas Aquinas and Hume, despite all of their different conclusions, agreed that all knowledge is based on sensation. 5

6 However, Clark shows that empirical accounts of individual things is more difficult than anyone would first suspect. Empiricism reduces to skepticism because it cannot prove anything such as laws of physics or historical events. Sensations do not give us any trustworthy information about the nature of external objects. At least some sensations are only modifications of the mind. Not everyone experiences the same sensation when experiencing the same object. Clark also examines empiricism in religious experience. Clark states that religious experiences are more doubtful. He asks, if blue books are doubtful, and memory too, then what can be had from emotional upheavals? Religious experience fails to arrive at religious conclusions. Religious emotionalism does not produce knowledge of the existence of God, salvation, or God s word. 6

7 Chapter Summaries: Three Types of Religious Philosophy by Clark, Chapter 4 Chapter 4 is not really one of the three types of religious philosophies, but Clark wanted to discuss it as it has been considered a type of religious philosophy. One who has become disillusioned with empirical methodology, both for its secular humanism and skeptical nihilism, might ask, Why not renounce all logic and method and cling to irrational experience? Why should experience have to be logical? This is the heart of irrationalism. While Clark touches on Hume, Kant, and Hegel, much of this chapter is devoted to a discussion of the philosophy of Soren Kierkegaard. After a brief overview of the writings and beliefs of Kierkegarrd, especially in the areas of skepticism, faith, and absurdity, Clark concludes that irrationalism makes it useless to ask what the object of faith is. Faith really has no object. To ordinary people, faith is the belief that something is so. Kierkegaard s faith is tied up in contradictory statements, and this is not what Christianity asserts. Kierkegaard s idea of faith is not the Christian idea of faith. No one can use faith to believe in two contradictory statements, because it is impossible by any act of the will to believe both of two contradictory statements, knowing them to be so. This is a matter of the repudiation of the laws of logic. Karl Barth and Emil Brunner both made use of Kierkegaard s formulas. However, Kierkegaard is not interested in faith at all. His recommendation is infinite passion, and this is neither above reason, nor logically against reason, for no propositions are at all in view. 7

8 Chapter Summaries: Three Types of Religious Philosophy by Clark, Chapter 5 Chapter 5 is an examination of dogmatism. The God of dogmatism is a sovereign Deity who determines all his creatures and all their actions. There is a similarity to rationalism in that both rely on first principles. However, the first principle of dogmatism is revelation. From revelation, logic is used to deduce other doctrines and propositions. There must be first principles. A system cannot start unless it starts! Therefore, no one, since all must start somewhere, can consistently refuse permission to the Dogmatist to start where he chooses, and that is with revelation. Christian dogmatism must be realistic. The real object of knowledge is itself present to the mind. One knows the truth itself. Sensations exist only once. Truth is not a sensation; it returns and I can think it again many times. Not only can you think it, but you can have it. Truth is identical for everyone. Truth is also in propositions. Many will argue with this idea of revelation as a first principle. However, Clark argues that every system has its first principles. The empiricist is as much a dogmatist on sensation as the consistent Christian is on revelation. However, the empiricist is unable to provide any evidence for his own first principle of sensation just as the dogmatist cannot provide any evidence for the first principle of revelation. It would not be a first principle if one could. Clark shows that with dogmatism, the search for final truth has ended with revelation, but that does not mean the end of communication. One may object to dogmatism by asking how can one convince an unbeliever of the validity of Christianity? The answer is, of course, that God does that. All knowledge is contained within the system itself, and that means that one has to go to the Bible to find the answers. 8

9 The Bible specifically states that faith is a gift from God. The initiation of the spiritual life, called regeneration, is a work of the Holy Spirit. It is not produced by family genes, natural desire, or by the human will. It is not produced by arguments based on secular and empirical presuppositions. The preaching of the gospel provides the propositions that must be believed. The dogmatist can, however, use evidence such as archaeology and history to show that the empiricist or liberal argument is false and that they themselves do not follow their own logic or presuppositions. 9

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