Gordon Haddon Clark (1902-1985) was a philosopher and
theologian and taught
philosophy at the college level for most of his life. He was an expert in pre-Socratic and ancient philosophy and was noted for his rigor in defending Platonic realism against all forms of empiricism, in arguing that all truth
is propositional, and in applying the laws of logic. The
Trinity Foundation continues to publish his writings and other books as well.
"Gordon Clark was not primarily an apologist for the Christian faith, but rather a professional philosopher critiquing what secular philosophers have said concerning ultimate reality. Through rigorous logic, he continually sought to evaluate and
expose the weaknesses of secular philosophy, and to espouse Christian theism as dominantly superior. Although he touches on all areas of philosophy in his works, he is predominately taken up with understanding and evaluating thoughts about
epistemology – how it is that men know, and how they know what they know." (Dr. C. Matthew McMahon
Gordon Clark early in his career
Clark graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1924 with a bachelor's degree and earned his PhD from the same institution in 1929. The following year, he did postgraduate work at the Sorbonne in Paris.
He began teaching at the University of Pennsylvania and also taught at Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia. In 1936, he accepted a professorship in philosophy at Wheaton College, where he remained until 1944, at which time he accepted a position
at Butler University. In 1974, he left Butler and taught at several institutions, including Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia and Sangre de Cristo Seminary in Westcliffe, Colorado.
In 1944, Clark was ordained as a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Clark left the OPC in 1948 following what has become known as the Clark-Van Til Controversy. He first changed to the United Presbyterian Church of North America and later to
the Reformed Presbyterian Church. He died in 1985 and was buried in Westcliffe, Colorado.
The Clark-Van Til controversy
In 1943 Dr. Gordon H. Clark, who was to become one of the foremost Christian philosopher of the twentieth century, sought ordination in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a small denomination barely seven years old at that time.
Dr. Clark was immediately opposed by the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary, led by Professor
Cornelius Van Til. Despite their zealous opposition, Dr. Clark was ordained by the OPC. In 1944 the Westminster Seminary faculty tried to remove Dr. Clark from office, not by filing charges against him, but by arguing
that the procedure the OPC used to ordain him was irregular. They were struggling, not merely to prevent Dr. Clark from gaining influence in the denomination, but to retain their control of the Seminary as well.
The related theological issues, revolving around the relation of knowledge to the incomprehensibility of God, continue to resonate in Christian philosophical discussions today.
See main article
Clark-Van Til Controversy
- An Introduction to Christian Philosophy (
ISBN 0940931389), in which Clark's thought is well summarized in three lectures given at Wheaton College, reissued in Christian Philosophy (
- Three Types of Religious Philosophy, reissued in
Christian Philosophy (
- Thales to Dewey, a history of philosophy (
- Ancient Philosophy, Dr. Clark's section of a
History of Philosophy, which he co-published with three other authors; also includes eleven major essays, including his doctoral dissertation on
- William James and John Dewey (
- Behaviorism and Christianity (
- Philosophy of Science and Belief in God (
- Historiography: Secular and Religious (
- A Christian View of Men and Things, which develops Clark's Christian worldview (
- A Christian Philosophy of Education, a fairly short book focused on refuting the myth of neutral education and showing the importance of a Christian worldview (
- Logic, a text book on logic for students (
- Essays on Ethics and Politics (
- Lord God of Truth printed with Concerning the Teacher by
St. Augustine (
- Selections from Hellenistic Philosophy edited by Clark (
- Readings in Ethics edited by Clark and T. V. Smith (
- Clark Speaks from the Grave written just before Clark died and published posthumously responding to some of his critics (
- The Trinity Foundation reprints Clark's works and publishes those of his followers. They have books for a fee, and articles and audio available for free.
- Summaries of Clark has chapter-by-chapter summaries by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon of some of Clark's most well-known works.
- The Gordon Clark Papers, archived by the Presbyterian Church of America.