Who’s Gordon Clark? Yeah, that’s the reason this book is so crucial today. Doug Douma has done a great service to the legacy of Gordon H. Clark by writing this stellar biography. Clark is one of the best Christian philosopher’s of all time. He wrote lots of volumes and articles on apologetics, philosophy, history, the Bible, and the church but his name has been all but extinguished from modern Christian dialogue. Lord willing, Douma’s book will change that.
I’ve been interested in Clark’s philosophy for a couple years now, I’ve bought up just about all of his books and I’m slowly working through them. God has continually used Clark to encourage me in my faith and teach me to think. The Presbyterian Philosopher is a most helpful aid in introducing the reader to Clark’s thought as well as explaining his cultural context and the reason you haven’t heard of him yet. Anyone interested in reading Clark needs to pick up this book, it will orient you and allow you acclimate yourself as you wade into the brilliance of Clark’s mind.
The thing I appreciate most about this book is that Douma put flesh on Gordon H. Clark. He made him personable and showed that, although Clark wasn’t overly emotional, he was still a man with aspirations, discouragements, love for his family, and most importantly, love for his savior. Clark was exceptionally logical and exceedingly erudite, and Douma doesn’t diminish this fact in the biography, rather, he adds more to the story to give us a full picture of this Presbyterian philosopher par excellence.
Doug has really done his homework, that’s evidenced by all the footnotes. He cites original sources and has dug through lots and lots of personal correspondence between Clark and some of the most prominent Theologians of the past century, in order to shed light on the disputes and debates that still have relevance today. Some of my favorites are between Clark and Carl F. H. Henry. Clark actually taught Henry at Wheaton College and they remained close friends throughout their lives. The sad thing about us modern day evangelicals is that many of us don’t even know who Carl F. H. Henry is, let alone Gordon H. Clark. For those who don’t know, Henry was an Evangelical giant! I’d love to delve more into Henry right now but I’ll save that for my review of Recovering Classic Evangelicalism by Greg Thornbury. But I digress.
Another fascinating aspect of this book is the 5th chapter, which is on “The Origins of Presuppositionalism”. Presupp has moved out of the obscurity it’s enjoyed for so long and is quickly becoming the prominent apologetical method of the new calvinists, thanks in large part to YouTube. But what many presuppers today don’t recognize is that Cornelius Van Til of Westminster Theological Seminary didn’t have a monopoly on presuppositional apologetics. Clark had developed his own style of presupp around the same time as Van Til. For the differences in their methods as well as the origins of Clark’s method you’ll have to grab this book!
Doug also details the events of the “Clark/Van Til controversy” from a position that’s a few steps back and far less emotional than many of the other accounts I’ve read. He documents the events with precision and backs up his conclusions with facts.
There is far too much packed into this book for me to mention everything. If you’re a Clarkian, you need to give this a read. If you’re a Vantillian, this book is definitely worth the read and I think it will breed more sympathy for Clark personally as well as appreciation for his thought. If you have no idea what those words mean, then you definitely need to grab this book, Doug Douma will introduce you gently.
I love Gordon Clark’s work, but I definitely lean Vantillian in my apologetic method. As a Vantillian, I commend this book to everyone interested in philosophy of religion, apologetics, theology, and lovers of biographies. You wont be disappointed. This biography was so intriguing that I read all 291 pages in 3 sittings. I pray that the Clarkians and Vantillians can come together to sharpen one another despite our differences and I think this book is a great start.
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