By Dr Charles H Roberts
Reedy River Bible Presbyterian Church
I enrolled at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1988 primarily to pursue academic studies in apologetics, philosophy, and theology. The reason I chose Westminster was because of one man: Cornelius Van Til. I had begun reading his works prior to entering seminary and having earned a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy in 1977, I was eager to continue philosophical studies, but this time, from a distinctly Reformed, Christian perspective.
Soon after I enrolled, I also joined the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and was received under care of the Philadelphia Presbytery. Through my course of study, I became aware of the “Clark-Van Til Controversy.” My impressions of Dr Gordon H. Clark were largely grounded in the reflections and analysis of seminary faculty and presbytery officials who lived through that controversy as staunch supporters of Van Til. With the exception of Dr Clair Davis, many of those men had negative attitudes toward Dr Clark. My first “encounter” with Dr Clark was his book, The Doctrine of Man, assigned reading in a seminary class by the same name. I recall, as I read it, being aware of how concise and intelligible it was compared to similar writings by Van Til!
The more I read Van Til, the more I became aware of how obscure and confusing some of his writings were. I knew of older men, who had actually studied with Van Til, who likewise confessed to having had difficulty making sense of some his lectures.
Dr Clark’s writings by contrast continued to appeal to me for the simple reason that they were clear and logically coherent. But there was still the legacy of the “controversy” and the bad impression I was given of Dr Clark that made me hesitant to rely too much on his work.
All of that changed for me a few years ago upon reading Rev. Doug Douma’s superb biography of Gordon Clark, The Presbyterian Philosopher. From that book I learned how dishonorably Dr Clark was treated by some of those on the Van Til side of the “controversy.” But even more importantly, I got to know the real Gordon Clark as a man of immense faith and scholarship, and a man completely dedicated to the Bible as the Word of God. For all these reasons, and especially because of Dr Clark’s strident fidelity to the authority of Scripture and to the Westminster Confession of Faith, I unashamedly and by God’s grace, call myself a Clarkian.