Portrait of Gordon H. Clark at Sangre De Cristo Seminary
I was required to read several works by Gordon Clark for my doctoral program. I had not been previously exposed to Clark, but knew he caused quite a bit of controversy in the American Reformed world in the 1940’s and 50’s. I also learned somewhere that he and the much celebrated Westminster Seminary icon, Cornelius Van Til, were at odds during their respective lives and ministries. One has only to do a web search on “The Clark-Van Til Controversy” to witness the sharp lines drawn between the modern followers of these two reformed theologians of the last century. Some of the dialogue between modern “Clarkians” and “Van Tillians”, especially in this blog era, proves embarrassing for the reformed church. I urge teachers of the Word to ignore characterizations of Clark (from modern followers or detractors alike) and read Dr. Clark for themselves. I sincerely hope Clark's writings can be recirculated and considered as his view of Scripture and revelation are immediately relevant and important for the modern evangelical church, to say nothing of the reformed community also.
The reason for this post isn't to re-hash the controversy, but rather to share something I found very interesting and even exciting.
I serve on the board of Horn Creek Conference Center in Westcliffe, Colorado. While not officially related, the Sangre De Cristo Seminary is located right next to Horn Creek. Dr. Andrew Zeller is the current president of the seminary and the grandson of Gordon Clark. I was at a Horn Creek board meeting this past Saturday and ventured down with Dr. Zeller to see the Gordon Clark Library. The library has Clark’s actual books on the shelf. I looked for some Van Til books, and sure enough, there were several. Given the high tension between those who label themselves Clarkian and Van Tillian today, I wondered what these two men thought of each other. To hear some of their respective modern followers, you’d think they had a strong dislike (or worse) toward each other.
Dr. Zeller mentioned he was sure Clark and Van Til met at Wheaton College in the early 1980’s and had a discussion that revealed clear reconciliation between them. With Dr. Zeller's statement in mind I took a few of the Van Til books off the shelf and looked at the insider covers. Low and behold, I found two hand written notes from Van Til to Clark. See them below-
Inside covers of Clark's copies of Van Til's books.
It sure seemed that Van Til viewed Clark in a positive, Christian brotherhood light, despite their deep theological differences.
Before I left the board meeting, Dr. Zeller and I drove down to a small cemetery where the earthly remains of Dr. Clark are interred. I am thankful for men like Gordon Clark and Cornelius Van Til. Their value can be found not primarily in the particular ideas they championed, but the way in which they both sought to point people to Christ. As Dr. Van Til simply, but profoundly, wrote to Clark- they were brothers because of their common savior.