Ammi Burke's First Place Essay

Gordon H. Clark on the Christian Life


We live in an age of apostasy. The truth of God's Word is being attacked not only from outside the Church, but also by those who profess the name of Christ. Many churches have discarded doctrinal preaching and catechetical teaching, turning instead to the philosophies of men and doctrines of devils. The following slogans are commonplace: Come just as you are. Let's just pray the prayer now. God loves you anyway. Very little or no change is evident in the lives of those apparently converted. Gone, it seems, are the days in which old things are passed away and all things are become new. The words of an old poem spring to mind: "that men may live as they list and go to heaven at last." At the same time, society is slouching towards Sodom and Gomorrah. The world brazenly waves its banners, calling evil good and good evil. In such perilous times perhaps now more than ever the child of God needs to strengthen himself in the knowledge of the Scripture and know what he believes in. As the Apostle Paul exhorted, the child of God must "take heed unto [himself] and unto the doctrine" (I Timothy 4:16).

How refreshing and instructive then the work of Gordon H. Clark on the subject of the Christian Life. Dr. Clark, who died in 1985, was the greatest American theologian and philosopher of the twentieth century. In What is the Christian Life? we find a combination of two of his more practically-minded books: Sanctification and Today's Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine? In his characteristically succinct and clear style, Dr. Clark impresses upon the reader the vitality of the doctrine of sanctification, clarifying what sanctification means and how it is accomplished. Subsequently, reproving those who teach heresy and error in the name of Christ, he expounds upon the biblical method and content of the Evangel the Good News of Jesus Christ. Dr. Clark's readers are left in no doubt as to what is 'the Christian life'; his book is truly an excellent guide for any Christian living in this age of declension.


A Proper Foundation of Conversion and Repentance

As his foundational premise, Clark makes it clear that sanctification as opposed to justification is not an instantaneous event in which man is passive. Rather it is a "time-consuming, subjective, life-long process," dependent on both the continuous power of God and the activity of the regenerated man (Clark 17).

There has been a certain amount of confusion surrounding the doctrine of sanctification and what it entails. In addressing this confusion, Dr. Clark sets as his introduction the themes of conversion and repentance. Christ's judicial pronouncement of justification "sets in motion the life-long process of sanctification", the earliest stage of which is conversion (Clark 20). By repentance, the sinner consciously changes his mind, replacing a totally secular set of ideas by at least a few Christian propositions. In explaining that this replacement of secular and erroneous idea with Biblical doctrines is a continuing life-long process, Dr. Clark makes a very important point ('a clear directive') regarding the issue of sanctification. Whilst a certain dichotomy abounds, with those stressing practical holiness on one side and those insisting upon theoretical and theological knowledge on the other, there is a right way. That way is disciplining oneself to study the Bible, which study indeed should be the meat and drink of every Christian. This is one of the Church's most lamentable sins in this day the failure of its people to personally feed upon and study the Word of God.

The backdrop to Clark's writing, and which has simply worsened in our own time, was the tidal wave of anti-intellectualism sweeping the religious world. In a sharp thrust away from the false decisions of such schools as the Neo-Orthodox and the Existentialists, a belief that only emotion is genuine and authentic flowered and gained supremacy to the exclusion of all intellectual decisions. In such an anti-intellectual era, Clark deemed it necessary to call for a return to the study of the Scripture. To accentuate his beliefs he contrasted them with aberrant theories of perseverance, which we shall now visit briefly.

The interrelation of the doctrines of regeneration and sanctification demands that in order to obtain a Scriptural view of sanctification, it must be grounded in a biblical theory of regeneration and conversion. An aberrant theory of regeneration will naturally affect "the account of grace, atonement and all other doctrines" (Clark 27). The sponsor of the most aberrant theory was Pelagius, a fourth-century British monk, whose work still has influence today. At the core of his theology was the affirmation of free will and the denial of depravity. Adam was created morally neutral: ut sine virtute, ita sine vitio, i.e., neither virtuous nor sinful. Because Adam was not subject to the restraining force of original righteousness, Pelagius has no difficulty in explaining sin on the basis of free will. Furthermore, as his sin was nothing more than a voluntary transgression of the law, it could not injure his posterity. The sole ill effect which the human race had suffered as the result of Adam's transgression was the adverse example he had set for mankind. Original sin and inherent corruption are falsehoods. Another of Pelagius' basic tenets was that "ability limits obligation" a proposition that was eagerly adopted by the secular philosopher Immanuel Kant and which formed the basis of John Wesley's doctrine of sinless perfection. In simple terms, this proposition means "man must have plenary ability to do whatever God can righteously require of him" (Clark 29). Man's will is absolutely free. Neither God nor sin can limit free will. The corollary of this is that sin is not 'any want of conformity unto' but only voluntary 'transgression of the law of God'. A child is not born a sinner. Every infant which enters the world is in the same position as Adam was before the fall. He is innocent up until that point at which he voluntarily disobeys a divine law.

Assurance and Perseverance

Assurance is "part of the doctrine of sanctification" (Clark 47). Clark gives an overview of Bishop Ryle's explanation of the subject. In his defense of the importance of sanctification, Ryle states that the instrument by which sanctification is effected is the Word of God. He sharply emphasizes Bible study and doctrine as the means by which a person is sanctified. 'So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God' (Hebrews 11:6). The importance of the study of Scripture can never be overemphasized. Explicitly rejecting "sinless perfection", Ryle realizes that a Christian will struggle and points out that this struggle is in fact an evidence of sanctification. His aim in his writing is to show what sanctification is not and he proceeds with some examples: "flippant language…about 'conversion, the Saviour, the Gospel, finding peace, free grace'"; the "animal excitement" produced by evangelistic campaigns"; "outward formalism and external devoutness". Rather, he states that "genuine sanctification will show itself in habitual respect to God's law".

Clark highlights the fact that Ryle never tells us how to attain assurance. While he affirms strongly the Calvinist and first-generation Reformers position (that assurance is inseparable from faith), he proposes no sure method for attaining infallible surety. We will return to this subject of assurance later in our discussion of genuine evangelism.

One of the "Five Points" of Arminianism is the doctrine of falling from grace. In 1610, one year after the death of the Dutch seminary professor James Arminius, five articles of faith based on his teachings were devised by his followers. These five doctrines were presented to the State of Holland in the form of a "Remonstrance", i.e. a protest. In his summary of these doctrines, Roger Nicole ("Arminianism", Baker's Dictionary of Theology, p. 64) explained the fifth as: whether all who are truly regenerate will certainly persevere in the faith is a point which needs further investigation. Following an alteration, the fifth article taught the definite possibility of the truly regenerate believer's losing his faith and thus losing his salvation. Agreed, there has been a division of thought on this point but the article remains historically.

Contrary to what Arminianism teaches, Scripture makes it clear that a regenerate sinner will persevere. Perseverance the final of Calvinism's Five Points directly opposes the Arminian doctrine that a man may 'lose his salvation' and is a vital component of the scriptural theory of sanctification. All who were chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end. Probably the most well-known Biblical authority for perseverance is John 10: 28, 29: "And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand". God's people are given eternal life the moment they believe. Not only are the elect redeemed by Christ and renewed by the Spirit; they are also kept in faith by the almighty power of God. As he walks the Christian life, a person can be sure that all those who are spiritually united to Christ through regeneration are secure in Him. Nothing can separate him from the eternal and unchangeable love of God. He has been predestined to eternal glory and is assured of heaven.

Perseverance, it should be noted, is not synonymous with perfection. "A just man falleth seven times and riseth up again." (Proverbs 24:16) It is true that saved persons do fall into temptations, and that some commit grievous sins, but these sins do not cause them to lose their salvation or separate them from God. Despite falls and mistakes, a Christian recovers and struggles on, toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Lest it be thought otherwise, it should be added that the doctrine of perseverance does not maintain that all who profess the Christian faith are certain of heaven. We do well to remember this, especially in such an age in which we live, when there are many who possess only a mere profession. Let us be reminded of the words of Christ in Matthew 7:21: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven". Saints those who are set apart by the Spirit persevere to the end. Believers those who are given true, living faith in Christ are secure and safe in Him. There are many who profess to believe and who subsequently fall away. These do not fall from grace however, for the simple reason that they were never in grace in the first place. I John 2:19 explains this further: "They went out from us; but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made obvious that they were not all of us".

The Sacraments

The Shorter Catechism defines a sacrament as follows: "A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ and the benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed, and applied to believers". There are two sacraments contrary to what Romanism teaches and these are baptism and the Lord's Supper. These two alone are sensible signs which represent the benefits of the new covenant and are instituted by Christ. Moving forward to consider what is the significance and efficacy of the sacraments, it is here that another error is revealed in the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. According to the Canon VII and VIII of the seventh session of Trent (March 3, 1547), a person receives the sacrament rightly etiam si rite ea suscipiant, ex opere operato. "If anyone saith that by the said sacraments of the New Law grace is not conferred through the act performed, but that grace alone in the divine promise suffices for the obtaining of grace: let him be anathema." The sacrament works, ex opere operato, regardless of whether the recipient believes or does not believe. This magic-like view of the operation of the sacraments is erroneous. It is abundantly clear from Scripture that "God requires knowledge, understanding, faith, and sincerity on the part of the worshipper" (Clark 71). As Clark further notes, the outward motions of the outward profession is useless; he is a believer who is one inwardly. For the Christian, the sacraments are not only commanded by Christ and signs of His purification and death they are also seals which confirm our faith. As such seals confirming our faith, they are means of grace. When celebrated as they should always be with the Word, they strengthen our assurance.

The Lord's Supper comprises of "giving and receiving bread and wine" wherein "according to Christ's appointment, his death is showed forth: and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace" (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. & A 96). The greatest point of contention with relation to the Lord's Supper is the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation. Romanism and Lutheranism maintain that Hoc est corpus meum (this is My body) is literal. While the Romanists hold that when the priest miraculously turns the bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ, the change is permanent, Lutherans take the view that the miracle's effect is confined to the duration of the service.

Clark rightfully denounces transubstantiation as the "most Satanic of all the evil inventions of Rome" (Clark 102). The Romanist teaching is that the Eucharist is a propitiatory sacrifice by which we obtain from God the remission of our sins. Arguing that they do not abolish Christ's sacrifice, the Romanists argue that the Eucharist merely repeats it, and that "therefore the Romish priests do not supplant Christ, but merely assist Him in the repetition" (Clark 102). But the clarity of Christ's command stands diametrically opposed to all such teaching. His sacrifice was His and His alone: as Scripture declares: 'When he had by himself purged our sins, [he] sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high' (Hebrews 1:3). Christ's sacrifice was once offered for sin, in contrast to the daily offering of sacrifices in the Old Testament: 'Nor yet that he should offer himself often…for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself' (Hebrews 9:25, 26). Christ's death did not terminate His priesthood, and therefore He has no successors. When the Romanists claim that to be in the priestly office is to be a successor of Christ, this is effectively claiming that death terminated Christ's priesthood. The teaching of Rome denies the power of the cross of Christ. A further unscriptural implication of the Eucharist is degradation, if not obliteration, of the idea of communion. In the Lord's Supper, God is the Giver of nourishment and we are the receivers. The converse occurs (supposedly) in the Eucharist, when the priest "offer[s] the sacred victim…to the Father". During the Reformation, these Papal contradictions of Scripture were pointed out and the Reformers expounded plainly what the Scriptures taught.

Further Means of Sanctification

The new Christian requires the fellowship of other believers in the local church to grow in the Christian life. Clark is correct in noting that regular church attendance like attendance upon the Lord's Supper is a means of grace. Meeting together as a body to worship and glorify God is clearly commanded in Scripture. Hebrews 10:24, 25 states "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching".

The regular worship of God in an ordinary church service forms part of the Christian life. God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. The utter breadth of His glory is to be the subject of our praise, even as the Psalmist called upon the children of Israel to lift their voices in joyous worship. We do not however take our attempts to glorify God to such an extreme as to make Him unknowable, as some do. Barth's defined God as the "totally other", exaggerating in doing so the incomprehensibility of truth. Rather we understand that "an essential part of divine worship is to know God and to know Him correctly" (Clark 113). For proper worship to issue, the object of that worship must be known otherwise, something akin to mystic meditation takes place for truly, in man's depraved unregenerate state prior to his becoming right with God and a member of the family of God, he is manifestly unable to worship Almighty God: "Acceptable worship of God, as an important part of sanctification, requires knowledge" (Clark 113). The leaving of intellect outside the sanctuary door is not pleasing to God, for indeed His Word clearly teaches: "Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of Thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure" (Isaiah 33:6).

Importantly, there should be only one object of worship God Almighty. In this age of apostasy in which we live, there is a renewed need to warn against idolatry. The first step on the road to worship of graven images is the addition of other objects into our worship, such that God is no longer the sole rightful receiver of our praise. Graven images are explicitly condemned in Scripture (Exodus 20:12); also forbidden is the worship of angels (Colossians 2:18, Revelation 19:10) and pictures (Numbers 33:52). We would do well to see this as including the wearing of crosses and other regalia, which of itself takes away from the finished work of Calvary. God's will and Word He Himself should dominate our interests and have first place in our desires.

The intersection of doctrine and practice is of peculiar importance in a discussion of the Christian Life, and therefore it is apt that we close the discussion of sanctification with a consideration of the practical fruits, which adorn the life of a saved person. The various virtues God commands us to exercise are invariably acts of worship. In his second letter, Peter outlines a list of somewhat overlapping character traits, descriptive adjectives really of the Christian life: faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly love, kindness and charity. In a society which is racked with every form of immorality (Romans 1), the virtues of a Christian are ever more important as a distinguishing feature, as a sign to the world that indeed, every man that is in Christ is a new creature. How wonderful to know that these virtues are within the attainment of all Christians, regardless of temperament. The man prone to anger can be transformed into one full of brotherly love and kindness. The young girl given to fretfulness can become a bulwark of faith, sure of the promises of God having proven them for herself. The lethargic young man can be infused with godly zeal for the truth of the gospel. A new worldview is given to the saved person. By devoting oneself to the study of the Scripture. As Clark states, "we grow in grace by increasing our knowledge" (Clark 117). A gradual meditation on the Word of God leads to a transformation in our practical lives. The apostate church places no emphasis on personal study of and meditation upon God's Word. There is no zeal for the truth. Rather than asking (as was asked in the past): What does Scripture say? the hireling pastors inquire: What does the world do? How can we impress society? The Ten Commandments?! They belonged to the Mosaic dispensation and we are now in the dispensation of grace the Ten Commandments no longer apply! This is grave error. "It is a mistake to restrict [the authority of the Ten Commandments] to the so-called Mosaic dispensation" (Clark 120). As illustrated by the account of Cain and Abel (in which Cain was afraid his brothers would execute him for having murdered Abel) and other instances (the institution of the blood sacrifice in Genesis 3:21; Genesis 8:20), the Ten Commandments were in effect before the time of Moses and therefore they remain in effect after the resurrection of Christ. True, once we are saved we are no longer under the law, but we find special use in the moral law as Calvin wrote "to shew [us] how much [we are] bound to Christ for His fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in [our] state, and for [our] good; and thereby to provoke [us] to more thankfulness, and to express the same in [our] greater care to conform [ourselves] thereunto as the rule of [our] obedience". "Our obedience to the law is the result, not the cause, of our growing sanctification" (Clark 127).

Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine?

Evangelism Today

Having discussed sanctification, we now consider the relevant issue of evangelism. One important part of the Christian Life is the task of the Christian to 'go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature' (Mark 16:15). We will now discuss and consider Clark's overview of 'contemporary Evangelism' contained in Today's Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine?

Since the early 1940s, the shelves of Christian bookstores have been continuously filled with books and pamphlets of every imaginable size on the subject of evangelism. One characteristic marks most, if not all, of them: a focus on human experience and emotions, accompanied by a visible lack of dependence on Scripture for guidance. What follows is a taste of what one can read in today's literature. Thousands make decisions for Christ in Nepal. Church in China growing by 1,000 new converts per day. Four thousand attend Evangelistic Rally in Pensington. Upon reading these headlines, we must stop and remind ourselves that numbers are no indication of success. To take the example above regarding Nepal: if the result of such a campaign is that 10,000 people signed cards after reciting a prayer, but then those same people went back home and lived their lives exactly as they had done before, not having understood why they signed the cards but having done so because a foreigner urged them forward, has that Nepalese evangelistic campaign been successful? Was it Scriptural? Had it a high measure of Christian value? "Statistics cannot measure Christian value" (Clark 148). It does not matter how many people are present but rather what is proclaimed and how it is done so. As Clark points out, the concern and focus of the Christian evangelist is not growth, but truth. The emphasis first and foremost should be, not on the cup of cold water to all, but rather on the preaching of the Gospel.

The Significance of Emotion in Evangelism

The student may at first be surprised to note Clark's emphasis on the tone of the evangelistic service as a starting point for his study of evangelism. Clark explains his position however. Firstly, emotion "brings to light elements of great significance in the life of the church that holds evangelistic services"; secondly, "the place of emotion in evangelism is suitable for beginning the study because it covers all phases of the work preaching, prayer and music style" (Clark 144). The "various churches differ in the degrees of emotion and excitement," or lack thereof, which characterize their conduct (Clark 144). One might ask whether there is a proper and improper level of emotion. Can we know what evangelism should comprise of and what should be its aims? Its methods? As with every other aspect of the Christian life, there is one source alone from which we may learn how to judge the observations we make: the Word of God. Several evangelistic endeavors are described in the Bible, the Bible defines what evangelism is and most importantly, the New Testament gives the message that must be preached (Clark 150).

We begin, as Clark does, with the issue of emotion. The references to emotion in Scripture are numerous indeed. The Psalms are laden with commands from God to rejoice. When David brought the Ark of the Lord from Obed-edom to Jerusalem, he danced with all his might. Unable to conceive a child, Hannah wept in bitterness of soul. The third beatitude says, "Blessed are they that mourn." In order to consider the issue further with regard to evangelism however, it is important to know what an emotion is. Scripture, in the pages of which the word 'emotion' is not found, does not provide a definition. To answer the inquiry, Clark gives an overview of the work of several American psychologists on the subject of defining emotion. Certain foundational observations are made: an emotion is something unusual, sudden and exceptional; it is involuntary, and it is absent of intellectual content (Clark 161). Emotion is not volition. It is not denied that volition or an intellectual act may accompany some emotions this easily could be the case in some instances however, the fact of such an accompaniment does not infer the conclusion that emotion should be identified with an intellectual act. Instead, a clear conclusion would be that if the emotion can accompany volition, then emotion is not volition. Clark makes further advance by considering emotion in light of the character of God. As the Westminster Confession states, God is without parts or passions. For the purpose of our discussion we focus on the latter object God is without passions. He "is not affected by anything" (Clark 163). Whereas emotion involves a sudden, involuntary change, God is immutable He does not change. Because His love is eternal (and therefore not a sudden change), His love is volitional and not emotional. Because His command to us to love Him requires voluntary obedience, the human love God commands is volitional and not emotional. Furthermore, in the New Testament reference to the image of God (in whose image we are created), the emphasis is on knowledge and not emotion. "Seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" Colossians 3: 9-10.

Reliance on emotion and feeling is not simply undesirable: it is "destructive of the Gospel" (Clark 167). Such reliance was the source of modernism and the cause of the apostasy of the large denominations today. We agree that evangelism and Christianity cannot be divorced from experience in one sense of the word. What is unscriptural however is a deliberate, strong emphasis upon personal experience to the relative exclusion of any intellectual content. Looking at history, it is clear that emphasis on feeling produced modernism, beginning with the Pietists and continuing through Friedrich Schleiermacher.

All who think that Christianity is based on experience are misguided. Logically, there is no way that the analysis of an emotion could prove Christian doctrine such as, for example, the Trinity. A person cannot arrive at the doctrine of justification through their feelings alone. A Christianity based on experience rejects the supremacy of the Word of God. The Trinity, the Atonement, and the Resurrection are all excluded. Experience results in each person doing that which is right in his own eyes.

Christianity is based upon divine revelation, not emotions. All we know about Christ has been revealed to us by God. Truth may be discovered through the Scripture, and Scripture alone.

What is Evangelism?

Having established the subservience of experience and supremacy of divine revelation, the next point of consideration is the definition of evangelism. What does evangelism mean?

Many churches and individuals today wrongly interpret the meaning of the verb to evangelize. Some define it as to entertain. To evangelize means to be as much like the world as possible in music and dress and in this way attract the world into the church pews. For other apostate churches it means to increase church numbers. For still others it means to go out on the streets and tell people that God needs them and is just waiting to accept them. But is this what it means to evangelize?

To evangelize means to preach the Gospel. There are almost seventy-five occurrences of the root noun in the New Testament. One example is Mark 1:1. In this verse the author of the second gospel states: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." It follows from this that what Mark wrote down is the Gospel, or at least the beginning of the Gospel. Clark maintains the totality of the Gospel. On an examination of Scripture, it is found that the Gospel is not simply that Christ died for our sins. To prove this, Romans 2:16 is considered. The Apostle Paul states: "God shall judge…according to my Gospel". This signifies that everything Paul preached in that chapter is a part of the Gospel. As a message, the Gospel is to be received rationally by the intellect. As truth cannot be received by the emotions, its reception must be an intellectual act. The evangelist, therefore, must be clear about his aims in preaching and proclaiming the Gospel.

Clark specifies that there are three aims: the salvation of souls, the presenting of the message to be believed, and the glorification of God. Necessarily, the first goal of the evangelist is to see souls saved. This very aim is enunciated the Apostle in I Corinthians 9:22 "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." The next aim places some emphasis on the importance of the evangelist's work in evangelizing he presents a message to the lost person. The evangelist's work however is not decisive as revelation is still needed for a person to be saved. According to Ephesians 2:8, faith is a gift of God. Thus, regeneration must always precede conversion. The ultimate aim of the evangelist is to glorify God. "To glorify God, His message must be preached" (Clark 185). That message may not be altered, diluted, added to or falsified. Based upon his notion of the role of emotion in evangelism, the evangelist will decide the particulars of his message.

Faith and Assurance

Spiritual life is not dependent upon emotion. Where the Scripture speaks of "heart", in seventy-five per cent of occurrences the connotation is that of intellect. What spiritual life is dependent upon is faith. Faith is the evidence of God's election. That man chosen to salvation unto salvation is not saved until he is regenerated by the Spirit and justified by faith in Christ.

Faith is difficult to define. An old Protestant tradition however provides a three-part analysis: notitia, assensus, and fiducia. Knowledge, assent and trust. On consideration, it is discussed whether this is an adequate analysis.

Clark takes issue with this three-fold division of faith into understanding, belief and trust. It is a "faulty analysis", he writes, because "trust is a case of belief or assent" (Clark 225). "Understanding or intellect apart from belief and assent is not faith" (Clark 233). Clark refuses to exclude faith from the intellect and the will. He insists that faith is not to be divorced from belief in the Gospel message. His insistence is scriptural (2 Corinthians 4:2-6). Scripture speaks of the god of this world having "blinded the minds of them which believe not." (2 Corinthians 4:4) These men are void of the light of the Gospel message its truth has not dawned upon them. In stressing the cognitive content of the Gospel message, Clark teaches the importance of the Biblical concept of unity of personality. That is, every act is an act of the whole soul. As Charles Hodge writes: "What therefore the Scripture means by faith, in this connection, the faith which is required for salvation, is an act of the whole soul, of the understanding, of the heart, of the will". The activity of understanding and of will is essential; the activity of the feelings and emotion is irrelevant. It is only by holding to this position of faith that an evangelist will preach "the glorious Gospel of Christ" commending himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 4:4, 2).

With the concept of faith established, consider briefly the issue of assurance. It is relevant to evangelism in that several popular evangelists are of the opinion that a convert should have assurance from the very first moment. Scripture provides guidance on the topic, thus man is not required to devise for himself human propositions. Clark notes four points that ought to be mentioned. Firstly, assurance is possible. Peter commands in 2 Peter 1:10, "Wherefore the rather brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure". Scripture calls us to make our salvation a matter of certainty. Romanism teaches that one can never be sure. In direct contradiction to Scripture, the Council of Trent decided:

"No one, moreover, so long as he is in this mortal life, ought so far to presume as regards the secret mystery of divine predestination, as to determine for certain that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; as if it were true that he is justified, either cannot sin any more, or, if he do sin, that he ought to promise himself an assured repentance; for except by special revelation, it cannot be known whom God hath chosen unto himself" (Sixth Session, Chapter XII) (Clark 240)

Such a doctrine from Hell has darkened the minds of countless souls not least in Ireland, a stronghold of Romanism. It is firmly ingrained within people that it is impossible to be sure of salvation; therefore the best one can do is simply live a good life and hope that one will be saved. Arminianism, having made man's salvation depend ultimately on man himself, holds that it rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith. Those who do not walk well and live in holiness fall away and become lost again. Therefore, Arminians claim, "to be very sure they are saved now but they are not sure that they will be saved tomorrow or next week" (Clark 242). The truth of God's Word is that it is possible to have assurance. I John 5:13 states, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life."

Secondly, the Gospel promises the possibility of assurance. As Clark explains, the Bible does not quite promise every Christian actual assurance (243). However it explains how one wishing assurance may seek it. We know that we know the Lord if we keep His commandments (I John 2:3). When the converted person begins to obey the commands of God, he should find assurance. Similarly in I John 3:14 we are told, "we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." "My little children," John writes several verses later, "let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall our hearts before him." Clark notes that if one wishes assurance, he will try to increase his knowledge (244). That person should devote himself to the study of the Scripture. As we study the Bible, the Spirit witnesses with our spirit.

Clark's third point is the Westminster Confession's statement that certainty is not a bare conjecture but an infallible assurance of faith. Due to the fact that we are infallible beings, the infallibility mentioned cannot be ours. When we are saved, we do not become infallible we are still sinners, but sinners saved by grace. Therefore "the infallibility belongs to the promises of God" (Clark 245).

Finally, although salvation can never be lost, assurance can (Micah 7:7-9). It was David's prayer that God would restore unto him the joy of His salvation. Full assurance comes from the Word of God coupled with the Holy Spirit's testimony. We now conclude our discussion of evangelism with a consideration of some evangelistic paradigms.

Paradigms of Evangelism

In light of the poverty abounding today with regard to Bible knowledge, the Gospel must be clearly explained in all of its fullness. Each concept must be defined scripturally. The goal is to teach what the Scriptures teach.

Evangelism can take different forms. It may be a young man testifying to the shopkeeper at the local grocery store. It may be a man holding meetings in his home for several university students. It may be a large meeting of one hundred people who have never heard the Gospel before. Whatever the form or method however, it must be subservient to Scripture. Scripture rightly taught is the necessity. For example: necessary to understanding the Gospel is a crystal clear understanding of sin. Sin is a theological concept (Clark 267). Sin is not just "doing wrong." On a given day, if people walking down a street were asked whether they have done wrong, they will answer in the affirmative. By answering in the affirmative however, they do not necessarily admit that they have sinned. In order for a conviction of sin to take place, there must first be a belief in God. There must be a belief that God has given a law and that God's law is revealed in Scripture. Furthermore, there must be a belief that breaking God's law is an offense against God and deserves the wrath and curse of God. If this theological foundation is not there, the evangelist cannot show that a man is a sinner. In today's society, knowledge of the Bible by the younger generation is practically non-existent. No understanding of sin precipitates no understanding of salvation. Justification, sanctification, the forgiveness of sin, propitiation must all be carefully explained. Scripture wholly taught is a necessity. The Christian message is the whole Bible; it is the whole counsel of God (Clark 273). It is all profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.


The Word of God is sufficient and supreme in all ages. God sanctifies us through the knowledge of His truth: "Sanctify them through Thy word, Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). Similarly, it is in the Word of God that the message Christ commanded the Church to preach is found. The Gospel the Good News is contained in Scripture. The effect of evangelism should be that the knowledge of Biblical Christianity spreads and multiplies amongst those who are converted. With regard to sanctification and the task of evangelism entrusted to each Christian, sound doctrine is important. The truth contained in the Word of God is what leads to salvation, and that same truth is what sanctifies. To that inalterable and invariable truth the Church must return.