Biblical Predestination

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clark1945Gordon Haddon Clark was born on August 31, 1902, the only son of the Rev. David Scott Clark and Elizabeth Haddon Clark. Gordon’s father had graduated in 1887 from Princeton Theological Seminary and after pastoring two other Philadelphia area churches, was now pastor of Bethel Presbyterian Church at the time of Gordon’s birth. The Rev. D.S. Clark remained as the pastor of Bethel until the time of his death in 1939 and so Gordon was truly “brought up in the shadow of the Bethel Presbyterian Church.”

Gordon Clark profited immensely both from the Christian home in which he was raised and also from the superior educational system of his day. At home, he was taught the Westminster Shorter Catechism by his father and he took full advantage of access to his father’s library, familiarizing himself with the writiings of Calvin, Warfield and Hodge. At school, though only enrolled in a vocational high school, he was given an extensive education which included both Latin and French.

He went on to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1924 with a Bachelor’s degree, and again graduated from the same institution in 1929 with a Ph.D. in philosophy. In March of 1929 he married Ruth Schmidt, his wife of 48 years and to this marriage two children were born, Lois Antoinette and Nancy Elizabeth. Upon graduation, Dr. Clark took a position as Instructor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania from 1929 to 1936. Additional study at the Sorbonne in Paris took place during these same years. From 1936 to 1944 he served as Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. 

On August 9, 1944 Dr. Clark was ordained into the ministry of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church by the Presbytery of Philadelphia. He served as Stated Supply at the Trinity OPC Church of Cincinnati, OH while also working as Professor of Philosophy at Butler University. While remaining in his post at Butler until 1973, he left the OPC and was received on October 14, 1948 by the Presbytery of Indiana of the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA). From 1958 to 1965 he pastored the First UPCNA Church of Indianapolis, IN, which church soon moved with him to affiliate with the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, General Synod, Dr. Clark having been received by the Western Presbytery of the RPCNA, GS on October 29, 1957.

The RPCNA,GS was a very small denomination, but Dr. Clark was one of several men responsible for significant growth in the denomination during the 1950’s. He later supported the move to merge the RPCNA,GS with the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod. This latter group was the larger wing of the 1956 division of the Bible Presbyterian Church, originally formed in 1937 in division from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In 1961 the Columbus Synod renamed itself the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, holding this name from 1961 until the 1965 union with the RPCNA,GS. The resulting denomination was now know as the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES).

[Later, when the RPCES merged in 1982 with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Clark choose not to join the PCA, but instead transferred his ministerial credentials into the unaffiliated Covenant Presbytery. That transfer occurred on 14 May 1983, and his ministerial affiliation remained there until his death.]

clark01During all of this ecclesiastical activity, Dr. Clark continued in his position as Professor of Philosophy at Butler University, working there until 1973. It was during his tenure at Butler that some of his best works were written and published. Thales to Dewey [1957] remains an important college-level introduction to philosophy. Other titles written during this same period include A Christian View of Men and Things [1952]; Religion, Reason and Revelation [1961]; Karl Barth’s Theological Method [1963]; What Do Presbyterians Believe? [1965] and Biblical Predestination [1969].

In 1974 Dr. Clark finally left Indianapolis and Butler University, having served there as Chairman of the Department of Philosophy from 1945 until his retirement in 1973. With the start of the 1974 academic year, he begin teaching at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, GA. He remained there for ten years, while also teaching during the summers at the Sangre de Cristo Seminary in Westcliffe, CO and intermittently at the Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.

The Rev. Dr. Gordon Haddon Clark died on April 9, 1985, after a brief serious illness. Dr. Clark’s wife, Ruth, had died in 1977, preceding Dr. Clark by some 9 years. At the time of his death, Dr. Clark was survived by his two daughters and their husbands, 12 grandchildren and one great grand-daughter. Funeral services for Dr. Clark were held on April 11, 1985 at the Sangre de Cristo Church in Westcliffe, CO.

Dr. Clark was the author of over 33 books and numerous articles and had been a founder of the Evangelical Theological Society. When discussion began in 1980 towards the union of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) and the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Dr. Clark found himself an opponent of that merger, perhaps in part because the plan also entailed the simultaneous union of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. While the OPC did not come into the merger, the 1982 joining and receiving of the RPCES into the PCA left Dr. Clark with the decision to be dismissed by the Tennessee Valley Presbytery of the PCA on September 11, 1982. He was received by the unaffiliated Covenant Presbytery in May, 1983.

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