The second main point of the “Complaint” against Dr. Clark concerns, in the words of the complainants, “his view of the relation of the faculty of knowledge, the intellectual faculty, to other faculties of the soul.” I have reread the material the complainants offer on this point, and also its refutation in “The Answer.” I think that the points of difference between Dr. Clark and his accusers may, in the main, be summarized as follows:
1. The complainants hold to the trichotomous division or distinction of the human soul into its faculties, and apply this also to God. In the human soul they distinguish between intellect, emotion, and will. Dr. Clark prefers the dichotomous distinction of intellect and will, refuses to speak of emotion as a separate faculty, and considers the emotions as aspects of the intellect and will. And he, too, applies this distinction to God. This seems evident from the “Complaint,” p. 7: “Any statement of the relation between the intellectual and the other spiritual faculties must needs be concerned with God as well as with man. Although comparatively little was said in the course of Dr. Clark’s examination about what might be called divine psychology, there is enough evidence in the transcript of the examination to outline his position. Dr. Clark should certainly not be accused of dividing the nature of God, or even of man, into discrete parts which might be labeled ‘intellect’, ‘emotion’, and ‘volition’, or by other terms. However, since he is willing, at least, for the sake of argument, to use such words as indicating different faculties there is certainly meaning in what has been said on the subject. First of all. Dr. Clark specifically states (p. 16) that the statement of the Westminster Confession that ‘God is without. . . . passions’ means that God is lacking in feeling and emotion. Although he objects to a definition of feeling or emotion which would make those words mean anything different from ‘passions’, he does not make provision for any other faculty in God’s nature which would be non-intellectual and non-volitional. Secondly, to round out the picture, Dr. Clark apparently does assume that God has both intellectual and volitional faculties, for he talks about the decretive and perceptive will of God, as well as about God’s knowledge.”
“The Answer” makes plain that Dr. Clark does not deny the reality of emotions in God, but gives them a different connotation from that of the complainants, and assigns to them a position different from that which the latter assign to them, in relation to God’s intellect and will. The complainants make of the emotions in God a separate faculty, next to, and on a level with intellect and will. Dr. Clark gives them a subordinate position, and explains them as aspects or functions of God’s intellect and will. From “The Answer” we quote: “Dr. Clark never made any ‘forthright denial of anything that might be called emotion in God.’ Love or wrath ‘might be called an emotion.’ Dr. Clark did not deny love and wrath to God. He holds that while some people might call God’s love and wrath emotions, it is better to classify them as volitions. In this Dr. Clark is in accord with a large section of theology and of literary usage.” p. 27.
It would seem, then, that the chief point of difference between the complainants and Dr. Clark may be stated thus, that the former hold to the trichotomous, the latter to the dichotomous distinction as applied to human and “divine psychology.” (I must not be held responsible for the latter term).
2. While the complainants place the intellect, emotions, and will, both in man and in God, on a level (they even leave the impression of teaching a certain primacy of the emotions), Dr. Clark certainly assigns to the emotions a subordinate position, and, according to the complainants, teaches the primacy of the intellect. The latter position the complainants hold to be a serious error, contrary to the best Reformed tradition; I quote from the “Complaint”: “While Dr. Clark is ‘willing to admit that the intellect and volition and emotion are equally essential to a human being’, he maintains that they have different functions’ and ‘that the intellect is the supreme function.’” p. 7. And again: “What, in the first place, is the Reformed teaching about the aspects of God’s nature, or, if you will, the faculties which reside in God? (How easy it would be to deduce from statements like “faculties in God” that the complainants deny the simplicity of God! We do not make the deduction, of course, although we would neither be responsible for the terms, H.H.). That God has knowledge and will is agreed by all. The questions that must concern us are two: does God have what may be properly called ’emotions’? and, what is the relation between God’s faculties? If we assign to the word ’emotion’ an a priori definition which in the nature of the case identifies emotion with ‘passions’, it would obviously be denying our standards to say that God has emotions (Westminster Confession, II, 1). God does not change, there is no shadow of turning in him, he is not a man that he should repent, he is immutable. Certainly, also, God does not share certain of the qualities which we call ’emotions’, such as fear, longing, and surprise. If we are to speak of feeling or emotions in God at all, we must confine ourselves to his attributes which are sometimes summed up under the word ‘benevolence’: love, goodness, mercy, and grace. Even here we must be careful to defend the immutable self-determination of God. But the question still remains, can these be identified with, or associated with, the idea of ’emotion’ or ‘feeling’? Obviously, we define those words in their narrow but perfectly colloquial sense as something which arouses the will and thus determines action. In fine, is there any quality or faculty in God which is neither intellectual nor volitional, and which underlies or accompanies volitional activity? That question, in similar words, Dr. Clark studiously avoided answering.” pp. 7, 8.
It is interesting for more than one reason to notice how Dr. Clark “studiously avoided answering” this particular question in his examination. In “The Answer” the transcript of the examination on this point is quoted as follows: “Q. When the Confession of Faith says: ‘God is without body, parts or passions’, does it mean that God is lacking in feeling or emotion? A. It does. Q. I’ll define the meaning of emotions: I mean—affections in the sense of principal activity with reference to objections. Now I’ll repeat the question, if you wish. A. Go ahead. Q. The Confession says: ‘God is without body, parts, or passions.’ Does it mean that God is lacking in feeling or emotion? A. Go ahead. Q. And by feeling or emotion I mean—in the sense of principal activity with reference to objects. A. I forget which way to answer that—yes or no. Q. The Confession of Faith says: ‘God is without body or parts. A. The answer is yes, but I protest against the awful English in your statement, the word emotion—never mind that English. Q. You mean that God has never acted upon anything aside from himself? A. I don’t understand you. Q. What I would like to know is this: We can call these feelings or emotions in God, and I would define them as analogous to our feelings and emotions and affections in the sense that they are active principles, active with reference to objects. For example: God is angry with the wicked. God loves His people eternally, would foil deny that A. That is right, right; what you say is right. Q. That is what the Confession means? A. No, what—not what it means right there—not what the Confession means.”
If the transcript of this part of the examination is correct, the insinuation that Dr. Clark “studiously avoided answering” is not true. However, one wonders whether the questioner himself was not somewhat vague and confused in his own mind. And certain it is that the last question was answered correctly by Dr. Clark: when the Westminster Confession states that there are no passions in God, it certainly has no reference to God’s wrath against the wicked, and to His love to His elect.
Because of lack of space, and because of fear that more of this material might make our readers too dizzy at present, I must reserve my own opinion of this point of the controversy for the next issue.