25 May, 2019

An Brief Outline and Critique of R. Scott Clark’s “Archetypal/Ectypal” Distinction to Justify God’s Desiring of Opposite Things

Prof. Herman C. Hanko

[Source: Common Grace Considered (2019 edition), pp. 292-293, 313-315]

[An] important question that has come up, especially among Calvinists, is the harmony between God’s will to save some (the elect) and to reprobate others on the one hand, and His will that all men be saved on the other. There is evident and incontrovertible conflict between the two wills of God. In answer to this problem, some have felt free to speak of “two wills” in God—one will to save all, and another will to save some. Others have appealed to “paradox” and “apparent contradiction,” by which God’s “logic” is placed on a much higher level that our logic, so that what seems to us as contradictory is not contradictory in God’s thoughts.
This, e.g., is the whole argument of R. Scott Clark in an article entitled “Janus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel and Westminster Theology.” He writes,

This essay contends that the reason the well-meant offer has not been more persuasive is that its critics have not understood or sympathized with the fundamental assumption on which the doctrine of the well-meant offer was premised: the distinction between theology as God knows it (theologia archetypa) and theology as it is revealed to and done by us (theologia ectypa). In making the biblical case for the claim that God reveals himself as desiring what he has not secretly willed to do, Murray and Strimple assumed this distinction which they did not articulate explicitly. (R. Scott Clark, “Janus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel and Westminster Theology,” in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine: Systematic Theology At The Westminster Seminaries—Essays in Honor of Robert B. Strimple [P&R Publishing, 2004].)

This proposed solution is a rather fancy and Latinized way of saying that the conflict in God’s will to save the elect only and God’s will to save all men is only in our theology and not in God’s theology. God’s theology is fundamentally different from revelation and from our theology.

The Latin terms may give a sense of learning to the argument and persuade others by some superior language found only in the Latin, but the fact is that the English words mean something quite different. According to my trusty Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, confirmed by Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, the English word archetype means “original” and the English word ectype means “copy.”
Now, I do not think that it would be proper to call our knowledge of God a “copy” of God’s knowledge of Himself. Our knowledge of God is the knowledge of fellowship and friendship. It is like the knowledge to learn about my knowledge I have of my wife; and Scripture confirms that I have God’s full consent to use the analogy of marriage. Nor must we forget this when we talk of the knowledge of God. Scripture makes it very clear that our knowledge of God is of such a kind that the same word can be used for it as is used for Adam and Eve, when Adam “knew” his wife Eve and she conceived and bore a son (Gen. 4:1).
The wicked have a certain knowledge of God as well, acquired through God’s speech in creation (Rom. 1:18ff).  But this knowledge is very limited, although accurate. They know, Paul says, that God is God and that He alone must be served. This is not a knowledge different from what God has in Himself and of Himself; if it were, the wicked would have an excellent excuse for not serving Him (Rom. 1:20). They will not be able to say, in the judgment, “We had only ectypal knowledge of thee, and did not know that thou art the only God.”
But the knowledge that the believer has is saving knowledge, knowledge of covenant fellowship with God, knowledge that sets free, knowledge that saves. But it is impossible to imagine that such knowledge could be intimate and covenantal if it involved contradictions. If I may carry the analogy of the knowledge of my wife into the context of the “well-meant gospel offer,” the intimate knowledge of our marriage would be impossible. She told me that she loved me and wanted to be married to me and to live with me in the intimacy of marriage. But she told me, also, that, in some sort of different way, which I could not comprehend, she loved other men as well, and desired to be married to them. This sort of thing would make the knowledge of the intimacy of marriage impossible—even if she said to me (as some defenders of the “well-meant gospel offer” say), “My love for other men is different from my love for you … It is not contradictory, as you seem to think, but you are not capable of understanding why it is not contradictory.” I assure you, that would do little to relieve my concern—if “concern” is a strong enough word.
But, supposing that we use the ideas of “original” and “copy” for a moment. If God’s knowledge of Himself is original (as it is) and our knowledge of God is a copy, the copy is like the original in many respects or it is not a copy.  If the copy says that God loves His people as elect, but God loves all men in His desire to save them, then the original has to say that too, or the copy is no more a copy. In other words, if the copy says things not found in the original, it is not a copy.
To say that the copy has problems and contradictions in it that the original does not have, is to say that we do not have a copy at all, and that we cannot tell what the original says. We are incapable of saying anything about the original. We cannot say anything about God from the knowledge we have in Scripture. We are theological agnostics; and the knowledge of God as our God is forever impossible—even in heaven. Even in heaven, I say, for our knowledge of God that we shall have in heaven is the same as it is now in all respects. We know God always and only through Christ. The difference is only that now we know Christ “through a mirror darkly” (I Cor. 13:12), but presently we shall know Him face to face.
But again, our knowledge that we have “through a mirror darkly” is not (and cannot be) contradictory and therefore inaccurate. If I am shaving in front of the mirror and see my wife behind me, I do not expect that, by turning around and seeing who is behind me, it will be another person than my wife. When we turn around in heaven, throw away the mirror, and see Christ face to face, and God in Christ, we will not say (thank God) I had an entirely wrong knowledge of you while I was in the world. I thought you said in the mirror, “I love not only you, but all men.” And the answer would come to us in heaven, “Your knowledge of Me while you were on earth was only theologia ectypa and not theologia archetypa. We ought to be very thankful that that is not the case. Can you imagine a martyr willing to die for his knowledge of Christ when it is only theologia ectypa? I would not be prepared to do that. I will gladly and willingly die for one who is my Friend, who has cared for me, saved me from the wreck I made of my own life, and will take me into His own covenant life. I cannot imagine myself dying for a god of whom I know nothing, much less whether He truly loves me, when He loves everybody, even those who kill me and who go to hell.
No, the distinction will do nothing to solve the problem, but it will only rob us of the knowledge of our God through Jesus Christ, a knowledge that is more than life to us.


Q. “What are the main problems with the notion that ‘our knowledge of God, which is apparently contradictory, is, in God’s mind, perfectly harmonious’?”

Such an idea as this does two serious and destructive things to our knowledge of God. First, it results in theological agnosticism; that is, we cannot really know who and what God is and what is the nature of His mighty works. Second, we cannot know Him with that saving knowledge of which Jesus speaks in His high-priestly prayer: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). (Herman C. Hanko, “Common Grace Considered” [2019 edition], p. 325)

No comments:

Post a comment