For a heads up, I want to let my readers know that this article will be an editorial opinion and not necessarily exegetical or systematic theology. That being said from the get go, I want to issue a complaint against ivory towers of Van Tilianism, neo-legalism, and various other miscreant theological aberrations within the general umbrella of what is generally known as Calvinism.
But where does that leave us? Sola scriptura rejects the church as an infallible magisterium or interpreter of Scripture; thus the papist view that the pope and the church have an equal authority with Scripture is out. The Protestant Reformers certainly believed in scholarship. The Reformation did not begin as a grass roots movement. It began with humanist scholars who began to read the biblical texts for themselves. Using logic and consistently critical methods they saw that Rome's views on doctrinal issue were not biblical but had been derived instead from human traditions. The Latin Vulgate was show to be an unreliable translation from the original Greek and Hebrew majority texts available to the Reformers.
In short, the Van Tilians have no authority over classical Calvinists. The Bible is the final authority, not R. Scott Clark or Mike Horton. They will ridicule and use the abusive ad hominem fallacy, of course. They falsely accused Dr. Clark of hyper-Calvinism, rationalism and other things. The bottom line, however, is that Scripture alone is the Word of God. When a theological tradition bases its theology on an axiom other than Scripture, namely the Van Tilian axiom that "all Scripture is apparently paradoxical," the end result is skepticism, neo-orthodoxy, theonomy, the Federal Vision, the Auburn Avenue error, etc. Most of this originated with Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, Gerhardus Vos, and other Reformed theologians whose theology logically culminated in the Auburn Affirmation, which ironically led to the formation of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in the first place.
Sean Gerety asked a question his book, Can the Presbyterian Church in America Be Saved? He pointed out the conflict between logical contradictions and the Van Tilian view that all Scripture is apparently contradictory. This leaves the Van Tilians free to read the equivocations of the Federal Visionists with charity. Lane Keister of the Green Baggins blog could not bring himself to say that Doug Wilson is an enemy of the Gospel. The same thing is true of R. Scott Clark and Mike Horton. Their commitment to irrationalism is so great that even though they disagree with the neo-legalism of Richard Gaffin, Jr. and the Federal Visionists, their commitment to a false charity given to false teachers is greater than their commitment to the Bible. Furthermore, since neither Horton nor R. S. Clark actually believes the Bible is unequivocally and univocally the very words of God, they leave themselves open to skepticism. To Horton the Bible is an inspired myth that is factual and R. S. Clark says that to say Scripture is the very words of God and univocally God's logical and propositional is to promote a quest for an illegitimate intellectual certainty (QIRI). (See: Religious Uncertainty: Recovering the Reformed Confession and A Critical Review of Pilgrims on the Way). In short, truth is subsumed under the rubris of loyalty to a seminary or a denomination rather than loyalty to the system of theology revealed in Holy Scripture.
According to R. Scott Clark, the temptation of Adam and Eve was not about believing God's logical command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of the knowledge of good and evil. It was about a quest to know things just as God knows them:
QIRC is an acronym: Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty. It has at least two aspects. The first is the ancient, sinful desire to know what God knows, the way he knows it. That is what the Evil One offered to us in the garden (Gen 3). He suggested to us that our kind, holy, and righteous Creator God was was afraid of us, that, if we would only trust him, the devil, we could know what God knows the way he knows it. As you may know, that sale went horribly wrong because it was horribly wrong from the beginning. It was a lie and when we signed that contract with our own blood. (From: The QIRC-er Must Be Right, by R. Scott Clark.
The problem with R.S. Clark's premise is that it is flat wrong. The problem is not a quest for illegitimate knowledge. Did Adam know God's command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Or was the command somehow apparently contradictory? Did God issue a command in the form of logic that would require the law of contradiction to be properly understood? And did Adam know God's words just as God understood these words?
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said,`You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1 NKJ)
The problem is not that the serpent was tempting Eve with knowledge. He tempted her to reject the plain teaching of God's Word. The Word was not yet written but it was nevertheless the very words of God told her by Adam. And it is even likely that God Himself instructed Eve since both Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8). Of course, the promise that you can be like God is a continuing problem in the cults. But that is certainly not what the Westminster Confession teaches, contra R. Scott Clark. (See: Westminster Confession of Faith 1.6).
Furthermore, is it an illegitimate quest for knowledge to believe that the Bible is univocally the same words God knows? Of course, we only know what is revealed (Deuteronomy 29:29; Romans 16:25-26). But is it illegitimate to know God's special revelation in Scripture? According to R. Scott Clark, it is illegitimate to know anything God knows, therefore ruling out special revelation. We can only analogically guess what God knows--even in when God reveals His thoughts in the Bible. By Van Tilian reasoning it is illegitimate to question anyone's interpretation of the text. So Scott Clark is the one agreeing with the devil, not the Scripturalist. The Scripturalist agrees with the commands of God because those commands are univocally the same commands in the mind of God and in the mind of the man who hears or reads God's revelation in spoken words:
Chapter I yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.
Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.1.
In light of these compromises regarding the authority, inspiration and authority of Scripture, I would like to ask Dr. R. Scott Clark how he can with a straight face oppose the Federal Vision if it is not a logical contradiction to the system of theology logically and univocally revealed in Scripture and summarized on a warrant from Scripture in the Reformed confessions we know as the Westminster Standards, the Three Forms of Unity, and the Anglican Formularies? After all, Scripture is inherently and apparently paradoxical, according to R.S. Clark. These apparent contradictions are only resolved in God's mind and it is a violation of the creature/Creator distinction to say that Doug Wilson is a false teacher or that Richard Gaffin, Jr. or Norman Shepherd have contradicted the Gospel in any way whatsoever, right?