Gordon Clark’s ethical considerations
Dr. Clark takes the reader to the proper beginning of any consideration of ethics: he logically deconstructs the irrational ethical systems of the Utilitarians (what about the people not made happy by what makes you happy), and of Kant (how can selfless duty and self-interest co-exist?), and then simply presents his case: the clear remainder that survives dismissal of competing systems. He concludes that only Biblical theism can provide an ethical system that escapes the pitfalls of the others. The discerning reader is then left panting, “why argue?” I love this about Gordon Clark.
Very basically, Dr. Clark asserts that ethics must necessarily address self-interest, and that Bible clearly does. Much of his discussion of various ethical systems distinguishes between the teleological and ateleological approaches; in other words, ethics emphasizing outcome versus intent.
This brief section stood out for its stand-alone representation of a straightforward summary of Dr. Clark’s argument:
“A man cannot be held responsible for anything over which he has no control. The consequences of our acts are obviously not under our control. Even the more immediate consequences such as the health and reputation we shall enjoy tomorrow are not under our control; and the more remote consequences of next year and next decade cannot possibly be guaranteed. Such matters are therefore external to us. There are, however, internal actions directly under the control of our will. We may not be able to control our health or our reputation, but we can control our thinking, our choosing and refusing; we cannot control circumstances but we can control our reaction to circumstances. The sphere of morality therefore lies within; it has to do with the will and not the consequences.” (pp. 116-117)