« IndietroContinua »
Art. X.—QUARTERLY BOOK-TABLE.
Religion, Theology', and Biblical Literature.
Fragments: Religious and Theological. A Collection of Independent Papers Relating to Various Points of Christian Life and Doctrine. By Daniel Cdrry. 12mo., pp. 375. New York: Phillips k Hunt. Cincinnati: Hitchcock & Walden. 1880. Price. $1 50.
Platform Papers: Addresses, Discussions, and Essays on Social, Moral, and Religious Subjects. By Daniel Curry. 12mo., pp. 389. Cincinnati: Hitchcock & Walden. New York: Phillips & Hunt. 1880.
Thousands of our Church who have felt the gratification of being readers in past years of Dr. Curry's productions scattered through our periodicals, and in other forms, will .be glad to receive these two volumes, made up by his own hands, of selections from his mass of writings, and reduced to permanent form. In style and thought they are an acknowledged part of our literature, discussing the living topics of our Church and age in a free, bold, thoughtful spirit. Independence, individualism, and vigor, characterize all he writes. He has not, we think, much studied style and manner as an art; but his style of language takes form and character from his style of thought, being its natural self-investment. The genial humor that forms so large a part of his personal demeanor and conversation among his friends never appears in his writings. He abounds not in imagery, poetical or rhetorical; and calls to his aid only so much imagination as shall give shape to his logical conceptions. He enchants you with no fine metaphors, brilliant antitheses, or swelling climaxes. He is always in earnest, and goes on in his career of thought through the regions of pure intelligence. He has thus impressed his own personality upon his writings; and, through them and his various public activities, upon the mind of the Church.
Our limits do not, of course, allow our reviewing him through the varied topics of these two volumes. Nor need we say that in the great body of his utterances we accord very much with his views. But from the very fact that one of his "Fragments" is a trenchant critique upon a production of our own, involving extensive difference of opinion in regard to our Arminian theology, our " notice" must be, more than we could wish; controversial.
During a large share of Dr. Curry's career there are many who honestly have held the impression that he was "a Calvinist." This he has repeatedly felt called upon to deny, and has, no doubt, with a profound sincerity, denied. The smcerity of that denial is demonstrated by the fact that he here brings together, mostly in the first of the above volumes, some of the decisive statements on which that impression has been based. His own self-exposition of his views, as here given, justifies, we think, the impression that in his theory of responsibility he is but dubiously Arminian, and that he makes concessions which weaken, if they do not knock from under, the props upon which his Arminianism rests. His wavering upon the freedom of the human will gives an apparent doubt and doubleness to all his views.
He affirms that the will is "free;" as all necessitarians do at the present day. He grounds this affirmation on our "consciousness;" and so does Prof. II. B. Smith. He affirms "a self-determining power;" and so does Dr. Shedd. He holds that the rational soul "rises above the passions, and acts by its own energy, and independently of all beyond itself; this is original volition." The younger Edwards, a rigid necessitarian, holds all that. Nay, every cause, however physical, which is a complete and sufficient cause, Edwards holds "acts by its own energy, and independently of all beyond itself." So far, we have not got beyond the most rigid necessitarianism. The question remains: Is this free causal agent limited to a solely possible result, or does he possess power for either one of the two or more alternative results? On this question—the vital question of the freedom of the will, the dividing question between Calvinism and Arminianism—Dr. Curry doubts, vibrates, and straddles. He coolly tells us (p. 19) that "The assumption of a contrary choice, always within possible reach, is only a theory invented to meet a supposed necessity." He discusses the "theory" more fully, (pp. 20, 21,) pervaded with a similar dubitation. Again, (pp. 25, 26,) it is argued that free-will does not solve the problem of sin "unless we assume that the power of free-will is wholly unconditioned and anarchical." Now, we hold that the freedom of the will is not "unconditioned," and we have endeavored in our volume on the Will, on pp. 68-75, and elsewhere, to show the "conditions and limitations of the Will's free action." And, when that analysis is completed, we hold that the solution of the problem of sin and responsibility is as complete as the solution of any other problem of theology. On many theological topics no more clear than this our respected brother is firm and positive; this, the decisive point between us and Calvinism, he selects for hesitating lips and weak knees.
On page 41 we find the following passage:
Should an automaton be endowed with consciousness and affection, it would ieem to itself to act with entire freedom and from its own impulses; and yet, obviously, all its movements are the result of forces in itself that act independently of its own volitions, and by a law above the dictates of its will. The impulse determines the choice, and not contrariwise. The human consciousness may recognize the free action of the will, but it can know nothing of the impelling causes which lie beyond the range of its observations, and which may effectually control all the volitions of the will. The freedom of the will, as attested by the mind's cognizance of its own processes, may, therefore, be only formal, and, in fact, entirely necessitated.
Here is an illustration drawn from mechanics producing the conclusion that an apparent freedom of will may be only formal, and said will may, after all, be "in fact entirely necessitated." How does Dr. C. know that a conscious automaton would imagine himself to be free? If his consciousness included a Will he might wish to act counter to the controlling physical forces; and so a very cruel collision might result between Will and opposing force, rendering him terribly conscious of his slavery and misery. If Dr. C. means, however, as we suppose he does, psychological volitions in addition to the consciousness to be really substituted in the stead of the physical forces in his automaton, then we reply that we would have no longer a physical "automaton," acting under physical forces, but a volitional agent acting under motives, whose external actions are controlled by his will; and so it ceases to be an illustration by becoming an identity. For what is the use of telling us that a living conscious volitional being, controlling his own actions by his own will, would not know that he was free?* Equally nugatory is it to tell us that we cannot know causes beyond our "observations;" which, of course, we cannot. But causes we do know; the whole science of mechanics or of astronomy is built upon our known knowledge
* This argument of Dr. Curry's we have discussed, under the illustration of a "conscious watch," in our volume on "The Will." p. 365. Dr. Fisk answers Leibnitz' similar illustration drawn from a compass needlo (ropeatodly used by Dr. C.) in his "Calvinistie Controversy, p. 164.
Aud how explicitly Dr. Fisk grounds a genuine Arminianism on a genuine alternative power of the Will may appear from passages like the following:— "Both parties agree that man is a free moral agent; both maintain that he is responsible; but we manitain that what the Calvinists call free moral agency is not such in fact as is commonly understood by the term, nor such as is requisite to make man accountable. What is that power, or property, or faculty of the mind, which constitutes man a free moral agent? It is the power of choice, connected with liberty to choose either good or evil. Both the power and liberty to choose either good or evil are requisite to constitute the freo agency of a prubationer."—Page 149. *
of causes; not, indeed, of "impelling causes" beyond our "observations," but of a sufficient amount of causes within our "range" to form a stupendous pile of sciences. Such sciences, based on a known knowledge of causes, are in formation; as physiology, meteorology, paleontology; and why not in psychology or the doctrine of the mind; or even in what we now, for the first time, call Thelematology, or the doctrine of the Will?
Dr. Curry's whole argument against our known freedom of Will assumes that we cannot be conscious of a power for other act than the act we perform. That is, we cannot be conscious of unexerted power. But is it true that we are not conscious of unexerted volitional power? Then no volition could ever take place, for the condition to every volition is a consciousness of power for the volition, previous to the act of volition. There is consciousness, then, previous to every volition of a yet unexerted power. Demonstrably, then, there may be consciousness of unexerted power for an unperformed volition. And if power for one unperformed volition, why not for another, or for either of several volitions? See our " Will," pp. 361-369.
And all these concessions made by him to non-freedom, knock out the props from under Dr. Curry's Arminian platform. For if after all we may be responsible and punishable, yet necessitated, what matters it by what we are necessitated, whether by inward necessitating forces, or by God's external decree? And thence comes a full justification of foreordination, election and reprobation, of Calvinistic justification and infant damnation. These are all nothing more than systems of damnation for necessitated action or being.
There are pages in these volumes in which he is eloquent against Calvinism; but upon what basis? A basis undermined by the assurance that we cannot know but that we are as truly damned for not performing the impossible as the tallest Supralapsarianism asserts. Wesley and Fletcher used to assume that their Arminianism satisfactorily explained the relations between the sovereignty of God and the free-agency of man, so as fully "to justify the ways of God to man." But in Dr. Curry's pages the question is still "an insoluble mystery;" neither side duly clears it; and we are then left to ask, If both are equally in the dark, why is one side better than the other? The charge of Arminianism against Calvinism is that it fails to explain the divine rectitude; and yet Dr. C. tells us that both sides are a failure. Now our own belief coincides with that of our founders, that we have the true doctrine as Calvinism has not, and that the divine government is clearly and truly thereby explained, so that a Christian theodicy does exist in which the rational mind may find repose. Arminianism claims to be a valid Theodicy.
Some twenty years ago (according to our fallible memory) we published in our Quarterly, by anticipation, a chapter of our then forthcoming volume on the "Will," pp. 375-389. It was entitled ".Distinction between Automatic Excellence and Moral Desert." It was intended to enforce upon the mind the old-fashioned Arminian maxim that a machine, however excellent, could be approved as excellent, but not be morally deserving of reward or punishment. And by gradual approaches we passed to making it clear that a necessitated agent comes under the same category. That necessitarians would carp at our argument we expected; but that an Arminian doctor should open a fire in the rear was a small surprise. Yet our venerated Dr. C. did, in the "Ladies' Repository," make fight on that arena; and, what is more surprising still, after near twenty years of progress, and after the publication of our volume fully expounding our positions, he now republishes this disastrous document in the present volume. Upon our statement of the old fundamental Arminian position that "free self-control" is necessary to responsibility, he pronounces the verdict not proven; denies the authority of common sense to decide such a question, etc. In conversation, at the time, we told the writer that we thought his article unequivocally Calvinistic. We then thought it too preposterous for an answer, but upon this its unwise resurrection we must spend a few paragraphs upon it.
In this article Dr. C. first propounds the dictum, in regard to the title of our chapter, that we should not call the necessitated volitional agent automatic, but autonomous. Strange that in twenty years he should not have discovered the disastrous nature of such a verbal criticism! We have used the word automatic throughout our volume as an adjective for either a material or a psychological necessitated agent, and our author is alone in the world in holding such application erroneous. Thus he says, as if quoting us:
An "automaton-," we are correctly informed, "ia a machine whoso movements are caused by forces applied;" that is, from beyond itself. But the most thorough necessitarian does not suppose this oT tho human will, but only that when excited to action its acts are certainly determined by its own inherent instincts and proclivities.
Fourth Series, Vol. XXXII.—38