« AnteriorContinuar »
charge that it condemns the apprentice for not being a perfect workman. The argument complains that there is a similar injustice in condemning men for failure to keep a perfect moral law. Upon this the following bears very pertinently:
"This figure of apprenticeship does not represent the relation of sinners toward God. It is false to say that the common Orthodox scheme involves a justice so called which holds men under condemnation for bungling' and 'imperfection.' If man's violations be simply the errors of a learner, the unconscious blunders of imperfect knowledge, as Mr. Wasson (the author) and Mr. Parker would hold, then they are not subjects of condemnation at all, for they are not even of a moral character. Parker's great theological, philosophical, vital mistake was in just this verbal denial of a moral quality to human violations of law. His criticism of Orthodoxy was open to puncture by the first comer at this point. He assumed first that men are simply God's apprentices doing as well as they know, and then proceeds to impeach the justice of the Orthodox Deity from this standpoint. If it be true that men are only faithful apprentices and at fault only as being imper fect' or undeveloped, Orthodoxy has no justice to apply to the case simply because there is nothing to condemn. It will simply deny the original statement, and discuss the very ground upon which Parker stands. It will demand that a critique of Orthodox justice shall first appreciate the Orthodox standpoint. The ground on which divine justice condemns violations, is not human imperfection.' The man who would understand the justice of God against sinners must first concede that there is such a thing as sin. If an apprentice not only bungles but idles, loiters, wilfully defaces his work, uses the tools given him for fashioning and creating to mangle and destroy, to make vicious results and wicked shapes, then the ground of his employer's condemnation will require to be expressed by a stronger word than imperfecti n.' The question is if Mr. Parker admits that an apprentice must be called a 'good lad' under every supposition, or whether a case is possible in which he might be deserving the condign displeasure of his master. If the latter, then there is a place for divine justice, and upon such ground it must be criticised. If Parker in the face of the facts denies these acts of will in moral apprentices, then his quarrel is not with the Orthodox scheme of justice but with its fundamental affirmation, and possibly with the eternal nature of things. Divine justice according to Or
thodoxy legislates against sin, and before any one can justly quarrel with that scheme of justice as condemning sin, he must show that there is no sin to be condemned, or that God's moral government is indifferent to the quality of conduct; and, unless exception can be proved, that justice and that condemnation rest upon all men as violators of the supreme Moral Law."
Leaving this criticism of Parker to speak for itself, we proceed to say that according to his philosophy there is no such thing as sin, there is no absolute evil." And though he sometimes denied sin because he loosely reasoned that evil if absolute must also be endless, yet the prime idea like that of all Naturalism was that sin is a negative incident of development, and as much a necessary part of progress as ignorance in the child or a stumble in its infantile walks. It was therefore not a problem to be solved, not even a difficulty to be overcome in his theory.
Without pausing to criticise the absurdity, we are concerned to know how much of this theory has attached to Universalist teaching, and what will be required of us in relation to it in the coming transition of our faith. Undoubtedly it is a short cut to our chief conclusion to fall in with Naturalism and teach that whatever a man needs
to come to will develop without any concern. It is in some senses easier to prove our postulate that things will ultimate well, by showing that the ordinary and natural workings of things will develop men out of all undesirable conditions and so insure a universe finally perfect. But it happens that we have at every turn to meet the question if this view accords with the facts, as e. g. of history and consciousness; and also to justify the inconsistency with which we still claim to teach a Christian and supernatural redemption. That we are in the clutches of this inconsistency is well intimated in a preceding quotation.10 And that we have not guarded against this virtual elimination of sin as such may be discovered by a consultation of the published views of those who have written for us on the 9 Ibid, p. 67.
Radical Review, p 66-7.
10 Quotation "3" (Marginal reference S).
subject: "If we say that sin is not good in God's system but a damage, we must say that God would have prevented it, if it had been in his power. If God produced an agency and that agency produced sin, it argues that God is the first cause." How can it be proper for one to use the word sin at all, who argues that it can be no "damage" in the universe, and who maintains that it originated by the will of God. It needs not to multiply instances of a similar nature. It is not uncommon perhaps among us to sacrifice a correct ethical exposition to the support of our argument for the final extinction of sin. The argument that sin will yield in a loose thought will easily degenerate into the position that it will take care of itself which is a very different statement. It has not always been kept in mind, that the promise of a divine abolition of sin is not the same as a doctrine of natural development, is not the same as a denial that sin is an absolute evil.
The transition of the Universalist Church from indefiniteness to a stated position, will emphasize the fact that we do not deny the radical evil of sin. Sin is not a physical but a moral fact. It is not a defect incident to a natural development, but a deep seated and radical evil against God and the harmony of the world; and more and more we shall discover the necessity for making this statement as the necessary correlate of our great conclusion, for final universal salvation will mean nothing until we have answered the question that will more and more vehemently press, "From what are we to be saved?"
II. Beyond the completion of our revolt from Naturalism there will be a call upon us as a church to advance from our merely practical to a deeper ethical and metaphysical conception of sin. With most of us the facts of sin are exhausted in the movements of will and consequent wrong conduct. But we believe a more thorough analysis of the situation will reveal that sin goes deeper than conduct, deeper even than will. At all events we shall find it very difficult to justify the theory of a supernatural salvation if we can show no deeper necessity
11 Treatise on Atonement. H. Ballou. pp. 36-7.
for it than is found in our common statement about sin. If moral evil is involved only in choices and acts, then undoubtedly we can look for a cure by proper solicitation of choices, and it would in such case be hard to show that any special supernatural grace is necessary. It is the essence of the moral influence theory, of which Dr. Ryder justly complains, that it supposes sin curable by moral solicitation, and this is entirely possible without any Christ at all. If then sin is no deeper than the will, we can substitute for our development idea the notion of self-development by means of will, and the latter conception will as effectually bar Christianity in so far at least as it (Christianity) is spiritual and supernatural. We then have left the reality of sin indeed, but no call for any "force from without" to atone it; a problem to solve, but no demand for any infinite effort from above to solve it. And it is quite certain that no one will call for such infinite effert if sin is purely a question of wrong choosing, and salvation an exemplary influence or moral solicitation inducing man of himself to choose aright.12
That it has been so taught cannot be in question. Over against a vicious doctrine of inherited guilt we have been fond of setting the reiterated proposition that sin is personal and cannot be transferred, and that, because it must by its nature be conscious and voluntary. The views of Universalists are probably well set forth in the definition of Channing: "Sin in its true nature is the violation of duty and cannot consequently exist before conscience has begun to act. To sin is to resist our sense of right ... to transgress laws of equity." A Universalist opinion on the subject is found in the following extracts:
"It may not be improper to remark that we know of no other sin than that which implies (personal?) action, and results from a violation of law. We hear much said of original
1. It is fair to say that the "moral influence" theory of Bushnell is not merely the theory of a moral example or a moral solicitation, as might be implied in the article alluded to- Punishment, Forgiveness, etc., in October QUARTERLY. Compare Bushnell," Forgiveness and Law." p. 176 et seq.
18 Evil of Sin. Channing's Complete Works. p. 347.
sin or inborn sin.
Nor can we exactly understand how a man can be a sinner (sinful?) before he has sinned. No man can be a sinner until he has transgressed."
"Sin (is) an act of a finite being.” 15
"No man is a sinner until he sins personally." 16
"Universalists on the other hand maintain that man now possesses the same constitution physical and moral as was originally given to the progenitor of our race, that as Adam was created in the image of God so is man now."
"What can be more calamitous than to be born with a nature that leads us necessarily to sin. In opposition to this blasphemy we maintain that man is capable of obeying God. That all men sin we do not deny, but we do deny that their nature compels (?) them to sin."
"Sin has its origin in the will." 17
The above quotations contain the affirmation that sin is a movement of will and goes no deeper. There are later Universalist utterances however that indicate the deepening conviction among us that we are to look below the level of the will and conduct for what is really radical in the fact of sin.
"In modern and philosophic phraseology the vitality of sin is in the attitude of disobedience toward God, the heart's refusal to yield to Him. We say the vitality, the qualitative spirit of sin is in this attitude of the heart." 18
"He that hates is sinful."
"Sin dwells in human nature, and controls it often." 19
There seems to be a growing disposition to follow the idea of sin into its last retreat and find out how much the word contains. It cannot long be denied that human nature carries in its inmost springs the taint of somewhat that colors all its fountains of motive, volition and desire, a taint that is inborn and, by any human effort, ineradicable. If we have justly denied inherited guilt, transferred responsibility, have we not also let slip with it the key to supernatural redemption by denying or refusing to use the fact of an inherent and in
14 Universalist Belief. Asher Moore. p. 174.
15 Universalist Book of Reference, p. 312.
16 Ibid, p. 327.
17 Sawyer's Review of Hatfield. pp. 96, 97, 101.
18 Latest Word of Universalism-Sin and its Sequences. p. 49.
19 Latest Word of Universalism - Human Nature. p. 43.