Charles Hodge’s Criticism of Jonathan Edwards

“First, the word will itself is one of those ambiguous terms. It is sometimes used in a wide sense, so as to include all the desires, affections, and even emotions. It has this comprehensive sense when all the faculties of the soul are said to be included under the two categories of understanding and will. Everything, therefore, pertaining to the soul, that does not belong to the former, is said to belong to the latter. All liking and disliking, all preferring, all inclination and disinclination, are in this sense acts of the will. At other times, the word is used for the power of self-determination, or for that faculty by which we decide on our acts. In this sense only purposes and imperative volitions are acts of the will. It is obvious that if a writer affirms the liberty of the will in the latter sense, and his reader takes the word in the former, the one can never understand the other. Or if the same writer sometimes uses the word in its wide and sometimes in its narrow sense, he will inevitably mislead himself and others. To say that we have power over our volitions, and to say that we have power over our desires are entirely different things. One of these propositions may be affirmed and the other denied; but if will and desire are confounded the distinction between these propositions is obliterated. It has often been remarked that the confusion of these two meanings of the word will is the great defect of President Edwards’s celebrated work. He starts with a definition of the term, which makes it include all preferring, choosing, being pleased or displeased with, liking and disliking, and advocates a theory which is true, and applicable only to the will in the restricted sense of the word.”

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. II, 288-89.

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Bavinck on why “feeling” should not be considered a separate faculty

This source is difficult to find because it is an unpublished translation of Herman Bavinck’s Beginselen der Psychologie (1897), translated by Jack Vanden Born as a MA thesis in 1981. But, this is important to me because these arguments seem like they might be roughly against what I am trying to propose. I put it this way because I am not sure I completely understand what the “feeling faculty” is for Bavinck. The book is frustratingly short and hasty where more development might have been wished for. My question is, what is the relationship between this “feeling faculty” and what post-Reformation Reformed Dogmaticians would have called “sense appetite”? It’s not easy to understand all of his criticisms here, much less evaluate them. My initial sense is that Schleiermacher is very much in the background here, and he might have fewer critical things to say about “sense appetite.”

Implications of Feeling

Now it may seem that differences regarding a feeling faculty have no signi- ficance and that we should be indifferent to the question about whether there are two or three faculties of the soul. This is by no means the case.

1. The presumed independence of the feeling faculty forces the knowing and desiring faculties to release a portion of their domain. The integrity of the knowing and desiring faculties are then endangered. The subsequent limitation leaves them as only the higher abilities of understanding and willing. Such a limitation introduces either rationalism or moralism (pelagianism).8 [here Vanden Born omits without explanation: ‘The essence of man in these cases is no longer in the soul but in the spirit.’]  The higher life of man is cut off from its rootedness in lower sensory life. Understanding and will become autonomous; the ethical is ripped from its connections to the physical, the soul from the body, the kingdom of God from the world, grace from nature. Man as spirit is an angel, as body he is an animal, and thus he’ loses his own unique place in creation as man.

2. If feeling is positioned next to understanding and will, it must assert its rights and strongly compete with both. The harmony of psychic-life is re- placed with a struggle for power. Released from the discipline of knowing and desiring faculties, feeling becomes an independent source of knowledge. The balance of life is destroyed.

3. Recent psychologies make feeling entirely passive. Man endures his feelings; he can do nothing to his emotions; and he is powerless, held by and led by them. Thus feelings fall outside the control of human understanding and will and, consequently, outside human responsibility. And then, in the name  of original, immediate feeling, frightful errors can be presented as truth and crude misdeeds prized as heroic acts. Genius is no longer bound by rule or law. Goethe’s Werther and Schlegel’s Lucinde are made examples of virtue. feeling need pay no attention to logic or ethics and it succeeds in working away the boundaries separating truth and untruth, good and evil, beautiful and ugly.

4. Psychology has much significance for the other sciences, especially for philosophy and theology. Ethics, aesthetics, pedagogy, homiletics, catechetics and the main divisions of dogmatics: the doctrine of God, the trinity, man, sin, grace, all presuppose psychology and cannot be built up without psychology. Therefore every error of psychology clangs with repercussions in the other sciences. Perhaps a sufficient demonstration lies in present-day theology and its dependence on Schleiermacher’s teachings on feeling. The dualism of theology and science, of belief and history, of ethical and physical, grace and nature, religion and politics, God’s kingdom and the world can also be imputed to a psychology that raised feeling to an independent source and granted it a domain of its own between the knowing and desiring faculties.

EDIT: 4/29/16, 11:15 AM
This beings to answer my question.

It must never be forgotten that those things analyzed, dissected and described by science, are actually held together in tight relationships. Vegetative, sensitive and intellectual life, while distinguishable in human life, always work together and in to each other. Similarly, we distinguish components of knowing, willing or locomotion in events. And those distinctions tell us there are faculties behind the activities. But it is always the same subject that is active in the events. The faculties are never disunited, their activities always go together.

Thus sensations and feeling are closely related. Every sensation brings along a feeling and, through this, awakens attention causing it to place the perceiving process more strongly in consciousness. As soon as we meet a stranger, for example, a feeling of sympathy or antipathy immediately accompanies the perception. But feeling is passive; it resonates only when something strikes it. Feelings presuppose sensations. Nearly all sensations, representations, etc. awaken a certain feeling of appetite or non-appetite, inclination or dis-inclination. In turn, feelings have a strong influence on the sensations and representations. Moods, inclinations and passions influence our judgment. Psychical causality functions not first of all in apperception, but already in the simplest sensation.

Two 17th Century Theologians on the Passions

Petrus van Mastricht, A Treatise on Regeneration (p. 25)

Nor is the spiritual life in regeneration bestowed only upon the superior faculties of the soul, the understanding and will, but also upon the inferior or sensitive faculties: the affections, senses, and even the members of the body. Hence the apostle expressly ascribes sanctification not only to the spirit–by which he seems to understand the spiritual faculties, such as agree to spirits only, as the understanding and will–but also to the soul (psuche, properly the animal soul, form which we are called psuchickoi, natural or sensual, as it is rendered), which denotes the inferior faculties such as are common to brutes.

Samuel Willard, Sermon CXX, Compleat Body of Divinity

1. THAT there are two sorts of Actions performed by the Will, viz. Elicite and Imperate; the former immediately by it self, and the latter by the affections. The Elicite acts of the Will are in choosing or rejecting the Object before it. This act is performed inwardly by it, and belongs to the sovereignty of the Will in man, by vertue whereof he is a free Agent. Hence such a precept is given us, Amos 5.15. Hate the evil, and love the good. And that is given as a sign of a persons being capable of acting as a man, Isai. 7.16. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and chuse the good. 

The Imperate acts of the will are those by which it puts its Elections in execution, and pursues them to effeect; in which it nextly makes use of the Affections, by which it manageth the whole man. Whether the Affections belong to the Will in man, and are only the various motions of it, or whether they be distinct faculties in him, and are seated in his inferior powers, I dispute not. It is certain that they are the instruments by which the Will performs its Imperate actions, and in the which it is either carried to or from the object.” 454-55 : Quest XXXI, Assembly’s Catechism

Edwards on Passions and Affections

There is an oft-cited explanation that Edwards gives toward the beginning of Religious Affections.

The affections and passions are frequently spoken of as the same; and yet in the more common use of speech, there is in some respect a difference; and affection is a word that in its ordinary signification, seems to be something more extensive than passion, being used for all vigorous lively actings of the will or inclination; but passion for those that are more sudden, and whose effects on the animal spirits are more violent, and the mind more overpowered, and less in its own command. [p. 98]

But, he is clearer and more explicit later in the volume about their connection to the soul’s faculties. Edwards argues against the genuineness of internal motions produced by “external ideas,” that they are no part of a person’s “spiritual experience.” External ideas merely impact man by way of the imagination–“affections…founded on imaginations.” He admits, “These imaginations do oftentimes raise the carnal affections of men to an exceeding great height,” explaining here in a footnote:

And as the motions of our sense, and fancy, and passions, while our souls are in this mortal condition, sunk down deeply into the body, are many times more vigorous, and make stronger impressions upon us, than those of the higher powers of the soul, which are more subtle, and remote from these mixed animal perceptions: that devotion which is there seated, may seem to have more energy and life in it, than that which gently and with a more delicate kind of touch spreads itself upon the understanding, and from thence mildly derives itself through our wills and affections. But however the former may be more boisterous for a time, yet this is of a more consistent, spermatical and thriving nature. For that proceeding indeed from nothing but a sensual and fleshly apprehension of God and true happiness, is but of a flitting and fading nature, and as the sensible powers and faculties grow more languid, or the sun of divine light shines more brightly upon us, these earthly devotions, like our culinary fires, will abate their heat and fervor. But a true celestial warmth will never be extinguished, because it is of an immortal nature; and being once seated vitally in the souls of men, it will regulate and order all the motions of it in a due manner the natural heat, radicated in the hearts of living creatures, hath the dominion and economy of the whole body under it. True religion is no piece of artifice, it is no boiling up of our imaginative powers, nor the glowing heats of passion, though these are too often mistaken for it, when in our jugglings in religion we cast a mist before our own eyes: but it is a new nature, informing the souls of men; it is a Godlike frame of spirit, discovering itself most of all in serene and clear minds, in deep humility, meekness, self-denial, universal love to God and all true goodness, without partiality, and without hypocrisy, whereby we are taught to know God, and knowing him to love him, and conform ourselves as much as may be to all that perfection which shines in him.

Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections (Part III: The Distinguishing Signs), 218 [Yale, 1959].

Piper on Baptism

Anyone (like me) who was confused about what exactly Piper was thinking about infant baptism recently should read chapter 18 of Brothers We Are Not Professionals. He lays out his position on believers baptism. Here are a couple quotes:

Here’s how my thought has progressed. There have been three stages–not unlike childhood, adolescence, and (I hope) maturity.

First, I saw that every baptism recorded in the Bible was the baptism of a person who had professed faith in Christ…But I gradually came to see that these observations were only suggestive, not compelling. The fact that no infant baptisms are recorded does not prove that there weren’t any…But Colossians 2:12 and 1 Peter 3:21 seemed to me to be problematic for the paedobaptist view…It seems therefore, that Paul is saying that baptism is an expression of the faith of the person being baptized. I did not see how an infant could properly receive this ordinance as an expression of his or her faith…

(aside concerning 1 Peter 3:21)

This text frightens many Baptists away because it seems to come close to the Roman Catholic notion that the rite, in and of itself, saves (baptismal regeneration). But in fleeing from this text, we throw away a powerful argument for believer baptism. For as J.D.G. Dunn says, ‘1 Peter 3:21 is the nearest approach to a definition of baptism that the NT affords.’

According to Peter, baptism is “an appeal to God.” That is, baptism is the cry of faith to God. In that sense and to that degree, it is part of God’s means of salvation. This should not scare us off any more than the sentence, ‘If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord…you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). The movement of the lips in the air and the movement of the body in water save only in the sense that they give expression to the single justifying act, namely, faith (Rom. 3:28). Baptism is the outward appeal of faith to God in the heart.

(end aside)

…Since then I have been shown by a long succession of arguments in my church membership classes that even these texts leave open the remote possibility that an infant can be baptized on the strength of its parents’ faith and in hope of its own eventual “confirmation.” The argument says it is possible that those passages from Colossians and 1 Peter have relevance only for the missionary setting where adults are being converted and baptized. If Paul and Peter had addressed the issue of infants born into Christian homes, maybe they would have sounded like good Presbyterians…I doubt it. For there is now a third stage of reasoning in favor of believer baptism. There is a grand Biblical and Baptist response to the Heidelberg Catechism’s answer to question 74 as to whether infants are to be baptized”…(see Heidelberg Catechism)…”In other words, the justification of infant baptism in the Reformed churches hangs on the fact that baptism is the New Testament counterpart of circumcision.

There is in fact an important continuity between the signs of circumcision and baptism, but the Presbyterian representatives of Reformed theology seem to have undervalued the discontinuity…I am a Baptist because I believe that on this score we honor both the continuity and discontinuity between Israel and the church and between their respective covenant signs…This implies that entry into the old covenant people of God was by physical birth, and entry into the new covenant people of God is by spiritual birth. It would seem to follow then, that the sign of the covenant would reflect this change and would be administered to those who give evidence of spiritual birth.

p.s. Is this infant immersion?!!!