Friday, March 13, 2015

Dabney and the Will's Movement

One of the things that concerns me about the modern use of terms like "libertarian" or "compatibilist" is that it is hard to read a lot of earlier Reformed thinkers, since they didn't really fit into either camp.  While I would come down closer to the compatibilist camp, I wonder how often the fine distinctions can be maintained.  In any case, here is R L Dabney on human volition.  The relevance is that Dabney affirmed a strong doctrine of the will's free choice, albeit limited.  This allows us to blunt libertarian critiques of Reformed theology.

On the converse:  if you think that Jonathan Edwards's view is the Reformed view of the will, you will find it much, much harder to argue cogently for a moral universe.

Calvinists mean by “will” the whole subjective activities.  This includes disposition and subjective desires, both of which lead to volition (III: 221).  The important point for Dabney is that volition--the act of willing--must be cause or influenced by something.  The Calvinist finds the proximate cause in our disposition and subjective desires.

In regeneration God efficiently produces the holy disposition which regulates (acts as proximate cause) man’s volitions (227).  This means that in a very real sense, man is causing his actions from within himself.

Dabney accepts Edwards’s larger premise but notes Edwards erred in linking the motive of volition as the object and efficient of a volition (237).

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