Saturday, March 21, 2015

Dabney: Free Agency (Syst. Theol)

Chapter 11, pages 120-132.

Thesis:  God accomplishes his purposes not be compelling his creatures, but by operating through their free agency (121).

1.  The soul is the self-determining power.  "A free rational person does properly originate effects" (Dabney 124).  He is spontaenous and determines from within.  Man is not a machine, because the motive power is internal, not external.

This is different from Edwards.  While Edwards does say that man chooses according to his greatest inclination, man is yet within a system of a chain of external causes.

The Will and The Soul

Even though the soul is self-moved, the will is not (127).  The will is induced by some external object of choice, towards which the desire tends.  For example, a gold watch does not itself cause a thief to steal.  The thief's motive causes him to steal.  The gold watch induces his motive.  "The inducement is objective; the motive subjective.  The inducement is merely the occasion., the motive is the true cause" (128).

This is not fatalism or necessitarianism, though.  Dabney writes,

"Inducement is not motive; desire is an activity, and not a passivity of our souls.  Our own subjective judgments and appetencies cause our volitions" (128).

Our teacher Thomas Reid was correct to see that free agency is more than just the privilege to exercise the agency.  It is also seen in actively exercising the agency. Reid erred, however, in seeing the faculty of will and not the soul as self-determined (130).

Conative Powers:  This appears quite often in Dabney's corpus.  They refer to man's active powers of the soul; thus, the soul acts freely but not lawlessly (which corresponds to God's Providence). 

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