Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Because I Said So!"

In Chapter 4 of The Family in its Civil and Churchly Aspects (1876), Benjamin M. Palmer treats the subject of parental authority. In a very insightful section, he adverts to the various features of the relationship between parent and child which negate, or at least minimize, the need for an appeal to raw authority. In other words, the relationship that obtains between parent and child contains features that make “Because I said so” less necessary. His illustration of this fact is in the following points:

  1. Children are minors for a long time. Inevitably, there will be conflicts of will between parent and child, but parent need not despair of training the child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord because time is on his side. Time is always an important factor in human affairs, but it is nowhere more important than in child-rearing. As long as a parent is consistent, there will be many opportunities to reinforce the lessons the child needs to learn in the way of obedience. As Palmer puts it, it is an unwise parent who approaches the training of his child's will by assault rather than by siege.
  2. Children are in a state of extreme dependence upon their parents. Parents are foolish not to use this fact to the advantage of training their children properly.
  3. Children are credulous. This derives from the previous point. During the most formative years of their lives, all knowledge children have comes from testimony. The second a child is responsive to observation, he is collecting information that will be the basis for knowledge. The child's credulity is the mechanism which allows this. Once a child gets older, this feature of his or her personality will be replaced by the use of reason. Combine this with the fact that children, by nature, have reverence for their parents (unless the parents, like fools unteach this), and a parent has an enormous power to wield under God for rearing children.
  4. Children as born at intervals. This fact carries so much weight that I will present it in Palmer's actual words: “The fact that they (i.e., children) are born at intervals, and at intervals sufficiently far removed to allow the full assertion of parental supremacy, is somewhat significant. The great practical error in family government lies in the almost universal overlooking of this idea; which, therefore, we express with none the less gravity because the reader will be likely to greet it with a smile. The grand fallacy consists in assuming that the child must know in order to obey, and therefore it must be waited on for the knowledge ere the obedience is exacted. It should obey without knowing. The will and the affections are in exercise before the judgment and the reason. These are to be met at the threshold. At the first dawn of intelligence the child should find itself under authority, and obey by the power of instinct. If the mastery is to be acquired after the will has developed itself in flagrant opposition to authority, the conflict must be proportionally severe, and rarely ends in the parent's acknowledged triumph. We doubt if a child was ever thoroughly conquered after two years of age. Nature has wonderful modes of teaching, if we are only wise enough to take her hint.”
  5. Older children influence the younger ones. The household is a unit. As such, there is a “first-born.” Palmer says, “It it is a cruel satire to say that two grown-up persons cannot manage one poor little weakling, whose only resource is to cry.” Now, if the work of discipline and proper training of the first-born is established, the work is lightened with the subsequent children, because, besides the work which the parents will repeat with child number 2, number 3, etc., the lessons are reinforced by the example of the first-born which is always on display before the younger children. Palmer notes how it is often remarked that domestic discipline becomes milder with the advancing age of the parent. He says that this is exactly how it should be. Parents have learn tact with experience. They should have learned which battles are worth fighting, so to speak. With the first-born, parents frequently overreact for fear that something bad will happen if they don't respond in a certain way. Experience proves this wrong, and they don't repeat the same steps with the subsequent children. But more importantly, this charge is often unfair. Palmer says, “large assistance derived from the trained obedience of older brothers and sisters will go far to explain the difference which is sometimes pointed at a trifle invidiously.”
  6. Children are under constant supervision. Only the most derelict of parents allow their young children to pass their time unsupervised. In infancy, parental supervision is the nearest thing to omnipresence a human will ever know. And because the parents' watchfulness is not one of suspicion, but of love, the child delights in the fact. This contributes to the child's sense of security and safety. This in turn, strengthens the child's natural trust in its parents, which increases the power of the parents' influence for shaping the child's character.

Palmer, returns to his earlier remarks on Colossians 3:21. He concludes, “We see, then, the import of the Apostle's words, 'Provoke not;' that authority is not all a parent has to wield, but influence as well; that when the sceptre of rule is stretched over the domestic state, there may be a cunning which shall wreathe it with roses, and conceal its harshness.”

In short, a parent may need to resort to, “Because I said so.” And when the parent does so, it is a legitimate appeal to authority ordained by God. But the need to such a naked appeal to power is not the only tool in the parents' tool-belt. Constant appeal to it will “provoke” the child, and result in discouragement. As Palmer puts it, Colossians 3:21 means that the child should “never be thrown into an attitude of antagonism to the parent.” Proper balance in wielding both authority and influence is the only way this command, and its counterpart, Ephesians 6:4, can be fulfilled.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Why Christians Cannot Be Dispassionate Toward Attacks on the Faith

If man has a soul, a God, and a hereafter, and is a fallen being, then, indisputably, every good man must deem the bearings of any code of speculative opinions upon the doctrine of Christian Redemption as unspeakably its most important aspect. For it is impossible for any professed humanitarianism to advance any praiseworthy purpose or motive whatsoever, assuming to tend to the well-being or elevation of our race, but that I will show, if man is to have any future, that motive is bound to urge the well-wisher to seek his fellow-creatures' future good, as much more earnestly, as immortality is longer than mortal life. But has the Sensualistic philosophy any proposal to offer for redeeming men from a disordered and mortal estate, as plausible or promising as Christianity? Unless it has, a mere decent regard for humanity should prevent all disrespect to this doctrine, from which, it is manifest, the larger part of all the virtue, hope, and happiness in a miserable world now spring. I freely declare, therefore, not as a clergyman, but as a human being not simply malignant toward my suffering race, that my main impeachment of the Sensualistic philosophy, and especially of the Positivist and Evolution doctrines, in which it now chiefly appears, is grounded upon their anti-Christian tendencies. I have pointed to that gulf of the blackness of darkness, and of freezing despair, toward which they thrust the human soul; a gulf without an immortality, without a God, without a faith, without a Providence, without a hope. Were it not both impossible and immoral for a good man to consider such a thing dispassionately, it would appear to him odd and ludicrous to witness the pretended surprise and anger of the assailants at perceiving, that reasonable Christian people are not disposed to submit with indifference to all this havoc.

There is a great affectation of philosophic calmness and impartiality. They are quite scandalized to find that Christians cannot be as cool as themselves, while all our infinite and priceless hopes for both worlds are dissected away under their philosophic scalpel. Such bigotry is very naughty in their eyes! This conduct sets Christianity in a very sorry light beside the fearless and placid love of truth displayed by the apostles of science! Such is the absurd and insolent tone affected by them. J. S. Mill coolly argues, that, of course, we clergy are wholly unfitted for any pursuit of philosophy, because they are bound beforehand by their subscription to creeds, which have taken away their liberty of thought in advance; and it is quietly intimated that mercenary regard for salaries and dignities dependent on that subscription, will prevent their accepting or professing the Sensualistic gospel. To this arrogance and injustice I, for one, give place by subjection, not for a moment. It is a composition of hypocrisy and folly. For we observe that whenever these philosophic hearts are not encased in a triple shield of supercilious arrogance, they also burn with a scientific bigotry, worthy of a Dominic or a Philip II. of Spain. They also can vituperate and scold, and actually excel the bad manners of the theologians! The scientific bigots are fiercer than the theological, besides being the aggressors!

If we were about to enter upon an Arctic winter in Labrador, with a dependent and cherished family to protect from that savage clime, and if "a philosopher" should insist, in the "pure love of science” upon extinguishing by his experiments all the lamps which were to give us light, warmth, and food, and to save us from a frightful death; and if he should call us testy blockheads because we did not witness these experiments with equanimity, I surmise that nothing but compassion for his manifest lunacy would prevent sensible people from breaking his head before his enormous folly was completed. When a wilful, absurd person chooses to dignify his novel (or stale) vagaries, which contradict not only my most serious and honest judgment, but that of the best and wisest of human kind, with the reverend names of "Truth" and "Science," I submit that I have at least as much right to reject them as no truth and no science, as he has to advance them. Let us suppose a case perfectly parallel. I had an honored father, whose virtue, nobleness, and benevolence were the blessing of my life. That exalted character and all that beneficence were grounded in certain professed principles. Now, I know that father; I know, by their fruits, that his principles were noble. But here come a parcel of men who did not choose to become acquainted with him, and so really do not know his memory, and they indulge their vanity, or some other caprice, in disparaging his person and principles. But they expect me, his son and beneficiary, to "take it all coolly!" It is quite naughty to have any heat toward gentlemen who are proceeding so purely "in the interests of the Truth!" Now, every right heart knows that it is not only my. right, but my sacred duty to defend the sacred character of my father and benefactor with zeal and righteous emotion. If I were capable of really feeling the nonchalance which his gratuitous assailants profess, I should be a scoundrel.

There is no righteous room for neutrality or indifference of soul when righteousness is assaulted. It is impossible for man to love truth and right as it is our duty to love it without having sensibility when they are injured! Such is precisely the relation of the honest-minded Christian when his God and Saviour is disparaged! If men choose to exercise their right of free discussion by waging this warfare on our God and His cause, they need not expect anything except the resistance of honest indignation; it is a piece of hypocrisy as shabby as shallow to pretend to a right to outrage other people's clearest convictions without the provocation of their disapproval. We shall, of course, give them the full privilege of doing this wrong untouched of civil pains and penalties: this is the liberty of thought which Protestantism asserts, to its immortal honor. God forbid that any sinful abuse of the truth should ever provoke any Christian to infringe that liberty by persecution. And it is plainly our duty, under the bitterest provocation of these gratuitous assaults upon the most precious principles, to see to it that we "be angry and sin not;" that our indignation may not go farther than the evil desert, and our condemnation may contain none of the gall of personal spite.

But there is an affectation abroad, among the assailants of Christianity, which demands far more. It claims the privilege of speculating as unchristianly as they please, not only without being molested, which we freely concede, but without being disapproved. They say that the very emotion of disapprobation is a persecution; that this zeal is precisely the motive which, in more bloody days, prompted churchmen to visit civil pains and penalties upon dissentients; that this motive will do the same thing again, upon opportunity, if it be allowed to exist ; and that, therefore, we are not true friends of liberty of thought until the very emotion is banished, and all speculation, no matter what holy and righteous thing it may assail, is considered without feeling and weighed with the absolute impartiality and initial indifference which they affect.

Upon this claim my first remark is, that it is violently inconsistent. With these men, this license of thought is a holy thing (possibly their only one.) And when they imagine it assailed, or in the least restrained, do they entertain the question of the restriction with that dispassionate calmness? Not at all; they are full of an ardent zeal; and they believe that they "do well to be angry." They can argue the cause of charity most uncharitably, and can be most intolerant in their advocacy of toleration. Why? Because the encroachment is unrighteous. Aha! Then we have the sanction of the nonchalant gentlemen for the truth, that righteousness ought to be not only professed, but loved; that moral truth and right are the proper object, not only of judgment, but of moral emotion. They have found out that it is good to be "zealously affected" in a good cause! This is precisely my doctrine, provided only one is entitled to be sure that the cause is good. My second answer is: That this species of indifferentism is unnatural and impossible. Man's soul is formed by its Maker not only to see moral truth, but to love it upon seeing it. It is an unnatural soul, a psychological monstrosity, which does not. But love for that which is reasonably valued must have its counterpart emotion toward the opposite. One might as well demand to have a material mass with a top, but no under-side; or a magnet with a North pole to it, but no South, as a reasonable soul which loved the right (as it ought) and yet did not hate the wrong. Last: I argue, that such a state of soul would be criminal, if it were possible. Such moral neutrality would be intrinsic vice. In order to be capable of it, man must be recreant to the positive claims of virtue. If I find a man who is really able to hear the question debated, whether Jesus Christ was an impostor, with the same calmness, the same utter absence of emotion with which he would properly debate the species in botany to which a certain weed should be referred, I shall be very loath to trust my neck or my purse with that man in the dark. The demand for this actual indifferentism as essential to true liberty of thought and philosophic temper, is absurd; it is impossible it should exist. The speculative world needs to be reminded again of that doctrine of liberty of thought which Bible Protestantism enounced - when she bestowed that boon on mankind (for it was nobody's gift but hers.) That men are responsible for their opinions, but responsible not to society, but to God: that charity for evil and error is a universal duty; but the object toward which we are to exercise it is the person and not the error of "the misleading fellow-creature. Charity had its incarnation in Him, who shed His tears and His blood for the persons of the Scribes, while He denounced their principles with inexorable severity.

Taken from: R.L. Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy of the 19th Century Considered, Chapter 12

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Friday, November 20, 2015

Further Critique of Evolutionism

They ask us: 'Since blind chance may, amidst the infinite multitude of its experiments, happen upon any results whatsoever, why mat it not at times happen upon some results wearing these appearances of orderly adaptation?' I answer: the question puts the case falsely. Sometimes? No. Always. The fact to be accounted for is, that Nature's results have always an orderly adaptation. The question we retort, then, takes this crushing form: How is it that in every one of Nature's results, in every organ of every organized creature, which is known in living or fossil Natural History, if the structure is comprehended by us, we see the orderly adaptation? Where are Nature's failures? Where the vast remains of that infinite mass of her haphazard, aimless, orderless efforts? On the evolution theory, they should be myriads of times as numerous as those structures which received some successful adaptation. Let us recur to the illustration of the Frenchman employing an eternity in throwing a basket of printer's type abroad blindly, until, after perhaps an infinite number of throws, he happened to get precisely that collocation which composed the martial poems of Ennius. Why might it not happen like at last? Suppose, I reply, that the condition of his experiments were this: that he should throw a different basket in each trial, and that a considerable part of all the types thrown in vain should remain heaped around him; then, he and his experiments would have been buried a thousand times over beneath the rubbish of his failures long before the lucky throw were reached. But this is the correct statement of the illustration. The simple making of this statement explodes the whole plausibility, leaving nothing but a bald absurdity. For, as has been already stated, Evolution must admit the teachings of Paleontology. But the later asserts that the organized beings of vast ages still exist, in the form of fossils. Now, will the Evolutionist pretend that the durable remains of the hurtful variations were less likely to continue in the strata than those of the naturally selected? Not one whit. Then, there should be, on his supposition, as large a portion of the printer's types from every unsuccessful 'throw' left for our inspection as from the sole successful one. Where are they?”

R.L. Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy of the Nineteenth Century Considered, Chapter 9  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Critique of Evolutionism

Here, then, is the fatal chasm in the materialistic scheme. Not only does it overlook the essential difference between inorganic and vital causes; it is guilty of the absurdity of ascribing to the blind, unintelligent forces of protoplasm, more thought, choice, and wisdom, than all the philosophers in the whole world will ever attain unto. When we rise to the crown of the series of living creatures in man, the absurdity culminates in the highest conceivable extravagance; for there we see a being not only displaying the highest thought about him, but also containing thought in him.

Let us look, now, at the part of this structure contributed by Mr. Darwin. We object, first, that the favorite law of 'natural selection' involves in its very name, a sophistical idea. Selection is an attribute of free-agency, and implies intelligent choice. But the 'Nature”' of the evolutionist is unintelligent. She acts by haphazard. To apply the idea of selection to such fortuity is but a metaphor, not science. Dr. Darwin, perhaps, seeing this fatal objection, thankfully accepts from H. Spenser what he deems the more accurate phrase, 'survival of the fittest.” But we still have the same absurdity insinuated under a metaphor. Fitness also implies design! Fitness is an adjustment. That the physical interaction between the environment and organism should regularly result in this adjustment, while totally blind, is a supposition wild enough. But a multitude of cases might be found where the notion becomes impossible, because the fitness existing is not between the being and its ordinary environment, but between it and some other being which it rarely meets, or never meets once in its existence. …

Paleontologists (to whom the evolutionists, of all men, are bound to adhere,) hold that the great masses of these fossils actually remain, many of them of almost incredible age. But they all represent established genera. Where are the fossils of the transitional and intermediate links, which ought to be a myriad times more numerous? Were evolutionism true, 'the world could not contain them.' Again: fossil natural history should present us with both sides of the history of the blind process of this natural selection, with the fossils of the degraded, the unfit, as well as with those of the developed species. How is it that Mr. Darwin only dwells upon the latter? Especially as the downhill slide of the history ought to be ten thousand times the fullest. But did the fossils present us with such a history, then how preposterous would it be to call the course of nature an 'evolution,' when nature's decadences would almost infinitely outnumber her advancements? The evolution theory is also inconsistent with the wide diffusion of some of the highest species of animals. Man is the highest and most complicated result of this supposed process. Now it is natural to suppose that the local conditions, or environment, necessary for evolving this most complicated result, would be more rarely found. But man is found more widely diffused over the globe, and multiplying his species under more diverse climates and condition, than any other animal. This is inconsistent with the result to be expected upon that scheme.”

R.L. Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy of the Nineteenth Century Considered, Chapter 9

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