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METHODIST QUARTERLY REVIEW.
JANUARY, 18 80.
Art. I.-WESLEYAN SYNERGISM AN ESSENTIAL OF
LUTHARDT: Die Lehre vom Freien Willen und seinem Verhältniss zur Gnade,
LICHTENBERGER: Encyc. des Sciences Rel. How does man recover from sin ? Is he active, or passive, in the process ? Is his conversion a something that is simply done to him? or does he himself co-work in it? Does the responsibility for his conversion or his non-conversion rest exclusively upon himself? or does it rest upon God? Does the grace of God.visit all men equally? or is it given in more
? abundant measure to a select few? Did the fall entirely annihilate the image of God in man? or does there still linger in depraved man some vitality of the God-consciousness, which may serve as a basis for his moral reconstruction ?
The answer of Wesleyan Arminianism to these varied forms of a single question is thus : The fall of Adam introduced such disorder into human nature as to render it morally certain that all men, if left without gracious help, would freely fall into sin, and incur personal guilt. But this disorder, or de
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pravity, with which all men are born, is not to them personal sin, and hence is not punishable. It is of the nature of an inherited misfortune. Hence, if the propagation of the fallen human race is permitted at all, divine justice (not simply divine goodness, but divine justice) will feel bound to impart to all men a complete remedy for their hereditary misfortune. This remedy is furnished by the general presence of the Spirit of God, and furnished alike to every soul that is born into the world. This presence of the Spirit so counteracts the bondage of hereditary depravity as to raise every child of Adam into the conditions of a just probation, so that he is now abundantly able freely to elect between sin and righteousness, and thus to save or ruin his own soul. This impartation of the Spirit to all who are born into the world may, in an uncritical way, be called a grace, but only in the same loose way in which the original gift of conscience or of freedom of will might be likewise so called. That, the non-giving of which would violate divine justice, is not properly a grace, but a simple justice. The result is that every descendant of Adam, on first awaking to rational moral life, finds his hereditary depravity so far paralyzed as to constitute no longer a fatal bondage unto sin. He can, by the powers with which he finds himself already possessed, resist this bondage. It is only by the non-using of these powers that he incurs personal guilt, and thus transforms his hereditary misfortunes into a fatalistic bondage to sin-fatalistic until counteracted, upon repentance, by special grace properly so called. The question, What is the moral ability of the natural man! cannot, therefore, be answered without some defining of terms. The purely natural man, as he would have descended from Adam without the general gift of the Spirit, is a pure abstractum, a mere theological bugbear. He does not, and never did, exist. Divine justice forbade it. The only real man with whom theology has any thing to do is the empirical man of history. Now, with this man, the only real man, the influence of the Spirit of God is congenital. It is
, a part of the moral endowment with which he finds himself furnished on first awaking to moral self-consciousness. In virtue of this endowment he is able to choose, obey, and love God at the outset, and to ask for gracious help in the further progress of his life. Should he, however, fail to profit by his original moral endowment, and thus fall into bondage to sin, he may even yet recover from his guilt and enslavement (if not persisted in too far) by accepting the special visitations of grace, repenting of his sins, and seconding the regenerating influence of the Spirit. He is, therefore, in either case a synergist, (from oúv épyov,) a co-worker with God, throughout his moral life. Such is the answer of Wesleyan Arminianism to the question or questions before us, as to the relation of man's freedom to
Is this answer in harmony with the general consciousness of the Church catholic? Is it a heresy, a sectarian individualism? or is it an essential element of orthodox catholicity ?
What says the history of theology? Let us consult the records. The results will not be without interest.
Passing over at once the testimony of the Scriptures, and simply assuming that this testimony is either synergistic or monergistic, either for or against the above-given synopsis of Wesleyan Arminianism, we come directly to the earliest Christian theology, that of the Greek fathers, and ask, How did they understand the Scriptures to teach on the subject before us?
We preface our examination by this general statement of Hagenbach, (Hist. Doct., i, 155 :) “Freedom and immortality are those traits of the human mind in which is manifested the image of God. Such was the doctrine of the primitive Church, confirmed by the general Christian consciousness. All the Greek fathers, as well as the apologists, Justin, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and the Latin author, Minutius Felix, also the theologians of the Alexandrian school, Clement and Origen, exalt the avtegoúolov (the autonomy, self-determination) of the human soul. ... They know nothing of any imputation of sin except as a voluntary and moral self-determination is presupposed. ... None but heretics ventured to maintain that man is subject to another influence than himself.” With this statement Luthardt perfectly harmonizes. He says, (Lehre vom Fr. Will., p. 13:) "The idea of man's ability to choose between good and evil is a fundamental article with all the Greek theologians. It inspires their entire system of thought.” In general, the Greek fathers excluded every thing of a magical character from their conception of sin and grace. Christianity was to them not the exclusive possession of the favored few who stood in material contact with the written word or the organized Church, but it virtually belonged to the whole human family, to all who at any time or in any place honestly sought the truth. "The self-revelation of God is universal. Where the specific revelation, through written words or living prophets, is wanting, there the hoyós otrequatıkós (the germinal word or revelation) is given. And all who humbly heed this general self-revelation of God are blessed and accepted of the Father. It is only a later and narrower age which presumed to confine God's pardoning graciousness to the material limits of the visible Church and sacraments.
As to the modus of conversion, the Greek fathers as a body, and in fact the entire theology of the Orthodox Eastern Church, are very positively synergistic. The key-note of their whole system is thus well expressed by Justin (born A. D. 89; ob. 176) in his Apology, i, 10: “ Though we had no choice in our creation, yet in our regeneration we have; for God persuades only, and draws us gently, in our regeneration, by co-operating freely with those rational powers he has bestowed upon us." And with this thought Clement of Alexandria (ob. cir. 212) fully harmonizes. “God," says he, “co-operates with those souls that are willing." "As the physician furnishes health to that body which synergizes toward health, so God furnishes eternal salvation to those who synergize toward the knowledge and obedience of the truth."-Strom., viï. Clement knows nothing of a gratia irresistibilis.-Strom., viii, p. 855.
So teaches also Origen, ob. 254. His central view is thus stated by Shedd, (ii, 34 :) “The faculty by which to will the right man has from God; but the decision itself is his own act. God's part is, therefore, greater than man's, as the creation of a faculty is greater than the use of it. Moreover, every right beginning of action on the side of man requires a special succor and assistance from God. Through the Holy Spirit this succor is granted, according to the worthiness of the individual; and thus every right act of man is a mixture of self-choice and divine aid, (μικτόν έστιν έκ τε της προαιρέσεως αυτού και της συμπνεούσης θείας δυνάμεως.-Οpp., ii, p. 571.)” In the same sense spoke also Theophilus of Antioch, ob. 181. He strongly emphasizes man's moral autonomy: 'Elevbepov yào kai attečou σεον εποίησεν ο θεός άνθρωπον.- Ad Autol., ii, 27.