Plutarch has a parable of a man who tried to make a dead body stand upright, but who finished his labors saying: ?Deest aliquid intus? ? ?There?s something lacking inside.? Ribot, Diseases of the Will, 53 ? ?In the vicious man the moral elements are lacking. If the idea of amendment arises, it is involuntary. But if a first element is not given by nature and with it a potential energy, nothing results. The theological dogma of grace as a free gift appears to us therefore founded upon a much more exact psychology than the contrary opinion.? ?Thou art chained to the wheel of the foe By links which a world cannot sever: With thy tyrant through storm and through calm thou shall go, And thy sentence is bondage forever.?
Martensen, Christian Ethics: ?When Kant treats of the radical evil of human nature, he makes the remarkable statement that, if a good will is to appear in us, this cannot happen through a partial improvement, nor through any reform, but only through a revolution, a total overturn within us, that is to be compared to a new creation.? Those who hold that man may attain perfection by mere natural growth deny this radical evil of human nature, and assume that our nature is a good seed, which needs only favorable external influences of moisture and sunshine to bring forth good fruit. But human nature is a damaged seed and what comes of it will be aborted and stunted like itself. The doctrine of mere development denies God?s holiness, man?s sin, the need of Christ, the necessity of atonement, the work of the Holy Spirit and the justice of penalty. Kant?s doctrine of the radical evil of human nature, like Aristotle?s doctrine that man is born on an inclined plane and subject to a downward gravitation, is not matched by a corresponding doctrine of regeneration. Only the apostle Paul can tell us how we came to be in this dreadful predicament and where is the power that can deliver us. See Stearns, Evidence of Christian Experience, 274.
Dean Swift?s worthy sought many years for a method of extracting sunbeams from cucumbers. We cannot cure the barren tree by giving it new bark or new branches, it must have new sap. Healing snakebites is not killing the snake. Poetry and music, the uplifting power of culture, the inherent nobility of man, the general mercy of God ? not one of these will save the soul. Horace Bushnell: ?The soul of all improvement is the improvement of the soul.? Frost cannot be removed from a window pane simply by scratching it away, you must raise the temperature of the room. It is as impossible to get regeneration out of reformation as to get a harvest out of a field by mere plowing. Reformation is plucking bitter apples from a tree and in their place, tying good apples on with a string (Dr. Pentecost). It is regeneration or degradation, the beginning of an
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