Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Image of God in Man According to H. H. Hobbs

Only of man is it said that he was made in God's image. Since God is Spirit, this image relates to man's spiritual nature. This divine image means that God created man with a rational, emotional, and moral nature. He possesses a will with the freedom of choice. In his original creation, man was in a state of innocence with the possibility that he might choose righteousness or sinfulness, pg.51 TBFAM, c. 1971.

It cannot be mistaken that Hobbs intends in this quote to establish that God's image is being described. Hobbs states three times that it is. He then defines it. So, it is that definition that we will look at. It is actually a single thought. God is moral with will; free to choose good or evil. As I discussed before, the innocence of God in Hobbs finds its establishment in the "first choice" that God made. Hobbs defined virtue as that which must proceed from choice. Innocence is neutrality then; having done neither good nor evil. It was discovered that the first action of God was to establish laws outside himself that he could possibly violate.

It is here that we encounter a problem with Hobbs' Theology. God is transcendent, not just timeless. Time has no reference in God who is eternal. The problem then is how does it eventuate in God that an action happens. Time is bound in creation. In God time is seen as complete just as all that is in God is a simplicity. Each attribute and characteristic of Deity is at once and One, not without the others. He is not a complexity; he is undivided perfection of perfections. Time is complete in the mind of God just as a line does not proceed from point A to point B but is AB. It conjoins logical order. At the same time, however, God does not comprehend it in process moving from A to B. The result of process is time and as I said time is within creation, bound by it, and more specifically, the resultant of an object's (created matter) motion in space.

Then we can see the dilemma. If God is a moral agent in the same way that man is, then God is not Spirit, but has a body which traverses distances. That is not the case as Hobbs himself admits, "God is Spirit." God cannot change and so there never was a "time" when God was merely innocent and by action chose the good, gained virtue and became righteous. But, this is the moral agency that Hobbs has introduced in God's image in man.

I will digress a short bit to examine man again in the original creation. If in God there was no time in which he was not righteous, and he being the perfection of perfections created man in his image, then man was not innocent. Here again I remind the reader what Hobbs' definition of innocence is:
Created in a state of innocence, man was neither righteous nor sinful. Before becoming either he must exercise the right of choice, hence the temptation experience... pg. 51-52
Of God Hobbs' states:
Thus the "righteousness of God" is not an attribute of God, but an activity... pg. 59; This is God's self-affirmation...connotes what God is in his nature, pg. 37; ...God has placed certain limitations upon act as he wills in keeping with his own laws and accordance to his nature as righteousness... pg. 66.
This may seem confusing, and I agree, Hobbs was confused. As was discussed in the last post on this subject and furthered here, Hobbs proffers libertarian freewill in God and by doing so confuses the eternal righteous nature of God with action. He said:
He is active, progressive, free to choose... pg 36.
When put together, eternality becomes something quite different in Hobbs than in Scripture. His image is of a changing God, whose methods change and God is seen in reference to time, viewing the creation as an externality, progressive, because the nature of God is itself internally progressive and time bound in some unexplained way such that God has the power of contrary choice so that he might attain virtue (righteousness). Hobbs' said, "Created in a state" and we do not have to look far in Scripture to see that the "state" was the image of God and is exactly what Hobbs meant.

But, is that the way man was created? Scripture reveals that man was created good and in the image of God who is eternally blessed; the perfection of perfections, the Highest Good. Created with rationality and able to understand right from wrong, man was created without the power of contrary choice. He was created with a nature that was good (righteous) and in the creation each kind produces only after its own kind. His mind was perfect in order that he might bring glory to God. Genesis three tells us that man was deceived. How could that be?

Unlike God, who is Good and the perfection of perfections, man is a created being and all that does not apply to God, applies to man. That is, man is time bound, progressive and changeable. He is changeable by the very nature of what it means to be created. The confessions of the past say things like malleable, unstable and so forth to express the idea that man can change. Being a rational creature, Satan did not approach with contrary choice. He did not present "evil" to Eve, but good. He did contradict God and challenged the veracity of God's Goodness. That is the whole point. What first appeared as right became wrong and wrong became right. Eve chose what she saw to be good, perfectly in keeping with what God had created her to do. In opposition to what libertarian freewill would postulate, Eve's will was bound to choose the good. The natural liberty of the will inheres in the very nature of will, but not in the nature of the mind, for it was founded rationally sound, nor of the righteous nature of man's spirit into which he was created for what fellowship has unrighteousness with righteousness. The power of contrary choice does not enter in until the fall, being the very nature of Satan to contradict what is good by lies. And, again in the new creation, man's will is fixed, not by the inherent nature of the will which naturally is free, but by man's new spiritual nature and mind. And more, those have been sealed by union with Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit and are incorruptible. It was the mind that Satan attacked proposing "good". The spiritual nature of man which was righteous and her perfect mind are what bent the will to chose to eat of that knowledge of the fruit of good and evil when she was convinced that it was good to do so.

Following what Hobbs has said, it is logical but against what Scripture says. Hobbs says on page 52:
In her innocence the woman showed her tendency toward righteousness by protesting on behalf of God's purpose.
Now this would be fine if indeed Hobbs believed that righteousness was the eternal nature of God and that man had been created after that image so that only good flows from it. But, Hobbs furthers his thesis on page 53:
It is when man through selfish ambition seeks to be God in his own life and will that he sins. It was this very thing which snared Eve, which shows that she also had a tendency toward sin. And this tendency overcame her tendency toward righteousness.

There we have it. The image of God in man according to H.H. Hobbs is man created with a nature that possessed innocence and the tendency to do either good or evil. This neutrality is necessary for the preservation of LFW of which H.H. Hobbs was a proponent, solidly; Pelagian in his creation scenario, semi-Pelagian in his post-fall view of man. And, like most Arminians, he contended of necessity that Christ died for all to restore to man that ability to choose righteousness or unrighteousness. Which in effect, through prevenient grace, balances the scales as if to make man innocent once more, the Pelagian man, needing only to choose Christ to be righteous. As before, this inverts the image, placing righteousness as the outcome of choice rather than the cause of it.

According to H.H. Hobbs, God created man in God's image, both good and evil. Such is the basis of the Arminianism among the Southern Baptists. As a SB I studied Hobbs twenty years ago and had no idea what it really meant. Where were those who did and should have taught me? That is a generation and now it has been nearly two since his book was printed. That is not all of it. For a century this theology has dominated the SBC landscape. To wit, my former pastor and his assistant both held that God was both good and evil or at least capable of it for with God all things are possible and you don't want to put God in a box... Adults who sat in Sunday School with me were convinced that Adam and Eve both were endowed with pride-filled lust as Hobbs describes. When challenged, many Southern Baptists will see this as offensive to their own knowledge. The repugnance of the concept of God being anything but Good is revolted against by the Spirit in them. Still, the scope of the influence of Hobbsism is vast. Try mentioning that a heretical view has been taught in the SBC for one hundred years, that a former President wrote the systematic Sunday School materials that indoctrinated tens of millions, and you'll be ananthematized as a heretic yourself. None one touches the icons in the SBC, be they men or myth.

In the long running debate between the Arminianism and Reformed/Calvinism, this is where the Arminian perspective leads. LFW will create the Force, but it cannot reveal the God of Creation. And, it destroys any hope of a righteousness which is revealed from heaven, and given to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.


Machine Gun Kelley said...

To wit, my former pastor and his assistant both held that God was both good and evil or at least capable of it for with God all things are possible and you don't want to put God in a box...


[rips garments]

Anonymous said...

You can speculate then why I got in trouble for pushing Reformed Doctrines. What they said came from conversations related to Calvinism. Their recalcitrance and desperate need to defend freewill yielded the same Theology. It was about that time that a former deacon who listened gave me his old copy of TBFAM. When I reread it with new eyes, it was then I knew that the many were under the influence. Then their answers all began to make sense as to how they derived what they believed. My guess is tha none ever questioned it. I didn't...

How powerful is wrong doctrine? Ever witness to a Mormon, or any cultist? Tied to the falsehood is culpability. We are all ego invested in what we believe and none of us wants to admit to being wrong, let alone admit to having taught others error.

Gordan Runyan said...

Thanks for tackling this topic, Thomas (both from the SBC angle, and the Imago Dei angle.) The older Protestant confessions are nearly uniform in saying that Adam and Eve were created righteous, not innocent.

You are also right about what happens when you dare to be forthright about the theology of the leaders of the SBC. Frank Page, for instance, is a semi-Pelagianism through and through, believing that man takes the first step towards God in salvation. Used to be, we all understood semi-Pelagianism to be heretical, but you can't actually say stuff like that in the SBC anymore. Cuz, I mean, what a PR nightmare to have a heretic as your denomination prez.

And it's not HIM that's a villain for espousing it: it's YOU if you dare to say something.

Machine Gun Kelley said...

And it's not HIM that's a villain for espousing it: it's YOU if you dare to say something.

You're right about that! During my inquisition by members of the Secret 9, one of their biggest issues with me (and this blog) was how we "attacked" the SBC and its leadership.

Strong Tower said...

Two principles from Freemasonry:

You never criticize a brother while he is alive;

You only say good things about him when he is dead.

I have watched with curiousity how often these principles come to the fore among Christian brothers.

My step-dad died and was buried in a Freemasonic Funeral. Later I communicated with my brother Jack about the Luciferian basis of the AOFM. His response was he doubted that Dad worshipped the devil. That dismissive attitude, I think we all know...

I cannot count the times that I have shown Faith brothers what the DoG mean and have them dismiss it with, "Are you saying we are not saved?"

Once having recovered all the zillion rabbit trails and getting back to the path, the final dismissive comment is, "Well that is your belief..." As they ride off into the sunset.

But, I am a bad person, just ask my wife. Though I love her dearly, when there is a problem should I just clam up and go to my little corner of reality keeping it to myself? Would that be love? And if my brother is fallen or lost, should I not help him to his feet or go and make search for him that we might celebrate standing on common ground together?

Luther said something like, "If I ever take another wife I will hew an obedient one out of stone." It seems rather harsh all that hammering and chipping away to reveal the beauty within, but what wonderful work of love.

Machine Gun Kelley said...

In my recent SBC experience, I saw a few F&AM pins and rings walking around. Nobody seemed to be bugged by that -except me anyway. Yet, the minute people were able to pin the "Calvinist" label on me, I was no longer someone who could be tolerated. Go figure!

Strong Tower said...

Maybe we need a decoder ring, a fez and a secret handshake ;)

Gordan Runyan said...

This meta has inspired a new blog name for a team blog:

The SBC Underground

I just came up with it. Google and say it doesn't yet exist, so somebody out there ought to consider taking and running with it.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

"In the long running debate between the Arminianism and Reformed/Calvinism, this is where the Arminian perspective leads...."

How astute. Hobbs belonged to some school of Arminianism, therefore the Arminian perspective leads to Hobbs' theology. Of course by that line of reasoning we could conclude that since Fred Phelps belongs to some school of Calvinism, the Calvinist perspective must therefore lead to Phelps' theology. Your attempts at logic never cease to amaze me.

Gordan Runyan said...

Well, I think his logic was a little different than what you've summarized here.

Here's what I think he said:

Hobbs believed in Universal Prevenient Grace. UPG yeilds man in the same moral condition as if Pelagianism was true.

Pelagius and Hobbs would take different routes, but they'd both wind up at the place that says, when you preach the gospel of Christ to a man, he is fully able to evaluate it on neutral grounds and make an unforced decision to be righteous.

I think you (JCT) have said before that you don't necessarily consider yourself an Arminian (at least in the classic sense), and don't buy into Universal Prevenient Grace; so, in that case, none of this is speaking against you particularly.

You've got the logic here as:

1. Hobbs was an Arminian
2. Hobbs wound up teaching heresy.
3. Therefore all Arminians wind up teaching heresy.

I don't think that was the point at all. I think he does speculate that classic Arminianism turns fallen man into the practical equivalent of Pelagian man. UPG makes Total Depravity a non-factor, since you would never preach the gospel to a man who was still totally depraved: you would be preaching to a man who had been restored to Pelagius' vision by PG.

Strong Tower said...

Amaze am you...well take this....

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Gordan, if you look at the context, he wrote about Hobbs' heretical views of God being capable of anything but good which had been accepted by many in the SBC (the paragraph right before the conclusion which I quoted from). Then immediately after stating that "...this is where the Arminian perspective leads" he clarifies his intent with,

"LFW will create the Force, but it cannot reveal the God of Creation. And, it destroys any hope of a righteousness which is revealed from heaven, and given to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior."

The ramifications of which are two-fold:

1. Both the context of before and after which could identify the 'this' that Arminianism supposedly leads to denote a view in which God is capable of evil and a view in which God is completely obscured with righteousness being impossible, respectively. The two not being mutually exclusive, where he contends Arminianism leads to amounts to one or both. Now it's highly irregular to state that '(x) leads to this' before defining what 'this' is, therefore it's pretty plain that he at the very least is apparently indicating that Arminianism leads to Hobbs' view of God being capable of evil.

2. He cites LFW as the culprit in the latter view cited, implicating not just Arminians, but anyone who believes in LFW.

Additionally, the fact that I've never gone by the label 'Arminian' doesn't change the fact that he employs a slippery-slope fallacy, just as someone who tries to associate all Calvinists with Phelps does (the anti-trinitarian Scribe and I debated actually tried something along those lines).

Rev. said...

"Maybe we need a decoder ring, a fez and a secret handshake."

That is one of the funniest lines I've ever read. ;)