Man is Moral Choice. by Albert Hobbs. Arlington House Publishers (181 Main Street, Norwalk, Conn. 06851), 445 pp. $12.95.
According to Harvard behaviorist B.F. Skinner, man's behavior and choices are determined by processes beyond his control; man is nothing more than an animal that reacts blindly and slavishly to stimuli in his environment. Freedom and dignity, therefore, are just ''myths"; they cannot be "scientifically verified," that is weighed or measured.
Albert Hobbs is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Man is Moral Choice. In his book, Mr. Hobbs maintains that Mr. Skinner's view of freedom is the myth, and to check it he has written a much-needed affirmation of man's intrinsic dignity and freedom, and a hard-hitting attack on the thinking of those social scientists and philosophers who deny man's moral worth and inherent ability to make free choices and judgments.
Mr. Hobbs makes clear that the virulent assaults on free willi.e., man's inherent capacity to make free choices and judgmentsare based upon a warped view of man, the view that man is simply a machine. True, man has a material body, but he also is a spiritual being. Human beings have the capacity to reason, to conceptualize, to grasp universals, to utilize and comprehend symbols, to express in written word and in propositional speech their private thoughts and feelings. Man can love and hate, he can cry and understand and laugh at the meaning of a joke. Clearly, if man's freedom, intrinsic moral worth and uniqueness cannot be verified through the techniques of the laboratory, this is no proof that these qualities do not exist. They are indeed real, even though their reality cannot be chemically analyzed or weighed.
There is an obvious relationship between the Skinnerian view of man and freedom on the one hand and pernicious attempts to wrest away man's religious, political, economic and civil liberties and concentrate decision making power and authority in the hands of a few. If, as Mr. Skinner claims, the "survival of the culture" is the highest value, and individual freedom and dignity are just "myths," then man's religious, political, economic and civil liberties may be sacrificed. Mr. Skinner and his disciples would then "feel free" to use scientific know-how and technology to manipulate man and his environment to achieve their desired aims.
On the other hand, if, as Mr. Hobbs believes, man has the capacity to reason and also possesses free will and dignity, then proposals and efforts to manipulate man through science and technology are glaring assaults on man himself. Let us, instead, cultivate and preserve those institutions and those moral, social, economic and political conditions which help human beings to live rationally and to freely choose good over evil.
Reviewed by Haven Bradford Gow
As the call for repentance and revival mounted throughout 1980, one astounding feature came to dominate the movement. The leaders and supporters were largely from the evangelical and fundamentalist wings of American Protestantism, with some conservative Jews, Protestants, and Catholics alongside. So unexpected to the professional political observers was the entrance of this bloc that they did not know quite what to make of it. (6)
Jorstad then describes the "two kinds of religio-political organizations" "both remarkably well organized, strongly financed, and clear in their objectives" (7) to whom he ascribes the "New Christian Right's" political success; the big name "electronic church" preachers, Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell, and James Robison, and the computerized direct-mail agencies, with Moral Majority listed first, and with Richard Viguerie (whom Jorstad calls "Vigurie" throughout the book) given the highest marks for efficiency. What the "New Christian Right" succeeded in creating in the 1970s (and, Jorstad adds in parentheses, for the foreseeable future) is"the politics of moralism" (8)
Jorstad's discussion of "Morality versus Moralism"(8-11) should be quoted in full to do justice to his extreme caution in definitions, interspersed and indeed culminating in numerous questions to which, it is implied, yes-or-no answers are impossible because of their extreme complexity. The section begins with a question''the centuries-old question who decides what is wrong or right: professional priests, holy men, sacred writings, or trial-and-error experience? '(8). A sentence later Jorstad adds that ''authentic morality hesitates to place too much authority in any one person or group of persons because"because, perish the thought, we can and indeed must test men's words and acts by God's own law and testimony (Isaiah 8:20)?no rather, because of man's tendency to elevate relative, "contingent" values to absolute ones, according to Reinhold Niebuhr. "Moralism" on the other hand, differs from morality because "its authority is based on that view of Scripture which claims it is inerrant, infallible, and verbally inspired entirely without "error" in its original."(9)Jorstad continues:
Moralism understands that the moral answers to the questions perplexing mankind since earliest times are known, that no new or revised moralistic teachings will be forthcoming from the Author of morality because all revelation from him is full, complete and binding. (9)
To a person unfamiliar with the God of the Bible "with Whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1: 17)the God Whose very Name "I AM that which I am" speaks of the absolute impossibility of "new" (different) or "revised" teachings forthcoming from Him, because His revelation indeed was full, complete and binding from the beginning, as the oaktree is full, complete and "binding" in the acornJorstad's picture of Bible believing Christians is repellent, as repellent as Elijah must have been to the people two-timing God, ''halting between two opinions'' on Mount Carmel. One question Jorstad never asks is whether it is worthy of an Almighty, Good and Wise God to let His people dangle in perpetual uncertainty about what He means when He speaks, or about whether He always means the same thing. Such a question would reveal that Jorstad's God is rather like a situation ethics counselorand Jorstad and professing Christians of a middle-to-liberal opinion blend ("persuasion" is too categorical a word) would rather not be committed to situation ethics out loud. Situation ethics is, however, the practical outworking of Jorstad's "Morality versus Moralism" discourse. When Jorstad puts down ''moralism" as "not morality because
it assumes that humans are wise enough to understand what God intends for each of them in every instance of life" (9) he is guilty of an outright falsehood in the case of Christians who know that Jesus Christ is right when He tells us "Without me you can do nothing"(John15: 5).But with Himby God's Spirit with "the mind of Christ"with the "wisdom of God''and never contrary to God's Law and testimony in the Scriptures (lsaiah 8: 20;1Corinthians chapter 2)oh yes, we can "discern all things''(l Cor. 2:15) including what God intends for us in every instance of life (see also Proverbs 4:12: "As thou goest, thy way shall be opened step by step before thee"). If this certainty makes us "moralists" (a kind of pharisees) rather than moral in Jorstad's dictionary, then so be it. If it is moral to be somewhere in the middle about abortion, the extent of civil rights for homosexuals, bans on voluntary prayer and Bible reading in public schools, (examples given by Jorstad), then the "New Christian Right" is not moral. But then, one hopes Jorstad would agree, neither are the political spokesmen for abortion on demand, total freedom of expressing homosexuality, and those who would continue the ban on prayer and Bible reading (or on the teaching of creationism along with evolutionism). Jorstad's last chapter, which is essentially a call for "pluralistic" reasonableness and balance, to be nurtured by local churches and congregational activities rather than the "show-biz" effects of television preachers, should satisfy we must say it again because we must say it againprofessing Christians of a middle-to-liberal opinion blend.
Jorstad does a fairly thorough and acceptable job of describing the history, financing and programs of the major personalities and movements of the "New Christian Right." He discusses some general objections to television presentations of the Gospel which seem well taken (for instance, the theatrical character of television shows which leaves no room for acquaintance with a plain everyday Christian's routine daily walk). He realizes, as many analysts of the 1980 presidential election did not, that the "New Christian Right" is supported by millions of small financial contributors who find in this movement what had long been denied thema public form for the "moralistic" belief in the God of Creation Whose wisdom expressed in His law is violated only at an individual's or a whole nation's peril.
Jorstad writes in a gentlemanly manner, raising questions about the "New Christian Right" rather than attacking it outright, and careful to document all his assertions of fact from a variety of sources from across the religious and political spectrum. One finds oneself aching for contact, for an opportunity somehow to draw this man to Godthere is a kind of studied "objectivity" about his work which surely, surely witnesses of good will open to the Truth in Person? But then you remember that he would not welcomehe does not welcomethe God with Whom there is not Yea-and-Nay, but Yea (2
Corinthians 1:17-19), the God whose Word is like a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4: 12), with which to tamper damns to hell (Galatians 1:8-9)and you realize his gentle uncertainty masquerading as humility, but actually a form of rebelliousness, is of Satan's blindness (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
If you don't know much about the major "New Christian Right" personalities, the plain reporting parts of this book are useful, though they should perhaps be compared with reports by friendlier (to Falwell, Robertson, etc ) sources. If you want insight into the gentle uncertainty of professing Christians with a middle-to-liberal opinion blend, Jorstad's ''Morality versus Moralism'' (8-11) section is highly recommended, as is his conclusion (Chapter Twelve, 105-116).
Reviewed by Ellen Myers