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The Double Cure: Addictions and God's Grace

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Nature or Nurture?

Famous (or infamous) Harvard psychologist B. F. Skinner sharply contrasts traditional views of human nature with modern ones. In Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971), the founder of "behaviorism" writes,

In what we may call the prescientific view...a person's behavior is at least to some extent his own achievement. He is free to deliberate, decide, and act, possibly in original ways, and he is to be given credit for his successes and blamed for his failures. In the scientific view...a person's behavior is determined by a genetic endowment traceable to the evolutionary history of the species and by the environmental circumstances to which as an individual he has been exposed.
Skinner allows that neither view can be proved, but quickly adds, "It is in the nature of scientific inquiry that the evidence should shift in favor of the second." He thinks of the human being as a machine, determined by an environment. "The measures we use are those of physical and biological technology, but we use them in special ways to affect behavior."


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Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California), host of the White Horse Inn, national radio broadcast, and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He is author of many books, including The Gospel-Driven Life, Christless Christianity, People and Place, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, The Christian Faith, and For Calvinism.

Issue: "Sex in the Christian Life" Nov./Dec. 2001 Vol. 10 No. 6 Page number(s): 20-21

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