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Jonathan Edwards and Necessity

I. Introduction

A friend wondered if I could say something more about the charge that Edwards commits a modal fallacy—in this case, it is alleged that from 1. necessarily, if α then β, 2. α, he concludes, 3. necessarily β—in the course of his argument for determinism (see this post for context). Specifically, he wondered if I might cite more from Edwards. In this post I’ll quote one of Edwards’ arguments for the necessity our actions have, and his reasoning should make clear that the charge leveled by some—namely, Richard Muller, some associated with the Uterecht school, and (some of) their students—is simply not viable. Some of this will be a repetition of my last post, but I view what follows as a more decisive response to Muller et al., than my previous post. (more…)

Myth Busters: Jonathan Edwards Committed a Modal Fallacy

Introduction

You may not be attracted to Jonathan Edwards’ particular model of determinism and compatibilism. Such is fine. You may think you have good reasons to reject his system. Perhaps you do. But, that he commits an elementary fallacy in modal logic—confusing the necessity of the consequence with the necessity of the consequent—should not be one of those reasons. Unfortunately, this charge against Edwards is all-too-common. More unfortunately, it seems to come only from the pens of ostensibly Reformed theologians—who are allegedly friendly interpreters of Edwards. On the other hand, open theists like William Hasker seem to be more charitable to Edwards (cf. Hasker, God, Time, and Foreknowledge, 1989, 72). In this post I’ll explain why I think Edwards is innocent of such a charge.

Before continuing, let me explain the fallacy under discussion so that we can have it under our belts as we move forward: (more…)

Getting Clear(er) on Reformed Theology, Determinism, and Necessity

Recent conversations have again turned my attention to claims by Muller and the Utrecht school, to the effect that “Classic Reformed theology is not a species of determinism.” I find most of the substantive conclusions they draw perplexing. Aside from the fact that it is a live and open debate whether the intellectual progenitor(s)—whether Aristotle, Aquinas, or Scotus—of putative classic Reformed theologians were compatibilists or not, is that I have a hard time seeing how their conclusions follow even given what they say about the views of the classical Reformed theologians. (more…)

Libertarian Free Will and the Atonement

Here’s a worry. The claim that “Christ died for our sins” (I Cor. 15:3) is something on which virtually all Christians agree. Many think this claim is at the heart of the Christian faith. Suppose you think that Jesus died for your particular sins, which seems to be a fairly popular pre-theoretical view. Then, we might wonder how we can avoid (in a strong, libertarian sense) doing those specific sins. If we cannot, then it would seem that (one aspect of) the atonement rules out our having libertarian free will. Of course, this wouldn’t deal a knockout blow to the conjunction of Christianity and libertarian free will. It would mean, however, that Christians who affirm libertarian free will could not affirm that Jesus died for our particular sins. But, not only does it seem possible that Jesus did indeed die for our particular sins (and holding to libertarian free will would commit you to its necessary falsehood (in saying this I am assuming some modal moves that I don’t spell out here)), rejecting such a notion means rejecting what I take to be a fairly common and wide-spread belief, one which many Christians who hold to libertarian free will have also held. This would be, if not ad hoc, at least a previously unnoticed cost of “free will theism.” Let me flesh this out a bit. (more…)

Aquinas on God’s Drawing

In the course of his commentary on John 6, Aquinas writes, (more…)

The Calvinist-Libertarian Mashup

I. Calvinism and its discontents

Many theologians and philosophers have serious problems with Calvinism. Typically, Calvinism is presented as a system committed to (some form of) determinism about all of man’s actions. Call this determinism, ‘theological determinism’ (TD). Since Calvinists hold that man is (at least) morally responsible for some of his actions, then it seems that Calvinism is committed to compatibilism. I’ll define ‘compatibilism’ (COMP) as the view that moral responsibility is compatible with TD. That is, there exists a model on which both TD and COMP are true. Call this conjunction, ‘THEOCOMP’.

(more…)

Free will and Moral Responsibility Essay Updated

My thanks to Dr. Greg Welty for going through my previous draft with a fine-toothed comb and correcting many typos. There were others who caught some errors, but Greg spent a significant amount of time and effort ferreting many out and also pressing for clarification in a few important areas. No doubt, considering the source (me) there’s still bound to be a couple errata left over, but I consider this version to be significantly better (mostly in terms of style, not content) than the one(s) posted earlier.

https://analytictheologye4c5.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/free-will-and-moral-responsibility-intro11.pdf