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Richard Muller’s Divine Will and Human Choice: First Impressions

Divine Will and Human Choice: Freedom, Contingency, and Necessity in Early Modern Reformed Thought (Baker: 2017), is Richard Muller’s latest, and most comprehensive, addition to the literature on Reformed thought on freedom. Dr. Muller (Calvin Seminary) is a highly regarded historical theologian, and his influence is strong, especially among younger Reformed academics. Muller is a prolific author and there is no doubt that he has provided the Church in general, and the Reformed church in particular, a great service with his detailed historical work on early Reformed thought on all dogmatic loci. Despite this, his involvement in the debate on early Modern Reformed thought on freedom has always perplexed me. In this area, at least, and in my estimation, his work suffers from several defects, many of which I have discussed on this blog (use the search feature). Unfortunately, his latest book appears to be more of the same. This post will catalog some of my first impressions. These are gleaned from his introductory chapter, and so these criticisms must not be taken to necessarily reflect the overall quality of Divine Will and Human Choice.

Hays on the potentially “false dilemma” of “free will and determinism”

Steve Hays recently posted a provocative post whose title asks the question, “Is the freedom/determinism dilemma a false dilemma?” I’d like to make some comments, mostly in the form of questions, though some will be in the form of statements. These are mainly meant for the purpose of inquiry and clarification, not pointed refutation—for I am not even sure I understand either the many-worlds hypothesis or the particular applications Hays is trying to expand on or draw from the notion. (more…)

Libertarian Calvinism – 3

This is the third installment of a series on Oliver Crisp’s “Libertarian Calvinism,” a chapter in his new book, Deviant Calvinism. Part one is here and part two is here. In this post I’ll engage directly with libertarian Calvinism. I hope to show that even if the issues I raised in the first two posts could be addressed—which, I think, is by no means an easy task—libertarian Calvinism faces problems that not even Hal Jordan (a.k.a the Green Lantern) could overcome.1 (more…)

Libertarian Calvinism – 2

This is part 2 of a series I’m doing on chapter 3 of Oliver Crisp’s new book, Deviant Calvinism (part one here). First, to summarize the main point of the previous post: Crisp wants to argue that libertarian freedom is consistent with Reformed Theology, specifically as elucidated in the Westminster Confession of Faith. I argued that Crisp’s argument is incomplete, choosing to focus only on chapters 3 and 9 of the Confession. However, there are other chapters that confess propositions that arguably don’t support libertarian free will. Specifically, I cited the Confession’s teaching about the nature of God and his knowledge, and made the case that these claims are prima facie inconsistent with libertarian free will. I then argued that several standard ways of resolving these troubles may not be open to the libertarian Calvinist, since the Confession plausibly rules them out. There are other portions of the Confession that will be shown to spell trouble for Crisp’s case, and they will make an appearance in the next post. In that post (part 3 of the series), I will interact directly with Crisp’s case for libertarian Calvinism. But before I do that, I want to discuss two terms Crisp employs in the chapter but doesn’t elaborate on. These terms show up in debates over free will and the kind of necessity theological determinists have wanted to say attaches to free human actions. (more…)

Creating a Calvinist T-Shirt


My friend James Anderson recently wrote two nice posts on theological determinism and compatibilism. I direct the reader to those posts for all the nitty-gritty details. The purposes of his two posts were to chop up the conceptual space surrounding the theses of divine determinism and compatibilism. In this post I want to add to his work of conceptual carving. I will add to the distinction between hard and soft determinism that James drew, the further distinction between hard and soft compatibilism. Before continuing, I want to add a caveat up front: I don’t take it that I’m offering any substantive criticism of James’ posts. I merely hope to add to his project of carving conceptual space. However, as you’ll (hopefully) come to agree in the end, I think my t-shirt will be both conceptually and aesthetically superior to James’! (more…)

God’s Freedom

Sometimes it is said that God has libertarian freedom. The argument for this often goes like this:

  1. God freely chose to create the world.
  2. The world is not necessary.
  3. Therefore, God’s free act of creating of the world was not determined.
  4. Therefore, God has libertarian freedom.

This argument is actually quite popular, but it is invalid. For the sake of the argument, I’ll grant we can validly get to (3). However, the jump to (4) assumes a suppressed premise, something like:

    3a. If a free act A is not determined, then A is libertarian free.

But that is false. It assumes that indeterminism is sufficient for libertarianism, when it’s actually only necessary for libertarianism. What is needed instead is something like this:

    3a′. Freedom is incompatible with determinism.

But with this addition, the argument would then assume incompatibilism. (1)–(2) at best get you indeterminism, but what is needed to secure the conclusion that God’s freedom is libertarian is an argument for incompatibilism, not an argument that assumes incompatibilism.

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


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…)

Jerry Walls’ Argument for Libertarian Free Will

In Jerry Walls’ “Why No Classical Theist, Let Alone Orthodox Christian, Should Ever be a Compatibilist” (Philosopia Christi, Vol. 13, No. 1, 2011), he offers an interesting argument to the conclusion that some actually existing humans have libertarian free will. Here is his argument, numbering in the original: (more…)