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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.

Continued Calvinist Confusions

Oliver Crisp mentioned that Donald Macleod endorsed “Libertarian Calvinism.” I briefly searched around the Interwebs and found this blurb by Macleod,

Neither of these statements is more careful or more evangelical than that of the Westminster Confession: ‘God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.’ This allows (indeed, requires) us to distinguish sharply between predestination and determinism. It also relates suggestively to the open universe described by modern physics. An event can be predestinated, yet free: indeed, it is predestination that guarantees freedom. Similarly, an event can be predestinated and yet contingent. Such, at least, was the perspective of Westminster Calvinism, leaving its adherents to be libertarians and indeterminists if that was where their phisophical predilections and scientific investigations led them.


Libertarian Calvinism – 4 Wrapping Up

This will complete my series on Libertarian Calvinism. Part one is here part two is here, and part 3 is here. I tried to argue that the case for libertarian Calvinism has not yet been made, and that it’s not clear that it can be made. Now, that’s not to say that one couldn’t severely limit one’s scope, and by ‘Calvinism’ mean, say, “the five points.” Then, supposing the some suitable, libertarian friendly, definition of ‘irresistible’ could be given, one could say that LC is the conjunction of LFW and TULIP. Yet, I do think that LC is incompatible with a sufficiently robust Calvinism, where this is defined as confessional (which can be understood broadly as including various dogmatic/systematic theologies). In this post I simply want to make some brief closing remarks. (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…)