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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.
(This is my first post in a series of posts on the propriety of the term ‘Conditional Immortality’ to uniquely pick out the set of doctrines more popularly known as ‘Annihilationism’.)
Traditionally, systematic theology has divided the various views about the final fate of all humans into three views: (1) Annihilationism, (2) Traditionalism, and (3) Universalism. It is my view that there are evangelical versions of each of these views. I think there are well-intentioned, biblically literate, regenerate Christians who hold to each of these views; and furthermore, I believe that there are many who do so because they are convinced that the Bible teaches said view. That is to say, it is not the case, in some instances, that those who hold one of the above views do so primarily for emotional or philosophical reasons.
This is not to say that I don’t think one or more of these views are false. To lay my cards on the table, I hold to (2). To disclose further: I feel fairly comfortable with my understand of the best arguments for (3); however, I previously had not given much attention to (1). There’s various reasons for this, but the past is in the past and I’d like to start turning my attention to (1). At this stage in my understanding of (1) I want to raise conceptual and philosophical difficulties and perplexities for (1). As I dig through the literature (e.g., E. Fudge The Fire that Consumes, C. Date et al. (eds) Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, etc.), I will slowly offer some (broadly) theological criticisms of (1) (that’s the plan, anyway!). Now, if you read the previous sentence (especially the parenthetical), you’ll note that one of the books mentions the word, ‘Conditionalism.’ What does that mean? It refers to “Conditional Immortality.” Many contemporary defenders of (1) wish that “Conditional Immortality” could be substituted for (1). I don’t think that name is very helpful. In fact, I don’t think “traditionalism” is either. In this post I want to offer some of my reasons for why I think what I do. In the course of doing so, I hope to raise some interesting questions and concerns. (more…)
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…)