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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.
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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…)