Freedom Of The Will

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James D. Strauss' Critique of Jonathan Edwards' Freedom of the Will

The Freedom of the Will J. Lucas Abstract The three great problems of philosophy, according to Kant, are God, freedom, and immortality. More The three great problems of philosophy, according to Kant, are God, freedom, and immortality. Bibliographic Information Print publication date: Authors Affiliations are at time of print publication. Lucas, author More Less. Print Save Cite Email Share. Although written long before the modern introduction and debate over Open Theism , Edwards' work addresses many of the concerns that have been raised today over this view.

Edwards responded that a person may freely choose whatever seems good, but that whatever it is that seems good is based on an inherent predisposition that has been foreordained by God. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the theological work. For the philosophical concept, see Free will. In this Edwards, at least in terms of conscious will, is wrong.

See, for example, Figure 3. We now know that the "unconscious cause of action" causes both the "action" and "unconscious cause of thought," and that the "unconscious cause of thought" causes the "thought" creating an "apparent causal path" that just is "the illusion of conscious will. With respect to that grand inquiry, What determines the will?

My genotype and phenotype are determined by the God who made me. I have the autonomy to pursue what I want, I do not have the freedom of will to change what I want. In qualifying "at least at that time," Edwards reflects the inadequacy of human perception in understanding the Christian God.

Time does not pass for the Christian God, so things either exist in the space-time continuum or they do not.


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See also Kant's "pure intuitions of space and time. TULIP follows lower on the page and on p.

J. R. Lucas

This is all, of course, one big koan, but my best egregiously over-anthropomorphizing analogy is that the space-time-continuum is a crystal paperweight on the Christian God's desk. It is, of course, follows that the Christian God is not surprised to find that I am a reprobate miscreant: If it be so, that the will is always determined by the strongest motive, them if must always have an inability, in this latter sense, to act otherwise than it does; it not being possible, in any case, that the will should present go against the motive which has now, all things considered, the greatest strength and advantage to excite and induce it.

Some like to say that a person could always have chosen to do differently than they did. This is an absurdity! No person has ever chosen to do differently than they did, and I predict that no person ever will chose to do differently than they do. It is improperly said, that a person cannot perform those external actions which are dependent on the act of the will, and which would be easily performed if the act of the will were present. A complete non sequitur from the previous discussion: The distinguished nature of the effect, which is something belonging to the effect, cannot have influence backward, to act before it is.

If only those who believe that the very real warming we have experienced is anthropogenic realized this. The mind's being a designing cause, only enables it to produce effects in consequence of it's design; it will not enable it to be the designing cause of all its own designs. See comment on p. Now, if this be so, it will demonstrably follow, that the acts of the will are never contingent,or without necessity, in the sense spoken of; inasmuch as those things which have a cause or reason for their existence, must be connected with their cause.

Section x - God's certain foreknowledge is nonsensical in that time does not pass for the Christian God. For whenever God thus interposes, it is with regard to the state of the moral world requiring diving intervention. Thus God could not certainly force the universal deluge, the calling of Abraham, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah the plagues on Egypt, and Israel's redemption out of it, the expelling of seven nations of Cannan, and the bring Israel into the land;.

Infallible foreknowledge may prove the necessity of the event foreknown, and yet not be the thing which causes the necessity. Because it shows the existence of the event to be so settled and firm, that it is as if it had already been; inasmuch as in effect it actually exists already,. This certainly does intimate that time does not pass for the Christian God. Edwards response shows that he does not understand this completely.

Does this intimate that time does not pass for the Christian God? It is certainly consistent. It is impossible that the Messiah should fail of preserving in integrity and holiness, as the first Adam did, because this would have been inconsistent with his promises. Unless I have greater free will than Christ, then under Christian doctrine, I also must as my creator intended: God did as it were trust to what his Son had engaged and promised to do in future time; No.

Time does not pass for the Christian God. There is no past or future. And, therefore, by their own scheme, the imperfections of our obedience do not deserve to be punished. What need, therefore of Christ's dying to satisfy for them?

Therefore, on the whole, it is manifest, that moral inability alone which consists in disinclination never renders any thing improperly the subject matter of precept or command, and never can excuse any person in disobedience or want of conformity to a command. This is, according to Edwards above on same page "the very thing wherein his wickedness consists. Edwards distinction here, between moral and natural inability, is jejune: Ignoring for the moment that Edwards did not know that alcoholism is a disease with a strong genetic component i. The "I" is for "irresistible grace," and the "P" is for "persistence in grace.

How is the reprobate's status his responsibility? It may be so indeed, that true desires and endeavors may take place, but that invincible necessity stands in the way, and renders them vain and to no effect. Edwards persists in the mistake of failing to realizing that the Christian God is omniscient because this God made each of use to want certain things.

We have the freedom to pursue those things: From the last paragraph Corol. I surmise, again, that Edwards would reject William of Occam's "contingency. Yet infinitely lesser creatures are not similarly bound by their natures? There were many important truths maintained by the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, and especially the Stoics, that are never the worse for being held by them. Language is indeed very deficient in regard of terms to express precise truth concerning our own minds, and their faculties and operations. That is an apposite description of the previous few pages.

Christ's crufixion, though a most horrid fact in them that perpetrated it, was of the most glorious tendency, as permitted and ordered by God. His teachings had a considerable influence on Methodism.

Freedom of the Will - Oxford Scholarship

John Locke - p. Faustus Socinus , which was developed among the Polish Brethren in the Minor Reformed Church of Poland during the 16th and 17th centuries and embraced by the Unitarian Church of Transylvania during the same period. May 14, Mike E. Jonathan Edwards — polemical work "Freedom of the Will" was written to refute the dangers of Arminianism in colonial America and the world. According to Arminianism, and Edwards primary opponents, Daniel Whitby and Thomas Chubb, the will of every human was free, that is, each individual has his own self determining power, completely free from any antecedent cause and lacks any internal nature that is inclined to sway any motive, action or Jonathan Edwards — polemical work "Freedom of the Will" was written to refute the dangers of Arminianism in colonial America and the world.

According to Arminianism, and Edwards primary opponents, Daniel Whitby and Thomas Chubb, the will of every human was free, that is, each individual has his own self determining power, completely free from any antecedent cause and lacks any internal nature that is inclined to sway any motive, action or the will in any particular way.

Although it was written after FW, Original Sin explains the fall of Adam and the resulting condition of total depravity for the human race. If one disagrees with the doctrine of total depravity then there is no need to bother refuting or arguing with FW. If his nature is completely self determined then he is not depraved and inclined always to evil. So, some polemics in FW are perhaps so narrow that they miss the more basic and elementary questions, What happened when Adam fell? And Is man depraved or not? FW is summarized succinctly by countless scholars.

Therefore, to choose to do nothing is a choice and fits under his seemingly simple definition. It is in this first section that Edwards reveals one of his most important premises, which is foundational to his thesis and argument. This principle must be accepted as truth, according to Edwards. The entire book falls apart and lacks cohesiveness if one rejects this principle.

Jonathan Edwards

It is important to understand that Edwards works within the realm of natural reality. In other words, one could imagine a choice that he would rather make than the one he actually chooses; however, that choice was imaginary and not possible. It is therefore not a real choice. Edwards first criticism is essential to his attack against the Arminians. It is repeated numerous times throughout the book. He rightly suggests that the Arminian understanding of the will as self-determining power is pure foolishness and absurd.

He must reply that the will is self-determining. The will determines the will. So then, how does man choose anything? What are his influences? The Arminian says that influences abound, but nonetheless the will is completely and totally free. So, in the Arminian scheme one has an infinite series of contingent free wills in infinitum.

Freedom of the Will

Edwards suggests that 1 this answer is impossible. One cannot conceive of or have an infinite number of free wills. Only God is infinite. To say that the will is the cause and the effect of the will is no answer. To read FW is a laborious task and keeping up with the enormous intellect of Edwards is taxing. Edwards masterfully and meticulously destroys the Arminian doctrine of freedom. He argues that self-determining power is ludicrous and only can rightly be attributed to God and therefore accuses Arminians of putting a contingent free will in the place of God.

But what does he put in its place? The reader would like more positive arguments from Edwards than he provides, but he finally does reveal his positive thesis: Nothing ever comes to pass without a Cause. What is self-existent must be from eternity, and must be unchangeable: After destroying the Arminian notion of free will, Edwards reveals that he favors a divine determinism because every event or action has a cause and they all go back to the One Cause.

As will be discussed later, this doctrine is subject to a serious, if not devastating flaw.

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In other words, man must be free, with self determining power in order to truly choose. Edwards says that everything that has happened and will happen is determined by God. In the same breath Edwards proclaims that man has choice and is fully responsible for his own choices and actions--be they righteous or wicked.

How does he do this? Primarily Edwards defense rests on the foreknowledge of God. First, he presents countless prophecies and predictions in the Scriptures, events that are yet future at the time which they are recorded in the Scriptures. These need not be repeated here for they are numerous and obvious. For example, it was predicted by God the Son that Judas would betray him before it happened and yet Judas was fully responsible for his own condemnation.

His eternal destruction was both necessary and a result of his own voluntary choice. Edwards provides countless examples similar to this. Edwards is more than fair and seeks out opposers who have the most thorough and penetrating questions. He creates no straw man. He quotes those Arminians who articulate their doctrine with commendable lucidity.

One of the Arminians he quotes is Dr. Whitby, who introduces the central issue in this chapter: Where does Edwards turn to answer this common and, until deeply reflected upon, very reasonably sounding criticism? He turns first to God the Father and secondly to God the Son. To paraphrase his words, Edwards first notes that Arminians, including Whitby, agree that God does not have the power or ability to sin. God is necessarily perfect, holy and loving and he always acts necessarily in accord with His character.

Then he displays manifestly how Jesus, as a man, walked upon earth experiencing many of the things that we experience, making choices, resisting temptation, etc.


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However, Jesus necessarily always chose, spoke, thought and acted in the most perfect and holy way. God and Jesus are both perfectly capable of praise, worship and adoring even though it was necessary that He act in accord with his character. It was necessary that Christ not sin and He did not sin but He is still worthy of praise and reward. He asks, Why doth God command, if man hath not free will and power to obey?

Who will not cry out, that it is folly to command him, that hath not liberty to do what is commanded; and that it is unjust to condemn him, that has it not in his power to do what is required? A law is given to him that can turn to both parts; i. Does man have the power to be innocent? All must —say that he does not. Does God require perfect obedience? All who know the Scriptures know that He has. Are humans then under necessity to break laws that God has commanded us to keep? So then, man is given a law he cannot keep and he is fully responsible to keep it.

Only the substitutionary atonement of God the Son can make salvation possible. In reply, he states that God is the permitter of sin, but is not and could never be the direct cause, agent or actor of sin. Edwards cites many examples of Scripture in which God ordered sin in order to promote a greater good. However, I think the criticism of Whitby and others in the book is justified. A critic of Edwards responding to FW demonstrates the failure best. He too suggests that Edwards makes God the author of sin, with powerful and articulate language. Edwards must either maintain the positive energy and action of the deity in the introduction of sin into the world, or else admit that it rose from a cause in the mind of the sinner--in other words, that he was self-determined.

To admit to the Arminian notion of free will is to admit to contingent choice being based upon contingent choice in infinitum. Edwards has successfully proven that Arminianism Pelagianism or rationalism is unreasonable and self refuting.

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Edwards central arguments are 1 the soul necessarily chooses the object of its highest affection at any given moment in time from its particular perspective. On the other hand, Edwards work is a failure. For he is guilty of not realizing or saying forthrightly that his system and argument fails to account for the entrance of sin into the world--be it via Adam or in the angelic realm. Holbrook brings the criticism out with glaring clarity.

The withdrawal of the supernatural principles followed and did not precede or cause the fall itself. He dismantles Arminianism as the Allied forces dismantled the army of Iraq--effortlessly. He could affirm only that sin had come about and that God had permitted it to do so. Edwards has successfully proven that Arminianism Pelagianism or rationalism is unreasonable and self-refuting. This is a must read for anyone wrestling with the compatibility of human freedom and the sovereignty of God.

I almost gave up, but I've heard good things about it from R. Sproul and others, so I continued skimming. It's difficult to understand due to its age and Edwards being a metaphysician. Edwards defends the view that humans have free will, and thus deserve rewards or punishment for their free actions. Notes A person wills that which is most pleasing at the time, all things considered. For when a person is unable to I skimmed this. For when a person is unable to will or choose such a thing, through a defect of motives, or prevalence of contrary motives, it is the same thing as his being unable through the want of an inclination, or the prevalence of a contrary inclination.

Bible teaches God has an absolute and certain foreknowledge of the free actions of moral agents. In Bible, God predicts events that depend on moral conduct of particular persons. In Bible, God predicts moral actions of people, as individuals, groups, nations. Past events by definition necessarily exist they must have happened , because they can't now be changed.

If God can truly, infallibly foreknow events, they must necessarily exist prior to their occurrence they must happen. The things connected with those necessary events are also necessary, to ensure necessary existence of necessary events. Similarly, the free actions of moral agents connected with those necessary events are also necessary.