Richard Muller—Jonathan Edwards And The Absence Of Free Choice: A Parting Of Ways In The Reformed Tradition

Lost Audio Recovered

Jonathan Edwards (1703–58) is almost certainly the most influential and significant theologian in American history. He was at the headwaters of the First Great Awakening in 18th century colonial America and was briefly (about a month) president of what would become Princeton University just before his death (due to the smallpox vaccine). He is the theologian of the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement. Almost everything Edwards wrote has had influence far beyond the 18th century. Thus, for these reasons and many others, it is a delight to have received the audio of Richard Muller’s 2010 lecture on Edwards’ revision of the Reformed doctrine of free choice.

The reader and the listener should understand that what is being discussed here is not the question of what is sometimes called libertarian free will, i.e., the ability of humans to will contrary to God’s will or his decree. Rather, what is being discussed is the nature of the uncoerced (by creatures) choices that humans make. Contrary to the caricature often drawn, the Reformed taught the reality of human free (uncoerced) choice. The question here is how Edwards received and modified the Reformed tradition.

Dr. Richard Muller was the P. J. Zondervan Professor of Historical Theology at Calvin Seminary and before that he taught historical theology at Fuller Seminary. You can find a reasonably complete bibliography of his publications here. This lecture was delivered at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), under the auspices of the Jonathan Edwards Center. It was the inaugural lecture in the series, New Directions in Edwards Studies.

Thanks to HB contributor Jacob Aitken for sending us the audio.


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  1. Even though Muller got a lot of pushback from this lecture by proponents of Edwards, to me it was always quite clear: did Edwards hold to the distinction between necessity of the consequent and necessity of the consequences? If he did, it is not clear.

    And though this is above my intellectual paygrade, it is worth wondering whether Edwards’ view of determinism allows for secondary causes “to fall out by necessity, freely, or contingently.”

    Perhaps most troubling, as Oliver Crisp noted, Edwards view of continuous creation in Original Sin is at odds with his view of causality and determinism in Freedom of the Will.

  2. Thank you. I found that to be an extremely clear presentation. Is there a transcript available?

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