A Theological Evaluation of Edwards’s Freedom of the Will: A Case for Continuity with the Reformed Tradition
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Reformed Thought on Freedom
This work is embargoed by the author until 5/31/2024.
Recent scholarship claims that the Reformed tradition was neither libertarian nor compatibilist with regard to free will and, as a consequence, Jonathan Edwards’s work, Freedom of the Will, represents a departure from the tradition. However, good reasons exist to dispute both claims. In this dissertation, I argue that in Freedom of the Will, Edwards employs theological arguments for compatibilism that were consistent with and common among the Reformed. In order to defend this thesis, I compare the arguments for compatibilism in Freedom of the Will with the anthropology, theology proper, and Christology of the Reformed. Edwards’s anthropology differed from the faculty psychology of the Reformed, but these differences are not substantial as Edwards can still distinguish the intellect from the will and argue, with the Reformed, that the intellect determines the will to the greatest perceived good. In theology proper, Edwards utilized the reasoning of his Reformed forebearers as he argued from God’s foreknowledge of future events to demonstrate that free will is compatible with moral necessity and the necessity of the event. Finally, Edwards used classic Reformed Christological categories and the covenant of redemption in order to argue that Christ’s will was determined to the good. The theological arguments for compatibilism found in the Reformed were consistently developed by Edwards in Freedom of the Will.