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Freedom of the Will [Hardcover]

By Jonathan Edwards (Author)
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Item description for Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards...

"Considered Edwards' finest work, the treatise is a monument of American philosophy," noted Christian History magazine (Vol. 4, No. 4, p.19). They continue, "In this treatise Edwards painstakingly shows that man is indeed free... but that God is still sovereign and still solely responsible for man's salvation. Edwards tries to show that a sinner and humans, in the Calvinist tradition, come into the world under the curse of Adam would never by himself choose to glorify God unless God himself changed that person's character. Regeneration, God's act, is the basis for repentance and conversion, the human actions." A detailed, careful, and strongly Calvinistic look at this important question. Edwards (1703-1758) is by far the best known American theologian. After graduating from and teaching at Yale University, he began a very fruitful ministry at Northampton, MA. The church was the scene of the explosive revival of 1734, 35, and burned fiercely for God under Edwards for several years. Edwards then went to pastor the lowly Indians. But at last he was called to be the first president of Princeton University, where he served only 5 weeks, dying of smallpox.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Sovereign Grace Publishers Inc.
Pages   368
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.36" Width: 6.18" Height: 1.12"
Weight:   1.57 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Nov 9, 2001
Publisher   Sovereign Grace Publishers Inc.
ISBN  1589600088  
ISBN13  9781589600089  

Availability  141 units.
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More About Jonathan Edwards

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! John E. Smith, Harry S. Stout, and Kenneth P. Minkema are editors of the multivolume series The Works of Jonathan Edwards, published by Yale University Press.

Jonathan Edwards was born in 1703 and died in 1758.

Jonathan Edwards has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Dover Thrift Editions
  2. Jonathan Edwards for Today's Reader
  3. Library of America
  4. Yale Nota Bene

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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( E ) > Edwards, Jonathan
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Reviews - What do customers think about Freedom of the Will?

great info difficult read  Jun 8, 2008
Freedom of the Will is packed full of information, useful to every Christian. A little hard to read due to it's age, but very helpful. Maybe not for the new Christian.
DIFACULT  Dec 17, 2007
Gnostic fatalism disguised as God's Sovereignty  Mar 17, 2006
Jonathan Edwards was a brilliant exponent of the Puritan tradition that God himself was the highest good and that enjoying Him in Himself was the true joy of the Christian both in this life and in Heaven.

Sadly though Edwards could never rise above the limitations of the Deformation fatalism about the vileness of man qua man nor to escape from the mechanistic determinism that naturally results from it. In such a system, human being are mere physical objects with no more self awareness or choice than a billiard ball with God cast as a metaphysical Minnesota Fats who ordains which respective pockets men will be inclined to go.

It is therefore necessary in such a system to perform "damage control" to at one and the same time blame man for all his allegedly preordained failings while completely exonerating God of any responsibility for what He has inexorably ordained. This places the Calvinoid apologist like Edwards in the unenviable position of trying to separate ontological causality from moral responsibility by blaming the instrumental causes of evil (i.e., angels and human beings) because of their proximity to the evil actions. They fail to see that this cuts both ways and that therefore the good that men and angels do by grace should also be merited to them because of their proximity to those actions. The historical Christian tradition recognized this but it was lost in the Nominalist haze of Deformation posturing.

Furthermore, Edwards necessarily affirmed that God was not morally responsible when He ordained evil because "good may come of it" despite the fact that the Bible explicitly condemned this notion (Romans 3:8) in excusing human behavior. If we are to be conformed to the image of God, then it necessarily follows that what is morally wrong for us is also morally wrong for Him as well or are we to say of God as Jesus said of the Pharisees "Do as He says but not as He does?" Asserting the sovereign power of God as Edwards does merely says that "might makes right" and we see the moral chaos that infected the Deformers as they pushed the Voluntairst philosophies of Ockham and Scotus to their logical conclusions. In the end, Edwards is just another Gnostic Dualist who worships a deity whose actions are "above and beyond" good and evil and Edwards like the whole Deformation tradition succumbs to the last lie of the Serpent in Eden who declared that God "knew" both good and evil.

Edwards tried in this essay to eschew the necessity of freedom of indifference for moral agency. He claimed that God himself was necessarily good and worthy of our adulation even though He was incapable of choosing evil. He used this to claim that man could therefore be necessarily evil and worthy of condemnation.

Edward's mistake was that God's goodness is the result of the perfection and consistency of His entire being while the evil in man is the result of weaknesses and flaws in human nature. Edwards jettisoned the previous Judeo-Christian tradition that sin was a privation of the good. Sin is what happens when one pursues a relative good like wealth or pleasure apart from the absolute ontological goodness which is God himself.

The comparison between the human condition and the divine nature are not equivalent. God is necessarily good because He is perfectly integrated in Himself. Man is evil because he lacks perfection and integration. He is pulled in many different directions by apparent goods that distract him from the one true good that is God. He is drawn alternatively from darkness to light as he struggles to define himself. As such the natural man is not necessarily a villain but a tragic figure whose flaws lead him to self destruction. He only becomes a villain when he willingly embraces the darkness.

The sad situation of man is that by nature he does not hate the light but is ambivalent to it. There is nothing in him that compels him towards the light and he picks and chooses whatever he chooses. And he is so bombarded with ambiguous choices that sin is as inevitable as a tightrope walker being blown off the rope in a hurricane. No amount of skill can prevent that.

Edwards too easily accepts the water-tight arguments and self-fulfilling prophecies of Deformation thought. He was never able to rise above the man-made traditions he had received and question their presuppositions. Furthermore, he never interacted with the great minds of the Patristic or Scholastic period preferring the distorted caricatures of them given to him by his own tradition.

In short this book is an outdated and narrow defense of a dualistic Demiurge masquerading as the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This false "Goid" is touted as the biggest bully on the block whose arbitrary decision to "love" some men and hate others in and of itself constitutes the "good" of salvation. It is by sheer power that Goid ordains all things and none of us is permitted to question what He has done not because we are too weak to resist Him, not because there are moral ambiguities that the problem of evil conjured up. This is a black and white world where might makes right and the will of Goid trumps any attempt at logical or moral consistency. Edwards claimed that it was better to follow an all-powerful tyrant who could guarantee salvation than a morally consistent God whose actions were mysterious and not easy to understand.

This was the same dilemma that the Roman Emperors used to try and destroy Christianity. Why put faith in a God who cannot save you from the tortures and abuse that an all-powerful emperor can guarantee to deliver in this world? Should we side with the all-powerful Goid whose motives are not morally clear or an all-good God who promises to bring everything eventually into line? The Christian Church made its choice in Patristic times and eventually converted the Emperors. Why did the Deformation make the opposite choice?

In the end this book is of historical significance only. There are far better books on these issues written from other perspectives.
The master work of America's greatest theologian.  Jul 15, 2003
Jonathan Edwards is one of the greatest thinkers in American history, and while "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God" has become his most famous work, "The Freedom of the Will" is his best. Two and a half centuries after Edwards wrote it, this book is still the premiere and most thorough argument for the complete sovereignty of God.

"The Freedom of the Will" is a challenging read and might be too hard for people new to the debate between Calvinists and Arminians. It would take too long to outline the entire argument Edwards makes or recap every point he touches on, but what follows are some examples of the ideas and questions raised by Edwards in this book.

1) It is alleged by Arminian belief that a person or action cannot be morally good (or bad) if the agent performing the action is incapable of doing otherwise. But can God be evil? The Bible teaches that He is not only holy, just, and perfect, but that He knows everything that has happened and everything that is to come. So can He do or be evil, or is His will and nature necessarily determined to be perfectly good? If God is capable of doing evil, and not necessarily good, then how can He assure us that He will be perfect for all eternity (if one day, He might choose not to be)? And if He is necessarily determined to be perfectly good forever and cannot be otherwise, does this make God any less holy, perfect, and morally virtuous? As a corollary to this, if He is no less praise-worthy by being necessarily holy, are we, as fallen human beings born into sinfulness, any less blame-worthy if we are necessarily inclined to evil, incapable of willing what is truly good?

2) Another area Edwards focuses on is discussing the Arminian contention that the will actually is free. Edwards takes this idea on by challenging what exactly is meant by the will, and therefore our actions, being "free". His reasoning would lead to questions along these lines: If a starving man is placed at a table with an appetizing pizza on his right, and an utterly foul concoction (insert your own horror) on his left, is he really free in what he wills to eat? What could possibly make this man choose to eat what was on his left rather than the pizza, other than some overriding, external threat? The only way this man might choose what was on the left, barring the overriding threat, would be his will being utterly indifferent to the two choices, and in this case, what kind of man would this be? (Imagine him eating the concoction with no care in the world, much as human beings so often can be seen going about sinning.)

Now, say humans were deceived and fell into a state where what appeared to be appetizing to us was really what made us sick whereas what was truly holy and good, appeared as unappetizing to us as the horrible concoction. (This deceptive state is what we fell into with the Fall of our original parents through their sin.) What would ever make us will to eat that disgustingly wretched concoction on the left? Even after we've tried it and seen how wonderful it is despite how it may appear to our sinful natures, we still go back to the poisonous pizza of sin over and over again. (And whereas the pizza and the concoction of this analogy are so clearly different, sin and God's holiness are infinitely more opposite to each other.) Why do we continue returning to what makes us sick? Why do we continue to see these things as beautiful and appetizing while the holiness of what God has commanded appears so unattractive? Someone says, "Just eat the nasty thing... you know it is good for you, ignore its appearances," and I cry out, "But I just can't!" (Or, as the Apostle Paul put it, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" - Romans 7:24)) Not only can't I eat what is so repulsive to me, but in actuality I don't want or will to, whereas I will to eat the "pizza" because I delight in my sins. It is only by some supernatural changing of my heart and mind that I will ever choose what is truly holy and good. But, oh, how wonderful to know that there is someone who makes this change for us, contrary to our corrupted will.

These questions touch on just a few of the topics concerning the human will and God's sovereignty that Jonathan Edwards discusses in "The Freedom of the Will". I've heard it explained that the Calvinist doctrine on these matters is like a candy with a hard exterior but a soft, delicious center, and I believe that's an accurate way to put it. With this book, Jonathan Edwards comes as close to helping Christians break through that hard exterior as any man ever has.

Great Work  Jun 21, 2003
This is truly one of the greatest works written. Daniel Webster wrote: "The Freedom of the Will" by Mr. Edwards is the greatest achievement of the human intellect." The London Quarterly Review wrote about this work: "His gigantic specimen of theological argument is as near to perfection as we may expect any human composition to approach. He unites the sharpness of the scimetar [sic] and the strength of the battle-axe." A former President of Princeton said that Edwards was "The greatest thinker that America has produced."

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