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Divine Will and Human Choice: Freedom, Contingency, and Necessity in Early Modern Reformed Thought (Muller)

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Baker Academic
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The relationship between divine providence and human freedom remains one of the most vexing topics in Christian theology. Many gravitate to extreme ends of the spectrum, with a version of hyper-Calvinism on one end or perhaps some form of open theism on the other. Christian theology seems ever in search of a way to articulate a balanced picture of a sovereign God in relationship to humans who can make choices.

This fresh study from an internationally respected scholar of the Reformation and post-Reformation eras shows how the Reformers and their successors analyzed and reconciled the concepts of divine sovereignty and human freedom. Richard Muller argues that traditional Reformed theology supported a robust theory of an omnipotent divine will and human free choice and drew on a tradition of Western theological and philosophical discussion that included such predecessor thinkers as Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus. In arguing this case, the book provides historical perspective on a topic of current interest and debate--the issue of freedom and determinism--and offers a corrective based on a broader analysis of the sources.


Table of Contents:

Part I: Freedom and Necessity in Reformed Thought: The Contemporary Debate

1. Introduction: The Present State of the Question

2. Reformed Thought and Synchronic Contingency: Logical and Historical Issues

Part II: Philosophical and Theological Backgrounds: Aristotle, Aquinas, and Duns Scotus

3. Aristotle and Aquinas on Necessity and Contingency

4. Duns Scotus and Late Medieval Perspectives on Freedom

Part III: Early Modern Reformed Perspectives: Contingency, Necessity, and Freedom in the Real Order of Being

5. Necessity, Contingency, and Freedom: Reformed Understandings

6. Scholastic Approaches to Necessity, Contingency, and Freedom: Early Modern Reformed Perspectives

7. Divine Power, Possibility, and Actuality

8. Divine Concurrence and Contingency

9. Conclusions



Richard A. Muller (PhD, Duke University) is P. J. Zondervan Professor of Historical Theology Emeritus and senior fellow of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is the author of numerous books



"Written by a great historical theologian and seminal thinker, this book is crucial for understanding a central debate in Christianity: God's sovereignty and human free will. There is no one as gifted at navigating these deep waters as Richard Muller. All theologians, pastors, and students of theology who desire a deeper understanding of how early Reformed divines affirmed absolute divine sovereignty without teaching fatalistic determinism should read this book." - Joel R. Beeke, president, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary

"Few scholars possess Richard Muller's knowledge of early modern theology or his ability to analyze with precision Reformed teaching on the central question of divine and human causality. The breadth and depth of Muller's command of Reformed thought displayed in this book are unrivaled, ensuring that Divine Will and Human Choice will quickly establish itself as a must-read for all students of Protestant theology." - Bruce Gordon, Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Yale Divinity School

"There is not a more contested area in the study of Reformed orthodoxy than issues of divine foreknowledge, human free will, and the nature of contingency. The matter is highly complicated and involves multiple questions of interpretation and reception, including how Aristotle was appropriated by medieval schoolmen, such as Aquinas and Scotus, and how the medievals were then used by the Reformed. Those new to the field can easily become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of primary literature and the confusing subtlety of the arguments. In this context, Divine Will and Human Choice by Richard Muller is a welcome addition to the literature because it offers both the neophyte and the scholar a superb account of the various questions involved and provides judicious critiques of the contemporary debate." - Carl R. Trueman, Paul Woolley Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary

"Once again Richard Muller has provided us with an extremely careful and insightful analysis on the development of Reformed theology. He has approached the topics of freedom and necessity in Reformed thought from his extremely knowledgeable background of ancient philosophy and medieval theology. In so doing he has provided a trajectory that demonstrates that Reformed thought cannot be understood in isolation from the Western tradition as a whole. This is a superb study, and there is much to learn from this volume." - Susan Schreiner, professor of the history of Christianity and theology, University of Chicago Divinity School