Divine Will and Human Choice: Freedom, Contingency, and Necessity in Early Modern Reformed Thought
Muller, Richard A.
“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.”See All
Joel R. Beeke
president, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
“This book provides a major reassessment of ancient and medieval antecedents of the Reformed understanding of contingency. Devoting specific attention to Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and John Duns Scotus, Muller highlights the eclecticism of Reformed orthodoxy. In particular, he develops a multilayered argument showing that Duns Scotus was both less of an innovator in his own day and less of a formative influence for later Reformed orthodoxy than has sometimes been suggested. This nuanced historical analysis of the early modern Reformed understanding of contingency under God is thought-provoking.”See All
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
“At long last we have a comprehensive historical study of the Reformed understanding of divine will and human free choice in its pre-Edwardsian formulation. Muller's analysis first introduces readers to the current state of the question, focusing particularly on synchronic contingency and its variant understandings. With a close reading of primary sources--reaching back to the various receptions of Aristotelian ideas among the medievals and centering on Aquinas and Duns Scotus--Muller unpacks how early Reformed thinkers and their heirs, the Reformed orthodox, treated matters surrounding necessity, contingency, and freedom relative to the divine will. Engaging the most prominent Reformed writers, including Calvin, Zanchius, Junius, Gomarus, Twisse, Owen, Voetius, and Turretin among others, this study demonstrates how these matters have been forgotten or misapprehended in modern discussions. Muller's work amply succeeds in showing how the Reformed orthodox knit a theological garment that does not well fit the modern categories and nomenclature of incompatibilism (or libertarianism) and compatibilism, that is, an indeterminism versus a raw determinism. In doing so, this volume is destined to propel the theological discussion surrounding necessity, contingency, and human freedom for decades to come.”See All
J. Mark Beach
Mid-America Reformed Seminary
“Muller continues to surprise readers with fascinating news from historical sources, and this rich volume is the latest fruit of his ongoing research. His careful analysis in Divine Will and Human Choice shows that this theme remains highly relevant for church and society today. Here Muller reevaluates positions, challenges readers, and serves theology with another fine work.”See All
professor of church history, Theological University Apeldoorn; director of Refo500
“Divine Will and Human Choice exhibits all the characteristics we have come to expect from Richard Muller. Through his compelling historical argumentation and mastery of ancient, patristic, medieval, and early modern sources, Muller demonstrates that the contemporary categories of compatibilism and libertarianism fail to capture the rich and variegated approaches of early modern Reformed theologians to questions of divine and human freedom, necessity, and contingency. The result is a new perspective on Reformed orthodox teaching about God and providence with new possibilities for constructive theology.”See All
Scott R. Swain
professor of systematic theology and academic dean, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando
“Muller's masterful treatment of God's will and human free choice is exemplary. It clearly and accurately presents the positions held by medieval and early modern Reformed theologians rather than spinning them in favor of a preferred position or conclusion. Muller has command of both the historical and contemporary philosophical categories and positions involved in theological debates, and he fruitfully relates historic positions to current philosophical and theological debates without anachronistically treating our theological ancestors as our philosophical contemporaries.”See All
professor of philosophical theology, Calvin 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.”See All
professor of the history of Christianity and theology, University of Chicago Divinity School
“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.”See All
Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Yale Divinity School
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.