Book Review: Whedon’s Freedom of the Will

, posted by Godismyjudge

John Wagner recently edited and republished Daniel Whedon’s Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan response to Jonathan Edwards. The book is an outstanding refutation of Edward’s Inquiry into the Will. Whedon seeks and engages top authors and arguments like Hobbs’ argument (later adopted by Locke and Edwards) that free will is incoherent, because it either amounts to a causeless cause or infinite regression of causes. Whedon responds by pointing out 1) the will is the cause of choice (74); 2) defining indeterministic causes (38-39); and 3) explaining that indeterministic causes account for either choice (71-72). In other words, indeterministic causes explain the goal of our choices (or reason for our choices), but the will is the cause we choose this goal, not that goal. This is essentially agent causation.

Whedon’s discussion of foreknowledge is fascinating. His refutation of Edwards’ “God’s foreknowledge rules out freewill” argument is solid. I like his pointing out that we don’t know how God knows the future (229). I really like his moderate use of Molinism (245, 256). He enters into an interesting discussion about the difference between certainty and necessity. Apparently Calvinists were split in reaction to Hobbs. Some (like Edwards) argued that the future is necessary. Others said it is not necessary, but it’s certain. Whedon argues that certainty is equal to necessity if in every possible world the thing never happens (190-191).

Whedon’s response to Edwards is devastating. He points out that Edwards’ view of freedom is post-volitional, not freedom of the will (17). Edwards’ notion of freedom is accurate, but incomplete and irrelevant to the Calvinist/Arminian debate. Whedon explains that the three types of necessity (causal, logical and temporal) are all necessity. (33) Edwards’ attempt to split necessity into various categories is one of the ways he goes way off course. Whedon argues that saying “I can do X” implies “I can choose to do X” (209). Whedon exposes Edwards’ error of attempting to split them and then usurp the common notion of freedom based only on “I can do X”. Whedon explains that choice makes the strongest motive and the last judgment of reason strongest and last (57).

I am glad John Wagner brought Daniel Whedon back. It’s good to see such a strong Arminian response to Edwards, especially since I have often heard the claim that Edwards is unanswered.