Free-Willers in the Hands of an Angry Guy: Jonathan Edwards’ Philosophy of Human Freedom

The following is a paper originally submitted to Dr. Harold Netland in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the course PR 6411 History of Philosophy of Religion II at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL, April 2015.

Free-Willers in the Hands of an Angry Guy: Jonathan Edwards’ Philosophy of Human Freedom As Primarily Presented in Freedom of the Will

In the preface of his monumental work, A Careful and Strict Inquiry into that Modern Prevailing Notions of that Freedom of Will, Which is Supposed to Be Essential to Moral Agency, Virtue and Vice, Reward and Punishment, Praise and Blame,[1] Jonathan Edwards asserts that knowledge of ourselves, with particular reference to understanding the nature of human freedom, is next to knowledge of God as subjects of chief importance. Upon it rests all matters of religion, virtue, and the doctrines of grace (preface; IV.XIV).[2] Therefore, against the backdrop of the “Modern Prevailing Notion” of human freedom (i.e., libertarianism), Edwards seeks to establish what he sees as a more sure and stable philosophical conception of freedom upon which such things can rest securely. He finds his answer in theological deterministic compatibilism.

This paper seeks to succinctly analyze that philosophy of human freedom as Edwards primarily presents it in his monumental work Freedom of the Will.

I. Edwards’ Critique of Libertarianism

Edwards’ view of human freedom is clarified by his arguments against libertarianism. Thus, although it may seem backwards to begin with Edwards’ case against libertarianism (rather than for determinism), this process of ‘delineation by negation’ greatly serves heuristic purposes. But, not only so, Edwards’ proposal is also greatly advanced by its ability to resolve the problems he identifies with libertarianism. As Paul Ramsey notes, one of Edwards’ main arguments in favor of his conception of human freedom is simply “an exhaustive analysis of an act of volition,”[3] which of course involves the dismantling of opposing viewpoints. By means of this refutation, Edwards supports his case for a conception of freedom that consists in necessary causation or, in other words, determinism.

Edwards critiques a variety of forms of libertarianism.[4] The four to which he gives the most attention will be considered here. All maintain, in some fashion or another, that for acts to be free they must be contingent.

First, Edwards takes his aim at the view that freedom consists in a self-determining will, that the will itself possesses a certain sovereignty by which the will determines or causes itself to act independent of necessary causal connections with antecedent inclination. At this point, Edwards introduces a reductio ad absurdum argument to which he often finds himself returning throughout the Inquiry. Sam Storms provides an excellent summary:

[Edwards] points out that for the will to determine itself is for the will to act. Thus the act of will whereby it determines a subsequent act must itself be determined by a preceding act of will or the will cannot properly be said to be self-determined. If libertarianism is to be maintained, every act of will that determines a consequent act is itself preceded by an act of will, and so on until one comes to a first act of will. But if this first act is determined by a preceding one, it is not itself the first act. If, on the other hand, this act is not determined by a previous act, it cannot be free since it is not self-determined. If the first act of volition is not itself determined by a preceding act of will, that so-called first act is not determined by the will and is thus not free. . . . Therefore, the concept of freedom as self- determination either contradicts itself by positing an unchosen (i.e., non-self-determined) choice or shuts itself wholly out of the world by an infinite regress.[5]

In other words, a self-determining will either leads to an infinite regress of antecedent determinations to determine or an uncaused first cause and thus a denial of freedom according to its very own definition of freedom. To object that the will’s act of self-determination does not consist in antecedent acts of will but rather in the act of the will itself is to obscure matters with imprecise language. As Edwards says,

If the particular act or exertion of will, which comes into existence, be any thing properly determined at all, then it has some cause of existing . . . which cause is distinct from the effect, and prior to it. But to say, that the Will or mind orders, influences, and determines itself to exert an act by the very exertion itself, is to make the exertion both cause and effect (II.II).

Second, Edwards attacks the notion that acts of will come to pass without antecedent causation but occur spontaneously, as uncaused products of the will itself. Edwards responds simply by pointing out that nothing, especially acts of the will which are matters of design, purpose, and intent, come into existence without a sufficient cause:

As to all things that begin to be, they are not self-existent, and therefore must have some foundation of their existence without themselves.—That whatsoever begins to be, which before was not, must have a Cause why it then begins to exist (II.III).

Furthermore, this monolithic non-cause is unable to explain the diversity of effects among particular intentions of the will. If “the soul has no different causality, or diverse causal influence” (by definition of having no causality) than it “cannot diversify its own acts” or “be a determining Cause of different acts, or any different effects” (II.IV). And if particular causes do not account for the diversity of acts, what does?[6] In short, the will is merely an act of choice. It cannot in itself provide explanation for why such choices are made.

Third, some maintain that freedom consists in acts of the will maintaining a state of indifference independent of prevailing inclinations or inducements. However, Edwards responds by pointing out that to choose is by definition to prefer something. Thus, this view in essence maintains that “the soul prefers one thing to another, at the very same time that it has no preference” (II.VII), which is absurd. If one counters that freedom consists in the will bringing itself from a state of perfect indifference to a state of preference and choice, Edwards asks, how can the soul’s state of indifference lead to preference since to be totally indifferent is by definition not to prefer (II.VII)? Thus, in summary, freedom of choice cannot consist in indifference since indifference, by definition, cannot coexist with choice.

Edwards points out that this position suffers due to a lack of clarity. It recognizes an indifference one may posses with regards to objects of choice and falsely attributes such an indifference to acts of choice (II.VI). As Ramsay explains, the presence of indifference “means only that the mind is not yet choosing or we have not yet focused our attention upon what happens when it actually gets to the point of making a choice.” “It may be that the mind is torn between competing motives until it comes to a decision” but “there can be no contradiction among inclinations when the soul gets to the point of actually inclining one way.”[7] As Edwards say, “where there is absolutely no preferring or choosing, but a perfect, continuing equilibrium, there is no volition” (I.I). To choose is, by definition, to have a strongest preference.

Finally, Edwards critiques the position that liberty consists in the ability to suspend an act of will and maintain a state of indifference until further deliberation can occur. He does so by simply pointing out that act of suspension is itself an act of the will open to all the considerations heretofore mentioned (II.VII). Therefore, this maneuver only manages to push the question of freedom one stage back—“if this act of determining a suspension be the only act in which the Will is free, then wherein consists the Will’s freedom with respect to this act of suspension?” (II.VII). In this case, Edwards’ reductio ad absurdum is applicable once again: either the liberty of the act to suspend action consists in further antecedent acts of suspension ad infinitum or an act of suspension itself lacks an antecedent act of suspension and is therefore not free according to this definition of freedom. Furthermore, by transferring freedom to something antecedent to the act of will, this explanation fails to address the matter of freedom in the thing under immediate consideration—the act of will itself (II.VII).

Thus, for Edwards, all conceptions of libertarian freedom either collapse in on themselves in absurdity or imply a nature freedom that is unrecognizable as such. All attempts to explain the design of contingent acts of the will result in absurdity or failure. As such, contingency is stripped bare and exposed for what it would actually imply—acts of the will as random and nothing more than mere accidents (II.XIII). “The notion of liberty of will, in this sense [i.e., perfect contingency], implies perfect freedom from every thing that should previously fix, bind, or determine it” (Original Sin, I.IX), including the willer himself. But how is this “free will”? It’s certainly free, so much so that one can’t spot their will in the matter! And thus the term “free will,” within the confines of the libertarian system, is exposed as an oxymoron. As Edwards will argue, the only way for acts of the will to be truly free in the normal sense of the word is actually for them to be determined, for then they can honestly be said to be acts of the willer himself.

II. Edwards’ Conception of Human Freedom

Edwards defines freedom as “The power, opportunity, or advantage, that any one has, to do as he pleases” (I.V). He draws attention to the fact that the concept of freedom (and the will—to be discussed below) in itself does not take into consideration how one arrives at such volitions. One is free when one chooses as one pleases, regardless of whether such choices are caused or uncaused, determined or contingent, etc. Remembering this keeps one from inappropriately importing preconceived metaphysical expectations into words like “freedom” and dismissing out of hand other possibilities.[8] With this in mind, the opposite of freedom is not causation,[9] but rather compulsion or restraint—being forced to do what one does not want or hindered from doing what one does want (I.V).

The will, according to Edwards, is “That power, or principle of mind, by which it is capable of choosing: an act of the Will is the same as an act of choosing or choice” (I.I). Thus, according to Edwards, the question, “Is the will free?” is badly posed.[10] Attributing freedom to the faculty of the will implies that at the level choice a certain sovereignty exists. That is, agency is attributed to the will itself by which it is able to choose contrary to prevailing motives and inclinations. But Edwards exposes these mistaken notions as built upon obscure and imprecise language. Proper nuance is crucial here.

In propriety of speech, neither Liberty, nor its contrary, can properly be ascribed to any being or thing, but that which has such a faculty, power or property, as is called Will. . . . And therefore to talk of Liberty, or the contrary, as belonging to the very Will itself, is not to speak good sense. . . . For the Will itself is not an Agent that has a will: the power of choosing, itself, has not a power of choosing. That which has the power of volition is the man, or the soul, and not the power of volition itself. And he that has the Liberty of doing according to his will, is the Agent who is possessed of the Will; and not the Will which he is possessed of. (1.5)

According to Edwards, such flawed notions involve a categorical confusion—viewing the will as a causal agent rather than the effect of agency, i.e., the person in the act of choosing.[11]

But if the will is an effect, what is its cause? Why are particular acts of the will, or choices, thus and not otherwise? To use Edwards’ words, “What determines the will?” (I.II). The answer is what Edwards calls motive.

Every act of the Will whatsoever is excited by some motive: which is manifest, because, if the mind, in willing after the manner it does, is excited by no motive or inducement, then it has no end which it proposes to itself, or pursues in so doing; it aims at nothing, and seeks nothing. And if it seeks nothing, then it does not go after any thing, or exert any inclination or preference towards any thing. Which brings the matter to a contradiction; because for the mind to will something, and for it to go after something by an act of preference and inclination, are the same thing (2.10).

By motive Edwards means, “the whole of that which moves, excites, or invites the mind to volition, whether that be one thing singly, or many things conjunctly” (I.II). Thus, motive is a complex and comprehensive category, involving the whole of factors that lead to a particular inclination of the will—desire, cognition, appetite, emotion, supernatural realites, etc.[12] The strength of a motive is its “degree of tendency, or advantage to move or excite the Will” (I.II). And it is the strongest motive that determines the will (I.II).

But what causes some motives to be stronger than others? Elsewhere Edwards states that “the Will [or “present volition”] always is, as the greatest apparent good is” (I.II), that is, that which “in the present view of his mind, taken in the whole of it, is most agreeable [or “pleasing”] to him” (I.II). Notice, under consideration is not the agreeableness of the object of choice itself, but its agreeableness as it stands in the present view of the mind. Furthermore, when Edwards speaks of the apprehension of greatest apparent good, he means as it is apprehended in a present, immediate, and direct sense (“the present view of the mind”). This is another way of saying that in the process of deliberation the mind cannot take into consideration what it is not considering. Those factors which collectively compose the strongest motive are not factors beyond the immediate, direct, and present consideration. Two categories of these factors contribute to a choice’s agreeableness in the mind’s eye: (1) the degree of good apprehended in the nature of the object of choice itself and (2) the degree or manner of its apprehension by the mind (I.II; see also ‘The Mind,’ no. 21).

To avoid any confusion that the will is an independent faculty or “distinct entity that enters into the equation,”[13] Edwards prefers to say that “the will is as the greatest apparent good” rather than “is determined by the greatest apparent good.” As he says, “appearing most agreeable to the mind, and the mind’s preferring, seem scarcely distinct” (I.II). Or elsewhere, “The Will, Choice, etc. is nothing else, but the mind’s being pleased with an idea, or having superior pleasedness in something. . . .” (‘The Mind,’ no. 67). Thus, in Edwards’ conception of the will’s determination, such a necessary connection exists between the strongest motive and its consequent choice that the will always is as the strongest motive, and never otherwise. “The choice of the mind never departs from that which, at the time, and with respect to the direct and immediate objects of decision, appears most agreeable and pleasing, all things considered” (I.II)

At this point, many object to the necessary causal connection Edwards ties between motive and choice. For example, McCann argues that whereas choice is a voluntary commitment to pursue the course one intends, motive is merely a passive, involuntary disposition of liking something and does not necessarily involve commitment to pursue a given course of action.[14] However, such criticisms fail to grapple with the nature of Edwards’ view.

First, Edwards actually responds to the exact same objection and proposed alternative in II.X of the Inquiry. If all motives are merely passive and do not necessarily involve pursuit of their ends, and if choice must involve an agent first yielding to a given motive, how then, Edwards asks, does that yielding occur? Is it not itself a choice, a determination to yield? But if an act of will, it itself requires an antecedent motivation, and that motivation an act of will, and so on ad infinitum. Thus, Edwards shows the folly of the proposed alternative.

On the other hand, in support of his own view, Edwards appeals to the reality of sufficient causation—that every effect, including acts of the will, must have a sufficient cause; that everything that comes into being must have a sufficient explanation for its coming into being. But furthermore, according to Edwards, a sufficient cause, by definition of being sufficient, is also a necessary cause, otherwise it would prove itself to be insufficient to produce its effect in this particular instance. If a sufficient cause cannot but produce its effect, it is also a necessary cause. Therefore, if motives are the sufficient causes of acts of the will, as Edwards has already established, then acts of the will must be necessarily causally connected to those motives.

However, Edwards, like McCann, recognizes the reality of un-acted-upon, involuntary and even conflicting motives. He recognizes the existence of motives that are insufficient to excite the will and thus remain “dormant.” Therefore, he not only seeks to prove merely why one chooses, but to provide a coherent answer for why one chooses thus and not otherwise. In other words, with numerous apparent possible motives, why does one motive “win out” over others, and that by necessity? Here Edwards appeals to the nature of choosing, the nature of an act of will, to establish the necessary causal relationship between strongest motive and choice.

Conflict may exist among competing motives and inclinations prior to or even during the moment of choice. But to choose is by definition to have a strongest preference, for one cannot chose other than what one wants.[15] “It is absurd to suppose that a man should . . . have an inclination, which at the same time is contrary to his inclination: for that is to suppose him not to be inclined to that which he is inclined to” (III.V). As Ramsay succinctly puts it, a man is free to do what he wills, but not to do what he does not will.”[16] Furthermore, to say one may choose a lesser preference is equivalent to saying that one prefers a lesser preference over that which is their greatest preference, in which case the lesser preference is actually the greater preference, which is absurd. And thus the act of will, i.e., the person in the act of choosing, is always uniform, never conflicted, and in agreement with itself in following the strongest motive. “Present choice cannot at present choose to be otherwise: for that would be at present to choose something diverse from what is at present chosen” (III.IV). No room exists for conflict in the act of choosing itself. And thus, if uniform, the will must necessarily follow the dictates of the strongest motive. Therefore, in summary, although Edwards recognizes the existence of so-called ‘involuntary motives,’ he demonstrates that the strongest motive, by definition of being the strongest, is necessarily volitional.

Edwards defines necessity, according to its metaphysical or philosophical usage, as “the full and fixed connexion between the things signified by the subject and predicate of a proposition” (I.IV). In other words, a thing is necessary when it is certain, when it cannot be otherwise. Its opposite is contingency—“something which has absolutely no previous ground or reason, with which its existence has any fixed and certain connexion” (I.IV). Likewise, impossibility and inability in their philosophical sense refer to a “negative Necessity, or a Necessity that a thing should not be” (I.IV).

These philosophical uses are to be distinguished from their common, non-technical use in which they have a relative sense, implying some supposed opposition to the existence of a thing. With reference to acts of the will, such terms often seem to imply compulsion or restraint. However, philosophical necessity does not imply such resistance, just certainty. Thus, philosophical necessity is not necessarily incompatible with freedom. As Ramsey notes, to use such terms in their everyday sense “when conversant about the internal act of volition itself makes perfect nonsense, for here there is no supposable opposition. If a man wills, he wills or is preponderantly inclined.”[17]

At this point, Edwards distinguishes between what he calls moral and natural necessity, a key distinction that allows him to demonstrate that determinism is not necessarily incompatible with freedom and moral agency. By natural necessity he means “Such Necessity as men are under through the force of natural causes” (I.IV). Likewise, natural inability refers to the inability to do something due to natural causes such as external impediment, faculty of understanding, bodily constitution, etc. (I.IV). Thus, for example, a man stepping off a ledge falls by natural necessity; he is naturally unable to prevent himself from falling due to the law of gravity. As such, natural necessity implies a restriction on freedom in the form of compulsion or restraint. By moral necessity Edwards means “that Necessity of connexion and consequence, which arises from such moral causes, as the strength of inclination, or motives, and the connexion which there is in many cases between these and such certain volitions and actions” (I.IV). Likewise, moral inability refers to “the want of inclination; or the strength of a contrary inclination; or the want of sufficient motives in view, to induce and excite the act of the Will, or the strength of apparent motives to the contrary.” Thus, for example, an unregenerate, morally depraved individual is unable to repent, apart from the grace of God, because he is unable to want to repent. Notice, the distinction between natural and moral necessity is not the nature of causation or degree of necessity, for an absolute necessity exists in both, but the type or kind of cause—natural vs. moral. As such, moral inability is never in conflict with freedom. Whereas natural necessity may be categorized as a necessity external to the will—something imposed on the will and potentially contrary to one’s will—moral necessity is a necessity of the will. Any sense of compulsion or restraint is by definition excluded.

No such opposition, or contrary will and endeavour, is supposable in the case of moral Necessity; which is a certainty of the inclination and will itself; which does not admit of the supposition of a will to oppose and resist it (I.IV).

As such, Edwards admits that “moral inability” is actually an inappropriate term. He explains,

Man cannot be truly said to be unable to do a thing, when he can do it if he will. It is improperly said, that a person cannot perform those external actions, which are dependent on the act of the Will, and which would be easily performed, if the act of the Will were present. . . . Therefore, in these things, to ascribe a non-performance to the want of power or ability, is not just; because the thing wanting is not a being able, but a being willing (I.IV).

In other words, moral inability is not concerned with being able, for one is certainly able if only one willed, but being willing.[18] Correspondingly, whereas natural necessity implies excusability, moral necessity involves responsibility.

III. Summary & Assessment

To summarize, Edwards advocates for a compatibilist conception of human freedom. His position rests on the following claims: The will is not an independent entity possessing a sense of agency, but a faculty of the person; and it is the person who possesses this agency. As such, the will does not play an autonomous determining role in the act of choosing, but is merely a ‘passive’ subject that never departs from the person’s strongest motive. Rather than determinism diminishing liberty, in Edwards’ conception, “it is impossible for any one to rise higher in his conceptions of liberty than this” (IV.XV), one in which the will is so integrally related to the person and so sure a connection exists between what the agent wants and what the agent actually chooses. Thus, rather than consisting in any sense of contingency, freedom consists in the will following the dictates of motive, i.e., the ability for one to do as he pleases.

Within the boundaries set by Edwards’ definitions of terms, it would seem that Edwards’ case is logically impenetrable. If one was to refute his position, they would need to undercut something in his definitional framework, not his arguments themselves. As Guelzo says, once one accepts his definitions “the hook is in the mouth and one is led inexorably to a Calvinistic [deterministic] conclusion.”[19] However, to accuse Edwards of merely assuming his position rather than proving it would be unfair. He begins his Inquiry by defining terms (section I); but he does so for heuristic purposes, not that by presuming these definitions at the outset he may exclude all alternatives a priori. Rather, in the remaining three sections of the book, through careful analysis of alternatives, Edwards proves and establishes the validity of those definitions.

However, in terms of theological implications, a significant weakness exists in Edwards’ proposal. At face value, his position seems unable to account for the original sin of mankind: If Adam and Even were made upright and with no inclination to evil (Gen 2:31; Ecc 7:29), how could they have apprehended sin as the greatest apparent good?[20]

Nonetheless, despite this difficulty, Edwards won a decisive victory against his contemporary opponents. Some Edwardsian scholars even claim an broader victory.[21] To be fair, however, ongoing debate between indeterminists and determinists indicates the matter is far from settled. One might even say, it is yet to be determined (pun intended). Nevertheless, the enduring value of Edwards’ work is demonstrated by its enduring presence in that discussion even today.


[1] Hereafter referred to as Freedom of the Will or Inquiry.

[2] All in-text citations of Edwards are from The Works of Jonathan Edwards (vol. 1; Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008) and are from Freedom of the Will unless stated otherwise.

[3] Paul Ramsay, “Editor’s Introduction,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (Freedom of the Will) (New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press, 1957), 11.

[4] Some criticize Edwards for unfairly lumping together various forms of libertarianism under the umbrella of ‘Arminianism’ and unjustly rejecting them on the same grounds, as if the merits and perspectives of each were identical (see e.g., Norman Fiering, Jonathan Edwards’s Moral Thought and Its British Context [Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1981], 292). However, this critique suffers from two errors: (1) It misunderstands Edwards’ use of the term ‘Arminian,’ a use he explains in his preface. Edwards yields to the prevailing use of the term ‘Arminian’ in his day, which, as Ramsay notes, became a loose term for a variety of opinions that were anti-Calvinist (“Editor’s Introduction,” 3). (2) Although lumping all under the term ‘Arminian,’ Edwards nevertheless recognizes and addresses a variety of libertarian positions, as will be shown below.

[5] C. Samuel Storms, “The Will: Fettered Yet Free (Freedom of the Will),” in A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 203–204.

[6] Storms, “The Will: Fettered Yet Free (Freedom of the Will),” 204; Daniel P. Fuller, “A Digest of Jonathan Edwards’ Freedom of the Will,” n.d.,

[7] Ramsay, “Editor’s Introduction,” 16–17. See Edwards in I.I; I.IV; III.IV; and III.V.

[8] Ibid., 11, 15–16.

[9] Hugh McCann, “Edwards on Free Will,” in Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian, ed. Paul Helm and Oliver Crisp (Aldershot, Hants, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003), 36; Allen C. Guelzo, Edwards on the Will: A Century of American Theological Debate (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1989), 7. As McCann states later, “On this kind of account, freedom has nothing to do with the connection between motives and will — that is, between antecedents of decision or volition and these mental acts. Rather, freedom concerns the relation between willing and its consequences, with whether decision and volition are able to issue in the behavior chosen” (32).

[10] John E. Smith, Jonathan Edwards: Puritan, Preacher, Philosopher (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992), 15.

[11] Michael James McClymond and Gerald R. McDermott, The Theology of Jonathan Edwards (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012), 341.

[12] McCann, “Edwards on Free Will,” 35; Fiering, Jonathan Edwards’s Moral Thought and Its British Context, 306; Smith, Jonathan Edwards, 64–65.

[13] James Strauss argues that Edwards’ necessary connection between the strongest motive and the will exists because he has conflated the two concepts. In other words, the will always follows the strongest motive because, for Edwards, it is nothing more than the strongest motive. Thus, Edwards fails to demonstrate the necessity of the connection; rather, he mere assumes it a priori. However, Edwards does not conflate the strongest motive and the will. He associates them as closely as he does because, as noted, he is seeking to guard against the idea that the will possess a certain sovereignty or agency in itself. He refers to the will as being the strongest motive because the will always follows the strongest motive and as such cannot be conceived of apart from it. Nevertheless, he clearly views the two as distinct since elsewhere he can refer to motive as something that excites the will (Smith, Jonathan Edwards, 65; John Piper, “James D. Strauss’ Critique of Jonathan Edwards’ Freedom of the Will,” Desiring God, November 1, 1976,; Guelzo, “The Return of the Will: Jonathan Edwards and the Possibilities of Free Will,” 91; Douglas Sweeney, “Study Guide to Jonathan Edwards’s Freedom of the Will [1754]”).

[14] McCann, “Edwards on Free Will,” 32, 37.

[15] One may choose that which they do not prefer in a general sense; but in the act of choice, one always chooses their greatest preference. To illustrate, if one is robbed at gunpoint, he or she may not prefer to hand over their money. However, all factors being considered, they may prefer to hand over their money rather than risk being harmed. In this case, although they have chosen against their general preference to keep their money, they have chosen in line with their greater preference.

[16] Ramsay, “Editor’s Introduction,” 13.

[17] Ibid., 39.

[18] Smith, Jonathan Edwards, 69.

[19] Guelzo, Edwards on the Will, 72–73.

[20] For an attempt to solve this predicament from within Edwards’ own philosophy and theology, see Peter Beck “The Fall of Man and the Failure of Jonathan Edwards,” The Evangelical Quarterly. 79, no. 3 (2007): 209–26.

[21] For example, Ramsay states that in his Inquiry Edwards “delivered the most thoroughgoing and absolutely destructive criticism that liberty of indifference, without necessity, has ever received” (“Editor’s Introduction,” 2). And Storms contends that Edwards’ critique “has yet to be successfully refuted” (“The Will: Fettered Yet Free [Freedom of the Will],” 201–202).


Beck, Peter. “The Fall of Man and the Failure of Jonathan Edwards.” The Evangelical Quarterly 79, no. 3 (2007): 209–26.

Daniel P. Fuller. “A Digest of Jonathan Edwards’ Freedom of the Will,” n.d.

Douglas Sweeney. “Study Guide to Jonathan Edwards’s Freedom of the Will (1754),” n.d.

Edwards, Jonathan. Freedom of the Will. Edited by Paul Ramsay. Vol. Vol. 1. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1957.

———. Original Sin. Edited by Clyde A. Holbrook. The Works of Jonathan Edwards Vol. 3. New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1970.

———. “The Mind.” Scientific and Philosophical Writings. Edited by Wallace Earl Anderson. Vol. Vol. 6. The Works of Jonathan Edwards. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980.

Fiering, Norman. “Morality and Determinism.” Jonathan Edwards’s Moral Thought and Its British Context. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1981.

Guelzo, Allen C. “After Edwards: Original Sin and Freedom of the Will.” After Jonathan Edwards: The Courses of the New England Theology. Edited by Oliver Crisp and Douglas A. Sweeney. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012.

———. Edwards on the Will: A Century of American Theological Debate. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1989.

———. “The Return of the Will: Jonathan Edwards and the Possibilities of Free Will.” Edwards in Our Time: Jonathan Edwards and the Shaping of American Religion. Edited by Sang Hyun Lee and Allen C. Guelzo. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1999.

Holmes, Stephen R. “Strange Voices: Edwards on the Will.” Listening to the Past: The Place of Tradition in Theology. Carlisle, Cumbria, UK; Grand Rapids, MI: Paternoster Press; Baker Academic, 2002.

Lee, Sang Hyun. The Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.

Marsden, George M. A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2008.

Maurer, Armand A. “Edwards, Jonathan.” The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Paul Edwards. New York, NY: Macmillan, 1967.

McCann, Hugh. “Edwards on Free Will.” Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian. Edited by Paul Helm and Oliver Crisp. Aldershot, Hants, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003.

McClymond, Michael James, and Gerald R. McDermott. The Theology of Jonathan Edwards. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012. See specifically the chapters “Edwards’s Intellectual Context” and “Free Will and Original Sin.”

Piper, John. “James D. Strauss’ Critique of Jonathan Edwards’ Freedom of the Will.” Desiring God, November 1, 1976.

Ramsay, Paul. “Editor’s Introduction.” The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Vol. 1 (Freedom of the Will). New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press, 2009.

Smith, John E. Jonathan Edwards: Puritan, Preacher, Philosopher. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992. See specifcally the chapters, “Jonathan Edwards: His Life and Times,” “Edwards’s Thought and the Philosophy of Locke,” and “Freedom of the Will.”

Storms, C. Samuel. “Open Theism in the Hands of an Angry Puritan: Jonathan Edwards on Divine Foreknowledge.” The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards: American Religion and the Evangelical Tradition. Edited by D. G Hart, Sean Michael Lucas, and Stephen J Nichols. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003.

———. “The Will: Fettered Yet Free (Freedom of the Will).” A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards. Edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004.

———. Tragedy in Eden: Original Sin in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1985.

Talbot, Mark R. “True Freedom: The Liberty That Scripture Portrays as Worth Having.” Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity. Edited by John Piper, Justin Taylor, and Paul Kjoss Helseth. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003.

Wainwright, William J. “Edwards, Jonathan (1703-58).” Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward Craig. London; New York, NY: Routledge, 1998.