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on July 14, 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.
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on June 20, 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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VINE VOICEon December 18, 2008
We are free to do what we desire - but our desires are enslaved to sin ensuring that our "will" is no longer truly free. So argues Jonathan Edwards, considered by many to be America's premier philosopher and theologian. Few have given this difficult topic the kind of attention and logical sophistication that Dr. Edwards did in this treatise. Whether we are students of Calvin, Luther, Augustine, or Aquinas, there is much in this work we can appreciate from this giant of American intellects. This is not for the casual theological/philosophical mind but requires a great deal of concentration to grasp. The somewhat anachronistic 18th century language gives the work even more challenge. But the deeper appreciation of God's providence and grace will be it's own reward. These are not the doctrines of fatalism as another reviewer has described. These are the doctrines of a God who reaches out to mankind in our helpless state. It is by grace and grace alone that we can know and serve God only by the movement of His Holy Spirit in our lives. There may be subtle differences between the great thinkers on this topic (mentioned earlier) but none deny the essential truth that mankind is lost and finds no rest until it rests in Him. Essential reading for philosophers and theologians alike.
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on May 5, 2013
I ordered this book, same cover, about a month ago through Amazon and have begun reading it. I read some of it aloud to my wife, as I enjoy reading aloud. I have reached page 26. Here is what I have discovered: (1) Jonathan Edwards is very difficult to read. His thoughts are intricate and detailed. He was very intelligent, but his writing is not for the ordinary reader. (2) This particular printing --- Copyright 2011 ISBN 978-1463659899 --- was quite obviously typeset and printed without anyone taking the time to proofread the text for obvious errors. For example, on page 20, paragraph 2, second sentence, I find this: [my suggested corrections in brackets]

"For that which is possessed of no will, cannot have any paver [power]or opportunity of doing according to its mill, [will] nor be necessitated to act contrary to its will . . ." Near the end of the same paragraph is the this:
". . . but not that the bird's power of flying has a power arid [and] Liberty of flying."

Then in the next paragraph we find this: "But that which has no will, cannot be subject of these things, -- I need say the less on this bead [head], Mr. Locke having set the same thing forth . . ."

When one is seeking to gain a knowledge of Mr. Edwards' thoughts it is disturbing to have to try to figure out what the original text actually says. As a publisher of numerous books via , most of which I market via my own website and which includes two books [Luther on Human Will, and The Bondage of the Will] for which the text was meticulously copied from, or abridged from, other texts, I think I have a duty to report this kind of poor workmanship.

I also found typos on pages 9, 14, 17, 18, 19, 23 and 24. At this point it could be assumed that additional typos will be found throughout the text.

Finally, the book has no standard copyright page, but is listed as copyright 2011 by Legacy Publications on the title page. It provides no physical address, no website, and no email address by which anyone may contact them. This seems to be somewhat irregular among publishers. On the back of the final page is written "Made in the USA San Bernardino, CA 27 April 2013 [which was probably the date the book was printed on demand.]

Addenda: May 21, 2013. I have now read to page 72. I have found a few more typos on pages 26,27,34,36,37,46,50,61 (several), 62,63,66,67. The further I read, the easier I find the content in comprehension level, although I still find the arguments difficult and requiring close attention to the details. I expect to complete the book due to my personal interest in the subject matter and because he is dealing with the same general topic with which Martin Luther deals in his book The Bondage of the Will.
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I'm not a very smart guy. It took every ounce of my resolve to get through this book. I didn't understand all the arguments. However, I have a far better understanding of the Calvinist position on predestination. I learned a lot about how to construct logical argument. One of his main techniques is precisely defining his terms; for example, what exactly is "the will." He then shows how Arminians define the term in self-contradictory ways. I found "Religious Affections" much more convicting and accessible, but Edwards demonstrates his penetrating intellect more in "Freedom of the Will.". I would suggest planning to spend a lot of time trying to understand the arguments in this book.

This particular edition has a lot of typos. Something about "Cod's majestic glory" made me chuckle. Another problem is that there is no explanation by the publisher. Footnotes go on for pages and then are signed by "-W" Is this Edwards? Is this somebody else?

Great book. I don't know if it would convince a die hard Arminian, but the book makes me meditate on the nature of God and his relationship with creation and his creatures. Is God the author of evil? How can we be held responsible for moral choices when we are morally deficient to make good choices? What is human will?

I definitely need to go through the book again.
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on July 23, 2014
Good stuff but a little dense and the language is hard to understand at times. This book was written in the early 1700's before the revolution so the language is dated. Mr. Edwards' style also makes comprehension a little more challenging also. If you can get past the language issues he has a lot of great points. This book was written to counter arguments made by another man so not having read the initial material that this book answers makes it hard to follow the rebuttal at times.

Overall worth reading!
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on July 31, 2014
Please don't order your books any time from Legacy Publications. I have never came across a book with no product information, with only spelling mistakes, no paragraph arrangements, etc. I never thought I will end up feeling sorry about this. The worst publications I have ever came across in my whole life.
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on February 28, 2016
Timeless thought provoking book on mankind's free will. It initeresting look prior to the days of psychology and paints a real picture even in these days when we know so much about the nueral pathways in the brain.
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on March 2, 2016
I haven't read the book yet but I wanted to post about the physical book itself. It is a large 8 1/2" X 11" with a beautiful cover, a nicely spaced font, and will laid out text. I am looking forward to reading it for the pleasure of its quality. Thank you, Create Space Publishing for such a wonderful offering. I will look for more of your books for sure!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon September 16, 2014
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a Calvinist minister---who played a key role in the Great Awakening---and theologian. He wrote many works (e.g., The Great Awakening,Apocalyptic Writings,Freedom of the Will, etc.).

He wrote in the Preface of this 1754 book, "Of all kinds of knowledge that we can ever obtain, the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of ourselves, are the most important... as religion consists in an intercourse between ourselves and our maker; and so has its foundation in God's nature and ours, and in the relation that God and we stand in relation to each other; therefore a true knowledge of both must be needful in order to true religion. But the knowledge of ourselves consists chiefly in right apprehensions concerning those two chief faculties of our nature, the understanding and the will... And the grand question about the freedom of the will, is the main point that belongs to the science of the will. Therefore I say, importance of this subject greatly demands the attention of Christians, and especially of divines." (Pg. 3)

He states, "all things which are future... is not necessary in itself; for if so, they always would have existed. Nor is their existence become necessary by being made sure, by being already come to pass. Therefore, the only way that anything... can be necessary, is by a connection with something that is necessary in its own nature... And this also is the only way all things past, excepting those which were from eternity, could be necessary BEFORE they came to pass, or could come to pass necessarily; and therefore the only way in which any effect of event ... has come into being necessarily, or will hereafter necessarily exist. And therefore THIS is the necessity which especially belongs to controversies about the acts of the will." (Pg. 21)

He argues, "So that if the freedom of the will consists in this, that it has itself and its own actions under its command and direction, and its own volitions are determined by itself, it will follow, that every free volition arises from another antecedent volition, directing and commanding that... that is to say, that directing volition is determined by another going before that; and so on, `till we come to the first volition in the whole series: and if that first volition be free, and the will self-determined in it, then that is determined by another volition preceding that, which is a contradiction; because by the supposition, it can have none before it, to direct or determine it, being the first in the train. But if that first volition is not determined by any preceding act of the will, then that act is not determined by the will, and so is not free, in the Arminian notion of freedom... And if that first act of will, which determines and fixes the subsequent acts, be not free, none of the following acts, which are determined by it, can be free...' (Pg. 39-40)

He asserts, "If this [Arminian] notion of God's ignorance of the future volitions of moral agents be thoroughly considered in its consequences, it will appear to follow from it, that God, after he had made the world, was liable to be wholly frustrated of his end in the creation of it; and so has been in like manner liable to be frustrated of his end in all the great works he hath wrought." (Pg. 113-114)

He states, "if there be any sort of act, or exertion of the soul, prior to all free acts of the will or acts of choice in the case, directing and determining what the acts of the will shall be; that act or exertion of the soul can't properly be subject to any command or precept, in any respect whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, immediately or remotely... And thus the Arminian notion of the freedom of the will ... instead of being essential to moral agency... is utterly inconsistent with it. For if the soul determines ALL its acts of will, it is therein subject to no command or moral government... because its original determining act is no act of will or choice, it being prior, by the supposition, of EVERY act of will... So that `tis the Arminian scheme, not the scheme of the Calvinists, that is utterly inconsistent with moral government, and with all use of laws, precepts, prohibitions, promises, or threatenings." (Pg. 145-146)

He admits, "if it will follow at all, that God is the author of sin... it will follow because ... that for God to be the author or orderer of these things which he knows before-hand, will infallibly be attended with such a consequence, is the same thing in effect, as for him to be the author of that consequence. But if this be so, this is s difficulty which equally attends the doctrine of the Arminians themselves; at least, of those of them who allow God's certain foreknowledge of all events. For on the supposition of such a foreknowledge... God knew, that if he ordered and brought to pass such and such events, such sins would infallibly follow. As for instance, God certainly foreknew, long before Judas was born, that if he ordered things so, that there would be such a man born, at such a time, and that he should, in divine providence, be led into acquaintance with Jesus... and it would most certainly and infallibly follow, that Judas would betray his Lord, and would soon after hang himself, and die impenitent, and be sent to hell, for his horrid wickedness. Therefore this supposed difficulty...the Arminians share with us." (Pg. 235-236)

He suggests, "There is no inconsistency in supposing, that God may hate a thing as it is in itself, and considered simply as evil, and yet that it may be his will it should come to pass, considering all consequences... His willing to order things so that evil should come to pass, for the sake of the contrary good, is no argument that he don't hate evil, as evil: and if so, then it is no reason why he mayn't reasonably forbid evil as evil, and punish it as such." (Pg. 243)

Edwards' argumentation is just as sharp as it was more than 350 years ago; this book is "must reading" for anyone interested in the philosophy of Reformed Theology.
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