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Love, Freedom, and Evil: Does Authentic Love Require Free Will? (Currents of Encounter) Paperback – May 20, 2011
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The analytical rigor of his exposition, the way in which the argumentation has been structured to progressively sharpen and deepen the focus of the critique, the compelling clarity of his thought and the almost blistering style of his writing, his ingenious ability to invigorate the discussion with metaphor, thought experiments and examples from ordinary life, and his evident mastery of the relevant literature, are only some of the outstanding features of what can rightfully be described as a tour de force. Willie van der Merwe, VU University Amsterdam/Stellenbosch University
The manuscript provides a well written critical analysis of the Relational Free Will Defence and is a significant and original contribution to current scholarship in philosophical theology ... Even those scholars who (like myself) do not agree with the author s preferred solutions, cannot merely dismiss his arguments, but will be necessitated to provide adequate counter arguments in order to uphold their alternative views. In this way the manuscript is a worthy contribution to the current debate. Even his opponents can learn much from his argument. Vincent Brummer, Utrecht University
Why another book on the problem of evil? Judging by the volume of scholarly and popular work on this subject in recent decades, this perennial and vexing human question remains very much on our hearts and minds. Every now and again, though, there are truly new treatments that move the ball down the field. This is such a volume. Simultaneously rigorous and sympathetic in its engagement with contemporary defenders of libertarian free will, Williams also contributes fresh insights of his own to a debate in which nothing new under the sun is often the rule. Especially among those of us who think they ve already made up their minds on this question, Love, Freedom and Evil not only deserves but demands a serious reading and evaluation. Michael Horton, Westminster Seminary California"
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Top Customer Reviews
Much of the book is dedicated to Biblical exegesis of an incredible caliber. William's precise language and helpful illustrations combine to form what is truly a page turner.
Even more impressive is the sincere down to Earth tone that permeates the book. Williams is as much concerned with providing a refutation as he is in building the faith of the reader. For this I commend him and it made the book an absolute joy to read cover to cover.
This is truly seminal work. The book offers such a unique perspective on old arguments that it is difficult not to envision this as a new classic. This is a serious effort where the opposing view is given every opportunity to defend itself.
Logical, rational, controlled, respectful, Biblical, and ultimately edifying, "Love, Freedom, and Evil" deserves a space on the book shelf of any student of the Bible, lay person, theologian, or philosopher alike.
I give this four stars because of two areas the author does not address. First is the theodicy of perspective. Evil will only need to be endured for a limited time which is not to be compared to eternity. Also, human happiness is not the end purpose of man but rather knowing God. Secondly, he does not mention the eternal state where people will have free will (no one argues with that) and there will be no sin. So then it is possible for God to create such a world despite the claims of those who advocate that free will will naturally lead to evil. (Origen of Alexandria thought along these lines and left open the possibility that during "eternal state" that man might sin again and repeat the fall all over again.)
In summary, this book should be read by anyone who wants to explore this topic in a thoughtful way. This work is well referenced with footnotes and notations which can lead the reader to further study if one is interested in reading further.
Williams show graciousness and charity throughout as he refuses to caricature his opponents, namely - theologians who embrace the notion of libertarian free will, i.e. the power of contrary choice. The author refers to libertarian free will as the "Axiom of Libertarian Love," which he defines at the outset: "Any agent, A, must possess libertarian free will to love or refrain from loving another agent, B, if A's love for B is to count as authentic." The central aim of William's work is to dismantle this argument.
Williams cuts through a wide range of philosophers, theologians, and Christian writers - from Pelagius and Cassius to Norm Geisler and Rob Bell. He is to be commended for keeping an extremely complicated topic accessible for readers willing to put forth the effort.
In part one, the author argues the notion of libertarian free will actually militates against authentic love: "Libertarian free will, which seemed like a requirement of authentic love from a pre-analytical perspective, turns out to be a significant threat to authentic love."
Part two examines whether the idea of libertarian free will has the theological endurance when subjected to deep biblical insight, what Williams refers to as "depth capacity." The old Pelagian argument that "ought" implies "can" is addressed with the full weight of biblical authority.
Finney's flawed anthropology is exposed, namely - that sinners have "the natural ability to obey God." Williams unravel's Finney's argument by making an appeal to John's gospel. He adds, "Can the notion that `ought implies can' breath at the depth of John 6:44?" The contextual answer is a resounding no!
The author turns to Luther to expose the erroneous views concerning liberty in Erasmus: "For Luther, imperatives do not lead to the libertarian conclusion that `ought implies can,' but rather: Ought exposes cannot, and cannot exposes the need for radical grace."
Williams insight is something akin to Luther's: "From this `ought exposes cannot' perspective, God is not like a bully commanding a blind man to behold the Sistine Chapel for sadistic pleasure. Rather, the picture of God comes closer to that of a compassionate optometrist who commands a blind patient to behold the Sistine Chapel before restoring his sight. The impossible command serves the vital function of demonstrating who deserves all credit once the patient marvels at the painted ceiling with clear eyes." The remaining chapters deal with the tension between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility.
Finally, part three focuses on "the scope of divine action in human love." This section is arguably the most helpful section of the book. The author alerts the reader to several models of divine action in human love. He presents the Pelagian, Semi-pelagian, Arminian, Augustinian views and also includes a view that could be construed as Pantheistic. The tension is presented between divine giving and human coming, divine unifying and human loving, and divine raising and human remaining.
The author succeeds in roundly refuting libertarian free will. He stands in a long line of godly men who have done the same including Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, and John Owen.