- Series: Currents of Encounter (Book 41)
- Paperback: 214 pages
- Publisher: Rodopi; First Edition edition (May 20, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9042033592
- ISBN-13: 978-9042033597
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,519,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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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.
1)Evil and the Autonomous Heart-Dr. Williams begins his work with a historical survey of the problem of evil and the Relational Free Will Defense (RFWD). From his perusal of secular and sacred history, it is evident that the FRWD is the most common response to the vexing issue. The author gives three criteria for building a theodicy; it has to possess philosophical, biblical, and existential credibility. For many, the RFWD has just that. Proponents of RFWD recognize three dimensions of the argument: intransitivity, anthropological and the relational. The intransitivity dimension protects the character of God by anchoring moral responsibility in the two-way, self-moving power humanity possesses (i.e. libertarian freedom). The anthropological dimension states that although it may be abused, the ability to actualize moral evil is essential to the humanness of humanity. If humanity is expected to do good, they must have the ability to also do bad. Although it opens the door for the possibility of moral evil, libertarian freedom is a necessary condition for the existence and expression of true love according to the relational dimension.
Disagreeing with proponents of RFWD, Dr. Williams believes there exists a necessity that is not only compatible with free action and true love but serves as an integral and essential element for the freest of actions and the truest of loves. That necessity is the freedom of the heart (the desires, beliefs, character, and other things in our makeup). Libertarians rightly object to both the freedom from the machine (love coerced via biological or chemical changes) and the freedom from the gunman (love coerced via the end of a barrel), but wrongly include the freedom from the heart within their examples without explanation. He agrees libertarians are right to object to the first two freedoms. The author sees two fundamental problems freedom from the heart presents for libertarians (the problems of who and why). First, freedom from the heart implies that a choosing agent is of transcendental substance (i.e. the agent stands over all desires and aversions indifferently). The problem with this notion is that the nature of love is teleological. Love entails the lover's goal-oriented pursuit of the beloved's good. Agreeing with Jonathan Edwards, the author affirms that the greater degree of indifference within the agent, the lesser degree of love within the agent. Second, libertarians fail to adequately explain the sufficient and causal reason why any agent makes a free decision. The author objects to the responses given by RFWD defenders such as choices result from the moving around of subatomic particles and the unnecessary nature of sufficient causes for decisions within libertarianism.
2)Freedom and the Enslaved Heart-The writer responds to three common arguments for the RFWD within the second portion of his book: moral imperative arguments (ought implies can), grievous resistance arguments (human resistance and divine grief imply autonomy), and relational vision arguments (relationships require resistibility). By examining various passages in John 6 and 15, the author concludes that the moral imperative arguments lack thoughtful, biblical support. If the moral imperatives do not imply a moral ability to be obeyed, what do they accomplish? Dr. Williams stands squarely within the Reformed tradition by noting that ought implies cannot without the help of radical grace. Furthermore, ought does the following: renders the plea of moral ignorance obsolete, leads to obedience when coupled with the Spirit, highlights the moral achievements of Jesus, offers a glimpse into the character of the Ought-Giver, and reflects a supreme moral reference point. He also recognizes that the apologetic attempt to reconcile total libertarian freedom with Scripture's consistent anthropology usually results in a change of what libertarian freedom entails. If grace is necessary for moral ability, libertarian freedom ceases to be true.
Grievous resistance arguments (GRA) fail to take into account the depth of the emotional life of God and His ways as he works within the cosmos. The same God who has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:32) takes pleasure when wicked actions are done against his Son (Isa. 53:10). By exegetical reflection on Acts 4, the author shows the biblical tension of both exhaustive, divine sovereignty and human responsibility. They are both true and taught within the same passages. Furthermore, the author believes GRA lead to a sense of cosmic alienation in the midst of suffering because we see God as far off as we are harmed and foster a lack of trust in God because He is fundamentally impotent in regards to evil. Dr. Williams also rejects relational vision arguments because they commonly impose creaturely examples of finitude on the infinite Creator. There exists a great deal of difference between creaturely impossibilities and absolutely impossibilities. The Gospels possess a vision of a God that can do things which are impossible for creatures (Mark 5:25-34; Mark 6:3; 10:27). It is quite possible that God can guarantee irresistible love without nullifying another agent's freedom.
Love and the Reformed Heart-Dr. Williams opens his last section describing the five ways in which God's relationship to the heart and his providential outworking have been stated amongst Christians throughout Church history: heart persuasion (God acts in some internal way to display who He is, His saving intentions, and His moral requirements to humanity), heart cooperation (God acts in some internal way to reinforce and strengthen any weak motion toward Him within a person's heart), heart activation, (God acts in some internal way to counteract forces of moral depravity within a person's heart, bestowing a new ability to respond positively to Him in love), heart reformation (God acts in some internal way that effectively changes the moral orientation of their heart so that one willingly chooses to love Him and cannot ultimately choose otherwise), and heart circumvention (God acts in some internal way that coercively bypasses her heart such that any "love" for God is not an expression of one's desires but of divine force). By examining various passages, he concludes that the Old Testament includes a tension of "human act commanded" and "divine act promised" that precludes heart persuasion, cooperation, and activation (Deut. 30:6, 15-20; Ezek. 11:19-20, 18:31, 36:26-27; Jer. 4:4a, 31:18,33, 32:39-40). Heart circumvention is rejected upon biblical considerations as well.
The author devotes considerable exegetical reflection upon the fourth Gospel's continuation of the Hebraic tension which serves as a paradigm for how God works within the human heart. John further expounds upon the tension by revealing various inner-trinitarian works which seem to preclude libertarian notions of freedom. Dr. Williams closes the chapter by highlighting the same tension in the Pauline letters of First and Second Thessalonians. The last part of the book revisits the problem of evil in light of the forgoing discussions. He apologetically answers both the divine contributor objection and the sparsity objection in his last chapter. The book closes with an argument based upon the Bible's prayers for love actualization and its teachings on heart reformation as evidence against the RFWD. We pray for what God can give. The author urges believers to battle the problem of evil through "love actualizing" prayers that trust in God's power because "God's ability to change our hearts and actualize authentic love is far more precious than the notion of libertarian freedom."
Review-Dr. William's text is very commendable for the following: its breadth, readability, and the thoughtful engagement with various scholars and theologians such as Greg Boyd, Norman Geisler, Clark Pinnock, I. Howard Marshall and a host of other libertarians. Though undoubtedly not able to address every issue related to libertarian notions of freedom, his book remained particularly expansive for the topic at hand by devoting itself to the libertarian nature of love. From my reading of the book, he nowhere seemed to chase arcane discussions or rabbit trails but stuck to the task at hand. I appreciated the scholar's ability to bring complex, philosophical discussions down to the level of the common reader with his use of everyday examples. Many times a reader gets lost within a philosophical text because a writer fails to adequately articulate what he means within a given discussion or they will utilize the same words with different meanings or usage within a given context. The writer did a good job of identifying the limitations of his audience as he expounded and critiqued various ideas throughout the book. That fact that the book was in outline form and included a summary/conclusion section after each part also made it very readable. As a quick survey of his footnotes and bibliography will show, Dr. Williams made it a point to interact with the relevant source material concerning this topic. I also greatly commend the writer for including older or ancient sources within the discussion.
As I reflect upon the book, I think it accomplished its goal of highlighting some of the very daunting weaknesses concerning the axiom "authentic love requires free will." This is a major strength in my opinion. I readily agree that love requires freedom from the machine and the gunman. But, complete freedom from the heart would almost seem wholly unbiblical. It would seem that Scripture teaches that we make decisions based upon what we want. As we desire something, our heart or mind inclines us to one of various options because of what we believe and feel. Following Edwards, the will is merely the mind choosing. We really do what we want to do. The central issue I see as I reflect upon Scripture is that what we want is damaged. If authentic love requires free will, then authentic love will never exist because no one's will is free in respect to sin. Scripture teaches from cover to cover the total depravity of man (Gen. 6:5-6, 8:21; 1 Kings 8:46; Psa. 14:1-3, 51:5, 58:3, 130:3, 143:2; Ecc. 7:20, 9:3; Isa. 53:6, 64:6; Jer. 17:9; Luke 11:3; John 5:42; Rom. 1:29-32, 3:9-23; Gal. 3:22, Eph. 2:1-3, 4:17-19; 1 John 1:8, 10, 5:19). The problem is further complicated because Scripture teaches that man has a complete, moral inability to do the will of God for salvation. He or she literally lacks the ability to move toward God in salvation (Matt. 7:18; John 3:3,5, 6:44, 65, 14:17, 15:4-5; Rom. 8:7-8; 1 Cor. 2:14, 12:3; Jas. 3:8; Rev. 14:3). If those two things are true according to the Scriptures, I do not understand how anyone can remain within the realm of biblical theology and hold a view that says the will is free in any moral sense.
I think the book is valuable for discussions concerning Calvinism/Arminianism currently happening within the Southern Baptist Convention. As heirs of the Reformation and people who believe wholeheartedly in Sola Scriptura, we have an obligation to the God of the book to allow Him to determine what we believe on issues He has spoken on. From the previous paragraph, I think Scripture speaks to the issue of the impossibility of a morally free will. Scripture also seems to posit a very dynamic picture of God's relationship between sovereignty and humanity's freedom. Nowhere does Scripture ever claim that humanity gets a free pass from God's gentle, providential care over all things. I would be highly skeptical of any theology that implies a freedom from the Reformer and downgrades the freedom of the Reformer.
I also highly appreciated that the author did not attempt to "solve" or alleviate the tension between divine sovereignty and creaturely responsibility. I agree with D.A. Carson in his book Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension when he said:
The sovereignty-responsibility tension is not a problem to be solved; rather, it is a framework to be explored. To recognize this is already a major advance, for it rejects those east `solutions' which impose alien philosophical constructions upon biblical data, or which dismiss those elements of the biblical data not conducive to the investigator's system. To explore this tension is to explore the nature of God and his ways with men.
Instead of trying to solve the incommodious issue, I choose to simply work, minister, and live within it. Furthermore, I cannot recall Scripture ever suggesting His people attempt to "get Him off the hook." Romans 9 and the end of Job seem to imply the opposite. Though having good reflections on the Scriptures, a strength of the book is its attempt to utilize biblical, philosophical, and existential evidence against the assertion. It was not merely a theological text. It is also valuable for anyone interested in the philosophical discussions concerning determinism and indeterminism.
The author's suggestion of love actualizing prayers as a solution or possible alleviation of the problem of evil was very encouraging to me. I once heard Dr. Doug Wilson say in a debate with the late Christopher Hitchens that "God destroys His enemies in two ways: the old fashioned way and turning those enemies into friends through the Gospel." A very tangible thing Christians can do as we reflect upon the problem of evil is to pray for God to move in the hearts of His enemies. A Muslim extremist can quickly become a Paul if the Lord will remove the scales from his eyes. The author also had what appeared to be pastoral anecdotes and admonishments scattered throughout the text which made for a worshipful and winsome read.
The author did seem to have a Reformed bias within his writing. But, a bias is only a fault or flaw of a book if it is not a true or a valid bias. In his theological reflections on Scripture, Dr. Williams did not decide what the Scripture was teaching via quoting Calvin or Augustine. He seemed to merely reflect what the context of the examined passages required. Furthermore, the commentators he did quote are recognized experts in their fields. To disregard their exegetical work because of the conclusion it led them to would eventually lead one to disregard the text itself. Any statement about what a biblical text teaches in and of itself is an argument (e.g. an argument for what this texts means based upon context, word usage, and grammar). Also, a bias is terrible for a book if it prevents tangible and meaningful interaction with other viewpoints. It is clear from the book itself that Dr. Williams sufficiently interacted with other viewpoints than his own. I do not get the sense from reading the book that the author merely had an a priori belief and sought to find biblical, philosophical, and existential evidence for it after the fact.
Two possible weaknesses I see within the book are the paucity of interaction with arguments against the compatibilistic viewpoint of freewill and Dr. William's lack of interaction with certain proof texts libertarians typically utilize in their theological discussions. Though the author did answer two objections in the third part of the book, other more pertinent objections should have or could have been briefly addressed as well. Within our normal, daily experience, we have a real sense that we are our own soul-makers. We really do feel that our decisions are free and are our own. If we have what only what seems or appears to be alternate possibilities on a fixed plane of determinism, we actually do not have alternate possibilities. Under the compatibilistic viewpoint, our normal sense experience is merely illusory. To take ownership of something, you must actually own it. They must originate from the agent. If they are placed there by some outside person or force, they cease to be truly my choices in any real sense. My choices are the mere outworking of what God wants. Furthermore, the problem of evil would seem to fall flat in the lap of God if compatibilism is in fact true. If we do what we do because of our desires and both Adam and Eve were created with untainted, good desires, the fall of man in some sense is attributable to God. At this point, many compatibilists will appeal to mystery. Libertarians see a morally impugning of God's character rather than a mystery.
The second weakness deals with the lack of interaction with some pivotal texts that are usually trumpeted by libertarians. Dr. Williams did a wonderful job of handling various texts associated with moral accountability and oughtness. But, what about other texts? Jesus chided the people of Jerusalem saying, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (Matt. 23:37)" Jesus lays the blame over why the people would not come to them squarely at their feet. Compatibilists have responses concerning this passage and others similar to it. Dr. Williams could have at least included a footnote with some information for the reader's knowledge. I understand that this is nothing more than a superficial weakness because space constraints and the intention of the book itself likely truncated the discussion.
Overall, Love, Freedom, & Evil: Does Authentic Love Require Free Will? was an extremely beneficial read for me. The book does a superb job of overturning a noted cultural and theological cliché that seems almost common sensical to most people. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in these types of philosophical and theological debates.
I have always been fascinated by the mystery of Divine Sovereignty and love it.
The Biblical evidence for Divine Sovereignty over everything including love and evil is too strong for me to ignore, the same also for humans being held responsible while God is sovereign.
This work offers a clear critique of libertarian free will and offers a more biblical free will, that is, a compabilistic free will. A free will that is free to do anything within it's nature's power.
I really am impressed by the work of Dr Williams, with his knowledge and research on this topic and how greatly and reverently he handles the text of Scripture. I was afraid that this was gonna be based more on philosophical argumentation than Scripture, but I was wrong.
The exegesis of Acts 4:28 is phenomenal, so is that of verses in John 6.
This is a great work, praise God for raising up men as Thaddeus to shed some light on what His Word says about His working in the hearts of men.