Edward’s Doctrine of Necessity by Strongest Motive Force Cannot be Proved (Part 2)

Building on my previous post on the subject,  Albert Taylor Bledsoe well documented the circular reasoning involved in Edwards’ primary assertion that the strongest motive force determines the will.  Below is an excerpt:

The great doctrine of the Inquiry seems to go round in a vicious circle, to run into an insignificant truism…In the first place, when we ask, “what determines the will?” the author replies, “it is the strongest motive;” and yet, according to his definition, the strongest motive is that which determines the will…If we ask, then, what produces any particular act of volition, we are told, it is the strongest motive; and if we inquire what is the strongest motive, we are informed, it is the whole of that which operated to produce that particular act of volition.  What is this but to inform us, that an act of volition is produced by that which produces it? (An Examination of President Edwards’ Inquiry Into the Freedom of the Will, pg. 36)

The entire chapter spans pages 36-46, and you can read it (and the entire book) online by following the link above.  I have not yet read the whole book, but it seems to be a very well delivered critique of Edwards’ arguments from what I have been able to read thus far.

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2 Responses

  1. This position has always baffled me a bit. I can’t see how Calvinists reconcile it with experience, since we all resist what we desire to do at times, and also the Biblical account of someone doing what they do not want to do and not doing what they do want to do (Romans 7).

  2. Boss,

    A Calvinist would say that Romans 7 would actually be a good proof-text in suggesting that we follow our strongest desire. It could be said that Paul is reflecting (which he is regardless of the side of the debate) in verse 15-16, which states,

    “For that which I am doing, practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing that I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good.”

    Paul states that he does the “very thing” that he hates, and the Calvinist would say that is his strongest desire. That is what he is inclined to do.

    I think Paul’s desire is clear, he wanted to do something but he couldn’t. A contrary desire that his old nature could account for. This is why Paul says at the end of the chapter,

    “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”

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