Francis Turretin On Human Free Choice: Walking The Fine Line Between Synchronic Contingency And Compatibilistic Determinism -- By: Hyunkwan Kim

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 79:1 (Spring 2017)
Article: Francis Turretin On Human Free Choice: Walking The Fine Line Between Synchronic Contingency And Compatibilistic Determinism
Author: Hyunkwan Kim


Francis Turretin On Human Free Choice:
Walking The Fine Line Between Synchronic Contingency And Compatibilistic Determinism

HyunKwan Kim

HyunKwan Kim is currently a PhD student in Historical Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI.

One of the historical stereotypes that older scholarly critiques imposed on the Reformed theology of the Reformation and post-Reformation eras is the assumption that Reformed thought denies human free will and thus undermines the foundation of human moral responsibility.1 Much of this thinking has contributed to identifying the Reformed doctrine of free choice during those periods as “philosophical determinism” or “Stoic fatalism” by contemporary scholars.2 This unfavorable assessment mostly arises from an

interpretation of the Reformed doctrines that stresses both divine absolute sovereignty and human total depravity.3

However, a group of recent scholarly works, through their examination of the original texts and contexts, have demonstrated that these criticisms were not produced on a sound methodological foundation.4 The critics’ interpretation shows the meager reliance of these criticisms on the primary sources as well as the absence of careful scrutiny for understanding the intellectual context of the Reformed doctrine on free choice during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.5

Richard A. Muller points out that the scholars’ criticisms of the Reformed doctrine of free choice have not only been triggered by historical prejudgment relying on predestination-centered so-called central dogmas6 but have also been deepened by their viewing the Reformation and post-Reformation periods primarily through the lens of “rather recent developments in the tradition, namely, the eighteenth-century rise of Calvinistic philosophical

determinism.”7 Indeed, with the alteration of a traditional faculty psychology that was the characteristic of Reformed scholastics, the scholastic language of causality, necessity, and contingency was used in a more deterministic way during the eighteenth century.8

Accordingly it becomes necessary to examine theological wor...

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