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John Girardeau: Libertarian Calvinist?

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image of Journal of Reformed Theology

Amongst his other writings, the nineteenth century American Presbyterian theologian John Girardeau (1825–1898) composed a book-length critique of Jonathan Edwards’ doctrine of free will. In the place of Edwards’ unrelenting determinism, Girardeau appealed to an older Reformed tradition which allowed that in mundane actions human beings often have liberties of choice. This forms the basis of an argument for a circumscribed libertarianism consistent with the confessional standards of Reformed theology. Although there are problems with Girardeau’s account, his position is an important confirmation of a sort of minority report in the Reformed tradition that has been largely overlooked by modern thinkers for whom Reformed thought is synonymous with the kind of theological determinism beloved of Edwards. The paper offers a critical exposition of, and interaction with, Girardeau’s views on this matter of human free will as a piece of retrieval theology.

Affiliations: 1: Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA, USA


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