I am not saying that Edward was (UU). I am placing his own theological (and more likely philosophical) orientation within a framework that best explains the rise of (UU). Thirdly, I am aware that Unitarian elements predated Edwards.
The Will and Universalism
Edwards, standing squarely in the Reformed tradition, says that nature determines will. He is not saying that will is a faculty of nature–which is simply the teaching of the church. He might believe that, but it isn’t his specific argument. Edwards is arguing that one’s nature determines one’s will. Technically, Edwards is arguing this with the case of man and not necessarily God. However, if we are created in the image of God we have to affirm this of the divine nature (anyway, I think most Calvinist theologians would affirm this as well. I remember reading as much in systematic textbooks).
If nature determines will (with respect to the divine nature), and God’s nature is necessary (which is true) and creation was an act of the will, then we must say that creation is determined. The problems:
- We’ve come very close to an official Origenism. It’s not theologically or culturally difficult to go from a necessary creation to an eternal creation.
- God’s nature is now determined by something else.
Unitarianism: Arian Predestination
At this point the problem is not so much with Edwards in particular, but with the Reformed tradition in general. While Richard Muller might say that Calvin’s predestinarianism is radically Christocentric, the truth is that the Reformed confessions emphatically are not. My friend Bobby gives a very thorough “Torrancian” critique of the Reformed tradition on this point.
(Bobby has a number of good posts on this point, which should be consulted here:
Key Shaper of Classical Calvinism)
Bobby’s main post against Federal Theology is Torrance Objects to Federal Theology. He writes,
The ultimate difficulty here that one could “trace the ultimate ground of belief back to eternal divine decrees behind the back of the Incarnation of God’s beloved Son, as in a federal concept of pre-destination, [and this] tended to foster a hidden Nestorian dualism between the divine and human natures in the on Person of Jesus Christ, and thus even to provide ground for a dangerous form of Arian and Socinian heresy in which the atoning work of Christ regarded as an organ of God’s activity was separated from the intrinsic nature and character of God as Love” (Scottish Theology, p. 133).
The point here, as Torrance notes elsewhere (it’s either lecture seven or lecture eight), is that strict federal and penal theology and the reasoning that informs them separates the Son from the Father in the life of God. As other scholars will note, this is Arian Predestination. In other words, according to the teaching God elects in “a secret counsel” apart from the Son.