Sunday, November 22, 2009

Molinism and Calvinism: The Difference?

“The evil acts of the created will are subject as well to DIVINE PREDETERMINATION and providence to the extent that the causes from which they emanate and the general concurrence on God’s part required to elicit them are granted through divine predetermination and providence—though not in order that these particular acts should emanate from them, but rather in order that other, far different, acts might come to be, and in order that the innate freedom of the things endowed with a will might be preserved for their maximum benefit; in addition evil acts are subject to that same divine predetermination and providence to the extent that they cannot exist in particular unless God by His providence permits them in particular IN THE SERVICE OF SOME GREATER GOOD. It clearly follows from the above that all things without exception are individually subject to God’s will and providence, which INTEND certain of them as particulars and PERMIT the rest as particulars” (Luis Molina, quoted by Terrance Tiessen, “Providence and Prayer: How Does God Work In The World?” Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2000, pp. 169-170).

Having read William Lane Craig’s defense of Molinism, as well as Tiessen’s chapter on Molinism, I’ve become somewhat familiar with the Molinist argument. Here though, I wanna examine the two systems of Molinism and Calvinism. Molinists claim that their system is unique and distinct from Calvinism; but is it?

I quoted Luis Molina (the proponent of what has been named “Molinism,” so named after himself) above to give us an idea of Molinism as Molina believed it to be. He states that God permits evil acts “in the service of some greater good.” But this is no different than the Calvinist stance! Calvinists believe that, since God exercises meticulous providence over the world, including all choices, that God only allows certain evils because He will use them for His “greater good.” But does all evil REALLY bring glory to God? Peter gives us the answer in 1 Peter 2:

“For this is commendable if, because of conscience toward God one endures grief, SUFFERING WRONGFULLY. FOR WHAT CREDIT IS IT if, WHEN YOU ARE BEATEN FOR YOUR FAULTS, you take it patiently? BUT WHEN YOU DO GOOD AND SUFFER, if you take it patiently, THIS IS COMMENDABLE BEFORE GOD. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, THAT YOU SHOULD FOLLOW HIS STEPS” (1 Peter 2:19-21, NKJV).

Peter tells us that the only suffering that is godly is when we SUFFER WRONGFULLY—we pay the price for things that we did not do, and do not deserve. There is no “glory” towards God when we suffer for things we have done and are responsible for.

Peter makes this statement more boldly in 1 Peter 4:

“IF YOU ARE REPROACHED FOR THE NAME OF CHRIST, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you...but let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet IF ANYONE SUFFERS AS A CHRISTIAN, LET HIM NOT BE ASHAMED, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:14-16, NKJV).

Only when a person suffers because of godliness can they “not be ashamed.” But when a person suffers for their own evil acts, there can be nothing but shame! This is because no glory goes to God when we commit sin and evil. This is what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” If we “fall short” of God’s glory, then GOD’S GLORY IS NOT ACHIEVED IN OUR SIN! Rather, sin robs God of His glory.

Therefore, all sorts of questions come to mind. A year or so ago, a student by the name of Eve Carson was killed on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I heard stories of people who came to Christ on that campus because of Eve Carson’s death. However, does this mean that God used her murder for “His greater glory?” God could very well have used her murder to bring good out of such a tragic situation; but was it NECESSARY to do so? According to Peter’s words above, God was not bound to use this evil to bring about a good. Why was He not bound to so do? Because Eve Carson was murdered mercilessly by two men who had no reason for so doing. It was a purposeless murder, regardless of their own individual reasons. Cold-blooded murder never comes with a reason, regardless of motive. One of the killers was sentenced to death row, the other to life in prison. They did not suffer for “God’s greater glory,” but for their own sin—which did not bring glory to God, but robbed Him of the glory due His name. They should not have robbed God of His glory simply because they, like Christians, are made in the image and likeness of God. Every sin committed by a human robs God of His glory, whether they are a Christian or an atheist (for example). Humans were created to glorify God, and our sin does not give glory to God, but robs Him of it.

There is no credit, no “pat on the back,” no “high-five,” for the actions of the two gentlemen. Instead, there is only shame and despair...and sadness, and the ever-present reality of our broken and fallen world. As a result, if the actions of the two murderers were not for God’s greater glory, then neither was the death of Eve Carson for God’s glory. Rather, it was the sad consequence of heartless actions from two depraved gentleman who used their freedom to commit a horrible deed.

I say all this to make a statement: Molinists attempt to “correct” the issues of Calvinism. And I think they do in some sense because they affirm libertarian freedom and choice on a far greater level than Calvinists. However, while affirming choices in theory, they erase them in practice. Notice above that Molina said that God “permits” evil actions, not “intends” them. If this is the case, then God could not have had a predetermined purpose for evil actions, since purpose and intention go hand-in-hand. If there is no intention, then there is no purpose; if there is no purpose, then there is no intention. Since God does not intend for these evil acts to be committed, there is no “divine purpose” necessary within such actions for God to use them. He very well can choose to do so—but He is not motivated to do so by some secret desire to affirm the necessity of evil in His world. Molinists and Calvinists should think about this when they affirm the “greater-good” theodicy and the necessity of evil; for, why is evil necessary when in the beginning, God made everything “good”?

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