I have tackled the “T” of the Classical Arminian system. In yesterday’s post, I showed how Arminius really believed that the will of man was “maimed, infirm, imprisoned, bent” from the fall and that only the grace of God could free the will. The will then, in the Classical Arminian system, is not seen as “free” will so much as “freed” will (Roger Olson, “Arminian Theology”).
In today’s post, I will tackle the issue of election. How does someone become “elect in Christ”? Does God pick certain individuals to be saved---or does He require everyone to repent and believe, and save on the condition of faith? How is it that you are saved, but your next-door neighbor may never be?
This is what Arminius had to say about election:
“Creation in the upright state of original righteousness is not a means for executing the decree of predestination, or of election, or of reprobation. It is horrid to affirm, that ‘the way of reprobation is creation in the upright state of original righteousness:’...and in this very assertion are propounded two contrary volitions of God concerning one and the same thing” (Arminius, “Works,” 2:710).
What Arminius means by the above quote concerning creation and reprobation is that creation was made by God to be good (Gen. 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). Since God made everything to be good, He could not have made reprobation as an intrinsic part of creation (since reprobation is damnation, not blessing, as God made His creation to be). To assert that creation was made to be good, but reprobation (something evil) was an original, intrinsic part of creation would be to assert that God created BOTH good and evil in the beginning. And that contradicts God seeing that everything in His creation was “good,” as well as His own nature (which is goodness).
Now, Arminius speaks against Calvinism:
“It is a horrible affirmation, that ‘God has predestinated whatsoever men He pleased not only to damnation, but likewise to the causes of damnation” (Beza, Vol. 1, fol. 417)...
It is a horrible affirmation, that ‘men are predestinated to eternal death by the naked will or choice of God, without any demerit [proprium] on their part.’---(Calvin’s Inst. L.1, c.2, 3.)
This is also a horrible affirmation, ‘Some among men have been created unto life eternal, and others unto death eternal’” (Arminius, “Work,” 2:710).
Here we find that Arminius simply disagrees with Calvin and Beza (both of whom he quotes here). I don’t have to print what they’ve said anywhere else, because Arminius gives us their thoughts in a nutshell. He argues against unconditional election, which states that some have been reprobated by the will of God Himself, without the cause of reprobation being the creature (the cause is God).
I want to be fair, however, and print Molina’s thoughts here. This is what Molina has to say about unconditional election:
“As a result, there is no room left for divine predestination or reprobation, if all things still to come in the future are so uncertain to God that it is in light of the part of the contradiction that is going to be actualized by free choice that He is even now going to bring it about that from eternity He foreknew that this or that human being would do this or that, and on this basis bring it about that this or that person was predestinate or reprobate...if this is so, then why, when he came to the section on predestination AND TO THE ELECTION OF SOME, GIVEN THAT OTHERS HAD NOT BEEN SO ELECTED, did Paul exclaim in Romans 11:33, ‘O, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God; HOW INCOMPREHENSIBLE ARE HIS JUDGMENTS and inscrutable His ways!” [Luis de Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge: Part IV (Concordia),” Disputation 51, Sec. 20]
Notice that Molina strongly argues that the nature of predestination and reprobation consists of “the election of some, given that others had not been so elected,” and quotes from Romans 11. Molina makes it clear here that he disagrees with the idea that “all things still to come in the future are so uncertain to God” that the election or reprobation would be “actualized by free choice” of the individual.
Kirk R. MacGregor confirms Molina’s view of unconditional election:
“In book seven of the ‘Concordia,’ Molina queries ‘whether the cause predestination may be ascribed to the part of the predestinate’ and ‘whether the cause of reprobation may be ascribed to the part of the reprobate.’ Contra those who follow ‘the errors of Origen and Pelagius,’ he answers both questions decidedly in the negative. On the basis of the Pauline statement, ‘Before the twins were born or had done anything good or evil...not by works but by him who calls...[God said], Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’ (Rom. 9:11-13), Molina declares that ‘FORESEEN FAITH CANNOT BE THE GROUND OF JUSTIFICATION OR PREDESTINATION,’ as affirming otherwise would undermine the prima facie implication that God’s decree to elect Jacob and reprobate Esau did not take into account their future good or evil works” (Kirk R. MacGregor, “A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology.” Lanham: University Press of America, 2007, pages 66-67).
This is what Molina had to say in his “Concordia” about the destiny of the elect and the reprobate, according to MacGregor:
“The total effect of predestination...depends only on the free will of God, such that God could have predestined any ‘of the elect to have truly been reprobate’ and any ‘of the reprobate to have truly been elect’” (Luis de Molina, “Concordia,” 7.23.4-5.1; quoted by Kirk R. MacGregor, “A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology,” page 67).
In other words, being elect or reprobate is not based on faith, but on the arbitrary whim of God. Now Molina tries to soften this blow in his “Concordia”:
“Augustine says in ‘De Libero Arbitrio III, chap. 3, ‘Since God foreknows our will, that which He foreknows is going to be. Therefore, our will is going to be, because He foreknows the will. Nor can the will be if it does not have power; therefore, He foreknows its power, too. Hence, IT IS NOT THE CASE THAT BECAUSE OF HIS FOREKNOWLEDGE MY POWER IS TAKEN AWAY; MY POWER IS MORE CERTAINLY PRESENT BECAUSE OF IT, since He whose foreknowledge does not err foreknew that my power was going to be with me’” (Molina, “Concordia,” Disputation 51, Sec. 20).
He attempts to say that even though God’s free will decides whether one is elect and the other is reprobate, free will still exists, that God does not take away my free will because He chooses one and not the other. The problem with Molina’s theology, however, is that, because God chooses some and damns others, that person’s free will is a will that is determined by God. If God determines that person’s destiny, what does it matter if they got to “freely choose what God had predetermined”? If God foreordained their election or reprobation, and what He foreordains will necessarily happen, then such persons never had a free will, and never had a choice in the matter. And this is the problem with Molina---he wants to “have his cake and eat it too.” On one hand, he wants to affirm unconditional election; on the other hand, he wants to affirm responsibility. He uses Romans 9 as part of his argument, according to MacGregor (“Molinist-Anabaptist,” page 67), but what Molina missed (as did Calvin) is that Israel was in the situation she found herself in because she tried to receive God’s salvation by her own merit instead of by faith (Rom. 9:30; 10:1-3, 11-13).
I take time here to show Molina’s theology because I think most people believe Molinism to be a completely separate system in its theology. Now obviously, “Molinism” is so named because it is distinct from “Calvinism” and “Arminianism.” However, Molinism bears some resemblance to both Calvinism and Arminianism. Some people tend to prefer this system because they think it is the “middle-road” theology they have longed to find; however, Roger Olson disagrees:
“On several crucial issues related to soteriology, then, no middle ground or hybrid between Calvinism and Arminianism is logically possible. Calminianism can only be held in defiance of reason; ultimately EVERY CALMINIAN TURNS OUT EITHER TO BE A DISGUISED FORM OF CALVINISM OR ARMINIANISM, or it slides inexorably into one or the other. Many people claim to be ‘four-point Calvinists,’ by which they usually mean they agree with total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints but rejected limited atonement. When pressed, however, such four-point Calvinists often turn out to have misunderstood the Calvinist idea of limited atonement, and when it is explained to them correctly...they embrace it...Some Arminians call themselves ‘two-point Calvinists,’ especially if they live, work, or worship in contexts where Reformed theology is considered the norm for evangelicalism. By this they usually mean that they affirm total depravity and perseverance of the saints.(This is especially common among Baptists.)” (Roger Olson, “Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006, pages 76-77)
Molinism faces problems when it comes down to its own theology. The reason? Because it claims that one can “be chosen” and “choose” at the same time in the same way. God chooses from before the foundation of the world...and we choose after the foundation has been laid. The problem with this is that, if God “picks” in eternity past, what does it matter that I choose on earth? God determined what would be before I was even conceived, so, in reality, God has already chosen my eternal destination. My choice on earth, then, is “part of the Divine script.” I’m just “playing my role” on the world stage, awaiting my fixed fate.
To say the least, I agree with Olson. I think that one’s theology comes down to two choices: either Calvinism or Arminianism. And Molinism knows this too, which is why Alvin Plantinga, for example, is a “Molinist Calvinist”...and William Lane Craig, for example, is a “Molinist Arminian.” Even taking on the label “Molinist” doesn’t free a person from the Calvinism-Arminianism debate.
In my next post, I will continue with Arminius’s view of predestination and reprobation.