Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The False Dilemma

Today I mentioned to a friend, Cortez, that I was taking a summer class in another week. Dr. Ken Keathley is teaching a summer Contemporary Theology course on Molinism...and I’m taking it! The class will start this coming Monday, June 28, 2010. Boy am I so excited!!!

In any case, a friend of ours, Carlie, was standing around at the time. Carlie found out that I was taking the course and he asked me, “Are you a Molinist?”

Now let me make this known: whenever someone asks me a question, I always wanna answer in a way that will please the person. I grew up trying to please everyone in my life, from mom to grandma to teachers at school to friends. And sometimes, even now at 25 years of age, I have to stop myself sometimes because I find myself in that same rut again. Time and maturity have taught me that I cannot please everyone; I cannot make everyone happy, make them pleased with me, etc. I’ve simply had to learn that there will be those you please and those you cannot.

So when Carlie asked this question, I wanted to give him the answer that he would be most pleased with; but honesty and Christian character prompted me to give him an answer that met with his displeasure: “Ummm...I’m gonna have to say ‘No’.”

“Why?” was his next question. I proceeded to explain that I had a problem with the idea of “God setting the table so that I freely choose what God has predetermined.” And then, that led into an hour conversation between me, him, and our mutual friend, Cortez.

Aside from his Molinist theology, however, there was one thing that most bothered me in my conversation with him: that was his idea that humanity is divided into those who choose Christ, and those who do not choose Christ. Now someone may ask, “What’s the problem? After all, doesn’t Scripture do the same thing?” The answer to that question is a resounding “No”. To create such a bifurcation is known in philosophy as a “false dichotomy” or a “false dilemma.” What is a false dilemma, exactly? Garrett DeWeese and J.P. Moreland give us an example:

“(a) Either Bill is in his apartment or he is in the library.
(b) Bill is not in the library.
(c) Therefore, Bill is in his apartment.

Remember that the truth of the conclusion depends on the truth of the premises. A disjunctive syllogism relies on an exclusive sense of “or” such that THE TWO ALTERNATIVES ARE THE ONLY ONES POSSIBLE...if, in our example, it is possible that Bill is en route, then the conclusion will not follow” (Garrett J. DeWeese and J.P. Moreland, “Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult: A Beginner’s Guide to Life’s Big Questions.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005, page 18).

Look at DeWeese’s and Moreland’s example: this is a false dilemma because the assumption is that BILL CAN ONLY BE in two places; in actuality, Bill could be on his way to one or the other places (i.e., BETWEEN the library and his apartment). The notion that Bill could be in-between the library and the apartment is not even considered, when it is as viable an option as Bill being in the apartment and Bill being in the library.

And the Calvinist and Molinist views of the saved and unsaved commit this same fallacy. Calvinists and Molinists commit the fallacy of assuming that in life, either one is determined to be a believer or an unbeliever; the problem lies in the fact that both camps fail to consider the idea that a person could once be a believer but then become an unbeliever.

Let’s read Scripture’s presentation of what is considered by many to be an “unbiblical” notion (that a believer could fall away and become an unbeliever):

“But he who RECEIVED THE SEED on stony places, this is he who hears the word and IMMEDIATELY RECEIVES IT WITH JOY; yet he has no root in himself, but ENDURES ONLY FOR A WHILE. For WHEN TRIBULATION OR PERSECUTION ARISES BECAUSE OF THE WORD, immediately he stumbles” (Matthew 13:20-21, NKJV).

“These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, IMMEDIATELY RECEIVE IT WITH GLADNESS; and they have no root in themselves, and so ENDURE ONLY FOR A TIME. Afterward, WHEN TRIBULATION OR PERSECUTION ARISES FOR THE WORD’S SAKE, immediately they stumble” (Mark 4:16-17).

“But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, RECEIVE THE WORD WITH JOY; and these have no root, WHO BELIEVE FOR A WHILE and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13).

Let’s notice some similarities and connections between the three accounts of the rocky soil: first, all state that the word is received with joy (“immediately receives it with joy,” “immediately receives it with gladness, immediately receive it with gladness”). Secondly, endurance and faith are connected (“endures for only a while,” “endure for a time,” “believe for a while”).

Now here is where someone would ask the question, “Was the soil saved? Did the person come to faith in Christ? Was the person who fell away a believer or not?” And this is where I would respond by saying, “the text gives us a clear declaration that the person was a believer.” How? Look at Matthew’s and Mark’s account of the rocky soil:

“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is who hears the word and IMMEDIATELY RECEIVES IT WITH JOY; yet he has no root in himself, but ENDURES ONLY FOR A WHILE. For WHEN TRIBULATION OR PERSECUTION ARISES BECAUSE OF THE WORD, immediately he stumbles” (Matthew 13:20-21, NKJV).

“These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, IMMEDIATELY RECEIVE IT WITH GLADNESS; and they have no root in themselves, and so ENDURE ONLY FOR A TIME. Afterward, WHEN TRIBULATION OR PERSECUTION ARISES FOR THE WORD’S SAKE, immediately they stumble” (Mark 4:16-17).

There are two phrases, one in each of the above Scriptures just referenced, that give us the answer to our question: “tribulation or persecution arises because of the word” and “tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake.” Both of these phrases tell us that the person is put through difficult times in their lives “because of the word,” “for the word’s sake.” Scripture tells us that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Now my question would be, “Why do persecutions arise in the lives of these ‘rocky’ individuals, unless their acts of “receiving the word,” “believing for a time,” and “enduring for a time” are acts of saved individuals? The word says nothing of unbelievers enduring persecution “on account of the word.” And the word itself says nothing about the unsaved receiving the word with joy: the unsaved “perish...because they DID NOT RECEIVE the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). In addition, Paul also confirms the identity of the rocky soil that “received the word” as believers in his First Epistle to the Thessalonians:

“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. And YOU BECAME FOLLOWERS OF US AND OF THE LORD, HAVING RECEIVED THE WORD in much affliction, WITH JOY of the Holy Spirit...” (1 Thess. 1:5-6)

The rocky soil of Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 is a reference to believers who “believe/endure for a time” and then “fall away.” And 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 confirms that the Thessalonians themselves (as the rocky believers) receive the word with joy.

I think this post has cleared the air regarding the false dilemma created by Calvinists and Molinists. I am gonna set myself up for a challenge with the following words: if a Calvinist or Molinist can show me why my exegesis of Matthew 13, Mark 4, or Luke 8 is incorrect, I will gladly acknowledge that I stand corrected. However, for me to be corrected exegetically would also require someone to show me that Esau, who failed to obtain the inheritance, never had the birthright to begin with (Heb. 12:16-17)...and that simply can’t be done.

2 comments:

The Seeking Disciple said...

I hope you'll post the class notes online. :)

Deidre Richardson said...

I will try to post something of the class itself online.

I pray the post was a blessing. Thanks for your support; it means the world :-)