Thursday, October 14, 2010

Eternal Security and Its Implications For A Theology of History, Pt. XI-A: God and Decretal Theology (Theology of Decrees)

I am back to deal with another “juicy” post on Eternal Security. Before you ask me, yes, I know that this is part eleven of the series. It seems like it really hasn’t been all that long since I started the series...but I guess the work speaks for itself.
I’ve covered much in this series. For one, I’ve covered the idea of eternal security as a philosophical concept---that is, if a person is eternally secure, there is no “temporal” start to salvation (the person did not “get saved,” but has been saved eternally). As a result, the sins of elect individuals have been forgiven, and that person had no sin to repent for in time. What then, is the meaning of the biblical concept of “repentance” for sins and “repentance” at conversion? Not a lot. If acts such as repentance really matter, then time must be more than just some unit of passage that distinguishes one moment from another. If one holds to a proper theology of history, as I’ve stated over and over again (using John Piper’s quote), then history is how God chose to reveal Himself. If God were concerned only with “eternal security” and all things eternal, then there is no need for time (since time is the antithesis of eternity).
In this post, I’ve chosen to evaluate Molinism in regards to my discussion of time and eternity. The reason I’ve chosen Molinism is because, in regards to all the other systems present in the theological world, Molinism is the system that seems to many to be the most viable in terms of its philosophical appeal. Of course, Molinism is more than just a philosophical system (Molinists often tell me to emphasize that!), but the philosophical appeal often wins many to this system, many who would otherwise be Calvinist (and some Arminians).
Before I get into the goal of this post, I just wanna make something clear in case I haven’t: God’s decrees are made in eternity, prior to the creation of time and space. As Arminius writes,
“The world was neither created from all eternity, nor could it be so created;---though God was from all eternity furnished with that [potentia] capability by which He could create the world, and afterwards did create it;---and though no moment of time can be conceived by us, in which the world could not have been created” (James Arminius, “Works” II:357-58).
If God existed in eternity, and time appeared when God created the heavens and earth (the world), then God must have made the decrees in eternity regarding what would take place in time.
However, the question then becomes, “Did God predetermine what He wanted to happen, or did He predetermine on the basis of what He knew in Himself would happen, events caused by creatures outside of Himself?” If God determined what He wanted to happen, then God is responsible for everything (sin, sickness, and evil) that has ever gone wrong. And here is where a proper theology of history comes in: if God decides to actualize the world in history (as John Piper states---see his quote in earlier parts of the series), then God desires that genuine choices be actualized in time...and the decrees for those choices are conditional decrees (that is, conditioned upon the person(s) who will make those choices). While the decrees are “unconditional” in that God chooses to make them, they are “conditional” in that they are made because such individuals will commit those actions, not that God determines every choice that is made.
I wanted to let it be known that Classical Arminians do not deny the eternality of God’s decrees; rather, what we do deny is that those decrees made in eternity are simply what God has decided all individuals will do. That is, we don’t believe God predetermined that David would kill Uriah and commit adultery with Bathsheba. We believe that such an action was decreed in eternity, “conditioned” upon the fact that David actually would do it. In other words, nothing happens because God foreknows it...rather, God foreknows something because it is going to happen. God’s foreknowledge is not causal or determinative in what happens in time. While God does make decrees in time that He Himself determines of His own free will, there are those that He determines will occur because of the will of His human creation. In the words of Arminius,
“God wills some things per se, or per accidens. Of themselves, he wills those things which are simply and relatively good: Thus he wills salvation to that man who is obedient. ACCIDENTALLY, THOSE THINGS WHICH IN SOME RESPECT ARE EVIL, but have a good joined with them, which God wills more than the respective good things that are opposed to those evil: Thus He wills the evils of punishment; because He chooses that the order of justice be preserved in punishment, rather than that a sinning creature should escape punishment, though this impunity might be for the good of the creature” (James Arminius, “Works” II: 346).
Here, God wills what He calls “evils of punishment” because of the evil actions of His human creation (“rather than that a sinning creature should escape punishment”). If God were to will evils of punishment because of mere whim, then God would be the author of sin and evil, which would contradict James 1’s affirmation that God is innocent of sin and evil (see James 1:13).
I will dive into Molinist philosophy in my next post.

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