Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Human Choices Approved

“As we will see, one feature that distinguishes Molinism from Arminianism is the way it understands God’s foreknowledge. Arminianism solves the problem of reprobation by presenting God’s decision concerning individuals as something entirely passive. God decrees to elect the church as a corporate body, and those individuals who choose Christ are then viewed as the elect, while those who reject Him are reprobate. In this respect ARMINIANS VIEW GOD’S DECREE AS THE MERE RATIFICATION OF HUMAN CHOICES. But the Bible presents God’s electing decision as something much more active and decisive. Unlike Arminianism, Molinism describes God as using His foreknowledge in a sovereign, unconditional manner” (Kenneth Keathley, “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach.” Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2010, pages 141-142).

This post will be a rarity among the work on Molinism that I will do here at the site. Since I’ve read “Salvation and Sovereignty” in its entirety, I can tell you that there will be some posts that reference Molinism vs. Arminianism---but not many. Ken Keathley’s main emphasis throughout his book is how Molinism stacks up to Calvinism and how most Calvinists who desire to be theologically consistent should be Molinists. I applaud him in his efforts, and it is my prayer that many Calvinists would buy his book. Although I am Classical Arminian in my theology (and very content with my theological position), I would rather have the Christian world support Molinism than support Calvinism. At least in the Molinist system, such a thing as libertarian freedom actually exists...

In today’s post, though, I wanna respond to Keathley’s claim against Arminianism. Since I am Arminian, I feel a sense of urgency to take up the attack and provide a rebuttal of my own.

Regarding Keathley’s quote, I’d like to say that it is true only in the sense that some Arminians (preferably modern Arminians) consent to. While I believe that union with Christ is what makes one elect (Romans 5), I also believe in predestination and election as biblical concepts...which means that God’s foreknowledge is not passive. First, let’s take a look at a classic text regarding election and predestination---Romans 8:28-29---

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29, NKJV).

I think these verses have been so misinterpreted and misunderstood in all of church history. Notice that the verses talk about good coming to “those who love God, those who are the called according to His purpose.” The next verse begins with “For whom He foreknew...” Who are those God foreknew in verse 29? If we’re reading Scripture with context in mind, “those whom He foreknew” refers to “those who love God” in verse 28. Every person in the world does not love God, so the words “those whom He foreknew” is a restrictive clause. That clause, however, does not refer to God “picking” and “ordaining to salvation” a certain few; rather, those who love God (in response to God’s love for the world) are those God foreknew. This passage teaches that God has good in store for those who love Him. But this passage is situated within chapter 8; because of its location, the passage is showing us that good will prevail in the end, despite all the suffering that we endure on earth (Rom. 8:17-18).

So, contrary to popular opinion, all Arminians do not embrace only “corporate” election, but also “individual” election.

Remember Keathley’s view of Arminians?

“Arminianism solves the problem of reprobation by presenting God’s decision concerning individuals as something entirely passive. GOD DECREES TO ELECT THE CHURCH AS A CORPORATE BODY, AND THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHO CHOOSE CHRIST ARE THEN VIEWED AS THE ELECT, while those who reject Him are reprobate” (142).

However, Keathley’s view of Arminians as espousing corporate election only is refuted by Classical Arminian theologian Roger Olson:

“Open Theists argue that their view is consistent Arminianism. As they see it, they have fixed classical Arminianism’s logical inconsistency between divine foreknowledge and human free will. But at what cost? Most Arminians have not jumped on the open theist bandwagon because THEY ARE COMMITTED TO THE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION! Now, there is an irony! Calvinists accuse classical Arminians of not believing in predestination, but MOST CLASSICAL ARMINIANS REJECT OPEN THEISM PRECISELY BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE IN PREDESTINATION. If open theism is true, election and reprobation can only be corporate. But CLASSICAL ARMINIANISM BASES A GREAT DEAL ON ROMANS 8:29, WHICH SEEMS TO REFER NOT TO CLASSES OR GROUPS BUT TO INDIVIDUALS. God does not just justify and glorify groups, but individuals. Classical Arminian theology INCLUDES CORPORATE ELECTION AND INDIVIDUAL (CONDITIONAL) ELECTION based on God’s foreknowledge of future faith (or lack thereof). Open theism has to reduce predestination (election and reprobation) to its indefinite, corporate dimension; predestination of individuals gets lost” (Roger Olson, “Arminian Theology.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006, page 198).

Contra Keathley, Classical Arminians hold to individual election. It is our “Open Theist” brothers and sisters who do not. Let this critique serve as a note to “Calvinistic” theologians and supporters: Classical Arminians are quite distinct and separate from our “Open Theist” brothers and sisters...and we should be treated as a distinct group separate from them in theological discourse.

Arminians and Molinists do differ in terms of their view of God’s foreknowledge (in regards to “unconditional” election). However, Arminians have as biblical a theology as Molinism...if not a more biblical one.

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