Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Theodicy in Theology

“MOLINISM DOES NOT PROVIDE AN EXPLANATION as to why God created a world in which it was possible for sin to enter, but IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO DO SO. Molinism is a defense, not a theodicy. A theodicy is an attempt to explain why God ordained the world He did. A defense is much more modest, simply attempting to demonstrate that it is logically consistent to believe that a good and sovereign God can purpose to create a world like ours. Molinism accomplishes this” (Kenneth Keathley, “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach.” Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2010, page 163).

What should a theology include? This is a good question that every theologian, Bible student, and Christian believer should ask themselves. If “theology” really comes from the words “theos” (God) and “logos” (study), then what should we say about “the study of God”?

Clearly, the first obvious answer would be, “The study of God begins with the Bible.” The Bible is considered to be “The Word of Truth” (James 1:18), and Jesus Himself is called “The Word” (John 1:1, Revelation 19:13). Our word “theology” could also mean “the word” (logos, Grk. “logia”)---“of God” (theos, Grk. “God”). So to study theology is to study “the Word of God,” which is the Holy Bible.

Looking at Kenneth Keathley’s quote above, one could easily get the impression that there’s something wrong with Molinism as a theological system. Keathley writes:

“Molinism does not provide an explanation as to why God created a world in which it was possible for sin to enter, but it is not necessary to do so” (163).

Why is it “not necessary” that Molinism provide a theodicy (which is an explanation for the existence of sin and evil)? If we are going to study theology (the Word of God), and the Bible has something to say regarding sin and evil, then, shouldn’t we AT LEAST have a BIBLICAL explanation for the existence of sin and evil? Genesis tells us how sin entered the world: through the rebellion of Adam and Eve. And Paul tells us in Romans 5 that “through one man sin entered the world” (Rom. 5:12, NKJV).

In addition, the Scriptures themselves report of the character of God. The sons of Korah describe God in Psalm 45 as one who “love(s) righteousness and hate(s) wickedness” (v.7) and one who rules with “a scepter of righteousness” (v.6). David wrote in Psalm 25 that “Good and upright is the Lord” (Ps. 25:8); in Psalm 23, David wrote that the Lord “leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (v.3). In Psalm 34, David tells that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous...[but] the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (Ps. 34:15-16). In Psalm 37, the Lord “loves justice and does not forsake His saints...but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off” (Ps. 37:28). James 1:13 tells us that “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (therefore, God does not cause sin and evil); and 1 John 1:5 tells us that “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”

I provided all the above references to God and evil to demonstrate that the Bible has much to say about God and evil---and, by so doing, SEPARATES God FROM evil! Therefore, to have a theological system that offers no explanation regarding the simultaneous existence of God with evil in the world is, to be honest, to provide a “half-biblical” theology...which is not really a theology (study of God) at all.
Molinism claims to only offer a defense for why sin is in the world; but Molina himself poses the “Greater-Good Theodicy” in his “Concordia”:

“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 FOR THE SAKE OF SOME GREATER GOOD” (Luis de Molina, “Concordia: On Divine Foreknowledge, Pt. IV,” Disputation 53, Section 17. Translated by Alfred J. Freddoso. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1988, page 252).

Molina clearly believed that God’s “meticulous” (or particular) sovereignty required some explanation for the presence of evil in the same world that contained a “good” God. His answer? That evil served some “greater good,” some special purpose, that good, by itself, was not sufficient to serve. And I’m gonna be bold here and say that, if Molinists desire to have a viable theology, they MUST follow Molina’s path and agree to the Greater-Good Theodicy. If not, then, for all their hardwork, Molinism as a theological system will always be “on the front porch, looking in.”

To use Keathley’s phrase, God is “good and sovereign”; but He is not a good God if He “chooses” a world where some are reprobate, some are elect, and God’s will is responsible for ordaining one person “elect” and another “reprobate” (see MacGregor’s “Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology,” Chapter 2, page 67). It is this thorny issue in Molinist theology that must be answered (1 Peter 3:14-17); otherwise, Molinism will be just as lost for an explanation of the presence of evil as Calvinism.

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