Saturday, February 27, 2010

God, the Sole Source of Contingency (Molina's "Concordia," Disputation 47, Section 4)

“for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring’” (Acts 17:28, NKJV).

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and UPHOLDING ALL THINGS BY THE WORD OF HIS POWER, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high...” (Heb. 1:1-3, NKJV)

I just recently started going through Molina’s “Concordia,” attempting to interpret Molina’s remarks regarding life and his view of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Recently, I spent time going through two types of “contingency.” In this post, however, I am now going to further Molina’s argument on contingency--- with his view of God as the source of contingency itself, the One on whom everything else depends for life and growth.

“Let this, then, be the first conclusion: since, as was proved in Part I, q. 3, a. 4, disp. 1, NO CREATED THING IS NECESSARY IN RELATION TO THE FIRST CAUSE, but rather ALL WERE PRODUCED BY HIM IN SUCH A WAY THAT THEY WERE ABLE NOT TO EXIST, it follows that GOD’S FREE WILL IS THE SOLE SOURCE OF ALL THE CONTINGENCY DISCERNED (i) in the fact that there were things that were first produced by God alone (as, for instance, in the original establishment of this universe with respect to all its parts and embellishments), and also (ii) in the fact that those things whose conservation depends on God alone are conserved and continue in existence” (Luis de Molina, “Concordia,” Disputation 47, Section 4. Translated by Alfred J. Freddoso. Page 88).

Now, the place where Molina proves his first point is a place that we do not have access to. Only Part IV of Molina’s “Concordia” has been translated from Spanish into English. Because of this, we are a little shortsighed on Molina...but we have all here that we need to affirm Molina’s previous conclusions. He says that “no created thing is necessary in relation to the first cause.” The “first cause” here would be the “origin” or “source” of existence as we know it. Our English word “authentic” means to be “original,” or to be the primary source of something. I have often published at my other site, “Men and Women in the Church,” that the disputed Greek word of 1 Timothy 2, about “being in authority over a man” (as most translations interpret it), is incorrect. The Greek word “authentein” actually involves the suffix “ein,” which indicates an infinitive (“to be” something), plus the Greek word “authentikos,” from which our English word “authentic” derives. The verse in 1 Timothy 2 so often mistranslated should read, “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to be the origin of man. This makes sense when you read the rest of Paul’s response about Adam being created “before” Eve and Eve being deceived. Paul was correcting doctrinal error in the church regarding biblical genealogy. This is why Paul tells Timothy that the purpose for leaving Timothy in Ephesus was so that he would teach some there not to teach “other doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3) or to pay attention to “myths and endless genealogies” (1:4).

In any case, Molina is talking about the source or origin for all other things. Because creation is not “necessary” in relation to this being (but the Being is necessary in relation to the creation), the creation cannot be “necessary,” but “contingent” or “dependent.” If, as I’ve written in other posts, “contingency” means that something is “dependent” on something else, then the object or source on which the thing depends is a “necessary” being. Molina then states that these objects “were able to not to exist,” meaning that these objects could have never been created. Alfred Freddoso gives us a note at the bottom of page 88:

“Molina is a bit careless here. As is clear from other places in Part IV (see, e.g., Disputation 50, sec. 6), he does not mean to suggest that God freely decides which things are ABLE to exist and which things are NOT ABLE to exist. Rather, to put it somewhat loosely, of the things that are able to exist, He freely decides which ones will IN FACT exist and which ones will IN FACT not exist” (88).

What Freddoso is saying here is that God doesn’t just choose any random thing, no matter how contradictory, to come into existence. Why? because God is a God of consistency, which means that only things that are logically reasonable are brought into existence. For example, God will not bring a “round square” or a “square circle” into existence because these two items would be contradictory in and of themselves. And, since the created things reflect the Creator who made them (Romans 1:20), God will not make anything contradictory to His nature. He has created things that are different to His nature (like humanity, for example, or trees), but nothing made is contradictory to His nature. With humanity, we see this clearly when “the Word of God became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14, NKJV) in the Incarnation. The Lord Jesus, being our “Immanuel,” our “God With Us,” took on flesh and His divine and human natures did not clash or conflict with each other.

Since this point is established, that all created things depend on a necessary thing for their existence, he then gets to the heart of the matter: “it follows that God’s free will should be regarded as the sole source of all the contingency discerned...” God’s freedom, God’s desire to create the things He has made is the source of all contingency in the world. What does the world and everything in it depend on? GOD!

Now, what proof does Molina give for this assertion that everything in existence depends on God? “(i) in the fact that there were things that were first produced by God alone (as, for instance, IN THE ORIGINAL ESTABLISHMENT OF THIS UNIVERSE WITH RESPECT TO ALL ITS PARTS AND EMBELLISHMENTS)...”

This is the first proof Molina offers. The creation of the world and “all its parts and embellishments,” meaning things like the water and the land, the sun, moon, stars, plant and animal life, etc. We know from Genesis 1 that creation was made by the free decision of God. This is why, for instance, when we read “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3), “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear” (1:9), and “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (1:26), we understand that God is saying “Let there” or “Let Us” because the decision is up to God, who freely wills these things to be. These words, translated in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament), appear as subjunctives, which indicate possibility or potential. For instance, if a person tells you, “I might go to the concert,” we don’t assume that they “will”; instead, we think to ourselves, “he is considering going,” or “there’s a possibility that he will go,” etc. The fact that God creates the world and all of creation attests to the desire of His own will.

The second reason is “in the fact that those things whose conservation depends on God alone are conserved and continue in existence” (88). In other words, every moment of every day that goes by, these “contingent” things remain in existence because of God’s commitment to sustaining them. I quoted Hebrews 1 above because it shows us that everything remains in existence because “of the word of His power.” Because God is faithful to His creation, the creation remains. Atheists appeal to “natural laws” when they discuss the continuing presence of creation; however, as believers, we “amen” the Word when it tells us that God upkeeps everything by His Word. Should God ever decide (for argument’s sake) to refuse to uphold the world any longer, all He has to do is say “fall,” and the world as we know it would fall into the abyss. The world would no longer turn on its axis in such a situation. God does not just “wind” the world up and leave it alone as the Deists believe; no---at every moment, He is interacting with creation by His Word.
I will continue our discussion on Molina and the source of contingency in my next post.


Deidre Richardson said...

Dear Readership,

Molina stated that God's will was the source of contingency, the one responsible for all the contingent beings (human) and objects (creation) that are present in our world. Molina's view is validated by Scripture. While reading for Old Testament Theology a day or so ago, I found two passages that confirm Molina's thought that I wanted you to get ahold of:

(1) Revelation 4:11---"'You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, and BY YOUR WILL THEY EXIST AND WERE CREATED'" (NKJV).

(2) Jeremiah 33:9-16--- this passage shows God's faithfulness to His creation covenant. Bruce Waltke writes, "Apart from I AM's faithfulness to His irrevocable covenant to maintain the day and night, the cosmos would revert to chaos" ("An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach" by Bruce Waltke. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007, page 205).

Just wanted to supply some scriptural backing for Molina. I believe in doing this to represent all theological systems fairly and give them as much scriptural backing as possible.

Kaitiaki said...

Certainly God sustains the universe he has made - I am yet to be convinced of Molina's distinctions though. I would suggest we don't need to talk of contingency to describe the universe.
I would use exactly the same verses you quote for exactly the same reasons - but would describe the universe as working exactly as God has created it to work. That he has ordained all that comes to pass ("he does as he wills in the heavens and on the earth and none can stay his hand or say 'what doest thou?'" an other places) and that he has ordained that our decisions have consequences which he has also ordained ("You will say to me, 'why does he yet find fault for who has resisted his will?' No oh man, who are you to argue against God ..." then the illustration of the potter and the clay).

Is my view logically inconsistent? Probably. But I don't have to be logically consistent - only faithful to Scripture. After all though I don't understand him perfectly (and no human can) I can at least understand the teaching of his word. If God sees no conflict, why should I?

Deidre Richardson said...


When you talk of doing away with contingency, I'm not sure if you understand what you're saying. Contingency itself states that everything is dependent upon God for its existence. To do away with this idea is to state that God "had to" do something, that it was "necessary." And the only thing necessary about God is His existence...

There are passages in Scripture, though, that show us how the world condition has drifted from what God intended it to be. For example, the issue of divorce. In Matthew 19:8, Jesus said,

"Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Matt. 19:8, NKJV).

Jesus tells us here that divorce was never originally intended to be part of the plan of God or the world condition...and yet, we live in a world that is full of divorce. But if we take away the idea of contingency, then divorce was always in the plan of God. But what do we do with Jesus' words about divorce? If divorce was necessary to the plan of God, then Jesus is deceiving us here. And I'd like to believe that God is true, but every man a liar (Rom. 3:4).

You want to dispel with the idea of contingency, but there has to be sufficient justification for why believers must do away with this idea. All you've given me at this point is that you see things differently. However, that is no sufficient justification why we should do away with an idea. You have to have biblical evidence to do away with contingency. And I'm awaiting what biblical justification you have for your response...

Kaitiaki said...

I guess I have to come back to looking at the kind of language the Bible uses. That it may be used to help us make theological and philosophical distinction does not mean that is the language of its original authors.

The Bible says Jesus ascended into heaven when he left the earth. That was written from the disciples' perspective. He didn't actually go up - the meaning of ascend. If he left the ground and went "up" he actually went outwards. The difficulty with applying philosophical precision to such language is it makes a mockery of the intent.

That God lowers the accuracy of his language to let us see his truth in a way we can understand it does not give us the right to use that language to paint his character inaccurately.

The Bibles makes it quite clear that God is unchanging - that he ordains whatever comes to pass. Your quotation from Bruce Waltke would tend in that direction.

It also says that he does not desire the death of any sinner. That some are lost cannot be interpreted in any way which denies what we just established.

All I want to do is to accept both statements as absolutely true. Do I have to now find something in the sinner who is saved that explains why God saves him? Why can I not just say God doesn't change, my perception is incomplete and will always be incomplete? Can I not accept that, as a human, I can never completely define God or explain his character exhaustively? As long as I keep within the bounds of the Bible's plain intent I can surely not go wrong.

The Bible says it is purely God's choice that I am saved - nothing (and that means nothing) in me was worthy. There is no difference between me and any other sinner, but God loved me anyway and sent his son to die for me. Then I will accept that. Anything else leaves something for me to boast about.

What Molina's contingency means for me is I am tempted to say I influence God's choice. That takes from me the God whose justice is absolutely impartial and whose mercy is boundless.

Deidre Richardson said...


I am gonna respond again and say that regarding Molina's idea of contingency, you have not provided a biblical response against his view of contingency.

But your quote at the end gives it away: "What Molina's contingency means for me is I am tempted to say I influence God's choice. That takes from me the God whose justice is absolutely impartial and whose mercy is boundless."

But it is your doctrine of God that takes away from God's "impartial" justice (as u have labeled it). How can God not be partial if He throws all in judgment to have mercy on a few? That's what Calvinism states: that God pulls "some" from the mass, as if to say that God doesn't desire to pull all. And that contradicts what you believe about God desiring all to be saved. If He desires all to be saved, then He would provide the means for all to be saved. And He has---by grace through faith, given to every single person. Romans tells us that "God has committed them all (Jew and Gentile) to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all" (Rom. 11:32, NKJV). This is on the heels of what was written before verse 32:

"For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown to you they also may obtain mercy" (Rom. 11:30-31).

God has committed all, Jews and Gentiles, to disobedience in order to "have mercy on all." It doesn't say He committed them all to have mercy on "a few," or "the elect," or anything of the sort. The scriptures must be distorted in order for Calvinism to shine through, which is why the issue is not theological, but philosophical.

Notice your statement from above about middle knowledge: that to affirm contingency, is to affirm that "I influenced God's choice." This is not what is being stated by the doctrine. What contingency states as a doctrine is that things did not have to be the way they are. Since you are a Calvinist, you should be thrilled that this doctrine exists. Calvinists always say that "God did not have to save me," so this doctrine should be embraced by you.

Next, regarding the idea that this doctrine makes God dependent on us: I would say that i honestly don't know where you get this idea from. But I do know that, ultimately, this goes back to the faith issue and regeneration. In any case, Genesis 15 shows us that "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness" (Gen. 15:6). It wasn't the calling of God that made him righteous (although God called him of God's own initiative), and it wasn't Abraham leaving his country that made him righteous. No---it was the fact that he "believed God," had faith in God, that made him righteous. And this is how it is with every individual before God. God is not dependent on man bc He is the "one who calls" (Rom. 9). He is the one who chooses to call every person to Himself. No one makes Him do this or forces His hand. Secondly, it is Abraham's faith that justifies him. Just because he heard God's voice did not make him "elect" or "chosen" for salvation. And today, God calls all to Himself---but He does not "make" us come. We all have a choice: to believe or not to believe. Just like Abraham, we will only be justified when we say, "I believe." And God is not dependent on man because He set faith to be the way by which man would become saved (Gal. 3:18, 22). God did this so that even the Gentiles could come to faith.

You've got to show me where in the Bible in regards to salvation is there some other way that God designs the process if you intend to make your case. You state what the Bible says; but I require passages of Scripture at the site to support what is said, as I did above. To just write what you believe about the Bible without typing it or referencing it will not do.