Monday, July 12, 2010

Classical Arminianism and Molinism: A Comparison and Contrast Between Two "Mediate" Theologies, Pt. IV: Contingency in Perseverance

“...let us take as our example an action that is supernatural and extremely difficult, namely, A CONFESSION OF FAITH UNDER TORTURE ALL THE WAY UP TO THE END OF ONE’S LIFE, A CONFESSION THAT MAKES THE PERSON IN QUESTION A MARTYR; and let us assume that this confession is elicited from an unbeliever, who is justified through it. Clearly, for an action of this sort it is not only necessary that there should exist all the divine predeterminations spoken of above with reference to the aforementioned indifferent or morally good action, but it is also required that there be a predetermination to call, assist, and comfort the man at the time in question by means of the extraordinary aids of PREVENIENT AND COOPERATING GRACE, without which the man’s faculty of choice would be unable to persevere. STILL, THESE AND THE AFOREMENTIONED PREDETERMINATIONS LEAVE HIM ABLE, AT THE INSTANT AT WHICH HE IS CONVERTED, NOT ONLY NOT TO BE CONVERTED BUT EVEN TO DISSENT FROM THE FAITH AND TO REPUDIATE IT; AND THEY LEAVE HIM ABLE AFTERWARD, AS LONG AS HIS TORMENTS LAST, ALL THE WAY UP TO THE END OF HIS LIFE, TO SUCCUMB AND TO REPUDIATE THE FAITH...otherwise, such a conversion to the faith and such perseverance in confessing it would not be meritorious---indeed, they would not even constitute a morally good act, since there can be neither merit nor moral goodness in any act unless there is freedom...with respect to the opposite” (Luis de Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge” (Pt. IV of the “Concordia”), Disputation 53, section 8. Translated by Alfred J. Freddoso. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988, pages 245-246).

This post will focus on the last of the tenets of both five-point systems of Classical Arminianism and Molinism. Now, I’ve made it no secret that both systems are similar in terms of their view of depravity and atonement. They even hold to three logical moments (not chronological) of God’s knowledge (natural, middle, and free knowledge). Molina himself held to prevenient grace and cooperating grace (as Arminius does in his “Works”), but Keathley denies the contemporary “evangelical Molinist” that option. Now, in this post, I am gonna dive into both the Classical Arminian and Molinist views on perseverance.

I provided the quote above to make a point. Most people believe that, since Molina argued for an “unconditional” election (without regard to foreseen faith), he clearly would not argue for the libertarian freedom of man to make choices. Much to the surprise of many, however, he argued that free choice was of such a nature that a man could turn from his conversion, even in the last hour (and minute) of the man’s life. Simply put, because he argued for contingency in his system (the idea that man can make self-determining choices), he realized that even perseverance was covered under “the umbrella of contingency.”

Here is what Molina had to say after the above quote in his “Concordia”:

"But since God foresaw that, BECAUSE OF THE MAN’S FREEDOM, this confession and perseverance right up to the end of life would occur...through the volition of His well-pleased will He willed this act, greatly pleased that it was going to occur in that way because of His gifts together with the free volition of the faculty of choice. And it is for this reason that He is said to have predestined and predetermined this action, as was said above concerning morally good actions” (Luis de Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge [Part IV of “Concordia”]”). Trans. by Alfred J. Freddoso. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988, page 246).

In other words, God saw the actions of the person in question, that the convert would persevere; and as a result, willed the act of the creature because of His commitment to libertarian freedom. And even with the foreknowledge that creatures will choose the right, “the predetermination to confer such assistance [for perseverance] in no way deprives the faculty of choice of its freedom not to elicit the action in question or even of its freedom to dissent from it” (Molina, “Concordia,” Part IV, page 246).

The Lord allows creaturely freedom, even evil, because He will not go against His declaration and force the creature to do good (even if the good is what He desires for them). In every situation in which the creature does that which is bad, he or she still had a choice. Molina’s words echo those of the apostle Paul:

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. GOD IS FAITHFUL, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation HE WILL ALSO PROVIDE THE WAY OF ESCAPE, THAT YOU MAY BE ABLE TO ENDURE IT” (1 Corinthians 10:13, English Standard Version).

God is always “for us,” that we would choose the good over the evil; but God will not force us to do so. In every temptation, the Lord will provide the aids we need to resist Satan and sin. If we don’t choose to flee the temptation, however, we cannot turn around and ask, “Where was God?”; for when we ask that question, we fail to understand that God was already there strengthening us to resist the sin that we decided to commit.

How does this tie into our discussion on perseverance? Well, it ties in because 1 Corinthians 10 shows us that God has aided every believer to endure trials and tribulations, to fight the Devil and his demons, and endure until the very last breath of mortal life. Where’s the proof? Look at the armor of God that allows us to stand against the Devil (Ephesians 6); if that’s not enough, consider the fact that our faith serves as a keeper, a preserver, for final salvation (1 Peter 1:3-5); so we have all we need to fight sin, Satan, and the world. What else can God do for us that He hasn’t already done? We don’t need to look for the strength in our toughest moments because He’s already given divine strength to us to face the days ahead.
Because we have the divine power we need to persevere and endure the race of life, we can endure to the end.

But at this point, someone will say, “You do hold to perseverance of the saints, right?” I would respond, “Yes, I do hold to A perseverance of the saints.” Do I think the saints are to persevere in order to be saved? Yes. However, where I disagree with most who espouse the traditional view of “perseverance of the saints” is that the traditional view often teaches what’s called “The Doctrine of Eternal Security” (see my section so labeled to the right of the main page). The Doctrine of Eternal Security

“ called by Baptists, eternal security or once saved always saved. Those of us who are Reformed call it the perseverance of the saints. But we mean the same thing. AND THE DOCTRINE STATES THAT ONCE YOU’RE SAVED, YOU’RE ALWAYS SAVED, THAT GOD HOLDS YOU, THAT YOU WILL PERSEVERE TO THE END” (Steve Brown, Midday Connection, Moody Cassette Ministry, “Eternal Security,” air date: 4/28/93).

Arthur C. Custance states this about the doctrine:

“Perseverance of the Saints denotes what today is commonly referred to as the eternal security of the believer...THE SECURITY OF THE BELIEVER IS BOUND IN WITH THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, THE UNCHANGEABLENESS OF HIS PURPOSE, AND THE CONSTANCY OF HIS GOOD PLEASURE. IT IS THE FAITHFULNESS OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND NOT THE FAITHFULNESS OF THE BELIEVER that guarantees this security” (Arthur C. Custance, “The Sovereignty of Grace.” Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979, page 84).

The doctrine states that you are “eternally secure” in your salvation, no matter what happens. Now I know that some Calvinistic theologians might say, “Well, we believe that the person should also bear fruit to attest to their salvation,” but this is foreign to the idea of “eternal security.” This doctrine says that one’s security is UNQUALIFIED because there is nothing you’ve done to get security in Christ, and there is nothing that can take that away. Simply put, bearing fruits of repentance doesn’t even nullify it (since according to this view, “nothing can take you out of the Lord’s hand”). Therefore, you can be eternally secure and bear no fruits of salvation whatsoever. Although Calvinistic theologians do not like the doctrine espoused in such a manner, I’m only taking the doctrine to its logical conclusion.

In my next post, I will examine Arminius’s “Works” regarding the Doctrine of Apostasy (Falling Away) and contrast Arminius’s view of perseverance with the Molinist view of eternal security. Keep reading.

No comments: