Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Classical Arminianism and Molinism: A Comparison and Contrast Between Two "Mediate" Theologies, Pt. V-A: The Consistency of Arminius's Theology

“...it is also required that there be a predetermination to call, assist, and comfort the man (a martyr) 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 and aids 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” (Luis de Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge” from “Concordia, Pt. IV.” Trans. by Alfred J. Freddoso. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988, page 245).

As I declared in my last post, Molina held to the idea of contingency in perseverance---that is, that within perseverance, there are two options: one COULD persevere, but one could also NOT persevere. For such is the nature of choice.

Did Arminius hold to Molina’s emphasis of contingency in human decisions? Yes indeed. In 1608, Arminius along with Adrian Borrius (a minister of Leyden), was accused of heterodoxy and heresy in his teaching. He was forced to give an “Apology” or “Defense” regarding certain articles that were circulating in the Low Countries. Two of the articles Arminius had to defend dealt with faith; one of these articles dealt with apostasy, or the idea that one could fall away from salvation. This is what Arminius had to say:

“I say, that a distinction ought to be made between ‘power’ and ‘action.’ For it is one thing to declare, ‘that it is POSSIBLE for the faithful to fall away from faith and salvation,’ and it is another to say, that ‘THEY DO ACTUALLY fall away.’ This distinction is of such extensive observance, that even ANTIQUITY ITSELF WAS NOT AFRAID OF AFFIRMING, concerning the elect and those who were to be saved, ‘that it was POSSIBLE for them NOT TO BE SAVED;’ and that ‘THE MUTABILITY BY WHICH IT WAS POSSIBLE FOR THEM NOT TO BE WILLING TO OBEY GOD, WAS NOT TAKEN AWAY FROM THEM’...at one time I certainly did say...’that it was POSSIBLE for believers finally to decline or fall away from faith and salvation.’ But at no period have I asserted, ‘that believers do finally decline or fall away from faith or salvation’” (Arminius, “Works,” 1:741).

Do you see what Arminius was emphasizing here? Arminius distinguished the “possibility” of falling away from the “probability” of falling away. These two distinctions are important. As Ken Keathley notes in his work, “Salvation and Sovereignty”:

“At this point some lodge an objection against the concept of contingency, namely that GOD’S FOREKNOWLEDGE OF WHAT CHOICES AN AGENT WILL MAKE REMOVES ANY POSSIBILITY of that person making a different choice...THEREFORE CONTINGENCY MUST BE AN ILLUSION, or at least merely hypothetical, and all choices are made of necessity...Molinists point out that the ‘foreknowledge entails necessity’ objection of theological fatalism CONFUSES NECESSITY WITH CERTAINTY. God knows all truths with certainty...but God necessarily foreknowing an event does not entail or require that the event necessarily happens” (Ken Keathley, “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach.” Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2010, pages 31-32).

A good example to demonstrate “certainty” and “necessity” would be, “Deidre is awake now at 2:40am in the morning.” God knew I would be (in the past, before now), and He knows now that I am awake. And He knows when I will go to bed this morning. All of these statements of information are certain. However, they are not NECESSARY; for they did not have to exist. Suppose that God never allowed me to be born. If the Lord had not allowed me to be born to my parents, James and Teressa Richardson on August 21, 1984, then I would not exist...and the Lord would not know that I would be awake. Knowledge is that which is “true”...and if the Lord had never willed my birth, then it wouldn’t be “true” that I am awake (for I wouldn’t be alive, and the statement itself would be false). This is why, for example, God doesn’t “know” a half-man, half-beast human. Half-beast humans don’t exist. It’s the same as saying God knows a “round square” or a “square circle.” Such things are nonsense and do not exist!

The fact that God’s knowledge of human decisions exists only makes the events certain (for the individual); it does not make the events necessary (or inevitable). Here is what Arminius was saying: there is a possibility that believers will fall away, not that it is necessary that they do (or that it is even an actual event). However, the fact that it may not ever be actualized does not eliminate the possibility of the event. If you go to 1 Samuel 23, you will see that even though Saul did not come down to the town of Keilah and the men of the city did not hand David over, it was POSSIBLE in that moment of time when God told David it would happen. However, it was not necessary, since David did not get captured by Saul.
But what about “contemporary, evangelical Molinism” in regards to perseverance? I will get to this in my next post.

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