Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Decrees and the Divine Will: The Activity of God in Salvation, Pt. 2: Molinism's Flawed Critique of Classical Arminianism

“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 Arminianism views 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” (“Salvation and Sovereignty,” 142).
I stated in my last post that there were problems with this response from Dr. Ken Keathley’s work “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach.” This post will consume itself with tackling the above quote.
According to the quote, Arminianism views God as “passive” concerning the decrees. But what about the antecedent/consequent wills approach Dr. Keathley mentions in his chapter on “Does God Desire the Salvation of All” (see part one of the title)? In the last post, I quoted Dr. Keathley as stating that “the antecedent/consequent wills approach,” which both Molinists and Classic Arminians hold to, “understands God to be THE SOVEREIGN INITIATOR AND GRACIOUS COMPLETER OF REDEMPTION. If man is to choose between heaven and hell, IT IS BECAUSE THE LORD OF CREATION HAS PLACED IT BEFORE HIM” (“Salvation and Sovereignty,” 60).If God has placed salvation and damnation before humanity and given each individual the options of heaven and hell, how could God be passive in salvation? After all, did He not decide to give salvation to all and set the terms and conditions? Robert E. Picirilli writes:
“Surely God’s sovereignty means that He acts freely, under no conditions than that He be true to Himself. Neither a priori (from our logic) nor a posteriori (from Scriptural evidence) is there any reason to believe that God could not sovereignly establish any condition He chose (or no condition at all, did He so choose) for salvation. As Arminius put this, ‘The freedom of the goodness of God is declared...when He communicates it only on the condition, which He has been pleased to impose’” (Robert E. Picirilli, “Grace, Faith, Free Will---Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism.” Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2002, page 57).
God had the freedom to set no terms at all, if that is what He desired to do. However, He did set terms, and Christ declares this to Nicodemus (John 3:16-18).
Let’s use an example. Say you were hiring employees for your company that just got up and running off the ground. In order to hire employees (or have potential employees), you must alert the public that you are in business and intend to hire workers. The first thing you do, then, is place an ad in the newspaper and on the internet about job openings. In the newspaper ads and internet statements, you give a sketch of the type of person you would be interested in hiring. One such characteristic of an ideal worker might be experience. This might cut out some of your work base, but at the same time, you might like the idea of bringing workers into the company that can provide ideas and direction for the company that you may lack at the moment. Or, you may simply just want to hire experienced workers because you don’t wanna bother with training “newbies.” As another characteristic, you might look for someone who has good computer skills, can type a lot of words in a small amount of time. You may need to do a lot of typing and printing at your job, and you need someone who will not take all day to type up one article. You might want someone with a certain type of college degree, whether it be simply a batchelor of arts, batchelor of science, master of arts, master of science, doctorate of arts, doctorate of science, or a doctorate of philosophy degree. Requiring a certain educational experience might be ideal for you because someone with such educational knowledge may provide skill that others will not possess. If you are just starting a company, you may want more for your money. If you hire someone with lots of knowledge, you will get more for your dollar.
And then comes the day when you must conduct interviews. Once you have some resumes sent in, you must go through those resumes meticulously and decide whether or not you have more interest in someone as a result of their resume. Some resumes may not appeal to you and you may simply dismiss certain resume senders. But there may be other resume senders that really intrigue you, so you decide to call them and set up an interview where you can meet with them and talk even further of your job expectations.
This example may not be an ideal one for the issue of salvation, but the emphasis of such an example is to make the case that as the employer of a company, you have a right to conduct affairs the way you want to. You have a right to put out ads and announcements with specific characteristics for the kind of employee you’d like to have. You have a right to interview certain individuals, reject others outright, have further meetings with intriguing individuals, etc. And, after all interviews have been conducted, you have the right to hire only those individuals you please and reject those you just don’t think will be good for your company. All of this power comes with the fact that you own the company.
If we apply this to the issue of salvation, then, if God is sovereign (has all power), can He not do with that power what He desires to? The answer to this from Calvinists, Molinists, and Arminians is a resounding “Yes.” The next question becomes, “If God can do what He wants, then can He not allow salvation to be granted on the basis of faith?” Here is where Calvinists and Molinists get off the train. Calvinists will argue that God being sovereign entails God picking and choosing certain individuals for salvation. Molinists will say the same (“Sovereign Election,” from “Salvation and Sovereignty”), which is why Dr. Keathley notes that Arminians label God as “passive” in their view of salvation. The problem with this, however, is that God has not revealed that He picks and chooses individuals for salvation in His Holy Word. Rather, this notion of God’s work in salvation is derived from certain philosophical notions of the sovereignty of God that the text does not affirm.
Dr. Keathley himself rejects the idea of God granting salvation to individuals on the basis of faith when he writes that Arminianism presents “God’s decision concerning individuals as something entirely passive” (141). My question to Molinists would be: “If God must pick and choose who will be saved, why does He need to set conditions for faith?” If God decides by His mere whim who will be saved and who will not, then why set faith as a condition? It’s the same as an employer who sets requirements for a job: if the employer will pick certain individuals because he likes them, why require things like educational experience, work experience, computer skills, etc.? For God to set conditions when He will choose individuals apart from the conditions is to go against His own word, to deny Himself. How can God require conditions and then go against those conditions in salvation? Dr. Keathley argues that faith is the condition for salvation (119-121, 196), but then turns around and argues that election is “unconditional” and that God actually determines who will be saved by “whether I...have the opportunity to respond to the gospel, or am placed in a setting where I would be graciously enabled to believe,” which he also notes as “sovereign decisisons made by Him” (“Salvation and Sovereignty,” 155).
Molinists leave the reader with the impression that there are two conditions (God’s selection and faith) that are divorced from each other. I would say that divine selection and faith are not divorced, but united. To use a verse that I hold dear, “Without faith it is impossible to please God; for he that comes to Him must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, NKJV).
There are other problems, but I will address them in the next posts.

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