Accepting/Rejecting Calvinism (Pt. 10: Molinism)

I apologize for two things: first, how long I have been writing about Calvinism (ten posts now!), and second, for how long I have not been writing at all — the last few months of school were busy, and I couldn’t justify writing 3000 word blog posts when I had papers to write. But now school’s done (!), and I plan to resume blogging weekly.

Next Issue: Providence

After working through why I thought Calvinism was wrong, I needed to begin to reconstruct, positively, an alternative theory. Hence, I re-thought Romans 9.

The next issue at hand was broader: how ought we understand God’s providence? I had come to deny the Calvinistic understanding of the doctrine, which in one way or another argues that God is the cause of all things. However, I was still struck at the magnificent claims of Scripture, the same ones that convinced me to become a Calvinist in the first place:

  • Ephesians 1:11 — God “works all things according to the counsel of his will.”
  • Romans 8:28 — “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
  • Amos 3:6 — “Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?”

What does it mean for God to work all things according to the counsel of his will and for him to work all things for good, such that it can even be said of a disaster coming to a city that the Lord has done it?

Developing a Doctrine of Providence

As with any doctrine, as you develop it, your goal is to come up with a theory that makes the most sense of what is present in Scripture. One’s hypothesis is successful to the degree it faithfully accounts for all the data. What, then, are the data included in Scripture that need accounting for? The relevant data fall under two broad categories:

1. God’s providence. These texts affirm that the general course of the world, specific events, the falling of dice, the death of his son, the end of history, the destruction of cities, the decisions of political leaders, and practically everything is in some sense governed, planned, and orchestrated by God.

2. Man’s freedom. This is a point that is, I believe, assumed by all of Scripture. The authors assume it in giving people choices: Joshua 24:14-15 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” In fact, every imperative (command) is an implicit affirmation of the will’s existence.

Furthermore, it is assumed by affirming that people could have done other than what they did. 1 Corinthians 10:13 “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.” This means that for every time a person has sinned, God had given a way of escape that they could have taken. The implication is that nobody sins who wasn’t able, by God’s grace, to do otherwise. (Emphasis on “by God’s grace.”)

Now, there are many philosophical objections that Calvinists raise to the notion of libertarian free will, which I will address in the future. For the meantime, I am assuming that when Scripture speaks of free will, it is speaking of something truly free. The difference between the Calvinist and the Arminian is how they judge the truthfulness of this claim: “God determined/caused me to freely do X.” The Calvinist says “Yes, that’s true,” whereas the Arminian says “No, that’s nonsensical — if it was determined/caused, it wasn’t free.

The key is trying to fit these together faithfully. And there are five potential outcomes that I can see such an effort having:

  1. We provide an account that makes sense of God’s sovereignty but not of man’s freedom.
  2. We provide an account that makes sense of man’s freedom but not of God’s sovereignty.
  3. We provide an account that fails to make sense of either.
  4. We provide an account that makes sense of both.
  5. We affirm both man’s freedom and God’s sovereignty, but we don’t give an account that tries to make sense of how they work together — in other words, we admit our intellectual limitations and embrace mystery.

Options 1-3 must be avoided. Option 5 is perfectly acceptable, and it’s what the majority of good Christians do. However, Calvinists do not do this, even though they claim to do so. As you read Calvinist work, notice how the question inevitably shifts from “How can God be sovereign and man be free?” to “How can God be sovereign and man be responsible?” This shift in words is evidence they have already gone too far. They’re not saying: “Man is truly free, and God is truly sovereign, and I have no idea how it works!” They say “God has absolutely determined what every person would will and desire and do at every point in history. Boy, it sure is a mystery why we’re responsible for our actions!” However, a legitimate form of holding to mystery is perfectly fine, and some professing Calvinists truly do this, and they do it by not following or being ignorant of how Calvinist theologians have consistently described God’s sovereignty.

But I think the best option is clearly #4. If it is possible, we really do want an answer for how these two things fit together. And the best answer I’ve ever found is in the theological view known as Molinism.

Molinism

During the Reformation, there was a Catholic Jesuit named Luis Molina who wanted to develop a doctrine of providence to serve as a corrective to what he saw in the Reformers. I believe the story goes that upon reading some of their works, he was convinced of how highly they wanted to affirm God’s sovereignty, but thought they did it in a way that didn’t account biblically for man’s freedom. So he developed his own view, which today has become known as Molinism. His view was never formally adopted by the Catholic church, and as far as I know there’s a decent amount of debate within Catholicism between followers of Molina and followers of Aquinas in how they deal with this issue. But I’ve honestly studied very little of the history thus far.

What It Is

  • Molinism is primarily a view concerning God’s knowledge, and secondarily a view concerning God’s sovereignty. It’s a view about God’s knowledge that has implications for how God can be sovereign.
  • Specifically, Molinism is the affirmation that God has what is called “middle knowledge,” and that by means of this knowledge, he providentially guides all that comes to pass.
  • The three presuppositions to Molinism are God’s omniscience, God’s sovereignty, and man’s freedom. Another way to say this is that those three things are the data that Molinism try to explain, or the three things from which Molinism is inferred.

I’ll get back to all this in a second, but let me first explain what it is not:

What It Is Not

Molinism is not:

  • About “possible worlds” or “feasible worlds.” Any Christian philosopher can hypothesize on “possible worlds” if he so please; it is not at all unique to Molinists. In fact, there are atheist philosophers who use the terminology as well.
  • A theory of salvation. It is a theory firstly about God’s knowledge, and secondly about his providence.
    • In fact, there are some Molinists who are for all intents and purposes Calvinists: they affirm that election is unconditional and grace irresistible. They simply affirm these things within a different framework of how God’s providence works, and I agree with them that they do a better job at maintaining legitimate human freedom.

Back to What It Is

I’m going to explain it simply, then indirectly, and then in detail.

A Quick, Simple Sketch

Molinism claims that God works in history through people’s free choices. He knows what people would freely choose to do in any given circumstance, and he uses what he knows they freely will choose to do in order to accomplish his purposes.

An Indirect Sketch: Best of All Possible Worlds?

Throughout history, Christians have wondered: is this world, the one we live in, with all of the good and evil, with the Fall and the death of Jesus, the very best possible world that could have been created?

  • Leibniz and Calvinists like John Piper say yes. They say that Jesus’ redemption of the world from sin is what makes this world so great, and so the evils were necessary so Jesus could redeem us from them.
  • Thomas Aquinas would say not necessarily; he had doubts there even was such a thing as “the best world,” and he had doubts that if there was one, that God would have necessarily wanted to actualize it. Maybe he wanted to make the 18th best world.
  • Molinists would disagree among themselves as to the specifics, but I think a decent number would agree with this:
    • First, they’d be uncommitted to the idea that there is a “best possible world.” That is, they wouldn’t think anything they believe necessarily depends upon their being a best possible world.
    • Second, they would make a distinction between a logically possible world, and an actually possible world. The terms used in philosophy are possible and feasible. Possibility within these discussions refers to mere logical possibility, and the only requirement for something to be possible in this sense is that it isn’t a contradiction. If something is feasible, on the other hand, it actually could come to pass in reality. All things that are feasible are logically possible, but not all things that are logically possible are feasible. Given this distinction, the Molinist could say that we do not live in the greatest possible world but in the greatest feasible world. We live in the greatest world that God could actually make. The greatest possible world would have 1) creaturely freedom and 2) no sin. But perhaps those two, given how man would freely choose to use his freedom, were not possible. Perhaps man would use his freedom to sin. In that case, we are left with the greatest feasible world, given what free creatures would choose to do.
A Detailed Explanation

First, it is a view concerning God’s knowledge. It supposes that there is “middle knowledge,” which is logically “in between” (hence, “middle”) his natural knowledge and his free knowledge. What are those? First, his natural knowledge is God’s knowledge which he eternally possesses by virtue of his own being, who he is. According to his natural knowledge, God knows himself perfectly, and he knows all possible worlds which could logically be possible. Second, his free knowledge is the knowledge which God knows by virtue of his free will, his decision. God has this knowledge eternally, but we can distinguish it from his natural knowledge (which is also eternal), because God knows these things because he willed them. Under this heading falls just about everything else. Via his free knowledge, God knows that Obama would be elected president of the United States in 2008, that my favorite color would be purple (and black), and that Jesus would return in whatever year he returns. These things are known by God, because he willed them to be; apart from God’s choosing to create this world, he would not have known these things. One way to test whether something God knows pertains to his natural knowledge or his free knowledge is to ask “Could God have not known that?” If he could have not known it, it means that it belongs to his free knowledge. For example, he could have not known that I would exist, because he could have not created me! In fact, he could have chosen to not create anything! In that case, God would not know that he was going to create a universe, because that “knowledge” would be false, and thus not knowledge.

What Molina argued is that “between” the two “moments” of God’s natural knowledge and his free knowledge, there is what he calls “middle knowledge.” (Note: the language of “moments” or “before and after” when referring to God’s knowledge refers to the logical order, not the temporal order. God knew all these things simultaneously and eternally, but the things knows eternally still relate to one another in a logical order.) What does God know according to his middle knowledge? He knows all free decisions which creatures, if God were to create them, would choose to do.

Examples really help to make this all clearer. For whatever reason, the famous example is Peter’s denial of Christ.

  • According to God’s natural knowledge, he knew that it was logically possible for Peter to deny Christ and for Peter to confess Christ.
  • According to God’s middle knowledge, he knew that Peter would freely choose to deny. Thus, it should be clear that Peter is the one who determines the content of God’s middle knowledge. If Peter had chosen to confess Christ, then God would have known that. But, since Peter in fact chose to deny Christ, God eternally knew “Peter, given this particular situation (the historical setting he was in, as described by the Gospels), would deny Christ.”
  • But that’s not all. According to God’s middle knowledge, God knew that Peter would deny Christ if he were in that situation. This is merely hypothetical knowledge at this point. But the moment God decides to create this world, he knows via his free knowledge not only that Peter would deny Christ, but Peter will in fact deny Christ.

Another example helps explain this last point. Imagine God creating a very boring world, which consisted simply of a small room, one woman named Jane, and a quarter. Upon creating the world, God commands Jane to flip the quarter. She chooses to obey, and flips heads.

  • According to God’s natural knowledge, he knew that it was logically possible for him to create this world or not, for her to choose to obey or not obey his command, and that that she could flip heads or tails.
  • According to God’s middle knowledge, he knew she would obey, and that she would flip the quarter in such a way that it would land heads up.
  • According to God’s free knowledge, he knew that none of this would happen. Why? Because God didn’t create this world! He created the world we are currently in. But he still knows (via his middle knowledge), that if he were to create that boring world, Jane would obey and end up flipping heads.

Second, given this understanding of what God knows, God is able to sovereignly order all things according to his purposes. He uses the free choices which he knows we will do, and uses them to accomplish his purposes. According to my personal view, and I believe the view of the majority of Molinists, I would want to say that God’s will is not always accomplished. I believe that, were it feasible, God would prefer a world in which nobody sinned and only obeyed him. Sin is the opposite of God’s will; it’s disobedience to what God wants. But perhaps God was unable to create a world of free creatures without creatures abusing that will and falling into sin. So God did what he could based on his knowledge of what mankind would freely choose to do — he created us, permitted us to use our freedom to sin, and then in marvelous grace sent his Son to redeem us from that sin.

So God, by knowing what every person would freely choose to do in any given situation, is able to maximize his purposes in this world through the free decisions of his people. That is, God knows all the ways in which people will respond to given situations, and thus is able to use that to his advantage to accomplish his purposes. Again, concrete examples are helpful:

Imagine Nebuchadnezzar. In the book of Daniel, it records that Nebuchadnezzar became prideful, God made him live like a wild animal for seven years, and then Nebuchadnezzar worshiped God. I think it is safe to say that God’s purposes in making Nebuchadnezzar live like an animal was to humble him to the point of worshiping God (which is the kindest thing he could have done to him). And it seems plausible to me that God knew, if Nebuchadnezzar went temporarily insane, he would come to worship God. This isn’t to say that Nebuchadnezzar would have to worship God as a result, but he knew that he would in fact do so. Thus, God lowered Nebuchadnezzar to the point of living basically like an animal for seven years, in order to bring Nebuchadnezzar to the point of worship.

And the contention of Molinism is that God essentially works all of history out this way. He knows, via his middle knowledge, every feasible way that things could work out. And what is the variable between these given feasible worlds? It is God’s actions, God’s working in the lives of people. So by knowing every precise response of all free creatures to any of God’s actions, he is able to construct a sovereign plan for the world. And this plan is exhaustive: every single movement of every single creature is accounted for, and it extends to eternity. God has a plan from “Let there be light!” till the eternal songs of worship which we will sing to King Jesus. These plans are both shaped by and accomplished through our free choices, but they are fixed. They will certainly come to pass.

Conclusion

Much more can be said. And much more will be said — I plan on addressing objections to this position in my next post. However, I hope that in this post I was able to briefly sketch out a rough picture of how it is that, according to the Molinist, God is able to sovereignly use man’s decisions to bring about his purposes. And I hope that the philosophical discussion and my strange examples don’t distract from the main selling point of this view: it is intuitive and simple on the one hand, yet mind-boggling and majestic on the other.

First, it is intuitive and simple. I remember as a young teenager, thinking hard over these issues, and coming to the conclusion that God must somehow use our free choices to accomplish his purposes in spite of his rebellious creatures. Nothing else could have been more obvious. I never, as a child, could have dreamed of God himself being the direct cause of evil in the world, so I knew there had to be a certain distance, but I knew he had to be somehow in control of it as well. And I think Molinism holds this balance better than any other view.

Second, it is mind-boggling and majestic. The philosophical rigor required to think about Molinism should not count as points against it. If anything, it should be points for it. I would be quite surprised if the answer to the question of how God is sovereign and man is free turned out to be a simple one, just as I would be surprised if I ever came to the point during this life of having it totally figured out. We should expect that whatever knowledge we come to about the mechanics for how this works would be mighty complex, and I’m sure I’ve failed to be as nuanced as I ought to have been! And as for the majesty of this view, I will end with the words of William Lane Craig. He wrote these on the last page (154) of his book The Only Wise God, a book in which he lays out his arguments for Molinism. He writes,

“‘O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!’ (Rom 11:33). We can only stand in awe of this infinite Mind, this incredibly vast and complex Intelligence, who arranged and decreed a universe of creatures moving certainly toward his previsioned ends by their own free choices, who knows the end from the beginning, and who loves us and wills our eternal salvation. ‘To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ!’ (Rom 16:27).”

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13 thoughts on “Accepting/Rejecting Calvinism (Pt. 10: Molinism)

  1. Thanks for your testimony brother. On topic of your series so far; I have not read in depth the whole thing, but I am a fast reader and have skimmed most of it at least.

    I know some who went through that period of doubt, and came out atheists. When I speak to them of God, they see God the monster who causes sin – he is untrustworthy to them. No matter how many times I say, “God is not like that!” they come back to it.

    Calvinists are my brothers too, yet I can see that small jump between where they sit, and where the atheist sits. If you want good exegesis of Romans (and large other passages) look up Craig Keener. Also I found what helped me immensely was reading the early church fathers. Interesting how the Calvinist version does not appear before Augustine (if then). We lost something in culture and language translation I think, that lead large portions of western Christianity down a weird road.

    BTW on topic of this post, I personally reject molinism, but I have great respect for it. It is nice to understand all the positions. I lean personally towards the simple foreknowledge view. But this is not a particularly serious difference.

    God bless
    Andrew

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    1. I completely agree with everything you said. I find it so strange that many “angry atheists” and Calvinists view God more similarly than Arminians and Calvinists do. And thanks for the recommendation to check out Craig Keener! I just looked him up, and I knew the name sounded familiar; I just used his Bible Background commentary for a research paper. I just found on biblicallearning.org that he has free audio lectures on Matthew and Romans; I’ll definitely check those out!

      I plan on writing a post about the historical aspect of this debate. It strikes me as odd that the Reformed try to use history as an argument, but they do it in a celebrity way, not in a consensus way. They say “Look! Augustine! Look! Luther! Look! Calvin! Look! Aquinas (kind of, maybe, sort of)!” I read one particularly illuminating article that when Calvin wrote his thoughts on Romans 9, he became the second (!) person to argue that it was referring to the election and reprobation of individuals. I really do think, as much as we owe to Augustine, there are also a lot that he did poorly. Particularly, his soteriology and ecclesiology.

      Just out of curiosity, why do you reject Molinism?

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      1. Craig Keener has a really amazing personal testimony on how he met his wife as well (unrelated to this topic).

        I have a few reasons for rejecting Molinism; the primary reason is that I don’t agree that it avoids determinism. It’s actually quite a long and involved argument. Now, it may well be I have missed some key point and it does avoid determinism, but I find I’m not alone in that view. I am only an amateur philosopher, and my training in logic is geared towards practical systems, not philosophical constructs. I am able to follow people like William Craig, Jerry Walls or Rich Davis, but I would not attempt to work on their level.

        The second reason I have is that I don’t find it in the early church fathers – not to say that is a strong reason to reject it, but it adds to the argument. It may simply be that Molinism was unnecessary then or implied in some way. Being new doesn’t by default make something wrong.

        Thirdly, I find simple foreknowledge sufficient to explain the state of affairs. There may of course be holes in it I have missed. I don’t deny God knows some counter-factuals of creaturely freedom, but I think Molinism goes further in affirming these than is required. This relates back to the first objection, I guess.

        I have another more minor reason, but I struggle to communicate it well. Last time I tried people were convinced they understood me, but to my mind clearly did not(I got accused of pantheism and all sorts of ideas I don’t hold to), by people who I at least believe meant well. I am not ready to try that again.

        On the balance of these, I find I don’t hold Molinism, but that is just me.

        I should actually collect some of Dr Craig’s arguments for my next crossing of swords with my friendly neighbourhood atheist.

        Micah on the Yield to God blog has a good starting point on determinism in the early church: https://yieldtogod.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/determinism-part-1-rejected-by-early-church-consensus/

        There is also quite a bit on the SEA site. The early fathers actually wrote a whole lot. Hard to get through it all…

        Anyway, I’ve got work tomorrow. Good to (virtually, at least) meet you!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Molinism is very interesting to me. I’m pretty much in the same camp as The Master Cylinder as I don’t think it is quite necessary; God predestinating according to His foreknowledge seems simple, logical, and biblical. I also don’t think that verses like Ephesians 1:11 are saying that God predetermines and micromanages everything that happens. I appreciate that molinists aren’t satisfied with the philosophically sloppy (and dare I even say intellectually dishonest) Calvinist answer of “God predetermines man’s sin but is not the author of it.” Anyway, I know you can make a pretty convincing case for things so I’m excited to learn more about fit Molinism in future blog posts!

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  3. Master Cylinder,

    1. Since you didn’t give the argument that it amounts to determinism, I can’t respond to it. The versions of that claim which I have heard usually seemed quite weak and under-developed to me, so I’ll just wait till I find a developed objection along those lines :).
    2. True, it wasn’t among the early church fathers. But, correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t think there was anything to deny it either. But a lot of things weren’t spelled out by the fathers. There wasn’t a detailed account of substitutionary atonement until Anselm (around 800 AD, I think), or a Protestant understanding of the Lord’s supper (1500s). My view of church history is that a lot of things simply weren’t dealt with early on, and certain historical factors (such as heresies, the concerns of the individuals at the time) really shaped where they turned their attention. Hence, during the Reformation, discussions of soteriology and ecclesiology exploded, because those were the concerns at the time.
    3. What exactly is the simple foreknowledge view? And more specifically, what do you believe differently than me?

    And the same question for Jordanschafe: what exactly do you see as the difference between your view and my view?

    The reason I hold to this, in the end, is its ability to actually account for God’s sovereign working in the world. God, knowing what any creature would do in any given circumstance, is able to place creatures in particular purposes to bring about certain results. Perhaps I should do more to explain this point in my next post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi jordanapodaca

      Please don’t get me wrong there – I should have clarified, so my apologies. I agree that the difference between determinism and Molinism in terms of the early church is that determinism is rejected, and Molinism is not mentioned. In that sense Molinism is far more acceptable to me. For me it’s a mark against the idea, but it doesn’t rule it out. Determinism, however is ruled out for me (quite emphatically by the second Council of Orange, not to mention a long line of Church fathers).

      I have not committed to get into the argument that Molinism entails determinism logically. I decline to do so, save to note that what I have followed of the discussion amoung Arminians is convincing to me, though obviously not to all. Please note I am not attacking Molinism, I just feel it comes too close to determinism for my liking, and like I said, even if it doesn’t cross over, I consider it unnecessary. This by no means is intended to be a “I’m right and you’re wrong!” Just a statement of why I am not a Molinist. I don’t think you’re a determinist, or your reasoning is bad, it just means I don’t necessarily agree with you, and I am certainly not about to try and convince you to accept simple foreknowledge, as I think Molinism is a fine place to land. Perhaps I might even wind up there myself eventually.

      From my reading of the ECFs and I am admittedly but a mere fraction into it, I take a different view – that is that the ECFs were closer to the original language, context, and thought processes than we are, and are thus more likely (not certain) to be correct where they do address things. And they, to my mind address quite a bit more than most think.

      If you want to do a pit of research on simple foreknowledge see this (simplistic) explanation:
      https://wesleyanarminian.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/an-explanation-of-simple-foreknowledge/

      That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t know some counter-factuals(I would think it would be unbiblical to claim God doesn’t know any counter-factuals), but we don’t see it as necessary to claim He knows them all, especially of those who do not/will not actually exist.

      This is not an issue that needs to divide.

      God bless

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      1. I agree completely that this isn’t an issue that needs to divide. I find this fascinating, and I genuinely think God is honored by these conversations if they’re carried out worshipfully and in pursuit of a purer knowledge of him (and not in an attitude of self-defense).

        I must admit, you have exposed some areas of ignorance; that article you linked to explaining Simple Foreknowledge was an entirely new theory to me.

        My first thought was: doesn’t Simple Foreknowledge (SF) make God not omniscient? If it isn’t till he decides to create that he knows what will happen, then it seems to make him be learning, and thus not eternally omniscient. But, of course, I realized that this could be an eternal decision of God, and thus he knew it eternally. (In fact, he said this himself, but it didn’t click at first.) Okay, so that’s fine. But it raises the second issue, which I don’t see a clear solution for. And it isn’t a strict problem, but it seems strange: how could God’s eternal decision to create seemingly involve no logically prior knowledge of what kind of world would be made? And a related issue: did God deliberate in making this world or not? It seems like he surely could have deliberated, but he seems to be saying it was impossible without doing unjustice. But that seems odd. It seems that God would be in full liberty to have this logical order of thoughts:

        Decide to create –> Knowledge of what would happen –> Decide to not create.

        I guess I’m not initially very comfortable with saying that God decided to create without knowing what would happen. The way he writes seems to require that God’s decision to create is (for some reason or another) irrevocable. And, if so, this seems to make him a blind creator to some degree, as if he didn’t know what would happen until it was too late to change his mind.

        But why would we want to say something like that? It makes it sound like if God had only known better, he wouldn’t have created us. But I surely hope this world isn’t a failed experiment! I would like to hope that although God knew the evil we would freely choose to do, he permitted the evils to come about as a byproduct of our freedom in order to secure the eternal blessedness of those who responds to his calling.

        But, with all this said, I will keep chewing on this. Thanks for sharing!

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    2. I think that our views are pretty similar jordanapodaca, but I think I can best illustrate the differences with the example of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. I don’t think that God micromanaged every little situation so as to ensure that Josephs brothers would sell him into slavery. Of course, God famously says, “What man intended for evil, I intended for good”, but I don’t think God needed Josephs brothers in order to accomplish His overall plan. He simply knew what they were going to do and chose to use that particular situation (as opposed to a different situation) to accomplish his plan. I think Joseph’s brothers could have chosen to do the right thing even in their same situation and God would have accomplished his plan via another route.

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      1. I think, actually, that you yourself are a Molinist!
        1. I would agree that God did not micromanage every detail of Joseph’s life, I think.
        2. I would agree that God did not need Joseph’s brothers to accomplish his plans. It seemed like God’s primary intention was to get Joseph to Egypt, and he could have done that in numerous ways.
        3. I agree; God chose to use Joseph’s brothers because he knew what they would do. Your language of God choosing a particular situation over different situations to accomplish his plan presupposes that God has middle knowledge. You’re saying, I think, that God looked at Situation A, saw what his brothers would freely choose to do given that situation, and looked at Situation B, and saw what his brothers would freely choose to do given that situation, and then chose which Situation to have unfold. Perhaps it’d be simpler if we were more specific. In Situation A, God gives Joseph a weird dream, and he knows how Joseph would respond to such a dream, and he knows how his brothers would respond to his response and that it would lead to him living in Egypt. Meanwhile, in Situation B, God does not give Joseph a weird dream, and knows that if he were to do that, the brothers would not sell him into slavery.
        4. And, lastly, I agree: the brothers could have chosen to do the right thing even in their same situation and God would have accomplished his plan in some other way. (This is what Mordecai tells Esther: God raised you up for such a time as this, but if you refuse to go talk to the king, God will save us Jews some other way.) And if the brothers had chosen to do the right thing, God would have eternally known that they would do the right thing, and incorporated that into his plans.

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  4. No worries. CS Lewis says of God somewhere, “Apparently he thought it was worth the risk.” I am not suggesting Lewis held SF, but I am suggesting that the worst possible outcome would still be worth the risk, for it isn’t deism – God is intimately involved in His creation. The worst possible outcome is limited by the very presence of God.

    I don’t think the world by any means is a failed experiment(God’s ultimate purpose succeeds, whatever your view), and I can wholeheartedly agree that evil was permitted as a byproduct of freedom.

    There is a lot more scholarly work on this idea floating around. It is worth doing a bit of digging if you want to understand it better. The view presented in the link excludes counterfactuals, but I think that may be a little extreme. However, like I said, Molinism isn’t a bad place to be. And many Arminians affirm that or classical foreknowledge.

    Roger Olson(I think it was him at least) posits that you find the system whose mysteries you can live with best. The line is drawn before Open Theism though. Thomas Oden calls that heresy, and I trust his judgement on that.

    Whatever view we hold, God is in control, and knows the beginning from the end, yet causes no evil or sin directly or indirectly.

    Cheers

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    1. The thing I take issue with is the author of that blog’s apologetic motive. He says that this view escapes what he sees as an insurmountable problem: that if God knew all the evil that would result as a consequence of his decision to create, then he would be guilty for wrongdoing in creating. He quotes a Calvinist who asks these two questions:

      1. If [in Arminianism] God knew that Adam and Eve were going to transgress his law, why didn’t he change the circumstances so that they would have made a different choice?
      2. Why [in Arminianism] would God create people he knew would be condemned for their original and actual sin?

      And he proposes SF as a way to avoid these accusations by appealing to an ignorance of God. He would only do this if he thought God’s knowledge of how the world would turn out if he decided to create would somehow make him guilty or immoral. And this seems to strongly imply that if God had only known what he was going to create, if he only did in fact know the risk, then he wouldn’t have created. If you deny this conclusion, then I don’t see how it responds to the two objections above from the Calvinist.

      Like I said, though: I’ll do some more digging.

      With that said, your approach to theology is dead on. You affirm everything you ought to (God’s control and knowledge, man’s freedom, God’s non-causing of sin), and you acknowledge that there’s mystery.

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