Here’s the question:
I am troubled at the mass amount of Calvinists I see who are incredibly intelligent and trustworthy christian leaders. What I mean is that, So many seem to be capable of great analysis (far beyond myself), but seem to stick their head in the sand when it comes to the problem of evil. If they don’t, then they tend to make God a self-contradicting being. Why do you think this is so?
I’m also personally troubled at how few leaders I see subscribing to Molinism. It seems to me that it answers the most questions and creates the least problems. I understand it can be complex, but I wouldn’t think we would just rest with the problem of evil not being satisfied. I don’t base what I believe on the beliefs of others, but we can’t ignore the influence others have in our lives, or the desire to have a home with others when it comes to these thoughts.
Anyway, I would enjoy your thoughts… as I always do.
And here’s the first part of the answer:
I think you’re right, Gordon, that a great many intelligent and godly Christian leaders are Reformed, or followers of John Calvin, in their theology. I’m currently participating in a four-views book on divine providence along with a pair of Reformed theologians. It is evident from their contributions that, despite the intellectual puzzles raised by the Reformed view, they both embrace it because they are convinced that it most faithfully represents the teaching of Scripture on the subject, Scripture being the only authoritative rule of faith.
Actually, I have no problem with certain classic statements of the Reformed view. For example, the Westminster Confession (Sect. III) declares that
God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
Now this is precisely what the Molinist believes! The Confession affirms God’s preordination of everything that comes to pass as well as the liberty and contingency of the creaturely will, so that God is not the author of sin. It is a tragedy that in rejecting middle knowledge Reformed divines have cut themselves off from the most perspicuous explanation of the coherence of this wonderful confession.
By rejecting a doctrine of divine providence based on God’s middle knowledge, Reformed theologians are simply self-confessedly left with a mystery. The great 17th century Reformed theologian Francis Turretin held that a careful analysis of Scripture leads to two indubitable conclusions, both of which must be held in tension without compromising either one:
that God on the one hand by his providence not only decreed, but most certainly secures, the event of all things, whether free or contingent; on the other hand, however, man is always free in acting and many effects are contingent. Although I cannot understand how these can be mutually connected together, yet (on account of ignorance of the mode) the thing itself is (which is certain from another source, i.e., from the Word) not either to be called in question or wholly denied (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1: 512).
Here Turretin affirms without compromise both the sovereignty of God and human freedom and contingency; he just doesn’t know how to put them together. Molinism offers a solution. By rejecting that solution, the Reformed theologian is left with a mystery.
Craig levels 5 challenges against Calvinism:
- Universal, divine, causal determinism cannot offer a coherent interpretation of Scripture.
- Universal causal determinism cannot be rationally affirmed.
- Universal, divine, determinism makes God the author of sin and precludes human responsibility.
- Universal, divine, determinism nullifies human agency.
- Universal, divine determinism makes reality into a farce.
Read the rest here. It’s worth it. (Registration is not required, as far as I can tell)
All of my readers should try to make themselves familiar with Molinism (i.e. – middle knowledge). I have friends who are Calvinists and I think it helps to be able to explain to non-Christians how God can be sovereign over all of the universe from the beginning of time, and yet man can still be responsible for freely choosing to rebel against God.
I think every Christian feels that God was tugging them toward him to some degree or other, and that they had no free choice to resist him. And on Molinism, there was no other way it could be. God chose a universe in which he knew that you would freely respond to his drawing you toward him. He was not surprised – he knew. There was no rolling of the dice – he chose to save you before the universe was created. But not in violation of your free will to respond to his salvific initiative. He chose you, and he gave you what you needed to respond to his drawing you to him.
Seriously folks – the middle knowledge view solves the problem of divine sovereignty and human freedom a lot better than Calvinism does. You can keep your Calvinism if you like it, but it sure helps to know the Molinist view if you are talking to atheists who want an answer. Just phrase it as a possible answer to the problem, if you don’t believe it. At least survey the possible views for non-Christians so they see it as a possibility.
- What are the differences between Wesleyan Arminianism and Calvinism?
- First debate on Calvinism/Molinism between James White and Michael Brown
- James White debates Michael Brown on Calvinism vs Foreknowledge (1 of 2)
- Michael Brown debates James White on Foreknowledge vs Calvinism (2 of 2)
- What about those who have never heard of Jesus?
Response from a Calvinist