This article at Free Thinking Ministries was written by my friend Tim Stratton. In it, presents a view of God’s sovereignty over salvation without falling into the error of double-predestination.
Excerpt: (links removed)
Many reformed folks (freely?) choose to reject Molinism because they contend that this theological view “smells of synergism.” What is this stench that reportedly makes John Calvin turn over in his grave? Simply put, synergism is the view that man plays at least a small part in his own salvation process. Monergism, on the other hand, is the view that God is the author of salvation from beginning to end.
Since Molinism affirms that man is free to choose to reject God’s saving grace or not, many Calvinists jump to the conclusion and assume that Molinism must be synergistic. This does not necessarily follow. Consider one possible model:
1- God, by nature, is a volitional unmoved mover who is free to choose between options in accord with His nature. (This is supported via the Kalam and the Argument from Time).
2- By God’s grace, humans are created in the “image of God.” By nature, then, we are free to choose between options in accord with our nature. (This is supported via the Freethinking Argument).
3- Adam & Eve freely chose to disobey God and this sin completely separates humanity from God. This is what it means to have a “totally depraved sin nature.” (Every aspect of man is separated from God).
4- In this state of depraved separation from God (sin nature), humans do not even know God exists if merely left to our own devices.
5- If humans do not even know God exists, then, left to our own devices and apart from God’s grace, it would be impossible to choose to love and follow God (thus, Pelagianism is impossible on this view).
6- God, in His love for all people, provides amazing prevenient grace to all people (Romans 1:20), writing the law on the human heart (Romans 2:15), conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-9), and draws all men (John 12:32). This is commonly referred to as “common grace.”
7- Therefore, by God’s grace, human nature has changed from a “totally separated from God nature” to a nature that has now experienced enough divine revelation (influences) allowing all mankind to start making some free and volitional choices in accord with our new nature; namely, to choose to resist God’s grace and revelation, or not. Mankind is without excuse because we do not have to resist what God has made clear (Romans 1:18-20).
[Note: According to Calvinist, Matt Slick (albeit inadvertently), Mark 4:10-12 implies that if an unregenerate person gets access to clear and accurate information, then they possess the ability to become Christians!]
8- If one does not reject or continually resist the grace and revelation God provides them, then God will continually provide more and more until the person reaches the point of “no return” and will become saved.
Thus, God does ALL the work in salvation from beginning to end on this Molinistic model; all the human can do is freely resist God’s grace and revelation, but he or she does not have to! The human does nothing to gain salvation apart from God’s grace on this Monergistic Model of Molinism.
I think that Stratton’s formulation above does indeed keep God as the sole initiator of salvation. And that’s good. But it also makes sure that human who resist God’s leading are responsible for their choice to resist God, and that’s good. We want salvation to be 100% by faith alone in Christ alone. But we don’t want God to be the cause of people not being saved. On Stratton’s view, God wants everyone to be saved. If anyone is saved, it’s because God did ALL THE WORK to lead them and secure their salvation with the death of Jesus on the cross. But, on Stratton’s view, humans do get a choice – the choice to trust God or not. And so, if a person is not saved, then it’s their fault – not God’s. This works.
Read his whole post, and see what you think about it.
Looks like Justin Brierley on the Unbelievable radio show found a pastor with a Ph.D in philosophy, and he can really whip some ass. And that’s a good thing, because he is taking on one of the two leading proponents of religious pluralism, in my opinion, (the other being Paul Knitter).
John Hick is a noted philosopher and theologian who is a proponent of a pluralist view of religion – that there is one light (God) but many lampshades (religious expressions).
Chris Sinkinson is a pastor and Bible tutor who has critiqued Hick’s work. He says that pluralism empties Christianity of any content and in its own way disrespects other religions more than his own exclusivist stance.
Justin does a great job as moderator of this debate. He said what I was thinking of saying a number of times during the debate.
Anyway, here is my snarky summary. I creatively paraphrase some of the things that Hick says to make it more clear. And funny.
– had an experience looking at the buildings of other religions
– other religions have buildings, so all religions are equal
– I spent some time in the East, and met nice Eastern people
– since Eastern people are nice that means all religions are equal
– isn’t Jesus’ claim to be the exclusive path to salvation offensive?
– all religions that are exclusive and have to deal with religious pluralism
– even John Hick writes polemically in favor of his own view
– even John Hick thinks that religions that are exclusive are false
– what about the blind man and the elephant?
– the story seems to say that other people have a partial grasp?
– but the story-teller himself has the privileged view
– so isn’t the religious pluralist just as arrogant as exclusivists?
– well, it’s not arrogant to claim to have the right answer
– Jesus never made the claim to be God incarnate
– Jesus never made the claim to be the exclusive path to God
– historians don’t think that John’s gospel is reliable because it is late
– the proclamation of exclusivity was added by evangelists much later
– the historians who doubt the high Christology are radical skeptics
– the mainstream of historical scholarship accepts a high Christology
– the EARLIEST history about Jesus has the highest Christology
– the moderate scholars do think Jesus was divine but that he didn’t think he was divine
– the phrase “Son of God” was used to describe any remarkable person
– only later did the early church turn the generic term into “God the Son”
– there is reflection on Jesus’ identity and developments, but not invention
– Jesus and his followers were in trouble precisely for linking him to deity
– why else would Jesus get into trouble and get crucified?
– the Romans crucified him because people were saying he was the Messiah
– but the Messiah was not identified as being divine, but political
– and that’s why the Romans crucified him
– do you (Sinkinson) think that people in other religions can be saved?
– the traditional view is exclusivism
– the other world religions are logically contradictory with Christianity
– you have to respect their differences – they are not the same as Christianity
– exclusivists allow that people can be saved by responding to natural theology
– and there are also other cases where non-Christians are saved, like old testament saints and babies who die in infancy
– but people’s religions are based on where they are born
– so it’s not fair for God to expect people to be saved in one religion only
– the plurality of religions grouped by location doesn’t make christianity false
– that would be the genetic fallacy – rejecting an idea because of its origin
– the real question to consider is whether it is true
– and even the objection assumes that God is a God of love, who should be fair
– but how do you know that God is loving? that is an exclusive view
– how can the “blob” ultimate of religious pluralism be “loving” and “fair”
– the ultimate reality is loving or not loving depending on each person’s religion
– but some religions and theistic and some are atheistic
– how can those God exist and not exist?
– God is beyond everyone’s understanding, except mine
– God is beyond all definitions, except mine
– God is beyond all human understanding, except mine
– i’m not contradicting myself, it’s a mystery! a mystery!
– as long as you don’t look to closely, they’re all the same!
– allow me to tell you about God, which no one can do but me
– doesn’t your religious pluralism mean that Christianity is false?
– well, Christianity can’t be true, because it disagrees with other religions
– Christianity can’t falsify other religions, that would be mean to them
– other religions are just as “profound” as Christianity – and that’s what matters – not whether a religion makes true claims
– some religions are older than Christianity, that means they can’t be disagreed with
– we can’t let Christianity be true, because then some people will feel bad
– if people feel bad, then they don’t like me and then I feel bad
– if there’s one thing I know about the unknowable ultimate reality, it’s that it wants me to be liked by lots of people
– your view seems to be agnosticism – that nothing can be known about the “ultimate real”
– if we can’t express in words what God is like, then why are you saying what God is like?
– the indescribable ultimate is described (falsely, but interestingly) by various tradition
– does the “ultimate real” exist?
– are all the exclusive religions wrong, and only you are right?
– all propositions about God in all the religions are false
– the experience of being deluded and having feelings about your delusions is “valid” in all religions
– all religions are equally good ways to believe false things and to have feelings about your false beliefs
– only my propositions about God are true
– everyone who disagrees with me is wrong
– so all the propositions of all the religions are wrong
– but all the experiences and feelings are “right”
– all propositions about God are humanly constructed, and so false
– except mine – mine are true!
– so everything distinctive about Christianity are literally false?
– yes, Christian doctrines are all false
– because if they were true, other religions would be false, and they would feel bad
– and we can’t have that, because everyone has to like me
– only things that don’t offend people in other religions can be true
– so do we have to then treat all religions as non-propositional?
– well just don’t ask people about the content of their beliefs
– just treat their religion as non-cognitive rituals, feelings and experiences
– don’t inquire too deeply into it, because all religions are all nonsense
– i’m very respectful and tolerant of different religions!
– but Muslims, for example, think their religion is making truth claims
– but there can be tolerance as long as you treat religions as non-propositional nonsense
– um, I have a higher respect for religions than you do
– I actually consider that the claims of other religions could be true
– I think that other religions make truth claims and not nonsense claims
– well they are all useful because they are all false
– I don’t emphasize beliefs, I emphasize living, experiences and feelings
– as long as everyone accepts my view and rejects their religion, we’ll all be tolerant
– erm, isn’t that an exclusive claim?
– you’re trying to say that your view of what religion is is right, and everyone else is wrong
– I’m not arrogant, I just think that all the religions of the worlds are false
– only my statements about religion are true – everyone else is wrong
– I’m tolerant, and Christians are arrogant
– but you think Sinkinson’s view is wrong
– why should we accept your view and deny his view?
– His view of salvation is false, and mine is true
– you use words with set meanings, but you mean completely different things
– when I say salvation, I mean deliverance from sins through Jesus
– I get to decide what salvation means for everyone, you intolerant bigot
– but that word has a specific meaning that has held true in all of Christian history
– but what you mean by salvation is people having subjective delusions that are not true
– I don’t like using the word salvation
– but you just used it!
– and you think that it is present in different world religions, but it isn’t
– God is unknowable and indescribable
– God isn’t a wrathful God though
– and the Christian description of God is false
– Evangelical Christians are mean
– I had experiences with people of other faiths
– and these experiences taught me that religions that think that the universe is eternal are true
– as long as you reduce religion to behaviors and not truth, then religions are all good at producing behaviors
– if you just treat all religions as clothing fashion and food customs, they are all valid
– the main point of religion is for people to agree on cultural conventions and stick to them
– never mind the propositional statements of religions… who cares about truth? not me!
– but Christianity is definitely false
– the Judeo-Christian God is different – he reveals himself to humans
– he is distinct from the other religions
– he is personal, and is loving but also angry at sin
– But God isn’t a person, and he isn’t a non-person
– I can’t say what he is – I’ll offend someone if I say anything at all!
– except Christians – I can offend them because they are arrogant bigots
– I’m also very spiritual – I meditate on my breathing
– you can’t assess a religion by the experiences that people have
– people who have weird experiences do all kinds of evil things
– so the real question has to be about truth – is the New Testament reliable?, etc.
A practical lecture on money – spending, saving, charitable giving – from famous pastor Wayne Grudem.
I like the way that Wayne Grudem navigates the Bible finding the passages that tell you who God is, so that you can make better decisions by analyzing alternatives and choosing the one that gives your Boss a maximum return on investment. He’s very practical.
Christianity does not teach asceticism (= don’t enjoy anything in this world), Paul condemns it in 1 Timothy 4:1-5
When you buy nice things, even if it is a little more expensive, it’s an opportunity to be thankful for nice things that God has provided
Even being rich is OK, but don’t let it make you haughty and arrogant, and don’t set your hopes on your money (see 1 Tim 6:17)
It is important for you to earn money, and you are supposed to use it to support yourself and be independent
It is possible to overspend and live recklessly (Luke 15:13) and it’s also possible to overspend and live too luxuriously
Increasing your income through career progression is wise, because it allows you to give away more and save more
God gives us freedom to decide how much we spend, how much we give away, and how much we save
every choice a Christian makes with money will give him or her more or less reward in his or her afterlife
Do not spend more than you have – you should make every effort to get out of debt as quickly as possible
Saving money is wise so you can help yourself and others, and have money in your old age when you will not be working
If you do not save your own money, you end up being dependent on others (e.g. – family or taxpayers)
Not saving money for the future is a way of “putting God to the test” (Matt 4:7)
You are to “be dependent on no one”, to the extent that you can (1 Thes 4:12)
We don’t know the future, that’s why we should prepare for an emergency, and buy insurance to guard (James 4:13-17)
It’s right for us to learn how to save to be able to buy bigger assets, like a car or a college education
Saving and investing in stocks and bonds lets people in business start and grow companies, creating jobs and new products
Don’t over-save, trusting too much in money more than you trust in God (Ps 62.10; Matt 6:19,24; Luke 12:15-21)
it is required for the people of God to give something out of what they earn, but no percentage is specified (Deut 26:12-13)
you do not give money to become right with God, you can’t earn your salvation
a Christian gives to show God that you trust him to take care of you, and to experience trusting him through your giving
the quality of your resurrection life with God is affected by giving you do for the Kingdom (Phil 4, Matt 6:19-21; 1 Tim 6:18-19)
when you get involved in the lives of others and give to them, you have the joy of experiencing caring for others (Acts 20:35)
it’s possible to give too little, but it’s also possible to give too much – be careful about pride creeping in as well
The first part of this lecture made me think of my treat for the week, which is to get a double chicken burrito bowl after my weight lifting. It is very easy to say grace when you are hovering over a double chicken burrito bowl. It is good to have nice things especially when it makes you thankful for what you have.
I was so happy listening to this talk because he was condemning bad stewardship, which I see in a lot of young people these days. I was happy until he got to the part about trusting in your savings for your security, and then I thought – that’s what I do wrong! I save a lot but it’s not just for emergencies and to share with others, like he was saying – I want a sense of security. This was more of a temptation in my 20s than it is now in my 30s, though.
Charity should hurt
I can remember being in my first full-time job as a newly hired junior programmer when the 2001 recession struck. I would cry while signing checks to support William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith ministry, because I was so scared. I had no family or friends where I lived to help me if anything went wrong, and that’s been the story of my working life. If anything goes wrong, there is no backup. But it’s that experience of crying when I gave that allows me to say today “that’s when I became the man I am, that’s what a man does when he is a follower of Jesus”. If you are not doing the actions of charity, then you will not having the experience of trusting God and letting him lead you. There is more to the Christian life than just saying the right things – you have to do the right things.
Don’t follow your heart
If you’re scared about giving when you are young, then do what I did in my 20s: work 70-hour weeks, get promoted often, and save everything you earn. I volunteered every Saturday for 9 months in order to get my first white-collar part-time job when I was still in high-school. The faster you increase your savings, the easier it’s going to be to take a genuine interest in caring for the people around you. Read Phil 1 (fellowship), Phil 2 (concern for others), and Phil 4 (charity). Turn off your emotions and desires when it comes to choosing what to study and what work to do, and put Philippians into practice. Your freedom to give is very much tied to the quality of your decisions of what to study, where to work, how much you spend on entertainment, and so on. That’s why you need to turn off your feelings and desires and do what works, even it it’s not fun, and even if it involves responsibilities, expectations and obligations.
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king.
14 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?
15 Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.
17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire;and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
18 But even if He does not,let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and ordered him to reply to Mordecai:
11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days.”
12 They related Esther’s words to Mordecai.
13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews.
14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,
5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.
6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.
8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,
10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;
11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
25 When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days,
26 they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land.
27 Thus they told him, and said, “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.
28 Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there.
29 Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan.”
30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.”
If you have a favorite Bible verse or two, post them in the comments.
This lecture is based on the book “Truth in Religion” by famous philosopher Mortimer J. Adler. At the time of writing the book, he was not a Christian, but there is still a lot of value in the book for Christians who are trying to understand what religion should really be about.
About the speaker
The speaker is one of my top 3 favorite speakers of all time in Christian apologetics, Dr. Walter Bradley. (The other two are Dr. Stephen C. Meyer and Dr. Michael Strauss)
Dr. Bradley received his B.S. in Engineering Science and his Ph.D. in Materials Science from the University of Texas in Austin.
Dr. Bradley taught for eight years at the Colorado School of Mines before assuming a position as Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University (TAMU) in 1976.
During his 24 years at Texas A&M, Dr. Bradley served as Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University and as Director of the Polymer Technology Center, and received five College of Engineering Research Awards. He has received over $4,500,000 in research grants and has published over 140 technical articles and book chapters. He has also co-authored “The Mystery Of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories. He is a Fellow of the American Society for Materials and of the American Scientific Affiliation and serves as a consultant for many Fortune 500 companies.
some propositions are true culturally – just for certain groups in certain times (cultures)
some proposition are true trans-culturally – true independently of what anyone wants or feels
Mathematical truth is trans-cultural – it is true regardless of cultural fashions
Scientific truth is trans-cultural – it is true regardless of cultural fashions
Some truths are not like this – cooking traditions, clothing traditions and greeting traditions
These kinds of truths are NOT trans-cultural, they vary by culture
The question is – is religion true like math and science, or true depending on the culture
Some people think that your religion depends on where you were born or what your family believes
Religions make conflicting claims about the way the world really is, so they can’t all be true
And these conflicts are at the core of the religions – who God is, how can we be related to him, etc.
So if religions convey trans-cultural truth, then either one is true or none are true
If they are not trying to convey trans-cultural truth, then they are not like math and science
Let’s assume that religion is the same as trans-cultural truth
How can we know which religion is true? 1) the laws of logic, 2) empirical testing against reality
Logical consistency is needed to make the first cut – self-contradictory claims cannot be true
To be true trans-culturally, a proposition must at least NOT break the law of non-contradiction
According to Mortimer Adler’s book, only Christianity, Judaism and Islam are not self-contradictory
All the others can be excluded on the basis of overt internal contradictions on fundamental questions
The others that are self-contradictory can be true culturally, but not trans-culturally
The way to proceed forward is to test the three non-contradictory religions against science and history
One of these three may be true, or they could all be false
We can test the three by evaluating their conflicting truth claims about the historical Jesus
Famous skeptics have undertaken studies to undermine the historical Jesus presented in the Bible
Lew Wallace, Simon Greenleaf and Frank Morrison assessed the evidence as atheists and became Christians
There is a lot of opposition in culture to the idea that one religion might be true
But if you take the claims of Jesus at face value, he claims to be the unique revelation of God to mankind
Either he was telling the truth about that, or he was lying, or he was crazy
So which is it?
Why don’t religious people ask if their religion is true?
People seem to be chicken these days about claiming that their religion is true. It’s easier to say that my religion is true for me, and your religion is true for you – reduce it to personal preferences. So long as everyone is sincere about what they believe, then that’s the most important thing, right?
But it is NOT TRUE that you can believe whatever you want as long as you are sincere – sincerity doesn’t mean that you can’t be mistaken. I can jump off the top of the Sears Tower and be sincere in my belief that I will float down like a feather, but that doesn’t make my belief true. If you want to have a good relationship with God, you have to know things about him, not just have sincere beliefs. You have to know whether he exists and what he is like – really. It’s not enough to have sincere beliefs that are not actually true.
I think that God’s existence and character can be assessed and known based on logic and evidence. I think that God exists independently of whether I want him to or not, and I think that his character and desires are not the same as my character and desires. And I don’t really care what my neighbors think of my disagreeing with them, my goal is not to keep silent and to just get along with them and be happier in my community.
God’s first commandment to us is not to love our neighbor – that’s number two. Number one is to love him. And how can we love him, if we don’t want to know him. And how can we love him, if we don’t tell people the truth about him when they ask us?
That message is not going to win us a lot of friends, but our job as Christians is to tell how and why God stepped into history. Jesus expects us to be his ambassadors and to carry out the task of evangelism faithfully, and to suffer with him and – if necessary – to be rejected like he was rejected.