Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Mentionables: Music, freedom of the will, and more!

Songs for the book of Luke - good music here. You know, it's actually worship music. So, if you like the contemporary "boyfriend jesus" music then you may not like it. Check it out anyway.

Usual stuff
Molinism vs Calvinism - This is a great answer to a question by Dr. Craig.
What is molinism and is it biblical?
Molinism - Greg Koukl
Molinism/middle knowledge entry at Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Robert Adams's New Anti-Molinist Argument
William Hasker on Divine Knowledge - Another objection critiqued by Dr. Craig


  1. I can't help but notice that, in his response regarding Calvinism versus Molinism, Craig didn't really touch upon scripture at all, but philosophy, and so is probably right in defining that "today’s evangelical Molinists are basically philosophically sophisticated Arminians." In fact, it seems like most Molinists I speak to today are individuals who love philosophy as much as they love theology (if not, in some extreme cases, even more). I recognize that some Molinists will point to Matthew 11:21-24 as their scriptural prooftext (which I believe is placing the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLAble), but even Craig and other Molinists have said that's an incorrect summary of the passage. In fact, when I often try to discuss the pro-Calvinist passages with various Molinists, I see them do the same face-plants that I see Arminians and other synergists do, and they *have* to fall back on philosophy. I'm not anti-philosophy, believe me, but there's a certain level where we have to forego human reasoning and rely upon what the word of God plainly says. I would not be Reformed if I didn't believe it was the most accurate depiction of what was said in scripture.

  2. I approach this differently than most. I don't know if I'm on the fringe or not. What I do know is that I haven't found anything in my research where anyone else has taken my route. I'm actually going to write a blog post on it sometime soon (yeah right...more like months from now).


    So scripture tells us that God is Sovereign with a capital "S" right? We also find in the scripture, over and over just like God's sovereignty that man is free and has a responsibility to submit to God's law/trust in Christ for salvation. How do reformed theologians work this out? They call it a mystery. Reformed theologians, for the most part, don't take a *firm* stance on how those two things in scripture gel together. They don't. Some do, but it's not reformed theology I don't think.

    We can't find in scripture a *firm* stance on the gelling of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility/will. What do we have to do? We have to use a tool given to man because he is made in the image of God which is reason. We reason from nature and from the scripture to find a solution. No, it's not going to be revelatory perfect but we reason the best solution to try and gel those two truths in a system.

    What are some systems? Well you have determinism which is mostly found in hyper-calvinism and doesn't lineup with scripture because why? Well because determinism eliminates man's responsibility and also means God creates fresh evil in man's heart which isn't true at all. Another is arminianism which has problems because God's knowledge is just based on every future decision made by man which, arguably I know, eliminates God's sovereignty which is plainly revealed in scripture. So, that doesn't work. Molinism comes in. Yes, it's philosophy. Yes, we are outside scripture so we can't say it's scriptural but it is based in God's general revelation and the system is based on the principles of God's sovereignty (strong sovereignty too) and man's will/responsibility which are both biblical truths I argue. Molinism keeps God's sovereignty and man's responsibility in its system. I think it's the best solution with what we know firmly about God and his creation.

    My pastor is reformed and he just says it's a mystery and that the two (God's sovereignty and man's will) are illogical. I don't think they're illogical. It's illogical if all we had was determinism, compatiblism or just foreknowledge. I think molinism gels the two nicely. Perfectly? No but nicely.

    1. BTW, just a little addition to my last post: I'm not trying to be difficult, and I'm not trying to...I dunno...argue with you (at least not in the accusatory "you're going to hell" or "I know so much more than you" sense). I just find it difficult to understand Molinism at times, so don't read my last post as an attack against you necessarily, let alone a disagreement with you specifically.

    2. No worries! I love civil conversations on this stuff. It's fun and helpful.

  3. Just out of curiosity, do you know any specific Reformed theologians who have said the relationship between the two is a "mystery"? I'm not denying your experience with your pastor, but most of the Reformed theologians I've read or pastors I've listened to haven't argued it's a "mystery", but have been able to discuss it fairly well. Recently I've been reading the treatises written by Erasmus and Luther on the relationship between sovereignty and will, and one of the contentions made by Luther (who, while not being Calvinist, was a monergist, and would share similar opinions regarding this) against Erasmus was that God's sovereignty and man's free will were subjects which not only should be discussed, but could be understood by God's people.

    Now in respects to the relationship of man's will and God's sovereignty, we can actually see it clearly outlined in scripture. Take, for example, this section from Paul's epistle to the Ephesians:

    And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [Ephesians 2:1-9]

    Here the apostle Paul describes our will before regeneration: dead. Not literally dead, of course, but spiritually dead, following the course of this world, and being by nature children of wrath (also translated "objects of wrath"). We have a will, yes, but that will is enslaved to the nature of this world - we strive to sin, and want nothing to do with the true God. It is in the midst of all this - while we are dead - God steps in and makes us alive - aka, regeneration. This is done out of grace, with absolutely no contribution from ourselves. We are saved by God's grace through our faith, yes - but even that faith, as explained here, is said to be a gift from God.

    Here we see the perfect relationship between man's will and God's sovereignty: man has a will, yes, but that will is enslaved to sin, and the will can do nothing more than what is within it's power; God is sovereign over all, even our salvation, and we owe all to God. This is seen within the plain reading of scripture, as seen in a passage clearly teaching on the very subject, rather than turning to and relying on (dare I say this?) fallible human logic and rational. It is not that I think philosophy, rationality, logic, etc. are useless, or that we NEVER use them - to quote Jonathan Edwards: "Reason is the God-given means for discovering the truth that God discloses, whether in his world or his Word." However, when we come up with our doctrines, especially regarding salvation, it should be on what scripture teaches, and solely on what scripture teaches, because God has made His plan of salvation clear no where else, and nothing else is our determining rule of faith.

    1. I wasn't clear that I think for working out divine providence molinism has a better solution. It's not biblically clear how that works when talking about God's sovereignty and man's will. It just isn't. The biblical authors didn't tell us if everything is directly caused by God (determinism) or just foreknowledge (God makes decisions based on man's choices thus being dependent on us). Well wait! We do know from scripture that neither of those two work because either 1) man's will is eliminated which isn't biblical or 2) God's sovereignty is eliminated which isn't biblical. So, I meant to say that I've heard from my pastor, R.C. Sproul, Macarthur, and Greg Koukl that the best most biblical answer for this relationship is that it's a mystery because we don't have a clear answer how it works in the bible.

      Like you said, we are told by biblical authors that man is fallen, dead in sin, and that God is sovereign, King of all, but still we aren't told how the two connect. My pastor said an "old" theologian wrote that the two are like railroad tracks, i.e. they are parallel to each other; side by side instead of locking in like gears.

      Paul is clear in describing man's condition before regeneration, no doubt that is clear that man is dead in sin and unable to come to the father on his own. Did you know though that molinists (at least described by Bill Craig) hold to the same view? Some are chose for salvation on that view, some aren't. Now, general foreknowledge arminians don't hold to that, but molinism does. For example, imagine you have a friend named Frank who wasn't a Christian. Well according to Molinism there was some world that God didn't actualize where Frank may have been a Christian, but God in his sovereignty didn't actualize that world because in that world his plan wouldn't come to fruition. That was probably a crude example but you can get the general idea of how molinists handle God's electing purposes. He is still sovereign in election.

    2. Let me refer you here bc my example was crude.

    3. Part 1/2

      I think I would still disagree that “it’s not biblically clear how that [man’s will and God’s sovereignty] works” together, or that “we still aren’t told how the two connect,” for the reasons I outlined in the previous post. Mankind has a dead will, unable to come to God because, spiritually, he’s a dead man, and it is in the midst of this dead state that God intervenes, and accordingly saves the individual with such grace that even the person’s faith is called a gift. I think John Piper put it best when asked about this very topic: he described man’s will as subservient to God’s sovereignty. Let me use this metaphor: you can take a brick and tell it, “You have a will - go up or go down,” but so long as it’s under the influence of gravity, that brick is always going to go down. In a similar sense, the story scripture tells us is that man has a will, but you could stand there and tell that person the Gospel all day, but in the end it isn’t until God intervenes and regenerates that person’s heart that they will respond.

      Now, you explain: “Some are chosen for salvation on that view, some aren't...according to Molinism there was some world that God didn't actualize where Frank may have been a Christian, but God in his sovereignty didn't actualize that world because in that world his plan wouldn't come to fruition.” My contention with Molinism, however, is that it appears to teach that God’s sense of election is that He ordains circumstances in which a person, of his complete free will, will respond and accept the Gospel. In this sense, it almost comes across as Providential Semi-Pelagianism. In the link you provided, for example, Mr. Craig says: “God is so good that He won’t allow anyone to be lost if that person would under any circumstances respond to the Gospel and be saved.” The problem is that being dead in our sins and being made alive doesn’t mean God simply brought us into such a position that we would respond freely. The way scripture speaks of it is an internal act of God. For example: Christ states in John’s gospel, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (Jn 6:45b); this hearing and learning (indeed, the teaching seen at the beginning of the verse) is an act of God, and is internal, similar to the language found in Jeremiah 31:33 with: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” This is effectual teaching which goes along with the effectual grace seen in verse 44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” No one can come to Christ (literally “has the power to” in the Greek) unless the Father draws the individual (and the word for "drawing" here is not like a sign outside a church or a barker at a carnival, but a dragging of a net or rope - an effectual drawing), and that same individual will be raised up on the last day. Nowhere do we see language of alternate worlds reviewed by God so that the individual might be saved - God is the source, author and actor of salvation in toto.

    4. Part 2/2

      A similar passage, found from the apostle Paul:

      What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. [Romans 9:14-18]

      Coming from the discussion of individual election, Paul answers the question (similar to what Mr. Craig discussed in the link you provided) on whether or not God’s election means God is unjust. He quotes God in the Old Testament with “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion,” adding that this compassion and mercy “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” He then goes on to Pharaoh, quoting God as saying that He raised Pharaoh up, adding that God will have mercy on whomever He wills, and harden whomever He wills. I’m aware that some people try to argue that Pharaoh hardened his own heart and God merely responded, but (aside from the fact that Exodus 4:21 clearly has God declaring “first blood” on the hardening), it ignores Paul’s entire point: whether or not a person’s heart is hardened or God shows mercy upon a person is dependent upon Him alone. I’m aware that some Molinists might say this doesn’t contradict Molinism and that God merely organized it so that Pharaoh would be hardhearted or the people would respond to God...but God is stating that He is the active party here on the hardening and giving of mercy. The reason Pharaoh’s heart hardened to the extent it did was not because of him, but because of God.

      One could never come to the conclusion of middle knowledge or “alternative worlds” with these passage unless one first invented the concept and then read that into scripture. There just isn't room for it.

    5. I'm just not being very clear. I apologize. It is clear in the bible how soteriology works but, to me, anyway divine providence isn't clear. Does God cause my every action? If he is sovereign and I am a free agent then how does that work together to bring about his plan? Does he conform to my decisions? Am I puppet? That kind of stuff. Paul and the other writers are very clear on the gospel/salvation/manbeforeregeneration. I agree with you on that.

    6. Well, let's examine the questions:

      Does God cause my every action?/Am I puppet? - Salvation-wise, God works within you to receive what He needs. You have a free will, but as that will is ruled by sin (the child of wrath following the course of the world) it will always choose rejection of God. Let's take out grace: God could ordain every alternative world possible, and a person would continually reject the gospel regardless. With God's grace, the dead person is brought to life, and their will is changed so that it embraces God rather than rejects it.

      If he is sovereign and I am a free agent then how does that work together to bring about his plan? - How do we define "free agent"? Does that mean God merely reacts to you, or that you do things of your own libertarian free will but God has ordained it in such a way? God will, as seen in the previous response, have a man do as he desires, and will turn him this way and that to do His will if it so necessary. He did it with Sennacherib and with Pharaoh and with the people who crucified Jesus. The important thing, again, is to note that God is the active party. God hardened Pharaoh so God would do what He wanted; God drove the Assyrians on so they would do what He wanted; God selected Judas to be the son of perdition; etc. Certainly I would argue we have some freedom in our personalities and other personal traits (accents, modes of speaking, etc.), but God is still completely sovereign over us. This might be an imperfect example, but let me use the Bible itself: we see the different books of scripture have their own "taste" and "flavor" to them (Paul speaks in casual Greek; Luke in high Greek; John in semitic Greek; etc.), and yet they all say what God desires them to say.

      Does he conform to my decisions? - Nope. Our decisions, desires, etc., really mean nothing to God. Read the complaints of the prophets for further evidence (Elijah, Jonah, Jeremiah, etc.).

    7. Answer 2 and 3 conform to molinism I think. Answer 1 regarding salvation doesn't exactly conform to molinism because reformed and molinism differ in just how depraved one is regarding salvation.

      I still think molinism is a nice way to explain divine providence. I even use it as an alternative answer to the reformed view regarding salvation questions I get from friends and others. Both camps say God chooses some for salvation while passing over others but both explain it differently (election of a world versus election of individuals although one can quibble that electing a world *is* electing individuals haha).

    8. The difference between Answer 2 and Molinism (I concede Answer 3 would probably fit into Molinism, but I had the Word of Faith heresy in mind with that one any way), is that it stems from 1, and the notion that God is still sovereign over man's will. In my previous post I had said "[God] will turn him this way and that to do His will if it so necessary," which has to be read with the understanding seen in my post before last. God does not direct a man by ordaining a series of unfortunate circumstances which guide the man to do what he wants; rather, God uses His effectual influence and power to direct the individual. Ie., Pharaoh didn't harden his heart because God put things in his way to harden him; Pharaoh hardened his heart because God Himself hardened Pharaoh's heart, in order that Pharaoh, in a much more hardened state, would do as God desired him to do.

    9. I guess we are up against a wall for right now Tony. There is stuff worth munching on here and I'm glad we're having this conversation because, well, what else is cooler than talking about this stuff? :D

      Let's say that God knows prior to creating the world that, if He put Pharaoh in the situation he was put in, Pharaoh would freely do what he did. From that we can say God did that since that is what *He deemed* as *His desired* path for history. I understand you to say that God actually caused Pharaoh's heart to be hardened directly, ie He caused pharaoh to choose a certain thing which is a high view of sovereignty but don't you think the molinist explanation of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart is also a high view of sovereignty? On the molinist explanation it is God who put/chose Pharaoh where He wanted him to bring about His own purpose for history. It wasn't up to Pharaoh or chance, you know that it all just happened to work out in God's favor, but instead it was up to God. I see big "S" sovereignty all in that explanation. I don't understand why one must resort to determinism for the explanation of God hardening Pharaoh's heart.

    10. The problem is that scripture has God saying regarding Pharaoh "I did this," and with internal language - not "I arranged it this way so he would respond as I desired", or "I just did something and let Pharaoh self-destruct." God identifies Himself as the direct cause of it all. I can't fall back on the Molinist explanation because:

      1) Even if God is the great arranger of it all, God was still dependent upon the reactions and personality of Pharaoh. It's hard for me to say that this is a high view of sovereignty if the meaning of "salvation by grace" is redefined from it's historical meaning and it becomes God basing decisions around us, even if it's done in such a way that we respond according to how He desires. He has to format the world in accordance to us - to use an example: like a salesman transforming his sales pitch for individual customers; the salesman is still in charge of the sale, but he has to adjust in response to the individual person, and so he is still dependent upon them. What scripture tells us is that God isn't dependent upon us in any way; we are dependent upon God in toto. Tony-Allen did not become Christian because God arranged it in such a way that Tony-Allen would find Christianity appealing - Tony-Allen became Christian because God internally regenerated him and rescued him by grace through faith. That's how Christ and the apostles defined the mode of salvation (as discussed earlier).

      2) The Molinistic explanation is not seen in scripture - as I said earlier, the idea of "middle knowledge" or "alternative worlds" (such as one where Pharaoh would willingly let the Hebrews go) is not able to be seen here unless one first invents the notion and then reads it into it.

      In the end, it's not a matter of "Who's sovereignty is higher than the other," or "Are we being deterministic or not?" - what matters is how scripture defines it and how scripture explains it. As it is, God says, "It was I who hardened the heart," and "It is I who draws a person to Christ," and this is spoken with *internal* language, not providential.

    11. Kind of an add on to my last post (sorry for the double!):

      I certainly recognize that in Molinism there is some degree of sovereignty with God, and that it's certainly higher than Pelagianism or even traditional Semi-Pelagianism. If that helps respond to your last post at all. If I've come across as comparing Molinism with those two groups and declaring them equals, I apologize.

    12. No apologies my friend! I didn't think you were saying it's equal with the pelagian stuff.

      I understand what you're saying, especially in the next to last comment. I guess I will say this is how I put together all of what we've discussed in my mind below.

      Firmly convinced that God is Sovereign, orders all of creation to bring about His purpose for history including the choosing/electing of individuals for salvation. That is evident in the scripture and I'm firm on that theology.

      What goes on in the background of that evident truth? I think, as I understand molinism, that the ordering and arranging of all creatures and creation goes on. I think it's compatible with scripture even though scripture doesn't say: "God ordered Frank here out of all the possible arrangements" although I just thought of Paul's argument at the Areopagus in Acts 17 (that's just one verse though...), even still all of the sovereignty and man's will language in the bible fits in the molinism framework. I just think it's a good tool for thinking about how the two truths of scripture couple.

      I'm convinced that determinism, compatiblism(determinism lite), and simple foreknowledge are just tools too for trying to couple the two obvious truths of scripture; I myself adopt molinism for my tool. I think it works just like natural theology works or even the doctrine of the Trinity right? The trinity isn't plainly, word-for-word obvious in scripture, but it's a framework/system/whatever that is built on scripture and can be seen in scripture.

      Anyway, I'll let you have the last word on this thread, for a while anyway. :D Dude, it's been fun. This conversation has been helpful.

    13. Ha! Joke's on you! I'm letting you have the last word! (unless you count this post)

    14. Dude I'm trying so hard not to post something like haha or something You almost got me. Darn! I failed :D


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