Molinism is Biblical: Rejoinding the Reformed Rejoinder

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

June 22, 2017

A Facebook friend of mine and I have had a respectful debate regarding Molinism and Calvinism over the past few days. Sean Luke is a committed Calvinist as I used to be for over a decade. I freely chose to leave the Calvinist camp several years ago for several reasons (or God causally determined me to stop being a Calvinist). Sean reminds me of myself back in those days. I argued against Molinism in a similar manner before freely choosing to abandon the Calvinist conclave. I am praying this conversation will help him (and others) leave these confines as well. Indeed, I think he is already taking steps away from many of his fellow Calvinists (that is a good sign).

This will be my last submission in the “Molinism is Biblical” series. After that, Sean is free (if determinism is false) to take the last word or not. Consider Sean’s last response:

//A day ago, Tim put out a helpful reply to my own rebuttal to Molinism. I realize that I made a few missteps in my representation of the argument…//

I appreciate the fact that Sean is humble enough to admit where he has made mistakes or “missteps.” I also appreciate this conversational “debate” as it seems I made a minor misstep myself that will be addressed and corrected below. Regarding Sean’s corrections to his previous mistakes, I see no need to elaborate further. I will merely interact on the issues upon which we disagree or those in which I see additional errors (and there are many more to consider). I am sure this alone will make for a long article. I encourage everyone to get some popcorn and a soda, and prepare to go into some deeper theological waters.

Before I begin, one friendly piece of advice that I have for my brother in Christ is not to worry about writing a response article so quickly. I offered several hyperlinked articles in my last response. Sean’s rejoinder was written and published the very next day — his first response was written, published, and shared on my FB wall the same morning I published my original article! These extremely fast replies lead to confusion, mistakes, and having to make apologies for “not reading carefully.” While I appreciate Sean’s apology in his last response, his quick rejoinder is full of additional errors that I believe could have been avoided if he would have taken (at least) a few days to carefully read the article, “marinate” in it, and then carefully read the other hyperlinked articles/arguments contained within.

That’s my friendly advice; take it or leave it (if Sean has the freedom to do so)! 😉

One more thing: this article is not intended to come across as anything other than loving. Just as Christ was lovingly blunt with Peter when Jesus rebuked him with, “get behind me Satan!” as per Matthew 16:23, I too possess the same intention (I am not calling Sean “Satan.” I am merely providing an example of a loving rebuke).

Sean said,

//Tim argues that there’s a difference between “choosing” God and “not rejecting” God–given that the former is prevented by John 15:16.//

As I see it, there isn’t a relevant difference between “not rejecting God” and “choosing God” *if* (I don’t know if Tim himself maintains this, but it seems that Molina does) one can choose not to reject God.

It does not seem as if Sean fully grasps this view. The Calvinist claims that one cannot do anything to gain salvation. The Molinist can make a very similar claim: a person can do nothing to gain salvation!

The difference between the Calvinist and the Molinist is that consistent Calvinists (like Arthur Pink and Matt Slick) claim that God does not really love and desire the best for all people. Molinists, on the other hand, agree with scripture that God does love all people, He desires the best for all people, and He does not want anyone to perish. I have argued that this omnibenevolent view of God can be supported cover to cover in the Bible starting with Genesis.

Let’s get back to “doing nothing.” If a depraved individual has it within his nature to do anything from nothing to complete evil (say the difference between the friendly agnostic next door and Hitler), then one can freely choose to do nothing (they could have done otherwise and become the next Hitler or anything in between). If the sinner cannot do anything or does nothing to be loved by God or to receive God’s saving grace, then this is no different than what the Calvinist contends. The only difference is that the Molinist argues that God starts the amazing grace in everyone’s life. If any person P does nothing, then God’s amazing grace will eventually do all the work leading to the regeneration/salvation of P. However, if one resists along the way, then regeneration/salvation (a true love “marriage” with God) will never be reached.

Sean offered some “other words”:

//In other words, if one willfully “not-rejects” God, or withholds their own rebellion, then their own agency is at work in salvation. In other words, their own agency (apart from God’s grace, as it is not irresistibly moved by God’s grace) must either comply with God’s regenerating grace or rebel against it.//

This is a caricature of the view I am offering. On this Molisnitic view, one does not “willfully not-reject God.” No, they simply “don’t do anything.”

As Kirk MacGregor notes:

“It would take a wiley philosopher to demonstrate how ‘not doing anything’ is actually doing something!”

Sean contends that Molina’s view…

//… isn’t really different from Ariminius’ doctrine of prevenient grace. In other words, God’s grace brings us up to a point where we can choose God.//

Not quite! A Molinist can say that “God’s grace brings us to a point where we *WILL* choose God — *if* we do not resist along the way! So, if we do nothing, then God’s grace will save each and every one of us (all people) which the Bible is clear that He desires (John 3:16; 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9).

Sean said,

//It’s possible that I misrepresented Tim so as to say that we don’t need God’s grace to choose God, but I don’t think I did. I understand that most Arminians and Molinists agree that we need God’s grace to embrace Christ. However, the Calvinist maintains that if even the slightest part of us works autonomously from God’s grace, we are so depraved that we would choose hell. In other words, if God’s grace brought us up to a point where our agency (ultimately unmoved by God’s grace to choose Him, though certainly enabled to choose Him) was the decisive factor in our salvation, we would all choose hell.//

Not all Molinists affirm this view! In fact, the view I have offered does not fall prey to Sean’s objection. The Molinist does not argue that there is a “slight part of us that works autonomously from God’s grace” if we choose to embrace Christ. (If I had a nickel for every time a Calvinist attacks a straw man and not Molina!)

Sean said,

Calvinists like me take issue with Molina’s system because it suggests that our agencies/wills have an autonomous part to play in terms of not rejecting God (for if God’s grace doesn’t completely woo us, then we are willing to not reject God ourselves) or rejecting God.

Sean presents a false dichotomy. I have already offered a third option to split the horns of his false dilemma — a person can freely choose to do nothing. Doing nothing is definitely NOT seeking or pursuing!

Sean said,

//If I’m in the flesh, then I can’t please God at all. Therefore, I can’t make an autonomous choice which pleases God where my own “self” or “I” is actively willing for or against God. Note: I’m not accusing Tim of Pelagianism. I don’t think he is is one. //

Sean got it right that I reject Pelagainism, but then he completely misunderstands the view I am offering and attacks more straw men:

//Rather, I’m saying that Tim’s system posits that man can will (in and of himself) at some point in God’s saving process towards God, since God’s grace is something he can resist and therefore something he must choose to comply with.//

This is not true! Although some Molinists might posit that the tension between Romans 3:10 and Amos 5:4 is reconciled by God’s grace restoring one’s freedom to make a moral choice or choose otherwise as Adam and Eve seemed to possess (if any grace is “irresistible ” it is this kind of grace — but this “irresistible grace” would only restore humanity to the state of possessing an ability to freely choose similar to the state of mankind prior to the fall). There would not be one aspect of the human nature not under God’s grace (anymore than Adam and Eve were autonomous from God) if this were the case. Be that as it may, a Molinist can affirm the exact same thing as the Calvinist: “God is the author of salvation from beginning to end.”

The only difference between the Calvinist and the Molinist is that Calvinists must logically hold that God is also the author of damnation (or shrug their shoulders and retreat to an “appeal to mystery”), whereas the Molinist argues that man is the author of his eternal separation from God. That is to say, man can freely choose to “interrupt” God’s amazing grace that WILL save them *if* they do not resist along the way.

Not only does this make sense of all the biblical data, it is also deductively proven via logical argumentation. I offered this argument to Sean before and he has failed to refute it (see below)!

Sean said,

This is especially apparent given Tim’s definition of LWF; for Tim (and here, I was conflating Tim’s views with Craig’s as Craig thinks Henry Frankfurt’s views can be adopted for LWF), LWF includes the ability to think or act otherwise.//

False! Frankfurt’s view cannot be adapted to freely physically act otherwise — only to freely think otherwise in a libertarian sense. I made this clear in the article I hyperlinked in my last response to Sean. It seems that in Sean’s haste to reply he failed to read it. Here it is again for convenience: “Semi-Compatibilism & Responsibility,” and “Libertarian Freedom Fighters.” 

Sean continued:

//Hence, one made a libertarian free choice to accept God if and only if they could have thought or acted otherwise. It is here that I deny humans have LWF with respect to our ability to choose God as our Treasure and Savior.//

Again, Sean does not understand that in which he objects, and thus, he continues to attack a straw man. The view I have offered does not affirm that one makes a LFW choice to accept God; rather, it affirms that one freely chooses to do nothing — which includes not resisting (because resisting is doing something). However, it does not logically follow that if one does not resist that they are actively pursuing or seeking.

Johnny Sakr provides an illustration:

“Person X is in the middle of the ocean floating on his back. X senses that the rift is pulling him somewhere. X is unsure of the destination, but he freely chooses not to resist it — he allows the current to move him wherever it wills. God’s drawing is like this current. If God, through the use of this current, draws X to solid land, ensuring X’s safety and survival, could one say that X ‘did something’ to save himself? Of course not; it would be better to say that God — the mover of the current — was the one who monergisticly saved X.”

Moreover, bracket the freedom and ability to make moral and salvific choices. Sean is free (or is he?) to deny that humans have Libertarian Free Will (LFW) with respect to salvation; however, do humans have the ability to make LFW choices in regards to other things? Can we freely think in areas other than theology? Can Christians freely choose who they believe is the best theologian? Can a Christian freely choose between Calvinism and Molinism? Can Calvinists freely choose what they think the best hermeneutical interpretation of Genesis, the Gospels, and Revelation is when there is disagreements among Calvinists on these issues? Can a sinner freely choose between robbing the bank or the liquor store? Has there ever been one single LFW choice made that was not causally determined via God or nature? If so, then how was God sovereign over that which He did not causally determine?

Middle knowledge, as I explained before, is a fantastic explanation (if not the only explanation because “appealing to mystery” explains nothing)!

Sean said,

//I don’t quite affirm LWF, but rather I affirm agent causation as I’ve articulated it.//

As I have previously demonstrated in the above hyperlinked articles, if one does not possess the ability to freely think in a LFW sense, then rationality, knowledge, and morality are illusory. It takes more than simply affirming “agent causation.” To avoid my objections; they must also affirm that an agent’s thoughts are not determined, and that their thoughts and beliefs (at least some of them) must be not only “up to them,” but also, they must possess the ability to think or believe otherwise (at least regarding some things some of the time).

If Sean rejects LFW when it comes to his own thoughts and beliefs, then — even if he is the so-called “cause” (God would still be the ultimate deterministic cause given Peter van Inwagen’s Consequence Argument), none of his thoughts could ever be otherwise. Thus, he is left assuming that his thoughts which cannot be otherwise just happen to be the best or true. This is question-begging at its finest — a logical fallacy — and any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all!

Thus, Sean reasons in circles if he affirms that his determined thoughts on the matter — which cannot be otherwise — are true or better than my determined thoughts. I go into this deeper in one of my articles regarding compatibilism: “Can You Have Your Cake & Eat it Too?” 

Sean said,

//This puts me in an awkward spot with many Calvinists (especially my fellow Edwards-loving Calvinists!). However, it seems to me logically consistent and existentially evidenced that we have this kind of ability to choose.//

Let me point out that Sean wrote his response specifically to me and shared it on my Facebook wall (he’s coming after MY views). I do not know of Sean’s particular or nuanced theological views or how his Calvinism differs from the majority of Calvinists (frankly, I do not care). What I have clearly argued against is the common  flavor of Calvinism wedded to exhaustive divine determinism and/or the “I” of TULIP. Indeed, I have even referred to myself as a “modified Calvinist” in the past as I can affirm a nuanced 4 of the 5 points of TULIP. Consider my article, “Why I’m Not a TULIP Kind of Calvinist.” Here’s the point: I am not interested in Sean’s unique flavor of Calvinism. I have made my case at length regarding a specific kind of Calvinism (the kind held by the majority of Calvinists) that I reject over many articles on my website.

Moreover, let me remind Sean that I am not merely discussing an ability to choose; rather, I am discussing the ability to *think* and/or act otherwise (the ability to freely think is key and why the name of my organization is called “FreeThinking Ministries!”) If one’s thoughts and beliefs simply are determined in that they can never be other than they are — then life quickly devolves into meaninglessness 

Sean continued:

//But Tim sees a potential inconsistency here. If I believe that we have this kind of LWF, then how can I also maintain that God “causally determines” these choices as well? . . . I don’t think I claimed that God “causally determines” all human choices. It’s not that I think this is necessarily untrue.//

As I noted above, many (most?) Calvinists do affirm that God causally determines all things (especially when pressed). This is what I affirmed back in my Calvinist days! Indeed, the Calvinist theologian Matthew J. Hart clarifies this point in the book, “Calvinism and the Problem of Evil”:

“Calvinists, I shall assume, are theological determinists. They hold that God causes every contingent event, either directly or indirectly.” (248)

In the footnotes Hart points out that some might wish to affirm Calvinism while denying theological determinism (I am happy if Sean wants to do this as it will lead him to “mere Molinism” in a hurry). Hart notes that Paul Helm is the leading Calvinistic philosopher today and that Helm is a theological determinist.

Moreover, I am interested in the bigger picture: How is God sovereign over LFW choices that He does not causally determine directly or indirectly? My Omni-Argument deductively concludes that causal determinism and predestination are not the same thing. The final abductive conclusion states that Molinism is the inference to the best explanation of all the data (but if all thoughts and beliefs cannot be otherwise, then say good bye to the “inference to the best explanation”).

Sean said,

//In fact, I think Tim believes in a kind of causal determination of human choices, in that God causally determines/causes to be actual the world which contain the human choices our world contains. In that sense, even Tim has to maintain that God “causally determines” all human choices.//

If Sean really believes Molinism affirms divine determinism (as Calvinism does), then why reject it? It is obvious that Sean has not read the articles I provided for him in my last response. If he would have taken the time to read my previous work, he would see that I have already dealt with this issue in depth and detail. This is frustrating because I provided these articles in my last response to him! Sean seems to affirm the same view offered by Dr. Greg Welty. I have written a critique of Welty’s view, and then provided a rejoinder to Welty’s response to my critique. Please read the following:

Death of a Gunslinger

Gunslingers & Guilty Minds

After Sean takes some time to consider the arguments I provide in these articles, he will see that I definitely do not “believe in a kind of causal determinism.” No, I outright reject exhaustive causal determinism; however, I fully affirm exactly what the Bible affirms: God *predestines* all things!

Predestination and determinism are not necessarily the same thing! It is a logical fallacy to conflate these two concepts.

Sean writes:

//But more importantly, I just don’t think the phrase “causally determine” is all that helpful. As I argued, Tim maintains a kind of causal determination, as God’s decree of a particular world containing particular choices causes those choices to be actual.//

And as I have said before, if Sean would have read the articles I provided for him in my last response, then he would see that his assertion is false. Moreover, Sean might not personally like the term “causally determine,” but that is irrelevant as this term is commonly used when discussing these issues in academia today. We know exactly what this term means and it’s helpful to distinguish what entails from a certain worldview.

So, for example, when an atheistic naturalist affirms that the initial conditions of the big bang combined with the laws of nature causally determine all things (including all thoughts of all people all the time), we know exactly what he means when he utters the words “causally determines.” This naturalistic view is what led to the original Freethinking Argument in the first place.

Johnny Sakr notes:

“If God places P in C it does not necessitate that P do X. Although God knows that P would and will do X; P does not do X necessarily. P can refrain from doing X; however, if P does freely choose to refrain – God knows this from past eternity [if God is omniscient]. This is God’s middle knowledge.

Circumstances do not determine the truth value of counterfactual of creaturely freedom, they merely influence them [it is vital to distinguish between an influence and causal determination — they ought not be conflated, but often are by laymen]. The circumstances are freedom permitting therefore, P can choose to do X or ~ X. Certainty is not the same as Necessity.”

Sean said,

//My claim is that God ordains every single human action, and thus writes the story of history.//

Well that’s my claim too! Sean and I both affirm the exact same thing — what we disagree on is HOW God writes the story of human history. Does God causally determine every human thought and action directly or indirectly, or do humans have an ability to ever think and/or act otherwise as Scripture affirms?

Sean said,

//So, to answer his question: how is it that God determines human evils (particular evils) if human sinners could have chosen to do otherwise? On the issue of sin, I don’t even maintain a soft LWF for the unregenerate. I maintain agent causation; that is to say that human sinners are the source of their own sin.//

This is a very confusing conglomeration of words to interpret. If the sinner genuinely could have freely chosen a different particular sin (other than the sin he actually committed), then the sinner possesses libertarian free will when it comes to choosing between evil options in accord with his sinful nature. However, then Sean asserts that he does not affirm libertarianism or even soft-LFW for sins. This means that the sinner would necessarily have to commit any sin he commits. He cannot choose a different sin, commit the same sin in a lesser or greater degree, or sin otherwise.

Sean tries to find some some wiggle room by saying that the sinner is the “source” for his sinful thoughts and actions; but the question is raised: What determined the sinner’s thoughts and actions? Was God not sovereign over the thoughts and actions of the sinner? If Sean answers that God was not sovereign over the sinner’s thoughts and actions then that’s a big problem for Calvinists. If Sean affirms that God is sovereign over the sinner’s thoughts and actions even though God is not supposedly the “source,” then the next question is raised (and the question that is relevant): HOW is God sovereign over the sin in which the human was the “source” and God did not causally determine? 

It seems to me we have three options from which to choose:

1- God causally determines all things in one way or another (nothing can be other than it actually is). This would include God determining the nature of each and every individual “human source.”

2- God creates a world of free creatures and via His omniscience (middle knowledge) knows how free creatures will freely choose if He were to create them. Thus, God predestines all that occurs without causally determining all that occurs. This allows God to be completely sovereign over LFW human choices and humans to maintain responsibility for their sinful choices.

3- Retreat to an appeal to mystery. That is to say, shrug your shoulders and say “beats the heck out of me!”

Sean said,

//Post-Fall, everyone is totally depraved. That is, no part of any human being ever moves towards God, and thus moves away from The Good.//

Again, this assumes that there are only two options from which to choose. However, if one does not have it within their nature to choose God, it does not follow that they necessarily must be “moving away from God and the Good.” After all, perhaps they are merely doing nothing.

With that said, however, the Molinist agrees that “post-fall, everyone is totally depraved and that every aspect of the image of God humans are created in is completely effaced and infected with sin. I make this clear in my article entitled, “T.R.U.M.P.” Molinists affirm that God must provide a supernatural grace to a person in order for that person to possibly be saved.

Let me respond to several sentences:

//God, in His undeserved mercy, restrains mankind from completely walking away.//

On Calvinism, God restrains a minority of humans from completely walking away, but although God has it within His power to do this for all humans, He lets the majority “completely walk away” to suffer in the torturous eternal fires of hell for so-called human “choices” that could not be otherwise. So much for God’s so-called “mercy”!

//Apart from God’s common grace (God writing His law on our hearts per Romans 2, even though He had a right to judge us in Adam when we sinned) we’d all lack a conscience.//

So, did Adam possess the LFW ability to not sin, or did God causally determine his fall? If Adam was not forced to fall (as Sean seems to affirm below), then HOW was God sovereign over that in which He did not causally determine? Was this an event that God did not have control over? Or was Adam free to sin or to not sin? If Adam was genuinely free and responsible for his sin *AND* God was still in complete control, then Molinism demonstrates exactly how these two ideas (God’s complete sovereignty and human responsibility) are logically compatible.

All the Calvinist can do is merely shrug their shoulders and then retreat to an “appeal to mystery.”

Moreover, what good is “writing the law on the human heart” if individual humans have no ability to keep/follow it or not?

//Since we cannot please God in the flesh, those things which the unregenerate do which have shreds of Good in them must be God’s doing (for every good thing is from the Father).//

So, if Hitler helped an old lady across the street (a “good thing”), it must be (on Sean’s view) that God moved or possessed Hitler (or somehow causally determined him) to do this “good act”? If that is the case, then why not move or possess Hitler to stop the Nazi Holocaust as well? A much less ad hoc option is available for the Molinist: God created a world in which He knew many specific “good things” would freely occur along with evil things, but overall this is the best of all feasible worlds (or tied for the best possible world). God created a world in which He knew that Hitler would freely choose to help the old lady across the street and that he would also freely choose to commit the Holocaust. God also knew — with eternity in mind — that the freely chosen Holocaust would result in the greatest good for mankind (I have argued that it may have actually led to my personal salvation). However, this “good act” of helping the old lady across the street — freely performed by Hitler — is like “dirty rags” (Isaiah 64:6) in the face of God as far as salvation goes. That is to say, this “good deed” does absolutely nothing to get Hitler closer to heaven!

In fact, assuming Sean is correct – if without God’s grace Hitler would never “walk a lady across the street” since it is a ‘Good [non-salvific] deed’, then in effect – God’s grace brought Hitler’s will to a point where he no longer must only choose to do evil, but good as well. Likewise, why could God not bring an unregenerate to the point where He may freely choose to ‘not-reject God’ rather than continuously rejecting God?

In both scenarios God’s grace enables man to do something other than what his nature allows him to do if it was void of God’s grace.

Sean said,

//For God to ordain particular evils, then, all He has to do is give us over to ourselves (like He does in Romans 1) at particular times. He simply takes off His hands and says to sinful humans “thy will be done”.//

But it was “God’s hands” that determined the will of man in the first place! It’s nonsensical for God to then get frustrated and take His hands off and then exclaim to the human (whom God caused to be a sinner), “Well then have it your way, thy will be done!” This is absurd!

Moreover, does Hitler have libertarian freedom to genuinely choose between evil options in accord with his sinful and unregenerate nature (that God is ultimately responsible for Hitler possessing)? That is to say, was the Nazi execution of six million Jews necessary, or could it have been otherwise? Could Hitler have killed five million instead? What about only one million? What about only one Jew? What about none? Were these things determined by God or Hitler?

Only the Molinist can explain how God predestined the freely performed evil actions of Hitler while not causally determining his evil actions (God created a world in which he knew exactly how Hitler would freely choose), but that Hitler was responsible for his evil actions because they were freely chosen by Hitler and he genuinely could have chosen otherwise. There were no “causal strings” attached to Hitler!

Since Sean brought up Romans, I would encourage people to read my article, “Free Will, Calvinism, & Romans 9.” In this article I demonstrate that a holistic account of Romans implies LFW (I have more on this topic being published later this summer). With that said, however, the BIG and relevant question noted above is this: “Why does the sinner have an evil will”? Why, when God says, “thy will be done” does that individual possess that will in the first place? Did God cause this person to possess this will by direct or indirect methods? Could God zap the individual with irresistible grace and change his or her will? Of course God has the power to accomplish this task! So, the sinful person in question was merely born that way — they are not individually responsible for the way they were born, and God has the power to transform them but He does not! Thus, God is NOT a maximally great being if TULIP Calvinism is true: He either does not love all people, does not possess the power to save all people, or He is not smart enough to get the job done!

Sean responds:

//No one can accuse Him of being unfair, since He doesn’t owe us restraint.//

I have never made any claims against the “fairness” of God. This is a textbook example of a red herring (another logical fallacy). Rather, I have specifically argued that if Calvinism is true, then God is not a Maximally Great Being! That is to say, I have argued that if TULIP Calvinism is true, then God is not omnipotent, and/or, not omnibenevolent, and/or not omniscient.

I never once argue about “omni-fairness!”

Although, we could argue that God is unfair if He doesn’t allow P who is in C to do anything other than X [let X be a sin by which they are tempted] as per 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.”

That is, if it was necessary that P do X in C then God is unfair since it was not possible that ~ X was possible. Be that as it may, however, this is NOT part of my argument. I am not arguing that humans deserve anything from God — I am arguing that God loves all people!


Side note & Spoiler Alert: I just watched the Wonder Woman movie this past weekend. The Satan character in the movie tells Wonder Woman that humans do not “deserve” her protection because humanity is so corrupt. I love Wonder Woman’s response (I’m paraphrasing):

“It’s not about ‘deserve’; it’s about LOVE!”

Wonder Woman is clarifying what this argument is about so that we do not get distracted by irrelevant red herrings. The objection against Calvinism is not based upon what we humans “deserve” or what is “fair”; rather, this objection to Calvinism is based on God’s essentially maximally great and perfect nature. That is to say, Calvinism contradicts God’s character. Therefore, the Calvinistic interpretation of God’s word must be false!


Sean said,

//[God] owes us death and judgment. Thus, the sinner couldn’t have chosen otherwise because of God’s operative grace in the world. However, the sin they did choose is in fact self-chosen.//

To summarize Sean’s position:

1- The sinner could not have chosen otherwise based on a nature he is not responsible for possessing (thus, they will suffer eternally in the fires of hell).
2- God could have changed the nature of all people so that no one will suffer eternally in the fires of hell.
3- Even though sinners cannot choose otherwise (only one so-called “choice” is available to them), they still “choose” (and are still responsible???).

I encourage anyone who is not already committed to their Calvinistic presuppositions to dwell on these points for a while. This view is absurd!

Sean continued:

//Henry Frankfurt put out a helpful thought experiment that explains this long ago. Suppose it was the election again (God forbid). You have electrodes hooked up to your brain such that, if you were to vote either Trump or Hilary, they’d go off and make you vote otherwise. You go into the booth and vote third party. Was your choice free? Frankfurt argues: yes! (And in fact, William Lane Craig agrees that this would be the kind of freedom needed for moral accountability…even though Frankfurt is a compatibilist) For the choice was still self-originated.//

Oh how I wish Sean would have read the articles I have already written on this topic; articles and arguments that I have already offered him to read! What Frankfurt failed to realize (and which William Lane Craig does realize), is that these “Frankfurt examples” still inadvertently assume libertarian free will (LFW) when it comes to thinking — even if one is not free to physically act otherwise.

Recently, an entire week at FreeThinking Ministries was devoted to the incoherence of “compatibilism” or “compatibilistic free will” (CFW) that many Calvinists try to affirm in desperation. Each day that week a new article was released on the topic. In fact, I discuss this exact same thought experiment Sean provided regarding a voter’s freedom and responsibility when it comes to voting for either Trump or Hillary. I demonstrated how Frankfurt’s ideas still assume LFW. Here are a few articles on the Freethinking Ministries website regarding the incoherence of CFW:

Libertarian Freedom Fighters

Semi-Compatibilism & Responsibility 

Can You Have Your Cake & Eat It Too?

Rogue One: A Lesson About Free Will & Responsibility 

Demon Possession & the Question of Sexual Immorality

Harley Quinn + The Joker = True Love?

The Bad, the Worthless, and the Ugly

50 Shades of Compatibilism 

Can Evolution Account for Rationality 

Captain America, Bucky, & Moral Responsibility 

Gunslingers & Guilty Minds

Needless to say, compatibilism fails!

Sean continued:

//Of course, explaining the Fall is much more difficult. The Westminister divines agreed that Adam had it within himself to have chosen life. In other words, he didn’t suffer from Total Depravity. Yet God still ordained even his Fall in such a way so as to leave Adam truly accountable, and truly the source of his own sin. How does that work?//

Molinists have a thorough explanation as to HOW this works; Calvinists, on the other hand, shrug their shoulders, retreat to an appeal to mystery, and say “beats the heck out of me!” Well, if you cannot explain facts, then why not adhere to the position that has explanatory scope, explanatory power, illumination, and “less ad hoc” on its side? If this method provides good reason to affirm the resurrection of Jesus, then why is this method not adequate reason to affirm Molinism?

Molinism affirms exactly what the Westminster divines affirmed: Adam possessed the ability to have chosen life, but he chose death instead. This is the epitome of LIBERTARIAN FREEDOM (LFW)!!! Molinism also affirms that God ordained and predestined Adam’s fall. Molinism makes sense of Westminster and Calvinism shrinks back to “beats the heck out of me!”

In fact, I have a previously written article regarding how we can explain the free fall of Adam along with God’s total sovereignty. Please read, “Could Adam Avoid the Apple.” 

Sean said,

//Tim points out that Molinists can agree that God writes the story of history. I realize my own claim that LWF disallows this needs nuance. Molinism disallows this insofar as the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom do not find their source in God’s decree. God might know them; but I don’t see how He can be the source of the truth value of these counterfactuals. William Lane Craig suggests that God “has to play with the cards he’s dealt”. Tim, do you agree with that sentiment? If so, doesn’t that imply that there’s a “dealer” dealing God the cards which He must work with?//

No, William Lane Craig is using a façon de parler (figure of speech) that Sean is incorrectly taking literally. What Dr. Craig means is that if God were to create creatures in which He would not causally determine — which would be logically possible for an omnipotent God to do — then these non-determined and libertarian free creatures (if “libertarian free” really means libertarian free) would make some choices that God would not cause or determine. However, if God really is omniscient and knows the truth-value to all propositions eternally (without beginning), then God would know how these free creatures (if they were to be created) would freely choose if God gave them LFW so that they could be in a true love relationship with their creator.

Moreover, I have demonstrated that Calvinism has some “card dealing problems” as well. I included this hyperlinked argument in my last response, but it seems to have been missed. Here it is again for the reader’s convenience:

The Petals Drop: Piper’s Problems

Sean continued:

//I suggest that God has mechanisms of decreeing the story of human activity which we simply do not have access to, but which nevertheless enable human responsibility.//

Amen to that! Except we do have access to these “mechanisms.” This “mechanism” is called Middle Knowledge which is part of God’s omniscient nature.

Sean offered a thought experiment of a “jerk” who pushes the decrepit Stephen Hawking out of his wheel chair and onto the floor. Then, this “jerk” commands Hawking to stand up although Hawking has no physical ability to do other than lay on the floor unless someone else comes to his aid. I used Sean’s own thought experiment against him to demonstrate that God is just like this “jerk” he was describing if Calvinism is true. This is the case because on his view, humans have no ability to obey God’s commands unless God comes to our aid.

The problem is that this Calvinistic view of God makes Him to be a moral monster worse than Hitler! Why, because although Hitler persecuted and tortured Jews for being “born that way,” their suffering eventually came to an end through death or being freed at the end of the war. At most, one suffered under Hitler for only a few years. God, on the other hand — if Calvinism is true — tortures the majority of humanity for simply being born into sin (being “born that way”)! Moreover, this persecution is not for a few short years in a Nazi concentration camp; no, the unfathomable suffering of hell is infinite into the eternal future with no escape and no end.

Hell will make Hitler’s concentration camps look like a summer picnic! All God has to do is zap each person with His irresistible grace to guarantee that no one made in His image ever has to experience this horrendous fate. Yet, Calvinism’s God (or “god”) chooses not to zap most people with irresistible grace. Thus, God either is not all powerful and is simply too weak to accomplish this feat, or God does not really love all people, or God simply is not smart enough to pull off universal salvation. (Hence, the little “g” of a god who is not Maximally Great.)

*Or the irresistible grace of TULIP Calvinism is false!

Sean said,

//Tim argues that if God determines that man have these sinful desires which corrupt his will, then God is a kind of jerk who pushes humanity to the ground and tells him to get up. This is because humans were not born with the ability to choose God, and thus were corrupt through no fault of their own. . . Tim, I think you need to think through the implications of this argument. Consistently thought through, you’d be forced to suggest that God owes everyone a measure of grace.//

There Sean goes again! He is not taking into account that which Wonder Woman clarified above. Sean is making the mistake of thinking that I am arguing that God “owes us” something. This is completely wrong-headed! I do not believe God owes humans anything — I simply am pointing out that God is essentially loving and that He loves and desires the best for all people (just as the Bible makes clear from cover to cover) — “God is Love“(1 John 4:8)! Not only is God perfectly loving, but I have also previously pointed out what perfect love entails (at least a *desire* for all people to be eternally saved).

Moreover, Johnny Sakr has recently written a powerful article demonstrating the extremely high price tag of denying God’s ultimate love and desire for all humans to eternally flourish. Please read “How Calvinistic Exegesis is Logically Impossible.” 

So, Sean’s assumptions regarding my argument are just plain wrong. As demonstrated, it is Sean who needs to “think through the implications” of his favorite philosophy.

Sean said,

//Moreover, consider the rhetoric you’re using. This is unrelated to the overall argument I want to make, but you’re using way loaded terms (the “concentration camp of hell”, the “fires of hell” etc). You believe in a hell too, right? And you believe that hell is God’s just wrath and opposition to all that is evil, right? You’re portraying God as a kind of dictator who sends helpless humans to a concentration camp, whereas the Biblical description is of God as a Just, Righteous, Loving, Good King against whom we have committed treason.//

Yes, I do believe in eternal hell! However, I also reject the “I” of Calvinism’s TULIP. Thus, unlike the Calvinist, I as a Molinist can affirm that the only people that populate hell are the ones who freely chose to resist God’s amazing grace. Moreover, I can affirm that they did not have to resist — God created a world in which they actually could have chosen otherwise. Again, I refer to my conversation with Welty: “Gunslingers & Guilty Minds.”  

Also, please read my article through the lens of Molinism entitled: “True Love, Free Will, & the Logic of Hell.” 

The question isn’t why does God send people to Hell, the question is why does He show mercy upon those deserving of Hell? If God determined Adam to sin, therefore – depraving the will of all his descendants; then no – man ought not be punished for sin. That’s like Sean blaming a domino for falling in a chain of other dominos that Sean set up and then causally moved to provide the initial force that determined the fall of all the dominoes. Calvinism is absurd!

Sean said,

//On the Reformed view, it’s not true that those born sinful are so “through no fault of their own”. Federal headship has always been a huge part of Calvinist theology (see the Westminister Catechism). Federal Headship maintains that Adam represented all of humanity; thus, the choice he made represented the choice all humans made. In other words, there was a special kind of union that all of humanity had with Adam (such that we could be said to be “in Adam” in 1 Corinthians 15, and that we sinned in Adam in Romans 5:12 and following), such that his choice perfectly embodied (without error!) the choice all of mankind made against God.//

Molinism is really the only view that can make sense of this wordplay! Why is Hitler, Richard Dawkins, Billy Graham, and all other individuals guilty of Adam’s sin? Because God knows (via His middle knowledge) that *if* you or I — or anyone else — would have been in Adam’s “shoes” that you and I *would* have freely chose to disobey too! Thank you Molinism!

Be that as it may, the fact remains that every human since Adam and Eve does not have a choice to fall into sin or not to fall into sin. We are all “born that way,” and no one has a choice NOT to be born into this fallen state. That choice is either made by God or by Adam and Eve. If it’s God, then He is the ultimate cause of evil; if it’s Adam and Eve, then they possessed LFW and made a choice that God did not causally determine. If that’s the case, then one has three options from which to freely choose:

1- Reject God’s total sovereignty.

2- Affirm Middle Knowledge & Molinism.

3- Retreat to mystery!

Sean said,

//The personal sins we commit every day are our affirmations to Adam’s choice; they evidence our “Yes!” to the choice Adam made.//

This is incoherent! Adam had a LFW choice to make, sinful man who is “born that way” does not! Thus, it is Adam’s free choice that “pre-programmed” the rest of humanity to always act in accord with sin (through no choice of our own), unless God intervenes and reprograms us (which God has the power to do for all people). I discuss this here is Rogue One: A Lesson About Free Will & Responsibility. 

I find Sean’s next statement amusing:

//Should anyone object: how does this work metaphysically? I’d reply: we need to allow for a healthy dose of mystery in our theology. It’s only a cop-out or ad-hoc if I can’t explain why it’s rational not to have an explanation for how this works.//

Middle Knowledge does the trick; Molinism provides an explanation! Why appeal to mystery when an ample explanation is available? Why appeal to mystery when Molinism can make sense of all the logical and biblical data? Why hold to Calvinism when it has been deductively demonstrated that is logically impossible to be true when held along side essential Christian doctrine? Why affirm a view that does not allow for genuine love, morality, rationality, or inferential knowledge?

Molinism is the inference to the best explanation! Calvinism is absurd!

Sean continued:

//We cannot have an explanation because we’re trying to discern the mechanisms of God’s decree–which is a thing prior to creation. Since we humans only think in terms of created analogies, we are doomed to failure in trying to represent realities prior to creation with created analogies//

False! A Molinist is simply affirming God’s maximally great nature revealed in God’s Word. God is eternally omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent. If God is truly “all-knowing,” then God knows the truth-values to counterfactuals of creaturely freedom prior to His creative decree. To deny this is to affirm that God does not know all things! The Molinist’s view of God affirms His maximal greatness — Calvinism not only makes God not all-loving, it also makes Him not all-knowing by rejecting God’s middle knowledge.

So much for a Maximally Great Being on Calvinism!

Sean said,

//In response to the floor analogy, Tim argues that mankind is not responsible if God determined those desires which he has, which drive him to choose to love the floor (in our case, sin). As I argue, however, the real issue comes down to what happened in Adam. Man is responsible because of the logic of Federal Headship.//

As I noted above, Molinism can make sense of federal headship (“fed head”), but Calvinism is left wanting. Think about Sean’s above comment in regards to the late atheist, Christopher Hitchens. Does this make sense when contemplating WHY Hitchens will suffer eternally in hell? How does Sean’s response strike you when discussing the eternal suffering and fate of Christopher Hitchens?:

“The real issue comes down to what happened in Adam. Hitchens is responsible because of Federal Headship! Thus, although Adam intentionally chose to disobey God (long before Hitch was ever born), Christopher Hitchens is the one who deserves to burn eternally in the fires of hell!”

This is ABSURD to say the least! With that said, however, Molinism can make sense of fed head by positing that God knew that each and every human being would have freely chosen to go bad, if God had placed them in the same freedom permitting circumstances in the Garden of Eden. Calvinism cannot make sense of “Fed Head”; Molinism, on the other hand explains it all!

Sean offered another thought experiment:

//Suppose a dude named Bob practiced divination. He encounters a spiritual being, and says to it: “take over my body and do what you will in it.” If the spiritual being possesses him and causes him to murder, steal, lie, etc. Bob might very well still be accountable for all those things. He surrendered himself to it’s forces. . . If all humanity surrendered themselves to death in Adam, then I think we can maintain responsibility for everything that they do as a result.//

This assumes that Bob had at least two choices available from which to freely choose:

(1) To allow himself to be possessed; and
(2) Not allow himself to be possessed.

If God determines P to do X and therefore, P must do X necessarily – then Bob would not be responsible as there was only one so-called “choice.” The choice God determined Bob to make in this scenario is for Bob to be possessed. Consequently, “demon-possessed Bob” (the demon working in Bob’s body) commits various acts of sin. If this is true, then God is the author of sin since he determined Bob to commit X necessarily.

The danger of offering thought experiments to support one’s case is that if the interlocutor can provide only one instance in which the cases are not parallel, then the experiment falls flat and fails. In this instance a difference is strikingly obvious: If God causally determines all things, then Bob was caused by God to say “take over my body and do what you will in it!” If Bob could NOT do other than invite the demon into his body, did he really have a choice in the matter?

If all humanity “surrendered themselves to death in Adam,” it is because Adam *caused* the rest of humanity to do such a thing through his sinful actions in the Garden of Eden thousands of years ago. This is akin to suggesting that the droid K-2SO was responsible for having an evil “Galactic Empire Nature” because he was built and programmed by Arakyd Industries to possess an “Empire nature” unless the droid was kidnapped (“droidnapped”) and then reprogrammed to possess a “Rebel Alliance Nature.” None of these things are up to the droid. K-2SO is not responsible for the nature “he” possesses. Persons external to the droid are responsible for K-2’s nature. Thus, it is absurd to condemn and torture the droid into the infinite future for so-called “choices” in which the droid was not responsible.

Moreover, the droid’s nature — which others determined — includes the nature of “loving” his programming! Why should we hold a robot responsible for loving his programming when someone else was responsible for the droid’s program-loving programming? Calvinism is absurd!

I shared Johnny Sakr’s argument against Calvinistic determination. Here it is again:

(1) Our sinful nature determines our desire, our will is determined to act in accord with this desire thus, P must act according to this desire as P cannot “will” another action.
(2) God determines the desire which the sinful nature will desire thus, determining our will.
(3) If our will “wills” to do X, P must do X necessarily.
(4) God determines our desire which in effect determines what our will “wills”
(5) God determines P to do X, necessarily.

Sean replied:

//The trouble is that premise 2 can also be reworded to work on Molinism.//

False! Sean incorrectly conflates predestination with determinism. They are not the same thing. Again, I refer Sean to my two articles interacting with Greg Welty’s “Bullet Bill argument” where he attempts to do the same thing (click here and here). Sean knows these are two different things (as I noted above, if they are the same thing — divine determinism — then a Calvinist has no need to reject Molinism)! His next comments clarify:

//On Molinism, God determines the world in which a particular unregenerate agent has a particular sinful desire that inclines them to do X Y or Z.//

On Molinism God knows that all people are born with inclinations and desires of the flesh; however, via God’s grace, we possess the ability to freely choose to resist the desires we are born with. We can make hard choices to resist the flesh via God’s grace and live by the spirit. So, an agent may be born with an inclination to do X, Y, or Z, but they do not have to do X,Y, or Z. Thus, human responsibility entails.

Sean said,

//Even though Tim argues this agent may be free in a Libertarian sense to choose between sinful options apart from God’s prevenient grace, they nevertheless are determined to do a particular sin by virtue of the fact that God decreed into being the world which contained the particular sins of, say, Johnny.//

Unless… God created a world in which He knows how Johnny will FREELY choose!

Since knowledge does not stand in causal relation, it follows that Johnny’s freedom remains in tact and he can either freely choose sin X, or sin otherwise. Thus, the Molinist can make the exact same claim as the Calvinist: that God “decreed Johnny’s free choice to sin,” however, the Molinist can demonstrate how God can predestine Johnny’s sin without violating Johnny’s freedom and responsibility. All the Calvinist can do is shrug his shoulders, run, and retreat to mystery!

Bottom line: God can decree Johnny’s sin without Johnny’s sin being “determined” as Sean incorrectly asserts.

He continues:

//God, by virtue of determining the world which contains a desire which leads us to do a sinful action X Y or Z, still determines P to do X necessarily.//

This is false on multiple levels! It does not follow that if God chooses to create a world in which He knows that Johnny was born with a sinful desire, then Johnny is causally determined to act upon his desire. Moreover, if God created a world in which Johnny failed to take his thoughts captive (but could have), and thus he was taken captive by bad thinking leading to bad actions, it does not logically follow that determinism entails. Why? Because God can predestine all things without causally determining all things. Thus, Sean seems to be begging the question in favor of deterministic Calvinism. He is assuming determinism when there is another viable and strong option on the table for consideration.

Sean is failing to realize that the truth value of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (CCF) contains two properties:

(1) They are true prior to God’s decree therefore, the truth of X is not determined by the decree since it was true prior; and
(2) The truth of the CCF are independent of God’s will, thus are not determined by God. (Unless one wants to argue that God [prescriptively] wills X to commit sin (Cf. James 1:13 of this impossibility)

Sean said,

//But as Tim has argued, Molinism allows Tim to maintain that God can determine the actions of free creatures without overriding their freedom.//

I never — EVER — made this statement! In fact, it is oxymoronic to claim that God can determine the actions of free creatures without overriding (determining) their freedom. No, what I argue is that God can predestine all things — including human choices — without overriding human freedom and responsibility. If one is going to attack another’s view, they better be careful to properly quote them (or at least understand their main ideas), lest they attack a straw man (a logical fallacy).

Sean continued:

//As such, the issue isn’t really with God “determining” desires which lead P to will X; for Tim maintains this on Molinism!//

Sean needs to be careful here with his assertions of what “Tim maintains.” I do not affirm that God causally determines anyone’s wants and desires (at least not all of them). I “maintain” that at least some of these things are up to us — we are responsible for some of our desires! I have affirmed that God predestines the sinful desires we are born with, but then I have argued that it is a logical mistake to conflate predestination with determinism. They are not necessarily the same thing.

Sean continued:

//Rather, the issue is with how God determines P to do X.//

FALSE! The issue is HOW God *predestines* P to do X. Sean begs the question that predestination is equivalent with causal determinism. Molina offered another option and I have offered an argument deductively demonstrating otherwise.

Sean said,

//For Tim, God determines P to do X by arranging P to be in circumstances Y such that P chooses X in Y.

False, false, FALSE! Sean simply does not understand the view (or deliberately misrepresents it) that he rejects and attacks. If Sean understood the Molinist view properly, he would have worded it this way:

“For Tim, God predestines P to FREELY choose to do X by arranging P to be in a freedom permitting circumstance Y, in which P FREELY chooses X in Y (but P is not causally determined to do X in Y and has the genuine ability to not choose X in Y). God perfectly knows that P would FREELY choose to do X if God were to actualize P in this circumstance and God chooses to actualize this freedom permitting circumstance with His perfect knowledge in mind. Thus, God predestines P to FREELY choose to do X without violating P’s freedom or responsibility.” 

Sean continues to put words in my mouth and attack straw men instead of my actual position. My views are made clear in the many articles I have made available for him to read. There is no excuse for Sean’s mistakes in this matter.

Sean continued:

//God determines P to do X in Y on the basis of His foreknowledge of what P would freely choose in Y. Hence, the difference between Tim’s view and my own view is that Tim posits a mechanism–namely, the logical priority of middle knowledge to God’s decree of a world.//

Again, this is false because the word “determines” simply does not belong (unless Sean is content with begging the question). Moreover, it would be better said like this:

“God predestines P to do X on the basis of God knowing with perfect certainty that if P existed in world Y, then P (if P actually existed) would freely choose X in Y. Hence, the difference between Tim’s view and my own view is that Tim’s view allows God to “guarantee” all that occurs and will occur without violating an agent’s freedom or responsibility.” 

Bottom line: Since God is omniscient, He knows how individual free agents would freely choose in freedom permitting circumstances *if* God were to create these free agents and place them in these circumstances (worlds) that He also would choose to create. God is free to create other worlds or no world at all. Thus, since God omnisciently knows what would freely occur in any and all possible world feasible for Him to create, and He chooses to create one of these worlds, God then predestines all things without any causal strings attached to mankind. We are not puppets; rather, we are FREE agents!

Sean finally and briefly touched on the Omni Argument. Here it is for review:

1. If irresistible grace (the “I” of T.U.L.I.P.) is true, then for any person x, if God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause x to go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell, then x will go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell.
2. If God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient, then for any person x, God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause x to go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell.
3. There is at least one person who will not go to Heaven and suffers eternally in Hell.
4. Therefore, one cannot [logically] affirm both (i) that irresistible grace is true and (ii) that God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient (a maximally great being).
5. God is a maximally great being.
6. Therefore, irresistible grace is false.
7. Therefore, divine determinism is false (God does not causally determine all things).
8. God is completely sovereign and does predestine all things (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:5,11).
9. Therefore, predestination and determinism are not to be conflated.
10. The best explanation of the data is Molinism.

I was extremely disappointed in Sean’s response to my argument! I was really hoping for more of a substantive objection in which I could respond. Sean incorrectly asserts the following:

//The conclusion at 4 is a non-sequitur, and thus the argument collapses.//

First, if one is going to claim a deductive conclusion does not follow and thus the argument is not valid, more than assertions are required! Moreover, I encourage Sean to read the first three premises slowly and carefully (he seems to agree with all of them) and then explain exactly how one could *LOGICALLY* affirm both the “Irresistible Grace” of Calvinism’s TULIP, and that God possesses each of the maximally great attributes in question.

Sure, one is free to make illogical statements, but I am interested in what follows logically from premises that seem to be true (premises in which Sean seems to agree).

Sean continued:

//God might very well desire any person at all to be saved, and yet have a greater, deeper desire on the basis of which He chooses not to save said person. One could maintain 1, 2, and 3, and yet not arrive at 4. if one also maintains God’s deeper desire for a greater good He’s working towards than anyone’s salvation//

Sean inadvertently rejects God’s omnipotence in stating that God has two desires and He is not powerful enough to attain all that He desires. Unless Sean can show that there is some kind of logical contradiction here (as Molinists state that it’s logically impossible to force one to freely love) then my argument passes.

Not only has Sean denied the maximal greatness of God, now he is making God sound schizophrenic! John Piper has made similar incoherent remarks (I’m paraphrasing): “God does desire all to be saved… but he has a greater desire for His own glory, so he tortures the vast majority of humanity in the fires of hell for choices they were powerless to make!” 

Again, I am disheartened because I already offered Sean an article I have written on this exact topic. In this article I provide arguments demonstrating that this line of thinking is incoherent and ultimately affirms that God has a “lesser desire” to sin, God is not omnipotent and has to “play the cards He’s been dealt,” and that the atoning life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is not enough to save the elect. That is to say, on John Piper’s view (and Sean’s), the Cross was not enough, and Jesus did NOT pay it all. For all of the details, please read my article entitled: “The Petals Drop: Piper’s Problems.” 

Consider a slightly modified version of my argument that Dr. Jacobus Erasmus has already symbolically “mapped out” to see if this “non-sequitur” accusation sticks (this argument assumes that God is omnipotent/all-powerful and omniscient/all-knowing). Also “irresistible grace” can be substituted for “divine determinism.”

1- If divine determinism is true [or “irresistible grace”], then, if God wants all people to go to heaven, then all people go to heaven.

P→(Q→R) Premise (P∧Q)→R 1, Exportation

2- Not all people go to heaven.

¬R Premise

3- Therefore, if God wants all people to go to heaven, then divine determinism is false.

¬(P∧Q) 2, 3, Modus Tollens ¬P ∨¬Q 4, De Morgan’s Laws Q→¬P 5, Material Implication

4- If God is all-loving, then God wants all people to go to heaven.

S→Q Premise

5- God is all-loving.

S Premise

6- Therefore, God wants all people to go to heaven.

Q 7, 8, Modus Ponens

7- Therefore, divine determinism is false.

¬P 6, 9, Modus Ponens

Sean can reject this argument by denying God’s omnipotence (God is not powerful enough to get what He wants), or by rejecting God’s omniscience (affirm that God simply isn’t smart enough to figure out how to accomplish what he desires to attain). Sean is free to pick his poison and reject the maximal greatness of God — or he can simply freely choose to drop Calvinism!

I don’t know about Sean, but I would rather maintain a HIGH view — a maximally great view — of God!

Either way, the Omni Argument is left standing strong and remains unscathed!

Sean did bring up a good point regarding the LXX. Here I affirm that he is probably right on this minuscule matter. He said,

//Tim critiques my reading of Deuteronomy 30:14 on the basis that Hebrew doesn’t have a subjunctive clause. Kempston claims that the LXX employs the imperative mood. Having taken Greek competency at Wheaton College, I can read a bit of Greek myself. . . My hunch is that the neuter accusative “αὐτὸ ” refers to τὸ ῥῆμα by virtue of the neuter gender. I think αὐτὸ is probably the object of ποιεῖν. Thus, perhaps Kempston can clarify where he thinks there’s an imperative–I’ve taken three semesters of Greek and practiced on my own for the past 6 months, so I’m still getting the hang of it.//

Given the infinitive, it could either function as an imperative or a subjunctive. It could be like saying to a five year old “I got you a toy to play with!” Or it could be like saying “I got you a mop to clean the floor”. The infinitive verb in both cases can either be imperative or subjunctive. If imperative, as I argued before, an imperative command doesn’t tell you why you fulfill the command. Issuing a command to X simply tells us that X has a responsibility to fulfill.

Here I will let Chester Kempston himself respond to Sean. Please say a few words, Chester!:


Sean and I had a personal exchange on Tim’s Facebook post on this issue and I will repeat here what I communicated there. I admit the error on my part in checking the LXX. Apparently, not all versions of the LXX available online are of the highest quality. The one I checked had ποιεῖν conjugated as I noted, but this is obviously incorrect after checking other more reliable sources. Honest mistake, and I appreciate Sean being diligent in checking things out.

This point, however, was incidental and doesn’t affect the argument I was making much, if at all. There is still no subjunctive mood in Hebrew; this is something that Sean is reading *into* the text, and has yet to provide justification for doing so. If he has such justification from a lexical and exegetical standpoint (rather than just asserting it contrary to the plain reading), I’d like to see it.

In any case, his interpretation does not make sense given the context of the surrounding passages, or the testimony of Scripture elsewhere. People actually can and do obey God’s commands and are considered righteous; some are even said to “blamelessly” obey the Law –  Paul the Apostle, Zechariah and Elizabeth come to mind. Obviously, the Molinist believes that these people are only able to do this by the Grace of God. Accusations that Molinists believe we can obey apart from the Grace of God are completely unfounded. Nobody claims this and it is not inferred by any other position we hold. Sean thinks that the command [in Deuteronomy] doesn’t imply ability or the reason behind obedience (if you happen to do so). The question of “why?” is separate from whether we are able, and the Scriptural testimony is resoundingly that we ARE able.

In any event, I would ask Sean to clarify what the subjunctive clause would actually be saying here if he had to explain it simply. Is it that God is *wishing* the Israelites would “do” the word? Is He just giving his opinion that they *should* do the word (knowing that they can’t)? Is God merely saying it *would* be possible IF Adam hadn’t fallen? Legitimate uses of a subjunctive would make sense IF it was textually AND contextually supported. They are not. Sean’s interpretation is not exegetical in the least. The passage says they have the word and strongly implies that they have the ability to carry it out. Any other reading must be forced onto the passage.

Ironically, once again Sean’s analogies of the mop and the toy do not remotely support his case. In fact, they once again make God out to be a cosmic jerk, as Tim has pointed out elsewhere. I find it odd that his analogies are so easily taken apart, and so consistently display this pattern – this betrays a serious lack of clear thinking.

The statements, “I got you a toy to play with!” and “I got you a mop to clean the floor” both assume that the child has the ability to play with the toy and mop the floor. His examples are not analogous given what he believes about this passage. An analogy that comports with Sean’s understanding of this passage would be buying a pair of roller-blades for a paraplegic child, and then punishing the child for not learning how to skate. This is the type of unfortunate and blatantly irrational thinking that must be utilized to defend Calvinism.

Back to you, Tim!


Thank you, Chester!

Although Sean brought up a good point regarding the original language, his conclusions do not follow. He said,

//However, in my last post, I’ve argued that we all freely rebel against the fulfillment of the command (and thus rebel against God). As Frankfurt shows, such a thing can still be deemed morally blameworthy.//

As I have shown, Sean’s assertion that “Frankfurt shows such a thing can still be deemed morally blameworthy” is false because he fails to account for the ability to think otherwise, but only focuses on the ability to physically move or act. Again, click on these hyperlinks (here and here) to my articles regarding the failure of Frankfurt.

Regarding Deuteronomy 30, I also noted that “Sean’s phrase “option of obedience” is quite confusing! If one has no mental or spiritual ability to do other than be disobedient, is it really an “option”? Is it really a “choice”? I fail to see how human respons-ABILITY can be logically grounded if we have no ability to think and /or act otherwise. This is why many Calvinistic theologians believe in the “age of accountability” when it comes to infants who die. Why is this the case? Because babies have no mental ability to think things through. However, if God determines all thoughts and beliefs, and one is not free to ever freely think or believe otherwise about anything, then all people are just as “accountable” for their thoughts as infants! If God causally determines all things — including all of the thoughts, beliefs, wants, desires, wills and inclinations of all individuals all the time — then God is the only being who is genuinely accountable and responsible for anything.”

Sean’s reply falls flat:

//Here’s what I mean by “option of obedience”. P has the option of obedience O if and only if O is presented to P as that which P ought to choose.

This is akin to presenting Stevie Wonder with an eye chart and telling him “the chart has been presented,” and thus, Stevie Wonder ought to read it and is responsible for reading it!

Moreover, what does Sean mean by “ought”? If person P ought to choose X, it implies that P can choose X. However, if God has not given P the ability to choose X, then it is nonsensical to affirm that P can — or ought to — choose X. We are back to the “jerk” of a guy that pushed Stephen Hawking to the floor and then demands that, “Hawking ought to stand.”

Sean’s reply might make sense if he affirmed that God restored (by His grace) the same freethinking ability that pre-fallen man possessed in these individuals, and then these individual Israelites could then genuinely choose “between life and death; between blessings and curses.” However, if one has no mental or spiritual ability to think things through (even if their physical bodies can move in certain ways), these “oughts” and “shoulds” are incomprehensible, incoherent, and nonsensical!

Sean said:

//I’ve tried to show with the floor-lover example that one might very well have an imperative offered to them, and be totally unable to obey it via corruption of desires.//

 Yes, I suppose we can construct hypothetical situations all day long imagining how people could be given imperatives that they were unable to obey. But this just raises the question as to whether God in His perfect Love and Knowledge *would* offer such a command knowing the recipient was utterly incapable of obeying it. If Sean’s arguments rely on such blatant question-begging, mental gymnastics, conflating of theological terms (determinism / predestination / decree), and other errors in logic, it is time to seriously re-evaluate his position.

Sean continued:

//With Frankfurt and Federal Headship, I affirm that this doesn’t mean that such a person can’t be the source of their own sinful rejection of O.//

Sean did “try to show” how this works with his “floor-lover thought experiment” but he failed as it was easily refuted (see above and read my last response article to Sean). Moreover, as I have noted above — and offered many hyperlinked articles/arguments demonstrating — Frankfurt fails if one affirms *exhaustive* divine determinism. That is to say, if one does not have the freedom to think or believe otherwise, then one is not responsible for any of their thoughts and beliefs — especially if God determined how these so-called “agents” (puppets or robots is a better term) think! However, Frankfurt examples can work if libertarian free thinking (a kind of LFW) is possessed by genuine agents even if physical reality cannot be otherwise.

If Sean would take some time to read and consider the above hyperlinked articles that I have written, then he would actually know my position and interact with it correctly.

Sean said,

//1 Corinthians 10:13 does not prove libertarian free will for the Christian, because of reading the verse in context of the letter as a whole. Having the ability do otherwise *in the power of grace* still links the defeat of sin to God’s grace as the decisive, ultimate factor in defeating that sin.//

What Sean fails to account for is that it does not matter if the ability to do otherwise is “*in the power of grace*” or not! Indeed, Molinists affirm that the ability to do otherwise is a gift from God and part of what it means to be made in the “Image of God.” No one has claimed or implied that this ability to choose otherwise is not provided by the power of God’s grace!

Moreover, this is another red herring as my argument has nothing to do with “linking the defeat of sin to God’s grace as the decisive, ultimate factor in defeating that sin.” No, my point is this: If a Christian is always provided with a way out of temptation — so they do not have to sin — then, it logically follows that when a Christian does sin, according to Scripture he did not have to sin! There was a genuine ability to choose and do otherwise that the Christian possessed and he failed to choose the way out which God provided.

Thus, Sean is responsible for his own sin — not God!

Not only does Sean’s view (inadvertently?) reject the inerrancy of Scripture, it ultimately says that God causally determines every sin that Christians commit — or he can say that Christians NEVER sin! It is better to avoid absurdity and simply believe what Paul is making clear in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Sean continued to miss the point:

//1 Corinthians 15:13 shows that any good we do ultimately comes from God (which, I assume, includes the defeat of temptation).//

What Sean fails to account for is that my argument is NOT focused on “any good we do” but rather, any sin Christians commit. If God always provides a way out (God’s grace genuinely allowing Christians to choose the good), then it logically follows that when Christians do NOT choose good, we could have chosen otherwise! That is to say, when Christians do sinful acts, we genuinely had it within our power to do good instead (by God’s grace)! We had the ability to do otherwise and not sin.

Sean can call this ability that the Apostle Paul affirms whatever he would like, but the point remains: this ability the Bible affirms is the epitome of what philosophers and theologians refer to as Libertarian Free Will. 

Sean made my point:

//The verse promises a way of escape–that means that there will always be a way offered to us by which we can escape.//

Amen to that! I agree 100 percent. Paul explains that we actually *can* escape temptation and not sin. Thus, when we fail to escape temptation and we do choose to sin, it logically follows that we did not have to choose to sin because God provided a way of escape and we failed to take it — but we could have. This is exactly what is meant by LFW.

Sean goes on to make an irrelevant point:

//It does not promise that any Christian is able to autonomously take that way of escape apart from grace as the decisive and ultimate reason for taking that way.//

Did I ever make that argument or assertion? No, I did not do such a thing! It would be nice if Sean would actually deal with my argument and not a straw man. Sean is trying to have his cake and eat it too with his next comment:

//So Calvinists can maintain that God provides a way of escape in all temptations. Calvinists can also maintain that the reason anyone will ever take that way is because God’s grace decisively grants that person to take that way.//

What does Sean mean by “grants”? If he means “determines” (it seems this is his view?), then God determines some Christians to not sin (it’s not up to them), but what about the Christians who do choose to sin? (Surely Sean affirms that Christians are not perfect and that Christians still sin occasionally!) Did God grant them a way of escape and an ability not to sin as Paul makes clear? If so, when a Christian does choose to sin, he did not have to sin because God provided a way out so that the Christian does not have to sin! Thus, we are responsible for our sin — not God!

In my last response I noted that Sean was incorrect in what he thought Molinists affirm. I said that the Molinist thinking on this is not, “if commanded then responsible in a LFW sense,” but rather, “If responsible, then LFW is required!” It seems intuitively obvious that if one is genuinely responsible for not doing x, then they could have done x but failed to do so. That is to say, “ought implies can.” Stephen Hawking, for example, is not responsible for not standing up because he simply cannot stand up. Sean is not responsible for not flying like a bird if he flaps his arms because he simply cannot fly like a bird my merely flapping his arms, and a human is not responsible for thinking correctly if he simply cannot think correctly.

I did not assume; rather, I argued that Paul implies an ability to freely think when he teaches that we can “take our thoughts captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) before they take us (Colossians 2:8). As I noted in my article, “Paul states that “we” — and implies that we ought to — take our thoughts captive to obey Christ. Paul seems to teach that we are responsible free thinkers of the libertarian variety. Accordingly, Paul makes it clear that all of our thoughts are not causally determined and forced upon us from external sources; we possess the ability to think otherwise. That is to say, YOU are responsible for your own thoughts (at least some of them).”

Sean replied:

//But as I’ve argued, LWF is not required. It doesn’t follow from “you ought to take your thoughts captive” that “you can self-determine your thoughts”.//

Sean should stick with interacting with my own words instead of putting other words in my mouth. I did not argue that if one “ought to take their thoughts captive, then one can self-determine all of their thoughts.” Rather, I note that if one can take their thoughts captive before thoughts take them captive (as Paul makes clear), then it follows that — by God’s grace — one’s thoughts are not causally determined and one’s thoughts can be otherwise. By God’s grace we can freely think and thus, we *ought* to think correctly!

Sean said,

//It might be true that I ought to take my thoughts captive; it might also be equally true that I am so sinfully wicked that I never would.//

Sure, this “might be true,” but it’s not true! Sean is a Christian who possesses the ability — by God’s grace — NOT to sin! However, Sean is also a Christian who still sins occasionally in thought and action! So, when Sean does sin, according to the Bible, he did not have to sin. Thus, at least Christians possess LFW when it comes to our sinful thoughts and actions. If we do not, not only is the Bible false, but God is the author of evil and not worthy of worship!

No wonder atheism is skyrocketing in the world today when Christians want rational people to believe that Calvinism = Christianity! I am so grateful that Molinism avoids all of this lunacy!

Sean goes on to affirm LFW some of the time:

//Moreover, if my sinful desires are made because of a choice I made in Adam (and God did not bend Adam to sin), then I am genuinely accountable.//

So, according to Sean, Adam possessed the libertarian ability not to sin (as God did not “bend” Adam to sin). So, LFW has existed at least in Adam (but surely not ever again in regenerated Christians!). Okay, then, was Adam’s free and “unbent” choice to sin still under the sovereignty of God if God is not doing the “bending”? If so, how? A Calvinist can either shrug their shoulders and retreat to mystery — or they can freely choose to stop being a Calvinist and choose to affirm the rational and biblical view — they can freely choose to affirm Middle Knowledge and Molinism! 

Sean said,

//I also reject Craig’s argument that, if our thoughts are ordained or determined, we cannot therefore trust our rationality.//

This is getting quite frustrating because Sean continues to misunderstand the difference between “ordained” and “determined.” The quote I offered by William Lane Craig says absolutely nothing that “thoughts being ordained by God” are not rationally affirmable; no, his point is that if all thoughts are causally determined by God, then we are not in any epistemic position to evaluate or rationally affirm our own thoughts as our evaluating thoughts (which are weighing and judging our other thoughts and beliefs) would also be causally determined by God. This is the “vertigo effect” Dr. Craig referred to in the quote I offered.

On Sean’s view, while human intentional states of consciousness might exist, genuine agency is lost!

Both Dr. Craig and I affirm that God ordains, predestines, and elects ALL things! We both reject the idea that God must causally determine all things to ordain, predestine, and elect all things! To assume “ordains” = “determines” is to beg the question in favor of your view or favorite philosophy (a logical fallacy). I, on the other hand, am making arguments that determinism ought not be conflated with predestination.

Sean said,

//Rather, the business is to think *while trusting* God’s grace which enables our thinking rightly. Thinking rightly itself, on Calvinism, becomes an occasion for praise.//

While we are discussing thinking, here’s something for Sean to “think” about:

If God causally determines all thoughts of all people all the time (all human thinking), then how can Sean rationally affirm (without begging questions) that his thinking corresponds to reality and my thoughts do not? Indeed, if he is not a free thinker, and God is causally determining all of Sean’s thoughts and all of the thoughts of the Molinist, then we are left with a deceptive God who causally determines some humans to believe true propositions and other to believe lies. We are left with a deceptive God — not a Maximally Great Being — yet again on Calvinism!

Sean begs the question (not that he thinks he has a choice in the matter) and presupposes that this deceptive god (note the little “g”) is causing him to think rightly and Molinists to think incorrectly. Why would God (note the big “G”) causally determine some people to believe lies — especially when He loves all people (per the Bible)? Moreover, why would God causally determine some of Sean’s fellow Christians to believe lies?

What’s really problematic for Sean on this view is this: Why would God force me (Tim Stratton) to think “correctly” about Calvinism in the past (to teach it and preach it for a decade), and then casually determine me to think otherwise and reject Calvinism? Why would God force me to believe a truth and then choose to force me to start believing and teaching lies? How can Sean rationally affirm (without begging questions) that God is not causing him to think incorrectly if he affirms that God’s character is that of deception?

Bottom line: If all of our thoughts are determined by God — including all of our thoughts about our beliefs and all of our beliefs about our thoughts — and our thoughts cannot be otherwise, then Sean stands in no epistemic ability to evaluate his own thoughts as good, bad, better, or worse than my thoughts which contradict his own. If Sean’s view happens to be true, then Sean can say goodbye to rationality and any inferential knowledge he hopes to gain via the process of rationality!

I recommend further reading of my past articles on this topic:

“Can We Choose Our Beliefs”

“Can You Have Your Cake & Eat It Too” 

In my last response to Sean, I noted that unless Sean is going to affirm universal salvation, then (as my [omni-argument] syllogism above demonstrates) it follows that if even one person suffers eternally in hell (which makes Hitler’s Holocaust look like a summer picnic) for a will that they are not responsible for because God causally determined it, then since God has the power to “bring about” and change the person’s will — but chooses not to — then God is much worse than the jerk who shoved Stephen Hawking out of his wheel chair and then commanded him to stand back up! This is obviously not how a perfectly good and Maximally Great Being would behave. Thus, if one believes that God is a Maximally Great Being, then they must reject 5-point Calvinism (namely the “I”), or any view that affirms that God exhaustively causally determines all things!”

Sean replied:

//… this argument would force Tim to affirm that God owes people even prevenient grace.//

FALSE! I do not make such a claim! This argument is not about what people “deserve” (as Wonder Woman pointed out above) or what “God owes people.” No, my argument is specifically dealing with God’s maximally great and all-loving nature! It would be nice if Sean would interact with my actual arguments as opposed to straw men that he creates!

Sean continues:

//For on his model, everyone is born unable to choose God. God’s prevenient grace enables people to choose rightly or wrongly.//

This much Sean gets right! His next comments are where the problem lies:

//If God would be a jerk to hold people accountable for sin on Calvinism, as He is holding them accountable to do that which they cannot do per Romans 8, then God on Molinism would also be a jerk to hold people accountable without prevenient grace. Thus, He is obligated to humans to give them grace–which makes grace an obligation!//

First, Molinists affirm that God genuinely loves all people and desires the best for each person. Second, because God is all-loving, although He does not “owe” humans anything, He provides all people with an opportunity to be in a true love relationship with Him. Since true love requires free will (as I have argued here), God gives people the ability to resist His amazing grace or not. Those who choose not to resist God’s grace WILL eventually fall into eternal love with their creator!

I recently gave a sermon on this topic here: “Why God Allows Evil & Suffering”

Sean said,

//Tim presents a false dichotomy with my affirmation of Jesus’ universal bearing of sin://

Hold on a second! My contention is that if Sean rejects the deductive conclusion of the Omni Argument, then Sean is left with either of the following:

1- Affirm universal salvation.

or…

2- Affirm that God is not a maximally great being who either does not love and desire the best for all people, is not powerful enough to save all people, or simply is not smart enough to figure out how to pull it off.

I noted that “I’d rather be a Molinist and affirm the maximal greatness of God (but Sean probably just thinks God determined me to be a Molinist and that I have no ability to think otherwise)!”

Sean attempts to offer a third alternative to split the horns of the dilemma in which I have offered. He said:

//There’s a third option: God loves all people, but doesn’t love all people in the same way. He desires all people’s salvation, but has an even deeper desire to create a world in which His glory shines brightest.//

Like clockwork the Calvinist trots out the schizophrenic “god” of John Piper once again! I already commented on this problematic view above, but on this weird view, God is not omnipotent, He has competing desires — one of which is sinful, and moreover, on this incoherent view, Jesus did not pay it all and the cross was not enough as the eternally damned suffering in hell are required to pick up the majority of the elect’s tab!

Once again, please read: The Petals Drop: Piper’s Problems

Sean asserts:

//This isn’t a logical-out as it were, but in fact demanded by Scripture.//

Scripture should be read and interpreted via logic. One should not start with their incoherent interpretation of their favorite Bible verse and then demand, “thus, my interpretation of Scripture is logical.” Please read my article entitled, “Extra-biblical Data & Hermeneutics.” 

In John 15:13, Jesus says that “there is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. In the next verse, he says “you are my friends *if* you do what I command you”. In other words, he’s excluding the Pharisees (and a bunch of other people) from the group for whom He laid down His life in this way.

The “*if*” in question implies that one *can* obey Christ if they do not resist His grace. Thus, the Molinist has every right to this verse as well, especially when the “L” of TULIP (speaking of these specific “friends”) is viewed through the lens of God’s omniscience and middle knowledge. I explain in my article, “Why I’m Not a TULIP Kind of Calvinist.”

Sean continues:

//Moreover, Ephesians 1:1-11 affirms that God predestined His people for adoption as sons in love.//

EXACTLY! Ephesians says absolutely zilch about God causally determining anyone to be saved! The Molinist affirms predestination (I even offer this as a premise in the Omni Argument) — the disagreement is regarding HOW God pulls this off while leaving human responsibility (in thought and action) unscathed. Molinism offers an explanation; Calvinism retreats to mystery!

Sean says,

//This is an act of love He shows His elect which He doesn’t show towards the whole world.//

So on Sean’s unbiblical view (contra 1 Tim 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9), God does not truly love all people. Consider the argument provided by Jerry Walls:

1. God truly loves all persons.
2. Truly to love someone is to desire their well being and to promote their flourishing as much as you can.
3. The well being and true flourishing of all persons is to be found in a right relationship with God, a saving relationship in which we love and obey him.
4. God could determine all persons freely to accept a right relationship with himself and be saved.
5. Therefore, all will be saved.

With this argument in mind, Johnny Sakr notes:

“So whilst Calvinist may affirm that God does love everyone, they seek to smuggle in an account of love that is profoundly at odds with the conviction that God desires the true flourishing of all persons that is, God is able to love someone and yet not desire to have an eternal relationship with Him.”

Indeed, how odd a view to assert that God truly loves all people, yet he chooses to torture the vast majority of humanity in the eternal fires of hell for choices they were powerless to make! That’s like saying that Hitler really loved the Jews but chose to torture, persecute, and murder them anyway.

If it is absurd to say Hitler loved all the Jews, then it is equally absurd to suggest that the God of Calvinism loves all people! Only those who blindly presuppose and committed to this odd view will continue to hold it.

Regarding this “Hitleresque” view of God, Sean said,

//Does this mean God is not a Maximally Great Being? Ironically, to say so would be to do what Tim is accusing me of doing: imposing philosophical assumptions onto Scripture.//

Well, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander! If Sean is free to “impose philosophy onto Scripture,” then why complain when the Molinist thinks logically about Scripture? After all, Isaiah invites us to “reason together.”

It is intuitively obvious that Hitler is not worthy of worship for many reasons. God, by definition is worthy of worship, thus, if some of the same things that make Hitler evil are also true of Sean’s view of God (or “god”), then Sean’s view of God must be false! There is a better interpretation of Scripture that ought to be affirmed. Regarding a proper hermeneutic, my pastor, Adrian Boykin asks:

“Does one’s interpretation of a particular passage of Scripture square with all other passages of Scripture? Does it square with the character of God?”

If not, then a new interpretation is needed. As we have seen throughout this dialogue, Calvinism does not square with all other passages of Scripture and it certainly violates what we know of the nature and character of God. Molinism, on the other hand can make sense of the Bible from cover to cover (even Romans 9) and it leaves the Maximal Greatness of God unscathed!

Molinism is the inference to the best interpretation!

Sean continued:

//I take issue with Plantinga and Craig here, and prefer to define my own concept of an MGB around what Scripture says God is like (hence why I don’t use the ontological argument). I don’t think I’m wise enough to make the call of what an MGB must be like.//

With this line of thinking Sean will eventually have to throw out the Moral Argument too (unless he is a voluntarist along with Muslims). Do Calvinists want to deny logical arguments for the existence of God just because they don’t line up with their subjective preference in what God is like or their favorite hermeneutical interpretation of Scripture (which they affirm they are not even free to thoughtfully evaluate)?

It’s great that Sean wants to affirm what Scripture says about what God is like — I agree 100%! What does the Bible clearly say about the nature of God? It implies that God is omnibenevolent from cover to cover. God desires ALL to be saved (1 Tim 2:4) and does not desire anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). In fact, this can be demonstrated in the first chapters of Genesis. Please read my article:

The Omnibenevolence of God

Moreover, consider the explanatory power that Molinism provides in refuting atheistic objections (the Calvinist has no rights to these arguments):

God’s Love & the Euthyphro Dilemma

Just as the atheist asserts in the above article, Sean rejects the idea that God is a Maximally Great Being in that he does not think being “all good” or “all-loving” is not a property of a maximally great being. But as I demonstrated to the atheist, the question is this, on Christian theism (if the Bible is true) God is genuinely all-loving and desires the best — eternal flourishing — for all people. If this is the case, and God is also all-powerful and all-knowing, then the only reason anyone could ever be damned is if they freely choose to resist God’s saving grace.

Sean said,

//Tim seems to suggest that I think that the source of God’s knowledge is grounded in what creatures do. That wasn’t quite the claim I was making; that’s a claim about God’s epistemological status. Rather, I was saying that the ontology of the truth values are grounded in the creature rather than the Creator. The source of the truth values themselves are grounded in the creaturely decision.//

If this is true, then what grounds the truth of propositions such as, “Hobbits do not exist”? If truth is grounded in being and no hobbit exists; then the claim “hobbits do not exist” is false because a hobbit does not exist. However, if a hobbit is necessary to ground this proposition then the proposition “hobbits do not exist” can never be true since the “being” of a hobbit must exist to ground this truth and if this being exists then it nullifies the proposition “hobbits do not exist” since a hobbit does exist.

If God can know these truths prior to creating certain individuals, and He is not forced to create certain individuals and knows these truth-values about certain individuals prior to the creatures existence — or if the creature ever exists at all — then these non-existing creatures cannot be the ground for a truth-value that actually is true about a possibly existing creature when the creature does not actually exist. Thus, the source of God’s knowledge does not rely on a non-existing creature. God is simply omniscient — God is a Maximally Great Being — and thus perfectly knows the truth-value to each and every proposition. This logically includes truth-values of counterfactual statements regarding certain individuals God has the power to create.

Does Sean not think that God has the POWER to create persons in which God does not determine to think or act? Is God not omnipotent? If God does have the power to create persons that are free in a libertarian sense, does God not KNOW what these persons would freely choose to do if He creates them? Is God not omniscient? Indeed, if God is a Maximally Great Being, He has the power to create LFW creatures and He perfectly knows exactly how they would freely choose if God creates such a world in which these free individuals exist.

Sean’s objection is not a Biblical objection at all (and thus, rather hypocritical). No, it is merely an interaction objection much like atheists make after faced with the Kalam’s conclusion with theistic implications. Although there is reason to think God created the universe from nothing, the committed atheist will object and retort, “Well HOW can God create something from nothing!” I never made an argument for HOW God created the universe. Rather, I simply noted that we have reason to believe that God did create the universe; the HOW is a different question, but it does not follow that if I do not know how God created the universe from nothing, that it is therefore irrational to claim that we have reason to believe that an omnipotent God did create the universe from nothing.

Sean makes a similar move! Just because we do not know HOW God knows counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, it does not follow that a maximally great and omniscient God would not know the truth-values regarding the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom — even prior to the existence of the universe or the creatures within. Indeed, a Maximally Great Being would possess this knowledge from eternity past in His state of alone aseity (logically prior to His creative decree).

Again, Sean’s view of God is not one of maximum greatness or perfection. This low-view of God is the “god” Calvinism continues to offer. Molinism affirms the Maximal Greatness of God!

Sean offers a last plea:

Now, Tim suggests we should hold Molinism as a viable system over Calvinism, which often appeals to mystery. Here’s why this matters for me (beyond the synergism mongerism debate, though that is vitally important for me as well).

Quick point: I have demonstrated how Molinists can affirm total monergism — that God is the author of salvation from beginning to end — so this is no reason to reject Molinism. Be that as it may, *if* I were offered a choice (if I possessed the libertarian ability to actually choose between two options) and I had to choose between a view with just a little bit of synergism (totally offered by God’s grace) or deny the Maximal Greatness of God, I will always affirm that God is omnipotent (all-powerful), that God is omniscient (all-knowing), and that God is omnibenevolent (all-loving and desires the eternal best for all people). God is a Maximally Great Being and the Bible makes this clear.

Sean’s favorite interpretation of the Bible (which he affirms that he cannot think otherwise about the Bible) assumes that God is not Maximally Great in one or all of these attributes. Based on my ability to freely think, I think he is dead wrong on how he interprets the character of God in Scripture.

Sean thinks he holds a “high view of Scripture” (even though I argue that his interpretation of the Bible is wrong), but by doing this, as A.W. Tozer points out, Sean and other Calvinists have demonstrated they posses a very “low view of God.” I would rather hold a high and maximally great view of God. However, Molinists are not faced with this dichotomy — Molinists can logically affirm both a high view of God and a high view of Scripture without retreating to mystery.

Sean said,

//I think we should seek to speak truly about God. That means that, unless our system is either taught by Scripture or implied by Scripture, we shouldn’t hold to it.//

Well, that’s exactly why I have appealed to the Bible to make my case in the first article in this series: “Molinism is Biblical.” Sean has tried to refute what I have argued for, but his objections have clearly failed. Thus, the best explanation of all the biblical data taken as a whole is Molinism — God is eternally omniscient (middle knowledge entails) and at least some humans are genuinely responsible and free in a libertarian sense.

With that said, consider Sean’s statement about the Bible:

//… unless our system is either taught by Scripture or implied by Scripture, we shouldn’t hold to it.//

1- Is that biblical? That is, where in the Bible does it say “unless our system is either taught by Scripture or implied by Scripture, we shouldn’t hold to it.” This seems to be an extra-biblical philosophy imposed upon the Bible. I like this view, but this “system” is not taught in the Bible. It does not say that we cannot think about God logically or anything of that nature. This is why I wrote the article, “Extra-Biblical Data & Hermeneutics.” 

Moreover, I contend that the Bible makes it clear that God possesses all of his attributes in a maximal sense. This is why they are called his “omni” attributes! This is also why this position is not purely philosophical; rather, one is free to hold this maximally great view of God based on biblical data alone. God’s omnibenevolence is implied in scriptures such as Psalms 145:9; 17; Mark 10:18; and Luke 18:19 (and many others). Moreover, as I argued above the omnibenevolence of God is implied in the first chapters of Genesis! God’s omnipotence is referred to in Genesis 1:1; Eph 1:19; Matt 19:26; Genesis 18:14; Job 42:1-2; Luke 1:36; and Jeremiah 32:27. Last but not least, God’s omniscience is referenced in such Bible verses as, Psalms 139:4; 147:5, and 1 John 3:19-20. God’s perfect knowledge of counterfactuals are also affirmed throughout the Bible as I noted in the first article of this series.

Moreover, as I noted above, both Isaiah and Paul encourage us to “be reasonable.” Thus, we have a biblical mandate to appeal to logic as well as the Bible (the two should not contradict if Christianity is, in fact, true)!

Sean said,

//Calvinist appeals to mystery aren’t ad-hoc, either. We don’t know how God decrees a choice like Adam’s because God’s decree is prior to creation, and all of our mental furniture contains created analogies/we think in created terms. Hence, we cannot use the tools in our mental toolbox to work behind creation; they are inadequate.//

Now Sean seems to contradict his appeal to the “grounding objection” above! Be that as it may, God provided humanity with a mind created in His image and God has also provided us ample information about Him in Scripture so that we creatures — in the image of God — can build upon biblical data as our foundation, think deeply, and ultimately think biblically and logically to reach probably true conclusions about our Awesome God! This is exactly what has led to Molinism!

We can also use our minds (in the image of God) and read His inspired Word to think logically and rule out bad and incoherent philosophies like Calvinism!

Sean replied:

//Calvinism doesn’t spring from philosophy (at least as I see things). It springs from the Bible’s affirmation of God’s universal sovereignty, His absolute converting grace (Eph 2:8-10, Romans 9, 1 Corinthians 1:30, John 6:37, John 10:28 amidst others), and man’s responsibility.//

What Sean fails to comprehend is that philosophy precedes Calvinism; therefore, Calvinism does “spring from philosophy.” Any field of study, save for philosophy itself; rests upon philosophical foundations. As I have noted in a previous article:

“There is no such thing as philosophy-free theology, just theology that has been conducted without any consideration of its underlying philosophical assumptions.”

As I have argued above and in hyperlinked articles, Calvinism cannot make logical sense of man’s responsibility and while Calvinistic philosophy might take into consideration God’s sovereignty and power, it fails to account for God’s perfect knowledge and His perfect love for all His creatures!

A Biblical view is one that not only makes sense of some Bible verses; no, a Biblical view can make sense of ALL the Biblical data! This is why Molinism should be preferred as the inference to the best explanation and why Calvinism should be rejected outright (even *if* Molinism should falter). Indeed, if we are allowed to “appeal to mystery,” then if Molinism would fail, I would appeal to mystery long before affirming the faulty philosophy of Calvinism!

Sean asserted,

//We must be Biblical in our thinking about God.//

Yes, this is why I use Biblical data to support Molinism and my arguments based on Molinism. In fact, Molina’s entire first volume of his Concordia was comprised of 150 pages of biblical data providing the foundation of what has come to be known as Molinism. Be that as it may, the Bible makes no claims to be exhaustive on all issues. Thus, we are sometimes required to appeal to extra-biblical data to support our hermeneutics.

Sean continued:

//Molinism tries to solve a legitimate issue (the problem of evil) in an illegitimate way (un-Scripturally).//

False! I wrote the article “Molinism is Biblical” to support the two essential pillars of Molinism with nothing but scripture alone! All Sean has done is offered failed attempts and assertions to object to the Biblical data I have provided.

Moreover, it is not “un-biblical” or “un-scriptural” to think logically about certain issues. This is why the vast majority of Christian theologians who are trained to think logically (Christian philosophers) reject Calvinism — it is not even a live option for them to consider because it is logically incoherent when held alongside essential Christian doctrine.

Sean ends with a false allegation:

//Moreover, Molinism does not affirm the grand scope and glory of God’s unmerited grace that I think Scripture affirms, but rather presents grace (even prevenient grace) as an obligation that God owes us.//

I have never read or heard any Molinist claim or imply that God “owes” humanity anything! I have not done such a thing either, but Sean would rather continue to attack this straw man instead of dealing with my specific argument which is simply based on God’s nature — a divine nature that is also supported by the biblical data!

I have not read any of Sean Luke’s work prior to his two articles specifically addressed to me, but our mutual friends have informed me that although Sean is a great historian-based apologist defending the existence of Jesus and the historical resurrection, he is not a sophisticated systematic theologian or philosopher. I must admit that after reading Sean’s objections to Molinism I think our mutual friends are correct in their assessment. With that said, I am confident Sean has the ability to be good at anything he freely chooses to set his mind toward.

This has taken up enough of my time. My conversation with Sean Luke has reached its end. I thank Sean for a vigorous and fun debate. In all sincerity I pray that God would bless his ministry!

Stay Biblical and stay logical (if Christianity is true they will never contradict),

Tim Stratton


  • A special thank you to Johnny Sakr and Chester Kempston for reading Sean Luke’s articles addressed to me and then taking the time to think things through regarding his objections with me. These guys (and many others) sharpen me like iron (Proverbs 27:17). I am grateful for their intellect and their friendship.
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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim was recently accepted at North West University to pursue his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics.

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