Molinism Saves Marriages!

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

March 7, 2016

I have the best wife in the world! Tia Stratton is smart, she loves Jesus, she goes out of her way to bless me, she has a great sense of humor, and she is so SMOKIN’ HOT it is not even funny!!! Seriously, she is way out of my league, but for some reason, she freely chooses to love me. However, things between my wife and I have not always been this bed of roses — because I previously wanted TULIPs!

Let me set the stage: my wife and I used to fight about a certain subject all too often — even before we were married. This issue that caused such tension between the two of us was regarding a theological issue: God’s sovereignty and human freedom. That is to say, my wife held to a theological view known as Arminianism (based on the teachings of Jacob Arminius) — and I was a staunch Calvinist (based on the teachings of John Calvin). These competing views are mutually exclusive!

Not only are these two competing theological views contradictory, church-goers holding these opposing views do not usually coexist well either. Churches split over this debate and our fledgling relationship was on the rocks because of it too. This topic would arise constantly and it seemed as if every night we would go get our Bibles, not to grow closer to God, but to use them as weapons against each other! She had her proof texts and I had mine.

As an advocate of Calvinism I rejected the notion that humans possessed libertarian free will and stated that God determines all things. I wholeheartedly embraced “5-Point Calvinism,” and affirmed the acronym, TULIP, based on these five points:

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints

She would go to John 3:16 and say that God so loved the WORLD and that meant everybody and that “whoever” actually means whoever. I would counter that this simply means “different groups of people in the world” (surely not all of the individual people in all people groups), and then I would offer my favorite Calvinistic prooftext — Romans 9 — countering that God does not love all people and the people who God hates have no right to complain about how God hates them (for choices they were powerless to make without God’s irresistible grace)! After all, “can what is molded complain to the molder?”

Then she would open her Bible to 1 Timothy 2:4 and state that “God desires ALL people to be saved.” Again, I would counter that “all people” is simply referring to all “people groups,” so that I could avoid the face-value interpretation of Scripture and then I would slam her with Ephesians 2:8-9 which clearly states that faith is a gift from God and if He does not want to give it to all people, He does not have to.[1]

She would tell me to read 2 Peter 3:9 and point out that the Bible clearly states that God does not wish any person to perish. I would go back to Romans 9 and say, “Yeah, but… Romans 9, Romans 9, and Romans 9!”

This would continue ad nauseam. We would have yelling fights that would lead to tears! In retrospect, I was a total jerk, but I figured that God had causally determined me to be a jerk and that He was forcing me to act that way for some reason, unbeknownst to me. After all, on Calvinism, all things are causally determined by God and there is no freedom to think, act, believe, or behave other than the way we think, act, believe, and behave. God controls and causally determines all things! Therefore, I was not ultimately responsible for my “jerky” behavior — God was! Knowing that I was not really responsible for my bad behavior allowed me to sleep at night.

We eventually decided to sweep this problem under the rug and we got married despite being unequally yoked with theological differences. However, the problem remained. Eventually, after our first year of marriage, Calvin and Jake crawled out from under the rug and the debate returned stronger than ever. One particular night got so bad that I decided to sleep on the couch for my stand and  love of John Calvin (and John Piper)!

After that night we realized that although we had a disagreement regarding God, we agreed that God did not want us to continue fighting like this (I was starting to come to my senses). We decided to sweep Calvin and Jake under the rug one more time. Although we were at a theological impasse, we agreed to not talk about theology any longer. Deep down, however, I actually questioned her salvation, as I could not understand why God would not force her to believe the truth, as I was confident He did with me.

I thought, “If God controls our thoughts and beliefs, and my wife is holding false thoughts, then it must be God that is forcing those thoughts upon her.” I actually thought, “Maybe God does not love her the way I do… maybe Tia is not a part of ‘the elect.'” I prayed for her, but then I realized that according to my theological view, my prayers will not “change God’s mind.” God already knows if He is going to zap her with His “irresistible grace” or not.

After several years of not talking about this issue God finally intervened, at the same time I started studying Christian apologetics. Ironically, a Calvinistic pastoral colleague of mine introduced me to the work of William Lane Craig. I started watching his debates, and in 2010, I watched the video of Dr. Craig debating Christopher Hitchens at Biola University. I was starting to love and respect Craig until he made a passing comment that he disagreed with Calvinism.

WOAH! Stop the presses! Did this guy who is systematically destroying all of these atheistic arguments just denounce Calvinism? I immediately did what any good aspiring theologian would do and turned to Google! Pretty soon, I stumbled upon the doctrines of “middle knowledge” and “Molinism.” In a nutshell, this view basically attempts to logically reconcile God’s sovereignty with human freedom and responsibility by stating, “God chose to create a world in which He knew with omniscient certainty how humans would freely choose.”

It soon occurred to me that the dichotomy between Calvinism and Arminianism is a false one. That is to say, there is at least one other possible option to consider: Molinism.[2] At this point, however, although I realized there were other options available, I was still convinced and operating under the presupposition that God had illuminated my mind to know Calvinism was true. I was intent on refuting Dr. Craig so I began studying Molinism, in an attempt to destroy it, because of my commitment to Calvinism. I studied Molinism and the doctrine of God’s middle knowledge every single day for over a year, to so I could PROVE why it was a heresy and why 5-point Calvinism was true.

One day, I was driving home from the church office, after scrutinizing Molinism all afternoon. My world was spinning! I called my wife and said, “I think I’m losing my faith – in Calvinism!” A couple of days later, I watched the Super Bowl with a pastoral friend of mine, who also has a philosophy degree. We discussed God’s omniscient middle knowledge for the first three quarters and right before the fourth quarter started, Molinism “clicked” and made sense to me. From that day forward, I have freely chosen to label myself as a bona fide Molinist!

The conversations I had with my wife over the years eventually led to me crafting this argument I call The Omni Argument Against Calvinism:[3]

1. If 5-point Calvinism 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 suffer eternally in Hell.

4. Therefore, one cannot affirm both (i) that 5-point Calvinism is true and (ii) that God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient.

Because I sincerely believe that God possesses each of His omni attributes and is a maximally great being (for good reason), I cannot accept any view that diminishes any of God’s omni attributes. Calvinism ultimately makes God the author of evil. Molinism, on the other hand, logically explains how God allows people to be free, and why He allows humans to freely do evil things.

It has been several years since I parted ways with Calvin. My wife and I are both advocates of Molinism today and our marriage is flourishing. Rarely a week goes by, however, that my wife does not lovingly remind me that she was right and I was wrong about the faults of TULIP Calvinism. I thank God for each and every one of those reminders as they keep me humble. Most importantly, I’m thankful that God helped me understand how God governs all things and how humans can be completely responsible for all of their moral actions. My wife was right!

Bottom line: Molinism saves marriages!


Notes:

[1] Regarding Ephesians 2:8-9, William Lane Craig points out that one might say, but this passage clearly states that faith is a gift of God, not something that we can produce. Craig says,

“Look at Ephesians 2:8-9 again. Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— not because of works, lest any man should boast.” Doesn’t this show that faith is simply God’s gift to you and not something that you do on your own? I think that is incorrect and I think demonstrably so. Let me ask those of you who are our vigilant Logos software users to tell us what is the gender of the word for “faith” that is used in verse 8? I should mention here that in Greek, as in modern day German, every noun has a gender. There are three genders – masculine, feminine, and neuter. It is the same in Greek. Now, what is the gender of the word pistis or faith? Feminine. So it is feminine gender for pistis or faith. What is the gender of the pronoun in verse 8 “this.” Neuter! Touto is the word. It is neuter. So the antecedent of “this” is not the word “faith.” You would have to have a feminine pronoun in order to refer to “faith.” Rather, what the word “this” refers to is the whole preceding clause, namely, salvation by grace through faith. That is not your own doing. This is the gift of God. This is the way God has elected to set it up; he is going to save by his grace everyone who has faith in Christ. That is not your own doing. But it does not teach that saving faith is the gift of God. That is grammatically prohibited.”

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defender…/transcript/s10-17

“Ephesians 2:8 emphasizes that this setup, this arrangement, is by God’s own choice. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast.” Remember we saw that the word “this” is neuter whereas faith is feminine. So “this” doesn’t refer to the faith, this refers to this arrangement of salvation by grace through faith. That arrangement is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God. It is God’s sovereign choice to save people in this way by grace through faith.”

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defende…/transcript/s11-031

[2] Some Arminian theologians such as Tom McCall consider themselves as Molinists. Others, like Jack Cottrell, believe Molinism is too similar to Calvinism. However, the vast majority of Calvinists reject Molinism and equate it with Arminianism because it affirms libertarian free will.

[3] I first offered a slightly different form of this argument here. Jacobus Erasmus (PhD) helped reformulate it into the syllogism above.

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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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