My Journey to Molinism

By Tony Vance

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July 14, 2017

My journey to Molinism might be unique. In talking with others who adhere to Molinsim and studying this view for a couple of years or so, I discovered many Molinists today seem to have been won over by its extremely strong philosophical arguments. However, I had a different experience. I was primarily convinced of Molinism for theological and biblical reasons.

I consider myself a ‘Mere Molinist’ and I am fully convinced of its two essential tenets: God possesses middle knowledge (MK) and human’s possess libertarian free will (LFW). I believe these two pillars of Mere Molinism, are true and that this describes how God operates in creating the world in which we live. Molinism was a system that finally satisfied all the ‘boxes’ I had checked as I looked at scripture. I was fully convinced of God’s sovereignty and man’s ability to make (at least some) free choices. When Molinism was introduced to me, I thought its explanation of God’s MK and His use of human LFW made the most sense theologically/biblically.

I began my Christian life in a denomination steeped in the General Baptist tradition. The General Baptists get their name from the idea that Jesus died for everyone ‘generally’ as opposed to the Particular Baptist, who believed Jesus died for a ‘particular’ group of people (the Elect). These two Baptist groups would commonly fall into the two camps we refer to as Arminian (General) or Calvinist/Reform (Particular). I was not fully convinced of traditional Arminianism. It seemed to me that Arminianism had issues with God’s sovereignty as simple foreknowledge seemed to be God reacting to our choices, after the fact, so to speak. Simple foreknowledge, as taught by Arminians, is God perceptually ‘seeing’ what will happen. Foreknowledge, as the Bible seems to describe, is conceptual, and Molinism holds to the idea that God ‘KNOWS’ what the future will hold, as well as what would it have held otherwise. This view of Arminianism was not satisfying my understanding of scripture, and Calvinism’s dependence on divine determinism was unsatisfactory as well.

Around three years ago I heard a young man, Rob Johnson, explain Molinism. He was describing ‘Mere Molinism’ and the podcast in which he was featured had a Calvinist host who jokingly said, “like multiple-universes,” in trying to understand MK. Needless to say, my Star Wars/Star Trek/Full-On-Geekiness-Side was intrigued with the idea of multiple choices of worlds (possible realities) that God could have created. In time, I came to understand that Molinism speaks of possible and feasible worlds and that they are not all actually in existence (though it is cool to imagine so). I had never heard of MK and the ramifications of it theologically were rich with possibilities. It wasn’t so much the philosophical arguments (though good theology can’t be done without good philosophy) that convinced me as it was the biblical/theological ones. I soon stumbled across Tim Stratton’s ministry and found his thinking and articles extremely helpful (as well as the entire FreeThinking Ministries team). Even though Calvinism never appealed to me as a theological system (as I fully rejected divine determinism), Stratton’s “The Petals Drop” articles were the most robust arguments against Calvinism (as divine determinism) that I had ever encountered.

What I came to realize was that I wasn’t ‘converting’ to Molinism as I was discovering that I was a Molinist! LFW was a concept that I was fully convinced of as Arminianism, especially Classical Arminianism, teaches and embraces. I believed Molina’s views explained the biblical commands to “do this and not that.” It seemed quite clear to me that the scriptures implied LFW and it was not hard for me to embrace Molinism’s implications of this doctrine as well. LFW is not unique to Molinism as Arminianism and Traditionalism (as espoused by some/many Southern Baptists) both incorporate Libertarianism into their theological systems. I’ve even encountered some Calvinists who also espouse some form of LFW. This was never a sticking point I had to overcome, and the other pillar, MK, would not be hard to affirm either since I already believed God is completely omniscient! I had never heard of Luis de Molina or his doctrine of Scientia Media (Latin for ‘Middle Knowledge’) till a few years ago but I soon realized it was something I had believed all along (at least in part).

I remember explaining to an unbeliever many years ago how God could work “around our choices,” long before I had heard of MK. I said something to the effect, “I believe there are realms of possibilities, and God is aware of all the possibilities that we have before us, and not only that, God KNOWS what choices we will make in those possibilities and does what He needs to do to accomplish His plans.” I didn’t realize back then that what I was describing was a (very) poor representation of MK. Scripture seemed to indicate that MK (though I didn’t have a name for it then) provides the foundation from which God operates. The clearest example in scripture that had me imagining “realms of possibilities” (what I came to understand to be MK) was 1 Samuel 23: 10-13. David was running from Saul and asked God an ‘if’ question. He wanted to know the truth to the following statement: ‘if’ he stayed ‘would’ Saul capture him. God revealed the truth to this “what if” and stated that ‘if’ David stayed ‘then’ Saul would capture him. This idea of an ‘if-then’ statement implies LFW, as David had a choice to do A or not A, but it also describes the “realms of possibilities” I thought God had to work with. I later came to understand this to be an example of God’s MK.

Tim Stratton has rightly described Molinism as Biblical, and it was the Biblical arguments that convinced me that Molinism is true. Molinism is not a doctrine explicitly taught in scripture, and many of the most profound ones aren’t (like the Trinity), but Molinism is a doctrine that explains MOST of the difficulties we have with reconciling human freedom and responsibility of some things and God being completely sovereign of all things. I feel I have only begun to scratch the surface of Molinism’s full potential as a theological/biblical system. I have used the Molinist defeater to the “problem of evil” on numerous occasions with both skeptics and seekers. I teach a young adult small group and Molinism is often discussed (as I bring it up) as I explain passages that are difficult to reconcile with either a pure Arminian or Calvinist understanding. Molinism is the most satisfactory system I’ve encountered and it has answered many questions! I will readily admit that the ideas of weak-actualization and strong-actualization, feasible and possible worlds, and stochastic process and divine determinism, and how Molinism accounts for them, is all “above my pay-grade,” but I am finding it (Molinism) to be a powerful theological systematic way of studying God’s Word and the workings of His WILL!

I am not called to be a disciple of Molina. I am called to be a follower of Christ. I desire to be as Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:2 (NLT)

“For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.”

I have no desire to ‘destroy’ Calvinism or Arminianism, or any other theological system for that matter. I do seek truth and an understanding of the world around me. It seems ‘true’ that truth corresponds to reality, and that is not only true of the world we see around us but how God operates. Trying to make sense of it ALL can sometimes be overwhelming, but I also believe it is important to seek to know God and His Son more and more every single day (Philippians 3:10 ESV).

“that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

Molinism is the best explanation of all the facts as I see them revealed in scripture. I readily admit that I am a Molinist, and I am seeking to understand this theological view more clearly. With that said, however, I seek to know Christ even more!

I invite you to join me in this Journey to seek and know Christ more and more every day. Please follow my website and podcast and let’s do this together!

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About the Author

By Tony Vance

Tony Vance is a husband, father, minister, blogger, and podcaster whose greatest desire is to make Christ known and know HIM better! Please check out his website and his podcast!