Tactics & Theological Disputes

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

February 26, 2018

Before I devoted my life to the ministry of defense (apologetics), I spent most of my time studying self-defense and martial arts. When I was twelve years old (back in the mid 80s) I started studying Tae Kwon Do. In my college years I earned a black belt in Karate, and after that I studied Jiu-jitsu. I eventually incorporated all of them together (and more) and competed (and coached many others) in Mixed Martial Arts for several years.

Surprisingly, studying martial arts over the course of three decades provided a strong foundation for my apologetic methodology. This is because martial arts and self-defense are all about tactics! In fact, both disciplines are focused on strategically disarming or neutralizing one’s opponent. In my opinion, Greg Koukl is the “master sensei” when it comes to this apologetics jiu-jitsu. He knows how to ask all the right questions when engaged in the battle of mind (2 Corinthians 10:5) with “non-believers.” Koukl shares his methods in a book that every aspiring apologist should read called Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions.

J.P. Moreland says that Tactics is “THE authoritative treatment of how to employ various strategies in conversations with unbelievers about the Christian faith.” Koukl trains his students how to control the flow of the fight (I mean the conversation) and how to apply logic when others are being unreasonable. He also trains aspiring apologists how to disarm the weapons (objections) from those who are attacking Christianity and turn these objections back on the objector. As the back-cover says, “Tactics gives you the game plan for communicating the compelling truth about Christianity with both confidence and grace.” I could not agree more!

Tactics & Friendly Sparring

With that said, however, Koukl’s “tactics” are not only for use against non-believers! These tactics are also perfect when in theological disputes with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, not every Christian is guaranteed to always be correct in their thinking about a specific theological issue. Recently I had the opportunity to employ some of these same tactics on a well-known theologian who has been quite vocal regarding his rejection of Molinism.

This theologian (who shall remain nameless) has not only been vocal in his opposition to Molinism, but he has also affirmed what seems to be libertarian freedom of humanity in issues not related to salvation. In fact, in my article entitled Questions for Calvinists, I demonstrate how nearly all Calvinists will eventually affirm soft libertarian freedom for at least some people some of the time. I began my tactical conversation with this theologian by sharing the “Calvinist Quiz.” From that point I sought to carefully define my words and his too. I made sure we both knew exactly “what we meant by that,” and then demonstrated what logically followed from the statements he clearly affirmed. Our conversation went like this:

Stratton: “So, with this quiz in mind, you do believe humans possess libertarian free will at least in some issues not pertaining to salvation, right?”

Calvinist: “Yes! I do believe that humans have libertarian free will — just NOT when it comes to soteriological issues.”

Stratton: “Cool, okay, let’s bracket soteriological issues for a moment. Since you affirm that humans possess libertarian free will at least some of the time, how would you answer the following?: When did God know how humans would freely choose? Did God gain this knowledge or has God always possessed this knowledge without beginning?”

(I think I also asked: “How is God sovereign over these libertarian free choices?”)

Calvinist: “God is necessarily omniscient; He always knows all things perfectly.”

Stratton: “Exactly — I thought you would respond that way! So, God knew how you would freely choose in these circumstances (not related to salvation) logically prior to His creative decree?”

Calvinist: “Yes.”

Stratton: “Then you are a Molinist!”

Calvinist: “How did you reach that conclusion?” (He employed some tactics of his own here!)

Stratton: “Well, Molinism is not necessarily a soteriological view. It simply offers a model as to how some human thoughts and actions can be free in a libertarian sense — so responsibility entails — and also how God can be sovereign over these free thoughts and actions by choosing to create a world in which He knew how people would freely choose. You just affirmed the two essential pillars of ‘Mere Molinism’: 1- Humans occasionally posses libertarian free will and 2- God possesses Middle Knowledge (knowledge of how humans would freely choose logically prior to His creative decree).”

This theologian paused for a few moments and then offered a response that I will never forget…

Calvinist: “Well if that’s what it means to be a Molinist, then I guess I’m a Molinist!”

Stratton: “I already knew you were!” 😉

Almost every Calvinist I interview eventually affirms “Mere Molinism” after taking the “The Calvinist Quiz.” This famous theologian joined the club. With that said, however, he was quick to reiterate that even though he affirmed “Mere Molinism” he still believed that humans do not possess libertarian freedom when it comes to issues of salvation. I told him that I was “cool with that!”

Although I do think the idea of “Irresistible Grace” is logically incoherent when held along side of essential Christian doctrine (See The Relevance of Irresistible Grace), I am more than happy to let Calvinists keep their TULIP and also affirm the two essential pillars of Molinism. That is to say, the five points of Calvinism are not mutually exclusive with the two essential pillars of Molinism.

Conclusion

Greg Koukl’s tactics are great — not simply to “win” arguments with fellow Christians, but also to build bridges with brothers and sisters in Christ where there was formerly division! Moreover, with apologetics in mind, it is “tactically” beneficial for Calvinists to come to this “mere Molinism” position as it allows Calvinists to have access to many apologetic-based arguments in which they previously had no rights (See The Freethinking Argument and The Apologetic Significance of Molinism).

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18) and tactical (Colossians 4:5),

Tim Stratton

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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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