How Should a Molinist Understand 1 Peter 1:3?


March 25, 2017

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. . .” 1 Pet. 1:3 (ESV)

For the determinist, this verse would seem to pose a problem for libertarian and thus Molinists. This is because, according to our hypothetical determinist, Molinists do not want to maintain that God causally determines individuals to be born again. But does 1 Peter 1:3 text truly constitute a rebutting defeater to Libertarianism and thus Molinism? With respect to this verse all the Molinist needs to do is offer a way that God can cause an individual to be born again through some means other than divine causal determinism. Molinism fortunately has the conceptual resources necessary to accomplish this task in the concepts of strong and weak actualization.

On the Molinist schema God causes a state of affairs to be strongly actualized when He causes that state of affairs to obtain through a direct exercise of His causal power. God creating the universe ex nihilo would be an example of this. In contrast, God weakly actualizes a state of affairs when he causes it to obtain by placing an individual in circumstances such that He knew how that individual would freely respond. An example of this would be God knowing that I would write this article given the freedom permitting conditions He has placed me in.1

That said, with respect to 1 Peter 1:3, the Molinist could simply point out that this verse is consistent with affirming that God weakly actualizes certain individuals to be born again. Further, for the determinist to merely assume that this verse teaches causal determinism would beg the question against the Molinist since the determinist would be assuming without argument that the verse cannot be understood in terms of weak actualization. Of course, the Molinist too would beg the question if she were to assume without argument that the verse is referring to weak actualization. However, the point here is that the verse is consistent with both interpretations and so the verse does not compel itself either way.

Another way the Molinist could understand 1 Peter 1:3 is to affirm that God does causally determine individuals to be born again, but nevertheless maintain that universal causal determinism fails to obtain. Recall that Libertarian Free Will is just the position that “the freedom necessary for responsible action is incompatible with determinism”2. Such a definition, however, does not stipulate that we are responsible for all of our actions. LFW is thus consistent with the claim that there are at least some actions, such as our being born again, which we are not morally responsible for. Thus, even if if the libertarian grants that this verse teaches that Christians are causally determined to be born again, he can still consistently maintain that there are other actions we perform that are not causally determined by God.

In sum, I’ve argued that Molinists can understand 1 Peter 1:3 in at least two different ways, both of which are consistent with adherence to LFW. The first way involves highlighting the fact that the verse is consistent with the claim that God weakly actualizes individuals to be born again. The second way of understanding involves conceding that the verse teaches causal determinism, while maintaining that the verse fails to teach universal divine causal determinism and so does not rule out LFW. In short, Libertarians have a range of options available to them with respect to their understanding of 1 Peter 1:3. Hence, they need not be compelled by Scripture in to becoming determinists.


1For more on this distinction, check out William Lane Craig’s “Q&A #498

2William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (2nd Edition), p. 303.


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