The T.R.U.M.P. Card

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

May 3, 2021

God is a maximally great being by definition. He always has been and always will be perfect and maximally great (see Job 42:1-2; Psalm 145:3; 147:5; Isaiah 41; Jeremiah 1:5; 32:27; Luke 1:37 and the Ontological Argument). With that said, however, for nearly 500 years many Christians have sadly advanced a “low view of God.”

In the book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer says: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” In the preface of the same book Tozer writes:

“The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men…. The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us.”

In the final chapter of Human Freedom, Divine Knowledge, and Mere Molinism, I demonstrated that the famous five points of Calvinism, while internally consistent, are logically impossible to hold if they are held along with other essential Christian doctrines such as God’s maximal greatness and eternal Hell (either the traditional Eternal Conscious Punishment view, or the Conditional Immortality View — otherwise known as “Annihilationism”). That is to say, if the Calvinist affirms that God possesses all of His “omni” attributes maximally and that eternal hell is a reality, then they must drop the “I” (irresistible grace) of the Calvinistic acronym “T.U.L.I.P.” This is based on the Omni Argument Against Irresistible Grace. Consider each step:

The Omni Argument

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 person x to go to Heaven, then person x will go to Heaven.

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 person x to go to Heaven.

3. There is at least one person who will not go to Heaven and is eternally separated from God’s perfect love (Hell). 

4. Therefore, one cannot affirm both (i) that irresistible grace is true and (ii) that God is omni-benevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient (a maximally great being).

5. God is a maximally great being.

6. Therefore, irresistible grace is false.

7. Therefore, [exhaustive] 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 all the data is Molinism.

My passion is to help all people (from church-goers to atheists) see God for who He really is. I spend much of my time reasoning with atheists and other non-Christians because I desire ALL people to come to a knowledge and realization of God’s nature. According to 1 Timothy 2:4, God seems to desire the same thing — for ALL to come to “the knowledge of the truth.” I want the same thing as God: for ALL people to realize how maximally great and awesome He really is! After “all,” it seems that a Maximally Great Being — which includes the divine attribute of omni-benevolence — would desire all people to know truth about ultimate reality. 

The Omni Argument deductively demonstrates that if one is going to hold to TULIP, and be logically consistent, then they must either affirm universalism (which has big theological problems) or reject God’s maximal greatness and perfection (which has even bigger theological problems). The petals of the TULIP have dropped and thus we must drop TULIP. It’s time for something better. 

As noted in Human Freedom, Divine Knowledge, and Mere Molinism, “mere Molinism” does not have to be applied to salvation issues. Thus, a Calvinist can consistently hold to TULIP while simultaneously affirming “mere Molinism.” Be that as it may, when one applies Molinism to soteriological matters, reality is clarified. 

Consider 5-Point Molinism and play the TRUMP card: 

T.R.U.M.P.

Total Depravity: There is not one aspect of human existence which is not infected by sin. However, the image of God in which humanity is created has not been ERASED, but rather, EFFACED. Think of a little drop of black ink being dropped into a tall glass of pure water. Every single particle of the water is now “infected” by the droplet of ink, however, it is still a glass of water. In fact, it is still potable (although your teeth will turn black). Just as the water needs to be cleansed and purified, every aspect of the human existence needs to be cleansed and purified as well.

Resistible Amazing Grace: On this view, contra TULIP, God’s grace is not “irresistible,” however, it is Amazing Grace! Humans possess the genuine freedom to reject God’s amazing grace (and love) or not. Every single human gets to make a free and informed decision to respond to God’s amazing grace.

Unlimited Unconditional Love: God (a Maximally Great Being) “is love” (1 John 4:8) and perfectly loves all people, desires the best for all people, and his perfect love and amazing grace are genuinely available to all people (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; 4:10; 2 Peter 3:9).

Jesus tells the parable of the Prodigal Son to describe God’s perfect love for humanity. Accordingly, the father’s love was always available to his son, and it never decreased or disappeared even when his son rejected his father. The son separated himself from his father’s perfect love and the father did not force his son to remain in his presence. It was not until his son freely chose to repent and return to his father’s love, that their relationship was restored. It is vital to see that if the son would have never made the choice to stop resisting his father’s love — and return to his father — then their relationship would have never been restored. This is representative of God’s love for all people. God loves first and loves all people unconditionally — just as the father in the parable — and God’s love is always available. Indeed, God is omni-benevolent.

Middle Knowledge of the Elect: God created a world in which He knew all people could freely choose to accept His invitation (it is actually available to all people), however, He also knew that not all people would freely accept His marriage proposal. God actualized and elected a world in which he knew the atonement was logically sufficient for all mankind (1 Timothy 4:10); He also specifically knew what individual humans would freely choose to reject it (although they did not have to). It follows that God created a world in which He knew with perfect certainty that the atonement was logically sufficient for all, but would only be freely experienced by a limited number of humanity.

Perseverance of Free Saints: God created a world in which He knew what persons would freely choose to love Him for eternity. This is easy if God is truly omniscient and omnipotent! God actualized a world in which He knows what persons will freely choose to love God and persevere into the infinite future. True love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

Click here to watch a short video on Free Will and Sin in Heaven.  

With the T.R.U.M.P. card in mind, I label myself as a, “5-Point Molinist.” If you are still confused as to whether you should embrace Molinism and the middle knowledge view or not, consider the words of my friend Randy Everist:

“If you believe you have free will and that God does not force you to do all that you do, and if you believe God knows everything that could happen, will actually happen, and would have happened in any other circumstances, then you are a Molinist” [whether you realize it or not].

Anything is better than affirming that God is NOT a Maximally Great Being. That is why I am not an Open Theist or a TULIP kind of Calvinist. Play the TRUMP card instead and affirm the highest view of God.

Bottom line: TRUMP trumps TULIP. 

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),

Dr. Tim Stratton

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Timothy A. Stratton (PhD, North-West University) is a professor at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. As a former youth pastor, he is now devoted to answering deep theological and philosophical questions he first encountered from inquisitive teens in his church youth group. Stratton is founder and president of FreeThinking Ministries, a web-based apologetics ministry. Stratton speaks on church and college campuses around the country and offers regular videos on FreeThinking Ministries’ YouTube channel.

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