Ken Keathley on Molinism

I recently came across the draft of a paper written by Ken Keathley on Molinism titled “A Molinist View of Election
Or How to Be a Consistent Infralapsarian”. The full PDF version is avaliable here. The final version is included in the book Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue.

On supralapsarianism and historical Calvinism Keathly writes:

Some Calvinists (following their namesake, John Calvin) cannot accept that there is any conditionality in God’s decrees, so they bite the bullet and dismiss permission altogether. They embrace a double predestination in which God chose some and rejected others and then subsequently decreed the Fall in order to bring it about. Those who hold this position are called supralapsarians because they understand the decree of election and reprobation as occurring logically prior (supra) to the decree to allow the Fall (lapsis), hence the term supralapsarianism.

On the topic of “permission” being an acceptable refuge for the compatabalist position Keathly writes:

The crucial concept to the infralapsarian Calvinist model is the notion of permission. God did not cause the Fall; he allowed it. God does not predestine the reprobate to Hell; he permits the unbeliever to go his own way. But permission is problematic for the Calvinist—particularly to those who hold to determinism—because permission entails conditionality, contingency, and viewing humans as in some sense the origin of their own respective choices. Calvinists such as John Feinberg define God’s sovereignty in terms of causal determinism, and this leaves little room for a logically consistent understanding of permission. I am arguing that what Calvinists want to achieve in infralapsarianism, Molinism actually accomplishes.

On the subject of reprobation Keathly cites David Engelsma’s quote:

If reprobation is the decree not to give a man faith, it is patently false to say that unbelief is the cause of reprobation. That would be the same as to say that my decision not to give a beggar a quarter is due to the beggar’s not having a quarter. That reprobation is an unconditional decree is also plain from the fact that if unbelief were the cause of reprobation, all men would have been reprobated, and would not have been elected, for all men are equally unbelieving and disobedient.

And to this Keathly comments:

In other words, Engelsma is pointing out that if sin is the basis for reprobation, then no one would be elect because all are sinners.

In the final analysis, infralapsarianism teaches that reprobation is as much a part of God’s decrees as is election. Infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism are simply nuances of the same approach, as long as both begin with God’s eternal decrees and reject the notion that God would (or even could) grant any type of libertarian choice to responsible creatures.

On the advantages of the Molinist approach Keathly writes:

The Molinist approach has a number of advantages over both Calvinism and Arminianism, which I want to list briefly. First, Molinism affirms the genuine desire on the part of God for all to be saved in a way that is problematic for Calvinism. God has a universal salvific will even though not all, maybe not even most, will repent and believe the Gospel. Historically, Calvinists have struggled with this question; with most either
denying that God’s desires all to be saved, or else claiming God has a secret will which trumps his revealed will.

Molinism fits well with the biblical teaching that God universally loves the world (John 3:16) and yet Christ has a particular love for the Church (Eph. 5:25). William Lane Craig suggests that God “chose a world having an optimal balance between the number of the saved and the number of the damned.” In other words, God has created a world with a maximal ratio of the number of saved to those lost. The Bible teaches that God genuinely desires all to be saved, and even though many perish, still his will is done.

Molinism better addresses this apparent paradox.

This is an excellent paper which shows how, as open theist William Hasker puts it:

If you are committed to a “strong” view of providence, according to which, down
to the smallest detail, “things are as they are because God knowingly decided to
create such a world,” and yet you also wish to maintain a libertarian conception of
free will—if this is what you want, then Molinism is the only game in town.


13 responses to “Ken Keathley on Molinism

  1. Unless Molinists can produce a solid exegetical defense for their position, they'll never win over the "Sola Scriptura" crowd. Despite supposed "problems," genuine Calvinists argue their points from Scripture (I myself would rather be a bit puzzled by a *seeming* paradox, than to outright deny numerous clear passages). I still want to see this taken out of a philosophical context, and defended only by Scripture. It can't be a grab bag of verses either, because any Calvinist worth his salt can go verse by verse consecutively through, say, John 6 (the very words of Christ) and disprove Molinism conclusively.

    So far, every Molinist argument has seemed to me to be an attempt to vindicate God against an ethical standard that Molinists hold Him to, but Scripture does not. And, every time, it's been done through philosopher-style arguments about causation, and never from passages of Scripture. If Scripture is used at all, it's a verse here and a verse there, out of context, and not meaning what they mean in context. I can admit that Molinism is clever–ingenious–but I can't get there from the text; I need help.

    • How do you think john 6 disproves Molinism?

      Also, how do you propose we "see this taken out of a philosophical context, and defended only by Scripture"? 1.) Calvinism is based on a man-made philosophy as well (sorry, no pass there) and 2.) Molinism denys nothing and adequately accounts for 3 things that Calvinism has trouble with, namely a.) God's free will b.) mankind's limited free will and c.) the existence of counterfactuals.

      Finally, what do you think this ethical standard is that Molinists are supposedly trying to hold God to? Are you accusing Molinists like myself and Keathly of inventing rules of our own for God to follow?

      You say you can't "get there from the text" however I doubt you will ever get there, not due to a lack of text, but due to a precommitment to a man-made theological and philosophical system.

      On a side note; I've come to realize that Calvinists like yourself have no interest in actually being persuaded by evidence, reason, or logic (all supposedly man made philosophies). Your linguistic constraints prevent you from ever accepting the original author's clear messages such as mankind's limited freedom and responsibility, the nature of love as logically incompatable with forced affection, and the nearly heretical notion (at least that's the impression I get from most Calvinists) that God could actually love the whole world ("in a saving way").

      Also, when you say that "genuine Calvinists argue their points from Scripture" I wonder if you realize how arrogant you are being in calling men like Plantinga, Keathley, many seminary presidents and professors, etc. "not true Calvinists". Seems rather "no true Scotsman fallacy"ish for you to start setting up arbitrary rules and philosophical constraints that not even John Calvin himself submitted to.

      No, I'm not trying to convince the unconvincable hypercalvinists like yourself. I am instead trying to convince the other 98% of Christians out there that there ARE more alternatives out there for helping them think rationally about the seeming paradox between mankind's limited freedom and God's sovereignty without sacrificing either (no, Calvinists aren't the only ones with a high view of God's sovereignty).

  2. John 6 destroys Molinism because Jesus says, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." But you have God urging all men equally, except, presumably people missionaries have never reached (how could He be so unfair). Who is "that the Father giveth me"? Sorry, it constricts the scope of all again.

    And, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." Here's another simple statement. No one is able to come (unless they are drawn by the Father). And him (who is able) will be raised at the last day. On its face, that's election. If you insert the additional idea (as it is very popular to do), that the Father draws everyone equally (and 'whosoever' isn't the decision of the Father doing the drawing), then everyone is made able, and everyone is raised at the last day–universalism.

    Then He says, "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." And here you have "every man" of a certain class, namely, "that hath heard, and hath learned" coming without exception.

    Then He's telling them, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. …And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father." Here Jesus naively supposes that regeneration is the work of the spirit, and that the flesh profiteth nothing. Of course, we both know that dead flesh begins to believe, and because of that God regenerates a man.

    And Calvinism is never popular: "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him."

    The problem with the statement "Calvinism is based on man-made philosophy" is that I had never read any philosophy when I came to the conclusion. At first, I even resisted the conclusion. I didn't know any better than to just believe it though. I didn't have an ethical system that demanded that God give everyone an equal chance, or that made God responsible for a crime when He openly operates in a way that results in human sin. (I Sam 2:25 for instance) This doesn't make me any better, or wiser; just philosophically unequipped to reason my way around clear passages. And the 3 things that Molinism supposedly accounts for are more often only seen as problems by anti-Calvinists.

    The ethical standard that Molinists hold God to: I've seen time and again that, if God knowingly works in a way that eventually results in sin, then Molinist hold Him culpable. I do accuse you and Keathly of being epistemologically not-so self-conscious, at least as far as the ethical system you judge God against.

    No, no, no. I literally can't get there from the text. I'm inclined to think you can't either because you never try. I have never seen the idea of free will *ever* asserted in the Scripture.

    I don't think love would be love if it wasn't, in some sense, forced. Does your wife know that you don't love her due to affection, but only because you've decided to love her? Sounds like you could take her or leave her by your definition of love. Calvinists have a God who has ravished their hearts. They therefore can't resist loving Him.

    "Calvinists like [myself]" love to be right. Consequently, if you could show I'm wrong, I'd love to change. It's hard to believe in the impotent (oh! but very very smart!) Molinist God.

    My "genuine Calvinists" comment did not say that one could not, or should not, defend Calvinism also philosophically. It's just pointless to, unless you can already make the case from Scripture.

    If I'm a "hypercalvinist" then you're an open theist from now on. There would be no paradox here if men, full of pride, didn't insist that their wills are free from either sin, or God, or both.

    Given your hostility, I'll have to suppose that your argument is pure man-made philosophy with no Scriptural defense at all.

    • I suppose God has simply predestined us to disagree on this topic (though I find it odd to think that God could cause us to think something that is not true, but then again "his ways are above our ways" I guess). I suppose we are both simply constrained by our causally predestined dispositions to believe what we believe so why argue this point any more? Persuasion implies an ability to think otherwise which is certainly not something a truly sovereign God would ever permit in his meticulously controlled world (which also makes the whole notion of sin rather odd).

      Oh well, I suppose I'll have to yield to the apparent strength of your argument (which I was causally predestined to do by God I guess). Seriously, why argue about this stuff in the first place if all things are causally predestined by God and even the concept of free will (in any sense, including limited) is outside the realm of possibility?

      Must be fun to live in your world where you borrow a concept of limited free will in order to bash the very notion. Oh the irony!

      • Dang! Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed.

        Ever notice how Israel went to war with the Philistines, even if the Lord had already decided the outcome? Why did they do that?! Why didn't the Lord "causally determine" the Philistines to just wander to some other country?

        It could be that you've been fighting your own Calvinist straw man all these years. Calvinists don't have these problems you pretend.

        • Do they not have these problems because there exists no logical paradox inherent in the Calvinistic system (in accordance with what Keathley points out in his article above) or do they not have these problems because they choose to ignore the paradox which exists (under the guise of wanting to 'stick with Scripture and not philosophy' no less).

          The problem is that most Calvinists pretend there exists no paradox inherent within their system. It's that they don't carry their beliefs out to their logical conclusions. The problem is also that Calvinism, when carried out to it's logical conclusion, ends up with what some call "hyper-calvinism". However most recognize that this position is untenable and undesirable and so they prefer, rather, to simply live with a logical paradox rather than closely examine and resolve the paradoxical problems inherent in their philosophy.

  3. Calvinists either don't see these as problems because either (1) they think the ethical requirements on God are foreign to Scripture, or (2) they're no more paradoxical than the doctrine of the Trinity (perhaps a mind-bender, but not contradictory).

    Calvinists reject hypercalvinism because it isn't Scriptural. If axiom one is Sola Scriptura, then you can't get to hypercalvinism from the text. It leaves out many, many premises; it begins with a couple ideas from Scripture, and philosophizes its way to unorthodoxy.

    • "it begins with a couple ideas from Scripture, and philosophizes its way to unorthodoxy. "

      You mean it follows the original philosophy out to it's logical conclusion? Sorry, but Calvinism is still a man-made philosophy no matter how you slice it. The only question that remains is whether it is a _good_ man-made philosophical system which adequately and accurately explains reality (like the trinity).

      • No. No, I don't mean that.

        Ever read the "About" page here? It says something about providing answers to honest questions, and something about Certified Apologetics Instructors and starting the site "in cooperation with the North American Mission Board." Kinda thought there'd be more apologetics going on here.

        • I think the "apologetic" being done here is a defense for the reason this apologist has hope. That is the Gospel of Christ not God's particular election of individuals (no hope for everyone there). There really is no good faith offer of salvation from and all loving God in your system. What you do have is a God that always gets His way, because of His power!!! God, as man would want to be, I say.

  4. Here is a fairly new response to Keathley's new book on Molinism:

    • I agree with the commentator in that Keathley ultimately fails to reconcile Calvinism and Arminianism. However I don't think its a problem with Keathley so much as its a problem with the contradictions inherent in Calvinism.

  5. double predestination is provable only from a futuristic approach.the book of revelation has we christians in heaven already. time flows in one direction but god does not live within the confines of time.god sees all events in past,present and future equally.there is a future you and me.we are either around his throne or not.its all about god not us.we are part of the plan. time is a place bordered on both sides by eternity.history is the has already taken place.revelation proves that.

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