Tag Archives: determinism

The Calvinistic Adventures of Doug

Josh Lowery, A friend of mine from Facebook has created a series of videos exploring the idiosyncraties of Calvinism. This series is titled “The Damned”, and it provides a pretty good synopsis of some of the biggest problems in Calvinism.

Doug’s first taste of Calvinism

Doug’s Theological Trap

It’s the Glory, Stupid!

Force feeding

Theologizing le Babel


Is Libertarian Free Will a Myth?

I recently debated the relationship between libertarian freedom and God’s sovereignty with a dean of a reformed seminary in Colorado Springs. During our discussion He told me that libertarian freedom is a myth. Here’s my response:

To claim that libertarian free will is a myth is to introduce a logical paradox in that we disagree, where do our disagreements and confusion come from if not from our own free wills/minds? Either we (and everything) is causally controlled (not just determined from eternity past) or we aren’t. If we are, and if you maintain that God is the puppeteer1, then God becomes the one who essentially disagrees with himself.

You also seem to be confused (as evidenced by the host of straw men you’ve managed to manufacture) as to the motives behind the desire of people like myself to uphold the doctrine of libertarian freedom2. You seem to think, along lines common to many Calvinists I’ve noticed, that my motives are to lower God or exalt man. Nothing could be farther from the truth which is quite the opposite. If we slaughter libertarian freedom (which includes the power to act against God’s wishes/will) then you end up pinning all sin, destruction, evil, etc. on God which, as Job’s friends quickly found out, brings God no glory.

The bottom line is that while not verse in Scripture trumps another3, it is our sacred duty to uphold all of the tenets of Scripture (including libertarian freedom and God’s predestining) with equal tenacity. If we uphold one aspect of God’s character above others we bring God no glory and do not do justice to a faithful and honest search for truth. God’s love or creative choice to allow conscious beings other than himself to exist is in no conflict with his sovereignty, omnipotence, or omniscience.

  1. Calvinists whine about this comparison all the time claiming it is an unfair characterization. Unfortunately, the shoe fits and I haven’t heard a reformed person (who doesn’t hold to Molinism, which excludes them from being classically reformed) offer any reason why such a characterization is not warranted yet. I’m always open to rebuttals, though, so if you can offer a reason as to why this characterization doesn’t fit, feel free to comment below! []
  2. Unfortunately many people who hold to reformed doctrine assume that opponents to the notion of causal determinism (like me) hold their positions out of willful defiance or stubborn pride. Sadly, this shows how poorly educated even many proponents of reformed theology are. Sadder still is the fact that the existence of credentials (like a Phd.) makes little difference when it comes to willful ignorance of the honest philosophical difficulties detractors may have to their position. []
  3. For the life of me I don’t understand why reformed proponents can’t accept that our differences lie not in the text, but in our interpretation of the text which includes our philosophical presuppositions. For this reason I loathe the challenge of “Oh yeah? Show me that in scripture!” []

How does a belief in causal determinism influence how one lives?

A friend of mine recently asked what, if any, impact the belief in causal determinism (or lack thereof) has in practical day-to-day living. Here’s my answer:

Well, one example to the contrary1 is this:

I never locked my doors.

This was because I believed that men had no free will and that not only were all things determined, but that they were causally and directly brought about by God. So that, if someone were to break into my house or steal my car, or even if I or someone I loved were to become ill, such an event or circumstance would be directly caused by God himself so that any interference2 would be bad and wrong3.

As you know, this view didn’t serve me very well practically4 and the realization that we are commanded to take reasonable measures to secure what we are in charge of or responsible for (which includes people as well as possessions) led me to change my beliefs which, in turn, made me change my behavior.

I now lock my doors5 as religiously as I kept them unlocked because my belief in causal determinism vs. limited freedom changed.

  1. When I did hold to a view of causal determinism as a result of my commitment to Calvinism. []
  2. I never did reconcile how all things could be causally determined and yet we still influence their outcomes. This lingering paradox also helped lead me to the abandonment of the belief in causal determinism. []
  3. I used to hear all the time how we ought to never “get ahead of God” or interfere with “God’s plan”. such notions sound nice, but upon further examination they are neither logical nor Biblically mandated. []
  4. My car was stolen, keys still in the ignition. This happened in the driveway next to our house, which also was not locked, which contained an infant and a 2 year old inside. Needless to say, this incident was a very clear catalyst to cause me to re-evaluate my beliefs on the matter. []
  5. I still maintain that all events are predetermined, just not causally so such that my actions do not matter. For more information on how these seemingly opposing views can be safely reconciled to the detriment of neither, see my previous post on Molinism. []

Molinism: Free will and divine sovereignty living in harmony

What if I were to tell you that I had a perfectly rational explanation to the question of free will and predestination that has been ravaging the Church of Jesus Christ for centuries? I bet you would think that I was mad, unlearned (after all, what have all the highly educated theologians been fighting about), and overly simplistic.

Well there is such an answer and many may be surprised to find out that it is fully accepted by Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians, etc. In other words, it’s not the sole product of a sectarian group with a vested interest in a particular theological system.

It may also surprise you to find out that you probably already hold to the core tenets of this “magic bullet” system even though you may have never heard them clearly stated as a codified set of doctrines before.

Molinism is a theological system named after a Spanish Jesuit priest, Louis de Molina. In modern times it has also come to be known as “middle knowledge” due, in part at least, to the influence one of it’s most ardent supporters, Dr William Lane Craig.

While many books have been written on this subject (some of which I’ll list below), and many lectures (some of which I’ll link below), I’ll try to summarize Molinism in a few paragraphs.

Before God created he knew all possible worlds and all possible events and all possible interactions in all of the possible worlds (including all possible reactions and outcomes of His direct interactions in all of these possible worlds). Out of all of these possible worlds God chose to actualize or create one of them so that, while all things are effectively determined, they are neither causally determined by God nor is God constrained to the position of merely reacting to the choices of His free creatures. We are indeed free1 and God is indeed sovereign2.

One seminary professor3 put it to his students this way: “It’s up to God which world you find yourself in. It’s up to you what you find yourself doing in that world.”

I’m sure if you are new to Molinism (or if you are like most pastors4 and incredibly confused5 about what it really is6), I encourage you to explore this topic further.7

Here are a few resources that might help (if you know of any more, please let me know!):

divine providenceonly wise godThe Innocence of GodReasonable Faith

I also recommend this article by William Lane Craig as a great primer for anyone looking to delve deeper into this doctrine than my overly simplistic depiction above.
  1. In a libertarian sense. []
  2. It is also helpful to point out that we need not describe sovereignty in the classic Calvinistic terms of causally directing all that comes to pass. An analogy I like to use is that I am sovereign over my children and yet I still have to spank them from time to time. []
  3. This is a seminary professor at Southeastern in case you were wondering. []
  4. There is more to be said here, but a pastor I knew very well once told me he didn’t like Molinism. When pressed as to whether he had even studied it he told me he had “fallen asleep” when someone tried to present it to him and a group of other pastors. With a commitment like that to learning and growing is it any wonder why most Christians are perpetual infants? Situations like this give great weight behind the notion that it is foolish to rely on one man as the source of Biblical learning. []
  5. Here is an example of a recent blog post that completely misses the point of Molisnism and arrogantly assumes it is somehow anti-Biblical simply because it involves philosophy. This is another example of an inherent anti-intellectual bias that has run rampant in the Church since the premise is essentially: anything that makes me think, or runs contrary to my favorite celebrity preachers, like John Piper, is obviously not from God. []
  6. The saddest example of this is this wiki-style site that would otherwise be a very good resource if not for their blatant bias which is particularly obvious in their section on Molinism []
  7. One final example of someone who completely misses the point is James White’s extended tirade wherein he presupposes that the doctrine of middle knowledge is merely philosophical (whereas reformed theology somehow isn’t) and not based on Biblical theology (which is not only a lie, but is intellectually dishonest). []