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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.

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