The Tenets of the ROSES Acronym

In last week’s post (see “Introduction to Salvation and Sovereignty”) I introduced Kenneth Keathley’s book on Molinism and the ROSES that he would replace the Calvinist TULUP with. There wasn’t enough time to define what each letter in the ROSES acronym means so I will do that this week.

The definitions that I am providing below are very compact and don’t give a full sense of what Dr. Keathley means by them. In spite of the terseness there is one definition below that seems a bit odd and that is his definition of “radical depravity.” Keathley’s definition of “radical depravity” is almost identical to the definition of “total depravity” that I have been told on more than one occasion. What he defines as “total depravity” I had understood to be “utter depravity” (I believe that one of the reasons Calvinists are always claiming to be misunderstood is that they can’t come up with consistent definitions for key terms). Here is an excerpt of Dan Gracely’s discussion of the difference between utter and total depravity from his book:

Nevertheless, since Boettner claims that all of man’s motives are self-directed, one wonders why he draws a distinction between total depravity and utter depravity. Suppose, for example, that there are a total of four apples on the grocery shelf. An utterly depraved man would steal all four apples. Boettner is saying that if a man were to steal only three apples, two, one, or even none at all, the only reason he has done so is because God’s common grace is restraining him. But since Boettner is suggesting that the only reason a man gives the appearance of right doing is because of common grace, then if the common grace were removed from the man, it would reveal his utter depravity. Take away the common grace of God, then, and all men would be stealing four apples. So for the Calvinist, the only difference between total depravity and utter depravity is the intervention of God’s common grace. Such grace (again, according to the Calvinist) is the only reason why men are not all equally bad or doing every possible evil thing they can. [Emphasis added] How then, we ask, can a man be totally depraved without the nature of that depravity also being utter? For Boettner, the introduction of God’s grace comes to a man when he is already in his natural state of intending to steal all four apples. Any attempted distinctions by Calvinists between total depravity and utter depravity are therefore meaningless, because latent within Calvinism’s concept of total depravity is always utter depravity, since anything short of stealing four apples relies accordingly on some supposed version of God’s grace. The extent, then, to which our man is spiritually dead at the bottom of the lake is as radical as Calvinists can imagine, since they would claim that the intention of any man, left to himself, is to steal four apples.

Chapter 13 – “We Had to Destroy That Village to Save It”
Calvinism: A Closer Look by Daniel Gracely

Dan Gracely’s discussion of total depravity is a long one but it is certainly worth reading in its entirety.

Dr. Keathley’s version of radical depravity does allow mankind to exercise “soft libertarian” free will and accept or reject the offer of salvation (the usual Calvinist definition of “total depravity” does not allow for that). The ability of mankind to truly accept or reject options that are presented to us is one of the key concepts of the Molinist system. I don’t believe that Dr. Keathly accepts Loraine Boettner’s definition of total depravity (per Dan Gracely’s discussion) but I am going to double check to make sure that I am understanding him correctly.

I suppose that I will throw in one more caveat before providing the definitions. I don’t agree with one of Dr. Keathley’s statements regarding “eternal life.” He believes that once a person is saved that they will be “given a faith which will remain” while I believe that a true believer can deny the faith and still be saved (that does not mean that there are not consequences). This is certainly a big difference in our theology but it really doesn’t have anything to do with Molinism.

Here are the short definitions of Dr. Keathley’s ROSES:

Radical depravity:  The old term, total depravity, gives the impression that fallen humanity is always as bad as it can possibly be. The new term, radical depravity, more correctly emphasizes that every aspect of our being is affected by the fall and renders us incapable of saving ourselves or even wanting to be saved.

Overcoming grace: The old term, irresistible grace, seems to imply that God saves a person against his will. The new term, overcoming grace, highlight’s that it is God’s persistent beckoning that overcomes our persistent obstinacy.

Sovereign election: Often the term unconditional election is presented in such a way as to give the impression that those who die without receiving Christ did so because God never desired their salvation in the first. The replacement label, sovereign election, affirms that God desires the election of all, yet accentuates that our salvation is not based on us choosing God but on God choosing us.

Eternal life: The old term, perseverance of the saints, leads to the notion that a believer’s assurance is based on his ability to persevere rather than on the fact he is declared righteous in Christ. The purpose of the new term, eternal life, is to stress that believers enjoy a transformed life that is preserved and we are given a faith which will remain.

Singular redemption: A particularly unfortunate concept, limited atonement, teaches that Christ died only for the elect and gives the impression that there is something lacking in the atonement. As we will see, many Calvinists prefer terms such as definite atonement or particular redemption. We will use the label singular redemption to emphasize that Christ died sufficiently for every person, although efficiently only for those who believe.

Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach by Kenneth Keathley
pp. 3-4

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