What is Molinism?

In last week’s post (see “The Tenets of the ROSES Acronym”) I provided a brief overview of what Kenneth Keathley has proposed to replace the Calvinist TULIP with. This week I am going to provide Dr. Keathley’s definition of Molinism which ROSES, the proposed replacement for TULIP, is based on.

The first quote isn’t really a definition but it does list three dilemmas of Calvinism which Dr. Keathley believes are solved by Molinism. These dilemmas seem quite reasonable to me but I have argued with Calvinists who strongly deny that any of these actually pose a problem for Calvinism. When these topics have been brought up I have seen Calvinists claim that to even think that these are dilemmas for their system proves the objector’s complete misunderstanding of Calvinism. I don’t think that is the case but, even if it is, a Calvinist has to provide reasonable answers to these questions in order to convince a non-Calvinist that they are right:

Calvinism has at least three dilemmas: (1) reconciling God’s sovereign election of individuals with His genuine desire for salvation of all; (2) adhering to a deterministic view of sovereignty without blaming God for the fall of Adam; and (3) adhering to limited atonement and irresistible grace while also affirming that the gospel is genuinely offered to everyone. There is an alternative to Calvinism – called Molinism – which provides answers to these three quandaries that are both biblical and logically consistent.

Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach
p 4

This next quote does a good job of stating what Molinism is trying to accomplish and how it tries to accomplish it. One of the things that I have found interesting about Molinism is the emphasis that it places on God’s omniscience. I really haven’t read any other theology with such an emphasis.

Simply put, Molinism argues that God perfectly accomplishes His will in free creatures through the use of His omniscience. It reconciles two crucial biblical truths: (1) God exercises sovereign control over all His creation, and (2) human beings make free choices and decisions for which they must give account.

[…]

Molinism teaches that God exercises His sovereignty primarily through His omniscience, and that He infallibly knows what free creatures would do in any given situation. In this way God sovereignty controls all things, while humans are also genuinely free. God is able to accomplish His will through the use of what Molinists label His middle knowledge. We will look at the Molinist model of God’s knowledge and providence in chapter 1 and in the chapter on sovereign election (chap. 5).

Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach
p 5

In the previous quote I provide a link to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on middle knowledge. You will notice that the debate about whether Molinism is even possible gets technical in a hurry. The thing that catches my attention in all this is that the arguments by opponents of Molinism (the Christian ones are commonly Calvinist) presume to know an awful lot about how God thinks. If you argue with Calvinists long enough and get them backed into a corner they will always fall back on the creator/creature distinction and that we cannot know what God really thinks since “His ways are higher than our ways.” They tend to make strong claims about what God knows and how He knows it in some contexts but claim we cannot know anything about what God actually knows in others. They would call that a theological “tension” while I would call it a contradiction.

I believe that Molinism accomplishes (or comes closer than anything I have read) the goals listed in this next quote:

The Molinist model is the only game in town for anyone who wishes to affirm a high view of God’s sovereignty while holding to a genuine definition of human choice, freedom, and responsibility.

Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach
p 6

Of course I am not sure that there are many in Dr. Keathley’s intended audience of Calvinists who actually want to “affirm a high view of God’s sovereignty while holding to a genuine definition of human choice, freedom, and responsibility.” For instance, today I came across an article titled “Sovereignty: Calvinist and Lordship “Salvation” Crutch or Catchword?” by Pastor Jack Weaver with this quote by John MacArthur:

No doctrine is more despised by the natural mind than the truth that God is absolutely sovereign. Human pride loathes the suggestion that God orders everything, controls everything, rules over everything.

Anyone who truly believes that probably won’t make it very far into Dr. Keathley’s book.

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4 Comments on “What is Molinism?”

  1. PB Says:

    Keathley outlines the main problems with Calvinism well. It really does boil down to those three for me also, though I would add for 1) and 3) the fact that it is an interpretation problem for biblical texts that seem to say God loves all and contradict the I and L.

    Your article makes me want to get his book now! I’ve been wanting to read it for a while, if not least to see how he answers molinism’s problems.
    Thanks!

    • Glenn Says:

      Hi PB,

      Thank you for the comment. I think the topic of how God’s will is exercised in the world is a critical one that many Christians don’t give enough thought to.

      Not being a talented writer I have been struggling greatly with each post. I am glad to find out what I have written makes sense. Please stop by and provide comments whenever the mood strikes you. I can use the input.

      Glenn

  2. jeff Says:

    When I was in seminary I was asked if I was a Calvinist or an Arminian. I answered, “A little of both.” I got a not so kind look!

    Each side has some valid points and each side goes to extremes to make their points, which then devolves into heresy.

    The ability to hold to free will and predestination/sovereignty should be fought for because the Bible supports both. One verse that shows both is Matthew 23:37, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”

    “Would” being the past tense of “will.” Their will resisted Christ’s (God’s) will. Christ is still sovereign and still weeps over their hardness.

    I’m interested in your coming posts.

    • Glenn Says:

      Hi Jeff,

      Thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting. I hope that I can do the topic of Molinism justice.

      I had never thought about Matthew 23:27 showing both man’s free will and God’s sovereignty before. Thank you for that!

      Please feel free to stop by comment any time. It makes the posts more interesting and it keeps me honest. Kind of a win-win.

      Glenn


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