Introduction to Radical Depravity

Chapter three of Kenneth Keathley’s book “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach” is titled “R is for Radical Depravity.” Radical Depravity is Dr. Keathley’s replacement for the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity. The major difference between the two doctrines is that Radical Depravity allows for human free will (soft libertarian free will to be precise).

In his book Dr. Keathley provides many side by side comparisons between Molinism and five point Calvinism. I really like this approach! It allows me to quickly compare the different theological positions and begin my own evaluation. Have you ever heard the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words?” Well, for me a table is the next best thing to a picture. Because of this I am providing you all with several of Dr. Keathley’s tables in today’s post.

Please take a look at the last two tables below which provide the tenets for the two competing systems of “soft determinism” and “soft libertarianism.” When I compare the two sets of tenets it strikes me that that there is a lot more depth to the “soft libertarianism” view of human volition. At this point Dr. Keathley doesn’t make a big deal out of this (I think he doesn’t want to antagonize his intended audience) but it doesn’t appear he believes “soft determinism” actually has the explanatory power that its proponents claim it does. Don’t get me wrong, depth does not necessarily mean truth and there certainly have been weighty tomes written advocating “soft determinism.” None the less I do believe that the simplicity of the Calvinist model of human choice forces Calvinist theologians to perform amazing feats of contorted logic that often leave me confused and unimpressed.

When I have argued with Calvinists they often present their ideas as being based on airtight arguments developed by really smart men over many centuries. If you don’t agree with them it is because you don’t understand what they are saying. It is almost like the very complexity of the arguments proves that they are right. In my experience this has been particularly true when debating “free will.” Is it possible their model doesn’t fit the truth as well as it could and this induces a lot of unnecessary complexity?

As a final note, the last two tenets in the “soft libertarianism” table are the ones that really got my attention when I read the book. The “reality of will setting moments” tenet matches very well with Biblical accounts of people hardening their hearts. I also thought that the discussions of “the freedom of integrity” were fascinating. In fact I have thought about finding and quoting all of the sections on “the freedom of integrity” and making that the sum total of my posts on Molinism.

My next posts on the topic of Molinism will provide summary paragraphs of each of the tenets of “soft libertarianism” and I hope this whets your appetite to learn more about this important subject. Now, here is Dr. Keathly:

The principle that character determines choices is generally understood to be a fundamental tenet of soft determinism, but this chapter will argue that it can also be a central plank of a position sometimes called soft libertarianism. Soft libertarianism contends that interaction between character and free choice is a two-way street, providing for a better model of human responsibility. It affirms the two great scriptural truths concerning free will: choice is a power (1 Cor 10:13) and one’s choices are a manifestation of who he is (Matt 7:17-18).

Salvation and Sovereignty
p 64

Comparison of Determinism and Libertarianism

Determinism – choices are caused by prior conditions. Libertarianism – choices originate within persons.
Hard determinism – free will is an illusion Hard libertarianism – persons always have free will.
Soft determinism – free will is compatible with determinism. Soft libertarianism – persons have free will at significant times.

Salvation and Sovereignty
p 64

The Two Tenets of Soft Determinism

The law of choice A person’s choices are dictated by his desires.
The causal necessity of choice A person must choose the way he does; no other choice was possible.

Salvation and Sovereignty
p 68

The Five Tenets of Soft Libertarianism

Ultimate responsibility (UR) Ultimate responsibility indicates the ultimate origin of decisions.
Agent causation (AC) A person is the source and origin of his choices.
The principle of alternative possibilities (AP) At crucial times, the ability to choose, or refrain from choosing is genuinely available.
The reality of will setting moments A person does not always have the ability to choose to the contrary. Certain free choices result in the loss of freedom.
The distinction between freedom of responsibility and freedom of integrity The Bible presents freedom as a permission (the freedom of responsibility) and as a power (the freedom of integrity).

Salvation and Sovereignty
p 73

Explore posts in the same categories: Molinism

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