The First Four Tenets of Radical Depravity

In my last post on Molinism (please see Introduction to Radical Depravity) I included a table showing the five tenets of Radical Depravity per Kenneth Keathley’s book Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach. I am going to provide excerpts explaining the first four tenets in this week’s post. A separate post will provide details on the fifth tenet.

The tenets logically build one after the other and are quite rational. Of course many heresies are quite rational so you will have to decide for yourself if you believe that these tenets are true.

The first three tenets are ones that I have held to be true as long as I can remember. Calvinists of pretty much any kind will agree with the first tenet of soft libertarianism (ultimate responsibility) and disagree more strongly with each tenet as they progress. Some Calvinists will have reservations regarding the second tenet of agent causation and many more will have reservations regarding the third tenet of the principle of alternative possibilities. Dr. Keathly spends a lot of time defending these tenets but I am not going to reproduce his defense. If you want that level of detail I highly recommend purchasing his book.

I have to say that the fourth tenet of the recognition of will-setting moments lines up perfectly with my understanding of how a person’s heart becomes hardened. The most thorough study of a hardened heart is that of Pharaoh who kept on refusing to let the Jewish people go. At first Pharaoh hardened his own heart by refusing God’s command as relayed by Moses. Each refusal hardened Pharaoh’s heart a little bit more each time but Pharaoh could have chosen differently at first. Pharaoh freely chose to deny God’s command to free the Jews so he gradually lost all ability to do otherwise. Once that ability was completely lost God hardened Pharaoh’s heart by demanding something of Pharaoh that he was no longer capable of doing.

For a very detailed study of Pharaoh and his hardened heart I recommend reading Chapter 14 “Pharaoh and the Hardened Heart” in Daniel Gracely’s Calvinism: A Closer Look.

Below are the Dr. Keathley quotes I promised. Bold fonts have been added so it is easier for readers to pick up on which tenet is being discussed.

The first tenet of soft libertarianism is ultimate responsibility (UR). Question: how does a person know the ultimate source of his sins or the ultimate source of his salvation? Answer: whoever is ultimately responsible. And the Bible makes clear that we are responsible for our sins and God is responsible for our salvation. We receive all the blame and He receives all the credit. As Kane states, “The basic idea is that the ultimate responsibility lies where the ultimate cause is. Ultimate “buck-stopping” responsibility indicates ultimate origin.

Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach
p 74

UR implies the second tenet: agent causation (AC). If a human being is found guilty when he stands before God, it is because he is the origin of his sins. His sins belong to him – he owns them. This is why everyone outside of Christ is damned. Though we inherited Adam’s corruption and are judged federally in him, in a real way each person is the source and origin of his own rebellion.

When the question is asked, “Why did Adam sin?” the soft libertarian answer is, “Because he chose to sin.” No other or further answer is needed…

Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach
pp 74-75

After establishing the tenets of UR and AC, then and only then are we ready to consider the third tenet: the principle of alternative possibilities (AP). A necessary component for liability is that, at a significant point in the chain of events, the ability to choose or refrain from choosing had to be genuinely available.

Compatibilists work from the intuition that if a choice is undetermined then it must be capricious. Indeterminism is equated with inexplicable choices in which an agent’s will is disconnected from the rest of his person, resulting in random and chaotic choices that bewilder even the agent. In this scenario, free will resembles something akin to Tourette’s syndrome or epilepsy rather than a moral ability. But as determinists admit, in this field intuitions must be questioned.

Kane responds by arguing, “It is a mistake to assume undetermined means ‘uncaused.’” Rather, one must think of the effort to choose and indeterminism as “fused,” not that indeterminism is something that occurs before or after the choice. The fact that the choice is indeterminate doesn’t make it any less the agent’s choice, nor does it make the choice simply a matter of chance or luck. So the objection that undetermined choices are “happenings” is question-begging. It assumes what the objector wishes to prove: that all choices are determined. However, concurrence does not require AP to always be present, which leads to the next point.

The fourth tenet of soft libertarianism is the recognition of will-setting moments. This point sets soft libertarianism apart from libertarianism as generally understood. I argue, like Kane, that libertarian freedom does not entail that a person must always have the ability to choose to the contrary. Certain free choices result in the loss of freedom. An obvious example is someone jumping off a cliff. Halfway down he might change his mind, but he does not possess the ability to choose otherwise…

Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach
pp 75-76

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