Archive for the ‘Molinism’ category

Defining Free Will

July 30, 2013

I apologize for not having posted lately. I haven’t abandoned the blog but have decided to take it easy for a while until I build up some enthusiasm for writing again.

Last year I wrote some posts about Molinism which holds that God can be sovereign and mankind can have free will at the same time. Of course Christians seem to either love or hate this teaching and I happen to be one of those Christians who love it.

When I recently went back through my posts on Molinism I realized that I hadn’t defined what is meant by free will. Definitions are really handy things to have and I decided that I needed to remedy the situation and get a good definition posted to my blog. Believe it or not it isn’t easy to come up with a good definition because the topic is so heated (I once found a Calvinist blog that called a definition of “free will” like the one I am about to provide “heretical”).

Without further ado here is the definition courtesy of Dr. Bruce Little:

Free Will

This term carries baggage that proves unnecessarily confusing and requires too many qualifications in order to convey its exact meaning. Therefore, the term/phrase of choice here will be libertarian freedom. To affirm that the will is free is difficult to defend, if used in the absolute sense. In general, libertarian freedom as used here means that man has the power to choose to the contrary, and in so doing has the power to cause events. It acknowledges that antecedent choices and events may influence and/or limit present or future choices. In some cases, such choices may determine an unalterable course of events which cannot be reversed by another choice, such as jumping out of a window on the thirtieth floor of an apartment building. Libertarian freedom, however, maintains that man has the ability to make authentic choices from the options permitted within his circumstances and God’s providence. His choices may be limited, but not ability to choose. There are times when his choices are other than they would be under different circumstances (as when there is a gun to your head in conjunction with a command to give the gun-holder your wallet), or his choices may be limited, yet he still has the ability itself to choose. Even when there is a gun to your head, you still have a choice. Consider that Christians have often been called upon to choose the unnatural simply in obedience to Christ.

The word “choice” implies two things; in order for choice to be authentic, there must be at least two possibilities that are equal in possibility, but not necessarily in desirability or workability. For example, one may require more energy or sacrifice. Furthermore, there must be corollary consequences for each choice. When taken as a whole, libertarian freedom affirms that God has given man true ability to choose between two or more possibilities where man can refrain from one and choose the other. Authentic possibilities from which to choose require moral judgment, which is part of libertarian freedom. From each choice, certain consequences follow. The consequences may vary, may be direct or indirect, immediate or delayed, and may affect the individual as well as others, but consequences do follow. Man is morally accountable for those choices; that is, he bears moral responsibility.

God, Why This Evil?
Bruce A. Little
p 14

Cornelius Van Til and Charlie Clough’s Bible Framework Course

April 11, 2013

It is my conviction that there are issues with Cornelius Van Til’s presuppositional approach to apologetics which Dispensationalists in particular are not generally aware of. Through Charlie Clough’s popular Bible Framework series Van Til’s apologetics are taking hold in dispensational circles. My goal is not to tell anyone what they can or cannot believe. Rather I want to encourage our next generation of Dispensational pastors, seminary professors, and Sunday school teachers to be Bereans and look good and hard at the implications of this system!

Courses emphasizing Van Til’s apologetics are currently being taught at both Chafer Theological Seminary and Tyndale Theological Seminary. I am certain that Van Til’s philosophy is also being taught at other Dispensational seminaries in the United States. I don’t know if any of the students attending these seminaries have wrestled with the same questions on this topic as I have. If you have this post is for you. If you haven’t maybe you should.

To help establish I am legitimate and not someone trying to subvert solid biblical teaching I am going to provide some biographical information. I have organized this post so that if any reader is not interested in my background it will be easy to skip over.

My Background

I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was five years old. Since that time I have never seriously doubted my salvation or worried about where I would spend eternity. The biggest theological influence on me has been R.B. Thieme, Jr. (aka Colonel Thieme) who pastored Berachah Church in Houston, TX for over fifty years. For many years Colonel Thieme was a rather influential Dispensational pastor here in the United States.

For those of you not familiar with Colonel Thieme’s ministry, you might be surprised to know that he emphasized daily intake of Bible doctrine. We did not live in Houston so we ordered reel-to-reel tapes every month from Berachah’s Tapes & Publications unit. If we could not order enough lessons to make it through the month we would just start listening to that month’s batch over again until the next month’s order arrived. Many years we never missed a day.

There probably weren’t many kids in junior high school that could discuss the divine decrees or the doctrine of kenosis, but I could. I estimate that I have listened to somewhere between three and four thousand hours of his teaching.

By the time I got out of college and established myself, I began to listen only sporadically to his teaching. There were certain things that he had started teaching that I wasn’t comfortable with. It would have been nice to find a local pastor who held to solid dispensational teaching but I couldn’t find anyone.

Somewhere around 2004 I began doing web searches trying to find Dispensational online resources. It was because of these searches that I found Chafer Theological Seminary and subscribed to their journal. An article in the Chafer Theological Seminary Journal (CTSJ) provided a link to Charlie Clough’s Bible Framework series. I checked it out and was immediately hooked. It filled in huge gaps in my knowledge and I drank it in like a sponge.

Colonel Thieme was a great teacher but he stopped teaching from the Old Testament in the 1970s. On the other hand Charlie Clough’s Bible Framework series started with Genesis and worked forward to the Book of Revelation. Pastor Clough (it turns out he was ordained by Colonel Thieme) taught things about creation, the flood, and the covenants with Israel that I hadn’t heard before. When he got into the New Testament there wasn’t as much new material for me to absorb, though topics like the development of the church creeds and the filioque were very interesting. I still use Pastor Clough’s written materials to reference topics like the Roman Catholic view of justification and sanctification or the differences between premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism

Pastor Clough ingrained in me the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til which was the master framework that Clough hung his Bible Framework course on. It wasn’t until later that I began asking questions and having second thoughts about Van Til’s approach.

Though I do not listen to Colonel Thieme’s teaching any more I have found solid scriptural teaching from a dispensational perspective available from other sources (all those web searches finally paid off!). I believe that the Dispensational hermeneutic is the best way of interpreting scripture. I don’t believe that any man made theological system is perfect, but until I find one that I believe interprets the Bible in a more perfect way I shall remain a Dispensationalist.

Though my undergraduate and graduate degrees involve Chemical Engineering and Mathematics, I have learned that native intelligence and formal education do not always translate into wisdom.

The Search for More Information and the Seeds of Doubt (more…)

The Fifth Tenet of Radical Depravity

June 29, 2012

The last time I posted on Radical Depravity I provided short summaries of its first four tenets (see The First Four Tenets of Radical Depravity). This week I am going to provide a set of quotes on the fifth and final tenet of Radical Depravity: Freedom of Integrity.

The sections of Dr. Keathley’s book that deal with the freedom of integrity are my favorites. I have heard this concept before but not presented in such a clear and straightforward way. The pastor whose church I grew up in always said that a Christian always needs to “make good decisions from a position of strength.” What he meant by “position of strength” was knowing and applying what scripture teaches to be right. Right decisions lead to more right decisions which is almost identical to this concept of freedom of integrity.

One thing that really caught my attention in the quotes below is what Dr. Keathley says about “freedom of integrity” and the “age of accountability.” I have written before about the “age of accountability” (which I think is a poor term for the concept) and I do believe that a person has to develop mentally to the point of  “God Consciousness” [i] before they are held accountable before God. Of course this hinges on on whether or not you believe that God has permitted us to exercise free will. If God determines ahead of time what you are going to think and do, then His “giving us a chance” when it comes to accepting the Gospel is nonsense. Sending a newborn to eternal perdition isn’t as big of a deal since they really have no less of an opportunity than a reprobate who lived to a ripe old age.

This looks like my last post on Molinism for now. Much of the remainder of Dr. Keathley’s book keeps using the same arguments that I have already mentioned in my earlier posts on this topic. If you are not already convinced then you probably won’t be if I provide more quotes.

It will most likely be a couple of weeks before I post again. When I do come back to blogging I have post on the Millenium and one on Heaven planned. Beyond that I have no idea what I will post about. Only time will tell.

Now here is Dr. Keathley: (more…)

The First Four Tenets of Radical Depravity

June 1, 2012

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. (more…)

Introduction to Radical Depravity

May 11, 2012

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. (more…)

God’s Salvific Will: The Last Two Options

April 13, 2012

This week I will present the last two options (options three and four) regarding God’s salvific will towards mankind provided by Ken Keathly in chapter two of his book “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach.” And I am going to once again quote from his paper “Salvation and the Sovereignty of God” which was published in 2006 in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society which is almost identical to chapter two from the book. This way we get the best of both worlds: you can read the entire paper at the link and I don’t have as much to type.

These final two options are the “two will” options and, to be honest, the concept of God having two wills seems to be a self contradiction. What does it mean for God to have two “wills”? I believe that it makes God appear to be erratic and I have always suspected that it is more a symptom of erratic theology. Doesn’t two “wills” make Him to be a God of confusion?

For clarity here is the definition of “will” per the The Free Dictionary: (more…)

God’s Salvific Will: The First Two Options

April 6, 2012

This week I am continuing with my posts on Molinism based on Kenneth Keathley’s book “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach.” I am going to skip forward about thirty pages in the book. I have beat the first twenty pages of it to death and I keep worrying that if Dr. Keathly found out how much of it I have copied he might be unhappy with me.

Chapter 2 of the book is titled “Does God Desire the Salvation of All?” and deals with the sticky issue of whether or not God really wants everyone to be saved. This is one of those hotly debated topics that tends to generate more heat than light. I have to admit that I have found many articles on the subject to be both dense and uninformative. However, Dr. Keathly has organized the different views on what God desires regarding salvation into four basic approaches. There are two “one will” views and two “two will” views and his summary has helped me greatly.

I don’t think that his discourse on the subject has changed my beliefs on the matter but now I finally understand why other Christians were saying such seemingly strange things, to me, about what God wants for His creatures. I hold to a “one will” view (a “two will” view is a bit too schizophrenic for me) but I believe in a different version than either of the views Dr. Keathley has listed (my guess is that there are dozens of variations on these themes).

Fortunately I have discovered a paper that Dr. Keathley published in 2006 in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society titled “Salvation and the Sovereignty of God” which is almost identical to Chapter 2 in his book. If my post about this leaves you wanting more then please follow the link and read the whole thing. (more…)


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