Why I’m Not an Arminian

by Max Andrews

Arminianism is an attractive school of thought.  I find the tenets of Arminianism not to be as repulsive as many Calvinist attempt to make them out to be.  I agree with the Calvinist on many things; the converse is also true.  Likewise, I agree with the Arminian on many things, yet I disagree with them on a few as well.

My objection with Arminianism is that it does not account for a robust understanding of sovereignty.[1] If God has merely two logical moments of knowledge (natural and free) then logically prior to God’s decree of creation he did not know what the world would be like.  He could know all possible worlds prior to the decree but he would not know the actual world until logically-post his creative decree (via simple foreknowledge).  William Lane Craig comments:

On such a view [no middle knowledge] of God [he has], logically prior to the divine decree, only natural knowledge of all possible scenarios but no knowledge of what would happen under any circumstances.  Thus, logically posterior to the divine decree, God must consider himself extraordinarily lucky to find that this world happened to exist.  “What a break!” we can imagine God’s saying to himself, “Herod and Pilate and all those people each reacted just perfectly!”  Actually, the situation is much worse than that, for God had no idea whether Herod or Pilate or the Israelite nation or the Roman Empire would even exist posterior to the divine decree.  Indeed, God must be astonished to find himself existing in a world, out of all the possible worlds he could have created, in which mankind falls into sin and God himself enters human history as a substitionary sacrificial offering! [Anthropomorphically speaking] [2]

The Calvinist recognizes the problem as well—his solution, though, is to implement determinism.  However, the events in history are not by mere happenstance (Is. 46.9-10; Eph. 1.10; 3.9, 11; 2 Tim. 1.9-10).  Yes, God will be interacting by means of providing grace and revelation to control his creation, but I don’t find this to be as robust of an understanding of sovereignty as the Molinist’s understanding.  Determinism doesn’t work for theological and philosophical reasons I’ve previously discussed.  If God does have exhaustive knowledge, including a second [of three] moment, middle knowledge, then God knows all possible and feasible worlds (and the actual world).[3]

[1] I know Arminius attempts to use middle knowledge but it’s not the same understanding that Molina implements.  Unfortunately, I don’t have my library with me at the time to elaborate and cite the issue.

[2] William Lane Craig, What Does God Know?  Reconciling Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Norcross, GA:  RZIM, 2002), 50.

[3] I want to note that simple foreknowledge lies within the third moment of God’s knowledge, not his middle knowledge.



11 Responses to “Why I’m Not an Arminian”

  1. I agree in principle with you, but it’s kind of a debate whether Arminius was a Molinist or not. Eef Dekker has an article, that I have admittedly not read (but will), that argues this.

    One can, I think, call themselves an Arminian and hold to middle knowledge quite happily. I do 🙂

    BTW, I haven’t read it either, but David Hunt, the philosopher, has argued that simple foreknowledge is enough for sovereignty. I don’t see how this is so, but the argument exists.

  2. I don’t believe Arminianism is incompatible with middle knowledge.

    The issue as I see it is whether there is a way to ground such knowledge. If God knows future human choices because he can compute the human algorithm, then you lose the independent freedom needed for accountability. The only other way to ground such foreknowledge is what I call “simple seeing.” This kind of knowledge assumes a B-theory of time. I am undecided on this question.

  3. Kevin, you seem to be assuming some sort of truth-maker theory that I’ve never seen argued for. Why can’t foreknowledge be a part of God’s omniscience? Why does it need to be grounded in physical reality such as in deducing from present conditions based on deterministic processes, actually making a divine decree, or the B-theory of time? I think God has foreknowledge simply in light of being omniscient. If omniscience means that God knows all true propositions, then that would include propositions such as what will happen at time T, or what creature X would do in cirumstance C. I honestly don’t know why the grounding objection gets so much press.

  4. My view is not new. I am making the uncontroversial assumption that knowledge of our world is truth about reality. Call it a “truth-maker theory” if you like. Assuming a creator God, then whatever God reifies functions as a truth-maker, and accurate statements about such things are part of God’s free knowledge.

    You say, <>

    Well, I’m trying to understand what kind of basis there might be for such knowledge. I don’t assume it has to fall into those categories, but I would like a proponent of foreknowledge to either suggest a viable basis, or say it is a mystery, or an assumption. Without them doing so, I think I’m being reasonable to question whether or not it is justified. Maybe it is just true belief and we can’t explain it.

    But such knowledge refers to physical reality, and is normally grounded with reference to interactive experience, in the case of human knowledge. To say that God possesses such knowledge without reference to reality itself, and perfectly, as if by intuitive apprehension entails a form of theistic determinism.

    A person claiming otherwise needs to show the rationality of their position. Is it grounded in biblical revelation, or some notion of Anselmian perfect being theology?

    The grounding objection gets so much press because we are trying to actually understand why we think what we think about God. It is the difference between science and philosophy. Knowledge has to be grounded in more than mere speculation. That was the key insight of the scientific revolution.

  5. Interesting. The point of contention Arminians want to make towards Molinist and Calvinists (in talking about the scenario of God beholding possible words in Molinism, or in Calvinism’s case a secret council) is this: Where is it written? The Scripture tells us “Do not go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), and I thik that unfortunately as mere human beings we try very hard to go into eternity and into the mind of God. But who has known the mind of God (Isa. 40:13; Rom. 11:34; 1 Cor. 2:16)!

    In any event, I would like to comment on footnote [1]. It is the case that Arminius understood the concept of Middle Knowledge. For example, he clarifies and explains the concept in his “Works” II:123-124. There Arminius discusses the concepts of natural, middle and free knowledge, and this is used as evidence that Arminius was himself a Molinist and endorsed this thinking. The problems I have with that however is that it does not follow from the citation of a concept that Arminius therefore agreed with the concept.* Also note that in the citation of Arminius above there he prefaced his points on middle knowledge with “The schoolmen say…” i.e. ”Scholars write of this…” which seems more like a simple scholarly reference than a full endorsement.

    Here’s one further aching question for you, however, Man: If Arminius is “the portal through which Molinism entered into protestant theology” (as William lane Craig has said), then why don’t you Molinists just sake the name “Classical Arminian” after a protestant name since middle knowledge lines up with Arminius? Why take a Jesuit Roman Catholic name of “Molina”?

    * Indeed, Arminius is known to have cited for example Roman Catholic authors and owned a large section of Catholic writings (which was used by Calvinist sin his day to falsely accuse him). Yet of Rome and the Papcy he penned that “from these benefits [Christian character and life; truth, true worship of the true God, piety, holiness, tranquility and peace, etc.] I have excluded the Papacy, with which no unity of faith, no bond of piety or of Christian peace can be preserved” (Carl Bangs, “Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation” (1985), p.330),

    • I meant to say, “Here’s one further question for you, however, MAX*” — I wasn’t trying to be all cool-dude about it 😛

    • Well, concerning the questions of where something is in Scripture I answer that in this post: http://sententias.org/2011/01/11/where-is-that-in-scripture/

      I think we hold things by the result of theological reflection. Arminius actually attempts to incorporate MK but it’s not really MK as Molina uses it. So, Molina uses it differently from Arminius (I don’t have the source with me, I’m at school right now but I have it back home I can find for you). So, it’s quite distinct from Arminius. Molinism has quite the sprectrum as well. It can be as far as Weslyan and as far as supralapsarian (i.e. Plantinga).

      • So do you distinguish “Reformed Molinism” and “Wesleyan Molinism” (so to speak)? However, if Molinism is so varied, then where goes the spectrum of truth and theological unity in the Molinist paradigm? The Arminians are united under their 1621 Confession; Calvinist have their Synod of Dort. What do Molinists have?


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