Posts tagged ‘Calvinism’

February 16, 2012

Can You Lose Your Salvation? A Molinist’s Perspective

by Max Andrews

FOCUS:  Can a born-again believer lose his or her salvation while simultaneously affirming God’s sovereignty and human free will while being consistent with Scripture?[1]

An Examination of the Perseverance of the Saints Doctrine

Apostolic warnings against apostasy pose a difficulty for the classic doctrine of perseverance of the saints because either the warnings seem superfluous or else it seems possible for the believer to fall away after all.  The attempt to construe the warnings as the means by which God effects perseverance fails to distinguish the classical doctrine from a Molinist doctrine, according to which believers can fall away but if fact will not due to God’s extrinsically efficacious grace.  A Molinist perspective is coherent and, unlike the classical doctrine does not render superfluous the apostolic admonitions.[2]

The traditional doctrine of perseverance states that not only will the saints maintain grace and salvation, but literally cannot fall from grace.  (It is very important to approach these and understand these texts in light of appropriate exegesis.) However, this seems to ignore numerous Scriptures, which warn the danger of apostasy of those who deliberately fall from grace:

Rom. 11:17-24; I Cor. 9:27; Gal. 5:4; Col. 1:23; I Thess. 3:5; I Tim. 1:19-20; II Tim. 2:17-18; Jas. 5:19-20; II Pet. 2:20-22; I Jn. 5:16

Perhaps the most prominent:

Therefore leaving the elementary teachings about the Christ, let us press on the maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the death and eternal judgment.  3And this we will do, if God permits.  4For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.  7For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings for the vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed and it ends up being burned.  Heb. 6:1-8 (NASB)

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February 13, 2012

The Theological Advantages of Molinism

by Max Andrews

For a context of where I’m coming from concerning Molinism please see my previous posts:

  1. Middle Knowledge in a Nutshell
  2. Why I’m Not an Arminian
  3. Why I’m Not a Calvinist
  4. God Controls Everything–Good and Bad
  5. Overpower–Is God Ultimately Responsible for Everything?
  6. The Pelagian Equivocation
  7. The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement
  8. Does God Ever Literally Change His Mind?–Yes
  9. Is a Molinist Concept of Providence Discomforting?
  10. Word of the Week Wednesday: Supralapsarianism

Advantages

  1. Holds a high view of God’s sovereignty while holding to an equal and uncompromising view of human free will.
  2. Provides a better model for understanding how it is simultaneously true that God’s decree of election while His rejection of the unbeliever is conditional.
  3. Affirms the genuine desire on the part of God for all to be saved in His universal salvific will  (which is problematic for the Calvinist) claiming that God loved the whole world (John 3:16) yet, Christ has a particular love for the Church (Eph. 5:25).
  4. God control’s all things, but does not cause all things.
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February 1, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday: Supralapsarianism

by Max Andrews

The Word of the Week is: Supralapsarianism

Definition: From the Latin, supra (prior to, below, before), lapsis, (fall).  A term used to denote the logical moment of God’s election of the saints.  Supralapsarianism if the belief that God chose the elect logically prior to the fall of man.

More about the term: Supralapsarianism is generally held by Calvinists and a few Molinists.  Supralapsarianism places the moment of divine election logically prior to the fall of Adam as opposed to logically posterior to the fall, which is known as infralapsarianism. When God chose the elect he did so without viewing them or considering them in their fallen state.  God chose them in a pre-fallen state.  This position can create controversy and may have unsavory implications.  One of the implications is what’s known as double-predestination.  This is the idea that God chose the reprobates (the non-elect) in the same fashion in which he chose the elect.  This isn’t a necessary implication of supralapsarianism since God’s decree of reprobation may be logically posterior to the fall.

This view of soteriology is held by Alvin Plantinga, who is a Molinist with Calvinistic tendencies (there’s a wide spectrum of Molinism ranging from supralapsarianism to Wesleyan).  Plantinga uses this idea in his theodicy, ‘O Felix Culpa’ (O happy sin).  The reason why evil exists is because God first desired the cross of Christ–the means by which God would get the most glory.  In order to bring about the cross there must be sin, thus God permits sin to happen because he desires the cross (which is why evil exists–so God may be glorified by atoning for it).


November 14, 2011

Top Ten Philosophy, Science, and Theology Podcasts

by Max Andrews

The following are a list of podcasts that I’ve been following and listening to that have been quite helpful in my philosophical, scientific, and theological studies.  The criteria for consideration are based on 1) quality of content, 2) accurate presentation of the material, 3) constructive and respectful criticism of opposing views, 4) frequency of podcast release, and 5) a broad range of topics/issues discussed.

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November 10, 2011

The Free Exchange in the Marketplace of Ideas

by Max Andrews

The English poet John Milton did well when he said that “Truth will rise to the top through a free and open exchange in the marketplace of ideas.”  I am so encouraged when I have and see a substantive dialogue with someone concerning an issue.  This is certainly important in every day discussions, blogs, and teaching.  I assist in managing and teaching an Intro. to Philosophy course at university and I always encourage my students to make us work hard to convince them of what we believe to be true.  Do not simply sit there and take what I say and teach prima facie–challenge me, challenge the thoughts, challenge your thinking.

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October 1, 2011

A Thank You Note to James White

by Max Andrews

 

aomin.org

James White is the director of Alpha and Omega ministries focused on apologetics.  I’ve learned a lot about my own theological position as well as others because of his ministry and service.  To be honest, I don’t agree with a few things he believes.  For instance, I’m a Molinist (he’s not the biggest fan), evidentialist, and an old-earth creationist.  Despite our disagreements he has my utmost respect and esteem.  He is passionate about God, the gospel, the Church, and the unsaved. I’m a faithful listener of his podcast, The Dividing Line, and there have been moments when I shake my head at some points he makes and there are other times when I’m cheering him on.

I respect White for his defense of the faith from cults, atheists, Islam, Roman Catholicism, unitarians, and others.  Where White earns my greatest respect is his integrity and honesty in scholarship and ministry.  You won’t find him quote mining or warping his citations.  He does the work, he does the research, and he presents it well.  Now, on another note, I’m a philosophy graduate student at Liberty University.  For those who are familiar with White you’ll know where I’m going with this.  White demanded accountability from Caner, the university, and the church for so many discrepancies [and contradictions] Caner asserted about himself.  All parties remained silent while all White did was demand honesty and integrity.  Thank you, Dr. White.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with White please check out his YouTube channel, his podcasts, and his website.  You don’t have to agree with him all the time but you will learn a lot.

April 15, 2011

The Pelagian Equivocation

by Max Andrews

Pelagianism argues that man is naturally able to obey God.  Semi-Pelagianism argues that though man cannot be saved apart from grace he is naturally able to turn to God.  It’s quite frustrating when Arminianism and Molinism are equated with Pelagianism.  It seems as though those who make these arguments fall short of fully knowing the two positions and play the P-card as a the trump card.  To briefly state the differences, Pelagianism isn’t even close to Arminianism and Molinism and if you play that card you need to stop before your get to the bulb of the TULIP or ROSES and go back to the soil and seed.  Semi-Pelagianism can’t be dismissed off the bat like that though.  The difference is that prevenient grace is what enables the will to turn to God as a catalyst.  If semi-Pelagianism is true, theoretically, I could be wanting salvation from God and he not give it to me.  If Pelagianism is true I can will myself to God and salvation.  For the Arminian and Molinist, neither of these are true; rather, the sinner rejects God and salvation prior to being overcome by God’s ever-present prevenient grace catalyzing the will and God saving.

The teaching of Scripture seems to assert that post-Genesis 3 humans possess libertarian free will, including freedom to choose between opposites on matters pertaining to salvation or any other spiritual good.  This immediately raises questions surrounding the concept of original sin.  Augustine first used the expression “original sin” in the wake of the Pelagian controversy.[1]  Upon arriving at Rome in A.D. 400, the British monk Pelagius was horrified to see the open immorality prevalent among so-called Christians.[2]  This was the direct result of Theodosius I nineteen years earlier (A.D. 381) declaring Christianity to be the state religion so decreeing that anyone living within its borders to be Christian. This was a transformation of Christianity from a voluntary religion (one that people freely choose to join) to a natural religion (one into which people are born) spawned immense immorality in many people who bore the name of Christ without ever having personally committed their lives to Jesus.[3]  Pelagius exhorted the Romans to live worthy of their Christian calling with an argument logically summarized in two steps:

1.  Humans possess libertarian free will.

2.  Humans should use their libertarian freedom to be good enough people to earn their own salvation.[4]

Unfortunately, as so often happens in the history of thought, one extreme position meets the response of an equally extreme opposing position, thus swinging the ideological pendulum from one side to the other.  Very rarely is prudence taken in shifting the pendulum back to the center, where the truth is most likely to be found.[5]  Augustine affirmed that both Adam and Eve were created with libertarian free will pre-Genesis 3 whereby one could freely respond to the grace of God.[6]  However, in response to Pelagius, Augustine was not content merely to reject Pelagius’ conclusion but insisted on preventing the argument from getting off the ground.  Denying both Pelagian premises, therefore, Augustine asserted that post-Genesis humans lacked libertarian free will and so could not use this ability to earn salvation.[7]  Augustine proposed an innovative interpretation of Genesis 3, henceforth styled “the Fall,” according to which Adam and Eve, in the supreme act of self-violation, paradoxically committed “spiritual suicide” by freely employing their mental faculty whereby they could freely respond to God to destroy that very faculty.[8]

If grammatico-historical exegesis is performed upon each of the pertinent Scriptural passages rather than theological eisogesis, it quickly becomes apparent that post-Genesis 3 unregenerate humans in fact possess the freedom to choose between opposites including response to grace, which is precisely what the late-Augustinian doctrine of original sin denies.[9]  As for Genesis 3, nothing in the text even remotely suggests that humans surrendered the libertarian freedom with which they were created.

When Paul asserts that unregenerate humanity is spiritually dead or dead “in transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2.1), he means that their spirits are alienated from Divine Spirit and thereby relegated to lives of pointlessness; this is why Paul interchanges phrases connoting spiritual death with such descriptive phrases as “separate from Christ,” “without hope and without God in the world” (2.12), “living in the futility of their thinking” (3.17), and “darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God” (3.18).[10]  Granting in grammatico-historical fashion of the sense of literary context as well as the normal connotations of and relationships between terms, it follows that any text where God offers people a choice requires that people have the mental faculty necessary for making that choice.[11]  Denying this inference not only makes the text meaningless, but it carries the deleterious theological consequences of either invalidating God’s omniscience (for wrongly thinking people could make the impossible choice) or God’s veracity (for intentionally deceiving people into thinking they could make a choice which He knew they lacked the ability to make and for inspiring a Scripture which foisted the ruse upon its readers).[12]


            [1] Augustine, De Gratia Christi, et de Peccato Originali, contra Pelagium, First Series, ed. Philip Schaff. (Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1887; rep. ed., Peabody, MA:  Hendrickson, 1994), 2.1-5.

            [2] Pelagius, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, trans. Theodore de Bruyn (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1995), 107.

            [3] Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries, 3rd rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1996), 120-121.

            [4] Pelagius, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 108-112.  It should be noted that the second premise is entirely unbiblical. Anselm in his Cur Deus Homo, 1.20-23, 2.6, decisively overturned this inference.  Accordingly, it is beyond the power of any person to make compensation for his or her sin by right employment of libertarian freedom.

            [5] Kirk R. MacGregor, A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology, (Lanham, MD:  University Press of America, 2007), 22.

            [6] Augustine, De Peccatorum Meritis et Remissione, 2.

            [7] Augustine, De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio, 29-30.

            [8] Augustine, De Peccatorum Meritis et Remissione, 5-16.

            [9] MacGregor, A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology, 24.  For further exegetical and grammatical relationships see William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, (Dallas, TX:  Word, 1993), 155-214.

            [10] Ibid., 25-26.

            [11] Irenaeus, in Against Heresies, 4.37.2-3, averred in the face of Gnostic determinism that the prophetic rebukes for spiritual evil and exhortation of spiritual good presupposed human ability to obey, as did the religious teachings of Jesus.  Hence both Old and New Testaments substantiated the self-determination of humanity.   By libertarian freedom I mean that our freedom is a derived freedom, humans are not completely independent or completely autonomous.  In Molinism, unlike Calvinism, God is completely sovereign over the eternal destinies of a world of libertarian free creatures who have, in Augustinian terminology, “free choice” and not merely “free will.”  MacGregor explains that for Augustine, “free choice” (i.e. libertarian free will) entailed the freedom to choose between opposites in both the physical and spiritual realms.  Thus fallen humanity, by virtue of the imago Dei, can freely choose whether or not to respond to God’s prevenient grace.  By contrast, Augustine defined “free will” (i.e. compatibilist free will) as the ability to choose without any external constraint between the options compatible with one’s nature.  On this view, unregenerate humans, due to original sin, lack the ability to choose between spiritual good and evil.  Just as a bad tree can bear bad fruit or no fruit at all, unregenerate humanity can either perform spiritual wickedness by actively rebelling against God or do nothing spiritual at all by displaying passivity toward God.  See Augustine, On Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, ed. Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1887; rep. ed., Peabody, MA:  Hendrickson, 1994), 5:57-59, 74-76.  MacGregor, A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology, 84-85. The Scriptures breathe libertarian human freedom, even if the Bible makes no explicit mention of it. Take, for example, 1 Cor. 10.13, which promises that God “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” It follows that any Christian who does not in some circumstance endure but succumbs to temptation had it within his power to take the way of escape instead, i.e., he had the liberty of opposites in those circumstances. Again, we can at least agree that if the Scriptures do presuppose or affirm libertarian freedom, then there is no basis for denying that sentences like 1 Cor. 2.8 are true counterfactuals of freedom. William Lane Craig, “Ducking Friendly Fire: Davison on the Grounding Objection.” Philosophia Christi 8 (2006): 166.

            [12] MacGregor, A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology, 26.

April 14, 2011

Good God: Calvinists Got It Wrong

by Max Andrews

In the chapter titled “A Reformed Tradition Not Quite Right” Baggett and Walls contend that the fundamental divide between Calvinism and [say] Arminianism is how God’s love and goodness are understood.  This section is a [ironically] five-point objection to Calvinistic compatibilism.   Before the authors make their case they assemble a philosophical justification for their method.  Their epistemic framework gives a strong platform for the acceptance of a priori natural revelation going into the biblical hermeneutic.  Without further ado they present their case against compatibilism (I once heard Dr. Baggett say that it’s not adieu*, as it was once corrected in the drafts by the editors [*Okay, it wasn’t for this work, but it was funny when he said it.  Thank you Dr. Baggett for correcting me!).

  1. Obligation Objection:  Simply put, ought implies can and moral duties make no sense in compatibilism.  1 Cor. 10.13 is cited as an example for libertarian freedom (God gives a way out of sin, yet we still sin).  Prevenient grace seems to be a legitimate postulation, that is, the grace that precedes salvation that enables one to repent and turn from sin. Their example:  P is “we ought to avoid all sin,” and Q is “we can avoid all sin” (ought implies can).  However, it seems that some theologies (mainly Reformed), after the fall, P is true and Q is false (counterexample?).  How about:  P1, For any x, if x is a sin, then we ought to avoid doing x; Q1 For any x, if x is a sin, then we can avoid x.  Here Baggett and Walls show the Calvinist’s fallacy of equivocation.  Clearly, P1 and Q2 are true but to understand where P is true and Q is false one would need to equivocate “all” for P as “for each individual sin x, taken on its own” and for Q “for the sum total of all sins added together.”  An argument on equivocation seems to break at the seams.  Thus, the principle of ought implies can perseveres and libertarian freedom is true.
  2. Culpability Objection:  “If the unregenerate aren’t able to avoid all sin, have we found a counter example to ‘ought implies can?’  For what would seem to suggest that they don’t have enough grace to avoid sin for which they’re culpable.”  Compatibilism entails that we cannot do otherwise (where some secular philosophers say we should abandon the category of retribution). When asked, “Could the person have done otherwise?”, the reply would be “Yes, if he had willed to do otherwise (but, he could not have willed otherwise).  Sure, let’s let the naturalist play out retribution, but the Calvinist cannot do so since it’s a pertinent part of their theology.  They believe sinners are to be held accountable for this life and that some may be “consigned to eternal perdition for lives they could not have possibly lived any differently.”
  3. Bad God Objection:  If compatibilism is true, then God could have saved everyone without violating free will.  Some are not saved and are sentenced to eternal perdition, so what’s the deal?  If compatibilism is true, why did God not elect all to salvation rather than sentence some to hell?  Assuming salvation is a greater good than damnation, something has gone wrong.  “If this is true, there is no intelligible sense in which God loves those who are lost, nor is there any recognizable sense in which he is good to them.”
  4. Love Objection:  Bt the intrinsic nature of love relationships, love must flow in both directions.  If God’s grace is irresistible then it necessarily follows that fellowship with God culminates (as the authors put it, a “divine love potion”).  However,  this creates an eternal infatuation in the beloved, but not genuine love; it seems love requires a more substantial element of volition.
  5. Virtue Objection:   The Calvinists emphasize that “morally responsible actions must reflect one’s character or they aren’t culpable reflections of who one is.” However, It seems to be the case that culpable moral development in virtue ethics starts with thoughts, leads to actions, and then follows with a descriptive character.  It seems Calvinists have it backwards.  According to Calvinists, our actions are “determined by an already existing character with which we are unavoidably saddled.”
This post isn’t an exhaustive representation; rather, it’s a mere summation of the material.  The main point was to demonstrate that the Calvinistic concept of God and morality run afoul in theory ethics.  To follow up more see the chapter “A Reformed Tradition Not Quite Right” in Good God:  Theistic Foundations of Morality.
March 28, 2011

The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement

by Max Andrews

Motivated by a Bible study discussion last night, I decided to give an outline of the singular redemption view of the atonement.  This view (unlimited) was the view that was advocated by John Calvin.  This outline is certainly not meant to be exhaustive.  To list a few proponents of singular redemption:

  • John Calvin
  • Moise Amyraut (Calvinist, developed Amyrauldianism)
  • Richard Baxter (Calvinist)
  • Bruce Ware (Calvinist)
  • Millard Erickson (Calvinist)
  • Kenneth Keathley (Molinist)
  • Timothy George (Molinist)
  • Robert Picirilli (Arminian)
  • Matthew Pinson (Arminian)

A brief distinction in common views:

  • Universal Atonement:  Christ died for all and the atonement is applied to all (universal salvation).
  • General Atonement:  Christ obtained salvation for all but secured it for none.  It holds to a government view of the atonement.  Christ did not die for your sins he died for you.  It’s a general amnesty.  The penalty for sin is eternal perdition and no one could do that.  Christ suffered for everyone so the Father could forgive those who repent.  (Notice the problem with the government view of atonement 1 Cor. 15.3, Gal 3.13, 1 Jn. 2.2–it was a penal substitionary atonement).
  • Limited Atonement:  Christ secured salvation for the elect and only the elect.  Christ died for the particular person and because some die without Christ, Christ did not die for that person. (Substitionary)
  • Singular Redemption/Unlimited Atonement:  Christ provides salvation for all but the benefits of salvation are secured for those who believe. (Substitionary)

Common verses supporting universal/general atonement (corporately):

  • Jn. 1.29
  • Jn. 3.16-17
  • Jn. 4.42
  • 2 Cor. 4.14-15
  • 2 Cor. 5.19
  • 1 Tim. 4.10
  • Heb. 2.9
  • 2 Pt 2.1
  • 1 Jn. 2.2
  • 1 Jn. 4.14

Whoever:

  • Acts 2.21
  • Rom. 10.13
  • Rev. 22.17

Common verses supporting particular atonement:

  • Mt. 1.21
  • Jn. 10.3-4, 14-16, 25-27
  • Rom 5.8
  • Rom. 8.32-35
  • Eph. 5.25

Singular redemption presumes that God wills for every individual to be saved.  Antecedently, God wills all to be saved; consequently, because of the individuals sin and rejection of the Gospel, God wills for that person to be damned.  There is a temporal distinction in when the elect becomes elect, an elect person temporally prior to their conversion is just as lost as an unelect person.  God does incorporate contingency in his sovereign plan (i.e. Ez. 3.17-18).  There is also a distinction between the extent of the atonement and the intent of the atonement.  The death of Christ is the basis for the salvation of all men but Scripture does not call upon men to believe in a salvation they already have.  The gospel does not inform the elect that they are saved, it exhorts all to repent and believe so that they will be saved.

What does many and world refer to in these passages?

  • Calvin advocated that these many not be limited to the elect only, rather the whole human race.  He contrasts many to one.
  • World does not mean “the world of the elect.”  Calvin argued this point as well (arguing from Jn. 3.16).  He believed man is doubly-guilty for rejecting Christ.  Unbelievers who turn away from him and who deprive themselves of him by their malice are doubly culpable.

What about equating Christ’s intercession as Hight Priest and the atonement? (argument for LA)

  • The Bible does not equate the two in extent.
  • Intercession relates to the believers only after they exercise faith
  • Intercession illustrates that blessings of the atonement are experienced only by those who place their trust in God.

Does non-limited atonement lead to universalism?

  • No, but the objection works only if the biblical necessity of faith is ignored.
  • Faith is conditional for salvation.

Double-Jeopardy:  If Christ died for some who die list, then their sins are paid for twice!

  • This assumes what it wishes to prove –that the death of Christ actually secures salvation for the elect and applies the benefits prior to the exercise of faith.
  • Until faith is exercised, an elect persons is just as lost as the non-elect.

Limited atonement is logically inconsistent with a well-meant offer of the gospel.

  • If an unelect is presented with the gospel, it really wasn’t meant for that person.
  • The claim, “God loves all of you and died for all of you” is a lie (David Engelsma, Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel, 88 [a Calvinist himself]).
  • Does God love the world?  Would we attempt to restrict any other perfections of God to the elect only?

Limited atonement teaches that the non-elect are condemned for rejecting Christ when in fact he did not die for them.

  • Man cannot reject was doesn’t exist.
  • This falls in line with Calvin’s double-guilt argument from Jn. 3.16.

Again, this isn’t exhaustive and there may certainly be objections [and rebuttals] but this is a brief outline.  For more check out Ken Keathley’s book Salvation and Sovereignty (the source for this information).

February 22, 2011

Top Ten Most Viewed Blog Posts

by Max Andrews

Below are my top ten blog posts of all time with their respective number of views (as of 22 February 2011).  If you’ve missed any of the posts please read!

  1. Thanks to William Lane Craig & Reasonable Faith — 407
  2. Middle Knowledge in a Nutshell — 132
  3. The Incoherence of Theistic Determinism – Moral Responsibility — 106
  4. Why I’m Not a Calvinist — 105
  5. God’s Design of Death — 103
  6. Romance and Philosophy — 88
  7. Proving a Universal Negative — 86
  8. Why I’m Not an Arminian — 63
  9. Amongst Creationists — 57
  10. Where is That in Scripture? — 56

I’ve noticed my science blog posts trail in the low 50’s, perhaps I’ll need to fine-tune my posts to the readers’ demands.  Thanks for following and I hope you’ll stick around for more!