Saturday, February 28, 2009


Throughout the history of depraved man’s assault on God’s sovereignty, several names and movements have come to the forefront. Lost in the shuffle of the more popular Pelagianism and Arminianism is Molinism. Molinism is named after the Jesuit Priest and Theologian, Luis De Molina(1535-1600). Luis was a professor for many years at Evora, Portugal until taking the chair of moral theology in Madrid. In this capacity and in his work Concordia liberi arbitrii cum gratiæ donis, divina præscientia, providentia, prædestinatione et reprobatione (Lisbon, 1588) he set out to find and promote a moderate view on predestination and free will. His goal was to balance the extremes as he saw it of Augustine and Pelagius.

In his quest Molina divided the knowledge of God into three categories. Sometimes the first two categories are called necessary truths and contingent truths and other times natural knowledge and free knowledge but the third category is always called “middle knowledge”. The necessary truth or natural knowledge of God is said to be God’s knowledge of the truths like the law of non-contradiction or cause and effect. God’s existence is a necessary truth and not a matter of His will. Contingent truths or free knowledge are truths that God creates as in “God said ‘let there be light’, and there was light”. Middle knowledge is according to Molina that knowledge“… by which, in virtue of the most profound and inscrutable comprehension of each free will, He(God) saw in his own essence what each such will would do with its innate freedom were it to be placed in this or that or, indeed, in infinitely many orders of things- even though it would really be able, if it so willed, to do the opposite…”. (Quoted by William Craig in The Grace Of God, The Will Of Man p 147). William Craig goes on to say, “Thus, whereas by His natural knowledge God knows that, say, Peter when placed under a certain set of circumstances could either deny Christ or not deny Christ, being free to do either under identical circumstances, by His middle knowledge God knows what Peter would do if placed under those circumstances.”(Citation above p147)

The chief motivation for this line of thinking is sin. If God predestines everything that happens then He must therefore be the author of sin. Traditional orthodoxy understands God to have a Preceptive Will which is God’s revealed commands of us such as “thou shalt not kill”(Matt. 19:18) and a Decretive Will which is God determining before creation how everything will happen such as in His decree of Christ’s death(Acts 1:16, 2:23). Molinism adds to this a Permissive Will in which God simply foresaw the sins of man and passively decreed to allow them. Molinist Ken Keathley in the book A Southern Baptist Dialogue: Calvinism claims “God controls all things He does not cause all things”(p196) and later states “God did not cause the fall; He allowed it”(p197). For Molinism man’s will is free to either accept Christ or reject Him. It would distinguish itself from Arminianism in that God sovereignly controls circumstances which lead up to either rejection or salvation, for instance God chooses where to send missionaries and who hears the Gospel.


Molinism fails as a scriptural system for the same reason as all man-centered systems do. It places salvation and history in the will of man instead of in the grace and purpose of God. John 1:12 and 13 say “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Just as our physical birth was not our choosing but our parents, so to our spiritual birth is from God and not our “free will”. Romans 9:16 again states that “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” It is the purpose of God that determines history and not the works of man (Rom. 9:11). In Proverbs 21:1 we read that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” Surely any “free will” decision made would come from the heart but God controls the heart and so determines our will. We do not even know how to pray properly according to Rom. 8:26 and need the intercession of the Holy Spirit for that (Rom. 8:27).

As for the question of sin, God is not the immediate cause (author) of evil in that he does not perform any evil. God is however the ultimate cause of everything including evil as Isaiah 45:7 teaches us. Whereas God cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Heb. 6:18), God used a fallen angel in 2 Chronicles 18:19-22 to deceive Ahab, and will send a “strong delusion” in the end times so “that they (reprobates) shall believe a lie” (2 Thess. 2:11). Notice that God assured the fallen angel in 2 Chronicles 18:21 that “You shall persuade him and also prevail”. God did not just passively know this but he hardened Ahab’s heart to ensure this would happen as he did to the Pharoah in Exodus 4:21. We should honestly and earnestly pray as our Lord Jesus prayed for our Father to lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil so as not to sin against our God (Matt. 6:13). For further on this see my Theodicy.
Molinism also fails logically to be a self consistent system. It is rediculous to say God controls all things but does not cause all things as God must therefore control the cause of all things. Also to claim that God knows possible futures that never will exist is rediculous as there is no future without God. God has designed and determined every second of eternal destiny and this destiny can only happen one way otherwise it is not destined. God does not permit anything but ordains everything. As to God's relation to evil, Molinism also falls short. How would a man be perceived that sat idly by all the while able to stop a massacre from occuring but "permitting" it to happen? Does a permissive will alleviate the problem? Just as human authors like Stephen King and George Lucas create in their novels evil situations and people but are not themselves guilty of the evil, much more so is God not to be judged by us His creation (Rom. 9:14,19-21).
William Craig's chapter "Middle Knowledge, A Calvinist-Arminian Rapprochement?" in
A Case For Arminianism: The Grace of God, The Will of Man by Clark Pinnock
Ken Keathley's chapter "A Molinist View of Election, or How to be a Consistent Infralapsarian" in A Southern Baptist Dialogue: Calvinism by Ray Clendenen & Brad Waggoner
A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology by Kirk R. MacGregor

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