Reading List On Molinism

About two or so years ago, I had created a worldcat list with reading material relating to Molinism. Some of the material counters it; some of it might touch on it accidentally as it were. I’ve been working through the list but with some recent additions, I think it’s at a point where I can share the contents for your own benefit. I’ve put them in publishing order but I personally started with the translation of Molina’s Concordia. Bold, as on other lists, means I’ve read it and crossed it off the list. Feel free to make suggestions. Also make sure to follow the reading list on worldcat since any updates are most likely to happen there than here.

Garrigou-Lagrange, R., & Rose, B. (1939). Predestination. St. Louis, Mo: B. Herder.

Plantinga, A. (1977). God, freedom, and evil. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Plantinga, A. (1982). The nature of necessity. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Hasker, W. (1989). God, time, and knowledge. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Pinnock, C. H. (1994). The openness of God: A biblical challenge to the traditional understanding of God. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press.

Craig, W. L. (2000). The only wise God: The compatibility of divine foreknowledge and human freedom. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Craig, W. L. (2000). The tensed theory of time: A critical examination. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

Craig, W. L. (2000). The tenseless theory of time: A critical examination. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

Craig, W. L. (2001). Time and eternity: Exploring God’s relationship to time. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books.

Beilby, J. K., Eddy, P. R., & Boyd, G. A. (2001). Divine foreknowledge: Four views. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press.

Lewis, D. K. (2001). Counterfactuals. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers.

Lewis, D. K. (2001). On the Plurality of Worlds. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers.

Ganssle, G. E., & Woodruff, D. M. (2002). God and time: Essays on the divine nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Molina, L. ., & Freddoso, A. J. (2004). On divine foreknowledge: (part IV of the Concordia). Ithaca, N.Y. ;London: Cornell University Press.

Flint, T. P., Flint, Thomas P., Taji, Acram, Ph. D., & Reganold, John. (2006). Divine providence: The Molinist account. Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press.

MacGregor, K. R. (2007). A Molinist-Anabaptist systematic theology. Lanham, Md: University Press of America.

Ware, B. A., Helm, P., Olson, R. E., & Sanders, J. (2008). Perspectives on the doctrine of God: 4 Views. Nashville, Tenn: B & H Academic.

Keathley, K. (2010). Salvation and sovereignty: A Molinist approach. Nashville, Tenn: B&H Academic.

Allen, D. L., & Lemke, S. (2010). Whosoever will: A biblical-theological critique of five-point Calvinism. Nashville, Tenn: B & H Academic.

Salza, J. (2010). Mystery of predestination: According to scripture, the church, and St. Thomas Aquinas. Charlotte, North Carolina: TAN Books.

Helseth, P. K., & Jowers, D. W. (2011). Four views on divine providence. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan.

Kvanvig, J. L. (2011). The Blackwell companion to natural theology. Chichester, U.K: Wiley-Blackwell.

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An Honest Atonement That Worked

Just like how my faith was rescued by the resurrection of the Son of God, my theology was generally rescued by Christ’s crucifixion. But to see how that works, I have to give some general preliminaries of what others say. I’m not going into the detail of any of the systems. I’m just touching on them because these are where my personal questions arose, where they collided with the text, and where I had to leave those ideas. Their explanations of key texts made me nervous.

So They Say
Calvinists say that God’s mission was to glorify himself and to do that he would bring in many sons to glory. He prepared vessels of mercy beforehand to show mercy to and the rest he passed over (or elected to make reprobate: there’s some discussion on that point). But to rescue these many sons there must be the shedding of blood for the remission of sins. Therefore Christ was sent to pay for their sins—not for anyone else’s. His sacrifice was enough to rescue all but it was particularly applied to those that were chosen: the elect.  The Atonement, therefore, secured the redemption and salvation of the elect.

Arminians say that God sent his Son to die to make a way possible for any who believed: redemption is obtained but salvation isn’t secured for anyone unless they believe and keep believing. So it wasn’t a pre-chosen group that was being atoned for, it was a category called “Those Who Believe”.  That group winds up being known, but in no sense was the crucifixion particularly for a group—even if in effect it is solely for that group.

Others have different explanations. Ockhamists say that Christs death was for all, redeeming the world unto Himself, but that his love results in an effectual call that draws those who will be saved. The Atonement, therefore, is the love of God reaching outwards. Molinists say that Christ’s work of redemption is for all, making an actual payment for all, but applied only to those who believe.

Pelagians say that Christ’s death is a necessary example that was accomplished so that humans could break out of the cycle of damnation and sin that they were part of. Atonement was helpful but not necessary. Semi-Pelagians might say that Christ’s death was effectively the extended hand of God that was being reached for by those who were reaching out to God. They couldn’t save themselves so he supplied a solution in the atoning work of Christ. Now if they believe they get helped.

Universalists say that Christ’s death was accomplished to save all by paying for the sins of all. No one is ultimately damned. Of course, Universalists split up how this is accomplished (either all are elect and are irresistibly drawn or all eventually willfully come to Christ, even if some spend time in separation).

What Sayeth The Scriptures?
The Atonement is impossible to be accomplished solely by humans (Ps 49:7–8). In the Old Testament, atonement worked when the shed blood was applied (Lev 4:20; 16; 17:11). It is for those who apply it (John 6:51) which automatically denies something to those who don’t take it and yet it is not merited (Tit 3:5). It winds up with a purchase of people from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9) So, the atonement definitely worked.

The Scriptures tell us that Christ’s atoning work would provide salvation for many (Is 53:10–11; Matt 20:28; Eph 1:7; 1 Pet 2:24-25) which includes us (1 Jo 4:10), those who have faith (Rom 3:24-26), people (Heb 2:17), the sheep (John 10:11, 17-18), the ungodly (Romans 5:6-21), sinners (2 Cor 5:18-20) the unjust (1 Pet 3:18), the heretic (2 Peter 2:1) and everyone (1 Tim 4:10) of the entire world (John 1:29; 4:42; 1 John 2:2). This is much broader than the Elect, something 1 John 2:2 outright denies.

Some Calvinists have been quick to point out that the many is the Church, the whole World is all who are being saved, and All are All Those Who Believe. They redefine the terms to suit their theology. Scripture is the reason why other Calvinists consider themselves Four, instead of Five, Pointers.

If they consider it problematic, why shouldn’t I? Say the Five Pointers, like Sproul or Packer: those who are Four Pointers have misunderstood one of the other points. That is dishonest. The problem is with the doctrine of a particular atonement not aligning with Scripture, it is not with getting one’s theological ducks lined up to quack in harmony.

This entire thing of Particular Redemption doesn’t jive with Scripture which teaches that the extent of the redemption as total: of the entire world (John 3:15-17), those who were under law (which is everyone: Gal 4:4-5), indeed all things (Col 1:20-22). Or with the call to believe being offered to all (Acts 2:21; Rom 10:13; Rev 22:17) The Atonement’s scope in Scripture is no less than universal because it is easier to explain the limited passages in light of the universal passages (cf. Gal 2:20. No one thinks Christ died only for Paul).

And at this point Calvinists raise the question: well, if everyone is atoned for then everyone is saved? Universalists say this is true. But Scripture speaks quite emphatically about people not being saved, going to hell, and facing judgment.

Indeed, this idea of a universal atonement resulting in universal salvation is only accurate if the interpretation of Christ’s work on the cross is specifically tied together to election and salvation via special pleading. The idea comes piggybacked on the doctrine of election which weaves into the tapestry but stands contrary to Scripture.  Calvinists asks “If Christ died for all, does that necessarily mean all are saved?” Universalists are quick to point out that this is the case and cite that Christ’s dead is to draw all men to Himself (John 12:32) and those universal passages add that extra weight while reminding us of Exodus 11 and the Children of Israel. The blood of the lamb covered everyone in the house but those who didn’t apply the blood of the lamb would face death.  This is further substantiated by salvation being consistently withheld from the rebellious (Jos 22:22), the unbelievers (Mk 16:16; Lu 8:12; Jn 3:36; 2 Th 2:10; Re 21:8) and the wicked (Ps 119:155) and only applicable to those who believe (Romans 10)

Questions
If the atonement is enough for all, why not all? If the atonement is specifically for the elect, how is it right to charge the non-elect for rejecting the Atonement? Doesn’t this make the appeal to believe the cross work of Christ fundamentally dishonest? If the atonement is an empty category and the mission is to save people, then how is this atonement that works? If this atoning work was an example, then what good is it? Why couldn’t it have been something else?

But then deeper Biblical and Theological questions arise: what’s the point of the cross work of Christ? Maybe something else is going on with the atonement that doesn’t necessitate purchasing only specific individuals for salvation? I mean, Hebrews 2 says that the death on the cross was the means for Jesus being crowned with glory and honor as a second Adam—the head of a new human race. It says he tasted death for everyone (Heb 2:9) for a reason: what is that reason?  It was through this death that he is given authority (Col 3) and power (Rom 1:2; 1 Cor 15:55) over all creation. So why make it a main concern to be about saving the Elect? Indeed, the explicit verse we have of God saving an individual (Gal 2:20), none of us take to mean that only that individual was atoned for…so why limit on a broader circle that doesn’t consist of the totality explicated in Scripture?

Did God have to save humanity? Arminians and Calvinists strike me as having to say it was necessary; Arminians by necessity of foreknowledge and Calvinists by necessity of foreordination and God’s glory. Indeed, some Calvinists make it seem as if all this adds to God’s glory—which is crazy. God doesn’t need us.  I think the Hebrews passage and Phillipians 2, 1 Corinthians 15, Romans 5, Acts 2 and Acts 13 shows that he only had to save one human: Christ Jesus. He vindicated Him by raising Him from the dead but he didn’t have to save anyone else. He saved him by giving him unending life—he doesn’t need to give him kids. But, he also gives all things into his hands. All creation, all people, all things, including those who are God the Fathers—they all belong to Christ. As the head of Humanity 2.0 he can do what He wants with them.

And Hebrews 2 it says that Christ can stand with those who are flesh and blood and call them brothers before God. Not everyone. The ones who are partakers of holiness. The ones who are being made perfect. It seems to me that the Atonement actually works in what it was sent to do. It makes all redeemable and then comes up with a condition for that redemption: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. If this wasn’t the case, wouldn’t it make every call in Scripture to repent and believe a magical and empty appeal? Plus, there’s nothing important about this specific condition except the fact that God demands it. Couldn’t it have been any other condition?  It could have been any other condition like some impossible law abiding? Why would God stipulate this arbitrary and silly thing? So that he can count a silly and arbitrary thing as righteousness based on his own grace, yes, and doesn’t that make more sense than some magic words that do nothing but activate a magical foreign faith made available by a magical work on a cross?

Doesn’t  Christ’s death work for a very different reason than what Calvinists and Arminians say? Doesn’t it say that all are purchased and then the requirement for application is stipulated as belief? And then, don’t the Scriptures repeatedly show people given a chance to respond in their own situation? And isn’t it so, that in every situation, the Lord is free to do what he wants with them? Isn’t the fact that He opts to do what He promises ultimately up to Him and not up to us at all?

Too many questions that are easier explained by Scriptural answers: Limited Atonement, no matter what it is called, winds up being rejected. It must be. It is a philosophical solution (nothing wrong with that) to a Biblical problem (nothing wrong with that either) which is already explained in the text (this is the real problem) and it is explained in this way: the atonement, Christ dying for all, is effective for all; redemptive of every single individual, but is only applicable when appropriated by faith.  Just as God says: the just shall survive by trusting God to save.

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Questioning Salvation

Narcissism. The web (a blog) is all about Me. Who cares about what I say? Who cares if I’ve gotten to a point with soteriology (that is the study of salvation) where I might tentatively define myself by a label again? No one cares. But I post it anyway. I’ve often said that I write for myself and you should feel free to read over my shoulder. So this is going to be more stream of consciousness than my usual writing.

Years ago, when I first became a believer and actually started to read Scriptures, I thought that everything that happened, everything that occurred, was predetermined and ultimately the cause for everything happening. Everything was inevitable and outside of anything to do with me. I very much believed that if I sinned, it was preordained; if I did good, it was preordained; If I preached, it was preordained; if I didn’t preach it was preordained.  I was, quite literally, a fatalist.

It was a depressing place to be even if I only knew that in retrospect.

Eventually I rejected that and became something closer to a Calvinist, though a slightly mixed bag one. I was convinced that the only reason I believed was because God decided to prepare me beforehand as a vessel of mercy. I saw the Fall as something God preordained and used as a means to ensure that the elect are saved and the damned weren’t. I would speak to people as if God’s genuine grace was being offered to all but I never knew if it was being offered to this or that person. I thought that a sinner was dead in his sins, unable to respond to God without God’s specific calling of them.  I thought that if you continue believing (especially before passing away), then you were always one of the elect; if not, you weren’t. I felt dishonest when I said things like “God loves you.” And I started, in my mind, to mean “You, plural.”

Eventually I rejected that as well because I had too many Biblical questions. Mostly from the book of Romans; always from context of passages. I found myself unable to make excuses for passages or embarrassed when I was redefining things to fit into what I believed. At that point I stopped thinking about salvation and just let it be: it was beyond me, just preach the Gospel. Stick to the text.

Years after, I was handed books: Saved Without A Doubt by Macarthur; Chosen by God by Sproul; Horton’s Putting Amazing Back Into Grace and others. I was told that these books would reinvent the way I thought about God and my position before him. They would open my eyes to the Awesomeness of God. Here were people that thought things through!

The old questions came back. This time with a vengeance. I was reading my Scriptures at the same time and I made a point of studying Romans with several commentaries close at hand. I read through systematic theologies that pointed to the necessity of believing in Calvinism. I was nervous. I was seeing things in Scripture that was completely contrary to what these guys kept inserting into their books but who am I? I don’t know Greek. I never went to seminary. Who am I?

I examined the footnotes and read the books these people were responding to. Geisler. Robert Shank. The list grew. I’ve found myself reading the writings of Van Til, Warfield, occasionally Bavinck, Luther, Edwards, Arminius, Ockham, Modern day Thomists like Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Roger Olson, the writings of Augustine and the Early Church, the work of William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, the quotes of Pelagius and recently the works of Thomas Oden and also Luis De Molina. These books aren’t even the full range of the things I’ve read on the topic. All of these people using Scripture. All of them working out a theology from the text and trying to make sense of something they almost all call inscrutable.

This all repeatedly sent me back to the text of Scripture. Questions were raised in light of these teachers. I am firmly not a Calvinist, I know that. But I also don’t think I’m an Arminian though I’ve been called that. Maybe I am. Like I said, I’ve tended to avoid the labels.

I’m not going to bother unraveling or examining the systems. Calvinism isn’t really TULIP and you can’t really address it in five easy to contain posts. Plus, back in the day I had a guest poster who did that already. But even so, Calvinism is a tapestry whereby each of its points runs through the entire thing. Arminianism likewise contains many ins and outs and one might want to differentiate between Classical Arminianism, Wesleyism, Finneyism and modern day Arminianism. And how can one even touch on Pelagianism, Thomism, Molinism and so on? So these series of posts are questions, raised by (1) Scripture, (2) reason and philosophy and sometimes (3) Church History that have brought me to somewhere else.

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Christ Didn’t Die For All: He Died For Paul

It is patently obvious that we have gotten the atonement wrong this whole time. We keep saying things like Christ died for all but the fact is that this is completely unscriptural and dangerous. Scripture is clear about the extent of the atonement: one man.

Note that Paul explicitly points out the particularity of the atonement (Gal 2:20):

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Now, after thousands of years of Church History (in this post-enlightenment era influenced by the individualism of people like Schleiermacher) we wind up getting this exceedingly unbiblical idea that Christ died for Me since I am part of the world. But that’s just wrongheaded. The fact is that Christ died for one man alone and that was Paul.

Now, I can hear the responses like John saying that Christ gave himself as a propitiation for us and the entire world—yes, I hear the simple proof texting already. But in context, John is referring to several things. Propitiation is the sating of God’s wrath in regard to a specific problem. That specific problem is made evident by understanding that John was Jewish and the Us being mentioned is Israel. The term “the whole world” then refers to breaking the boundary of Israel and expanding the proclamation of the Gospel (that it is for one person) to the entire wicked system espoused by the Gentiles.

At this point the proof-texters will point out that how can Paul be both an Israelite and a Gentile—I admit, there is a fair amount of tension and mystery here but we can’t throw out other parts of Scripture just because a doctrine isn’t palatable!

First, note what Paul outright says in Romans 9:6—it’s not like all Israel is Israel! This is an important point in his entire treatise. He argues that Israel was hardened but only a remnant was saved—who are the elect, who have been covered by the definite atoning work of Christ. He then makes this important statement in Rom 11:1: I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. You see, Paul knew that the rest of Israel was not saved because God chose that they were not to be saved. His wishing is hypothetical (I wish I could be cut off and accursed for them) but he knew that was an impossibility. Christ’s death was sufficient for all but definitely applied to only one: Paul, who was chosen before he was born (Gal 1:15).

Secondly, note that Paul’s Israeliteness was able to be subsumed in Gentile-ness. After all, Gentiles (Pharaoh) and Israel (Jews) were both of the same lump of clay. In that same way, Paul argues that he became a Jew for the Jews and a Gentile for the Gentiles—he became all things to all men so that he might save a few. Of course, he knew that they wouldn’t be saved (just like he knew the rest of Israel wouldn’t be saved) but he was speaking hypothetically because his mission was to preach the good news that he was saved!

Of course, the proof-texters will point out passages like John 3:16 but in all honesty, this has nothing to do with the atoning work of Christ with every individual. The way some people read it is that God loved everyone in this way: that he gave his son to die for them—but that’s just wrong. Calvinists do better by offering that the World there is limited to all believers. And that is true in some cases (for example, Romans 5 is referring to the Many and All but it is in fact speaking about Paul who is a representative of every nation, tongue or tribe by his malleability in the proclamation and the fact that he speaks more tongues than any (1 Cor 14:18).

The fact is that John 3:16 supports my point. The passage is saying that God loved the Antithetical System of Sin which persists under the heading of World (remember, in 1 John he says that the World and Satan are enemies!). As God is light and good the World has the qualities of being dark and sinful. The fact is that Christ Himself says that men loved darkness rather than light so God just left them in their situation while the Elect One (Paul) was Chosen. Indeed, Paul underscores this point when he says he is the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15)!

Yes, I know there are some tensions and mystery since Paul uses sinners plural or the fact that Peter says that Christ purchased the reprobate false teachers (2 Pet 2:1) or places where Christ mentions many members in one body (and frankly, he’s just speaking about all of the parts of his body and the way people confess Christ as Lord with no hope of being saved) but that’s just the nature of God: he’s above our understanding and some of these things are hard to understand. One thing we can’t do is expand the boundaries of the atonement to cover everyone—even in the Church—because that will deny the particularity of the atonement (that it was for Paul), overturn total depravity and unconditional election, and ultimately prove that sinful man just wants to rebel.

So prayerfully, consider this an invitation to Paulinism whereby all of us hear the message, understand the message, believe in some sense, can hope to be saved, but really are rejecting God in our rebellious sinful nature because the truth is Christ died for Paul. And, if you’re going to complain, realize that this questioning came up to Paul and his response was “who art thou o’ man to respond to God?” If he chose one lump (the entire world) for dishonor and another lump (Paul) for glory, who has the right to question the Potter?

Not I. I humbly, prayerfully, acknowledge my worthlessness and God’s right to send Christ to die only for Paul.

;-)

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