Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday Reading Salvation and Sovereignty

indexFor Sunday reading this week we are continuing to read in Salvation and Sovereignty, by Ken Keathley, a faculty member at Southeastern Seminary. In the book, Ken introduces, explains and defends the Molinist view of the interaction between God’s sovereignty and human choice in salvation. I am reading the first two chapters today. Chapters 1 deals with the idea of “middle knowledge” and chapter 2 discusses the nature of the will of God to savee. I do think there is a need for a mediating view in this controversy. Again, I appreciate Ken’s spirit in the book as he seeks a better understanding of God’s word and brotherly connection with those who disagree and I wish all theological discussions were so irenic. I am still not so convinced of meticulous sovereignty from the reading today but I am giving it some thought. I still prefer to “live with the tension.” You can join the discussion on my Facebook page.

MOLINISTS ARGUE THAT God perfectly accomplishes His will in the lives of genuinely free creatures through the use of His omniscience. The model they propose presents God’s infinite knowledge as a series of three logical moments: God’s natural knowledge, middle knowledge, and free knowledge. 16

Natural knowledge means that God knows everything that could possibly happen. Middle knowledge means that God knows which possibilities are feasible for his plan. And finally God chooses the particular world that exists from the feasible possibilities. I appreciate the attempt to remove God from ordaining sin and the clear statement of human freedom to choose but I still struggle a bit with God’s meticulous sovereignty and that it still necessitates sin. Ken is right that there needs to be some mystery left here as to how God can fully enter into relationship with human beings and yet still be entirely sovereign and free.

Employing this three-moment model, Molinism fully affirms both God’s foreordination and His foreknowledge, and fully affirms both divine sovereignty and human freedom. Molinists understand everything to occur either by God’s will or by His permission. God directly wills and accomplishes all that is good by His grace but permissively allows the evil that occurs. 40

Chapter 2 deals with the question of God’s will: Does God desire the salvation of all, and, does God have one or two wills? If God has only one will then one must see God, on one hand, does not desire the salvation of the condemned or that, eventually, all will be saved. The two main proposals in the 2-will view would be that God has a “revealed and hidden will” or that God has an “antecedent and consequent will.” I think it is very difficult to reconcile scripture with the “one-will” view. Reformed theologians who take the two-will view tend to see a “hidden and revealed” will of God. The problem with this view is the one I have when I read Calvin: his theology does not match the exegesis in his commentaries (especially Genesis). As Keathley says “one might be forgiven for wondering if Calvin the theologian ever met Calvin the exegete.” 53  This view also makes Calvinists vulnerable to the objection that the God who tells us to love our enemies does not love his enemies.

If God loves only the elect, desires salvation only for His chosen, and has provided atonement only for the objects of His love, then a third corollary is inevitable: there is no genuine universal offer of the gospel.  50

The Molinist view of the two wills…

God antecedently wills all to be saved. But for those who refuse to repent and believe, He consequently wills that they should be condemned. In this way God is understood to be like a just judge who desires all to live but who reluctantly orders the execution of a murderer. The antecedent and consequent desires are different, but they are not in conflict. 58

I think this is a better option, but I am a little concerned that we see all of this as the expression of the will of the one God who is committed to relationship with his people who has made in his image, which means with real creative choices. We all have holes in our theology and discrepancies between our theology and our exegesis, so I am enjoying the thinking process the book is taking me through.

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