Thursday, June 08, 2017

Open Theism, Fatalism or Molinism: An Analogy

So I got home from my local bible study last night and my head is buzzing. Here's the deal: At the beginning of the notes prepared by the “facilitator” it states that the only authority we are going to follow is God’s word. All notes contained in the outline are from Calvin, Henry, Piper, MacArthur and other reformed theologians/pastors. During the study there is open discussion but all comments are to be supported by God’s word. Everyone is welcome because there is no specific doctrinal mandate to follow a certain belief.

We are studying John 6 and this week the focus was on versus 35-40. In the notes that were handed out the introductory summary stated that “salvation is solely of the Lord for only those chosen by Him.” (Help me Lord, I’ve fallen in with Calvinists, and I can’t get out!)

Anyhow, here’s where I’m going. During the discussion the doctrines of election and predestination, God’s sovereignty vs man’s free will took center stage. I wanted to try to explain the differences between Calvinism, Arminianism and Molinism in a one-minute nutshell that can be easily grasped by the average lay person (can I get this on the One-Minute Apologist?), but couldn’t come up with anything at the moment. So after I got home and was able to do some reflection, I came up with the following analogy:

In God’s creation, William and Richard are each going to hold up a finger to indicate their choice about God.

Open Theism (Arminianism): God has no idea what each will choose. William freely chooses to give God the thumbs up and Richard freely chooses to give God “the finger”. God doesn’t know what will happen next.

Fatalism (Calvinism): God has determined before the foundation of the world that William, predestined and elect by God’s unconditional grace, will give God the thumbs up. After being regenerated by the Holy Spirit and receiving saving faith from God, William gives God the thumbs up. Richard, without election or grace, in his depraved state gives God “the finger”. God has also determined and knows what will happen next.

Molinism: Both William and Richard have free will to make a choice about God and can give either a thumbs up or “the finger”. God foreknows there are possible worlds in which both give the thumbs up, there are possible worlds in which only one gives a thumbs up and there are possible worlds where both give “the finger”. God desires that both would give the thumbs up. God foreknows there are some worlds in which William freely gives the thumbs up and other worlds in which he freely gives “the finger”. God foreknows there is no feasible world in which Richard ever freely gives a thumbs up. God creates the actual world. William freely gives God the thumbs up. Richard freely gives God “the finger”. God foreknows what will happen next.

So what do you think of the analogy? Is it a good representation of the doctrinal views?

Read the book, don’t wait for the movie.

Have a little hope on me, Roger


godrulz said...

Open Theism and Arminianism are both free will relational theisms, but they are not identical. Arminians affirms exhaustive definite foreknowledge based on eternal now and simple foreknowledge. Open Theists deny EDF (and eternal now). These views would not say God has no idea or is clueless about all aspects of the future. Open Theists would say that God certainly does not know in eternity past, while Arminians would say He sees the whole future all at once yet supposedly allowing free will. Open Theism has two motifs with God knowing some vs all of the future (some is settled, while other aspects are unsettled).

Calvinists would object to fatalism and would suggest compatibilism (which just moves the determinism back from incipiency of the will to desire).

Molinism does talk about counterfactuals of freedom, but has nothing to ground the foreknowledge. It ends up being deterministic, convoluted, philosophical sophistry. Thinking God knows what free agents would do in any given possible world makes no sense. It considers will/will not obtain counterfactuals, but forgets about might/might not obtain ones.

The views are more nuanced, technical, varied than a few sentence analogy will do justice to. I would say Molinism, Calvinism, Arminianism are more problematic, less coherent than Open Theism.

Roger Adlon said...

Hideho godrulz!

Thank you for taking time to comment.

I completely agree that the theological positions are much more nuanced across a broader spectrum than my very simplistic analogy indicates. I will probably delete the Arminian and Calvinism references from future publications. And I did intentionally laden the Fatalist position with theological verbiage due to my intended audience at the Bible study I attend. Perhaps I may tone that back a bit as well.

My main goal for the analogy is to introduce others who may not have the academic depth or open mindedness to other philosophical/theological positions with a touch of humor. (i.e. Calvinists and Arminians who can't talk to one another or practice Christian unity with gentleness and respect)

Have a little hope on me,

Anonymous said...

//So what do you think of the analogy? Is it a good representation of the doctrinal views?//
No and no.
You can't hide behind 'simplifying' an opponent's view when you are blatantly misrepresenting them.

(0) You are trying to set up an argument to moderation which is a miserable epistemic method. Further, you are misrepresenting the viewpoints of the 'extremes' in order to do so.
(1) You are confusing Arminians with open theists. They are separate view points that don't agree with each other. Not cool.
(2) Labeling Calvinists as fatalists does not do justice to compatabalism.
(3) Open theists are the only ppl who always outright, in principle, reject molinism. That is why your conflation of open theism with Armenianism especially pernicious.

//I wanted to try to explain the differences between Calvinism, Arminianism and Molinism in a one-minute nutshell that can be easily grasped by the average lay person//
It can't be done. Someone who already understands the differences (less than think they do) doesn't need it. Those who do need it, won't understand what all the fuss is about in one-min.

//All notes contained in the outline are from Calvin, Henry, Piper, MacArthur and other reformed theologians/pastors.//
In other words the facilitator has no intention of giving other viewpoints any hearing at all let alone a fair one. If the facilitator is interested in teaching a Calvinist viewpoint and you are interested in a discussion about the merits of the various viewpoints then I suspect you don't want the same thing and will be frustrated at each other trying to 'derail' the conversation. How worthwhile do you think your best one-min overview of other viewpoints is going to be in that scenario? The conversation is perhaps better had at the level of purpose of the bible study and the role of the facilitator vs teacher and what ppl in the group want and were told the group was about.