Molinism and Its Relation To Soteriology





Many people think that Molinism is a soteriological view similar to, but different from Arminianism. Others think Molinism is a soteriological view similar to, but different from Calvinism. As a Molinist myself, I’ve been called an Arminian by Calvinists, and I’ve been called a Calvinist by Arminians. This is because Molinism, as it relates to soteriology, is so misunderstood. Even many Molinists themselves don’t seem to understand Molinism's relation to soteriology. This is evident when some Molinists say things like “How can a Molinist be an Arminian?” or “How can you say you’re a Calvinist but also a Molinist?” Even I  was confused about this when I first adopted the Molinist position. When I became convinced of the Molinist view, I asked the admins of the Society Of Evangelical Arminians whether or not I had to leave, since only Arminians were allowed in the group. They said I could stay since my soteriological beliefs still conformed to the Statement Of Faith.

What Is Molinism?

Molinism is at the bare minimum; a view on free will and divine providence. Molinism teaches that human beings have libertarian free will and that God directs the world through His knowledge of what any free creature WOULD do in any given circumstance. This knowledge of what free creatures would do in any given circumstance is called “Middle Knowledge”. By means of God’s Middle Knowledge, God can meticulously control history without having to causally determine our actions. For example, God knows “If Bob were in circumstance S, He would freely choose action A over action B”. If God wants Bob to choose action A but also wants Bob to be free in his decision, God can get Bob to choose A by creating a possible world in which Bob finds himself in circumstance S. As a result of being placed in circumstance S, Bob chooses A over B. God’s will is achieved and Bob’s freedom is preserved.

We Molinists believe that this is how God achieves all of the things He wants accomplished which involve human decisions. In fact, I think middle knowledge is the only way we can explain the crucifixion of Jesus without having to resort to divine determinism. God knew that if Caiaphas was high priest in the first century, then he would freely condemn Jesus on grounds of blasphemy and take Him to Pilate for execution. He knew that if Pilate was prefect in the first century, then he would freely comply with the demands of the crowd. And He knew that if Judas was born in the time and place that he actually was, then he would become Jesus' disciple for a while and would freely choose to betray Jesus to the Sanhedrin. God knew how all of these people would behave if He placed them in the time and places He did. And if these actors would have behaved in such a way so that the crucifixion would not have resulted, God could have placed different people in those circumstances so as to ensure the crucifixion of Jesus was brought about. For example, if Pilate would have freed Jesus instead of Barabbas, God could simply place a different individual in Pilate’s shoes, an individual who would not free Jesus over Barabbas.

Molinism’s Relation To Soteriology

What I described above was a very brief overview of what Molinism is. Now, when it comes to soteriological beliefs, one can be an Arminian or a Calvinist and yet also believe in Molinism. This is because Molinism is not a soteriological belief per se. Molinism is, at minimum, a view on human free will and divine sovereignty. At minimum, it states that that humans have libertarian free will and that God meticulously controls history by means of His middle knowledge (His knowledge of what any creature *would* freely do under any given circumstance). If you believe that God works through human freedom by mean of His middle knowledge, then you are a Molinist.

Soteriologically, there's a spectrum on which Molinists can fall. There are those on the Arminian side of the spectrum, and then there are those on the Calvinist side of the spectrum. On the Arminian side of the spectrum you have people like myself, William Lane Craig of Reasonable Faith, and Jonathan Thompson of Free Thinking Ministries. On the Calvinist side of the spectrum, you have people like Richard Bushey of ThereforeGodExists.com.

Richard and I would agree on the basics of Molinism (described above), but soteriologically, we disagree on who God wants saved, who Jesus died for, whether God’s grace is resistible or irresistible, and whether salvation loss is possible. I side with the Arminians on these topics, while Richard and other reformed Molinists side with the Calvinists.

Molinism is basically just a view of divine providence and human freedom. Any soteriological belief you want to insert into your Molinist view is up to you.

That said, you cannot believe some things a regular Arminian or Calvinist holds to. To be a Molinist, you do have to forfeit some beliefs that those camps hold. You can be a Molinist, for example, and believe in limited atonement, however, you cannot be a Molinist and believe in compatibilism or hard determinism. Similarly, one cannot hold to the Arminian view that God has simple foreknowledge. By simple foreknowledge, I mean the view that God only knows what will in fact happen. This is incompatible with Molinism as an essential part of Molinism is that God not only knows only knows what will occur in the future, but He also knows how the future would occur if He creates different people in those circumstances.

Now, while Molinism isn't a soteriological view, it can inform soteriology. I've been able to embrace predestination of individuals while still affirming the traditional Arminian beliefs of God's universal salvific will, unlimited atonement, and resistible grace because Molinism helps to reconcile the two sets of beliefs in the same way it reconciles free will and meticulous providence. I've also reconciled the Arminian view of apostasy and the Calvinist view of eternal security by applying Molinism. It is not the purpose of this article to go into how and why I think Molinism reconciles individual predestination and eternal security with Arminianism, so if you want elaboration, check out my articles “Hey, Evan, Are You An Arminian Or Not?” and “5 Reasons To Believe That Molinism Is True”

In fact, one of my main reasons for being a Molinist, as I explain in the two articles I just linked to, is that it harmonizes all of the biblical data on soteriology. If you hold you to regular Arminianism or regular Calvinism, you’ll find yourself faced with passages that are tough to explain.

Molinism Can Even Inform Other Areas Of Theology

Molinism can even extend beyond the areas of divine providence and soteriology. They can even influence one’s views of other areas of theology. For example, William Lane Craig applies the middle knowledge view of divine providence to His view of biblical inspiration, (see his article “'Men Moved By The Holy Spirit Spoke From God' (2 Peter 1.21): A Middle Knowledge Perspective on Biblical Inspiration“) and recently it occurred to me that if theistic evolution were true, God could have used His middle knowledge to guide evolutionary history without determining it similar to how he orchestrates human events without determining them (e.g "If this animal were in this circumstance, this genetic mutation would occur"). This would alleviate my objection to the Francis Collins type of Theistic Evolution in which life appears to be an unguided accident.

Now don't misunderstand me here, I still don't think evolution is true, but if I did, this is most likely the view I would hold. It allows God to still be involved in the process of life's creation while still being faithful to Darwinian theory, and as a result, it removes my objection that the Francis Collins type of Theistic Evolution entails a "Spectator God instead of a Creator God." (my own words).

Conclusion

In conclusion, there’s a spectrum of Molinists. There are Molinists who are Arminians and there are Molinists who are Calvinists. That's why you sometimes will come across writings on this site where I self identify as an Arminian while in other places I say that I am a Molinist. The truth is; I am both.

  
*Molinism and Divine Foreordination
*What Biblical Evidence Is There For Prevenient Grace?
*Is Molinism Biblical?
*5 Reasons To Believe Molinism Is True
*Hey, Evan, Are You An Arminian Or Not?