Molinism, Calvinism, and I Corinthians

, posted by Martin Glynn

I just finished Dr. Olson’s book Against Calvinism (It is really difficult to find time to read when you have a one year old). In appendix 1, Dr. Olson goes over several attempts by Calvinists to protect God’s character despite their theology. One particular argument caught my eye: the use of middle knowledge.
Roger Olson explains:

Molinism… is the belief that God possesses “middle knowledge” — knowledge of what any creature would do freely in any possible set of circumstances. The creature may possess libertarian freedom — freedom not compatible with determinism and able to do other than it does — but God knows what he or she wold do with that ability in an conceivable situation. [Roger Olson, Against Calvinism, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2011), 184]

Molinism wasn’t originally conceived to support Calvinism, but Semi-Augustinianism (which is similar to Arminianism). However, some Calvinists have attempted to use it nonetheless. Again Olson explains:

In order to assure that the sin God wants to happen does happen without him being its direct cause or responsible for it (in a guilty sense), God simply places the creature in a situation where he knows the creature will develop a controlling motive of his own accord and act sinfully out of it. [Ibid]

None of this is new to me. Olson does a very good job of explaining why this concept doesn’t work (essentially no matter how much space you put between the cause and the effect, if the cause makes the effect definite, it is culpable). Still, as I was reading this I remembered this verse:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. -1 Corinthians 10:13

This is exactly the opposite of what a Molinist Calvinist claims. According to Scripture, God will never tempt you beyond what you are capable of resisting. According to the Molinist Calvinist, God determines the limits of what you are capable of resisting, and then intentionally tempts you in that exact way, when that sin would be for His glory of course.

I wonder how regular Calvinism would deal with this verse as well. The very fact God always provides a way of escape strongly implies, if not describes, the concept of contrary choice (i.e. libertarian free will): the capacity to have done other than what you actually do. If God forces you to sin (and yes Calvinists, I said “force”. Just own it), then how does He also give you a way out? I don’t think it makes sense.

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