The negative characterizations that Arminians and Molinists make about the “Calvinist/Reformed God” are virtually indistinguishable from the nature of their version of God. They just don’t realize it. The Arminian version of God either couldn’t or wouldn’t intervene to persuade people to believe. If they think God couldn’t intervene by sending missionaries, apologists, nicer Christians, etc. to those who might have been persuadable, then that’s a bold statement. If they say He wouldn’t intervene, how is that different than the alleged liabilities of Reformed theology? If they say it wouldn’t have mattered because nothing would have persuaded them, then welcome to Reformed Theology!
The purpose of this post isn’t to debate Arminian vs. Reformed vs. Middle Knowledge (or whatever hybrid / other version of orthodox Christianity you adhere to). It is merely to point out that some of the rancor against Reformed theology* in the debate seems misplaced.
The Bible uses the word predestined many times (e.g., Ephesians 1:5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will), so the only question is what the word really means, in context. But regardless of your definition, unless you subscribe to the false theology of Open Theism then it seems that you would agree that these two events happened in this order:
- God knew who would repent and trust in Jesus and thus spend eternity in Heaven, and who would not and therefore spend eternity in Hell.
- God created everyone.
My point is simply that the other views aren’t as far from Reformed theology as their adherents like to think they are (“That old meanie Calvinist God who knew which people would go to Hell but created them anyway is nothing like our loving Arminian/Middle Knowledge God who knew which people would go to Hell and created them anyway!!!”).
For example, on the Molinism/Middle Knowledge view, God considered the infinite number of possibilities of “free will” choices and created the version of the universe that maximized the number of people who would be saved. But that means one of the following must be true, neither of which is far from Reformed theology.
1. God created someone who wouldn’t convert in any one of an infinite number of universes — even if they read nothing but the Wintery Knight blog, watched nothing but William Lane Craig debates and experienced nothing but Bible-based, loving Christians. That seems indistinguishable from Reformed theology on that point. They would have been created such that it would be impossible for them to believe under any circumstances.
2. God created people who would have believed in some other universes, but not this one. God just didn’t give them the right circumstances. That should strike the same chord of alleged unfairness that people hold against Reformed theology. They would have believed if only God would have done things differently!
And under the Arminian view, using all their preferred definitions of key terms, God knew which people would not use their “free will” to choose him but created them anyway. As noted here, they describe election along the lines of this: “When the Bible talks about election, all it means is that in eternity past, God looked down the corridor of time and saw who would believe and who would not. He then elected those He foresaw would believe.”
Which means one of the following:
1. No matter what God did, they wouldn’t choose him. God created them knowing that no matter how events were ordered, they would not use their “free will” to believe, sort of like the previous possibility #1. This seems barely distinguishable from the Reformed view.
2. They would have chosen God had He made their circumstances different. God could have ordered events differently so that they would have been more compelled to choose. But He chose not to . . .
Again, I’m not after the merits of the views in this post. I know which one is correct ;-). I’m just pointing out that they aren’t as far apart as people make them out to be on the emotional issues. Even if you are correct on this in-house debate and Reformed theology is in error, the emotional reactions to Reformed theology on this point are not warranted. In Reformed, Arminian and Molinist theologies God knew what people would do, including that many would spend eternity in Hell, then He created them anyway.
P.S. I had to shut down comments on the last post with a similar topic because otherwise-well behaved people were getting petty. Don’t make me do that again!
* Sometimes referred to as Calvinism. I realize that some don’t care for the term “Reformed,” but I need to choose some descriptor.