By Jeff Robinson
RIDGECREST - Does God unconditionally choose every person who will ever be saved or does He look deep into the future and choose those whom He foresees will trust in Him? At a national Building Bridges conference, Greg Welty, associate professor of philosophy at Southwestern Seminary, unpacked the Calvinist view of unconditional election - the belief that God has chosen before the creation of the world every individual who will ever be saved apart from foreseen faith or good works. Ken Keathley, professor of theology at Southeastern Seminary, proposed a solution to the Calvinistic (unconditional election) and Arminian (God chooses those whom He foreknows will trust in Him) disagreement on election through a theological system known as "Molinism." Welty argued in favor of unconditional election, pointing to a number of biblical texts, including Ephesians 1:3-11. This passage, he said, demonstrates that election is God's choosing of individual persons; election is eternal, having taken place before the foundation of the world; and election is grounded in the will of God and not the will of man. "God's will is to love us and show us mercy," Welty said. "This text tells us that He predestined us in love. It is not a cold and analytical doctrine. The will of man is not mentioned here as the basis of God's choice. It is clear to (the Apostle) Paul that election is grounded in the will of God." Elsewhere, in Romans 9, Paul clearly asserts God's choosing of a people irrespective of foreseen faith or works, Welty said. In the latter portion of the chapter, Welty pointed out that Paul even anticipated human objections and answered them. While humans charge God with injustice for choosing some and not others for salvation, Paul does not flinch in asserting the justice of a sovereign God in carrying out His holy will. Welty also dealt with a number of objections to unconditional election such as the Arminian assertion that election is based on God's foreknow-ledge of all who will believe in Him. Interpreting texts such as Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:1-2 to uphold this view is neither necessary nor plausible, he said. "Foreknowledge" in these two texts does not mean that God merely foresees the actions of individuals, but shows that He has foreknown them relationally, Welty said. Neither text speaks of foreseen faith, he added. "God foreloves individuals and marks them out," Welty said. "That is what foreknowledge in these texts means. ... God is a God who chooses throughout the Bible. Most Christians will not deny that. God chose Israel in the Old Testament, for example. Paul's doctrine of election reflects on how God has chosen in the past." Because of the logical problems inherent in both Calvinism and Arminianism, Keathley said he views Molinism as "a more biblical and logically coherent" alternative.
Molinism is named after 16th-century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina and attempts to reconcile the sovereignty of God with human free will by looking at God's work of redemption through His foreknowledge. Foundational to Molinism is the belief that God knows everything, including all the possible actions of human beings given every possible circumstance. Contemporary adherents to Molinism include apologist William Lane Craig and philosopher Alvin Plantinga.