Free Will in Arminianism, Molinism, and Provisionism

In a previous post, I gave a critique on the Calvinist and Lutheran views of determinism and also discussed the Calvinist and Lutheran views of free will. Of course, these are not the only two views on determinism and free will within Protestant Christianity. There are at least three other major views held within Protestantism, and those are Arminianism, Molinism, and Provisionism. All of these attempt to reconcile the sovereignty of God and the free will of humankind. In this post, I will be presenting a critical analysis of free will in these three systems.

ARMINIANISM

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Arminianism is named after a man named Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian and professor at the University of Leiden. He is best known for the system he developed that offered an alternative to the growing system of Calvinism. His followers propagated his teachings after his death and presented in five articles in a document known as the Remonstrance in the early 17th century.

Regarding free will, Arminianism teaches that humans do indeed have free will to choose or reject God because humankind has been granted prevenient grace (which means grace which comes before). In this case, it comes before regeneration. Like the Calvinist system, Arminianism holds that no one can be saved by God unless God first gives the individual grace. The primary difference between the Calvinist view and the Arminian view is that in Calvinism, God’s grace irresistibly saves the individual upon whom it is endowed whereas in Arminianism, God’s grace restores to the individual the ability to choose or reject salvation.

Another very prominent view in Arminian theology is the belief that God predestines individuals unto salvation according to his foreknowledge; that is, God in his omniscience looks into the future and sees which individuals will accept salvation and which will reject it. Those whom he knew will accept it, he predestined. Another similarity between Arminianism and Calvinism, then, is that both take the stance that God predestines individuals. A major difference, however, is that in Calvinism, God predestines individuals unto salvation unconditionally; that is, God does not elect individuals according to whether those individuals chose salvation of their own volition. On the other hand, in Arminianism, the elect are chosen by God because God knew that they would choose him.

Now, there seems to be division among Arminians regarding whether divine prevenient grace is given to all or only to a few. If it is only given to some, then it is only those to whom it has been given that should be held responsible for either rejecting or accepting salvation. Without libertarian free will, an individual is not responsible for doing good or doing evil, since both would ultimately be the cause of another, whether directly or indirectly. Thus, if God did not give prevenient grace to all, then not all are responsible for wrongdoing, for there will be those who remain effectively rejected by God. In the case that all have been given prevenient grace, then all can be held responsible for good and wrong.

As for predestination, the Arminian view has a problem. If God predestines those whom he knew would choose him, then what did he predestine them unto? It could not have been unto salvation, since salvation was chosen by the individual, unless predestination is merely a confirmation of the individual’s choice. If it is unto the process of salvation or unto the promises which salvation brings and if it is that individuals simply choose to submit to this process, there is still an issue. If the individual chooses to submit to these things, it still seems to me that the individuals ultimately makes the decision to participate in these things so that the divine predestination of those individuals is a confirmation. But if the elect are predestined to persevere until the end, then suddenly human free will is overridden. Furthermore, one of the five article of the Remonstrance is that individuals can truly leave salvation after that individual has entered into it.

MOLINISM

Moving now to Molinism, this system was named after the Spanish theologian Luis de Molina. This attempts to reconcile divine predestination and human free will by espousing a concept of divine middle knowledge. Middle knowledge is God’s knowledge of what are called counterfactuals, that is, those things which could have been if circumstances had been different. Essentially, the Molinist position is that God knew, again in his omniscience, what would have happened in all possible sets of circumstances but that he chose to create a world, the circumstances of which would lead to the outcomes that we see in the actual world.

One problem that I see with this view is that it is essentially still divine determinism, since human individuals could not have done anything different. This view might be more akin to fatalism, however, than determinism. Fatalism is the philosophy that a particular outcome will occur necessarily, and this is what the Molinist view suggests. God set up things in such a way that human persons could not have chosen to do otherwise, since the circumstances which God instantiated made it so that they would make certain choices out of necessity. However, one might also argue that Molinism is more deterministic, since the events which occur and the choices made are caused by the circumstances, which are then caused ultimately by God. Either way, in the end, Molinism fails since it does not actually allow for true human free will.

PROVISIONISM

Finally, we come to Provisionism, which has been popularized by the Baptist theologian Dr. Leighton Flowers, whose podcast and YouTube channel Soteriology101 has become relatively popular. Now, the Provisionist position holds that God has made it possible for all to be saved and that this provision can be either accepted or rejected. Thus, Provisionism maintains the stance that humans possess true libertarian free will and, therefore, can be held responsible for any right or wrong done by individuals.

In contrast to Arminianism, Provisionism rejects individual election in favor of corporate election. Another way in which Provisionism and Arminianism contrast is that Provisionism rejects the belief that true believers can leave salvation. In my opinion, this creates a problem. If one can freely choose to enter into salvation but cannot choose to leave it, is it that a person loses his libertarian free will upon entering or accepting salvation?

CONCLUSION

In my analysis of these three systems, I have focused primarily on their logical consistency in attempting to hold to a belief in libertarian free will, which I believe is a very critical belief. Arminianism at least has the potential to allow for libertarian free will, although in my opinion the Arminian idea of prevenient grace is unnecessary. Molinism, as I have already said, fails to present a view of true libertarian free will. Provisionism espouses such a view of free will that it can be considered true libertarian free will, although the Provisionist view that one cannot truly leave the faith seems inconsistent with this.

26 thoughts on “Free Will in Arminianism, Molinism, and Provisionism

      1. They assert metaphysical contingency and might-counterfactuals. They don’t affirm causal determinism nor does their position entail it.

        You didn’t publish my last post on another thread, by the way.

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      2. They may assert those things, but as I have demonstrated, metaphysical contingency does not seem coherent with their theology. Furthermore, might-counterfactuals would seem to limit God’s omniscience. If God is all-knowing in the way Molinists suggest, would-counterfactuals are more consistent than might-counterfactuals. If God’s omniscience is limited to mere might-counterfactuals, he is merely speculating. Again, although they do not affirm causal determinism, it is nevertheless logically consistent with their system.

        Also, all of your comments should be automatically approved from now on, so there is no need for me to manually approve it.

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  1. Molinism begins with LFW. Therefore, you may claim they have no claim on foreknowledge but you may not claim they have no claim on LFW. Metaphysical contingency is their axiom. It’s not what they derive.

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      1. Libertarian free will is the only way for human beings to have true moral responsibility. If the ultimate cause is not the agent, then the agent is not ultimately responsible.

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      2. 1. Define ultimate cause. 2. Explain how you could know apart from revelation or personal omniscience that God has not determined the truth value of all CCFs. 3. Why isn’t moral accountability attributable to having the will to try to choose as we desire and approving of our choices? Why do we need the irrational ability to choose contrary to how we would?

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      3. 1. An ultimate cause is just as it sounds: that cause which is ultimate or final.
        2. We can know by the same way that He does not determine the truth value of all actual facts. Knowledge is not the same as determining, although you seem to confuse the two a lot. Furthermore, one may posit that CCFs are, in fact, arbitrary, which would imply that they do not really exist at all and, thus, do not exist apart from God or in God. This would do away with the dichotomy.
        3. Moral accountability is attributable to us. If we must always act according to our desires yet if our desires are imposed upon us, then really we are not responsible. Whoever or whatever imposed such desires upon is responsible. Thus, we would be free of all guilt and fault. However, if we are to be held guilty, it must be that we do truly have the free will to choose good or evil.

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      4. You defined ultimate cause by stating ultimate cause. I’ve not confused divine determination of CCFs with knowledge of the same. There’s a logical order without which God is eternally informed. Moreover, your last sentence is consistent with compatibilist freedom, so it doesn’t undermine it! Again, why isn’t the ability to try to choose and the self approval of our own choices insufficient for freedom? You require pure contingency, which contemplates no truth maker for the truth value. If you’re consistent you’d be an open theist.

        As for desires being “imposed upon us”, that’s not a philosophical term. You don’t grasp the debate.,

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      5. I defined ultimate cause how I did because the definition is intuitive enough. Nevertheless, if you desire a more profound definition, I will give it: an ultimate is the last cause in a regression of cause and effect. In our case, the ultimate cause is the one whose decision is the last determining factor. For example, let us say that I have a choice to either steal or not steal. Although there may be other influential factors, such as being financially poor, I am still the one who makes the decision. Now, this is not the case in compatibilistic free will, which would imply that I must obey my desires, which are not really my own desires, but are rather from an external being or force. Thus, in compatibilistic free will, I would not be the ultimate cause of the decision but whoever or whatever has imposed those desires upon me, since I must out of necessity obey those desires. Again, libertarian free will is the only type of free will which can truly allow for moral responsibility of the agent.

        You will need to explain to me how my last sentence is consistent with compatibilist freedom. This was my last sentence in that reply: “However, if we are to be held guilty, it must be that we do truly have the free will to choose good or evil.”

        The ability to try to choose is not the same as the ability to choose. We must be able to make our own choices and not merely approve of our own choices. All you are doing is using vain philosophical sophistry to hide the plain fact that if we do not have the ability to make the final say in our decision making and not out of necessity, then we are not morally responsible.

        I was unaware that I was required to only use philosophical jargon. I have spoken clearly. You desire to win through meaningless rhetoric. I would appreciate it if you could give a better response rather than one so empty as this: “that’s not a philosophical term. You don’t grasp the debate.”

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  2. “You will need to explain to me how my last sentence is consistent with compatibilist freedom. This was my last sentence in that reply: “However, if we are to be held guilty, it must be that we do truly have the free will to choose good or evil.””

    What compatibilist denies that?

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      1. You’re obviously in over your head. Perhaps you might run your musings by an incompatiblist. Good ones wouldn’t claim your positions.

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      2. It’s a little saddening to me to see that the best response you can come up with is a failed attempt at an insult. I was hoping we could have an intellectual discussion. If you cannot answer, it woud be better for you to simply say that you need more time to research and that you will come back with a response or simply not answer at all.

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  3. You’re not paying attention. You claim you want a discussion but you’ve avoided two devastating questions.

    1. “Again, why isn’t the ability to try to choose and the self approval of our own choices insufficient for freedom?”

    No Arminian has an answer for that.

    2. “What compatibilist denies that?”

    That question pertained to this assertion of yours: “if we are to be held guilty, it must be that we do truly have the free will to choose good or evil.”

    Given that compatibilists affirm that proposition, compatibilism cannot be refuted by incompatibilist’s making that claim!

    You have yet to interact with anything I’ve said, which only indicates you’re ill prepared or unwilling,

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    1. I have responded to both of those questions already. Nevertheless, I will respond again:

      1. Moral accountability is attributable to the agent. This seems to be something you do not understand. The phrase “the ability to try to choose” is an extremely odd statement, since you added the qualification “to try.” The agent must have the actual ability to choose, not the ability “to try to choose.” Furthermore, “the self approval of our own choices” is somewhat cryptic. By this, do you mean that we have the ability to make our own choices out of our own volition not out of necessity? Or are you spouting another empty statement in saying that we make our own choices but that we out of necessity must make our choices based on desires which are determined by another? This is just kicking the can.

      As for you statement, “No Arminian has an answer for that,” I am not an Arminian. So I ask, so what no Arminian has an answer for that?

      2. I already answer this quite sufficiently. Making a claim does not make it so. You seem to be under the illusion that when someone makes a mere claim, it must be consistent with that person’s system. Explain to me, how is that claim consistent with compatibilism? You seem to think that unsubstantiated words make things a reality. Will you next tell me that existence comes from nonexistence? The issue concerns whether the claim is more consistent with compatibilism or libertarianism. Because in libertarianism, the agent has the complete freedom to make the decision out of volition rather than necessity, then libertarianism is certainly consistent. Depending on what sort of compatibilism you are discussing here, how compatibilism should be addressed will vary. However, generally speaking, compatibilism is insufficient because the true cause of a good or wrong action may always be ultimately attributed to an external influence.

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      1. This time it’s final. I’ll leave you to your ignorance given your arrogance. Perhaps you might read some scholarly works from incompatibilists who would never try to argue as you do either for their position or against mine.

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      2. P.S. The phrase “the ability to try to choose” is an extremely odd statement, since you added the qualification “to try.”

        That’s just another indication of your lack of understanding of the contemporary debate, which is decades old.

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      3. Again, you only attempt to insult me by prating on about technical terms and how much knowledge you deem yourself to have instead of actually discussing the substance of the argument. But perhaps you think Jesus is smiling down on you, so pleased that you know so much jargon and speak with so much rhetoric! I, however, am not at all impressed by your philosophical sophistry or your vain ramblings.

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      4. Again, you have completely failed to address any of my arguments. You seem to be unable to hold yourself up in a debate. You can do little but try to insult your opponent.

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