Molinism is a Bed of ROSES

As a follow up from my last post, I want to highlight an important book defending the theology of Molinism, Salvation and Sovereignty by Kenneth Keathley. Whether you are a Calvinist, Molinist, Arminian, or whatever, I think this book is important for the following reason.I was first introduced to Molinism as a ‘solution’ to the problem of divine sovereignty and human freedom while a graduate student in philosophy. It seemed (to me at least) that all of the philosophers I respected were inclined toward Molinism, but all the theologians I respected were inclined toward Calvinism. I wondered, “Where are the Molinist theologians (or, alternatively, the Calvinist philosophers)?” I was (and still am) attracted to the Molinist view since it seems to be a handy and satisfying account of divine providence that also does justice to genuine human freedom. Still, I wondered whether the Molinist position could be squared with the clear teachings of Scripture related to the salvation of the lost? Fast-forward about 10 years. I met Dr. Keathley at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where we both teach, and was overjoyed to learn that he had written just the book I had been looking for: a theological account of Molinism.

I eagerly read the book, and found myself saying, “Yes, yes…that is what I believe” quite often. The book is a well-written, clearly articulated explanation of the Molinist approach to the doctrine of salvation.

So, what exactly is the Molinist approach to salvation? Recall that Calvinism is often summarized with the TULIP acronym:

T            Total depravity

U            Unconditional election

L            Limited atonement

I            Irresistible grace

P            Perseverance of the saints

The Molinist argues that the TULIP formulation needs some retooling. So, instead of TULIP, the Molinist offers ROSES:[1]

R      Radical Depravity (instead of total depravity): emphasizes that every aspect of our being is affected by the fall and rendered incapable of saving ourselves (instead of the impression that fallen humanity is as bad as it possibly can be).

O      Overcoming Grace (instead of irresistible grace): The new term highlights that it is God’s persistent beckoning that overcomes our wicked obstinacy (instead of the old term which seems to imply that God saves a person against his will).

S       Sovereign election (instead of unconditional election): old term is presented in such a way as to give the impression that those who die without receiving Christ did so because God never desired their salvation in the first place. The new term affirms that God desires the salvation of all, yet accentuates that our salvation is not based on us choosing God but on God choosing us.

E      Eternal life (instead of perseverance of saints): old term leads to the notion that a believer’s assurance is based on his ability to persevere rather than on the fact that he is declared righteous in Christ. The new term stresses that believers enjoy a transformed life that is preserved and we are given a faith that will remain.

S      Singular Redemption (instead of limited atonement): old term teaches that Christ died only for the elect and gives the impression that there is something lacking in the atonement. The new term emphasizes that Christ died sufficiently for every person, although efficiently only for those who believe.

If this sounds interesting to you, I’d encourage you to read Ken Keathley’s book. In the age-old debate over divine sovereignty and human freedom, perhaps it is time for us to smell the ROSES!


[1] Actually, the Calvinist often retools the TULIP formulation as well. In fact, the acronym ROSES was suggested to Ken by Timothy George, a Calvinist.

19 Responses to Molinism is a Bed of ROSES

  1. Pingback: Reformation Day celebrates the supremacy of Scripture and reason in theology « Wintery Knight

  2. Pingback: Does God play dice with the universe? Or: What Theological Determinists and Open Theists have in common | Paul Gould

  3. Pingback: Top Five Blogs from 2012 | Paul Gould

  4. Pingback: Reformation Day celebrates the supremacy of Scripture and reason in theology | Wintery Knight

  5. Pingback: Molinism is a Bed of ROSES by Paul Gould | Molinists Apologetics

  6. Pingback: Reformation Day celebrates the supremacy of Scripture and reason in theology | Wintery Knight

  7. Pingback: HillBilly Theology: RAMPS | Common Sense & HillBilly Logic

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *