Salvation & Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach

Salvation & Sovereignty

Salvation & Sovereignty

Of all the possible worlds God could have created, there is one in which you read Ken Keathley’s Salvation & Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach, become convinced that Molinism best explains the biblical teaching on salvation, and make a comment on this blog to that effect. But this raises the question, “Is that possible world the one which God sovereignly willed?” Well, perhaps the only way to know for sure is to purchase the book, read it, and make a (freely chosen) assessment of Keathley’s argument.

Keathley says he wrote the book because (1) he was convinced of certain central tenets of Calvinism but not convinced of certain of its corollaries; (2) he was convinced of certain aspects of Arminianism but not convinced of some of its corollaries. He writes, “I see salvation as a sovereign work of grace but suspect that the usual Calvinist understanding of sovereignty (that God is the cause of all things) is not sustained by the biblical witness as a whole.” Keathley argues that Timothy George’s ROSES acronym (Radical depravity, Overcoming grace, Sovereign election, Eternal life, Singular redemption) is more helpful than the TULIP acronym for articulating the biblical witness to God’s salvation. Further, he argues that Molinism (a doctrine named after Reformation-era scholar Luis Molina) provides a helpful conceptual framework for reconciling biblical teaching on God’s sovereignty with biblical teaching on human freedom.

Keathley states that he intends for his book to be an argument “towards the truth, rather than about the truth.” In other words, his desire is not to win an argument with Calvinists, but to work toward an understanding of the biblical testimony: “We are brethren, not adversaries, working in a mutual effort. Until we cross the veil, none of us has arrived on the journey of faith. So I look forward to this cooperative effort, convinced that the end result will be that we are better and more faithful witnesses of our common salvation. Calvinism and Molinism are much more similar than they are dissimilar, so I endeavor to avoid what might be called the narcissism of trivial differences.”

DTS Old Testament scholar Gordon Johnston’s review of the book is interesting: “Finally, an approach to the doctrines of salvation that breaks the impasse between the extremes of Calvinism and Arminianism. . . I migrated from Calvinism to Molinism several years ago, but have been unable to point others to a suitable primer-until now.”

We invite you to come study with Dr. Keathley, who teaches courses at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. level at Southeastern, where he is Professor of Theology and Dean of Graduate Studies. Keathley is also the co-author with Mark Rooker of the forthcoming 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution.

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  1. Nathan   •  

    I’m not sure if I can get an unbiased answer here, :) but… For those of us who are less philosophically wired, is this the best place to start with Molinism?

    I’ve been told several times that Flint’s “Divine Providence” is the ‘creme de la creme’ but I imagine it is not a primer.

  2. David R. Brumbelow   •  

    Interesting review of Salvation & Sovereignty. I also read a good review of it in the Southern Baptist Texan (
    Just ordered the book today.
    David R. Brumbelow

  3. Bruce Ashford   •     Author

    Nathan, good question. The answer is “Yes, this is the place to start if you want to understand Molinism.” Most molinist pieces are written for the academy and not for the church. Most are written by professional philosophers. Not so with Salvation and Sovereignty. Keathley is a theologian writing for the church. His book is the best place to start.

  4. Aaron Cloer   •  

    Where does Molinism stand in the spectrum of this “Sovereignty vs. Free Will” paradigm in light of “compatibilism”? Are these perspectives similar?

  5. Ken Keathley   •  

    Aaron, very good question. Let us remember what compatibilism refers to: not to the compatibility of human freedom with divine sovereignty, but with causal determinism. One of the advantages of Molinism is that, like compatibilism, it affirms a meticulous view of God’s sovereignty and providence. However, unlike compatibilism, Molinism can also affirm that humans, in a non-deterministic manner, are the origin of their choices.

    The Westminster Confession states, “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” (3.1) I argue that Molinism can affirm all aspects of this statement in a way that compatibilism simply cannot.

    Thus one could say that Molinism is “radically compatibilistic.” It teaches that God’s perfectly accomplishes His sovereign will in and through genuinely free and responsible creatures–which seems to be the testimony of Scripture.

  6. Jeff King   •  

    I have read Flint’s Divine Providence, it takes some reading, then re-reading, some concepts are definitely PHd level and are not for the easily frustrated. Some materials requires some extensive background in the subject matter. I was a staunch Arminian until I read Dr. William Lane Craig’s article in the Apologetics Bible and have been readiing his works ever since. He has some excellent works at mutiple levels. I have not found a better concept that both “unifies” and “builds the bridge” between both the Arminian and Calvinist camps. It just makes sense!

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  8. Shane   •  

    Dr. Keathley will be teaching a one week class on molinism this summer.

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