Dr. Eric Hankins, 2013 John 3:16 Presentation, Part 3/3

May 30, 2013

Below is a portion of a March 21-22, 2013 John 3:16 Conference presentation.

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What is missing from the Bible’s articulation of the significance of election? First, as I said earlier, the Bible does not spell out precisely the nature of the operations of God’s sovereignty in salvation and human freedom in responding to or rejecting the gospel. It affirms these realities, but it does not explain them. This includes any deterministic interpretations of election. The Bible does not demand theistic determinism. Moreover, I think the Bible specifically rules out the idea that God determines the salvific destinies of certain persons without respect to their libertarian freedom. It rules out the idea that God chooses the elect and walls off the non-elect. With Lewis, I believe the trajectory of the Scripture runs in the opposite direction: the chosen are chosen for the sake of the unchosen, and this mission will be accomplished through what Christ has done, which is echoed all through the purposes of election in the Old and New Testaments.

When I think about the purpose of election language in the Bible, I am tempted to say that our question of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human freedom actually belongs in another category that should be called something other election because the question is fairly removed from the points that Scripture is making. Biblical election is as much about eschatology, theodicy, ecclesiology, and missions as it is about divine and providence and soteriology, and these issues are rarely touched in most systematic treatments of election.[1] Moreover, election really is as much an aspect of God’s general providence in creating, sustaining, and directing the world to its designed conclusion, including His creation, sustenance, and direction of me as it is an aspect of soteriology per se. I think most Southern Baptists would be comfortable saying that God knows everything about me as an individual and has a specific plan for me, including the moment I came to Christ. Therefore, I think that the nature of God’s plan for my salvation simply belongs in the same category as the nature of God’s providence in all the other aspects of my life, especially the crucial ones, for instance, my marriage and my calling to ministry. God had a very specific plan for me for marriage and ministry. These things were not accidental. They unfolded exactly as He planned. If He had not provided for and initiated every aspect of these events by grace, I would be neither married to my true love nor fulfilling my true calling. But, He didn’t force me to surrender to ministry or ask Janet to marry me. My freedom played a role. If I had rejected God’s calling it would neither have surprised Him nor thwarted His plans. I think most of us agree that this is how things work in the world God wanted. Given biblical election’s true breadth beyond soteriology and the paucity of its treatment of foreknowledge and freedom, I wonder if the biblical writers would even recognize what we’ve made of the doctrine.

Alas, however, over the last 1500 years, the subject of what the biblical concept of election has to tell us precisely about how God’s sovereignty operates in the salvation certain free individuals has been a matter of intense interest and debate. There is no getting away from it. Moreover, I believe that the answer that Calvinism has tried to give to this question is so flawed by determinism that much damage has been done. A correct answer must be given so that people don’t continue to lose their way. So, while I don’t think the Bible’s emphases concerning election comport very well with the question of the specific nature of an individual’s conversion, I do think the question has been important to Western theology and culture and, therefore, must be answered.

Therefore, we are back to the specific question of God’s particular knowledge of and provision for a free individual’s salvation. God knows all things innately, including every aspect of the future. The Bible tells us that the future is this: God will be reigning with the maximum possible number of people who could be His as a result of both His true sovereignty and their real freedom. This will be an expression of the combination of His desire to save all and the necessity of real freedom for such a saving relationship. All those who do not freely respond in faith to the gospel will be condemned to an eternity apart from God in hell. God will have what He wants, so His power is unstoppable in bringing about an end that is characterized by a maximum salvation that includes free decisions. This plan includes those who hear the gospel and freely respond in faith. It also includes those who hear and freely reject the gospel in unfaith. And it includes those, who, through the willful sinfulness of the church, never hear the gospel, and therefore miss God’s provision for their own willful sinfulness.

That being the future that God guarantees, my thesis is this for a doctrine of election that is most faithful to the core concepts of salvation and election in the Bible and most meaningful in bringing those concepts to bear on the questions of God’s sovereignty and human freedom: In keeping with God’s desire for a saving relationship with every sinner through His initiating in-working and the sinner’s free response of faith, election refers to God’s unstoppable decision to have a maximum number of people who are His by grace through faith even and especially in the face of the radically sinful misuse of human freedom. It is not the expression of God’s desire to save some and not others without respect to their response of faith in Christ. Calvinism’s view is both a negation of the biblical declaration that God desires to save all and a negation of real freedom. Such a negation of freedom makes God the cause of evil, and it makes humans into automatons. This is not a misrepresentation of the Calvinist view of election. Rather, these are the clear and necessary implications of their system.

Election speaks of God’s right and intention to act sovereignly in His world in order to bring a people to Himself without destroying freedom. Since it is God’s glorious nature to bring about the best possible world should He freely desire to create, and since the best possible world is one that includes the freedom necessary for real covenant relationships, then our world must contain real freedom. God’s electing plan includes (1) His absolute power to save myriads of sinners exactly as He intends, (2) His absolute knowledge of and choice of that outcome before creation, (3) the free response of sinners both for and against a relationship with Him, and (4) the free response of the redeemed in participating with Him in calling any sinner to salvation. Because God created a universe in which freedom is necessary for covenant relationships, not every person will benefit from His saving purposes, but everyone could have. Those who by faith benefit from God’s saving purposes are the elect. Who are the elect? The elect are all sinners who respond freely in faith to the drawing of the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the gospel in a world purposed by God for both the maximum salvation and the real freedom of humans as the critical components of His ultimate design for that world.

The view of election I am espousing here is a view called Molinism or middle knowledge.[2] I know that some non-Calvinists do not really know what that is. Others of you know what it is, but you do not ascribe to it. That’s fine. But the point I want to make to you and to Calvinists is that there are real, powerful, cogent, orthodox, time-tested, and biblical alternatives to Calvinism’s determinism that ought to be seriously considered by any thoughtful person who cares about the gospel. Molinism gives a robust account of both God’s sovereignty in salvation and real human freedom in a way that I believe comports with what most Southern Baptists already believe about these things. I want Calvinists to acknowledge that their system has very real and very substantial philosophical, theological, and biblical problems to which they either need to give better answers than they are giving now or concede as being insurmountable but somehow not debilitating to their system. Molinism helps point out these problems in quite reasonable, non-pejorative ways.

Traditionalists need to acknowledge that it is not enough to point out the problems of Calvinism without offering a well-constructed alternative.[3] We need to be able to account for the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and His predestination, and we need to be able to account for how freedom does not impinge on God’s glory or His sovereignty. I think Molinism gives the best account to date for these things. It is a serious contender, and it needs to be taken seriously. The articulation of this view by such stalwart thinkers as Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, Thomas Flint, Millard Erickson,[4] and Ken Keathley gives it a level credibility and substance that those of us less adroit at philosophical and theological speculation can feel good about. Molinism is not a merely middle way between Calvinism and Arminianism, it provides a distinct alternative to these systems, systems that I believe suffer from essentially the same philosophical and theological commitments.[5] Additionally, Kirk MacGregor makes a solid case that the Anabaptist Balthasar Hubmaier, who defended so ably the reality of true sovereignty and freedom in salvation, could be considered a proponent of Molinism fifty years before Molina.[6] This sort of historical link to one of our greatest spiritual forebears adds significant weight to the claim that Molinism is a live option for Traditional Baptists. One might say that we would only be demonstrating faithfulness to our founders in doing so.

I believe that Molinism comports with and gives the best account of the Bible’s strong view of God’s sovereignty and equally strong view of libertarian freedom. To be sure, Molinism has its challenges, most notably the grounding problem, and it suffers from a really ugly name (Molinism sounds like a type of eye infection) and from the fact that it is hard to understand at first. Calvinists think Molinism is too libertarian and Arminians think it is too deterministic. This, however, may be an indication that it is just about right.[7]

With my basic philosophical commitment in mind, let’s break down my answer to the question, “Who are the elect?” with a view to the concerns both Calvinists and Traditionalists want to raise about the doctrine of election. Let me restate my answer to the question of election: The elect are all sinners who respond freely in faith to the drawing of the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the gospel in a world purposed by God for both the maximum salvation and the real freedom of humans as the critical components of His ultimate design for that world.

First, what is God’s ultimate design for the world? That’s easy enough to define because the Bible gives it to us in the last chapters of Revelation. When it’s all said and done, God intends to have His creation complete in this way: multitudes and multitudes of human beings, the crown of God’s creation now complete through faith in Christ, are, for eternity, relating to God and reigning with Him in freedom over a new heaven and earth expunged forever of all sin and evil. That end has already been set forth by God, including the exact number and identity of that multitude. At this point, Open Theism is out. So, the remaining question is, “How has God gone about determining with certainty that end, including, as our special interest, the number and identity of the elect?” At this point, we have two options. God either brings about this end with libertarian freedom (which is the view of either Molinism or Simple Foreknowledge), or He does so without libertarian freedom (which is the view of theistic determinism).[8]

What is libertarian freedom? Simply put, it is the freedom of an individual to choose between two or more options in which the cause of the choice is, ultimately, the individual. This is what most people think is going on when they make a choice between A and B. They had a real option between A and B, they could have chosen either, but they choose A. That choice is theirs, and they are responsible for it. Some of you might be thinking: Is there really any other way to define freedom? Well, theistic determinists define freedom as an individual’s ability to do what he desires most. Sounds good so far, right? Where we depart from them is that they believe we are not free to determine what we want. God determines what we want, and we cannot do otherwise.[9] Here is how this works in salvation. Grudem says, “We can say that God causes us to choose Christ voluntarily.”[10] This, of course, is logically contradictory.[11] The implications of such a view is that it makes God the cause of evil and the cause of people going to hell, and it makes humans into robots. Choices caused by someone else are simply not choices, and they certainly are not free. Also, if God causes some people to choose Christ and does not cause others to choose Christ, then there is no legitimate way to speak of God loving everyone and having a desire to save everyone. There is no way to take John 3:16 seriously.[12]

So, if theistic determinism is not a live option for most Southern Baptists, what’s left? We can affirm either Simple Foreknowledge or Molinism. For me, either of these is a legitimate alternative. In fact, Craig sees Molinism as a further and more detailed development of Simple Foreknowledge.[13] Simple Foreknowledge has God looking into the future, seeing what free choice concerning Christ I will make, and then electing me on that basis. This, to me, is essentially the Arminian view. The problem with this view is that it doesn’t really answer the hard questions. How does God know with certainty my future free decisions unless the future is determined? If the future is determined, then how can I be thought of as being free? If God is just endorsing decisions that I will make, how can He be thought of as controlling history or bringing about His desired end? If God is just endorsing my decisions, how does that not render election essentially meaningless?

I think Molinism is the better option. It affirms that God knows innately all the possible scenarios (or worlds) in which both humans are free and His desire to save all is real, and He determines to bring into existence the world that has the maximum number of people coming to faith under those conditions. This world that he brings into existence has been created with the real free decisions of people. That is why God cannot bring into existence a world in which humans are free and His desire to save all is real that results in everyone being saved. To do so would have been to abrogate freedom, which, as Alvin Plantinga has brilliantly argued, would not be the best possible world.[14] However, because God is loving and good, it fits His nature to choose the world that has the greatest possible number of people belonging to Him by faith. There were certainly other possible worlds where less people chose Him but God in His great sovereignty and mercy does not bring that world into existence.

This leads us back to my definition of the elect. I speak of election functioning in “a world purposed by God for both the maximum salvation and real freedom of humans as the critical component of His ultimate design for that world.” Craig asserts that “God chose a world having an optimal balance between the number of the saved and the number of the damned.”[15] Developing this thought, Keathley states, “In other words, God has created a world with a maximal ratio of the number of saved to those lost.”[16] Molinism articulates the way in which such a world comes into existence. Our free acts have contributed to and affected the outcome. Everyone could have come into a saving relationship with God, but our choices rendered that world impossible for God to actualize while taking freedom seriously. Just like God cannot make a square circle, He cannot make a world of un-free covenant relationships. Therefore, freedom is a critical component of the world that God wanted to create, the future of which is clearly foretold in the end of the book of Revelation.

God brings about this world that will end with the maximum number of people worshipping God in Christ through the Spirit forever. If the elect are those that that come into covenant relationship with God by faith in the person and work of Christ, then election is God’s activity of bringing the world to His desired end, especially with respect to those being saved. The means of election are not only the drawing of the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the gospel but also the real faith-response of the sinner. While God initiates, superintends, and completes this process, the sinner can still resist, or he has not made a free response of faith. While no sinner is able or even interested in a world-changing relationship with God “on his own,” the power of the gospel in the Spirit alone makes salvation possible for any sinner, but his response to the Spirit’s enabling is necessary, or it is not a covenant relationship. Whatever were the effects of the Fall on the human race, and the effects were devastating, these effects cannot include the elimination of libertarian freedom, or the world God wants ceases to be. Therefore, on this view, God does not elect a person on the basis of his foreknowledge of their future faith decision; He elects them on the basis of His desire to save the maximum number of people in a world where freedom matters. That world includes certain people who will respond freely in faith, just as it includes people who freely reject Christ or never hear. Craig puts it like this: “It is up to God whether we find ourselves in a world in which we are predestined. But it is up to us whether we are predestined in the world in which we find ourselves.”[17]

To summarize, even if you don’t buy Molinism, if we believe that God loves every person, that Christ died for every person, that God wants to save every person, and that salvation means that freedom is necessary, then election cannot mean what Calvinists say it means: that God chooses some and not others without reference to their real faith-response. Instead, election means that God has determined, even in the face of radical human sinfulness, to have a world of maximum salvation through His gracious in-working through the gospel of His suffering but unstoppable Son and our free response to it and to living and proclaiming it sacrificially as His people to a waiting world.

eric_hankins2By Dr. Eric Hankins, pastor
First Baptist Church, Oxford, Miss.

[1]Garrett, who places election at the end of his discussion of soteriology, rather than at the beginning like Grudem, says, “Moreover, the placement of election at the end of the entire soteriological discussion and just prior to the beginning of the discussion of the church enables election to serve as a bridge connecting soteriology and ecclesiology” (472). Interestingly, Garrett’s approach mirrors the BFM, which places its article on election (V) after the one on salvation (IV) and before the article on the church (VI).

[2]For a full discussion of this view to which I am much indebted, see Keathley, Salvation and Sovereignty.

[3]Paige Patterson, forward to Keathley, Salvation and Sovereignty, ix.

[4]Indeed, Erickson espouses a view that he considers very close to Molinism (387, note 14).

[5]See my “Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism: Toward a Baptist Soteriology,” Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry 8 (Spring 2011): 86.

[6]Kirk R. MacGregor, “Hubmaier’s Concord of Predestination with Free Will,” Direction 35 (Fall 2006): 291.

[7]Keathley, Salvation and Sovereignty, 5-6.

[8]Zimmerman, 34-38.

[9]Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, s.v. “compatibilism,” available at entries/compatibilism/ (accessed October 3, 2012).

[10]Grudem, 680.

[11]C. S. Lewis, Yours, Jack: Spiritual Directions from C. S. Lewis, ed. Paul Ford (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), 186: “All that Calvinist question–Free-Will and Predestination, is to my mind undiscussable, insoluble. . . . When we carry [Freedom and Necessity] up to relations between God and Man, has the distinction perhaps become nonsensical?”

[12]Walls, 75-104, esp. 98-99.

[13]William Lane Craig, The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), 127.

[14]Alvin C. Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974).

[15]William Lane Craig, “‘No Other Name:’ A Middle Knowledge Perspective on the Exclusivity of Salvation through Jesus Christ,” Faith and Philosophy 6 (April 1989): 185.

[16]Keathley, Salvation and Sovereignty, 153.

[17]Craig, “No Other Name,” 188.

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Dr. Hankins writes, “God knows all things innately, including every aspect of the future….Calvinism’s view is…a negation of the biblical declaration that God desires to save all…”

God knows all things innately (including the identities of those who are to be saved) but Calvinists are wrong to conclude that God does not desire to save all. Calvinists conclude that God desires to save those that He has identified to be saved. If God desired to save others, He could but chose not to do so.

The need here is to describe how the “biblical declaration that God desires to save all” comports with God’s knowledge that some are not to be saved and never intended to be saved. If God creates the world knowing the identities of those who would not be saved, then in what sense does God desire to save these?

When God instructs us to go into the world and preach the gospel, the purpose cannot be to save all as He knows who is to be saved and that number is fixed and certain – it is God who fixed that number and made it certain. The purpose for preaching the gospel is to draw those to Christ that are to be saved. Does it serve a purpose for those whose end is not salvation?

    Norm Miller

    Why preach the Gospel anyway if those who will be saved … WILL BE saved? — Norm

      Britt Taylor

      Norm – Because God has commanded us to. Why would we want to miss out on the blessing of being a part of someone following Christ?

        Norm Miller

        Obviously, Britt, we obey the Great Commission out of submission. However, your answer is like that of all other Calvinists to whom I have posed the above question. To date, not one has said, “Because God loves the lost.”
        In fact, one Calvinist here opined that he could not tell just anyone on the street that God loved him because the Calvinist couldn’t be sure whether just anyone on the street was elect.
        I think it is safe to say, then, that at least some Calvinists believe that God loves only the elect.
        If true, such a position flies in the face of John 3.16. — Norm

          Britt Taylor

          It’s an understood fact that God loves the lost. He is Love. Certainly that is a reason that we share the gospel, but ultimately we do so because Christ has told us to. Our motivation is obedience as well as gratitude and I desire to see others saved.

          We have no way of knowing who the elect are, so we preach to all! God does the saving and we get to be used as “hands and feet” in the process. Amazing! As Spurgeon once said

          “If God would have painted a yellow stripe on the backs of the elect I would go around lifting shirts. But since He didn’t I must preach ‘whosoever will’ and when ‘whatsoever’ believes I know that he is one of the elect.”

          I believe that we can fully proclaim that God loves everyone. But He loves the elect in a special, saving way. Just as He loves Israel in a special way.

            Norm Miller


            “It’s an understood fact that God loves the lost.”

            In my experience, this is not a universally embraced truth among Calvinists. — Norm


          I think the issue here is the extent to which God loves the non-elect given that He has no intention to save them. It is obvious that God loves the elect because He saves them. If God has no intention to save the non-elect, can we conclude that He loves them – at least in the same manner as He loves the elect.

          Jn 3:16 says that God loved the world. World can be a general reference to that group of people called sinners without specific reference to any individual within that group. If God did not love the world, then He would not save any. That God loves the world says that He can save some but does not have to save all – and most agree that God will not save all. Nonetheless, Christ’s death makes salvation possible for all. The non-elect exercise their free will to reject that salvation. So you agree with Calvinists on that point. What you seem to object to is God’s favorable intervention in the lives of the elect to bring them to salvation.

            Norm Miller

            If the Holy Spirit of God meant “eklektos” in Jn 1.29; 3.16, and 1 Jn 2.2, then why was the word “cosmos” breathed-out by God?

            Of particular note in 1 Jn 2.2 is “whole world.” There is nothing nor no one excluded in that statement.

            Your theology is guiding your exegesis, or in this case, eisegesis.


            Norm writes, “Of particular note in 1 Jn 2.2 is “whole world.” There is nothing nor no one excluded in that statement.”

            1 John 2:2 says that Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. That is a true statement and points us to the infinite worth of Christ’s death – all can now be saved. No problem with Calvinism here.

            1 John 2;2 does not say, or imply, that Christ propitiates the sins of any particular person. Christ’s death provides that propitiation sufficient for a person to gain salvation or for God to save one person or all. That propitiation was necessary for a person to be saved, but not sufficient to save any person. I don’t see a problem with Calvinism here.

            What understanding does your exegesis give us that differs from that which the Calvinists give us?

              Norm Miller

              So, you say that all “can be saved”?
              That is not a position of unanimity among Calvinists.
              Glad to hear you reflect a position of unanimity among Trads.
              I will not accuse you of being a universalist, as some Cals have accused me, for your position that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world.
              I think we are making some headway, here. — Norm


            “If the Holy Spirit of God meant “eklektos” in Jn 1.29; 3.16, and 1 Jn 2.2, then why was the word “cosmos” breathed-out by God?”

            I think John follows Paul in expressing that salvation was for all and not just the Jew. Thus, John uses “world” as encompassing both Jews and gentiles all of whom are sinners in need of salvation. While these verses would still be true had “eklektos” been used, it seems God wanted to make a different point – that He had planned all along to save both Jews and gentiles.

            The other definition of “world” would be each and every person past, present, and future which the universalists use in concluding that God will save all.

            Do you have a third definition?

              Norm Miller

              Saying “I think”, and using words like “seems” are useful when one is not certain.
              I don’t make light of this. I applaud one not being dogmatic when one cannot be so.
              At the risk of being misunderstood for not engaging you on this topic any further, I have no intent of continuing to beat a dead horse.
              Obviously, you think and feel one way about certain passages, and I, another. So be it.
              Now, why don’t we cease this fruitless debate?
              E.g., we agree that salvation is by grace thru faith, but we disagree on minute aspects of how all that happens. So what?
              E.g., instead of debating the ordo salutis, why are we not diverting such energies into seeing that more people experience the ordo salutis?

              Godspeed, rhutchin.

              — Norm


            Norm writes, “So, you say that all “can be saved”?
            That is not a position of unanimity among Calvinists.”

            Calvinists say that all “will” not be saved. However, Christ’s death is sufficient to save all so any person wanting to be saved can be saved.

            If salvation also necessarily requires an action by God before a person can be saved, then God is in the position of choosing whom to save.


            Norm writes, “Saying “I think”, and using words like “seems” are useful when one is not certain.”

            I have never seen the “ekletos” argument. My comment was ad hoc without my having given it a lot of thought.


            Norm writes, “E.g., we agree that salvation is by grace thru faith, but we disagree on minute aspects of how all that happens. So what?”

            In the end, everything happens exactly as God knew it would. However, God tells us (commands(?)) that we study to show ourselves approved by Him correctly understanding what he has said to us. Thus, the back and forth.

            Preach Blackman Preach

            There is tremendous biblical support revealing the effort God has spent reaching the so-called non-elect only for them to point their puny finger in the face of Salvation and say yes to their “sin” and no to The Savior. There is absolutely no such creature known by God as the “Non-elect”. What we discuss and debate is nothing more than old fashion “sin” without regard to God’s command to repent and believe the gospel. This is a self inflicted eternal deadly wound when a sinner refuses to repent and believe the gospel. For it is written, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent ye and believe the gospel. Those who must trifle with the expressed will of God has “chosen” or “elected” eternal damnation. Remember this, the punishment of eternal darkness, the lake of fire, fits the crime for rejecting such a Great Salvation. The punishment explains who and what was refused in this life. Let give God all the credit in salvation and let’s give the wicked their due as well but don’t get it “twisted” as the young people say around here.


      I agree with Britt that God has told us to do so. It’s God’s program, so He can frame it any way He wants. So, God uses the preaching of the gospel as the means to His end (salvation of the elect).

      I think the preaching of the gospel has two purposes:
      1. Draw the elect to Christ.
      2. Prepare the non-elect for judgment.

        Norm Miller

        So you are making it unanimous — no love for the lost?


          God loves the lost – He doesn’t save all of them. Guess He loves some a tad more than the others.

      Bob Cleveland

      We’re to preach the gospel because God said to. Isn’t that a good enough reason?

        Jim P

        How about these couple of other reason to preach the gospel,

        Because of the love of God and how much He did for us in Christ Jesus?
        How about having compassion on a lost, confused sinful world?
        How about to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus?
        How about sharing in the tribulation of all the saints before us?

        Oh yeah, how about just because it is right?

        But all those take an act of the human will which Calvinists know nothing about.


          Jim p, a Calvinist would fully agree with you on all those points. We preach the gospel out of love for others and a desire for them to be saved. The question was posed, though, as to way Calvinist preach the gospel if God already knows who he will save. The overall answer is that we share the gospel because He told us to. That should be reason enough! We preach with the love for the sinner as well, but overall, obedience is enough of a reason

            Jim P


            That’s nonsense and so puerile. That is simple a mindless slave who can’t understand beyond what’s told.

            Any sinner who comes to know Christ and what’s to know Him more will KNOW the why everything He is doing.

            ‘A student is not above his Teacher but when one is perfectly trained will be like his teacher’


              Not mindless, obedient. I know exactly way my lord wants me to preach the gospel…because He will use it to save people! Praise God! I glad obey him

            Britt Taylor

            I hate to know that obedience is nonsense and puerile, though. I guess I’ll strive to be puerile then!

        Norm Miller

        Obedience is a great reason. However, to date, no Calvinist I have asked has included God’s love, or theirs, for the lost as another great reason to share the Gospel.


          Norm- please notice my comments on the subject. Certainly we share out of love!

    Preach BlackMan Preach

    Absolutely, the unbelieving “wicked” will be throughly “informed” as to their final, final judgment beyond condemnation with this present world, for resisting the Holy Spirit, for rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ, and for refusing God and such a Great Salvation, by not “obeying” the gospel. Listen Brother, the judgment of all unbelievers reveals what they rejected in this present life and demand to “have” so to speak in the next. What is that? No to God and no God! The crime of “all the age” is to reject the One who said, Adam, where art thou? He’s been drawing and calling every living soul using this same method. The wicked will not enter eternity surprised as to what awaits them if we have the courage to preach the Holy Scriptures faithfully.

      Preach Blackman Preach

      Not only is the gospel salvific, able to save the soul, but serves to settle any eternal questions for those who triffle with it’s content in the here and now. Those who will experience the White Hot Wrath of God made their “bed” there in this life. No manner of dogma can change this biblical truth.


While Dr. Hankins speaks of the doctrine of election, especially with respect to Calvinists, there is no attention given to Ephesians. Yet, as I understand it, the Calvinist conclusions about election depend on Ephesians and cannot be understood apart from Ephesians. So, why does he ignore Ephesians? Was that part addressed by someone else at the Conference?


Dr. Hankins,

I appreciate your clarity in your writing and am grateful that you desire to bring that clarity to this discussion. Defining your position as Molinism and then clarifying it with citations of Craig, Plantinga and Keathley makes it much easier to follow your reasoning. Thanks you for your contributions to this discussion.

It seems to me (a Calvinist educated at Criswell College and a former staff member of FBC Dallas during the W.A. Criswell years) that the weakness in Molinism it found in Ephesians 2. If we are spiritually dead, as Paul declares us to be, then we are unable to respond to God’s call to salvation on our own. This is the primary role of the Holy Spirit in salvation – new life for the spiritually dead. We are enabled to respond to God’s cal to salvation because we are newly spiritually alive, not the reverse.

This is a critical issue in this discussion because of the issue of “free will” (a horrible misnomer because only God has a truly free will). It brings us back to that centuries old debate as to whether regeneration enables our choice or our choice results in regeneration. How you understand the depths of human depravity determines which answer you choose. Since you see election as numbers, rather than particular redemption as I do, I think I know how you will answer, but I ask that you would address the order of salvation question in a subsequent article. I think I can persuade my friend Norm Miller to adjust his schedule to publish it in this forum.

Serving the Savior,

Tom Fortner
Burleson, Texas

    Jim P


    I think you thought takes the metaphor of ‘spiritually’ dead to an extreme as also freedom. This is Calvinism’s inherent problems. So the inherent disconnect.

    Jim P

    Norm Miller

    Hi Tom:

    If Dr. Hankins desires to write on ordo salutis, then I surely will publish that essay. That topic has been addressed on this blog, however, and I think within Dr. Allen’s essay regarding whether regeneration precedes faith. There he provided a long list of verses showing the ability of reprobates to respond to God in their so-called ‘spiritual deadness.’

    Per your comments, this one is the line of demarcation in the SBC among Trads and Cals:

    “If we are spiritually dead, as Paul declares us to be, then we are unable to respond to God’s call to salvation on our own.” Opinions are like belly-buttons, you know?

    Whereas I do not believe that anyone (unsaved) wakes up one day determined to be a Christ follower; and, whereas I believe the first move in anyone’s salvation is God’s, I wholeheartedly reject that anyone is devoid of what Ronnie Rogers calls “otherwise choice.”

    In order for Calvin’s system to work, “spiritually dead” means to Calvinists a total inability to respond to God unless God ‘helps’ one respond — another Calvinist tenet I reject. It seems that Calvinists’ understanding of “spiritually dead” means being kept on life support until God awakens the reprobate from a sin-induced coma. Whereas I reject that understanding of ‘spiritual deadness,’ I will push the analogy to say that, the patient once awakened may choose whether to get out of bed.

    Of course, like JWs, we can play biblical ping-pong. But we would only be repeating points that have been made for hundreds of years, now, and have yet, obviously, to settle anything — other than some brothers thinking that other brothers are wrong, and some of those brothers killing their brothers over perceived “wrongness.”

    It is high time we all moved on to other matters, like the lostness of the planet. What’s more, as secular culture becomes increasingly militant toward godliness, you and I will need to stand arm-in-arm against the onslought. Wouldn’t it be just like Satan to foist theological in-fighting onto one of Christian history’s greatest evangelistic armies, and then launch a full, frontal attack?

    You and I have been friends since our days at Criswell College, so know that I am not picking on you, here. I love you and Doris. I just cannot wait for all of us to acknowledge that what we are bickering about will not be settled this side of heaven. And once we get there, none of this will matter one whit. Distraction of distractions!

    I am also looking forward to the report of Dr. Page’s committee on Calvinism — due out tomorrow. Good, bad, or indifferent, I intend to move forward, away from an important topic, yes, but that which pales into insignificance when one considers that millions are on their way to hell, and, more important, when one considers the condition of the modern church.

    I appreciate you, Tom, and your input. Thx for enduring my meanderings. — Norm



      “….millions are on their way to hell.”

      Exactly where God wants them to be.

      “….when one considers the condition of the modern church.”

      And exactly where God wants it to be as well.

      Nice to know we can all cast off the shackles of responsibility (unless of course we can all be damned for keeping God’s secret decree will perfectly).

      Preach Blackman Preach

      Great comment. Spiritural death can and will never mean more than it did in Adam who committed the offense in the first place. No more and no less. That’s where we begin Gen3:7 all the way to the maps. Observe man exposed and all of his methods and God and His Great Mission.


      I read the report this morning and am wholeheartedly in agreement with it. A theological discussion about Calvinism need not divide us, as we are brethren discussing God’s Truth, and that Truth should always unite us, even when we disagree.

      I agree with you that the condition of the modern church is a much more important topic for discussion, as this is the assembly of saints where we “make disciples.” As an evangelist, I pray that the conversions we see begin the process of making disciples, but our efforts are not a substitute for the local church. The greatest disappointment our Lord sees in the American church must be the decline in fervency and effectiveness of 70% of His churches (70% have plateaued or are in decline). Ecclesiology will certainly provide a lively discussion, but I pray it helps us address our weaknesses and failures. Since I believe that the local church is for our Lord first, and His people second, I look forward to discussion about the place of “revivalism” as worship.

      Feel free to pick on me as you choose. You know I never take it personally.

      Your friend and brother in Christ,

      Tom Fortner


    FWIW, the following is from Dr. Danny Akin’s Hermeneutics Class and originated with Dr. Paige Patterson.

    The order of events is in some cases chronological, but many of the aspects happen
    simultaneously, making the order primarily logical rather than chronological::

    (1) foreknowledge,
    (2) predestination,
    (3) calling,
    (4) contrition (2 Cor. 7:10),
    (5) repentance (Luke 13:3),
    (6) faith (Heb. 11:6),
    (7) regeneration (Titus 3:5),
    (8) justification,
    (9) reconciliation,
    (10) sanctification,
    (11) adoption, and
    (12) glorification.


Dr. Hankins writes, “The view of election I am espousing here is a view called Molinism or middle knowledge.”

I am at a loss to understand why he would do this. Molinism deals with God’s deliberation within Himself as to which world He will create. There are an infinite number and He chooses that one world that results in whatever He wants done – i.e., the number of elect/non-elect. However, all this happens in the hypothetical time of the Molinist before the creation. Once God chooses that world He wants and creates that world in Genesis 1, that world must necessarily be a Calvinist world and is exactly as the Calvinist describes it. So, Dr. Hankins is a Molinist when he wants man to exercise free will, but then he dumps Molinism after God creates the world so that God can be said to want to save all people and everyone still has a shot.

Non-Calvinist are not always known for their logical prowess.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    The Biblical data says God wants to save everyone. You seem to think that if God actualizes a world where not everyone is saved, it follows that God doesn’t want to save everyone. That is a non-sequitur. God can bring such a world about knowing that not everyone will be saved, but still want everyone to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth. He just knows they are not going to. That is about all that follows from God bringing about a world where not everyone is saved.

    I won’t carry the water for Molinism anymore since I’m not one, but Dr. Hankins isn’t being inconsistent here anyway.

    It is not a “Calvinist world” upon creation, if by that you simply mean a deterministic one. The problem you have here is that you seem to want to suggest that Calvinism is a philosophical construct and not a theological system. That’s fine, because I agree. There is nothing to suggest that because God created the heavens and the Earth, therefore T.U.L.I.P. is true, regeneration precedes faith is true, etc..

    Obviously then, Calvinists are not always known for their logical prowess.


      Pritchett writes, “You seem to think that if God actualizes a world where not everyone is saved, it follows that God doesn’t want to save everyone. That is a non-sequitur.”

      God can actualize any world He wants. He can actualize a world in which all are saved and a world in which all are not saved. God chooses to actualize a world in which all are not saved. Our conclusion – God doesn’t want to save everyone.

      Can you describe the non-sequitar that you see here?

        Johnathan Pritchett

        Yes, again, just because God actualized a world where not everyone is saved, it doesn’t follow that God doesn’t want everyone to be save, despite His ability to bring about any kind of logically possible world. It may very well be the case that God wants everyone to be saved, but does not bring about that world for whatever reason He chooses. As such, your conclusion doesn’t follow that God doesn’t want everyone to be saved and come to know the truth…especially since His Word says so. (1 Tim. 2:4. and elsewhere)

        And please, no more post-modernist, James-Whiteian, novel interpretations from you. They just don’t hold up.


          I don’t know. Your explanation sounds like gibberish to me, but maybe that’s just me.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Yeah, it is just you. Anything coherent makes no sense to post-modern folks like you. Since you don’t understand what a non-sequitur is, and have abandoned every sound principle in exegesis and hermeneutics in favor of a “I don’t care what it means, I just care what it means to me” approach to Scripture, per several of our previous discussions, I don’t think your parroting what you’ve heard schtick holds up around here all that well. No offense.

            Your assertion was a non-sequitur, and conflicts with Biblical data to boot. If you can’t see that, as has been shown, then incoherence is your playpen. Well, just own it then.


    I am not impressed with Molinism or Calvinism (compatibilism, determininism). They are all variants of the same attempt to blame God for this rotten world (did He make this “the best possible world”??) and for not saving all. How is this world today God’s will? How was it God’s will in Gen 3 to take into account (supposedly) that Man would make Libertarian Free Will choices against Him? Yes, God gave Man a will and a choice: he abused it and is lost ever since. He could have chosen for God but chose against Him. God warned him: that’s why that event and all sinful others after Gen 3 can never be God’s will. The Molinist and the Calvinist want to make it God’s will: “everything that comes to pass” as the Westminster says. In that respect no difference with Islam: insh’Allah they say: whatever happens is Allah’s will.

    God is not willing (not His will!) that anyone should perish. And if some perish is that then God’s will anyway?

    They say, in order to know the outcome the game must have been rigged. God must have rigged the game (“ordained” as they say), otherwise He cannot possibly foreknow. That is fundamentally the presupposition of both the Molinist and the Compatibilist.
    But what is wrong with simply believing that God knows all things all the time, but yet He is not the “rigger” of all things all the time? He is eternal, so He can look back and forth and see it all, future past and present.
    Of course sometimes God does intervene, even determining (Acts 2:23) that evil men would kill Jesus for instance. But that doesn’t mean that He did want anyone to kill Jesus: these people could have done otherwise. Pilate was warned by his own wife!

      Johnathan Pritchett

      “He is eternal, so He can look back and forth and see it all, future past and present.”

      I understand where you are coming from, but that above doesn’t work, because the universe is not co-eternal with God, so prior to creation, there was nothing for God to look at, and He can’t gain knowledge by looking at anything since His knowledge is eternally perfect and complete whether anything ever comes about to look at or not.

      The problem for Calvinists though, is that God can’t gain knowledge by “doing” either. So, as the Calvinists assert, God knows because God ordains, is obviously dubious and diminishing God’s very being and nature.This notion puts a logical moment in eternity’a past where God’s knowledge was logically increased by, and eternally co-dependent upon, performing an action. But God, in order to BE God, has to be perfect in all His attributes regardless of whether or not He DOES anything.

      So, anything attribute related, since attribute pertains to the divine nature, has to be complete and prior to any divine activity, which is what foreordaining is…I.e. an action.

      What all classical theist Christians should say is that God knows all things innately, and regardless of whether He does anything, like decree, foreordain, etc. in eternity’s past. Now what Calvinists, and their open theist bedfellows, will argue is that it is logically impossible for God to know future free actions. This, however, has been soundly refuted time and time again.

Randall Cofield

…the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human freedom…

I have a question for all my Traditionalist brothers here.

We all agree that God is sovereign, and we generally agree that man possess a certain amount of freedom, though we differ as to the extent of both God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom.


1) The perfection of God
2) The falleness of man

…which of these two principles (the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man) should hold the place of primacy in our thinking?

By this question I mean, when we find areas where the sovereignty of God and human freedom seem incongruent, to which principle should we default?

Grace to you, brothers.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Load the question. ;)

    I see zero tension between God’s sovereignty and libertarian freedom, seeming or otherwise. So I guess this really isn’t my problem.

    I don’t disagree with the extent of God’s sovereignty. God is maximally, absolutely sovereign.

    I do wonder if Calvinists know what the word sovereignty actually means though. Any debate between the extent of sovereignty and the extent of freedom is a debate between whether fruit or drywall makes for a better video game console.

      Randall Cofield

      I see zero tension between God’s sovereignty and libertarian freedom, seeming or otherwise. So I guess this really isn’t my problem.


      Glad to see you have it all sorted out, Jonathan. I’m sure all the great minds of Christian history who have struggled with this would pay good money to have you enlighten them!


        Johnathan Pritchett

        I don’t think it has been as big a “struggle” throughout all of Church history like you think.

        Some of those “great minds” are overrated as well. So there’s that too. ;)

        I have to admit that I am somewhat disappointed with your last two replies to me. I was hoping for more interaction with my content like I offer to your posts. Oh well…

          Randall Cofield

          My Dear Brother,

          To be derisive, dismissive, and evasive of another’s salient points does not qualify as interaction with their content. And–my slow-mindedness notwithstanding–I do recognize when another is attempting to manipulate me.

          Christian courtesy becoming of our profession of Christ is obligatory for genuine and productive interaction. I stand ready to dialogue thus when you are.

          Grace to you, Jonathan.

            Norm Miller

            Excellent words, Randall. In days to come, SBCToday will strike a better tone such as your words demonstrate.

            Randall Cofield

            Thanks, Norm.

            After reading the Calvinism Committee Report I am convinced that better days are on the horizon of the entire SBC.

            I am rejoicing for God’s mercy, grace, and guiding hand upon us as a convention.

            May His name be forever exalted.

            Grace to you, brother.


Yes, the Bible says that we are “elect”. it also referrs to angels, Israel, and even the Lord Jesus Christ as being “elect”. I do not believe that election has anything to do with salvation: instead, it has to do with service. All things were made by the Lord Jesus Christ and, among many other things, He incarnated Himself, gave Himself on Calvary and rose from the dead..All of His purposes and functions were designed and ordained by God before the foundation of the world.
Likewise, our purpose is to spread the Gospel by a means which God has ordained as well.

Interestingly we, the elect. are always referred to in plural pronouns; never individuals. To become a part of “the elect” each individual must choose Christ of his own volition. God, being God, does know who will choose Him because he “inhabits eternity”. But just because He already knows does not mean he causes those things to happen. He gives us all the freedom to choose Him or reject Him. For example: ” I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” Deuteronomy 30:19 KJV

Jim P

If only the Calvinists can try to understand it is about a relationship with the Living God and not mechanical academic propositions.

    Britt Taylor

    Um, we totally understand that. Why are you saying that we do not? Is it so wrong, though, to study Scripture to get a larger view of our salvation. The fact that God would save me with no merit of my own, but because of His lovingkindness astounds me and gives me a deeper thankfulness and awe of Christ my Lord! How is this a bad thing?

Jim P

That your salvation is based on some mechanical operation God preforms on you without your involvement does not have the sound of good. It sounds well, Mechanical, and not a mutual relationship entered into willing. That sounds like love to me while the other sounds cold and well, mechanical.

    Britt Taylor

    It can sound anyway you wish, but that is far from the truth. I did willfully enter into this relationship with my Lord! After the Holy Spirit awakened me to the truth, what could Ido aside from confessing my sins believing in Christ my Savior? When you are joyfully overwhelmed with truth about something, would you turn it down or gladly follow it?

    When the Holy Spirit awakens, it is an overwhelming thing. So overwhelming that I gladly repent and believe!


      And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. Acts 24:25 Felix was under conviction of the Holy Spirit (see John 16:8 KJV) and he was not “overwhelmed”.

        Britt Taylor

        I cannot speak for Felix, but I doubt that he was truly convicted by the Holy Spirit. I can alone speak for my own account, and I know that I could do no more than to follow Christ after the Holy Spirit awakened me

          Jim P

          There you go Britt the great disconnect. Felix could not choose (calvinism) or Felix chose, i.e., not to respond to conviction. Pretty clear difference.

            Britt Taylor

            No disconnect whatsoever! Something had to be offered for Felix to choose it. If the conviction was not of the Holy Spirit, then salvation was not offered. Therefore, Felix was not turning salvation away.

            I hold the belief that if the Holy Spirit awakens you, then the only reasonable choice one can make is to repent and believe. Therefore, I feel that Felix had a conviction of his own making, and then it didn’t hold up. I’ve guilted myself before, and then gotten over it.

            Jim P

            Of course you have to redefine what was happening to Felix, your theology dictates it can’t be conviction by God it must be ‘conviction of his own making.’

            and on and on and on…

            Britt Taylor

            Not redefining at all. Some very accurate translations say that Felix was “alarmed” and “frightened” after talking with Paul. Conviction? I have not seen anything say or imply that he was convicted. I’m just reading it for what the text says.

Jim P

Thank You Wayne


Here’s something one beloved Baptist brother wrote that is sure to make the calvinistic stomach nauseous.

“Turn to the Book of Hebrews Chapter 2. We have to understand that the work of the Cross was enough for every human being from Adam to the end of time. Every sin has been already paid for, and now the only thing that God asks is to believe it.

Hebrews 2:9……
‘But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.’

Now let me tell you something. Do you know what is going to make the eternal doom of the wicked so awful? It’s not the heat of the flames. It’s not the appetites unsatisfied. It’s going to be an eternity of regret. ‘I didn’t have to be here. This was all paid for and I rejected it. To spend an eternity in torment and constant regret that there was no need to be here, it was all paid for and I walked it underfoot.’ There’s nothing worse than regret. This is what the world is doing today, they are walking it underfoot. They are rejecting a pardon. That’s what lost mankind is doing when they reject Salvation. They are rejecting a pardon. Do you know what a pardon is? A pardon is a decree that sets you right back as if you had never broken the Law in the first place. It’s completely wiping the slate clean. And that is what God has done for us.”




“In order for Calvin’s system to work, “spiritually dead” means to Calvinists a total inability to respond to God unless God ‘helps’ one respond — another Calvinist tenet I reject.”

So man responds to God without God’s help?

    Jim P


    I would like to try to respond.

    John 16:7 – 11

    7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
    8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;
    9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;
    10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me;
    11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”

    Don’t these verses say, ‘the world.’ Isn’t that indiscriminate, meaning anyone and everyone?

Norm Miller

See Dr. Allen’s list of verses that show reprobates can respond to God.
Beyond that, brother, we will have to agree to disagree.
I have more important things to do than to debate the minutae of the salvific process. — Norm



I asked if man responds to God without God’s help. It is a yes or no question.

    Preach Blackman Preach

    Revelation, in other words God has spoken, that in and of itself is God’s “help”. To think He would speak to any of us in the condition He found us set forth several of His Divine attributes. God has spoken, therefore God has helped. He spoke to Adam before he sinned to help him, He spoke to Adam after sinned to help him. He spoke to Cain a sinner before he murdered his brother to help him. He warned both of them of the consequences of sin and the sacrifice required. When God spoke, He has already helped!

Norm Miller

Wrong, it is a yes AND no question!
Really, bro, you gotta move on.

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