Debate on Calvinistic Compatibilism Part 3: Derek Responds


Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

You may be aware that there are “middle knowledge” Calvinists who affirm something similar to Molinism but in a compatibilistic construct rather than as a solution to the problem of libertarian freedom in light of God’s foreknowledge. Would you say these middle knowledge Calvinists are somehow less than truly Calvinistic in their theology?

To take this a step further, what would you say to a person who holds to an Arminian view of causation while affirming the Calvinists’ TULIP? Would such a person be a confused Arminian, or a weird kind of Calvinist? :) Well, more seriously, is the Arminian view of causation truly incompatible with TULIP? Does TULIP depend on causal determinism?

Historically, Calvinists have taken a variety of positions, from a VERY SOFT compatibilism to a VERY HARD determinism. A.W. Pink (depending on the day of the week), Vincent Cheung and Gordon Clark are in the line of the hyper Calvinists who are most likely to espouse the hardest form of determinism without apology. You seem to extol this as being somehow “consistent.” Folks like Piper, Packer and Frame are more likely to express a compatibilism that affirms human freedom as a mystery within (and even upheld by) divine ordination. I have read Calvin’s discussion of free will in the Institutes; he is a textbook compatibilist.

So I think it is a bit unfair for you to say Calvinistic ordination “collapses into causal determinism” and then disparage the softening statements of compatibilism offered by the more moderate voices in the group. This would be akin to me saying that Arminian free will collapses into Pelagianism (or perhaps Open Theism), while ignoring the Classical Arminian’s affirmation of Total Depravity (which strongly inhibits–rather, kills– libertarian freedom) and Prevenient Grace (which ackowledges the deadness and–gratefully–affirms our need for divine grace). I prefer to view the more moderate/mainstream Calvinists’ softening statements as evidence of a commitment to Biblical balance, preventing them from falling into the philosophical trap of hard determinism (the kind hypers veritably revel in). I do not see the softening statements as logical contradictions, but an attempt to be consistent with Scripture, grounded in the humility that confesses God’s ways are superior to our highest intellect.

In any case, I suppose a big difference is that I cannot see how God can be God without ordaining all things; and at the same time I cannot see man’s God-given freedom as less than a genuine, morally responsible and unconstrained liberty. Here I am just agreeing with Calvin and other compatibilists. We insist that God can ordain everything without denying his creatures real freedom. We cannot turn from either of these conscientiously held convictions.

Thanks again for your thoughts.


About StriderMTB

Hi, I'm Matt. "Strider" from Lord of the Rings is my favorite literary character of all time and for various reasons I write under the pseudonym "StriderMTB. As my blog suggests I seek to live out both the excitement and tension of a Christian walk with Christ in the 3rd world context of Asia. I started my blog as an unmarried man who was blessed to oversee an orphanage of amazing children in South-East Asia. As of 2022, I am a happily married man to an amazing missionary wife serving together on the mission field. I hate lima beans and love to pour milk over my ice-cream. I try to stay active in both reading and writing and this blog is a smattering of my many thoughts. I see the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it and lived to be the only hope for a broken world and an apathetic church.
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