‘summing-up’ Luther’s argument against free-will:
God is omniscient.
Therefore, God knows all future events.
God’s knowledge is immutable.
Therefore, God’s knowledge of all future events is immutable.
Therefore, the truth-value of all future events obtaining, is immutable.
If all future events are immutable, then all future events can not be changed.
Therefore, all future events can not be changed.
Therefore, all future events can not be changed by ‘free-will’.
All future ‘Free-choices’ are future events.
Therefore, all future ‘free-choices’ can not be changed.
Therefore, all future ‘free-choices’ can not be changed by ‘free-will’.
Free-will presupposes that all future ‘free-choices’ can be changed by ‘free-will’.
‘Free-will’ contradicts the fact that all future ‘free-choices’ can not be changed by ‘free-will’.
Therefore, ‘free-will’ is false.
In the famous debate between Erasmus and Luther, the question of the efficacy of free-will in salvation came to the fore. Erasmus, in line with Roman Catholic theology, understood that ‘free-will’ by itself is incapable of leading one to salvation. Rather, grace is necessary. The necessity of grace for Roman Catholic theology is what distinguishes it from the heresy of Pelagius, or Pelagianism. It is this fact of the necessity of grace to come to God, which Luther showed the theology of his opponent to be self-contradictory:
According to Roman Catholic theology at the time of the reformation (and today), 2 persons may be guilty of sin, and both receive grace – but only one of them comes to faith and repentance. If God acted similarly toward both of them, then the difference lies with them and not God. Luther argued that if an act of grace did not produce a good effect, then it is not really grace. According to Roman Catholic theology, if God gives grace to a person, then that person can only reject or deny the truth correspondent to that grace, if he hardens his heart toward God. For example, pharaoh was shown many miracles which demonstrated the power and authority of God, yet he rejected God by hardening his heart. If God knows that what He will do will cause pharaoh’s heart to be hardened, then it can not be said that God is being gracious to pharaoh by showing him those miracles. Likewise, if God knows that a man will harden his heart toward God, then what God does to cause that hardening can not properly be called grace. Grace then, is intrinsically efficacious for Luther otherwise it is not really grace.
Further, Luther took the principle which he shared with the Roman Catholic Church, that all good things have God as their first or primary cause. If there were 2 persons who were given grace and only one of them came to faith and repentance, then the difference would depend on the persons not God. The reason why one is in heaven and why another is in hell, would depend on the man and not God, which is what the RCC wanted to defend and maintain. This point is still a major problem for Molinism today, because Molinism denies that God is the primary cause for our choosing anything – good or bad.
After the Reformation, there was a major debate within the Roman Catholic Church in regards to free-will and predestination. Eventually, there came an internal split between those who espoused ‘free-will’ apart from God’s predetermination, ie., Molinists, which mainly adhered to the Jesuit order, and those who understood that God must be the primary and the logically first cause of all good, including our good choices, ie., the Banezians/Thomists, which mainly adhered to the Dominican order.
At the same time, the Augustinian order (of which Luther had been a member), took Augustine’s treatises on ‘Free-Will’ and ‘Predestination’ to their logical conclusions, and rejected ‘free-will’. Thus, the Jansenists were contending that there is no ability in man to come to faith, apart from the work of God. The Jansenists however were soon condemned for being too ‘protestant’. The Banezians and the Molinists were left to fight it out amongst themselves. One of the most famous Jansenists is perhaps ‘Antoine Arnauld’, who was one of the most brilliant opponents/friends of Rene Descartes and Leibniz.
Because of the continuing debate between the Banezians and Molinists, the pope called for a series of debates to settle the matter. After several years, the pope died and the debate had not been settled. The next pope continued the collegial debates and soon enough, nothing was settled. After they both tried to get the other side condemned, the pope finally made the pronouncement that the 2 groups shall be allowed to teach their respective views, and not condemn each other, until the Church finally makes a decision on the matter. Half a Millennium later, the Roman Catholic Church has not decided which way is correct. (This fact is valuable for protestants, because Roman catholic apologists like to claim that protestants are a bunch of rabble-rousers, while the RCC is unified on all doctrinal matters.)
The point which Luther made against Erasmus, is still a major problem for Molinism. If God is the primary source and cause of all good, then it is not possible for man to choose good apart from God’s predetermination. If it is true that a person will choose to be charitable if x,y, and z, then the truth of this fact must depend on God, as it is good and He is the source of goodness.
Dr Craig understands that Molinism in incompatible with God being the primary cause of good, and therefore rejects the claim that God is the primary cause of all good, rather than rejecting Molinism.
The Banezians/Thomists differ from Luther and the Calvinists, because the Banezians maintain single predestination, rather than double-predestination. The highly esteemed Thomist Garrigou-Lagrange says on his commentary of the Summa, on Grace:
There would indeed be a vicious circle in Thomism if of the two following propositions the second were true: Man is deprived of efficacious grace because he resists sufficient grace, and man resists sufficient grace because he lacks efficacious grace. Of course, the second statement is false; if it were true, man would sin from the insufficiency of divine help, sin would then be inevitable and would therefore no longer be sin. In truth, man does not sin on account of insufficient help or of any divine neglect, but because of his own deficiency.
Similarly, as Protestants hold, there would be a vicious circle in our faith if these two propositions were true with the same acceptation of the conjunction “because”: I believe the Church to be infallible because God has revealed this; and, I believe that God has revealed this because it is infallibly proposed to me by the Church. The fact is that in these two statements the word “because” is not used in the same sense: in the first it signifies the formal motive of faith; in the second it expresses only the indispensable condition.
Likewise in our present problem, the first proposition contains the formal motive why man is deprived of efficacious grace, namely, because he resists sufficient grace. The second does not; that is, it would be erroneous to say that the motive of his resistance is because he lacks efficacious grace; he would thus be sinning on account of an insufficiency of divine help, so that God would be a defective and deficient cause. The first cause of the defect is our will so far as it is defective and deficient. God, however, is the unfailing cause, not bound to prevent the defect of sin, whereas He can, for higher reasons, permit it on account of a greater good.
Basically, God gives sufficient grace to all, and efficacious grace to some only.
The reason why some do not receive efficacious grace, is because they resist sufficient grace. The Molinists said that this would be circular, because the reason why they resist sufficient grace, is because they did not receive efficacious grace:
(-EG, because resist SG. Resist SG, because -EG).
The Banezians countered this objection, by making a distinction between the lack of efficient grace, and the sinful tendency to reject sufficient grace. These 2 things are not logically identical, but are logically distinct: (‘-EG’, and ‘resist SG&rsquo.
By nature, the non-saved person will possess both realities, viz., the lack of efficacious grace, and the positive resistance of sufficient grace. The former does not logically entail being damned, as many things can lack efficacious grace and not go to hell, eg., rocks, trees, angels. The latter though, is sufficient to damn the person resisting, and therefore it can properly be said that the reason why a person does not receive efficacious grace, is because they resist sufficient grace --- and the reason why they resist sufficient grace, is not because they did not receive efficacious grace, but rather because of their sinful tendencies.
Remember what Luther said about grace which is not efficacious? If sufficient grace without efficacious grace causes the person to resist sufficient grace, then how can it really be grace? If God knows that it will harden the person’s heart, then how can it be said that God’s act of hardening the person’s heart is grace at all? Pharaoh is the Biblical example of someone who did not receive mercy, but rather receives hardening of the heart as judgement. Furthermore, the Calvinist response to Banez is the question:
If people resist sufficient grace because of their sinful tendencies, why then do not all people resist sufficient grace? If it is a good thing not to resist sufficient grace, then who ultimately determines which people will resist sufficient grace, and which people will not resist sufficient grace? Of course, it is God – just as the Banezians would agree. The Banezian in order to avoid circularity, will say that the reason why someone resists sufficient grace, is because they are naturally and sinfully inclined to reject sufficient grace, but this only pushes the problem back a step, because the only reason why one person continues in their sinful tendencies and another person does not, is because of efficacious grace given to the latter. Banezians want to make the person responsible for not receiving efficacious grace, by saying that it depends on whether he resists sufficient grace or not, and the Banezian also holds that whether a person resists or not depends on God’s predetermination. The Roman Catholic theologians are required to hold a man accountable for not receiving efficacious grace, because of the concepts of condign merit and congruous merit. Efficacious grace must be merited not through acts which intrinsically deserve it, but through an act which is congruent with God’s mercy. Without going into too much theology, the Protestants unequivocally rejected any concept of ‘merited grace’ as a contradiction in terms. God and God alone is the giver and worker of grace for the sinner, and conversely, God and God alone is Sovereign over who receives mercy, and who receives justice – hence, double-predestination.
The only merit involved in regards to predestination, for the Protestant, is in view of Christ’s righteousness as lived out in His life, and the application of that righteousness to those God has elected to salvation. Grace is given to the elect on the condition of Christ’s atonement on their behalf. Christ did not merit grace, but rather, Christ merited eternal life by living in full obedience to the law, and voluntarily self-identifies Himself with us so that His righteousness is our righteousness, and our guilt is His guilt, which is expiated on the cross. By faith that His work is sufficient and efficacious for us, we self-identify with Christ, so that there is mutual self-identification between Christ and believer. Our sin became His sin, by self-identification or union, and His righteousness and propitiation became our righteousness and propitiation by self-identification or union.
Whereas the prescient view of foreknowledge like Molinism requires a good work of the person outside the predetermination of God, and the Banezian view seeks to affirm God’s causality in all that is good, but views efficacious grace to be merited, Luther and Calvin leave no room for the merit’s of sinful man in salvation, but look to the merits of Christ alone to be graciously and unmeritedly applied to the believer.
The believer then is justified by the merits of Christ alone, through faith in Him alone.