Salvation And Sovereignty: A Review Essay -- By: Steve W. Lemke

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 07:1 (Spring 2010)
Article: Salvation And Sovereignty: A Review Essay
Author: Steve W. Lemke


Salvation And Sovereignty: A Review Essay

Steve W. Lemke1

Ken Keathley, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, proposes in this volume a compromise approach to resolve the tension between divine sovereignty and human freedom, particularly with regard to soteriology. This book has an interesting history, having been begun as a coauthored project when Keathley was a faculty member at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, at the encouragement of NOBTS President Chuck Kelley. After Hurricane Katrina, circumstances led to Keathley completing the book alone, assisted by a Lilly Foundation faculty grant and a sabbatical leave at his new place of service.

Keathley employs two tools in the book to address these complex issues. As the book’s subtitle suggests, Keathley proposes a Molinist approach to salvation and sovereignty. In addition, Keathley utilizes Timothy George’s “ROSES” acronym2 as opposed to the classical “TULIP” acronym associated with the Reformed Synod of Dort. ROSES provides an interpretive grid for the book, with a chapter dedicated to each letter of the acronym. Molinism provides the theological perspective that is brought to interpret the content of each letter in the acronym.

The book begins with some broader issues that are propaedeutic to Keathley’s discussion of the ROSES paradigm. He first offers a biblical defense of Molinism. The author can be praised for perhaps the clearest explanation of Molinism that I have seen. Sometimes Molinists attempt to explain their position with such dense and opaque language that one wonders if they really understand the position themselves. However, Keathley’s explanation is understandable, and he builds a tenable case from Scripture in support of this perspective. Keathley presents Molinism as a middle way between Arminianism and Calvinism.

Like Bohr’s model of the atom, Molinism is a heuristic device, a plausible theological construct to help us conceptualize what appears from a human perspective to be inconceivable – how God can be absolutely sovereign and humans can have genuine libertarian freedom at the same time. Molinism is not demanded or required by Scripture, but as Keathley points out, it is consistent with Scripture at many points.

Keathley’s affirmation, however, that God “perfectly controls all things” (20) and exercises “meticulous control over all things, including all big things, little things, and things done by other free agents (21-25), is difficult to reconcile with his affirmation that Go...

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