How would God judge an illiterate medieval Roman Catholic who never came to Christ?

Monday Musings for July 13, 2020

Good morning, Musers,

Today we have a lesson in counterfactuals. Our questioner postulated a scenario where an illiterate medieval Roman Catholic serf could not find his way through the weeds to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. By evangelical standards, such a person is lost. So our questioner asked — and this should be the question-of-the-year — how will this person be judged?

The implication is that this serf did the best he could with what he knew, and although it wasn’t stated, he might have been better off being a pagan — basking in God’s revelation in creation — instead of sifting through doctrines like sacramentalism, meritorious works, the communion of saints and Purgatory — hoping to find the biblically revealed Christ under that pile.

You may say that this sounds like a theological issue and not a practical one. But I disagree. Eternity is in the balance — and you have a better chance of hitting something if you swing from an appropriate distance than if you were standing too close. Roman Catholicism is too close to salvation to get a swing at it, but it has too many counter-salvific doctrines to get saved by it.

I don’t think I am being mean or unfair with this evaluation. On the contrary. I want everyone to be saved! But that won’t happen... and talking about other people’s failures can be awkward. We try to compensate by explaining salvation in terms that aren’t so final — so emotionally unacceptable. But they are final... and how we feel about them and who we offend does not matter.

Now, here is where I cash in on Molinism. Molinism loves scenarios as much as it loves free will! So God — from eternity past and as part of his omniscience — knew every possible scenario for every person’s life — including the medieval serf we have in our crosshairs.

If God did not have this “Middle Knowledge” (which is different than his fore-knowledge), then the idea of “election” might scare me. But election doesn’t scare me. Fifty years ago, I chose to be among the elect — and you heard that right! I made a choice to be elected.

Calvinists do not agree with me here. But unless you see salvation hanging on your personal choice, you do not subscribe to free will. You might think you do. But what you subscribe to is God pulling your strings — yet you call it free will. But putting a label on something does nothing to change the product. Calvinism is deterministic. The lives of volitional beings are not.

Human beings have libertarian free will; this is a basic ontological truth. Affirming that I have free will is on the same level as affirming that I exist. So I pass every idea — no matter if it touches on physics, metaphysics or hermeneutics — through the free-will filter. If it doesn’t pass... it doesn’t pass. But under Molinism, everything passes! … and I don’t know why more people don’t jump on board.

The only ways we are different from that medieval peasant are in the details of our lives. These are heavily dependent upon initial conditions... like our place of birth, etc... and all that’s on God. However, we have all made choices about salvation and how to live our lives. All that’s on us.

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