2022 Symposium Follow-Up

Current symposium members with Dr. Picirilli (Dr. Pinson absent due to health difficulties)
Dr. Picirilli and his five children attending the symposium honoring his legacy of Biblical scholarship and influence.

Robert Picirilli

(Editor’s Note: The following is a brief addendum to the question-and-answer segment following Dr. Picirilli’s paper presentation at the Symposium, and also the full Q&A session at the end of the program.)

There was a question, during the Q&A time, about how the term “Reformed Arminian” came about. After the session, Danny Conn checked and sent me the following excerpt from my General Editor’s Preface to the Commentary on Romans published in 1987. This was the first time the term was publicly used:

If there were such a phrase, I would say that Free Will Baptists are “Reformed Arminian.” I would immediately be accused of contradiction, of course. If I reminded my accuser that Arminius him-self was Reformed, he would probably remind me in turn that Arminius’ followers (after his death) were turned out of the Reformed Church. Even so, I think that many Christians will be at least a little surprised to learn that there are “Arminians” who believe in total depravity, in the eternal (conditional) election of individuals to salvation, in Christ’s death as penal, substitutionary (universal) atonement that fully satisfied the just demands of a holy God for the infinite punishment of sin, in salvation (including perseverance in salvation) that is conditioned on faith and not on works or merit. Such is the position of the writers of the volumes in this series.

Also, when answering Brother Blair’s question, I forgot something important that I had planned to mention at some point in the session on Molinism.

When I say that a person can choose either way under the same circumstances, I mean that God puts people in circumstances where they really can choose either alternative. For example, when He puts us in circumstances where we are tempted, that person can yield or resist, and God knows the future either way (which is where counterfactuals come in). Thus, in the realm of time, if he didn’t have foreknowledge, he’d have to wait to see how I choose before knowing how I choose. In that case I’d be free as an agent to determine (make certain) my choice. And I’m saying that even with His foreknowledge, the situation for my freedom to choose is exactly the same as if He didn’t have foreknowledge. To illustrate: say He puts me in the circumstance of temptation a hundred times; in some of those I may resist, and in some others I may yield. That He knows which I will do each time has no effect on my freely choosing which, and it shows that I really can choose differently in the same circumstances. I think 1 Corinthians 10:31 confirms this. All the temptations we face are common to man; God will, with the temptation, provide a way of escape, and I can yield or resist. In putting me in such circumstances, God puts me in circumstances where I can do what He wants me to (resist) or what He doesn’t want me to (yield). He doesn’t put me in circumstances, even when He knows I’m going to yield or resist, in a way that His knowing or putting me there, effectively produces the choice I make. And His overall plan is going to be successful regardless which way I choose. Again, the choice isn’t in any way settled until I make it.

A possible problem for our thinking is that we say, correctly, that if God knows I will yield I will yield! And as soon as we emphasize “will” we ourselves “feel” like that settles it. That’s the thing I was referring to in emphasizing how we must not let ourselves think that way. No, God’s knowing what I will do does not in any way at all “settle” that I will do it. He can know that I will yield only if I will yield. If God puts us in circumstances where we really can do what He wants or what He doesn’t want (and billions of people do the latter every day), then that means we really can choose between the alternatives (exercise libertarian freedom) in the same set of circumstances.


  1. The Picirilli quotation from above is fantastic. Thanks for locating, Danny Conn.

    And Picirilli’s comments and clarifications here are helpful as well. In my experience, with nearly every discussion one has on the subject of free will and related matters, you should expect about a 80/20 or even 90/10 split between: 1) efforts at disambiguation, defining terms, etc. and
    2) engaging on the subject/question/topic itself.

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