Wednesday, June 25, 2014

GotQuestions?' article on Molinism Misses the Mark

I want to write briefly on the popular website and their treatment of Molinism. As opposed to many who write popular level discussions on Molinism, this treatment understood Molinism (so I think)—at least on a basic level. I only have a few qualms about the article—really, I mostly take issue with the conclusion, which comes so far out of left field, it’s really quite inexplicable.

While it is true that GotQuestions really doesn’t get middle knowledge 100% correctly (e.g., the counterfactuals in middle knowledge are not just any counterfactuals, as some of these are not known in God’s middle knowledge, but instead are specifically counterfactuals of creaturely freedom), that little mistake doesn’t tend to affect any portion of their criticism.

So what is their criticism of Molinism? Well, first, they have a minor critique against the Molinist who “insists” that Molinism/middle knowledge is true on biblical grounds. In point of fact, while laymen may make this mistake, no scholarly defender of middle knowledge even “insists” Molinism or middle knowledge is true at all, regardless of the grounds! Further, Molinists who bring up the text usually argue that it is compatible with the text, and/or the text suggests it, and advise philosophical reflection. In point of fact, this is precisely how William Lane Craig argues the position—that one must have philosophical reflection to arrive at a conclusion with respect to Molinism.

The major criticism goes on to say, “Molinism is not the best way to think about God’s sovereignty and human free will,” and even “The biblical descriptions of God’s sovereignty appear to be more robust than the account given by the Molinist.” However, strangely, they affirm, in the very next sentence, “With that in mind, it should be noted that the Molinist would agree with everything said in the above paragraph” (emphasis added).

Given what was said, there’s really only one way that is true. That’s if they weren’t Molinists! Molinists don’t think that Molinism is not the best way to think about God’s sovereignty and human free will; it’s precisely the opposite. But let’s cut them a break. They seem to be acknowledging that Molinists affirm all of the biblical data and want to preserve both God’s sovereignty and human free will. So if that’s all true, then how is this an objection to Molinism? They don’t say. It just is. In point of fact, it can only be an objection to Molinism if those texts teach causal determinism, which is not even asserted by the GotQuestions article, much less argued for.

The final paragraph is a huge jumble of a mess. It is claimed that where Molinists and Calvinists disagree most is on the old lines of Calvinism vs. Arminianism. One might be able to accept that, except, bizarrely, they claim these lines are total depravity and limited atonement. I have two words: citation needed. Realistically, the big problem Molinists have with Calvinism is whether or not counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are known to God logically prior to the divine decree (Molinism and middle knowledge) or posterior to the decree (Calvinism); basically, it is whether or not causal determinism or libertarian free will is true.

Finally, and again out of left field, the supposed Calvinist criticism of Molinism is framed in terms of divine simplicity, divine timelessness, and immutability. But these are all incidental to Molinism! Not only can one take one side or the other and be a Molinist, but one can take one side or the other and be a causal determinist! There are those who believe in God’s omnitemporality, those who believe in God’s atemporality, and those who espouse a hybrid view who are all Molinists, and none of them is in conflict with one another with respect to middle knowledge. Second, this is just not the type of objection Calvinists bring against middle knowledge.

In short, the biblical text is granted as accepted by Molinists and the philosophical critiques are literally irrelevant. I was very surprised by this, because usually poor critiques of Molinism leave evidence of serious misunderstanding. On the contrary, I found their recapitulation of the basic idea of middle knowledge and Molinism to be correct in all of the relevant respects for this debate. Whatever the motivation, however, they don’t seem to have a good objection to Molinism.

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