Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Why Molinists Say They Are Misunderstood

A common issue in discussions on Molinism is that, early on, Molinists (such as myself) will often complain that they have been misunderstood. Why are they claiming this, and is this claim accurate? My contention is that it is, in at least a lot of popular level cases.

First, let’s clarify what is meant by “misunderstood:” someone or some position is misunderstood when a claim made by that person or position is represented in a way that is not what the claim is actually stating, and the misrepresentation is not deliberate.[1]

With that in mind, it is demonstrable that some people simply do not know what they are talking about when it comes to Molinism. First, you have this popular website, which claims that Molinism “means that God learns what the actual choices of people will be only when they occur,” and this gem: “He doesn’t learn [note: as opposed to Molinism, it seems the author thinks]. He knows!” This is demonstrably not what any Molinist claims, and the author offers no reason to think that it’s an entailment of anything Molinists do claim. He doesn’t link to any source whatsoever, much less a primary one.

In fact, Molinists claim that middle knowledge is an excellent tool for divine planning, precisely because it means God knows what any free choice would be in any circumstances logically prior to divine creation! William Lane Craig, a Molinist, writes, “Indeed, the doctrine of middle knowledge just is a theory of how God can know future contingents without any sort of perception of the world at all. I think that you have mistakenly assumed that according to the doctrine of middle knowledge, God deduces from the circumstances in which a free person is placed what he would do in those circumstances. . . . But that is not the doctrine.” So we must be forgiven here for shouting that we are misunderstood when the exact opposite of the teaching of middle knowledge is presented as though it was the teaching of middle knowledge! I have addressed this particular popular site’s error here: http://www.randyeverist.com/2012/07/carm-on-molinism.html

Second, among many errors, this author insists that Molinism is relevantly like open theism, and is a heresy. The reasons? Well, he makes the same mistake, claiming that Molinists claim (again, no source cited whatsoever) that an action must first occur in order for it to be true. Next, he claims that Molinists (by virtue of the beginning of explicit Molinism) are trying to retain semi-Pelagianism (as an aside, I wonder if people just don’t understand semi-Pelagianism, or just don’t understand contemporary or classic non-Calvinism, because this charge appears an alarming number of times). He claims that “no future conditional thing can be knowable before the divine decree;” but Molinists don’t claim that they are! Instead, Molinists claim that the necessary foundation for future conditionals is subjunctive conditionals, and these subjunctive conditionals that describe creaturely free actions are known to God prior to the divine decree. So, again, we should be forgiven here. I deal with this website in this article: http://www.randyeverist.com/2011/02/unfortunate-critique-of-molinism.html

On the other hand, it is true there are plenty of people who do understand Molinism, and simply aren’t Molinists. And that’s OK; it’s not my personal mission to make sure everyone is a Molinist (nor should it be!). It’s just that we’d rather be rejected for things we actually say rather than be rejected for things we don’t.

[1] There is an exception to this; namely, if someone is listing an entailment of a particular position. However, two notes: first, if you are purporting to represent a view, then you should lay out at first what the view teaches, and then attempt to show entailments of it, not represent the entailments as things these positions claim for themselves. That’s just charity. Second, entailments should be clearly labeled as such; if they are not, we can not really be faulted for assuming that you just don’t know or understand what is being claimed.


  1. In my opinion, Molinism is the most fruitful theological idea ever conceived and is also the most misunderstood theological idea ever misunderstood.

    1. Hey thanks for commenting! What you said is so true, man.


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