Monday, October 22, 2018

The Mystery of Molinism

There is a lively debate on the issue of exhaustive meticulous divine providence and human freedom. I take it there are only two comparable options before us: Molinism and Calvinism. The former affirms libertarian freedom/incompatibilism. Conversely, the latter asserts compatibilism. Recently I commented on a FreeThinking Ministries blog post. I objected to Molinism since it prima facie denies divine aseity. Why? Well, Middle knowledge asserts God knows counterfactals (e.g. libertarian free choices) prior to His creative decree. These counterfactuals are stressed to be known different than natural or free knowledge. Freethinking Ministries argued Molinism does not deny divine aseity since possible worlds are merely different state of affairs God could actualize in virtue of His omnipotence. This reply seems to ground counterfactuals in free knowledge from natural knowledge. It essentially denies Middle knowledge. Or becomes a distinction without a difference. So my objection remains to be answered. How does Molinism account for counterfactals? I grant given epistemic reliabilism one may be warranted to affirm Molinism without an ability to provide the grounds for counterfactuals. But is one justified in his/her belief of Molinism without providing the ontic grounds for counterfactuals? One’s epistemic duties require a person to acquire Biblical/philosophical evidence for one’s position. In my judgment, Calvinism has greater metaphysical explanatory power and scope than Molinism; since it can provide a metaphysical ground to God’s knowledge (e.g. contingent propositions) without an appeal to mystery. Why are not counterfactuals abstract objects or platonic forms given Molinism? If they are then aseity is denied. If they are not then what precisely is the nature of counterfactuals? 

The common objection leveled is Calvinism as such is self-defeating given divine determinism. I think this objection is not obvious especially in virtue of reformed epistemology. Concepts such as design plan, proper function, properly basic beliefs may enforce the plausibility of divine determinism. 

Admittedly, there are at least five models of divine providence offered within the respective theological traditions(Open-theism, Classic Arminianism, Molinism, Calvinism, HyperCalvinism). Of course, one can propose a new model.

I would favor Molinism over the alternatives to Calvinism. Perhaps, because it is so close to my position. I find it more attractive, hence a formidable opponent. 

 I may concede Calvinism and Molinism both appeal to mystery. But the mystery is on different levels and layers. Calvinism places the mystery in God’s decree (as it relates to His attributes and actions). Molinism seems to place the mystery upon God’s knowledge (and human freedom?). I grant divine cognition/knowledge is inscrutable; unless of course God reveals something about it to us. It’s a worthwhile project to consider competing models to make sense of the Biblical data/doctrinal teachings. Philosophical implications/problems are to be considered. Is the philosophical cost too high? 

Calvinism may seem to be a reductionistic thesis. But I would not concede it is a fully reductionistic proposal. Perhaps that would be some Calvinistic forms of idealism or pantheism? Contrawise, I think Calvinism does preserve a Creator and creature distinction. If God is the creator, sustainer and goal of all things then divine aseity is affirmed/retained. Yet mystery is inevitable. 

I’ve read arguments that wish to limit God. It is very similar to arguments offered by process theologians. In fact, I think such arguments have done a good service to re-evaluate what is taken as the Biblical status quo.  Nevertheless, I do find them unsatisfying. If God is limited in any of His knowledge, power and control, then His will can be thwarted. I know some don’t find perfect being theology helpful. But I’d add such a view is less than what can be thought of as the greatest conceivable being. 

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