Molinism and Natural Evil

By Jacob Brown

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March 16, 2018

Many people today know of the free will defense to the problem of Moral Evil and that Molinism reconciles Gods sovereignty with Mans Free will. However not as many would be familiar with the Free Process Defense or Molinism’s reconciliation of Gods Sovereignty and Genuine Randomness in Nature. My goal today is to give a possible answer to the logical problem of Natural Evil in the free Process defense and demonstrate How Molinism can supercharge it against the probabilistic version of the Problem of Natural Evil.

So let’s unpack this all beginning with the problem of Natural Evil (the Problem of moral evil’s less popular cousin). Examples of Natural Evil are natural disasters, diseases and parasites. In the overall analysis the problem of Natural Evil isn’t all that different from the problem of Moral Evil.

P1. An omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God would be able to, know how to and want to stop all Natural Evil.

P2. Natural Evil Exists.

Therefore

C. God does not exist.

Now some have suggested demonic forces being behind Natural Evil and thus argue it is solved by the Free Will Defense, and while I am not opposed to that answer I think there is a better one.

The Free Process Defense

We live in what physicists call a “Complex” world, meaning it is composed of a high number of interrelated, dynamical, dissipative systems which are sensitively dependent on initial conditions. Examples would be the butterfly effect, both the meteorological version as well as the time travel iteration. The term itself was coined by Edward Lorenz and is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a tornados formation being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly. Lorenz discovered the effect when he observed that runs of his weather model with initial condition data that was rounded in a seemingly inconsequential manner would fail to reproduce the results of runs with the unrounded initial condition data. A very small change in initial conditions had created a significantly different outcome. Other examples are Chaos theory, ecosystems, evolution and the fine tuning of the universe. [1]

For all intents and purposes you can think of these systems as a drop in a pool of water. It ripples and spreads. It effects other people and events in ways we can’t straightforwardly predict. The main point is the interrelated nature of these systems and their capability for genuine randomness.

Thus with this information we can add a premise to our earlier syllogism for a new conclusion.

P3. Our world being “Complex” is capable of genuine randomness.(the Free Process Defense as presented by Garret Deweese used the terminology of novelty rather than randomness but I have opted for this terminology as it better coheres to Molina’s)

C. Not even God can create a complex system capable of genuine randomness that never changes for the worse(results in Natural Evil).

The Free Process Defense on its own can only provide a logical possibility and that’s all that is needed to defeat the Logical Problem of Natural Evil but for the Probabilistic Problem of Natural Evil a metaphysical possibility is needed. Molinism can provide this metaphysical warrant for the free process defense in that if Molinism is true, then God has Middle knowledge of these complex systems capable of genuine randomness, and how they would unfold in any world he actualizes.

Conclusion

So we can argue that he sovereignly actualized a Complex world in which his will is fulfilled through genuine randomness, however not even God could create a Complex World capable of genuine randomness that never goes wrong, but given his Middle knowledge it is probable  that for any possible world with this much Genuine randomness there would exist as much Natural Evil, and the only way God could eliminate Natural Evil would be by removing randomness. Thus the Existence of Natural Evil renders God No less improbable.

As Kirk MacGregor points out in his book Luis De Molina [2]:

“For, as Molina insisted, it is obvious that a God who can infallibly control every libertarian free creaturely action and random natural event without compromising that freedom and randomness is more sovereign than a God who can only control every creaturely action or natural event if creatures lack libertarian freedom and natural processes lack randomness. While on Calvin’s view God is threatened by libertarian freedom and randomness and cannot permit either in order to remain sovereign, on Molina’s view God’s sovereignty is not threatened by either libertarian freedom or randomness but is rather augmented by his ability to control the effects of both. “

(I’ve been wanting to say this forever)
Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5)!

[1] https://youtu.be/3Yt7hvgFuNg

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Luis-Molina-Theology-Founder-Knowledge/dp/0310516978/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1516772529&sr=8-1&keywords=Luis+de+Molina

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About the Author

By Jacob Brown

Jacob is an aspiring Apologist and Philosopher from Denver Colorado. In his youth, he made some foolish mistakes and dropped out of high school after receiving his G.E.D. But after coming to faith in Jesus Christ he has had a renewing of the mind. He now is attending Fort Hays State University for his Bachelor's in Philosophy and plans on attending Biola for his Master's In Christian Apologetics once he's finished at FHSU.