The Apologetic Significance of Molinism

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

January 8, 2018

Abstract: Mere Molinism, as properly understood, bears wide-reaching benefits to many apologetics arguments. This essay examines a well-known atheological argument dubbed as the Problem of Evil (both moral and natural versions) and applies Molinism to the various branches of apologetical arguments. The arguments within the scope of Molinism’s reach include the Freethinking Argument, the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Moral Argument, the Fine-Tuning Argument, the Ontological Argument, and the argument from time. Apart from these various points, there are also other fields to which Molinism presents itself as a strong explanatory power such as the Euthyphro Dilemma, evolution, and Biblical inspiration. The final argument posited by this essay is titled the Omni Argument that further strengthens the case for Molinism. Ultimately, this essay demonstrates that the Molinist has access to far more apologetic-based arguments than competing theological views.


A pastor recently asked me if all of my research and writing regarding Molinism is nothing but a “colossal waste of time.” After all, why should one whose mission is to argue for the truth of Christianity spend so much time promoting a specific Christian theology, especially when it is over such a seemingly peripheral and non-essential issue? This pastor believed that my time, as a Christian apologist, would be better spent arguing against atheism alone. I responded by explaining how Molinism is the greatest threat to the atheist worldview today. That is to say, Molinism is apologetics!

In my experience, not only do I find myself defending Molinism from the likes of Calvinists and Open Theists, but I am amazed to see the vigor in which atheists also oppose Molina’s doctrine of middle knowledge![1] After all, why should the atheist care what view a Christian holds of divine sovereignty and human responsibility? It comes down to the fact that Molinism destroys (2 Corinthians 10:5) their favorite argument raised against the knowledge of God — the so-called, “problem of evil.” If their strongest argument for atheism is devastated by Molinism, then the committed atheist will argue against Molinism just as vehemently (if not more so) than the Calvinist and Open Theist! Molinism no longer allows the atheist to hide behind a mask of reason if they have been hiding behind the “problem of evil.” Other views of God’s sovereignty do not provide this threat to the atheistic worldview. In fact, views like TULIP Calvinism and divine determinism of any stripe actually support atheism (See Calvinism Implies Atheism).

Mere Molinism, I have argued, entails two essential ingredients:

1- God is eternally omniscient (middle knowledge).
2- Humans possess libertarian free will.

One can move beyond the “mere” and become a “hard Molinist” by affirming a third ingredient:

3- God is a maximally great being who loves and desires the best for all people.

A strong view of Molinism entails each of these key ingredients. Competing views, however, will deny at least one of these vital points. For example, Open Theists[2] and some Thomists[3] deny that God possesses middle knowledge of possible worlds within His power to create. Calvinists and other divine determinists regularly reject the notion of human libertarian freedom and often dismiss the omnibenevolence of God.

As we will see, at least one of the three key aspects of Molinism  is connected with each of the following apologetics-based arguments. With this in mind, it seems that Molinism has access to more arguments for the existence of God (not to mention offering powerful defenses to objections raised against the existence of God), than any other view of God’s sovereignty. While this does not prove Molinism is true, it does seem to make it a preferable view.

Consider the greatest objection against the Greatest Being:

Molinism Destroys Atheology

Molinism vs the Problem of Moral Evil

Many atheists assume that the idea of a perfectly loving God is logically incompatible with moral evil. For example, if God causally determines all things (as many Calvinists contend), then God causally determined all of Hitler’s thoughts and actions. They conclude that Hitler is not really to blame for the Holocaust, but God is the one who is guilty of evil. Therefore, God is either not worthy of worship or simply does not exist.

Molinism, however, solves the problem while shifting from a free will defense and offering a traditional theodicy. Consider the fact that on a Molinistic framework, it is logical to conclude that an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly loving God exists. Since God is all-loving, He desires an authentic and eternal loving relationship with each and every human being He has ever created (another point not compatible with Calvinism). Since God desires an authentic love relationship with each individual human being, He had to give humanity the genuine freedom to choose to reject Him — or not (this point is not compatible with Calvinism). With rejection comes sin and these transgressions have infected this world with evil, pain, and terrible suffering. God also allows suffering caused by moral choices because suffering shapes us as well as brings us closer to Him, which is the greatest good a human being could ever experience.

After reflecting upon God’s perfect love, the only way God could eradicate the possibility of moral evil is to eradicate libertarian free will. That would then eradicate the possibility of each one of us freely choosing to enter into a “true love” relationship with our creator. That eternal love relationship with our creator is the greatest good a person could ever experience; therefore, eradicating evil would be evil! Thus, when we keep eternity in mind, we see that it is good and loving that evil, pain, and suffering were made possible and allowed by God.

We can summarize via logical deduction. Consider the Free Will Argument Against the Problem of Moral Evil:

1- If a Maximally Great Being (God) exists, He is perfectly good and all loving (this is the property of omnibenevolence).
2- If God is all-loving, He desires a true love relationship with all mankind (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).
3- If true love is to be attained with all mankind, all mankind must possess libertarian free will.
4- If mankind possesses libertarian free will, then mankind can freely choose to do evil.
5- If a Maximally Great Being (God) exists He is all-powerful (this is the property of omnipotence).
6- Therefore, God could prevent the possibility of evil actions by eradicating human libertarian free will (He would have the power).
7- If God eradicates libertarian free will, then He eradicates the possibility of true love with humanity.
8- Eternal love with God is the ultimate good humans can experience & humans freely choosing to love God brings Him ultimate glory.
9- Therefore, preventing love would be evil.
10- Therefore, it would be evil to eradicate libertarian free will.
11- Therefore, it would be evil for God to eradicate the possibility of evil.
12- Therefore, since God is perfectly good and all loving, He allows the possibility of evil.

It is vital to understand that Molinism provides the foundation upon which this argument against the “problem of moral evil” is built as libertarian free will is one of its essential components. Since this problem of evil has been said to be the greatest “reason” for atheism today[4], it follows that Molinism — if true — takes this so-called “reason” off the table for atheists. If an atheist has no good reason for his or her atheism (and continues to hold to atheistic beliefs anyway), then they clutch to their atheistic beliefs with a blind faith apart from reason. Again, this is why the committed atheist will vigorously fight against Molinism and desperately try to find something wrong with the above argument.

Christians who deny human libertarian freedom or God’s perfect love (omnibenevolence) do not have access to this argument and are left with a significant problem of carrying an extremely heavy burden of evil. That is to say, the problem of evil cannot be adequately explained by one who affirms that God casually determines all things.

Molinism vs the Problem of Natural Evil

Molinism also offers a powerful solution to another version of the “problem of evil” (a.k.a., the “problem of natural evil”). Neil deGrasse Tyson, for example, is a world-renowned astrophysicist and science popularizer. However, he also spends much of his time popularizing an argument against the Christian view of God. Tyson often makes claims such as the following:

“Every description of God that I have heard, holds God to be all-powerful (very typical) and all-good. And then I look around and I see a tsunami that killed a quarter million people in Indonesia — an earthquake that killed a quarter million people in Haiti. And I see earthquakes, tornadoes, and disease, childhood leukemia. And I see all of this and I say I do not see evidence of both of those being true simultaneously!

If there is a God, the God is either not all-powerful, or not all good. It can’t be both!”[5]

I contend that if Tyson were aware of Molinism, then he would not make such claims and perhaps even consider Christianity! Consider the words of Paul Draper (a well-known atheist philosopher):

“Logical arguments from evil are a dying (dead?) breed. . . . even an omnipotent and omniscient being might be forced to allow E[vil] for the sake of obtaining some important good.” (The Skeptical Theist” in The Evidential Argument from Evil:1996:176-77).

Molinism explains exactly what this “important good” is. At least one of these “important goods” is that this temporary suffering-filled world allows humans the ability to freely love for eternity and teaches us not to take a perfect state of affairs for granted as Adam, Eve, Satan, and a third of all the angels seemed to do. With this in mind, it is easy to answer the following question:

Why did God call this world, “very good” (Genesis 1:31)?

Because God knew it would (implies God’s middle knowledge if God possessed this knowledge logically prior to creating this world) lead to an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). God has eternity in mind; we ought to as well. Consider another argument founded on a Molinistic framework which destroys the supposed problem of natural evil:

1- God desires a genuine and true love relationship with all people for eternity.
2- Genuine and true love between two persons requires libertarian freedom (LFW) to be possessed by both persons.
3-  Therefore, God creates humanity with LFW.
4- Beings who are created in perfect states of affairs who also possess LFW take “perfect states of affairs” for granted and freely choose to leave or ruin perfect states of affairs (for instance, Adam, Eve, Satan, and a third of all the angels).
5- With (4) in mind, God creates a world where libertarian free humans can experience evil in limited amounts so that they will not take the perfect state of heavenly affairs for granted and freely leave or ruin it for eternity (2 Corinthians 4:17).
6- Therefore, God creating a world where free creatures can and would learn from our evil mistakes and natural suffering is good and loving! (This is a gift from God!)

This argument makes use of all three of the essential ingredients of the strong view of Molinism. In fact, no competing views of God’s sovereignty have access to this argument.

With God’s eternal intent in mind, it is easy to see that God is not a “morally guilty mind.” That is to say, the concept of Mens rea does not apply to God if Molinism is true.[6] This is a knockdown argument against Tyson’s assertion that if God is all-powerful, then He cannot be all-good or all loving. In fact, when we keep eternity in mind, we see that this world suffused with suffering is the most loving kind of world God could have created. Molinism takes the teeth out of the bite of Tyson’s objection raised against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Tyson seems to be completely unaware of the work that theologians and philosophers have done in this field which leads to his ignorant claims. Peter van Inwagen made it clear:

“It used to be widely held that evil was incompatible with the existence of God: that no possible world contained both God and evil. So far as I am able to tell, this thesis is no longer defended.” (The Problem of Evil, the Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence,”Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 5: Philosophy of Religion,ed. James E. Tomberlin:1991:135)

This thesis may no longer be defended in the ivory towers of academia; however, the majority of culture today is unaware of these scholarly achievements. This is why it is vital for the Church at large — from pastors to the layman — to be aware of the apologetic power of Molinism when engaged in evangelism or influencing culture for God’s glory in any form or fashion. The so-called “problem of evil” has been referred to as the primary reason for atheistic affirmations. However, when viewed via a Molinistic lens, this so-called “problem” melts away.

Molinism Strengthens Apologetic Arguments 

Molinism & the Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism

Not only is the “problem of evil” no problem at all if Molinism is true, Molina’s view also provides a foundation for powerful arguments against naturalism which is the most popular view of atheism. Simply put, naturalism is the belief that physical reality is all that exists. It follows that if nature is all that exists, then all that exists could ultimately be discovered via the study of nature (physics, chemistry, and biology, for example). Thus, if only scientifically testable and discoverable things exist, then, things like God or anything like God (such as human souls) do not exist. One argument that defeats this naturalistic view is the Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism:

1- If naturalism is true, human nature does not include an immaterial soul.
2- If human nature does not include an immaterial soul, then humans do not possess libertarian free will.
3- If humans do not possess libertarian free will, then humans do not possess the ability to gain inferential knowledge via the process of rationality.
4- Humans do possess the ability to gain inferential knowledge via the process of rationality.
5- Therefore, humans possess libertarian free will.
6- Therefore, human nature includes an immaterial soul.
7- Therefore, naturalism is false.
8- The best explanation for the existence of the immaterial soul is God.

I have defended the Freethinking Argument at length on freethinkingministries.com, but my point is that this argument against naturalistic atheism makes perfect sense on Molinism — but it is at odds with divine determinism! In fact, this argument from rationality is often attacked from both atheists who assume naturalism is true and Christians who assume deterministic Calvinism to be true. Needless to say, Calvinists cannot appeal to this apologetic argument for the existence of the human soul created in God’s image because it simultaneously destroys their divine determinism.

Because of problems like these, a minority of Calvinists freely choose to reject determinism. Consider the words of Greg Koukl:

“The problem with [determinism] is that without freedom, rationality would have no room to operate. Arguments would not matter, since no one would be able to base beliefs on adequate reasons. One could never judge between a good idea and a bad one. One would only hold beliefs because he had been predetermined to do so. . . . Although it is theoretically possible that determinism is true — there is no internal contradiction, as far as I can tell — no one could ever know it if it were. Every one of our thoughts, dispositions, and opinions would have been decided for us by factors completely out of our control. Therefore, in practice, arguments for determinism are self-defeating.” (Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions; 2009;128-29)

Molinism is the best, most defensible framework by which we understand libertarian free will (LFW), and LFW is necessary for the Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism to hold. This is another example of how Molinism is apologetics! This is another reason why I spend so much time laying a Molinist foundation.

Molinism & the Kalam Cosmological Argument

Molinism provides more firepower in the battle of apologetics. Consider one of the most powerful arguments for the existence of God — the Kalam Cosmological Argument. The Kalam is one of my favorite arguments for God’s existence. However, the rational inferences derived from the deductive conclusion can cause problems for Christians who believe libertarian free will is impossible. The argument goes as follows:

1- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2- The universe began to exist.
3- Therefore, the universe had a cause.

I have also defended this argument in detail on freethinkingministries.com, but for the purposes of this article, consider the rational inferences that logically follow from the deductive conclusion:

If the cause of the universe transcends space and time, then, logically, it must be “timeless.” This means that whatever was the cause of time would have had no beginning, because a beginning necessitates time. If the cause existed apart from time and had no beginning, it can be inferred logically that this cause had no cause of its own, as it logically never began to exist, and seems to exist necessarily. It exists outside of time or exists eternally.

Moreover, as the big bang was the beginning of space-time, then it logically follows that the cause of the universe also had to have been “spaceless.” This means that the cause would have no size or shape. It was utterly immaterial. Accordingly, the Kalam takes naturalism off the table as a possible model of reality, because this argument has provided evidence that a supernatural cause of the universe exists.

Beyond this ultimate cause being outside of time and being immaterial, another inference is that it must be enormously powerful. What could require more power than creating a universe from nothing?

Moreover, not only did the cause of the universe have to have been apart from time and space, it also must have had the ability — the power — to spontaneously bring the world into existence without anything causing it to do so — because then, whatever the cause of the cause was would be the cause. But since this cause exists outside of anything physical, temporal, or material, none of these things could logically cause or force this ultimate cause to do anything. Therefore, this ultimate cause seems to have its own volition or libertarian free will. Apart from anything abstract (which would be causally impotent anyway), only an unembodied mind (or soul) could logically exist “in nothingness,” transcending space-time and all nature.

Think about this: persons are the only type of things that could possibly possess immaterial minds with free will (which is supported by the Freethinking Argument I offered above); therefore, we can decipher that the cause of the universe was a personal being. If the cause of the universe is personal, then it is at least possible that “it” can have a personal relationship with other personal beings. You and I are personal beings. Therefore, it is possible that you and I can have a personal relationship with the cause of the universe.

Here is the point: Some deterministic Calvinists have argued that the idea of libertarian free will is absurd and that even God cannot possess this kind of volition. If that is the case, then these Calvinists cannot appeal to all of the rational inferences provided by the Kalam and humanity becomes just as “necessary” as God Himself. Consider the words of Jay Wesley Richards:

“. . . if choice and alternatives must be positively barred from our understanding of God’s creation of the world, one should conclude that God is not even as free as we are in many situations. This denial of choice does not imply a supereminent but rather an anemic freedom in God. Claiming that creation is contingent while denying that God had any choice in creating it empties the word contingent of all determinate logical and theological sense. . . The better course seems to be to retain the claim that God is free, at least with respect to some things, in the libertarian sense. God could have created a world different from the one he actually did create, or he could have created none at all.” (The Untamed God:2003:239)

However, if God does possess libertarian free will, then it stands to reason that if humans are indeed created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), then humans would possess the genuine ability to choose among options in accord with our nature as well. This is the epitome of LFW.

Molinism is the best, most defensible framework by which we understand LFW. If humans possess the libertarian ability to choose or choose otherwise, then we have access to another powerful argument for the existence of God.

Molinism & the Moral Argument

The Moral Argument might be the most attention-getting of all the arguments in the arsenal of the apologist. This is because virtually every single human makes moral judgements every single day. The argument is structured as follows:

1- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2- Objective moral values and duties exist.
3- Therefore, God exists.

There are several reasons as to why this argument is problematic for the naturalist. One glaring issue is because naturalists typically reject libertarian free will! Consider the well-known atheist and neuroscientist, Sam Harris. As a naturalist, Harris holds to “scientific determinism,” which means he believes our thoughts and actions are causally determined by natural forces like physics, chemistry, and the initial conditions of the big bang. All of these things are outside human control. With naturalism in mind, Harris makes his view clear in his book entitled, Free Will:

Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have. Free will is actually more than an illusion (or less), in that it cannot be made conceptually coherent. Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them. (Free Will:2012:5)

If Harris is correct, then it logically follows that humans could never freely choose any action, including actions with so-called moral properties. If Molinism is true, however, then humans can freely think and freely act (at least occasionally). If Molinism is true, then humans can be held morally responsible for our thoughts and actions because they are not causally determined by anything external to the human and the human genuinely could have chosen otherwise. But this raises a major problem for the deterministic Calvinist!

Many Calvinists do affirm that God exhaustively causally determines all things. This is not some straw man I am attacking. The French Calvinistic philosopher Guillaume Bignon makes his views on the matter clear:

“Do the five points of Calvinism or the Westminster Confession necessitate the thesis of theological determinism? I assert that they do…. it will be so as a matter of definition: theological determinism will be referred to as ‘the Calvinist view,” or simply ‘Calvinism.'” (Excusing Sinners and Blaming God:2018:7)

In his recent essay, notable Calvinist, Matthew J. Hart affirms this exact position:

“Calvinists, I shall assume, are theological determinists. They hold that God causes every contingent event, either directly or indirectly.” [7]

In the footnotes Hart points out that some might wish to break ranks and affirm a flavor of Calvinism while denying this exhaustive divine deterministic view that is typically associated with Calvinism (as per Greg Koukl). Hart notes that Paul Helm is the leading Calvinistic philosopher today and that Helm is a theological determinist. With deterministic Calvinism in mind, consider the following argument:

1- If naturalistic or divine determinism is true, then libertarian free will (LFW) does not exist.
2- If LFW does not exist, then libertarian free thinking (LFT) does not exist (the ability to think otherwise).
3- If LFT does not exist, then moral oughts about our thoughts (and following actions) are illusory (as it would be impossible to ever think otherwise about anything).
4- Moral oughts about our thoughts (and following actions) are not illusory.
5- Therefore, LFT exists.
6- Therefore, LFW exists.
8- Therefore, both naturalistic and divine determinism are false.

Here is the point: if a Christian rejects human libertarian freedom to choose or not to choose, then how can they be held morally responsible for behaving the only way they were created to think, act, believe, or behave? Deterministic Calvinism cannot logically answer this question. Molinism, however, provides a logical foundation for the Moral Argument to deductively prove the existence of God. Since libertarian free will is necessary for the moral argument to work, the dedicated apologist ought to be a Molinist.

Molinism & the Fine-Tuning Argument 

I have argued that if one appeals to the Fine-Tuning Argument for the existence of God, then they should also be a Molinist! That is to say, the fine-tuning argument implies (or strongly hints at) Molinism! First, consider the Fine-Tuning syllogism:

1- The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, change, or design.
2- The fine-tuning is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3- Therefore, the fine-tuning of the universe is due to intelligent design.

What is startling is the fact that we are discussing the fine-tuned early stages of the universe — the initial conditions of the big bang! If the constants and quantities were not specifically dialed in “just right” then the universe would not exist. From galaxies, stars, and planets, to atoms and subatomic particles, the foundation and structure of our universe is determined by many “special” numbers. Consider the following sample:[8]

* Speed of Light: c=299,792,458 m s-1
* Gravitational Constant: G=6.673 x 10-11 m3 kg-1 s-2
* Planck’s Constant: 1.05457148 x 10-34 m2 kg s-2
* Planck Mass-Energy: 1.2209 x 1022 MeV
* Mass of Electron, Proton, Neutron: 0.511; 938.3; 939.6 MeV
* Mass of Up, Down, Strange Quark: 2.4; 4.8; 104 MeV (Approx.)
* Ratio of Electron to Proton Mass: (1836.15)-1
* Gravitational Coupling Constant: 5.9 x 10-39
* Cosmological Constant: (2.3 x 10-3 eV)
* Hubble Constant: 71 km/s/Mpc (today)
* Higgs Vacuum Expectation Value: 246.2 GeV

William Lane Craig notes the significance of these special numbers and what would entail if these numbers were not so “special” and slightly altered:

“These are the fundamental constants and quantities of the universe. Scientists have come to the shocking realization that each of these numbers have been carefully dialed to an astonishingly precise value – a value that falls within an exceedingly narrow, life-permitting range. If any one of these numbers were altered by even a hair’s breadth, no physical, interactive life of any kind could exist anywhere. There’d be no stars, no life, no planets, no chemistry.”[9]

What does this have to do with Molinism and God’s middle knowledge? The relevance can be found in this: God possesses certain knowledge of what would occur in possible worlds if He were to fine-tune the initial conditions of the early universe with all the “special numbers” listed above and actualize this certain possible world. This also entails that God would possess perfect counterfactual knowledge about what kind of non-life permitting universe would have come into existence if any of those numbers were slightly altered (a different possible world would have been the actual world). God chose these special numbers and thus intelligently designed a universe in which humanity could and would exist and come to know Him. If these numbers were different, the universe would have been otherwise and humanity would not exist!

The advocate of the fine-tuning argument affirms that God designed the initial conditions of the big bang to guarantee an environment where intelligent life could exist. If God possessed knowledge of what would follow from a certain fine-tuned point of singularity logically prior to His creative decree to actualize this universe — and God could have adjusted these initial conditions otherwise to bring a different kind of universe (or none at all) into existence, then God possesses knowledge of what He could accomplish, and God possesses knowledge of what will happen following from a certain initial condition of the universe — and even what would happen if the initial conditions of the big bang were not so finely-tuned or tuned otherwise.

If God possesses the power to create worlds other than the world that actually exists (or none at all), and if God knows all that would happen in all these other worlds if the initial conditions of these other worlds (universes) would have been different and actualized instead, then this seems to strongly suggest that God possesses the middle knowledge advocated by Luis de Molina. Since God has natural knowledge, he knows what the initial conditions of the big bang could produce. Since God has middle knowledge, he knows what these initial conditions would produce (this is especially evident once one considers quantum indeterminacy).

Because of this, I contend that if one is an advocate of the Fine-tuning Argument for the existence of God, then he or she should also be a Molinist. At the very least, the Molinist has no problem incorporating this argument from design into their apologetics repertoire.

Molinism & the Ontological Argument 

Speaking of possible worlds, consider an argument which makes use of possible worlds semantics — the Ontological Argument. The goal of the Ontological Argument is to demonstrate that if the concept of a maximally great being is logically possible, then a maximally great being (God) is necessary and must exist! To counter this argument, atheists go to great lengths to demonstrate that the idea of a perfectly good and loving, all-powerful, and all knowing being is logically incoherent.

As noted above, the problem of evil is the most popular attempt at accomplishing this task. Also, as noted above, Molinism defangs this objection by appealing to the omnibenevolence of God and the libertarian freedom of man. Thus, if one is going to debunk the Ontological Argument, it must be done by other means that take the explanatory power of Molinism into account.

Moreover, and as noted above, the Ontological Argument (OA) makes use of “possible world semantics” to demonstrate the existence of God along with any possible world in which one can conceive. There are several forms of the OA, and they usually focus on the idea of the possible existence of a “maximally great being” (what most of us call “God”). The argument typically looks something like this:

1- It is possible that God (Maximally Great Being) exists.
2- If it is possible that God (MGB) exists, then God (MGB) exists in some possible worlds.
3- If God (MGB) exists in some possible worlds, then God (MGB) exists in all possible worlds.
4- If God (MGB) exists in all possible worlds, then God (MGB) exists in the actual world.
5- If God (MGB) exists in the actual world, then God exists.

The purpose of this article is not to argue for or defend the OA. The relevant question is the following: “What does the Ontological Argument have to do with Molinism?”

The answer is twofold and can be found in the fact that Molinism affirms the maximal greatness of God and is based on His middle knowledge of all the possible worlds in which God possesses the ability — the power — to actualize. While the OA does not prove Molinism to be true, it is definitely consistent and compatible with it. Moreover, when one properly understands Molinism, the “possible worlds” involved in the OA become much easier to grasp as well.

Molinism & the Argument from Time

I love to spend much of my time thinking about time! This has led to some fantastic conversations with both philosophers and physicists. I recently interacted with a physics and philosophy student who asserted the idea of the Christian view of God was incompatible with the concept of time (See A Choice Apart From Time). In response to the Kalam Cosmological Argument, he argued that God could not have created the universe. His argument goes as follows:

1. The word “choice” must imply a progression from a state of multiple possibilities to a state of single actuality.
2. The word “time” must imply a progression from one state to another.
3. Since a choice is one such progression between states, time must exist in order for choice to be possible.
4. Since there was no time before the creation of the universe, the creation of the universe could not have been a choice.
5. Therefore God either didn’t create the universe or had no control over how it was created.

This atheist failed to take God’s middle knowledge into account. With Molinism and God’s full knowledge in mind — what could and will happen and what would happen in different possible worlds — I was able to provide the following response to his conclusion:

“FALSE! This statement fails to account for God’s omni-attributes; namely, God’s omniscience and omnipotence! This mistake led to faulty premises which, in turn, led to the demise of the conclusion. With God’s omniscience in mind, one can see that God can exist in a static state of aseity (where nothing happens) and know all of the things He can or could do, and all of the possible worlds that are available for Him to create. Moreover, with God’s omnipotence in mind, we can see that God has the power to choose/actualize one of these worlds. This is no problem for a maximally great being!”

This is one more example of how Molinism is apologetics! The middle knowledge foundation provided by Molinism dismantles many arguments raised against the knowledge of God!

Molinism & Other Important Issues

Molinism vs the Euthyphro Dilemma

Some atheists have objected to the Moral Argument (referenced above) by offering rather sophisticated arguments appealing to the Euthyphro Dilemma. One atheist argued accordingly (See God’s Love & the Euthyphro Dilemma):

If God is the standard of ‘good’ then whatever God does is by definition good. By that argument then hatefulness would by definition be ‘good’. What makes benevolence inherently ‘good’ if you’re getting the standard of ‘good’ from God? By that argument, if God is benevolent then benevolence is good, but if it turns out God is hateful then one has to call ‘hatefulness’ good rather than benevolence. Unless you’re saying that benevolence is inherently good, apart from God, and therefore benevolence is a necessary trait of an ‘all-good’ God. But that would mean God has these traits because he is good, and their goodness stands apart from his possession of them – they’d be good irrespective even of God’s existence.

However, with Molinism in mind, I was able to counter his objection with the following:

God is all-loving by nature. It is irrelevant if one wants to argue if love is “good” or “bad.” I am not making a case that loving all people is “good” or “bad” so my case simply avoids Euthyphro’s horns. I am simply pointing out the way things are (the definition of reality). God is love!

God is “good” in the sense that He always freely acts consistently with His perfectly loving plan for humanity. God also sets the standard that we humans strive for as “the goal.” Humans are “good” when we freely choose to approximate to the objective purpose in which we were created. We are “bad” or morally sinful when we freely choose to “miss the mark” or fail to miss the goal we were created to attain.

The choice is up to you!

Consistent Calvinists do not have access to this apologetic-based response for at least two reasons:

1- God is not omnibenevolent or “all-loving” on Calvinism. In fact, notable Calvinist scholar Arthur Pink affirms that God does not love all people.

2- The choice is not “up to us” on deterministic Calvinism. God causally determines what “choices” will be made or not made on this deterministic view.

Here is the point: Molinism has access to the omnibenevolence of God and to the libertarian freedom of mankind to make genuine choices. In fact, Johnny Sakr has argued that Calvinism cannot escape the Euthyphro Dilemma (See Calvinism & Euthyphro’s Horns). Thus, Molinism succeeds again in offering a coherent defeater against the atheist’s objections raised against the knowledge of God. Deterministic Calvinism fails.

Molinism vs Evolution

The explanatory power of Molinism seems nearly infinite! Consider the fact that Molinism also destroys evolutionary arguments raised against Christianity. Years ago I spent countess hours debating evolution. I would never get anywhere — let alone to the gospel of Christ — because I was always stuck in Genesis. However, with Molinism and God’s middle knowledge in mind, now I can take the supposed “problem of evolution” off the table in one fell swoop!

If one claims to be an atheist because they believe evolution is true, I respond with the following:

“Evolution is no reason to not believe in God! After all, if God is omnipotent and omniscient (logically prior to His creative decree) then creating via evolution is no problem for God. In fact, what would appear to be “random” or by “chance” to humans, would actually be according to the intelligently designed and finely-tuned initial conditions of the big bang. Now, with the “problem of evolution” off the table, let’s discuss the evidence for the existence of God and the historical data demonstrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ!”

Let me be clear: although I do not affirm theistic evolution, I do note that if God is omnipotent and possesses full knowledge of what could and will happen and knows what would happen in all other scenarios (middle knowledge), then creating via evolutionary means is simply no problem at all for a maximally great being (See Should Christians Oppose Evolution?).

Molinism allows one to bypass the emotionally charged argument of evolution and go straight to the atoning life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ! That is to say, Molinism allows one to not be distracted by non-essential matters and go straight to the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ — the only thing that really matters (1 Corinthians 15:14-17).

Molinism & Biblical Inspiration

As a pastor, I know that many people struggle with the idea of the Bible being both written by God and man simultaneously. That is to say, if “every word is God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) then how can any word in the scriptures really be from a human author? At face value, this seems to be a logical contradiction.

Molinism solves the problem! The traditional doctrine of verbal inspiration of Scripture is logically coherent when considering God’s omniscient middle knowledge and omnipotence. Since God knew with omniscient certainty that Paul (for example), given his circumstances, would freely write epistles which God would validate as His authoritative word to man, He was able to create a world placing Paul in these specific scenarios where He knew with certainty what Paul would freely write. As William Lane Craig notes,

God created a “world containing just those circumstances and persons such that the authors of Scripture would freely compose their respective writings, which God intended to be His gracious Word to us.”

Therefore, in God’s providence, the Bible is the verbal and plenary word of God written freely by men. Molinism is the only view that can make logical sense of this theological truth.

God created a world in which He knew how biblical authors would freely choose to write. The question is raised: “What makes the words in the Bible written freely by human authors any different from the words God knew Richard Dawkins would freely write in The God Delusion?” The answer is found in the resurrection of Jesus!

If God raised Jesus from the dead, we seem to have a divine stamp of approval regarding everything that Jesus claimed and taught. This raises another question: “What did Jesus teach?”

It is important to note that Jesus not only taught out of the Old Testament but he also gave his stamp of approval on the “law and prophets” (Matt. 5:18). Moreover, a case can be made that the resurrection validates the teachings of Jesus’ hand-picked apostles  (Luke 6:12-16Acts 9:15) who wrote or provided the information found in the books and letters of the New Testament. Given the abundance of multiple and early attestation of the Gospels, we have high degrees of historical certainty when it comes to knowing what Jesus taught. Therefore, one has good reason to trust that the New Testament, which is based on thousands of early copies of the original Greek manuscripts, is not only trustworthy, but the authoritative Word of God.

Consider the following argument:

(1) Jesus’ resurrection validates the teachings of Christ and His hand-picked apostles who would freely author the New Testament.
(2) The New Testament was freely written by Jesus’ hand-picked apostles or those who knew them.
(3) The text of the Bible is pure enough.
(4) In the New Testament, Jesus gave His stamp of approval on the Old Testament.
(5) Given 1-3, we have good reason to regard the New Testament as trustworthy and authoritative and, given 4, we have a good reason for regarding the Old Testament as trustworthy and authoritative.

Molinism provides a powerful foundation to affirm the New Testament (and thus the entire Bible) as the inspired and authoritative Word of God! This is the case because this model appeals to both the libertarian freedom of human authors and God’s counterfactual knowledge of what free human authors would freely write.

Molinism & So Much More

Finally, perhaps not directly related to apologetics, Molinism is beneficial in a pastoral sense because it allows one to see that God is a maximally great being who is perfectly powerful, perfectly knowledgable, and perfectly loving. Because God is perfectly loving, then you can have assurance that this omnipotent and omniscient being loves YOU perfectly as well. If that is the case, then you can know that God can be trusted since true love always desires the ultimate best for the other![10]

Advocates of divine determinism and TULIP Calvinism paint a picture of God who cannot be trusted because they inadvertently reject at least one (if not more) of God’s omni attributes. Consider the Omni Argument:

1. If irresistible grace (the “I” of T.U.L.I.P.) is true, then for any person x, if God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause x to go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell, then x will go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell.
2. If God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient, then for any person x, God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause x to go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell.
3. There is at least one person who will not go to Heaven and suffers eternally in Hell.
4. Therefore, one cannot affirm both (i) that irresistible grace is true and (ii) that God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient (a maximally great being).
5. God is a maximally great being.
6. Therefore, irresistible grace is false.
7. Therefore, divine determinism is false (God does not causally determine all things).
8. God is completely sovereign and does predestine all things (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:5,11).
9. Therefore, predestination and determinism are not to be conflated.
10. The best explanation of the data is Molinism.

With the Omni Argument in mind, one can rationally conclude that God is a maximally great being just as the Bible implies.

Not only does Molinism explain how both God and the Bible are trustworthy, it also explains how prayer actually works! Molinism is powerful in the lives of the average churchgoer because it makes sense of our pleas to God and explains how prayer actually makes a difference (See Molinism for Dummies: Prayer Changes Things)!

Conclusion

We have seen numerous examples of how Molinism strengthens the faith of Christians while simultaneously challenging the faith of atheists. With the apologetic significance of Molinism in mind, it should be clear to see that spending vast amounts of time explaining and defending Molinism is not a “colossal waste of time.” In fact, it is adequate to say that the focus of my work as a Christian apologist is devoted to destroying the greatest objection against the greatest Being (God)! Molinism lays the groundwork to fulfill what Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 10:5.

Molinism can explain and make sense of many things like Christian particularism, perseverance of the saints, the problem of evilbiblical inspiration, the existence of hell, and even potentially explains evolutionary theory![11] Molinism and divine middle knowledge seem to be keys unlocking many theological mysteries. Since Molinism explains so much of the data, answers many of the big questions, and defangs so many objections raised against Christian theism, the greatest apologist of our day, William Lane Craig, declares:

“I would venture to say that [Molinism and middle knowledge] is the single most fruitful theological concept I have ever encountered.” (Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views: editors:Beilby, Eddy)

Since a plethora of apologetics-based arguments are either compatible with Molinism or supported by Molinism, it only makes sense for Christian apologists to argue for the truth of Molinism. After all, since Molinism is supported by the whole of Scripture (See Molinism is Biblical) and it makes sense of and is supported by countless apologetics-based arguments, it seems that Molinism is probably true!

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),

Tim Stratton


Notes

[1] Graham Oppy is a prominent atheist philosopher who has raised objections to Molinism (See Arguing Successfully about God: A Review Essay of Graham Oppy’s Arguing about Gods). He is not alone. FreeThinking Ministries has assembled a team of Molinists who are responding to the atheistic objections to Molinism. Stay tuned.

[2] James K. Beilby, Paul R. Eddy (editors), Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views

[3] James Dolezal, God Without Parts, (pp 207-211) See also, Reality — A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought, by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. Also see Kirk MacGregor, Luis de Molina: The Life and Theology of the Founder of Middle Knowledge (p. 161). Zondervan:

“Báñez and Lemos charged that middle knowledge entailed passivity in God, since making divine concurrence intrinsically neutral seemed to render God related in precisely the same way to both good and evil creaturely actions. In the words of Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, ‘God would be no more the author of good than of bad acts, at least as regards their intrinsic and free determination, because neither good nor bad acts would come from Him, at least as regards the performance of these acts.'”

Lastly, I believe Shannon Byrd, my colleague at FreeThinking Ministries, has successfully demonstrated that the view of the Doctrine of Divine Simplicity (DDS — held by many Thomists) entails “modal collapse” so that no other worlds are genuinely possible. That is to say, on this odd view, only one world is actually possible. See A Few Arguments Against Divine Simplicity to understand the problems that follow if the argument for modal collapse is successful. See The Collapse of the Anti-Modal Collapse Objections as Byrd defends his argument from Thomistic objectors.

[4] Alvin Plantinga has noted that the “problem of evil” is the only problem worth seriously pondering. (reference here)

[5] Tyson was interviewed by Chelsea on Netflix. Click here to watch the exchange.

[6] Mens rea refers to the legal philosophy of the “guilty mind” and criminal intent.

[7] David E. Alexander and Daniel M. Johnson (editors), Calvinism and the Problem of Evil, Matthew J. Hart is the author of the eleventh chapter, Calvinism and the Problem of Hell, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2016, (p 248)

[8]William Lane Craig, Transcript of the Fine-Tuning Argument.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Jerry Walls, Why No Classical Theist, Let alone Orthodox Christian, should ever be a Compatibilist, Philosophia Christi, Volume 13, No 1, Walls provides a thought experiment of a mad scientist who helps some individuals flourish in every way possible for many years only to see how these individuals will react to their surprise of horrendous torture and death. Can it rightly be said that this scientist “loved” these individuals given his plans for their ultimate demise?

[11] William Lane Craig makes a similar comment in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, edited by Beilby & Eddy, p 125


Postscript (1-23-18):

One thing I failed to mention in the above essay is that the Kalam also helps us understand even more about Molinism. Consider the fact that the rational inferences provided by the Kalam (and the argument from time) show that God exists in a “static state of aseity” in which the universe (time and space) did not exist. That is to say, logically prior to the beginning of the existence of the universe God exists — “and then” (to use temporal language), God creates the universe. Considering this “static state of aseity” the question is raised: is God maximally great in this state?

Take the Cosmological Quiz:

Question 1: Is it true that God exists in a state of aseity logically prior to creating the universe (and thus without the universe)?

Question 2: In this state of aseity, is God omnipotent? If so, does he possesses the power to create creatures with libertarian Freedom?

Question 3: In this state of aseity, is God omniscient? If so, does he possess the knowledge of what these libertarian free creatures — that He has the power to create (even if He never does create them) — would freely do?

If one answers “no” to any of the questions above then you might be a heretic! If one answers “yes” to all of the above, then congratulations, you are a Molinist!

This is because if one affirms that God is both omnipotent and omniscient in the state of affairs logically prior to the creation of the universe, then some flavor of Molinism must be true! God would possess the power to create libertarian free creatures (even if He never did create them) and God would “middle know” exactly how these free creatures would freely think, act, believe, and behave logically prior to His creative decree.

It is amazing to see how apologetic arguments for the existence of God can also clarify exactly how we should think about His sovereignty too!

 

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim was recently accepted at North West University to pursue his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics.

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