Posts tagged ‘Molinism’

February 16, 2012

Can You Lose Your Salvation? A Molinist’s Perspective

by Max Andrews

FOCUS:  Can a born-again believer lose his or her salvation while simultaneously affirming God’s sovereignty and human free will while being consistent with Scripture?[1]

An Examination of the Perseverance of the Saints Doctrine

Apostolic warnings against apostasy pose a difficulty for the classic doctrine of perseverance of the saints because either the warnings seem superfluous or else it seems possible for the believer to fall away after all.  The attempt to construe the warnings as the means by which God effects perseverance fails to distinguish the classical doctrine from a Molinist doctrine, according to which believers can fall away but if fact will not due to God’s extrinsically efficacious grace.  A Molinist perspective is coherent and, unlike the classical doctrine does not render superfluous the apostolic admonitions.[2]

The traditional doctrine of perseverance states that not only will the saints maintain grace and salvation, but literally cannot fall from grace.  (It is very important to approach these and understand these texts in light of appropriate exegesis.) However, this seems to ignore numerous Scriptures, which warn the danger of apostasy of those who deliberately fall from grace:

Rom. 11:17-24; I Cor. 9:27; Gal. 5:4; Col. 1:23; I Thess. 3:5; I Tim. 1:19-20; II Tim. 2:17-18; Jas. 5:19-20; II Pet. 2:20-22; I Jn. 5:16

Perhaps the most prominent:

Therefore leaving the elementary teachings about the Christ, let us press on the maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the death and eternal judgment.  3And this we will do, if God permits.  4For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.  7For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings for the vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed and it ends up being burned.  Heb. 6:1-8 (NASB)

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February 13, 2012

The Theological Advantages of Molinism

by Max Andrews

For a context of where I’m coming from concerning Molinism please see my previous posts:

  1. Middle Knowledge in a Nutshell
  2. Why I’m Not an Arminian
  3. Why I’m Not a Calvinist
  4. God Controls Everything–Good and Bad
  5. Overpower–Is God Ultimately Responsible for Everything?
  6. The Pelagian Equivocation
  7. The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement
  8. Does God Ever Literally Change His Mind?–Yes
  9. Is a Molinist Concept of Providence Discomforting?
  10. Word of the Week Wednesday: Supralapsarianism


  1. Holds a high view of God’s sovereignty while holding to an equal and uncompromising view of human free will.
  2. Provides a better model for understanding how it is simultaneously true that God’s decree of election while His rejection of the unbeliever is conditional.
  3. Affirms the genuine desire on the part of God for all to be saved in His universal salvific will  (which is problematic for the Calvinist) claiming that God loved the whole world (John 3:16) yet, Christ has a particular love for the Church (Eph. 5:25).
  4. God control’s all things, but does not cause all things.
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February 6, 2012

Boethius on Reconciling Divine Foreknowledge and Human Free Will

by Max Andrews

Boethius discusses the problem in reconciling genuine human freedom with God’s foreknowledge in “Divine Foreknowledge and Freedom of the Will” (proses III-VI).  He bases his whole discussion on whether or not something that is foreknown happens by necessity.  He offers the disjunctive option of the necessity of either thing, which are going to happen be foreseen by God or that what God foresees will in fact happen—either way, he argues, human will is removed.  When discussing the uncertainty of future events he concludes that, for God, there must be no uncertainty in these events because it’s then reduced to possible conditionals, or could-counterfactuals.  Hence, the law of excluded middle is true for knowledge of future tensed events.  He makes an interesting point when discussing aspects about Cicero’s contribution to the problem.  If foreknowledge is removed then the events of human will are no longer necessary. Considering all of the discussion so far he believes that everything that happens does so by necessity.

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February 1, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday: Supralapsarianism

by Max Andrews

The Word of the Week is: Supralapsarianism

Definition: From the Latin, supra (prior to, below, before), lapsis, (fall).  A term used to denote the logical moment of God’s election of the saints.  Supralapsarianism if the belief that God chose the elect logically prior to the fall of man.

More about the term: Supralapsarianism is generally held by Calvinists and a few Molinists.  Supralapsarianism places the moment of divine election logically prior to the fall of Adam as opposed to logically posterior to the fall, which is known as infralapsarianism. When God chose the elect he did so without viewing them or considering them in their fallen state.  God chose them in a pre-fallen state.  This position can create controversy and may have unsavory implications.  One of the implications is what’s known as double-predestination.  This is the idea that God chose the reprobates (the non-elect) in the same fashion in which he chose the elect.  This isn’t a necessary implication of supralapsarianism since God’s decree of reprobation may be logically posterior to the fall.

This view of soteriology is held by Alvin Plantinga, who is a Molinist with Calvinistic tendencies (there’s a wide spectrum of Molinism ranging from supralapsarianism to Wesleyan).  Plantinga uses this idea in his theodicy, ‘O Felix Culpa’ (O happy sin).  The reason why evil exists is because God first desired the cross of Christ–the means by which God would get the most glory.  In order to bring about the cross there must be sin, thus God permits sin to happen because he desires the cross (which is why evil exists–so God may be glorified by atoning for it).

January 23, 2012

Does God Ever Literally Change His Mind?–Yes

by Max Andrews

Think about it for just a moment. Does God ever literally change his mind or course of action?  The Christian tradition usually sides with the, ‘No.’  Well, if you say know let me ask you something. What would you do with cognitive, so-called, anthropomorphisms concerning peitionary prayer or changing his course of action (i.e. God changing his mind in response to prayer or sparing Ninenveh)?  The traditional hermeneutic concerning anthropomorphisms approaches these statements as literary elements in which God expresses himself through human or animal terms that teach something true about God.  Expressions like “the right hand of God” or “the eyes of the Lord,” for example, communicate something true of God’s strength and knowledge.  But what does the concept of God’s changing his mind communicate? For example, if indeed it is anthropomorphistic?  If God in fact never actually changes his mind [due to prayer], saying he does so doesn’t communicate anything truthful.  It is simply inaccurate.[1]

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November 14, 2011

Top Ten Philosophy, Science, and Theology Podcasts

by Max Andrews

The following are a list of podcasts that I’ve been following and listening to that have been quite helpful in my philosophical, scientific, and theological studies.  The criteria for consideration are based on 1) quality of content, 2) accurate presentation of the material, 3) constructive and respectful criticism of opposing views, 4) frequency of podcast release, and 5) a broad range of topics/issues discussed.

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November 10, 2011

The Free Exchange in the Marketplace of Ideas

by Max Andrews

The English poet John Milton did well when he said that “Truth will rise to the top through a free and open exchange in the marketplace of ideas.”  I am so encouraged when I have and see a substantive dialogue with someone concerning an issue.  This is certainly important in every day discussions, blogs, and teaching.  I assist in managing and teaching an Intro. to Philosophy course at university and I always encourage my students to make us work hard to convince them of what we believe to be true.  Do not simply sit there and take what I say and teach prima facie–challenge me, challenge the thoughts, challenge your thinking.

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October 1, 2011

A Thank You Note to James White

by Max Andrews

James White is the director of Alpha and Omega ministries focused on apologetics.  I’ve learned a lot about my own theological position as well as others because of his ministry and service.  To be honest, I don’t agree with a few things he believes.  For instance, I’m a Molinist (he’s not the biggest fan), evidentialist, and an old-earth creationist.  Despite our disagreements he has my utmost respect and esteem.  He is passionate about God, the gospel, the Church, and the unsaved. I’m a faithful listener of his podcast, The Dividing Line, and there have been moments when I shake my head at some points he makes and there are other times when I’m cheering him on.

I respect White for his defense of the faith from cults, atheists, Islam, Roman Catholicism, unitarians, and others.  Where White earns my greatest respect is his integrity and honesty in scholarship and ministry.  You won’t find him quote mining or warping his citations.  He does the work, he does the research, and he presents it well.  Now, on another note, I’m a philosophy graduate student at Liberty University.  For those who are familiar with White you’ll know where I’m going with this.  White demanded accountability from Caner, the university, and the church for so many discrepancies [and contradictions] Caner asserted about himself.  All parties remained silent while all White did was demand honesty and integrity.  Thank you, Dr. White.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with White please check out his YouTube channel, his podcasts, and his website.  You don’t have to agree with him all the time but you will learn a lot.

September 19, 2011

Middle Knowledge and Eternal Omniscience

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Ryan Hedrich. Ryan is an undergraduate Public Policy major at Georgia Tech with an interest in epistemology and theology, subjects he writes about at his blog


“If God did not determine [an act], then there must be in the universe a determining force independent of God.”[1]

This argument, stated simply, has been and continues to be the crux upon which the legitimacy of Molinism is hinged. Can the biblical doctrine of an eternally omniscient God be harmonized with a theory that human choices [in particular] are self-determined?

The Molinist claims that God possesses middle knowledge, “…non-determinative knowledge of the realm of creaturely possibility, a foreknowledge of events which depend not on his decree but on the liberty or free choice of the creature.”[2] It is referred to as “middle” knowledge because it is said to logically reside in between – so to speak – God’s knowledge of both possibilities and logical necessities and God’s knowledge of what will be due to His free instantiation of a particular possible world.

In other words, although God’s knowledge is eternal, His “natural” knowledge of that which must and could be can be said to be a precondition for or logically prior to His middle knowledge of what one would freely choose – in the libertarian sense[3] – given individuating conditions of a possible world. In turn, God’s middle knowledge functions as the precondition for or logically prior to God’s “free” knowledge of that which will occur based on His unconditional decree by which He effects the conditions for a particular possible world.

The important idea is that divine middle knowledge as believed by Molinists is with respect to self-determined human choices which would be exercised given the conditions of a particular possible world (including this one). The important question, again, is whether or not an adequate explanation can be provided as to how God could from eternity know what humans would choose in a given possible world by means other than His own determination.

The “grounding objection” to Molinism has consistently been cited as the greatest obstacle to its acceptance. The issue is this: God doesn’t determine what humans freely choose; what possible conditions God could instantiate would not themselves determine what humans would freely choose, though they may limit what could be chosen. It is clear that if one possesses a libertarian free will, nothing extrinsic to him would cause what he would choose in a given possible world.

Hence, on the assumption that humans possess libertarian free will, the question is begged as to how a contingent object of divine middle knowledge – i.e. that person X would choose Y given particular antecedent conditions Z – is certain. An answer was provided by the father of Molinism, who wrote that middle knowledge is:

…the knowledge through which God, before he decides to create a being endowed with free choice, foresees what that being would do on the hypothesis that it should be placed in a particular order of things – this knowledge depends on the fact that the being in its freedom do this or that, and not the other way around.[4]

Human choices are self-determined. Thus, free choices to which God’s middle knowledge corresponds are the grounds for God’s middle knowledge itself. But this has an interesting implication:

…for Molina’s concept to function, the conditions standing prior to the contingent event must be understood as not merely possible, but as having some sort of actuality or quasi-actuality apart from the divine willing – inasmuch as the point is… that God knows what will occur contingently upon certain conditions lying outside of his will: these conditions are not mere possibility nor divinely will actuality, but foreknown conditions, foreknown as actual apart from the decree, at least for the sake of stating the contingency.[5]

That is, if a person’s choices are the result of libertarian free will, God knows what X would choose “on the hypothesis” of Z only if God quasi-instantiates Z such that X is in a position to, after deliberating possible alternatives, choose Y. [That God would quasi-instantiate Z rather than actually instantiate Z follows when it is remembered that God’s middle knowledge is under consideration, not His free knowledge]. Because Molinists believe in a doctrine of libertarian free will, man’s choice is naturally to be considered the means by which it becomes evident what X would choose from the sphere of what it would be possible for X to choose.

Perhaps the reader may think the grounding objection has now been defeated, since an account has been offered as to how God can know the truth value of a counter-factual of creaturely freedom. Parenthetically, it might even be relevant to the possibility of a multiverse, which is (from what I have read) a hot topic on this blog.

However, the explanation comes at an unaffordable price: “…things contingent, till they are determined to come to passe, or not to come to passe, are not knowable that they shall come to passe, nor are knowable that they shall not come to passe.”[6] It is trivial to observe that God’s middle knowledge is not natural knowledge, and one cannot argue that what a man would freely choose in a given possible world could be necessitated by factors external to the exercise of his own will. But on Molinism,

…there are two phases, as it were, of the divine knowing of an event prior to his willing it – namely, that God first knows an entire possible world in an indeterminate way, as containing (possibly!) both an event and its contrary (scientia necessaria), and then knows by scientia media the outcome of the contingency or free choice were he to actualize that world, with the result that God in (or, indeed, temporally subsequent to) his actualization can also introduce other factors into that world order that are consequent on his knowing of the particular outcome.[7]

The problem, then, is that prior to the point in quasi-instantiated Z at which it can be discerned that X would actually choose Y – viz. when X chooses Y – it can legitimately be claimed X could have chosen not-Y, for that is what libertarian free will entails. Arguing that God’s knowledge is predicated upon the outcome of what a person would choose in quasi-instantiated Z is just a roundabout way of saying that the purpose of the quasi-instantiation of Z is that God can observe and thereby learn that X would, in fact, determine to choose Y. This is, of course, incompatible with the biblical doctrine of an eternally omniscient God.

On the other hand, to insist God knew X would choose Y at the point it was possible that X could have chosen not-Y is intuitively untenable and can be quickly demonstrated. “There must be a causal determination that moves any future contingent from the realm of mere possibility into the realm of actuality…”[8] On Molinism, this causal determination is the free choice of X. What possibilities X could choose are eliminated only when X chooses Y given [quasi-]instantiated Z. Only at that point is it certain X would choose Y in Z.

This is why Molina recognized that the way in which God possesses determinate middle knowledge would be by “foresee[ing] what that being would do on the hypothesis that it should be placed in a particular order of things – this knowledge depends on the fact that the being in its freedom do this or that, and not the other way around.” These points are wholly contrary to the suggestion that God could know X would choose Y given Z apart from foreseeing the self-determination of such, as that would mean God’s knowledge is not dependent on anything external to Himself.

To conclude, there can be no middle knowledge, no human indeterminacy, and no eternal priority of contingencies to any facet of God’s knowledge.

[1] Gordon Clark, Predestination, pg. 39.

[2] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 417.

[3] cf. Luis de Molina, Concordia, Disputation 2.

[4] Luis de Molina, Concordia, Disputation 52.10.

[5] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 421.

[6] William Twisse, A Discovery of D. Jackson’s Vanity, pg. 338.

[7] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 430.

[8] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 424.

August 25, 2011

The Incompatibility of Middle Knowledge and Libertarian Freedom

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Roger Turner, a Philosophy Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tennessee.

If you’re a Molinist—at any rate, if you believe that God has middle knowledge—you believe that God knows whether or not any given counterfactual, or subjunctive conditional is true.  What’s more, you probably believe this because you think it helps make clear how it is possible that humans can act freely even though God knows, before they act, how they’ll act.  And you probably want to have some grasp on how all that works because you’re a libertarian with respect to freedom.  That is, you think that determinism and free will are incompatible, but you believe that divine foreknowledge and free will are compatible.  If you are a libertarian, you think that indeterminism is true.  In other words, you think that the theses ‘the conjunction of the past and laws of nature entails a unique future’ and ‘nobody has a choice about the future because nobody has a choice about what God foreknows’ are false.  So, the idea of middle knowledge seems to be the best way to duck and dodge the relevant snares.  But there’s a puzzle here.  There appears to be a significant tension between one’s being a libertarian about freedom, and one’s being a Molinist.  In what follows, I hope to illuminate the problem.

Take your friend, Jones.  If you believe God has middle knowledge, you probably believe that, if you were to ask God what Jones would do in such and such a circumstance, God would know the answer to your question.  God would respond, so you think, with something like the following:  “If Jones were in C, he would freely A.”  And you’d feel pretty confident that God’s having answered this way fails to undermine Jones’s freedom because you think that God’s belief about whether or not Jones A’s in C depends on Jones and whether or not Jones A’s in C and not the other way around (i.e. Jones’s Aing in C doesn’t depend on God’s knowing that, if Jones were in C, he would A).

Quick question, though: what is the truth value of a subjunctive conditional if indeterminism is true?  Here’s why I ask.  If a particular event is an indeterminate event (that is, the event is undetermined) the odds of that event’s happening are something like 50/50.  So, take Jones again and his being in C and whether or not he A’s.  If Jones’s Aing is undertermined, then he’s just as likely to A as he is to not-A given his being in C and an identical past up to the point of his being in C.  This is what indeterminism implies.  Given Jones’s past from t0 to the present moment, the moment just before he acts, Jones is supposed to be just as free to refrain from Aing as he is to A.  It can’t be the case, for example, that, if Jones is libertarianly free, he’d be more likely to A, given his past (or other conditions beyond his control), than he would be to refrain from Aing.  Because if that’s the case, then he’s got factors that are out of his control which bear on whether or not he A’s.  And this would absolve Jones of (at least part of) his responsibility for Aing (or refraining from A).  If we’re libertarians (and we usually are if we believe God has middle knowledge), then we think Jones has just as much chance of Aing, given that he’s in C, as he does refraining from A.

Okay, back to the question about the truth value of a subjunctive conditional given the truth of indeterminism.  The subjunctive conditional (this thing:  €®) expresses what would happen in the closest-by, relevant possible worlds.  So, take Jones again.  And express the proposition ‘if Jones were in C, he would freely A’ as follows:

JC nec. €→ A

The way this is typically read is something like this: in all the closest-by C worlds (i.e. the worlds in which Jones is in C), Jones A’s.  But this implies that it’s not indeterminate what Jones would do in C.  It’s not indeterminate because we can “zoom-out” and see which C worlds are the closest to the actual world.  And, just by doing that, we can see that in any C world that is most closely related to the actual world, Jones A’s.  The odds aren’t 50/50 given the truth of the subjunctive conditional; the closest-by C worlds are such that Jones A’s.  So, if Jones is in C, though it’s not necessary that he A—there are, after all, possible worlds where he’s in C but doesn’t A; they’re just further off—he’ll A.  He’ll A because there is a group of possible C worlds—those closest-by to the actual world—where he A’s.  And whether or not Jones is in a closest-by C world has nothing to do with Jones!  It’s beyond Jones’s control as to whether or not he’s in one of the closest-by C worlds.

But, wait.  On the libertarian view, indeterminism is true; that is, determinism is false.  Jones must, to be libertarianly free, be just as likely to A, in C, as he is to refrain from A.  That is, Jones must be equally likely to refrain from Aing as he is to A in all C worlds.  It can’t be the case that the proximity of the C world to the actual world determines whether or not Jones A’s.  But, if the subjunctive conditional (this bit:  JC nec. €→A) is true, then it can’t be that Jones was just as likely to refrain from Aing in C as he was to A in C.

So, if indeterminism is true, the subjunctive conditional must be false.  The answer, then, to the above question ‘what is the truth value of the subjunctive conditional if indeterminism is true?’: the truth value of the subjunctive conditional, if indeterminism is true, is False.  But this means that it’s false that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A.  And what’s more, it’s false that if Jones were in C, then he would freely refrain from Aing.  And since God can’t have any false beliefs, he can’t believe that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A is true, nor can he believe that if Jones were in C, then he would freely refrain from Aing.  He can’t believe this because it’s false that if Jones were in C he would freely A and it’s false that if Jones were in C he would freely refrain from Aing.  It’s false because there is no would to it; indeterminism implies that the proximity of the worlds in which Jones is in C has no bearing on whether or not Jones A’s.  It has no bearing because, in all C worlds, Jones is just as likely to refrain from Aing as he is to A.

The upshot of all this is that if it’s true that if Jones were in C, he would freely A, then Jones was not libertarianly free to A.  Some factor that wasn’t up to Jones made it the case that his particular C world was closer to the actual world than some other C world, some other C world where he refrains from Aing.  And this implies that, if it’s true that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A, then libertarianism is false.  At any rate, it implies that if the subjunctive conditional is true, then God’s middle knowledge rules out our acting in a libertarianly free way.

So, either you are a Molinist—at any rate, you believe that God has middle knowledge—or you are a libertarian.  But you can’t be both.  So the argument goes, anyway.