Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Review of On Divine Foreknowledge by Luis de Molina (translated by Alfred Freddoso)

If God knows that I am going to tell a life-shattering lie tomorrow at 1:03 p.m., and God has foreknown this since before the universe was created, then when tomorrow at 1:03 arrives, given that God know for certain that I will tell this lie, is there any possibility that tomorrow at 1:03 I won't tell the lie? If, because of God's infallible foreknowledge of the event of my lie, there is no possibility of my refraining from telling the lie, then is my action free? Does God's foreknowledge insure that my sin will take place? These are complex questions that I have wrestled with, and people throughout history have as well. These questions fall under the realm of the scope of God's providence over the world and where human freedom fits within that, if it does at all.

Sixteenth century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina sought to devise a system that affirmed both man's libertarian freedom (the power to choose otherwise) and God's meticulous sovereign control. He did this by proposing that God's knowledge was of three different types and that God's knowledge came in three logical (not chronological) moments.

The first moment, Natural Knowledge, comes logically before God's creative decree. This knowledge consists of all possibilities. For example, in God's natural knowledge, he knew that it was possible for Adam to not sin in the garden. He also knew that it was possible that he would. These were both possibilities of what Adam "could" do.

Skipping ahead, the third moment is known as God's Free Knowledge. This is God's perfect knowledge of every single thing that will happen in the universe that God created, and this knowledge comes logically after his creative decree. For example, God knows that Adam "will" sin in the garden.

Between these two knowledge moments Molina proposed a moment called Middle Knowledge. This knowledge consists of free choices that a creature would make under any given circumstances. For example, God knows that if he placed Adam in the garden, Adam "would" sin, but if placed under a different set of circumstances, Adam "would" not sin. Either way, Adam's choice would be freely made. This knowledge comes logically before God's creative decree. So God surveys all the free choices that free creatures would make and decides to create the world in which all the circumstances that would bring about the free choices of free creatures that also lined up with his perfect will. Once he creates, the script is set and human history will flow exactly as he wanted it to, and human freedom remains intact. In this model God exercises his meticulous sovereignty using his exhaustive omniscience.

Molina outlined this system of God's knowledge in Part 4 of his CONCORDIA, and philosopher Alfred Freddoso has completed a great translation of Part 4 ON DIVINE FOREKNOWLEDGE. Molina was a deeply intellectual thinker who, by looking at certain ideas communicated by Scripture, created a way that affirmed both meticulous sovereignty and genuine libertarian freedom of humans. However, the concepts can be difficult to understand. Freddoso gives a detailed and informative introduction to Molina's thoughts, the context he worked from, and helps us to understand the foundational framework that Molina devised in Parts 1-3 of the Concordia. Freddoso discusses important concepts such as future contingents, divine concurrence, and God's supercomprehension, as well as dealing with criticisms of Molina's concept of middle knowledge. He also includes points of commentary throughout Molina's text.

While I don't subscribe to Molinism myself, Molina's ON DIVINE FOREKNOWLEDGE is an interesting read, and it does seem that Molina was on to something concerning God's knowledge of future conditionals that may be helpful in devising a solution to the divine sovereignty/human freedom dilemma. Another helpful look into Molina's thoughts is Kenneth Keathley's book SALVATION AND SOVEREIGNTY.

I received this book for free for review from Cornell University Press

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