Rating: 5 out of 5
I’ve been really interested in the Molinist approach to describing God’s foreknowledge and providence in the last couple of years because it claims to be a way to preserve both God’s complete and meticulous sovereignty and genuine libertarian human freedom.
Thomas P. Flint, a professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame, has written what is probably the most authoritative and thorough book on the subject of Molinism. The book is called DIVINE PROVIDENCE: THE MOLINIST ACCOUNT. Flint begins the book by affirming from Scripture both divine providence and human freedom. He then launches into the argument developed by sixteenth-century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina to describe how both of these could be true. Molina suggested that God’s knowledge was divided into three logical moments. In the first moment, God’s natural knowledge is his pre-volitional knowledge of all possibilities. For example, God knew before creation all the possible things and people he could create. Skipping ahead to the third moment, God’s free knowledge is his exhaustive and entirely accurate knowledge of the past, present, and future of the world he has created. Molina suggested a middle moment in God’s knowledge. In God’s middle knowledge God knew all the free choices all the people he could create would make in any set of circumstances. This included the entire causal history up to the point of the choice to be made, so clearly God’s middle knowledge is infinitely vast. Based on this middle knowledge, which was pre-volitional, God chose and planned out the world he wanted to create. This way man’s free choices were factored in to his creation. God can govern the world through his omniscience and human freedom is preserved.
Though it seems to me that God still ultimately in this system decides beforehand each of the “free” choices people will make, I must say that Flint makes a great argument and this view has many merits to it. Though I don’t agree with all of it, I think it’s getting close.
The book is thorough and can get a bit confusing at times, especially when Flint starts talking about possible worlds and possible galaxies of worlds. Molinism has always been controversial, and Flint takes some time to discuss why he believes some of the common arguments against Molinism don’t hold up.
Finally, and this is where the strength of this book lies over others, Flint goes into some practical implications of the Molinist system. I’m not Catholic, so the chapter on Papal Infallibility wasn’t applicable to me, but the chapters on prophecy, unanswered prayers, and praying for things to happen were very illuminating on the possibilities of how God’s providence could work if Molinism were true.
I thought this book was very helpful to me as someone interested in all the aspects of what Molinism is about. If you’re interested in what this theological system looks like in comparison to Calvinism and Arminianism, this is a great book to read and wrestle through.
Review copy provided by Cornell University Press